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As I've mentioned a few places, last month I had a wonderful conversation with Brandingopportunity over coffee, and one of the topics we discussed were how people use wikis. We determined that there are two methods of utilizing mediawiki tools, and I thought I'd address both of these and how we can work to cover both of these here on PathfinderWiki.
One of the most common uses of Wikipedia, for example, is for random trivia. How many times have you been talking about some obscure song, television character, or ancient philosopher and wanted to look up a specific piece of information about them? In most cases, I'd guess you did a simple google search or even a search from within Wikipedia and found that random fact directly.
The Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting is absolutely filled with trivia. And I think we do a decent job of adding this information to the project. Approaches such as Goblin Witchlord's page-by-page, proper noun-by-proper noun addition of basically all content from Osirion, Land of Pharaohs. Many of these pages are Stubs or Orphans, but for trivia content, most users are going to find them through searching rather than internal linking. It's an arduous task, but adding even small articles or seemingly meaningless canon details may help someone. The last thing we want is for people to do searches that repeatedly return "no results."
The other main use of a wiki is to get a comprehensive overview of a topic. Whether that's a desire to learn all about the nation of Tuvalu, global warming, Queen Elizabeth II, or World War II, you can go to one of these extensive articles and then link to more detailed information from there. In each case, though, you could learn the most pertinent and general information about any of these topics from the main article. It's important to have these articles to tie a wiki together because simply hosting thousands of unrelated pages with no context or connection between them only serves users looking for trivia.
In the case of PathfinderWiki, we are, for many new players or GMs, their first introduction to the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting. When novels come out (announcement should be next week), we will most likely get additional people curious about the setting without the knowledge to know what to search for. These users should be able to get a general overview of the world, its inhabitants, history, religions, real world creators, and source materials with no knowledge of the setting beforehand. Editing for this purpose can often appear to be a more arduous undertaking than making small, unrelated articles, and in many ways it is. But it doesn't have to be. In many cases, simply compiling the supporting articles that already exist together and providing them a context and general overview will provide users a good introduction to the topic.
Combining the two
Our goal on Golariopedia should be to meet the needs of both types of users. In doing so, we not only increase the effectiveness of the wiki for its audience, but we have an easier task ahead of us. Yes, an easier task. The more types of tasks we can specialize in, the less of a burden falls on any single chronicler. And there's nothing to keep you from jumping from project to project depending on what you're in the mood for or what has recently inspired you. Something like the CSII is a perfect example. This project involves creation of articles for all the information in the Campaign Setting hardcover, from the leader of Ustalav to the most prominent river in Nex. It also involves the creation and organization of the "root" articles that users will find most easily from the site's portals.
Are there additional ways you use Wikipedia or other wikis? Can you think of any ways we can better meet the needs of our various types of users? Leave a comment here to discuss.