Multi-user Environment in MediaWiki 1.1- A Sequel

9 min read

Time for action-reverting to previous content

In our example, it appears that someone has not only changed the text for one of our pages, but someone has vandalized it as well. While one edit may be a legitimate change, as the sysop we don’t want this page edited by the public, so we are going to revert to the previous page. In the case of vandalism, we have no other choice than to go back to the clean version of the page. The following screenshot shows the two changes made to the page. Following the screenshot, we will learn how to revert to the original page.

  1. Open your wiki and navigate to the page you wish to make changes to.
  2. Click on the history tab at the top of the page and you will be taken to the page history. Locate the time and date of the revision you wish to revert to.
  3. Click on the ti me and date link. In our example, we selected 21:39, 14 September 2009.
  4. We will now be taken to the page that existed on that date, and at that time.
  5. Click on the edit tab at the top of the page. You will now be taken to the editing page. As we are reverting, we don’t need to make any changes. It is good practice to put something in the edit summary referring to the fact that you reverted to an earlier page.
  6. Click on Save page. A newline will be added to the page history reflecting the changes you just made as shown in the following screenshot:

In the case of vandalism, it may be wise to check the contribution history of the user who vandalized the article by clicking on their IP address or user name. Clicking on their IP will often bring you directly to their user contribution page. If you are able to click on their user name, that will bring you to their user page. In the lower-left corner, there is a toolbox with a User contributions link. Click on this link. If this user is vandalizing many articles, you may need to take action.

What just happened?

When we noticed that our page had been edited and we did not approve of the changes, we used the page history to revert to an earlier version of the content that met our approval.In our example, we were able to revert from a legitimate change as well as an attack by a vandal. We also learned that when a vandal strikes our wiki, we may want to check their User contributions page to see what other articles they may have wreaked havoc on.

More administrative tools

MediaWiki has quite a few more tools that the administrator can use to help monitor a multi-user wiki. While some of these have been mentioned already in the text, such as edit summaries and minor changes, they need further explanation.

Edit summaries

We had a brief discussion about edit summaries in the last exercise when we were reverting to an earlier revision of a page. It is highly recommended that anyone editing a page fills in the Summary field because it makes it easier for you and your fellow contributors to understand what has been changed. It is also extremely helpful when going through the history of the page.

The edit summary box can hold one line of 200 characters. If you attempt to enter more than this, only the first 200 characters will be displayed and the rest will be disregarded. In the case of a small addition to an article, it is highly recommended the full text of this addition be copied to the Summary field, giving a maximum of information with a minimum of effort. This way, readers of the summary will be unlikely to check the page itself as they already know the extent of the edit. These kinds of summaries allow users to check Recent changes, page history, and User contributions very efficiently.

In addition to a summary of the change itself, the Summary field may also contain an explanation of the change. Note that if the reason for an edit is not clear, it is more likely to be reverted, especially in the case that some text is deleted. To give a longer explanation, use the talk page and make a note about it in the edit summary.

After saving the page, the summary cannot be edited, so try to avoid any errors.

Minor changes

If you look at the previous screenshot, you will see a check box labeled This is a minor edit.Minor edits have been glossed over in this article but now, we will give them a bit more attention.

When editing a page, logged-in users may mark a change to a page as a minor edit. Minor edits deal with changes such as correcting a type, changing the format of the content, or changing the presentation of the content. Minor edits usually do not involve changing the actual content of the page.

By contrast, a major edit makes the article worth reviewing for anyone who watches it closely. Therefore, any change that affects the meaning of an article is not minor, even if it involves one word.

The distinction between major and minor edits is significant because you may decide to ignore minor edits when viewing recent changes. Logged-in users can even set their preferences to not display such edits. No one wants to be fooled into ignoring a significant change to an article simply because it was marked minor, of course. So remember to consider the opinions of other editors when choosing this option.

Users who are not logged into the wiki are not able to mark changes as minor because of the potential for vandalism. The ability to mark changes as minor is another way you can entice your visitors to register.

It is always better to mark the edit as minor if you are doing the following changes:

  • Spelling corrections
  • Simple formatting (capitalization, bold, italics, and so on)
  • Formatting that does not change the meaning of the page (for example, adding horizontal lines or splitting a paragraph into two where such splitting isn’t contentious)
  • Obvious factual errors (changing 1873 to 1973, where the event in question clearly took place in 1973)
  • Fixing layout errors

We have to remember the following things when we are marking an edit as minor edit:

  • Any change to the wikitext, even if it does not affect the presentation of the page in HTML (for example, adding a space or a line break), will still be treated as a change according to the database.
  • Marking a major change as a minor one is considered bad manners, especially if the change involves the deletion of some text.
  • Reverting pages is not likely to be considered minor under most circumstances. W hen the status of a page is disputed, and particularly if an edit war is brewing, then it’s better not to mark any edit as minor. Reverting blatant vandalism is an exception to this rule.
  • A user’s watchlist will only list the most recent change made to a page, even if that edit was minor. Therefore, a minor change will supersede a major one in the watchlist. This is because a user who keeps a watchlist is generally interested in all changes made to a page. If you are uncertain about the changes made to a page, double-check the page history.
  • If you accidentally mark an edit as minor when it was in fact a major edit, you should make a second “dummy” edit, but make a note in the edit summary that “the previous edit was major”. As a trivial edit to be made for this purpose, just opening the edit box and saving (changing nothing) will not work, neither will adding a blank space at the end of a line or a blank line at the end of the page—in these cases the edit is canceled and its summary discarded. However, you can add an extra space between two words, or can even add a line break. These changes are preserved in the wikitext and recorded as a change, although they do not change the rendered page.
  • It may be worth communicating any disagreement about what is minor via Talk or a message to the contributor, being careful to avoid a flame war with other users. There is a gray area here, and many contributors will appreciate feedback on whether they’ve got it right.

It is also good to remember the following terms since we are using them every now and then:

  • Dummy edit: A dummy edit is a change in wikitext that has little or no effect on the rendered page, but saves a useful dummy edit summary. The dummy edit summary can be used for text messaging, and correcting a previous edit summary such as an accidental marking of a previous edit as “minor”. Text messaging via the edit summary is a way of communicating with other editors. Text messages may be seen by dotted IP number editors who don’t have a user talk page, or editors who haven’t read the subject’s talk page, if it exists. A dummy edit should be checked as “minor” by logged-in editors. Consider the following example:
    Changing the number of newlines in the edit text, such as putting a newline where no newline exists or adding one more newline to two existing newlines, has no effect on the rendered page. But changing from one newline to two newlines makes a rendered difference as it creates spacing between the contents in Mediawiki and may not be a dummy edit. Adding newlines to the end of the article will not save as a dummy edit.
  • Dotted IP number editors are editors who are referred to by their IP address in the dotted decimal notation rather than a username, for example,

  • Null edit: A null edit occurs if a page save is made when the wikitext is not changed, which is useful for refreshing the cache. A null edit will not record an edit, make any entry in the page history in recent changes, and so on. The edit summary is discarded. Consider the following examples:
    • Opening the edit window and saving.
    • Adding newlines only to the end of the article and saving is also a null edit.


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