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Issue 14: 8 January 2011: Colors

Users have been wondering what colours are suitable for templates and other items on this wiki. Here is a guide to some of the colours already in use that I recommend. The letters and numbers inside them are their hex codes.

Water Earth Fire Air Wiki theme
#294364 #005A00 #930706 #FFA500 #8B4513
#DDDDFF #C5FCDC #FFCCCC #FFFFE0 #FFEBCD

Also commonly used is the colour white, which is code #FFFFFF. To use these colours, you should specify them with their hex codes. If you are unsure where colours go in page elements, you should read the "inline styles" section of this page. If you are unsure what I am talking about, you should peruse this HTML tutorial, noting the section on elements in particular. You should also learn how to do tables on wikis from Help:Tables.

Issue 15: 22 January 2011: Tables

Have you wondered why, despite your best efforts, your tables never seem to look as good as those made by professional web designers? This week, I'm going to go through some techniques to let you rival them. (You'll need to switch to source mode for all of these techniques.)

  • Make your table pretty without doing anything much: You will see {| at the start of the table. Add a space after that and then enter class="wikitable". Add a space after that if there is more code on that line. Press save. Wonder at the colours that match the site. Example at List of Avatar Episodes.
  • Experiment with different borders: style="border:1px dashed black" will make your tables have a dashed black border around it. You could also substitute "dashed" for "dotted", "solid" (the default), "double", "groove", "ridge", "inset" and "outset". You can also make the border thicker by entering a number higher than 1 in 1px. As I detailed last issue, you can also change "black" for a variety of colours.
  • Rounded corners (will not work in IE): style="-moz-border-radius:8px; -webkit-border-radius:8px; border-radius:8px;" - Because each browser is weird in their own way, the "moz" is for Firefox, the "webkit" is for Safari and Chrome, and the last one should be for the shiny new browsers coming out this year. You can change the value (example here uses 8) to make your corners rounder or less round. Make sure your table has a background colour or a border defined though - otherwise it'll be nice yellowy corners on a yellowy background.
  • Make your tables collapsible i.e. they can show text or hide at a click: This is a bit more complicated; so I would base your designs on this (and I'm using an example myself in the process):

Issue 16: 5 February 2011: Changing text color

There are a variety of reasons why you would want to change the colour of a specific section of text on a page. Perhaps you want a link to stand out more. Perhaps you want a paragraph of user page or a blog post to be emphasised. This guide will teach you how to do this.

To change the colour of a paragraph (in this example, gray is used as an example of a colour): <span style="color:gray">All text you want to be gray</span>
This will come out as: All text you want to be gray

However, this does not work across multiple paragraphs. If you want multiple paragraphs to be the same colour, you will have to use <span> tags for each paragraph. There are a lot of colours that can be used; a list of popular colours is available at this page on Wikia Help. You can use the name of the colour (replacing "gray"), or even better, use its "hex code" (the codes with letter and number combinations).

<span> tags can also be used to change the colour of links. To do this, put the tags inside the link rather than around the link. (Putting the tags around the links means the link stays brown, and another other text inside the tags that isn't part of the link is in the colour you specified.) For example: [[User:The 888th Avatar|<span style="color:blue;">The 888th Avatar</span>]] appears as The 888th Avatar. As you can probably guess, this is useful for creating your own signature.

Issue 17: 19 February 2011: Making good blog posts

Blog posts are one of Avatar Wiki's most popular features. However, despite good ideas, many blog posts become an eyesore, or become an example of bad writing, and are sometimes summarily deleted. This guide gives a few tips to help yours avoid the admin axe.

  • Use a title that contains no strange symbols, and uses correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. A title that doesn't seem to be professional at all is very annoying on our main blog list.
  • Use a spell-checker. Seriously. Unless you're a veteran, do this. Just copy the text of your blog post to word-processing software on your computer (such as Microsoft Word), and run the spell-check over your blog post.
  • Tables are better than long lists. If your blog post contains a long list, put it in a table. Save your reader from endless scrolling. And endless misery.
  • Learn how to use paragraphs. Not really just for blog posts, in fact. For real life, too - this could be (one of the only) good lessons learnt from Avatar Wiki!
  • Add an image at the top right. (Not applicable to posts about serious matters such as policy.) Impressions count. Having an image at the top right tells the reader that you took this blog post seriously, and it also makes your blog post much more readable. Use an existing image that has already been uploaded.
  • Submit a column to The Ba Sing Se Times. As your column is then edited and checked by yours truly, you can get some insight into what "mistakes" you are making, so that you are wiser when you make your own blog post.

Issue 18: 5 March 2011: Make a poll

This is incredibly simple. Here is the sample code.

  1. On the page you want to make a poll, press "edit this page" and enter source mode through the button on the top right.
  2. Copy the sample above, replace the first line with the title/subject of your poll, and make the other lines the options you want in your poll. That's it.

There are several things to note about this feature:

  • Votes can change - users just have to choose a different option.
  • There is no way to "close" a poll.
  • Changing any option on the poll or the title will reset the poll.
  • Never use the poll feature for important votes. People not logged in can vote.

Issue 20: 2 April 2011: Episode references

In order to improve our reptutation as an accurate resource, we now encourage assertions in articles to be sourced with references (citations). This guide will teach you how to use an episode to source a statement.

  1. (Use source mode for adding references.) Copy this, and place it after (no spaces) the sentence you are sourcing. <ref>{{Cite episode |title= |episodelink= |series= |serieslink= |airdate= |season= |number=}}</ref>
  2. Where you see title=, type in the name of the episode being cited after the equals sign (no space between the start of the name and the equals sign).
  3. After episodelink=, type in the name of the episode being cited (again). (This field makes a link to the page of that episode on the wiki.)
  4. After series=, type in the name of the series the episode belongs to. Until we have episodes of Korra, this should always be Avatar: The Last Airbender
  5. After serieslink=, type in Avatar: The Last Airbender again.
  6. After airdate=, type in the date e.g. March 28, 2011 that the episode first aired on. (The dates are listed on episode pages and on List of Avatar Episodes.)
  7. After season=, type in the season the episode is from e.g. Book 1: Water (or just 1 for the first season if you're lazy). ;)
  8. After number=, type in the number for the episode in that season e.g. 14 for "The Fortuneteller".
  9. Make sure there is a section called "References" in the article, and make sure that there is a template {{reflist}} in that section.

Save, and you're done!

Issue 21: 16 April 2011: Nick.com references

In order to improve our reptutation as an accurate resource, we now encourage assertions in articles to be sourced with references (citations). Unfortunately, a significant portion of some of our articles are derived from information from Nick.com's older Avatar site, which is no longer online. This guide will teach you to reference information that clearly comes from this source.

  1. (Use source mode for adding references.) Copy this, and place it after (no spaces) the sentence you are sourcing. <ref name="nickold">{{nickold}}</ref>
  2. If there are any other passages of information that are sourced from the old Nick.com site further down the page, then just add <ref name="nickold" /> after the passage.
  3. Make sure there is a section called "References" in the article, and make sure that there is a template called {{reflist}} in that section.

That's it. Save, and you're done!

Issue 23: 14 May 2011: Talk page practices

Wiki "talk pages" are a very unique system, with very few similarities to be found among other internal site messaging systems across the Internet. Because of this, they can be very confusing to follow, especially "user talk pages", the pages where messages are left for individual users. The aim of this guide is to improve your own practices so that understanding talk pages is made easier for everyone.

  • Sign your posts with ~~~~ (four tildes). The tilde key can be found at the top left of most modern computer keyboards. It's one of the first things new users on wikis are told, but the number of people who don't follow this or often forget is striking.
  • Use indentation to separate your comments from the comments of the previous posted. The best way to follow this practice is to stop using the rich text editor, which is what pops up for all new users and anonymous users when they edit a page. After changing to using the wikitext (or "source") editor in your preferences, using indentation is simply a matter of typing one more more colons (:) before each paragraph comprising your talk page comment. The more colons used, the further away from the left edge of the page your comment is. If you're finding that your comment is too far from the left edge, then reset indentation by using no colons before your comment. A good example of a talk page where indentation is extremely consistently applied is my own talk page.
  • Always post at the bottom of a thread. Never try to post "replies" to Person A's comment if Person B has made a further comment below Person A's comment. Instead, refer to Person A in your comment placed below Person B's comment. This makes the flow of discussion much easier to follow for people who try to enter it later.
  • Archive your user talk page if it is too long. As a general guide, on this wiki, we consider a talk page over 60kb in length as too long. Long user talk pages take longer to load and cause scrolling and readability problems for the poor people with smaller screens (i.e. those with laptops, netbooks etc.). Requesting automatic archiving of your talk page by bot from me is the recommended way to do this, but if you're confident that you know how to archive your own, that is perfectly acceptable.
  • Reply to user talk messages on your own user talk page. The practice of replying to messages from other users by posting on their talk pages is popular because it alerts them to the reply with "You have new messenger hawks". However, doing this makes the exchange much harder to understand later for both users when a reference to the archives is needed. Third parties also find it much harder to understand what's being said, and this can often be important, particularly in conflict resolution processes. The recommended way of using user talk pages is therefore to reply to any messages in the exact place where the first message was left. If you post a message for another user, you can check for their reply by "following" their talk page (click the button at the left of your bottom toolbar). If your own replies to messages on your talk page don't seem to have been read, you can always use {{newmessages}} to ping the sleepyhead on their talk page.
  • Put your signature in a user space template if it is too long. If your signature is just that bit fancier, it's probably best to make sure you're not leaving lines and lines of code for every little post you make. If you're not sure how to make your signature a template, ask away.

Issue 24: 28 May 2011: Nifty tricks

Did you know that every registered user can customise many elements of their experience on the site? Here's three tricks that you might like to use.

Highlighting yourself wiki-wide

What? Change the color/weight of links to your user page across the wiki for yourself. Also change the colour of your own comments.
Where? Special:Mypage/wikia.css
Code? See this page

Changing the font used wiki-wide

What? Change the font of all text around the wiki to something you like (i.e. from Helvetica or Arial, the Wikia defaults for Mac and Windows respectively).
Where? Special:Mypage/wikia.css
Code? See this page

Adding a "clock" set to UTC time

What? Add an element above the "Wiki Activity" and "Random Page" button that shows the current time in Universal Time Co-ordinated, which is the time Avatar Wiki is set to. Useful for quick time conversions, and finding out how long ago a talk page comment was posted.
Where? Special:Mypage/wikia.js
Code? See this page

Are there any other hacks that you've always wanted? Let us know in the comments!