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CZ:Proposals/Should we allow article specific subpages?

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This proposal has been assigned to the Editorial Council, and is now in the Editorial Council proposals queue.

Driver: Chris Day

Complete explanation

The core of this proposal is to allow Article-Specific subpages (AS-subpages). At present only subpages from a generic list of subpages can be utlised in article clusters. AS-subpages would not be available as a choice in the list of unused subpages but designated in the metadata for each specific article.

To add an AS-subpage to a cluster the "tab1 = " (or tab2, or tab3, as the case may be) field in the metadata page for the article would need to be edited to contain the unique subpage name. Up to three different AS-subpages could be designated for each cluster.

There are two distinct roles for AS-subpages.

  • One role is for a limited set of subpages that would never be generally applicable to CZ articles. For example, CZ:Isotopes is an experimental AS-subpage type being tested on Oxygen, Iron and Hydrogen. It is designed to be a tab-navigable subpage used on articles about elements that have a lot of specific isotope data. Clearly, such a tab is limited to a subset of specific articles
  • A second role is as a way to customise subpage tabs and allow the subpage format to develop more freely rather than restricting ourselves to a subset of "official" subpages. An example of such a case might be CZ:Honorees currently being tested at Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award/Honorees.


Generic subpages such as "Catalogs" can be useful for storing data related to the article but the tab name "catalogs" does not specify the kind of data available. The ability to create up to three specific subpage types will increase the usability of the article for casual readers who are not familiar with the articles structure. For example, chemistry students will immediately be aware that one of the subpages has information relating to different isotopes if the tab is actually named Isotopes rather than Catalogs.

Shouldn't citizendium have an official channel to approve new subpage types?

Currently this is the case but the time-lag to get new subpage titles approved can be frustrating for authors. For example, three ideas that have not really got going include, Honorees, Glossary and Quotations subpage types

Can we reduce the timelag for the approval of new subpage types?

Probably, but does citizendium need new subpages to be approved before being used for the first time? This proposal creates a situation where authors can create as many subpage types as they wish. With time we'll see which ones work and which ones bomb.

But if we let people just start adding any old subpage won't we end up with a mess?

Possibly, but the positives might out weigh the negatives. By allowing unique subpages for any article we are fostering an environment that encourages creativity with respect to subpages. New subpage types that work can graduate to "standard subpages". Those that don't work will just quietly disappear. This seems a little more organic and will promote the experimentation with new types of subpage without the need for a formal backing from citizendium.

What if we get some really bad ideas for subpages propogating throughout citizendium?

If nothing else a really bad idea for a subpage will get people discussing the issue, expecially if it starts to propagate. The current problem is that the activation energy to get a new subpages started not only stops the bad ones but also the potentially great ones. The risk of some bad subpages seems to be out weighed by the potential development for some really creative types of subpage.

So which subpages should be hardwired and in the official subpage list as opposed to being Article specific?

If any AS-subpage type starts to become generally popular it can always be upgraded and added to the "official" subpage list. Some AS-subpages may, however, not be suitable for the list of "official" unused subpages that we currently have on each talk page. Such a list could become massive if filled with rarely used but useful subpage types such as CZ:Isotopes.

In summary, the AS-subpage type will primarily be used for rare or experimental subpages. The official subpage list will represent successful subpage types that could be used by most articles in citizendium. Efffectively this approach to developing subpages will use "natural selection" as a way to improve our use of the subpage format, possibly in ways that we could not envisage with a more methodological approach.


This proposal is already being tested. The Honorees, MSDS and Isotopes subpages are examples of three different AS-subpage types currently being tested.


A discussion section, to which anyone may contribute.

Speaking as a newbie, I'm especially glad that this came up. My initial reading of subpages was that, indeed, article-specific ones were possible. Until I read this proposal, I was uncertain that they were not.

This is a question as much as an observation, since I may be thinking of a concept of "hierarchy" -- I've also seen reference to "cluster" -- that may or may not be consistent with the idea of an article-specific subpage. In some cases, article-specific subpages, not necessarily replacing linked pages, may be a kindler and gentler way to edit.

For example, while randomly looking through pages, I came across "Pearl Harbor", which was a bit ambiguous to start in that it referred both to the place, and to the battle of December 1941. That ambiguity should be resolved, since the first is part of the geographical topic of the Hawaiian Islands and the latter variously part of World War II, or the "Pacific War", or various other historical terms.

Rather than reverting, since I don't have a good sense of rules and custom in doing so, I put some content concerns on the article talk page. IMHO, it really doesn't give proper historic perspective to say, as the article did, that the attack led to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Had article-specific subpages been possible, I would have created, and then started on, at least:

Do I have something completely different in mind that what this proposal conceived? Should some or all of what I described simply be independent pages hyperlinked to the main article? Howard C. Berkowitz 07:57, 2 May 2008 (CDT)

Howard, I'm of the opinion that we can't use those particular topics as "subpages" for the simple reason of title lengths. The titles of the {{subpages}} are going to appear in tabs along the top of the "main" article, so if the names are kept short, we can fit a reasonable number of them and the system has some significant advantages.
Chemical masses, boiling points, atomic numbers, compounds, material-specific hazards/safety equipment requirements, basically anything that is bunches of lists of pre-formatted numeric/alpha-numeric data can benefit from a coherent system of reference and an MSDS or an Isotopes page for instance. A example of a history article specific subpage might be a say...a timeline page, which could link to each of the articles you mentioned.
Another approach you could take is perhaps to briefly summarize the separate articles and make a sub-section in the main article for each. That way you can link to the expanded ("sub") article at the bottom (or even at the top) of the section for the reader who is not satisfied with a brief summary, but don't bloat the main article with a bunch of ancillary stuff.--David Yamakuchi 09:48, 2 May 2008 (CDT)
Howard, David is right that the type of subpages you'd like to see would not work under this proposal. For starters the name has to fit in the tab. It sounds to me like the topics you mention above would be articles in their own right. As far as the term "cluster", that represents all pages associated with one article. The Biology cluster includes subpages such as Biology/Gallery, Biology/Related Articles, Biology/Signed Articles and even sub-subpages such as Biology/Signed_Articles/Simon_A._Levin. Chris Day 10:36, 2 May 2008 (CDT)
My understanding of subpages is that they are supposed for be for other kinds of information about the topic of the article, not about related topics. So, for instance, tables of the size of the attacking force, or losses on both sides, etc might be something that would be appropriate for a subpage. Most of the ones you suggest wouldn't; they'd either be sections of the main page, or, if extensive enough (e.g. the intelligence issues), a cluster of their own.
You can see more about this point (what is and is not appropriate for a subpage) on this thread at the forums, which explored the point in some depth. J. Noel Chiappa 21:39, 5 May 2008 (CDT)
I would just underscore what Noel says above. There would be a tremendous temptation on the part of some people to use subpages in exactly the way that Howard is excited about. That isn't an advantage of ad hoc subpages, but a disadvantage!
Off hand, I can't think of any really obvious reasons not to have ad hoc subpages. I do think, however, that this is something that might be better organized centrally, though, even if there is some waiting (and hey--if there is waiting for a decision, why is there?). I just imagine people creating all different sorts of names for subpage types, only to make a mess that's virtually impossible to clean up. On the other hand, order and good ideas can and do come out of unregulated chaos... --Larry Sanger 12:49, 7 May 2008 (CDT)

And re "Honorees" pages--well, that is just an obvious example of a catalog page. I don't know why Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award/Honorees wasn't just put on a catalog page. If we allow this, then we ought to jettison all catalog pages in favor of a zillion catalog types.

I suspect some people are uncomfortable with the word "catalog." Well, we could go with "Tables"--that might be clearer to people. --Larry Sanger 12:52, 7 May 2008 (CDT)

It could go under Tables but i think the main argument here is that the contents of the generic Catalogs (or Tables) tab is too vague to tempt readers to look. Something more specific gives more transparency to the subpages available for any given article. Clearly Tables and Catalogs tabs will be fine for most articles, especially if many sub-subpages are being created. Not to mention that too many tabs will run off to the right! Obviously each article has its own needs and I think this proposal gives the versatility for that as well as freedom for our authors to experiment (I guess I'm big on order out of chaos). I might add that new AS subpaes are easy to track so we would know quite quickly if we had some new ones similar to the ones that Howard was planning (I can go into technical details if you wish). Chris Day 10:14, 15 May 2008 (CDT)
Now that I've learned about clusters, I agree that what I meant was more content for the Related Articles tab. Now, Wikipedia doesn't impose any structure on its "See also" in the main page, and I often found those to be links not to really related theories but to fringe articles, which, I think, are less likely here.
Still, I wish the new user, and even the new author, was more aware of the "Related articles" page, especially if authors are diligent about them. I'm still learning about all elements of a cluster, and it does have a learning curve even when one is committed to writing in CZ style.
While I don't have a clear idea about its form, I'm thinking of linking from the main article to subpage sections, piping the link reference to a more specific topics, such as [[articlename/talk | for subsequent battles triggered by this engagement]]Howard C. Berkowitz 10:37, 15 May 2008 (CDT)

Fact and Digest sub-page

Instead of tables or catalogs, what about a subpage called "Facts". This is basically a "just the facts" type of page. There is no extra talk or explanation. IMO, that is more intuitive than "catalogs" or "tables".

What about a "Digest" page? The articles would be limited to 3 - 5 printed pages. The articles would be formatted to display nicely (both online and in print format) with images, small amount of text to get an idea of the topic, small amount of fact lists, and obviously links to other articles that would have more in depth discussions.

I came up with the name, because of "Reader's Digest". Also, when I was researching about reading levels, a 9th grade reading level was called a digest level with a subscription level of 12 million. A digest article might not apply to add articles, especially for highly academic ones -- unless it is someone's intent to explain a high level concept at a layman's level.

Plus, I think that this is a better name than "student level" tab off the main articles.

I will post examples soon to get a better understanding of what I am referring to. Melissa Newman 15:37, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

The changing tabs and suggestion you are making here would not really be related to this proposal. You are talking about pages that would definitely be hard wired into the sugpages template where as this proposal is more a discussion of rarer tabs that might be required. Having said that your naming suggestions are good.
One issue i have with "facts" is that it might encourage people to just list information whereas we really want it synthesized in a way that gives more than just facts but context too.
Layman might well be better than student, the latter can mean many different target levels and this might confuse writers. Layman is unambiguous. For the Digest tab you discuss, this sounds synonymous with the Layman tab or am I misunderstanding the distinction between these two. Chris Day 16:07, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

Quotes subpage

I have already tested it here, but this would actually be a candidate for a standard subpage type. It would a very useful, especially for biographical articles. It is also being discussed here.—Arne Eickenberg 15:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

"Reception", "Biography" etc.

I'm currently working on an article on a scientific theory, but I want to keep the main article more or less free from additional material. Instead of including the biography of the theory's author in the main article, it could be possible to include it on the subpage Biography. Similarly for the theory's reception: The main article would only include a short paragraph, with an extensive coverage of the theory's reception on the subpage Reception. (This subpage type could also be used e.g. for articles about works of art like films, novels etc.) I know there is the subpage Addendum, but I would want to use that for an overview of similar theories, theoretical predecessors etc.. I personally think that since we have the ability to include article-specific subpages, we should allow it — or extend the list of standard subpage types. —Arne Eickenberg 15:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

I have answered at CZ_Talk:Subpages#"Biography", "Reception" and "Simile" where the same suggestion was made. Peter Schmitt 16:06, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

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