• Tools

    Books and references

    In Philosophia, virtually all data are stored in texts. Not in data sets, images, graphs, video or audio, although audio books and vlogs on philosophy have started to appear on the internet. All primary source material is in books and articles. For any philosophical thought, concept or terminology that is not your own, you must cite the primary source. Citations include information about the author, title, date of publication, and publisher, but may also include unique identifiers, such as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or the Digital object identifier (DOI). There are several citation systems, each with its own style. I use the APA system which is often used in Humanities – the academic field to which Philosophy belongs. To give you an example of citation / bibliographical entry from my paper on Autopoetic Enactivism: Cuffari, E. C., Di Paolo, E., & De Jaegher, H. (2015). From participatory sense-making to language: There and back again. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 14(4), 1089–1125. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-014-9404-9

    If you took a look at the link to my paper in the previous paragraph, or indeed any other philosophical paper, you will see that there are a large number of citations in there. Those are only the ones that make it to the actual paper. Many more are collected during preparation. Quite an administration, and one that will keep expanding with every paper I write. So I thought I had better think up a proper system to deal with this workflow. Particularly since my memory is not what is was when I first studied. Sometimes I can recall the shape of an argument without being able to remember the actual words 🙂

    Zotero

    Since I do not fancy typing up citations manually, I wanted a digital system which integrates with my word processor (MS Word, part of Office365). I tried out a number citations managers or reference managers as they are sometimes called: Mendeley, EndNote and Zotero. Mendeley and EndNote are paid services which do not allow you to use your own storage system (you must use theirs). Zotero is free and integrates beautifully with Microsoft OneDrive, which is my Cloud storage solution, packaged as part of Office365 home to which I have a subscription. Instructions for synching outside Zotero, i.e. with dropbox or Onedrive or some such, can be found here.

    Zotero integrates with several word processors, not just MS Word. The integrations works by allowing you to insert specific references from Zotero inside the text,and then collects it all at the end of the document into a automatic bibliography. There are a few other plugins which are very useful. The most important one is Zotfile which can automatically rename, organize, and extract annotations. There are many more plugins. I use Zotero Storage Scanner, Google Scholar Citations for Zotero and Zotero DOI Manager.

    Zotero offers integrated browser support, which means that if you find an article online and have the Zotero app running on your PC, your browser will extract all relevant information from the article and put it, together with the article, into your Zotero system.  It may also be a good idea to add Unpaywall to your browser. This extension will automatically search for open access PDFs on every journal web page you visit. If it finds an open access PDF, Zotero will usually grab it when you click the button.

    Nice and tidy

    I use Zotero as my digital library for articles, so my references and articles are in the same place. Since I store use OneDrive to sync the Zotero Library, I have access to it from both my desktop and my laptop. And Husband’s PC upstairs in Airco land. I sort the articles I plan to read and use into collections. Very useful feature, since articles can belong to several collections. So whilst I work on my own paper, I create a collection for it, which keeps things nice and tidy.

    Calibre

    For books I use Calibre. This is a digital library system, which contains not only my academic books, but also my books on cookery (hundreds!), IT, security, graphics, photography and arts & crafts. These collections are also synced with OneDrive, which means that I can easily share books with Husband. I love Calibre. It is a pity Calibre does not work for audio books (because audio books consist of chapters). There is a deDRM plugin for Calibre which will take off any DRM, allowing you to share a protected book you bought across your devices. For the integration with Zotero, there is another plugin, the Zotero Metadata Importer, which can be downloaded from within Calibre itself. It works by allowing you to export a list of books as a RIS file, which you can then import into Zotero and treat like any article.

    Where to get books and articles? Well, as as student, many digital resources are automatically open to you. Like the Philosopher’s Index, called OVID. If you are an alumnus, your ex-university may provide you with complimentary access to JSTOR, as mine did. Library-wise you need to look for a library that has access to EBSCO. In the Netherlands, that is the Koninklijke Bibliotheek who will allow you to download 3 books a week for the ridiculous fee of 15 euro per year. The KB is great for other purposes as well, worth having a look at. In many other parts of the world excluding the Netherlands, your free local library will have (limited) access to EBSCO. Friends and family in Canada, Australia and the UK graciously share their online access with me. Google books is another great source. Most books will not be shown in their entirety, but if you know what you are looking for, you can search for specific words and find the right page, and yes Zotero will index it for you through your browser. A general search index pointing to lots of books is Genesis. The books posted here are not free though, the recommendation is that you buy them. Citation indexes are also useful, for determining if and how often and by whom an article has been cited. If you want more tools, have a look at this article on digital tools for researchers.

  • Amuses

    Embroidery

    Yesterday I had my long awaited meeting with my supervising professor. You know, the grumpy one that I regard as mine. There were several things that needed discussing. Obviously my paper, which got a good but not an excellent grade; the past and the future. And some human stuff.

    We had arranged to meet at a café at Utrecht Central Station rather than at the university. Husband travelled up there with me, the idea being that we would meet up later. At the station I ran into several colleagues. They were on their way to a team meeting which I should have attended too had I not been on study leave for the afternoon. I was glad I had not booked a meeting room at the Utrecht office: in my head, academic and work worlds don’t mix well. I had half an hour to spare though so enough time to get back into the academic spirit.

    There was a bit of an awkward issue that I needed to discuss with him. I told you about it in previous posts: he and I are fine in a one-to-one meeting, but in a class setting where I have to take the floor, his feedback becomes rather too vicious for my taste. Particularly compared to the very careful way he handles the other students. I did not quite know how to bring this up. Fortunately, a chance opened up to address this issue right at the beginning, and it went fine. He apologised, saying that he had heard this about himself before. He had just been matching my directness which he found pleasant (as it livened up an otherwise rather unresponsive class). So I pointed out that I was just as vulnerable as the other students in academic matters; and we agreed; and that was that. Good. Relief.

    My paper was next. I had reread it, and his review of it the night before, and I was glad I had left it for a while. I could now see that he had judged my paper on a different basis than I had intended the paper to be read. Which a priori means that I had not been clear. You see, it was a difficult topic, on collective speech acts, on which there is almost no research. The papers that I did review, I found to be of meagre quality. The problem was, that I had not said so explicitly. This because I felt I was not sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject to do a “deconstruction” of the work that these philosophers had done. So I had been a bit vague in my approach to compensate for not saying what I really thought. Which put the reader (the professor or anyone else) on the wrong foot. It was not so much that I should have a highly critical or argumentative stance, but rather, that there was no good story-line to my paper. That was mistake number 1.

    The 2nd point was about my not being sufficiently critical. Now this is not something I hear very often! It took me a while to understand, but what I need to do, is to question every concept, approach, idea that I review and explain why I put it in the paper OR explain why I don’t question it. So my simple idea of reviewing papers and going along with the argument to see where we might end up, would have been fine, IF I had explained that was what I was doing. Which I had not. Because again I had been too shy.

    The 3rd problem was that the paper was too big in scope. In retrospect, the professor said, scope-wise it would have been fit for a Master Thesis. This is because I left so many concepts and ideas to investigate. For practical reasons, I had simply accepted concepts without question, i.e. as given in literature. Had I done otherwise, my paper would have exploded, and it was only supposed to be 6000 words. So yes, I could see he was right, the scope I had chosen was much too ambitious to do well. It is either quantity or quality. There is also a style difference, I think. He works inside-out, and I work outside-in. Which means I have to read much more but that is not the worst of it. Here the difference between audiences comes alive. If I write something as a civil servant, I must avoid being too detailed for fear of losing my audience. The general consensus is that details can always be given later, in a separate paper, in a presentation, during a talk, whatever; but later. The same is not true for a philosophy paper. That paper has to be complete in itself; there is no “later”.

    the Philosopher’s Bell

    Problem nr. 4 took me a while. I have developed, in my working life, a habit of writing authoritatively. Because I am an authority on certain matters. Husband taught me how to do this. I cannot remember how many times I got my texts back with remarks like: you use too many words, explain too much, go into too much detail etc. Which is all very well when you are writing government or company policy, but is not a good idea when you are writing a philosophical article. A philosopher needs to explain and explain well. My professor spends a lot of time on doing just this, and it has also been a issue in the other seminars I attended, so I might have known. But I think there is more to it than that. Because Philosophia is not very well charted, a philosopher constantly needs to ring a bell, so that others may understand where he is. Think of a cow in an Alpine meadow 🙂 That means that as a philosopher, you must allow other philosophers to understand exactly what concepts you are using in what context and why. Otherwise they get lost. Or you do. Depending on your point of view.

    So: a good philosopher knows the precise context in which she is putting forward her ideas (by the way, this is an example of “correct” writing, sometime during my absence from academia, they all started writing in terms of “she” rather than “he”). The problem of course is that I don’t. I am still an amateur. Which brings me to the research paper which I will be writing next term. Apparently this paper is not for a grade (it is pass or fall), but intended to allow to you prepare for the Master Thesis which has to written in the second half next year. This gives me a chance to consolidate my knowledge on a couple of topics which at the moment is only wafer-thin. The topic(s) will be: speech acts, collective acts and common ground. Right. I will enjoy getting my teeth into that. I promise you, my next paper will be like an embroidery: pretty, intricate, beautiful and state-of-the-art.

    The professor and I, we parted on most amicable terms after nearly 3 hours. I was really pleased that I had been able to pick up some new insights. Also, the luxury of someone spending hours on you to improve your thinking! When does that ever happen in Real Life, I ask you?

    Now came the task of finding Husband. In spite of our shared-location app, I failed. Seriously, I walked around Utrecht CS with Google Maps displayed on my phone, and kept going in circles, from one entrance to the other, up and down the escalators. After quarter of an hour, I had to call Husband and admit total failure. He had to come and get me. Yes, you may laugh. Of course, he should have foreseen this (I get disoriented very very easily), so we agreed it was really his fault. Off we went, back to the Utrecht canals to have a drink and something to eat at the waterside. Very pleasant. It was a bit like a celebration. We had a nice meal and 3 Belgium beers each. Alas, it turned out that we can no longer handle this the way we once did. Walking back from Apeldoorn station was slow; and somehow we could not keep our eyes open after 10:30. Very amusing. Nice memory though.

  • Amuses

    Visuals

    I often have to find ways to express ideas without words. Many people simply not like reading. This may be because they are already overloaded with information. Or because they simply prefer other ways of communication. Have fallen out of the habit of reading or were never much good at it (a surprising number of managers are dyslectic, in my experience). Or don’t want to be inundated with information about a topic that they do not understand/have no knowledge about/are not interested in.

    One group is exempt from this very general statement: philosophers. They live, breathe, and dream text. Also, they have nothing other than text. No diagrams, no visuals, perhaps the odd cartoon, but that is about it. Books, papers, articles: text, text and text. But that won’t stop me trying to find ways to visualise philosophical issues as well. Meanwhile, I browse visuals just for the fun of it. Below are a couple. I don’t understand them all, but wow, are they pretty.

    Promises, promises

    Before I do, I promised to post my presentation for the Skills&Methods seminar, you know, the pièce de résistance that was one the main outputs of that seminar. I already posted the draft version of the article in another post. The presentation is quite different though. Don’t feel obliged to look at it, but if you do, make sure to look at in in presentation mode, so you don’t miss any of the animations and the little cyber-criminal quiz (where you have to point at little circles to make up the match; you will see. Use page-down to go from slide to slide, and click to see the animations within the slide. Anyway, here is the link. The file is 24 MB, so the best thing is to right-click the link and save it. If you are on a PC. Faster that way.

    Intermezzo (the real reason for this post)

    You probably thought that I am spending my “holidays” (only the day-time job) catching up on those wonderful philosophy books that I have been collecting. Well, so did I. But we were quite wrong. I just like collecting books. So what did I do? Except for sweltering in the heatwave like the rest of Europe? Well, I have been playing with my Wiki. You know, the one called concepts, which you can go to via the menu at the top of this blog). It is filling up quite nicely, but what I was playing with was not so much the content, but the construction. I have spent a great many hours getting this bit of machinery to work. So I thought, if I have to do that again, I will have forgotten it all, so I’d better write it down. And then I thought, that would be true of all the “tools” I use. From my citation system to my note taking routines to my internet sources or my WordPress tips, it adds up to quite a bit. Perhaps that is is true for many people. But Husband and I have just spent very pleasant evenings watching new episodes of Lewis that has just become available on our provider. We thought. Towards the end we confessed to each other that we had probably seen them before. Years ago. So better not to rely too much on the good old memory. I have created a another sub-site, next to concepts, called tools. Here I have started to share my notes about my bag of tricks. If you subscribe to this blog, you will not be notified because it is separate from this blog, which is probably just as well :-). Have a look, it is pretty (and very different from this one).

    Back to the visuals. Below I included a few I liked. In the next weeks I will post a collection of good sources on the tool-blog, on this page.

    Stray beauties

    “Nuclear Slowdown” by Valerio Pellegrini, Wired UK
    Source: https://www.columnfivemedia.com/the-75-most-creative-infographic-design-examples-of-2017
    Source: https://public.tableau.com/profile/adam.e.mccann#!/vizhome/BeatlesAnalysis/BeatlesAnalysis
    Author: Adam E McCann
    Source: https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/gallery/trumps-holding-companies?tab=featured&topic=newsroom-use-cases
    Author: CNBC Digital, used in a story about Donald Trump’s holding companies.
    Source: https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/gallery/visual-history-formula-1
    Author: James Smith
  • flocks of flamingo
    Tools

    Pretty pictures

    I love graphics. Always have. Back in the days when we did not think so much about digital rights and things, I used to collect pictures from all over the internet. First mega, then gigabytes. Wonderful. I felt so rich, just having them on my PC. No reason for it. Just enjoyment. Occasionally I would use one for a private or work project, but on the whole, the supply was much too haphazard. Also, the copyright worry happened. Suddenly copying pictures from the internet became a criminal activity. I offered resistance for a while, but in the end I legalised my graphic hunts. Since then, supply has become much better. I use both free and paid services. My general rule: always credit the author, whether this is required or not. So all the pictures I use are (or should be) documented, showing source and author. If not in the blog itself, then on the media page.

    Paid services

    Microsoft Office

    I have an subscription for Office 365 Home which allows me and up to 5 other family members to use almost all the Microsoft Office apps (Project and Visio excluded), and gives me 1 TB per user on OneDrive plus free Skype. I may change to Office 365 personal next year as by then I might be the only one using the subscription (if my husband decides to go for OpenOffice). I deliberately chose not to go for the student offer, because there are too many restrictions.

    Microsoft offers access to many of pictures, as part of the Office applications. You must take care only to use the images which are free for commercial use (which is the default setting).

    Envato Elements

    I have a paid subscription to EnvatoElements. It is quite expensive, but it offers me not just pictures but also WordPress layouts, video’s, plugin’s etc. Envato elements is part of Envato which is a marketplace for designers. You can even hire a designer through Envato. The beauty with EnvatoElements is that you pay a fixed amount per month and then you can download anything you like. Often one design on EnvatoMarket would cost as much as my monthly €20.57, so I think it is worth it. Particularly as the quality is high and it saves me from hunting around the internet find the right picture. I use it for for work, study and private life. As I pay monthly, I can easily stop the subscription for a while. Or perhaps I will take out a yearly subscription, which would come to €14.50 per month.

    Adobe Creative Cloud

    I have a paid subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, the all-applications version without the stock photo’s (too expensive for my purposes). For this I pay £24.96 which is much more than I ever intended. I made the mistake of not reading the small print. I bought a subscription via my Oxford College for about £13 per month. Which I thought was good value, considering you get Lightroom and Photoshop (my husband and I dabble in photography, he a bit more knowledgeably than I). And also Illustrator, Acrobat professional, Audition, Premiere, Dreamweaver, Indesign and lot of other things. But after a few months, Adobe one-sided upped the prices because of exchange rates. Then after a year, the price was almost doubled to the “full rate” without any warning. This was the small print I forgot to read. Also, I could not get out of the contract because it runs for another year. In November I will cancel it and take out a student subscription. I have already emptied the cloud storage so I cannot be held to ransom. I have been told never to give Adobe my creditcard details so they cannot play this “after one year you pay double” trick again.

    So why should you want to have Adobe Creative Cloud? Well, if you are not a photographer, perhaps you would not. Even so, Adobe offers many possibilities for creating or adjusting images, in 2d and 3d, and in all kinds of formats. The vector format being the most important one, because it scales so well. The learning curve is steep though. I have played with Adobe applications for years, and I am still no much more than a beginner. I also adore Adobe Acrobat. It allows me to do whatever I like with a pdf – convert it, stamp it, change it. For my next project I will be looking into animations. Adobe had made that much easier, so even a beginner like me might understand.

    Graphic mama

    Occasionally, I buy vector characters from Graphic Mama. All the characters in the presentation I posted on my other blog (sample shown below), in a post on visuals, came from there. They even have versions (called puppets) that can be animated, i.e. made to move and talk.

    Free sources

    It is difficult to compile a list which will stand the test of time. Things change rapidly. So I will confine myself to what I regard as trusted sources.

    Source: Unsplash
    Author: Andre Mouton
    • Unsplash. It is absolutely free, and many of the picture are of great quality. For instance, this monkey-with-mirror.
    • The Noun project. Any and every kind of icon. Free if you attribute credit.
    • Creative blog maintains a great list of free resources. Check it out.
    • Many musea have wonderful showcases online. I love the Rijksmuseum Studio. You can create your own masterpieces out of the collection. Be a Rembrandt. Or collect greens. Or beasties. The British Museum has put their collection of public domain books (17th century upwards) on Flickr.
    • DigitalArtsOonline has published a great post on vintage images, naming 10 of the best.
    • Infographics have been all the rage for a while. Creative Blog has compiled a list of very good ones.

  • Tools

    Wicked boxes

    This is the last of my posts on templates to use with Media Wiki. With every template I import, some others get included, so by now I have a lot to experiment with. Just the highlight then, on the most important ones for making pretty boxes:

    Template:Box

    Documentation is to be found here. It has lots of parameters, as you can see below.

    Template:DivBox

  • Tools

    Wicked fonts

    There are several ways you can work with fonts on Media Wiki. There is a default font set associated with the Wiki installation (to be found in the MediaWiki:Common.CSS page, see my earlier post on templates), which may be overwritten using a particular “skin” (I use Vector). Sometimes you just want to use a different font for a bit of text.

    In-line font change using mark-up

    The basic mark-up for this is this: Type <font face=”yourfont”> before the text of which you want to change the font and </font> after it. So if you want to write the word “flower” in Broadway font, you would write: <font face=”Broadway”>flower</font>

    Fonts to use

    Google has beautiful fonts! Have a look here to see some examples. Or here. It is not easy to find out which fonts are part of the MediaWiki core. But there is a procedure to make sure that Google fonts are available. It works as follows:

    1. Go to Google fonts
    2. Select the font(s) you want by clicking the “plus” (+) icon. . You should see a pop-up on your browser stating “n Families Selected,” with n being the number of fonts that you have selected.
    3. Click the tab for the pop-up notification, and then select “@IMPORT.” 
    4. Copy and paste the CSS there into [[MediaWiki:common.css]]

    In-line font change using templates

    There is a Template:Font which I have imported into my wiki. It allows me to change the font and do several other things at once. Its general syntax is: {{font|TEXT(or「text=TEXT」)|font=FONT|size=SIZE(px/em/pt/%)|color=COLOR|bgcolor=BACKGROUND COLOR|css=CSS}} . Example: {{font|text=Hello World!|font=Century Gothic|size=35px|color=#bf00bf}} . There are also other templates for adjusting the font size:

  • Tools

    Wiki templates

    Wikimedia uses templates. These are bits of preprogrammed HTML which can be referred to by name. Very useful for replacing long editing instructions, for instance for quotes, in one go. You may use preprogrammed ones, to be found here, or create your own. To do the latter, suppose you want a template for special quotes. You first create a page Template:QuoteSpecial in your wiki. Then you write the relevant HTML code inside. Next, you can refer to this template by putting {{quote| in front of the text you are quoting, and }} after.

    Intermezzo-frustrations

    You’d think that there would be lots of pre-defined templates. In fact, there are. Thousands. The problem is, there is no way of knowing whether they work until you have gone through the trouble of installing them. This is true for the templates on Wikipedia but also on Fandom. Some years ago templates were extended by scripting language. Supposed to be wonderful. I followed all the instructions on MediaWikia and lots more elsewhere. I could not get it to work. Given my bad experience with the MediaWiki helpdesk -they just give up if the simple answer does not work – I gave up. After two days. Drove me crazy. As, judging by the comments, have been many others. I will look into this again in a few years time. Maybe they have got their act together. I am sure that if the concept of Wikpedia were not so successful, MediaWiki would have been abandoned a long time ago. Compared to say, WordPress, MediaWiki still has a lot to do. I will be constructing my own simple forms, I suppose. More about that in an update.

    The update

    Well, the update is sooner that I would have thought. Only the next day, and of course I have not been able to leave this thing alone. I felt heartened by countless other frustrated people obviously in search of solutions to the same problem: how to create a Wikipedia-style infobox. Like this one below.

    Yes, I have succeeded. Finally. Although I should not have, because it really was a crazy search with little chance of success. There are so many things that can go wrong. I will write down the problems I had to solve. Maybe it will be of some use to someone.

    List of problems overcome

    • There are various instructions on the web. I found this one on MediaWiki to be the best, as a starting point. It does say, in its current version, that is is just a draft.
    • Whatever went wrong, the result display on my testpage was always the same: “Script error: No such module “Infobox”.
    • I noticed that the imports from Wikipedia (step 2 and 3 in the instruction) had resulted in some 30+ modules without any code, just error messages. I deleted them one by one, this is the way of MediaWiki, alas. When I re-imported them again at the end of this list of “problems overcome” they all imported beautifully, without any error. I could hardly believe it.
    • The extension Scribunto caused problems. All or most files in the directory “engine” need to have permission 755, but some of them did not. I changed all of them to 755 using DirectAdmin supplied by my hosting provider.
    • When I tried to import Infobox page into my wiki, I got an error message saying that “proc_delete” could not be executed. Well, this is what took me more than a day. It turns out that this is parameter in a PHP.ini file which is managed by my provider. For safety’s sake, they have disable a number of commands. You can change this, but you have to know how. Eventually I found out that on DirectAdmin there is a menu option called PHP version, which also allows you to change the settings on “disable_functions”.
    • When I next tried to import the Infobox page from Wikipedia, I got an error message saying that “sanitized-css” was not there. Well, that was an another half day. It turns out that the (current!) installation of extension TemplateStyle needs to be fixed using a “composer” command. I could find no other way to fix the problem. So I turned my attention to this “composer” which turns out to be a dependency manager for PHP libraries. Do not think for a minute that I know what that means! But apparently one has to have it. It does not come pre-installed with MediaWiki. I did not install it through MediaWiki but through my hosting provider (see next point).
    • Composer works with a command-line interface which my provider calls Secure Shell (SSH). This is the way programmers can directly interface with the hosted installation. My hosting provider started providing SSH access back in 2016, possibly many other providers do to. Installing SSH means first telling DirectAdmin who (what IP-address) is going to be accessing this options. This is a safeguard against authorised use.
    • Having activated SSH through Direct admin, I had to install an app which would allow me to interface, i.e. a terminal emulator. I use PuTTy. For PuTTy, I first had to generate keys, using Putty Gen. Fortunately this bit was all very well explained by my hosting provider. I generated public and private keys and configured PuTTy to work with my site.
    • Next I had to install “composer”. Again, my hosting provider saved me by providing very clear instructions.
    • Last but not least: the command “composer install –no-dev” had to be run inside the direction where the extension TemplateStyle lives. I ran it, and it appeared to work. In spite of the fact that as far as I know I did not get the installation from Git, as it says in the instructions for installing the extension TemplateStyle.
    • I then re-imported the Infobox template.. and it worked! I did have to open my testpage for editing and then save it again, to see the effect.
    • Later, I noticed that the tagline of my mediawiki installation had started to appear on evere page. Apparently this happened when I created the CSS en JS files (see instruction). The value for the ‘magic word” Sitename is stated in Local Settings, but if you comment that out, the tagline reverts to ‘Media Wiki”. I just wanted it gone. After a while I found out where to change this. Namely in a page called concept.theartofmisunderstanding.org/index.php?title=MediaWiki:Common.css … where the first bit until the / is the location of my wiki. I commented out the last lines, like so:

    Wikimedia uses templates. These are bits of preprogrammed HTML which can be referred to by name. Very useful for replacing long editing instructions, for instance for quotes, in one go. You may use preprogrammed ones, to be found here, or create your own. To do the latter, suppose you want a template for special quotes. You first create a page Template:QuoteSpecial in your wiki. Then you write the relevant HTML code inside. Next, you can refer to this template by putting {{quote| in front of the text you are quoting, and }} after.

    Intermezzo-frustrations

    You’d think that there would be lots of pre-defined templates. In fact, there are. Thousands. The problem is, there is no way of knowing whether they work until you have gone through the trouble of installing them. This is true for the templates on Wikipedia but also on Fandom. Some years ago templates were extended by scripting language. Supposed to be wonderful. I followed all the instructions on MediaWikia and lots more elsewhere. I could not get it to work. Given my bad experience with the MediaWiki helpdesk -they just give up if the simple answer does not work – I gave up. After two days. Drove me crazy. As, judging by the comments, have been many others. I will look into this again in a few years time. Maybe they have got their act together. I am sure that if the concept of Wikpedia were not so successful, MediaWiki would have been abandoned a long time ago. Compared to say, WordPress, MediaWiki still has a lot to do. I will be constructing my own simple forms, I suppose. More about that in an update.

    The update

    Well, the update is sooner that I would have thought. Only the next day, and of course I have not been able to leave this thing alone. I felt heartened by countless other frustrated people obviously in search of solutions to the same problem: how to create a Wikipedia-style infobox. Like this one below.

    Yes, I have succeeded. Finally. Although I should not have, because it really was a crazy search with little chance of success. There are so many things that can go wrong. I will write down the problems I had to solve. Maybe it will be of some use to someone.

    List of problems overcome

    • There are various instructions on the web. I found this one on MediaWiki to be the best, as a starting point. It does say, in its current version, that is is just a draft.
    • Whatever went wrong, the result display on my testpage was always the same: “Script error: No such module “Infobox”.
    • I noticed that the imports from Wikipedia (step 2 and 3 in the instruction) had resulted in some 30+ modules without any code, just error messages. I deleted them one by one, this is the way of MediaWiki, alas. When I re-imported them again at the end of this list of “problems overcome” they all imported beautifully, without any error. I could hardly believe it.
    • The extension Scribunto caused problems. All or most files in the directory “engine” need to have permission 755, but some of them did not. I changed all of them to 755 using DirectAdmin supplied by my hosting provider.
    • When I tried to import Infobox page into my wiki, I got an error message saying that “proc_delete” could not be executed. Well, this is what took me more than a day. It turns out that this is parameter in a PHP.ini file which is managed by my provider. For safety’s sake, they have disable a number of commands. You can change this, but you have to know how. Eventually I found out that on DirectAdmin there is a menu option called PHP version, which also allows you to change the settings on “disable_functions”.
    • When I next tried to import the Infobox page from Wikipedia, I got an error message saying that “sanitized-css” was not there. Well, that was an another half day. It turns out that the (current!) installation of extension TemplateStyle needs to be fixed using a “composer” command. I could find no other way to fix the problem. So I turned my attention to this “composer” which turns out to be a dependency manager for PHP libraries. Do not think for a minute that I know what that means! But apparently one has to have it. It does not come pre-installed with MediaWiki. I did not install it through MediaWiki but through my hosting provider (see next point).
    • Composer works with a command-line interface which my provider calls Secure Shell (SSH). This is the way programmers can directly interface with the hosted installation. My hosting provider started providing SSH access back in 2016, possibly many other providers do to. Installing SSH means first telling DirectAdmin who (what IP-address) is going to be accessing this options. This is a safeguard against authorised use.
    • Having activated SSH through Direct admin, I had to install an app which would allow me to interface, i.e. a terminal emulator. I use PuTTy. For PuTTy, I first had to generate keys, using Putty Gen. Fortunately this bit was all very well explained by my hosting provider. I generated public and private keys and configured PuTTy to work with my site.
    • Next I had to install “composer”. Again, my hosting provider saved me by providing very clear instructions.
    • Last but not least: the command “composer install –no-dev” had to be run inside the direction where the extension TemplateStyle lives. I ran it, and it appeared to work. In spite of the fact that as far as I know I did not get the installation from Git, as it says in the instructions for installing the extension TemplateStyle.
    • I then re-imported the Infobox template.. and it worked! I did have to open my testpage for editing and then save it again, to see the effect.
    • Later, I noticed that the tagline of my mediawiki installation had started to appear on evere page. Apparently this happened when I created the CSS en JS files (see instruction). The value for the ‘magic word” Sitename is stated in Local Settings, but if you comment that out, the tagline reverts to ‘Media Wiki”. I just wanted it gone. After a while I found out where to change this. Namely in a page called concept.theartofmisunderstanding.org/index.php?title=MediaWiki:Common.css … where the first bit until the / is the location of my wiki. I commented out the last lines, like so:

    }
    /* Display “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” in skins that support it, do not apply to print mode */
    /*@media screen {
    /* #siteSub {
    /* display: block;
    /* }
    }

  • Tools

    Wicked colours

    Basic mark-up format

    This requires some very simple HTML-like coding. It is not difficult. To make a word have colour, use: <span style="color:hex triplet or colour name">text</span>

    • <span style="color:red">red writing</span> shows as red writing
    • <span style="color:#0f0">green writing</span> shows as green writing
    • <span style="color:#0000FF">blue writing</span> shows as blue writing
    • Set text color by using <span style=”color:#FF0000″> This text will be red </span>
    • Set background color by using <span style=”background:green”> This text will be on a green background </span>
    • Set both by using <span style=”color:#FFFF00; background:#00C000″> This text will be yellow and on a green background </span>

    Colour names and codes

    Every colour has its own hexadecimal code. This site has a number of colour palettes. Select one, and then a colour; the hex code will be on your clipboard.

    Templates

    I have imported the following templates from Wikipedia into my own wiki:

    • Coloured fonts: Template:Font_color. Much the same as the basic option (see top of this article), but with the additional option to colourise links. {{Font color}} has a one-color and a two-color form:{{font color | color | text }}{{font color | text color | background color | text }}. Either form has a |link= option, for colorizing (otherwise blue or red): wikilink text.|link=yes → [[text]] and |link=fullpagename → [[fullpagename]]
    • Coloured boxes: Template:Color box. It creates a rectangular box: {{color box|color|text|text color}}

  • Tools

    Pretty Wiki

    Creating articles in Wikimedia means using the very, very basic ‘wysiwyg’ editor. Or write the HTML-style markup yourself. I do a bit of both.

    Headings

    MarkupDescription
    ==Text==Level 1 heading
    ===Text===Level 2 heading
    ====Te­xt====Level 3 heading

    Lists and indents

    MarkupDescription
    * TextBullet list
    ** TextBullet list (second level)
    # TextNumbered list
    ## TextNumbered list (second level)
    ; ItemDefinition list item
    : DefinitionDefinition list definition
    : TextIndented text
    :: TextIndented text (second level)

    Images

    MarkupDescription
    [[File­:im­g.j­pg|­thu­mb|­alt­=Te­xt|­Cap­tion]] Place an image
    [[File­:im­g.j­pg|­thu­mb|­left]] Image on the left
    [[File­:im­g.j­pg|­thu­mb|­none]] Image with no text flowing around it

    Citations

    Wikipedia Citations

    MarkupDescription
    <re­f>S­mith, John. ‘Reference Title”. Journal, 2011, p. 1.<­/re­f> Inline citation
    <ref name=”r­efn­ame­”­>te­xt<­/re­f>
    Named inline citation
    <ref name=”r­efn­ame­” /> Use earlier named citation
    {citation needed}} Citation needed
    {{reflist}} Citations list

    Tables

    MarkupDescription
    {| class=­”­nam­e”Start table
    |-Start row
    ! Header 1Headings
    ! Header 2
    |-
    | row 1, cell 1Data
    | row 1, cell 2
    |-
    | row 2, cell 1
    | row 2, cell 2
    |}End Table

    Further reference

    There is more. See here.

  • Tools

    DIY Wikipedia

    Wikipedia runs on MediaWiki.
    My wiki does too.

    Installing mediawiki

    I use a third party installer which is packaged with my website hosting package. Basically, I created a subsystem, then installed MediaWiki there. In the current version of MediaWiki, many extensions are already installed. For myself I have added: CiteThisPage, Cite, WikiEditor, and TitleKIey. You can look up the instructions for installation by typing the name of the extension and then search for them on MediaWiki. So for instance: ‘ CiteThisPage’ lives here. Installation usally involves downloading the extension file from somwhere, unzipping it then transferring the contents to the special-name directory within the extensions directory. This also needs to be uploaded to the server. Next, there usually are some statements that need adding to LocalSettings.php (and uploading to the server) I use Adobe Dreamweaver for both steps.

    Extensions

    Extrension are bits of software which extend the functionality of MediaWiki. Some extensions are prepackaged with MediaWiki (depending on the version).

    Installed extensions

    The extensions I have added are for:

    • CiteThisPage : adding a “cite this page’ box to a wikipage
    • Cite: adding inline citation info. A full bibliography is listed at the end of the wiki-article.
    • WikiEditor: a wysiwyg editor, or as near to one as MediaWiki has been able to create it.
    • TitleKey: looking up terms without worring about upper or lowercase
    • DebugMode, for getting more information when MediaWiki displays errors

    I had some trouble with getting the extensions to work, but that was largely due to not reading the instructions properly. There was one issue which was suprising: the WordFence plugin from the WordPress installation in the parent directry blocked things within the MediaWiki installation. I solved this by unblocking myself from the so called blocked attacks.

    Problem extensions

    Did I say that MediaWiki is not user-friendly? That would be an understatement. It is terrible. Almost all instructions are aimed at programmers (which I do not even try to follow because I have no idea how to run commands on the server of my hosting provider). The instructions that are aimed at “normal” people tend to be in response to some problem or other and invariably don’t work after a while. Which noone will tell you, so getting anything to work is a big investment, time-wise, with no guarantee for success.

    Upgrading the MediaWiki database

    There is a very important command, to upgrade any database files after a software upgrade, and the instructions are devilishly hard to find and even harder to understand because instructions like these are all aimed at programmers with ordinary people tacked on as an afterthought. Basically, you need to run the mw-config file which is in the same directory as the initial wikipage, making sure that you contine to the second page and rebuild the tales.

    Exporting/importing pages

    If you want to get templates, codes, modules from the “real” Wikipedia or from one of its derivatives, this is done by first exporting the page from the source MediaWiki installation and then importing it into your own. The problem is they may wreck your installation and what is worse there is no easy way to get them out. For pages you create yourself you may use the extension “nuke” which is prepackaged and only needs activating, but that extension does not work for imported templates. So: removing them one by one is the only and very laborious solution.

    Personal tweaks

    • I have changed the mediawiki logo to my own. Here is how to do this. It boils down to uploading your new logo file to MediaWiki using the ‘upload file’ command on the left hand site of any mediawiki installaton. It has to be the right size. Then you change the LocalSettings.php file to refer to the correct file and location.
    • I quite like the default appearance which is called the Vector ‘skin’, so I left this statement in LocalSettings.php : $wgDefaultSkin = “vector”;
    • Because my wiki is mine and I am not currently collaborating, I added a line to prevent creating of new access. This page explains how this is done.
    • I have not succeeded in getting MediaWiki to accept HTML files. The helpdesk just gave up, after giving a few answers which did not work.. A pity, but not sufficient reason to give up on MediaWiki altogether.