About-Guide for New Wiki Users

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Rules of Use

To use this wiki, you must agree to obey our content rules, which are intended to prevent spam and abuse. Read that page carefully - abusers will have their work deleted and will usually be banned.

Where to Get Help

The Help link in the left margin of every wiki page leads to a brief summary of the editing language. For more detailed help, refer to the MediaWiki site, which is linked by the MediaWiki logo at the bottom of every page. That site contains a detailed User Manual for the wiki software.

General Concepts

A wiki is a web site whose pages are stored in a database and generated dynamically when they are acessed, rather than being stored as static pages on a web server. The pages are written in "wikitext", a simplified markup language like a very restricted version of HTML, with a simpler syntax.

Pages can link to other internal pages (by name) or to external pages (by URL). Likewise, pages can display images stored in the wiki (by name) or external images (by URL).

Authorized users can modify pages, or comment on them, or create links between them, from within the web browser. No separate "web publishing" tool is needed.


Pages are referred to by their name, not by URL. We have some naming conventions to keep the name space organized and avoid collisions.

For users contributing their own work, the naming convention is simple: prefix all of your page and image names with your own User Id, then use meaningful text for the rest of the name. Insisting that you start each page with your own User Id is to ensure your chosen page name doesn't conflict with the same choice made by someone else.

Discussion Pages

Every page has a separate "discussion" page associated with it, intended to allow people to talk about the page separately from the content that is in the page. The "page" and "discussion" tabs at the top of each page are used to switch between these. Although only registered users can edit main pages, anyone can edit discussion pages.


Spam in discussion pages is a known problem with wikis, and we have installed extensive filtering to combat this. You may find your edits rejected if they contain URLs that appear to point to blacklisted sites. If you are having legitimate URLs rejected, contact the webmaster, who can "whitelist" the specific pages you are trying to link.

Logging In

Anonymous users can read any page in the wiki, and can add to the discussion pages.

To create or edit main pages, you must be a registered user. Full members of Ottawa RASC, with a track record of publishing good-quality, on-topic information on other RASC forums, may request User Ids by writing to the webmaster. Read the Acceptable Content Rules first.

Once you have your User Id, use the "Log In" link at the top right of any wiki page. Once you are logged in, we suggest you explore the "Preferences" section before editing pages.

Creating and Editing Pages

Your Own Page

Every user automatically has a page whose name is their own User ID. This is intended to be a place to describe yourself to other wiki users. When you are first starting out, this page is a good place to practice using the Wiki editing tools. You get to your own page, once logged in, by clicking the link that is named the same as your User ID at the top of any Wiki page.

Creating Pages

Since pages are not useful unless some other page links to them, the normal way to create a new page is to first create the link to it by editing some other page. Then, just try to follow that link by clicking on it, and you will be told "page does not exist", and offered a link to create it.

You can also type the name of a page in the Search box in the left margin and click "Go". Trying to go to a non-existent page results in being offered a link to create it.

Editing a Page

Except for minor and obvious corrections, do not edit other people's pages without their permission. (Nothing prevents this, but abusers will be taunted, and may be removed from the wiki.)

Click on the "edit" link on the top of a page to enter the editing environment. You can edit the wikitext notation directly, or use an experimental WYSIWYG editor. Which happens by default is controlled by the "Misc" tab in your Preferences. The WYSIWYG editor is fine for simple pages, but it has limitations and bugs, and you will want to learn Wikitext notation before long. The Help link in the left margin will get you started.

You should follow some style guidelines to keep the pages in our wiki looking uniform.

  • Don't use level-1 headings inside a page. The automatically-generated heading of the page is level 1, and all other levels should be subordinate to that.
    • Note that if you use more than a trivial number of level 2 and other headings, you will automatically get a Table of Contents at the top of the page. To suppress this, put "__NOTOC__" in the first line of your wikitext. (That is two underscores before and two underscores after the keyword NOTOC.)
  • Don't change fonts, except for italic and boldface.
  • Don't change font or background colours, except for exceptional special cases.
  • Avoid specifying absolute pixel sizes for tables - use "percentage" sizes so the tables expand and contract for different window sizes.


If you will be uploading any new images to the site, you will need to have some kind of image editing software on your computer, to reduce the files to an acceptable size. Most digital cameras come with suitable software, and there are also many free or inexpensive packages available.

What you can't do is upload files directly from your digital camera - modern digital cameras produce files that are far too large to be uploaded to web sites, and they must be size-reduced first. Our site enforces a limit of "under 100K" for image file size.


Wikis can have software extensions added for different purposes. We have several that may interest you, documented here.


Images can be uploaded into the database and displayed in pages. The upload function is accessed from the "Upload file" link in the left margin.

Please follow these guidelines when uploading images:

  • Keep images to less than 100K in size, and under 2 megapixels in resolution. If you have a modern digital camera, it probably produces files that are tens or hundreds of times larger than this. You need to learn how to use your photo editing software to reduce the size of your files before you upload them to the Wiki. Generally if you reduce the image resolution to a width of 900 pixels, letting the height scale to an appropriate value, the resulting image wil be a good size, and will still fill the window of any normal browser. Uploading resolution beyond this only produces an image that is too big to display, slows the downloads for your reader, and may cause error messages from the wiki software. (Keep your original files, and upload a size-reduced copy.) Oversized images will be deleted.
         The wiki is not the right place to store full-sized copies of your photos - use a photo-sharing service such as flickr for that (and you can link to the images in your wiki pages).
  • Give uploaded files a meaningful name (your User Id followed by other text), and put meaningful text in the description field.
  • Do not upload images or other files that are someone else's property. Link to such images (with permission) on the owner's site instead.

Instructions on how to include images in your page (and how to display size-reduced thumbnails) are in the MediaWiki User Manual.

Change Management

There are a number of tools to help you manage changes to your pages.

  • The wiki automatically keeps all versions of all pages, and will show you the difference between versions.
  • See the "Recent Changes" link in the left margin to get a list of what has changed recently. On that page you will find the links to handle version control of pages.
  • Note that you can use an RSS reader to subscribe to a published list of changes from the "Recent Changes" page.
  • In your Preferences, explore the "Watchlist" tab. You can arrange to be automatically notified of any changes to pages you create or edit.

Differences from Regular HTML Publishing

If you are an experienced web publisher using traditional HTML, you will find the wiki different in a number of ways, including:

  • This is a full multi-user system. Other people can edit your pages, and you can edit theirs. Don't get carried away. Used properly, this enables collaborative development and delegation.
  • There are restrictions on formatting, generating more uniform and portable pages.
    • Images can't be links
    • No Javascript or other programming (and, thus, no rollover graphics)
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