Forums: Index > Help desk > Help improve the help pages

Sometimes newcomers ask questions that are already apparently answered on the Help pages.

Assuming good faith, we who have been here longer realise that such newcomers haven't totally ignored the "Help" buttons but haven't actually found the right page. Or they tried "Search" on an obvious keyword but that function was having one of its bad days and didn't cooperate.

Please drag yourself away from those fascinating relatives and stimulating programming challenges for half an hour, to look at the questions you and others asked or were afraid to ask and see if you can help us oldies pinpoint the probable reason(s) for your failure to find the answers soon enough.

You may list them below as main headings with brief explanation. You may instead, or also, use the Talk page of a Help page to point out difficult parts of it and any pages it should additionally link to, and/or to offer ideas of why you couldn't find the page when you were looking for something on that subject.

Your humble though not always obedient servant, -- Robin Patterson 12:28, 2 June 2007 (UTC)

Not knowing one needs help[]

Hi Robin! Erm, okay, so maybe I didn't look at the help first... but in my defense, I didn't know I needed help.

Let me explain... I fear that due to a bad rap given Wiki's by the media, there is a certain expectation that Wiki's are disorganized and ungoverned...

So I fear folks come into this Wiki not knowing they need certain kinds of help. Of course, if I couldn't program in Wiki, or had some issues with logging in, I'd go to help... but I wouldn't think that Naming Conventions is a thing I'd find in help... Indeed, I wandered off to the community zone to find the answers to that, thinking (rightfully so) that the community would have been chatting about this, and if not, then I could start the chatting (Which I did).

I think that there is a certain feeling that there is a difference between the operation of the Wiki (And Help), and the content of the Wiki (And the community)... This might simply be my feeling on the matter...

More emphasis on naming conventions[]

Anyway, I think the most vital thing here is naming conventions, as noted earlier in my posts in the forums, without a naming convention, two trees which should be linked could pass each other like ships in the night... I think it should be in big, bold letters on the very front page :D... Naming conventions. Everything else can be fixed by other researchers later...

I think to start, something on the Main Page, right up at the top that says something like "We love to have everyone's contributions, but please note the naming conventions before adding your trees to avoid duplication of effort!" or something like that really close to the top, easy to see. The great thing is that Genealogists are all about connecting their trees to other folks' trees (It means less work! :D), so I think most folks will be more than happy to join convention. I know it's a little confrontational, and maybe there needs to be a little rewording (I'm all for a very militant, draconian, start shooting people with lasers and whipping them sort of enforcement... but that's only because I've struggled with too many poorly kept trees in my time... thus... um... maybe you should skip that recommendation of mine... or just use lasers... :D). well... that would be about my 1 yen... Aabh 00:59, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Difference between operation and content[]

I would like to add my 2 euros to Aabh's 1 yen. Specifically I concur with Aabh's comment that there is a difference between the operation of the Wiki and the content of the wiki. I'm experiencing this very much as a newbie here. I see these kinds of help needed:

  1. General help about wiki's generally (i.e., not specifically about GenWikia and the use of this wiki for genealogical purposes)-- i.e., introduction to how the whole thing works, the philosophy behind it, then getting down into the nitty gritty of what the various "codes" mean.
  2. Using THIS WIKIA for the sharing of genealogical information-- how best to think about, set up and maintain pages to which you contribute genealogical/historical information.
  3. Using THIS WIKIA to FIND information about your family, history, etc...

These three types of help are very distinct, and I think y'all are doing a better job at #1 than at the other two. Or at best, you overlap #1 and #2 and it's sometimes confusing.

Jillaine 19:47, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

"By Jove she's got it". Wikipedia has more than one Help category. See Wikipedia:Category:Wikipedia help - 21 subcategories(!) and 41 pages. Our Category:Help has only 9 subcategories, with 61 "articles" (plus a few that are not in cat:help but are in one of its subcats) - over three times as many articles per category as WP has, which may be a pointer. I think we should make a more obvious or definite move in that direction. Our Help:Contents has part of such a move with its grouping of types of help, but there's clearly scope for much more of that grouping.

Robin Patterson 05:21, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Jillaine's three types of help[]

Tentative headings, with current categories and pages that seem to fit under them (based on their current contents).

1 - Help with Wikia mechanics[]

Suggested name Category:Wikia help

2 - Help with contributing information[]

Suggested name Category:Contributing help

3 - Help with finding genealogical information[]

Suggested name Category:Searching help

Further discussion[]

Other pages not called "Help:..." could be added above (but we have to draw lines eventually - or every page would end up listed because it could help some reader or contributor). There's a lot of overlap. Jillaine's distinctions may be hard to recognise. I see no harm in having some of the more useful pages put into all three of the "Help" subcategories we could derive from the above. Could we use a fourth? Or more? Wikipedia:Help:Contents has thirteen groups of help types, most linking to subpages of that page, which contain grouped lists of links like the above. Robin Patterson 12:01, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Suggestion of having no help here but having it all on a Central site[]

My Dear Robin, before going nuts and copying everything from WP (unless I'm too late in this word of caution), I would ask if we really should have any help pages at all. Most of them I think we can get rid of, or at least move: I've mentioned this idea before, but you know, me being ill and all, *I* certainly am not one to undertake such an undertaking: Even now I'm talking in circles. Sigh.
What about a general Help Wikia. All Wikias can then just point to that Wikia instead of each Wikia having to reinvent the wheel each time, over and over again. Robin, my dear sir, you, yourself, are involved with psych, government and this wikia, right? Do you really want to copy all of the WP help pages to each of those three wikia?
Time for me to take another Vicodin and head back to bed. Sorry to stick my nose in here without thorough research first. Cheerio to all, Zeph. Zephyrinus 20:52, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
That's one approach, and it has some validity. It was applied for the first couple of years of Wikia, with each new site having no inbuilt help but the occasional advice to look at the Central Wikia help pages. What happened? Newcomers asked established members how to do things - questions that were answered in full on the Central Wikia or Wikipedia help pages. So - since early this year every new Wikia gets a startup package containing a dozen help pages and several other useful pages. Some of us believe such pages are worth copying to an individual Wikia so that new members don't have to jump from one site to another. I'm perfectly contented copying such pages to Psych, Govt, Scotland, NZ, Cities, Civilization, India, Australia, and a few other Wikia sites, and copying some more complex help pages from Wikia or Wikipedia to more serious sites such as this. Takes much less than a minute to copy a page to here; probably saves much more than a minute of newcomers' time eventually. Good luck with the Vicodin! Robin Patterson 03:25, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Good news - a separate dedicated Wikia Help[]

w:c:Help - but it won't help with genealogy-specific problems and it will probably have as little traffic as the old Central Help pages had. Robin Patterson 09:30, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Even better news: as some of you will have noticed in recent weeks, Wikia help is now magically added to every Wikia site, supplementing anything we already had. Some of the stuff I and others copied in the dark ages should be deleted. That leaves more time for us to improve the "How to get the best out of THIS site" pages (Jillaine's groups 2 and 3). — Robin Patterson (Talk) 06:16, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Much later: some of us continue to add specific help pages, and there are more "group" categories such as Category:Forms help. Please look for them and help us create more of them where subjects are not adequately covered or findable. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:41, June 22, 2010 (UTC)

Even MORE notes (These after the initial edit)[]

(on a different subject only slightly related to the "help" pages; moved to Forum:Value of page name standards. — Robin Patterson (Talk) 04:41, June 22, 2010 (UTC) )