How to contribute content and organization to the site

In general you add content to the site by typing it into web forms. You select the "input format", which will generally be "Filtered HTML", which allows you to use certain HTML tags for headings, links, lists, bold, etc., but which supplies line and paragraph breaks for you automatically. So if you don't want to deal with HTML you can just type text into the form as if you were typing the body of an email message.

There are (at least) four ways you can productively add to the collaborative discussion that is the heart of

Add a comment

Most pages have a link at the bottom to "add new comment". This starts a discussion about the current page, because there can be threads of comments on comments, etc.

You can give the comment an optional subject, and then in the "Comment" field you'll type the body of the comment. Then you click on "Preview comment"; this will bring you to a page showing how the comment will look, as well as giving you again the form where you can edit the text. If you make further changes, click on "Preview comment" again; when you're done, click on "Post comment".

This is the safest and easiest way to add content, because it doesn't change existing content or the existing organization of content.

Add to a discussion in a forum

There are many forums on the site, each containing multiple related topics. These are threaded discussions, like a discussion on a mailing list or newsgroup.

Each forum topic starts with a page describing the topic, possibly asking questions or somehow setting the context for the discussion. To create a new forum topic you must give it a Title, and you must choose one of the existing Forums for it to be a part of. The optional Body is where you'd put any text that will serve as the context for the topic.

Once a topic exists, you can add a new comment to it (as described above). You can also reply to any of the existing topics.

Edit nodes

Anyone can edit their own nodes, but only site administrators or members of the appropriate organic group can edit other people's nodes.

Any page where you have the proper permissions provides you with an "edit" tab. This is for improving what has already been written:

  • fixing factual/spelling/grammatical errors
  • rewording to make things more clear
  • mentioning essential elements that were left out.

Obviously, it takes a higher level of confidence to make an edit rather than a comment, but the end result is cleaner, because it's a new revision of something rather than the same old thing plus commentary. One thing that might make you more confident to edit pages is the "revision" tab, which lets you see and potentially revert to any previous version of a page.

Add child pages (to a book)

Many of our discussions are organized in hierarchical "books", with topics, subtopics, etc. For example, we have a general HOWTO (as in "how to...") page with many subpages about specific topics, including this very page.

Clicking "add child page" at the bottom of a book page will take you to a "Submit Book Page" form:

  • Title: This is the text that will appear in the parent page's link to your new page
  • Path Alias: If you want to specify a URL for your new page
  • Parent: The page that this page will be "under" in the table of contents hierarchy. In other words, the general topic "enclosing" the more specific topic of this page. (This is totally independent of the hierarchy implied by the Path Alias.)
  • Body: The actual text of the page. You can just type paragraphs of plain text like in an (old-school) email message, or if you want to get fancy (and know what you're doing) you can use partial or full HTML for formatting. It's much better to post plain text than not to post, so don't let any lack of knowledge of HTML prevent you from speaking up.
  • Weight If a page has multiple children, the links to them will appear in alphabetical order of title by default, but you can control the order indirectly by giving each child a "weight". The metaphor is that the lighter pages float to the top of the list and the heavier pages sink to the bottom. The default weight is zero, and that's usually fine.

As always, you can preview your page if you want to see how it looks, and then make sure to submit it once you're done (with the first draft).

One way you can reorganize the site rather easily is to move text from a book page to a new child page of the book. For example, perhaps this very page would be better off with four subpages for each of the ways of adding content, rather than having it all in one page.