Willipedia:Naming conventions

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Titles of articles in Willipedia are chosen to serve two crucial goals which are sometimes at odds.

  1. Titles create expectations, and therefore a title ought to accurately reflect the content that follows it.
  2. But, on Willipedia, titles are the names that articles are called by. If titles are not succinct, they will never be linked to, and will fall into obscurity.

For an example, consider the old article, "How To Procrastinate." This was the first title it had, and it did a good job of creating the expectation of a list of suggestions, which is indeed what the article was. But suppose that someone who doesn't know about this article is writing a related article; his prose is much more likely to contain (and so more likely to link to) the word "procrastination" or "procrastinating" than the full phrase "how to procrastinate." Thus the article is currently called procrastinating.

The set of naming conventions below arises from this need for a minimal set of rules for editors to learn so we know how to best name our new articles, and how to link to existing content (or future content) as we write body text.

General guideline

If you want to write an article on something rather specific, make sure that it is accessible from related, more general topics. You can do this in one of two ways:

  • Link to your specific article from the more general article
  • Include the content of your would-be article in the more general article

Often this means you'll need to create a perfunctory article or introduction for the more general topic, but the benefit is that people who search for the general topic will also be able to find your article.

Illustrative examples:

Problem: You want to write about how awesome the beech in the Forest Garden is for tree-climbing.

A good start: Even though you just want to write about that one tree, start/edit the article "Tree climbing," and place what you write in a section of it. If you want to do a really good job, go the extra mile to start a preface on the general title to help other editors get an idea of where they can work from.
In the future: Even without a preface, it's a very good bet that others will expand on this subject, with more trees and perhaps a guide to history and technique of the pasttime.

Problem: You want to give advice on procrastinating on a thesis. You're thinking "How to procrastinate on a thesis" might be a good title.

A good start: Think about your topic in the general sense. You are talking about two things: the practice of procrastinating and the topic "thesis." Start/edit an article with either name, and include what you want to write in a well-named section, even if it is a lonely section at first.
In the future: Others are likely to have something to say about "Procrastinating" or "Thesis". The articles are likely to cross-link. Over time, what you started will evolve into a rich article.

Tools

Willipedia depends on things being where people expect them to be. The MediaWiki software contains a few key tools that make this easy to do, and you can help Willipedia out a lot by learning them.

Redirects

A redirect page is a page whose only function is to send anyone visiting that page to a page by a different name. Redirects are incredibly important, and everyone should learn how to make one.

Using a redirect, a link to Bethans will go to Elizabethans. The former is a common colloquial form likely to crop up in articles, but the latter is the only reasonable title for the article. To prevent editors from accidentally writing two pages about the same thing, redirects are crucial.

Making a redirect. Let's say we want to make "WUFO" point to "Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization". Start a new page having the name that you want to become a redirect -- in this case, WUFO. Make its content

#redirect [[REDIRECT_TARGET]]

where [[REDIRECT_TARGET]] is the name of the article you want to go to -- in this case, "Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization".

Make redirects often. Any time you think of a term that people often use to name something else, and that term only names that one thing, make the page a redirect. WUFO can only refer to the frisbee club, so it's a great redirect. Furthermore, any time you were deciding between a few choices for a new article title (class or classes? skiing or alpine skiing?) it's usually a great idea to make the title you didn't use a redirect to the one you did use.

Sometimes, though, a word has more than one meaning. "Hopkins," unfortunately, is both the administrative hall and the dormitory. The page Hopkins, then, needs to be a disambiguation page.

Disambiguation pages

A disambiguation page is a page whose sole function is to provide access to the two or more meanings that one word or phrase has, such as Spencer and Weston. The page content can be anything that helps readers find their way to the right place, so long as the page has a link to every reasonable interpretation. It also should begin with the code {{disambig}}. This tags the page as a disambiguation page.

Renaming (moving) a page

To rename a page so that its title conforms to these guidelines, move it using the "Move this page" link at the bottom of the screen. When you move a page, the program automatically creates a redirect at the old location that points to the new location.

It is not a big deal, but it is good form, when you move a page, to fix all the links in Willipedia that pointed to the old name. If you move a young page, this is often a short job, and a nice thing to do. If you move an old page, it can have dozens of links to it, making this job very annoying. No one will fault you for not wanting to go and do all that work yourself, but consider leaving a message for the Willipedia board letting us know we ought to look into it.

Conventions

Effort is wasted when someone starts an article "Prank" when it really could have been added to (or already was in) "Pranks". Using naming conventions lets us use content to its fullest extent, and build on what's there already. Much of the below is adapted from Wikipedia's naming conventions.

Singular vs. Plural nouns vs. Gerunds

Use a singular noun for articles that:

  • Explain or define a subject, e.g. crusty
  • Give the history of a subject, e.g. Mountain Day

Use a plural noun for articles that:

Use a gerund (-ing word) for articles that:

Often you'll want to redirect from the other possible article names. For example, "beer" and "beers" should probably go to the same article, but make the appropriate choice for the primary article (beers). See Redirects for more information.

Sentence-style capitalization

Even though the title of something, like an encyclopedia article, typically has all words capitalized, Willipedia is different. Capitalize article and section titles as though you were writing a sentence: the first word is capitalized, and all other words are lowercase unless they are proper nouns.

Naming students and alums

Even though it is convention in most Williams publications to include the class year whenever a student or alum is named, on Willipedia, the class year should usually not be part of the title of a page on a person (ie, "Joe Freshman" is preferred to "Joe Freshman '09"). This is for ease of linking: in this system, an editor who wishes to link to a person need only know his/her name. If class years were in titles, one would need to know name and graduation year to link. You can still, of course, include the class year in your prose, e.g. "[[Joe Freshman]] '09".

Use full names to be unambiguous

Another common issue for Willipedia is that we have a lot of things named after people (namely, buildings). This creates a need to resolve ambiguity about whether "Hopkins" is an article about Hopkins Hall, Mark Hopkins House, or Mark Hopkins the person.

The solution in most cases is to use the full name of something, even if it is rare in common parlance. So while it is typical to say, "I'm eating at Mission," the article on this would have to be "Mission Dining Hall". Notice that all words in this title are capitalized, as it is the proper name of the place.

If you're feeling very helpful, create a disambiguation page at the common name that forks to many related pages. The Spencer and Dodd pages are examples of these.