Fixing The "White Screen" Problem With The Wiki

The problem that some people have been having when trying to edit pages on the NDCA Wiki is a result of formatting errors. When a large wiki page contains formatting problems (lots of “span” tags, incorrect nesting of bold tags, and other syntax errors), the “Visual Editor” chokes when trying to process the page and crashes. In some browsers, this produces a “Script Has Stopped Responding” message; in others, it just results in a blank white page being displayed. The problem seems to be most pronounced in Chrome and for computers with slower processors, but it has effected users of other browsers, too.

There are two ways to resolve this issue:

1. Use the Wikitext Editor instead of the Visual Editor.

Editing wiki pages in this way is similar to the way that they were edited last year — it requires the use of wikitext syntax to markup the document. A few basic buttons are provided to help make this easier; you can highlight text and click the “Bold” button, for example, to make the selected text bold. Using headings and bold text is sufficient to create a useable wiki page so there is really no need to learn the more advanced syntax.

It is very easy to change your default editing environment: on the “My Account” page, set “Use Visual Editor” to “No”. This should resolve the vast majority of problems that users are having with the wiki.

2. Clean-up the page’s formatting.

This requires a bit more effort; it took about 45 minutes, for example, to clean up Westminster AT’s page. Correcting errors in formatting requires eliminating “span” tags and other extraneous formatting tags, fixing nesting errors, and adding appropriate (unformatted) headings using equal signs (=). Once a page is properly formatted, it is very easy to maintain it.

Most importantly, only add unformatted text to a page: copy and paste evidence from Word into a plain text document and THEN copy and paste it into the wiki. Users that prefer to edit the wiki using the Visual Editor can continue to do so; the problem is not the Visual Editor but pasting formatted text into the Visual Editor. Adding only plain text to the wiki will eliminate almost all formatting problems and will address the root cause of the recent “white screen” bug.

If you are currently unable to edit your page, turn the Visual Editor off in your “My Account” dashboard and then try to edit the page. If it successfully loads, fix the page’s formatting, save it, and then try to edit it with the Visual Editor. If it does not successfully load, email me with a link to the page that is giving you the error.

Depending on how many pages have extensive formatting problems, fixing them all myself might be too demanding. If so, I would appreciate it if “power users” of the wiki would volunteer to help. If this is something you’d be willing to do, please email me.

One thought on “Fixing The "White Screen" Problem With The Wiki

  1. Rohan Sadagopal

    A similar plea: if people are going to edit the main page, please please please only use the wikitext editor. Also, if you don't know what you're doing, ask someone to create the page for you, because large parts of the Policy Debate navigation page have been deleted at times

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