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Wiki Announcement (2019-01-10)

From JFA Wiki
(Redirected from 2019-01-10 Wiki Announcement)

This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
By Greg Fuller 2019-02-10 is being converted to a wiki, running on the same platform as Wikipedia. You are looking at the new site in an early stage of conversion.

We are moving to a wiki platform to help us realize the site's mission of providing an evidence-based, non-hyperbolic, and usefully-organized body of knowledge helpful to vegans, those considering veganism, and especially those engaged in vegan and animal rights advocacy.

Exactly how this will help is explained below.


Last year, a friend put a bug in my ear about using wiki software for I let the thought simmer, but it kept popping up in my head. I looked at the features of MediaWiki—the software that Wikipedia uses. I did a few edits anonymously to the Veganism article on Wikipedia to familiarize myself with how things work on a wiki site.

I was surprised by how capable and well suited the software seemed to be for a site like, even without considering the possibilities for a wider collaborative effort.

I keep trying out stuff until I reached the point of no return. At some point in that process, it became clear just how big an improvement a wiki implementation would be.

Benefits of Moving to a Wiki Platform

Here are just a few of the benefits of moving Justice for Animals to a wiki site:

Collaboration. The ability to engage other contributors in a more collaborative effort will result in more content more quickly. The greatest opportunity for outside contributions initially will be in two new sections—Fact Sheets and Summaries.

Productivity. Since I've started working on this platform, I am impressed by how much faster one can jump in and start writing, editing, and cross-linking. When you see something wrong, you can hit the edit button and fix it immediately. You no longer have to go through a cumbersome administrative back end to get things done. As a result, things do get done.

Cross-Linking. The wiki platform offers stronger and easier-to-use capabilities for cross-linking the information between pages and site sections. It just wasn't getting done on the WordPress site. With more content and the two new sections mentioned earlier, this becomes even more important.

History and Version Control. The platform tracks all edits to a page, allowing any version to be compared with any other version and easily be reverted. WordPress does, too, but it's cumbersome and not suited to a collaborative environment.

Richer Presentation. The wiki platform makes it easy to produce a table of contents, citations, nicely formatted tables, information boxes, and more. Some of this was possible before but was not being used to its full advantage because it was difficult. Here it's easy.

Internationalization. MediaWiki supports content internationalization such that translators can enter and edit their translations for a page directly on the system. This is the same system successfully used by Wikipedia and other large wikis. This won't be set up initially because of time constraints, but it's good to know it's there.

Discussion Pages. Every page has a discussion page where we can record information pertaining to the page without putting it on the page itself. This could include editorial comments, notes on future improvements to the page, or anything else.

Common Skills. With the WordPress site, in order to contribute, one had to be trained in a system that was more specific to that site. Here, there's learning to be done, but it's the same platform as Wikipedia. The features are well documented and help is readily available. Wikipedia has proven this can work.

Continuity. I would like for others to not only be involved in content creation and editing but also in managing the site. I won't be around forever, and something could happen to me at any time. The wiki platform does what we need it to do without a lot of third-party and homegrown customizations, making it easier for someone to jump in and help with system maintenance—or even take over.

Site Considerations

It's a whole new ball game for how the information on the site is presented and how contributions are managed.

Content Contribution. As more people start participating in creating and editing content, many possibilities will exist for how page creation and editing can be managed. Decisions surrounding this are under consideration. Among the possibilities are the following:

  • Allow anonymous users to edit pages and possibly create pages.
  • Only allow registered users with verified emails to create and edit pages.
  • Contribution by invitation. This would result in having a team of contributors that have been vetted to some extent.

This kind and degree of participation would be very difficult with the current platform.

Foundational Pages. As more content gets created, the information that is more foundational could get lost in the sea. This is certainly not a problem now, as most everything being worked on is considered foundational. As the site grows, foundational pages from each section can be flagged as such and be given higher visibility.

Think of foundational information as the basic things you should know in order to be the most effective advocate for veganism and animal rights.

Copyediting. Currently, all articles are copyedited by a professional copy editor, Isaac Nickerson. This has resulted in high-quality content. As more contributors get involved, it will be difficult to maintain this standard for all pages.

The platform supports flagging of content based on quality. We can use this feature, combined with an approval process, to make it clear to the user where a page stands in this regard. The goal is to have all foundational articles copyedited.

Outlining. I thought the outline feature would be useful, but it hasn't generated any interest. That may be because people need to be educated about how outlines can be used. Outlines take considerable work to maintain, and I'm not sure people will use them.

Here's what I'm thinking: Put what is now in the Details and Extra parts of an outline into a collapsible box in the article and have the box's initial state be collapsed. This would work well for much of what is there now, but it would not work for deeper outlines. Much of the content in deeper outlines, however, can be moved to Fact Sheets.

Fact Sheets provide support for a variety of assertions that are commonly made in advocating for veganism and animal rights. Each fact sheet consists of one assertion, followed by summarized citations of supporting evidence for that assertion.

Clipboard. I think that having a plain-text version of an article that can easily be copied and pasted without formatting problems is useful. We should keep this feature but only require it on foundational articles. As richer content that includes such things as tables and information boxes is put into the main articles, that text will become even less amenable to copy and paste. The feature will be implemented differently, though, making it easier to copy and paste small portions of an article. It will also be easier for an author to derive the plain-text version from the article.

Aesthetics. In general, wiki sites look drab, but they don't have to. I have changed the header and sidebar of the standard skin already, (compare to MediaWiki) and I'm working on improving the fonts, colors, and spacing as well as customizing the presentation on mobile devices. But this should not take priority over content, as it has in the past. Still, the site should look inviting.

Visual Editor. A visual editor is available that lets you edit without dealing with wiki notation. Although wiki notation is quickly learned, the Visual Editor would make editing even easier. The feature requires a separate server, so it's not a matter of just flipping a switch. I'm working on it.

URL Redirection. After the conversion is complete, the site will be moved from to, replacing the current site. Because a wiki uses a different URL structure, URL redirection will be provided for most of the posts on the current site so that existing bookmarks and other links to pages will not break.

Take a Look

You can learn about the structure of the site by reading the Main Page, which is wiki talk for home page. Visit the section pages shown in the sidebar menu to see the kinds of entries in each section, particularly the two new sections, Fact Sheets and Summaries. See an example of a post in the Objections Section that's been converted by going here.

Now What?

It's obvious there's lots to be done, some of which is on the Implementation Notes page. I'm working hard to make the conversion happen as quickly as possible.

If you got to this page from an external link, you can get back to it from the Wiki Announcement link in the sidebar.