First of all, thank you for sharing your research and information with the Dead Architects Society. Our hope is that this clearinghouse of information will become an important resource for understanding the built environment in Baltimore and the surrounding region.
After some discussion and review, the DAS decided to use a wiki (similar to Wikipedia) to house its research data. There is nothing available that better facilitates collaborative work, with all the attendant concerns of version control, security, flexibility, etc. We selected Mediawiki software as the basis for our system because of its robust architecture (pun intended), its mature, stable status (under development for about 20 years), and its upfront cost (free).
Although vastly easier to use and maintain than older computer-based information systems, a wiki does come with some knobs and buttons that require some introduction. We trust that once you have a few edits and additions "under your belt," using this wiki will be very easy for you.
Wikis are page focused. In other words, each subject is presumed to have its own page that contains all the information pertinent to that subject. It can be as long as needed. It can link to other related subject pages and will be linked-to from related subject pages. It can contain images, maps or videos (although we have not implemented the video functionality yet here. That will come after the wiki is in its permanent home.) It can link to YouTube videos or other non-wiki websites. In short, the format is flexible. One other thing the DAS wiki uses to advantage is the infobox, which is a box of data, images and maps found near the top right of most pages. The infobox contains structured data that is used to update other pages in the wiki automatically. It also serves as a concise listing of data important to the subject.
Generally, the DAS wiki functions identically to Wikipedia; they both use the same software at the core (Mediawiki) and most of the functionality in one will be found in the other. The DAS wiki, however, has added functionality that allows for automatic updating of pages when certain information is added or changed on other pages. (In fairness, Wikipedia also has functionality that the DAS wiki does not have or need.)
A few more words of general application: Links to other pages in the wiki appear in blue text. Links to pages that have not been created yet are called red links and appear, well, red. Clicking on a red link will take you to a page asking you if you want to create the linked page. If you are merely looking for information, don't bother clicking on a red link.
The DAS wiki restricts additions and updates of its content to registered users. Anonymous users can review and print out whatever material they wish, but they cannot change anything on the wiki. We took that approach to eliminate the spam and graffiti which is a constant problem with publicly-updated wikis. The current policy is to grant user accounts to anyone requesting one; thus, anyone interested in participating will be free to do so. We hope that will always be the case.
Searching within the Wiki
You might assume that a wikipedia-styled wiki would have robust searching functionality, and you'd be right. The DAS wiki benefits from the deep search capabilities developed for wikipedia, and incorporates them to the fullest extent. Typing a word or phrase into the Search DAS Wiki box at the very top of the page will trigger suggestions of page titles satisfying that criteria. Clicking on one of the dropdown suggestions will load that page. Completing your word or phrase in the search box and hitting <Enter> will produce a listing of pages using the full text search function of the wiki.
Creating New Pages
The DAS requests that you create new pages for architects, firms, buildings or grounds using the designated Add *** links in the left-hand menu. When you do so, database entries get created behind the scenes that make all the cross-pollination magic between pages happen. You don't have to create new pages this way, but you won't have infoboxes or any of the other automatic mapping functions available to you if you don't.
Here are some links to pages concerning page creation:
You may find it helpful to open those links "in a new tab" so as to have the help page handy while creating the subject page.
Editing Existing Pages
Once the page is created, updates can be made right on the page by clicking on the "Edit" links near the top of the page. No special-function pages are required. For most pages, there will be three edit links:
- Edit text
- Edit infobox
- Edit code
We know, we know, why three??! It turns out that they are a result of the evolving development of the underlying software, and each has functions very useful in certain situations that the others do not.
- The Edit text link is very useful when editing the freeform (or non-infobox) part of the page. It contains lots of features for automatically generating citations, formatting text and paragraphs, inserting images, etc., mostly like a word processor. A piece of software called the VisualEditor makes all that magic work, and it has its own documentation page. That page is focused on Wikipedia, but the functionality of VisualEditor is identical here. We recommend you take a look at it.
- The Edit infobox link is useful for editing the infobox on a page. It presents a form that you can fill out with specified information pertaining to the subject, which it stores in an internal database and formats nicely in the infobox. Importantly, some items will not get stored properly in the database if one attempts to add or update the items using another tool.
- The Edit code link is the oldest editing function on the wiki but it allows for very fine-grained editing of the page code. Most users probably will not need this ability, but old wiki-hands will find this link the most useful of the three.
One word of caution: by definition, wikis are collaborative creatures. No single person "owns" any page; no one has veto power over anyone else's content. (Well, that's not strictly speaking true; system administrators can boot users off the wiki and can "lock down" pages so they cannot be further edited. But no one wants that.) So it could be that you may find your pages later edited by other users. In fact, we hope that will be the case.
However, it is possible you might not agree with the edits. There has arisen an etiquette with respect to editing others' work in a wiki. We recommend using the Discussion page at the top of each subject page to document the discussions and to otherwise keep any debate civil. The Wikipedia:Etiquette page is a useful resource on this topic.
Documenting Your Sources
One of the banes of using older sources of information is that documents sometimes assert facts and figures with no supporting documentation. Please avoid doing that. The wiki has a series of "citation" dialogue boxes (one for each kind of source--books, journals, newspapers, websites, etc.) that allow you to fill in various details of your source, and then formats all that nicely and places it in the page at the appropriate location. It's as easy as we could make it. The citation dialogues are at the top of the VisualEditor page (click on the Edit text link, as described above). Future generations of researchers will thank you for your efforts here.
Since there is so much information in the wiki, it is useful to group pages into categories, which can then be listed to find a particular subject. So far, this wiki uses four main categories: architects, firms, buildings and grounds. And there are other smaller categories, like Architectural Styles, and Awards, for projects that received an award, Help pages (this page is part of that), etc. Page categories appear in the menu on the right hand side of the page. Each page created through the Add *** links will automatically be assigned the category of that link. Other categories may be created, and additional categories may be added to a page, such that it falls within a number of classifications. To add a category to a page click on the Edit source link, scroll to the bottom of the page and add the following: [[category:your-new-category]] Don't omit the double brackets; they're essential. Then re-save the page.
Editing Data on Multiple Pages at once
For those used to spreadsheet editing, we have included a feature that allows for editing the data on multiple pages at once. Click on the Edit All *** link corresponding to the category desired in the left menu. A "spreadsheet" showing the data from the pages in that category will appear. Click on any item and change the entry. Then scroll all the way to the right, and click on the check mark that appears at the end of the row. The update will only be saved by clicking on the check mark.
Viewing the History of a Page
The wiki keeps track of every single edit or change to a page, what it was, who did it and when. Clicking on the History link at the top of the page will list that history, all the way back to the page creation. Further, comparisons can be easily seen between different versions of the page. This feature makes it easy to understand how the page got to look as it does. Finally, one can undo edits to revert the page back to an earlier version.
Here is where some diplomacy and discussion with other editors becomes important. With this tool it is possible for editors to undo other editors' contributions without their consent and perhaps over their objections. We hope that any disputes like this will be extremely rare, but if they occur the issue will have to be "kicked upstairs" to the system administrators who will have the final decision as to the content on the page. We ask everyone's cooperation, collegiality and discretion in modifying the content of others.
Importing External Data Into the Wiki
You can import external data (such as that contained in a spreadsheet) using special import pages in the wiki. The format of the file must be structured in a particular way, depending on what sort of data it is. See the following pages for details.