Wikiversity:Main page learning project
The main page learning project was launched after the redesign of the main page in December 2007. The main page learning project has as its goal the promotion of responsible involvement of the Wikiversity community in an efficient, productive, open and inclusive maintenance of the Wikiversity main page as a flagship of the activity and values of the Wikiversity community.
Purpose of this course
On some Wikimedia projects, the main page is edited by a group of illuminati remote from ordinary participants. On Wikiversity there has been a widespread feeling or culture of greater involvement, with a desire to include normal registered users in the main page creation process.
Opposing this is the issue that a main page of any website is a critical page which has to respond to the needs of many different kinds of user, especially newcomers and passive (non-editing) users looking for learning materials. Main page editing carries with it a higher need for responsibility towards these users. In addition, Wikiversity subscribes to certain values, and nowhere is the advocacy of and adherence to these values more critical than the main page.
To balance these two opposing issues, the Wikiversity answer is, of course, education. By means of a learning project, we set out to empower new and ordinary users to become involved in the main page creation and maintenance process. By working through the "lessons" and "activities" below, we hope to provide you with the knowledge and skills required to become a valuable participant in the main page task force, or to become a valuable commentator on the work of the main page task force.
Lesson 1: aims of the main page
It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.-- Arthur C. Clarke
The values of Wikiversity
One of the purposes of the main page is to correctly project the values of Wikiversity. Examples of how we do this:
- The motto/slogan beneath the welcome message ("set learning free"), which was the result of many months of voting and discussion among Wikiversity participants. This was a democratically determined element of the main page, and should not be modified without an equivalent community process.
- The quote of the day (QOTD), in small writing (top right). This changes every day. The quotes are very broad philosophical statements from thinkers of the past. They reflect Wikiversity's attempt to cater to universal tastes and needs, drawing on thought across all times, across all cultures and from very different perspectives. [Note: the QOTD was probably added by CQ in May 2007].
- The introduction, where we attempt to state in simple sentences and a single paragraph what Wikiversity is about.
The values which we try to project are these [Author's note: other WV participants may wish to comment on this!]:
- Openness and inclusivity: neutrality; universality; an absolutely non-partisan approach. Even if exceptions to Wikipedia's NPOV policy are permitted on Wikiversity on individual pages, the Wikiversity project as a whole adheres to a principle of ideological neutrality in terms of editorial content. Wikiversity appeals to all levels of education (e.g. primary, secondary, tertiary, informal education) and all age groups. Wikiversity has a global orientation, crossing countries and continents. The only restriction on bona fide editing is that the content must be licenced under a free content licence, but the licencing ideology does not extend to determine the content of any edits.
- Educational mission: the prominence of this value distinguishes Wikiversity from other Wikimedia projects.
A non-exhaustive list of places to find out more about Wikiversity values: consensus, academic freedom, civility, what Wikiversity is, what Wikiversity is not, policy. One of the more complete statements of Wikiversity values can be found at the bottom of the welcome page for newcomers.
The following article, while amusing, derives its humour from coming exceptionally close to the truth: the|megalomaniacal point of view (from MediaWiki).
Practical help for newcomers and learners
The vast majority of people who come to the main page are probably newcomers and learners. Many of these people will never register as users and may only use Wikiversity for learning without ever performing an edit. While these people are a majority, their voice will never be heard in Wikiversity discussions. One of the jobs of the main page is to respect this unrepresented majority and help them make use of the site. We do this with:
- Clear navigation (e.g. portals).
- An introductory text with links to further introductory pages.
- Featured content which rotates regularly and automatically.
The more experienced "registered users" are additionally assisted with:
- Community information
- Development information
A final aim of the main page is to convey a sense of activity at Wikiversity. Methods we use to attain this end:
- News and announcements
- Regular content updates to the main page (!)
Lesson 2: learning from the history of the main page
If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development. -- Aristotle
Lack of editing
From Wikiversity's foundation (August 2006) to "version 2" of the main page (December 2007), there was a general consensus that the main page needed redesigning, accompanied by huge amounts of discussion, a number of drafts, and no action. The actual editing activity was so little, in fact, that many of the links and comments were still related to the founding of Wikiversity (e.g. comments about motto and logo contests; formation of policy).
- Discussion archives: Archive 1 (August) | Archive 2 (September) | Archive 3 (Oct+Nov) | Archive 4 (Dec+Jan) | Archive 5 (Feb - July '07) | Archive 6 (July to November '07)
- Drafts: Draft 1, Draft 2, Draft 3.
- Edit history: Edit history of the main page
- More discussion: Wikiversity:Main page design changes (and yet more).
The dilemma arising out of this experience raises the question of how main page editing should be managed in the future. Nobody was happy with this experience, but what procedures should we adopt in the future? This learning project attempts to be a part of the answer.
Wikiversity, like all Wikimedia projects, is irregularly targetted by vandals generally seeking attention for themselves. Some of these vandals are expert wiki-editors, not infrequently with technically more advanced knowledge of wikis than some custodians (sysops). Vandalism comes in waves, and a period of relative inactivity does not prove that a project is "safe".
The main page, as well as other critical pages such as the colloquium, are the primary targets of vandals. In the worst case scenarios, unfortunately repeated many times over in Wikiversity's history, parts of the main page have been replaced with pornographic text and images. In particular, the complex architecture of the main page means that even if some parts of the page are protected from edits, the vandals can dig down into the template system to find a weak point to insert their material. Past experience is that some vandals are exceptionally good at this kind of thing.
Past discussions of the main page and vandalism have produced a consensus that page protection is the only way to combat this. The result is that the main page and its components are the most heavily protected parts of the Wikiversity project. "Semi-protection" provides a compromise by which ordinary registered users can still edit parts of a page, while vandals have more difficulty.
See also: Managing vandalism - a course on Managing vandalism.
General principles of the redesign of December 2007
While the principles of the redesign don't have to be kept to for the future, it may be helpful to know what was being considered at the time.
- Solidarity with the Wikiversities in other languages: the new design template was developed from the Spanish wikiversity, and generally followed layout principles which the other (all newer) wikiversities were following.
- Ease of future editing: to make future editing easier, the main page was divided into separately editable topic boxes.
- Better navigation: the introduction of the portals list down the right-hand side was a part of this. Wikiversity now had much more concrete content than when the first main page was redesigned, so we needed to start thinking about offering better access to this content.
- More dynamic content, using switch rotations in the source so that content automatically varied on a daily basis. The purpose of this was maintaining interest.
- More images, with lots of colourful icons and more photographs. Again, the purpose was maintaining interest.
Redesign of April 2008
See: /April 2008 Redesign
Lesson 3: exploring models for main page maintenance
We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. -- Albert Einstein
Lesson 4: architecture of the main page
A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines. -- Frank Lloyd Wright
Templates and topic boxes
The topic boxes borrowed from other language editions of Wikiversities which used this idea for better management of content. The templates can be separately edited. This enables you to edit content without worrying about the overall design too much. You can use the list below to access all the main content templates for the main page. Note that editing them will instantly change the main page!
- The welcome banner across the top. Should not normally be edited.
- The introductory blurb for orientating newcomers. Links and text may need updating.
- Today's feature includes selecting more/new features for the cycle, and updating the descriptions.
- Community box and development box. These two boxes help draw people deeper into the possibilities offered by Wikiversity. They are more of interest to existing users and repeat visitors. Regular maintenance and edits would be a good idea in order to maintain interest.
- The portal navigation down the right. Edit only to add new portals.
- The news and announcements box on the right and lower down. Intended for small news items. Wikiversity news is unfortunately infrequent. Items should be removed and added here as often as possible.
- The Wikimedia sister projects box at the bottom. Content is determined by Wikimedia policies and decisions.
See also: The main page templates category. If you create new templates for the main page, please remember to add them to this category.
Some of the topic boxes use a MediaWiki scripting command called a "switch". A switch can have different kinds of trigger, one example of which is the "day of the week". If a day-of-the-week switch is used, then wiki markup can be defined for each of the seven days of the week. There are numerous places on the main page where we use this device to create daily variety.
- Could you link to the instructions for how to use the switch? What other triggers can be used?--mikeu 13:43, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
- Learning project: Generating dynamic content with MediaWiki - this Wikiversity learning project explains in detail how to use switches for dynamic content.
Activity 1: Featured Content
There is a project for featured content at Wikiversity, where you can help select new featured content for the main page. This project is active. There is a also a defunct picture of the month project which might be worth reviving.
Activity 2: "Did you know?" template
A template has been under preparation for adding a rotating "did you know?" box to the main page. This project needs input in terms of ideas for the content of the box. At the time of writing, only 2 suggestions existed. We also need to think about where to put this on the main page.
|Did you know...|
|Any teacher or learner can set up a learning project at Wikiversity?|
Activity 3: Aesthetics
- Blue versus multicoloured: the current design is very blue. Multicoloured (such as Wikipedia) might stimulate and maintain a higher level of interest. Discussion is welcomed.
- The wikiversity image in the top right-hand corner: a traditional image, used since the earliest days of Wikiversity, and carefully prepared by an unknown designer. Is it right? Can anyone design better? The image height and width need to be thought about, because the topmost box can't get too high, but the image needs to be wide enough for the quote-of-the-day to fit below. Similar image proportions might be a good idea. But what should the image be? Discussion is welcomed.
- Take a look at the German Wikiversity, they've done pretty well with the image.
Activity 4: QOTD suggestions
There is a project to comment on quotes of the day and propose new ones here: Quote of the day discussion group. Please take a moment to comment on today's quote:
"On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées." — Victor Hugo (discuss)
Participants (a.k.a. main page task force)
Please enter your name here if you are interested in joining this learning project. Active participation is encouraged. It is hoped that participants will commit themselves, in the long term, to maintaining an active, changing main page and/or commenting constructively on main page editing.