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Article format and the prospective audience

After looking through a few articles on the wiki, it appears that format varies a lot. Is there going to be some effort to standardize this at a later date or are we just going to let the format depend on the preference of the author or authors? How much information we should include and what we could exclude by assuming that the audience had some previous experience with the subject? For instance, I just started Energy efficiency of vehicles. Should I assume that readers will already have familiarity with the basic physics variables in the equation, or should I list them under a note at the bottom of the page? Should I even include the equation since it could be considered too specific?

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edited February 2011

roflwaffle wrote:

Is there going to be some effort to standardize this at a later date or are we just going to let the format depend on the preference of the author or authors?

I would love it if some people came along who enjoyed improving and standardizing articles instead of starting new ones. If the Azimuth Project keeps expanding as I hope it does, someday such people will arrive. Maybe you're one! But if not, that's okay.

How much information we should include and what we could exclude by assuming that the audience had some previous experience with the subject?

Personally I think it would be great to include enough information so that anybody with an undergraduate degree in any science or engineering subject can understand what you are saying.

This is not an standard that I want to demand of writers here, because most scientists and engineers are used to writing in a way that only experts can demand. But it's an ideal we can strive towards. And eventually we may have people who take already written articles and improve them so they approach this ideal.

Of course, it would be silly to demand that every article should describe every subject 'from scratch', without prerequisites. It's perfectly fine for the stochastic resonance article to assume some familiarity with stochastic differential equations, it can refer to that other article. And it's perfectly fine if the stochastic differential equation article assumes familiarity with differential equations and random variables, even if we don't have articles on those subject yet! Someday we may have such articles, or else references to online introductions elsewhere.

How much information we should include and what we could exclude by assuming that the audience had some previous experience with the subject?

It's really up to you, but 1) it's good to pick some standard and stick to it throughout the article, and 2) the more information you include, the happier I will be!

Should I assume that readers will already have familiarity with the basic physics variables in the equation, or should I list them under a note at the bottom of the page?

It's always good to explain what variable names stand for, since scientists in different fields use the same letter to mean different things. Also, while lots of people know that $\theta$ means 'angle', it's still very helpful to say which angle you are talking about. We can guess, but it's best to be clear.

Should I even include the equation since it could be considered too specific?

Sure, include it!

Comment Source:roflwaffle wrote: > Is there going to be some effort to standardize this at a later date or are we just going to let the format depend on the preference of the author or authors? I would love it if some people came along who enjoyed _improving_ and _standardizing_ articles instead of starting new ones. If the Azimuth Project keeps expanding as I hope it does, someday such people will arrive. Maybe you're one! But if not, that's okay. > How much information we should include and what we could exclude by assuming that the audience had some previous experience with the subject? Personally I think it would be great to include enough information so that _anybody_ with an undergraduate degree in _any_ science or engineering subject can understand what you are saying. This is not an standard that I want to _demand_ of writers here, because most scientists and engineers are used to writing in a way that only experts can demand. But it's an ideal we can strive towards. And eventually we may have people who take already written articles and improve them so they approach this ideal. Of course, it would be silly to demand that every article should describe every subject 'from scratch', without prerequisites. It's perfectly fine for the [[stochastic resonance]] article to assume some familiarity with stochastic differential equations, it can refer to that other article. And it's perfectly fine if the [[stochastic differential equation]] article assumes familiarity with differential equations and random variables, even if we don't have articles on those subject yet! Someday we may have such articles, or else references to online introductions elsewhere. > How much information we should include and what we could exclude by assuming that the audience had some previous experience with the subject? It's really up to you, but 1) it's good to pick some standard and stick to it throughout the article, and 2) the more information you include, the happier I will be! > Should I assume that readers will already have familiarity with the basic physics variables in the equation, or should I list them under a note at the bottom of the page? It's always good to explain what variable names stand for, since scientists in different fields use the same letter to mean different things. Also, while lots of people know that $\theta$ means 'angle', it's still very helpful to say _which angle you are talking about_. We can guess, but it's best to be clear. > Should I even include the equation since it could be considered too specific? Sure, include it!
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2.

John said:

Of course, it would be silly to demand that every article should describe every subject 'from scratch', without prerequisites. It's perfectly fine for the stochastic resonance article to assume some familiarity with stochastic differential equations...

...and I think the next thing I'll do on the Wiki is explaining in the introduction what kind of knowledge is assumed by the reader. Anyway, every reader is invited to ask questions, here, on the Wiki itself or by contacting the authors directly. Then both author and reader can come to an agreement if a reference or more explanation is warranted.

John said:

...if the stochastic differential equation article assumes familiarity with differential equations and random variables, even if we don't have articles on those subject yet! Someday we may have such articles, or else references to online introductions elsewhere.

I don't think we should reproduce textbook material on Azimuth, let's leave that to Wikipedia. It's true that on the nLab I wrote a lot about AQFT that can be found in textbooks, but those are textbooks that are really really hard to come by, that most people don't know about and wouldn't care about unless someone provides a synopsis that gets them interested. This is a special situation, and it is not the same with differential equations or random processes.

Comment Source:John said: <blockquote> <p> Of course, it would be silly to demand that every article should describe every subject 'from scratch', without prerequisites. It's perfectly fine for the stochastic resonance article to assume some familiarity with stochastic differential equations... </p> </blockquote> ...and I think the next thing I'll do on the Wiki is explaining in the introduction what kind of knowledge is assumed by the reader. Anyway, every reader is invited to ask questions, here, on the Wiki itself or by contacting the authors directly. Then both author and reader can come to an agreement if a reference or more explanation is warranted. John said: <blockquote> <p> ...if the stochastic differential equation article assumes familiarity with differential equations and random variables, even if we don't have articles on those subject yet! Someday we may have such articles, or else references to online introductions elsewhere. </p> </blockquote> I don't think we should reproduce textbook material on Azimuth, let's leave that to Wikipedia. It's true that on the nLab I wrote a lot about AQFT that can be found in textbooks, but those are textbooks that are really really hard to come by, that most people don't know about and wouldn't care about unless someone provides a synopsis that gets them interested. This is a special situation, and it is not the same with differential equations or random processes.
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edited February 2011

I don't think we should reproduce textbook material on Azimuth, let's leave that to Wikipedia.

I certainly don't want anyone to feel they need to reproduce textbook material — or indeed do anything they find boring or oppressive.

On the other hand, if that's what somebody wants to do, that's fine. But it's best if they do it in a way that's geared toward saving the planet. Most textbooks, and certainly Wikipedia, aren't focused on that goal.

I think we can each decide what's the best use of our time, keeping that overall goal in mind.

Comment Source:> I don't think we should reproduce textbook material on Azimuth, let's leave that to Wikipedia. I certainly don't want anyone to feel they _need_ to reproduce textbook material &mdash; or indeed do _anything_ they find boring or oppressive. On the other hand, if that's what somebody wants to do, that's fine. But it's best if they do it in a way that's geared toward _saving the planet_. Most textbooks, and certainly Wikipedia, aren't focused on that goal. I think we can each decide what's the best use of our time, keeping that overall goal in mind.
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Hmmm, actually I can think of a good reason for including textbook material, and actually I already have done that, namely when someone asks for an explanation of anything on the Azimuth project, and I cannot find a good reference, like for the stuff on Discrete approximation scheme.

If I ever find the time to write about climate models and their numerical approximation schemes, I think it would be much fun to explain the pitfalls and problems of numerics in a way that even a pure mathematician can understand it.

Comment Source:Hmmm, actually I can think of a good reason for including textbook material, and actually I already have done that, namely when someone asks for an explanation of anything on the Azimuth project, and I cannot find a good reference, like for the stuff on [[Discrete approximation scheme]]. If I ever find the time to write about climate models and their numerical approximation schemes, I think it would be much fun to explain the pitfalls and problems of numerics in a way that even a pure mathematician can understand it.
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I'd also add that many times the external explanations are not written for someone learning the subject.

Wikipedia, for example, is terrible for some things as it tries to be precise as a reference. So you sometimes end up needing to learn 20 topics in order to understand the 1 topic you are trying to lookup if you don't already know the jargon. This is especially true in math. Wikipedia also tends to try to be exhaustive so you end up with long articles that may have a lot of material that is not relevant to the needs of the wiki here.

We can't assume that all biologists, for example, will have learned the same math that a physicist would have learned. So referring off to some reference article might not be best if we can provide a more cohesive example right in the Wiki (like Tim did with Discrete approximation scheme).

I don't see any downside to having these sorts of explanatory pages because the reader only needs to click the links if they are not familiar with the concept.

Comment Source:I'd also add that many times the external explanations are not written for someone learning the subject. Wikipedia, for example, is terrible for some things as it tries to be precise as a reference. So you sometimes end up needing to learn 20 topics in order to understand the 1 topic you are trying to lookup if you don't already know the jargon. This is especially true in math. Wikipedia also tends to try to be exhaustive so you end up with long articles that may have a lot of material that is not relevant to the needs of the wiki here. We can't assume that all biologists, for example, will have learned the same math that a physicist would have learned. So referring off to some reference article might not be best if we can provide a more cohesive example right in the Wiki (like Tim did with [[Discrete approximation scheme]]). I don't see any downside to having these sorts of explanatory pages because the reader only needs to click the links if they are not familiar with the concept.
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edited February 2011

roflwaffle wrote:

After looking through a few articles on the wiki, it appears that format varies a lot. Is there going to be some effort to standardize this at a later date or are we just going to let the format depend on the preference of the author or authors?

It would be a good idea to have an example article that could serve as a template for new articles, perhaps with a callout box above each section with directions for that section. This would be very helpful for new people. (Related technical query: Is there some way of adding comments to Markup Extra that don't appear in the output? I didn't see any in the references.)

Otherwise what will end up happening is that people will copy an article they find in the Library. If that article isn't complete, say it is missing a category, or doesn't have a table of contents, then the new article will share the same defects.

We could link to these sample articles off of the Help edit this wiki page.

I will do this if anyone wants to point me to a good complete sample article.

Comment Source:roflwaffle wrote: >After looking through a few articles on the wiki, it appears that format varies a lot. Is there going to be some effort to standardize this at a later date or are we just going to let the format depend on the preference of the author or authors? It would be a good idea to have an example article that could serve as a template for new articles, perhaps with a callout box above each section with directions for that section. This would be very helpful for new people. (Related technical query: Is there some way of adding comments to Markup Extra that don't appear in the output? I didn't see any in the references.) Otherwise what will end up happening is that people will copy an article they find in the Library. If that article isn't complete, say it is missing a category, or doesn't have a table of contents, then the new article will share the same defects. We could link to these sample articles off of the [[Help edit this wiki]] page. I will do this if anyone wants to point me to a good complete sample article.
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Curtis, did you see the Template page? Is it missing something important?

Comment Source:Curtis, did you see the [[Template page]]? Is it missing something important?
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edited February 2011

Thanks Tim, I hadn't seen that page. I updated How to edit this wiki to include a link to the template page so it is easier for newbies to find.

Comment Source:Thanks Tim, I hadn't seen that page. I updated [[How to edit this wiki]] to include a link to the [[template page]] so it is easier for newbies to find.