Essay:How to make good wiki pages

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How can we create good wiki pages for the Mises Wiki? What do those pages look like and what should they contain?

The short version

  1. Pick a topic that you are interested in
  2. Create a small summary page (or just take one that already exists)
  3. Improve it a little
  4. Repeat the previous step until you are content

Embryonic versions

The minimal wiki page, sometimes it features just a few sentences. It is usually used to define a concept used on many other pages, or to drop that one cool link that is highly relevant for the concept. Please add a {{Stub}} template and use a reference if possible. You should also link to other wiki pages.

One would hope that this minimalistic page will grow out of it. In any event, it should at least contain a meaningful definition of the concept. Which brings us to our first topic:

How to write a good definition:

For many concepts, the easiest thing to do is to Google them. Searching for the term alone or with the keyword "define:" usually provides several good definitions. Choose one that is suitable, ideally from a respectable source - some favorites are Encyclopedia Britannica, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, or the Free Online Dictionary. It is preferable to use "mainstream" definitions to maintain an even tone and a certain neutrality.

Exception: use appropriate sources for topics that are unique to e.g. the Austrian School. Same goes for where a concept is markedly different from the "mainstream". See e.g. the page on Inflation for a good example - the definition is Austrian, followed by a section discussing where it differs from its common understanding.

What about Wikipedia? While Wikipedia may be the first result, it's better to avoid using its definition - but it can link to a resource with a useful definition, then it's fair game. (One reason not to use WP material is copyright.)

In some cases, no suitable definition can be found. In that case, you could do worse than adapting a definition from Wikipedia. If it is a short text, add a {{Fact}} template and comment on its origin. If the text is long, add a {{Wikipedia text}} template. If not even that is possible, formulate some good definition yourself and add {{Fact}} - hopefully someone will find a better one in time.


Many pages never grow out of this stage, but a decent stub can be still very useful. A typical stub may consist of a single longer section, which includes the definition and some general points. Or it may contain several sections on whatever aspects the author(s) consider important. It also typically contains links, so readers can find useful resources to study (and perhaps expand the page).

How to make a nice list of links:

A link should contain the URL, name of the page linked to, and the author or organization creating the article. A date of creation is also nice to have, the year and month are sufficient most of the time, for books should be the publishing year fine. Links get broken and disappear over time - it shouldn't be too hard to find the item if that happens.

Now, what are the most crucial pages for that topic? If it's an organization, you should include the homepage. For a person it may be the personal or professional homepage - or both. Is there a list of writings, or a bibliography? Works available online? A public archive about a historical event? Google around (again, Wikipedia can be helpful).

Then, what is the Austrian or libertarian take on this concept? You could do worse that search for the topic with a "", but there are more useful pages out there (try e.g. this custom search engine). Avoid forum posts and personal blogs, try to focus on articles by notable authors and books. There may be also interesting media like videos out there - you can see e.g. Milton Friedman talking eloquently about the free market and frequent misconceptions.

Finally, the (almost) obligatory WP link. For many topics is Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia in human history, a great resource and can quickly provide an overview and hint at controversies (the Talk pages can be particularly instructive in this regard). Wikipedia can also serve for comparison to "mainstream" views and public perceptions of a given topic, and to provide insight about whatever the Mises Wiki page is not focusing on.

And on some topics, Wikipedia will provide little or no content at all - that is okay too. No need to link to it then.


Most pages, hopefully, grow into a good overview of their topic: well defined and touching all the important aspects (or at least the economic, historical, etc. aspects we are focusing on). Where a stub can be an introduction to a topic and provide some pointers or an actual reading list, a good wiki page can explain a topic by itself, and to a degree represent the position of the Austrian School or the libertarian movement. Which brings us to...

How to create good references:

Most of the mainspace-content of this wiki should come from respectable sources and should not contain the personal views of the editors. It should be also be clearly visible where a quote or notion is coming from.

A reference should contain the link (if available) of the work cited, the author and/or organization publishing it (e.g. if the quote is from a newspaper, include the newspaper's name, the date of publishing, and any other data that might help to locate the quote (again, remember links get broken). If it's a book or long article, including the page number or section name also helps. One should also include the data when the reference was created. That is especially important with online sources - even if the article changed in the mean time, it is obvious you were referring to the version of that date. (It may be possible to find that version via the Internet Archive.)

How to bring pages together:

A wiki is not just a heap of random pages. Its great advantage is exactly the interlinking. You can focus on a particular topic and simply refer to other concepts with a link, or a paragraph or a few. You don't have to cover the whole universe in one article, and are giving the readers an open invitation to explore some more, if they are interested. If, say, while arguing about the Austrian Business Cycle Theory, someone points out that inflation is something different, you can easily refer to a whole page that speaks about the definitorial issues, and why Austrians use the definition they use. (Plus, the link is right there, which makes the other person look a bit lazy... no need to point that out but it gives a subtle edge in the argument.) Similarly, when talking about capital, the rough definition may be the same to the mainstream concept, but the focus of the Austrian is different and deeper. Linking to a concept immediately points to more aspects that may or may not be relevant to the topic at hand.

Ideally, the wiki should constitute a full argument about any given topic and all of its relevant aspects. Maybe one day it will.

So how are pages in a wiki brought together?

  • Links to a page: on the left-side menu is a "What links here" link, check it out. These links already exist. But also, enter the page's name into the search field, and click "Search", instead of "Go". The search will show where the words you are looking for are contained - don't forget to check for synonyms and similar terms! Some of them may be already linked to your page, some should be, some are not relevant enough. It's useful to check this out when creating or extending a page, since you can a) add links and b) those pages often have content that you can simply copy and paste, or add with little editing. If there are no links to a page, perhaps you should consider creating some. It is also bad form to create many insular pages that are not linked to anything. (See Orphaned pages for a list.)
  • Links in a page: an article refers to other concepts, people and events - so of course it should link to them! Especially the important topics should be linked; on the other hand, there shouldn't be too many links. Good linking helps keep a reader's attention and make exploring a school of thought easier. You also don't have to explain everything. Most pages should link to others. (See Dead-end pages for a list.)
  • Category: normally, every page should have a category that shows what the article is about or belongs to ("Stub" doesn't count). Please note that it is bad form to create many nonexistent categories and leave them be - if necessary, at least the category page should be created with a brief description and made part of a larger category. Similarly, it's not ideal to create many categories that only contain one topic - categories should group things together.

(See the Cleanup project for more details on what can be done to cleanup pages.)