Tips For Using The New NDCA Wiki

With the first weekend in the books, I wanted to share some tips with debaters and coaches regarding the new NDCA Wiki. While there has been some criticism of the new wikispaces site, the vast majority of people that I talked to at Greenhill were pleased with the change. From an administrative point of view, the new site is substantially easier to manage and hopefully will cut down on the amount of cleanup required to correct mistakes. With the goal of assisting users with the transition, I have provided several tips regarding the wiki—they’re below the fold.

Before diving into the tips, though, I wanted to issue an official 3NR shout-out to Kinkaid’s Vivek Datla and Zach Rosenthal, the early favorites for this year’s Disclosure Award. Their wiki page is well formatted, well organized, and comprehensive; while it could be improved at the margins, it is a great example of what a well-maintained page can look like using the new wikispaces format. Kudos, Kinkaid!

  1. The naming conventions are important and are described in detail on the “How To Add A Team Or Debater To The Wiki” page. If pages are not named correctly (including using em dashes to separate the components of the name), the result is not pretty — for an example, see the Greenhill LD page. I will now have to go through the LD pages and change the erroneous entries; if users would have followed the instructions detailed on the “How To…” page, this would not be necessary.

  2. Power users do not need to use the WYSIWYG interface. If you prefer to edit pages using plain text formatting, you can turn off the Visual Editor by clicking on “My Account” in the upper right hand corner. From there, click on the “Settings” tab (it should be the tab that is active by default) and change the drop-down box next to “Use Visual Editor” from “Yes” to “No”. This will enable you to edit pages just like you did on the old wiki; the link to the syntax guide is in the sidebar of every page.

  3. To create elegant tables of content, use proper heading formats. The new wiki supports up to six levels of headings. By default, the first level of heading is used to designate the page’s affirmative and negative sections. By using additional levels of headings, users can create hierarchical navigation structures — Kinkaid’s page provides a good example.

  4. Pasting directly from Word documents results in formatting problems. If you prefer to use the Visual Editor (so that you can format the page using a Word-like toolbar), it is almost always better to copy-and-paste plain text and edit it manually (to add bold/underline, headings, etc.). If you just copy from Word and paste into the wiki, sometimes the result will be excellent—but more often than not, the styling that is used by your template is too complicated for the wikispaces engine to properly process as you intended. The easiest way to copy-and-paste plain text is to copy from your Word document, paste into a Notepad or TextEdit document, copy the text from the text document, and paste it into the wiki.

  5. Tagging allows automatic creation of pages that list only specific debaters or teams. To add a tag to a page, hover over the “Page” tab’s downward-pointing arrow in the navigation bar and click on “Details and Tags”. This will display the list of tags that have been applied to the page; to add another tag, simply click on “Edit” and type it in. The standard tag format for tournaments is Year Tournament Type — 2010 Greenhill Policy, for example, is applied to teams that were competing at the 2010 Greenhill Fall Classic in policy debate. All policy teams should be tagged 2010-2011 policy teams.

Do you have a question about the new wiki? Do you have a feature request or suggestion for improvement? Do you need help figuring something out? Please post in the comments.

22 thoughts on “Tips For Using The New NDCA Wiki

  1. Liam Hancock

    I'm curious what people think of full text wiki's. To my count, there are about 10 wiki's that include at least a full text copy of the 1 AC and some even include full text copies of negative arguments read. I personally like this system better and have made my wiki a full text wiki, but I think in the long term there's a risk that being a lazy debater will become easier with this practice, but i also think it will make the best debaters even better. Opinions? Suggestions?

  2. Rohan Sadagopal

    It might be useful to create a "Tournaments" page that has a list of all of the tournaments as opposed to putting every single tournament on the left bar, which might eventually get a little cluttered

    1. Bill Batterman Post author

      Yes, that is possible. We need to develop a naming convention for "sub pages" below a team's main page. I'll use your page as a guinea pig tomorrow and post a new thread where everyone can discuss what they think the best practice should be for subdividing large wiki pages.

      I'm also going to post a discussion thread regarding full text disclosure — that's come up before but I think it's something worth discussing again. (Hat tip to Vivek for the suggestion.)

  3. Scott Phillips Post author

    Re: Full Text

    I would suggest making an outline of just the names, and then under a header like "Korea 1AC" , post a word document with your hards in them. It preserves the wiki structure/TOC, and preserves the formatting of your evidence. Yes it is minorly annoying to download/open the document, but wikis with 2-300 full text cards on them are equally annoying with no other benefit.

  4. zach

    how do you change the margins / fix the page so that it doesn't let you scroll right and left on your wiki page? i find this slightly annoying, but i cant find where the text goes too far to the right

    1. Bill Batterman Post author

      I'll try to figure out what the specific issue is, but in general this is just a matter of having too much imported formatting. Copying and pasting plain text and then formatting it with the wikispaces editor produces better results although it is obviously more time-consuming.

    1. Ricardo Saenz

      It would be awesome if there was a way to make the Table of Contents a dropdown menu. I might be wrong, but i believe that this is possible through HTML.

  5. Dustin M-L

    One thing I really liked about the old wiki (and this might just be me); under the "recent changes" section, you could see how much was changed to X page, so you could see if someone added something substantial or not. Is it possible to get that in there?

    1. Bill Batterman Post author

      Subscribe to the RSS feed — it shows you only the changes that were made in each edit. That's what I've done for the last several years and I think the wikispaces RSS feeds are a lot more useful than the mediawiki ones (they always seemed to repeat entries and they weren't very good about indicating what content was changed).

  6. THodgman

    Idea for fulltext disclosure: use "spoiler" tags which you can click on to expand or collapse the text within them. Put all of the card text in there, keep the tag and cite above it.

    I know, personally, that fulltext, while helpful in a lot of ways, can also be a hassle when you just want to quickly browse through the tags of evidence to get to what you're looking for. This would save a lot of space and just be pretty awesome in general.

    I tried to mess around with this on the wiki tonight to no avail; if anyone more adept at wiki-code manages to get somewhere with this, that would be awesome.

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