RationalWiki:Goals for Content on RationalWiki
Content on RationalWiki, particularly its articles, has poorly formatted citations, and a mess of categories.
The primary goals of this page are to work out :
1. How to fix our references
A citation/reference/footnote should tell you, at a glance, what the reference actually is. Who it's by, where it's from, and if it's up-to-date.
Most of our references don't do this, obviously—many of them, possibly most, are just a bare link. Even PZ Myers uses proper citation format when he talks about a science paper, and he's a fucking blogger. I'd like to think we can at least match the professionalism of a blogger.
2. How to fix our categories
Categories exist to make a wiki more navigable. Currently, our categories are a mess, with different editors having different ideas on how to categorize things. For something to be navigable, it needs to be consistent.
 References and citations
 Get references in the first place!
It's the internet age, people. Sources for the majority of the stuff we write about can be found in under five minutes of Googling - or if you're really lazy, look at what Wikipedia classes as a decent reference. References are needed for anything that is presented as a FACT. The boundary between what constitutes fact, opinion and plain snark can be quite blurred in a place like RationalWiki. However, "snark" is emphatically not a good excuse to avoid referencing something that is presented as fact. No one wants a dry wiki, but no one wants to be mistaken for Uncyclopedia.
 Possible citation formats
Feel free to elaborate and add others.
Common enough. However, it's too inflexible to be useful on a wiki.
- It has no provision for "just a quick note/quip/extended explanation"-type of footnote, which make up a solid chunk of the footnotes on this site.
- It doesn't allow for commentary on the sources you cite.
- It doesn't allow mixing styles. You can't mix, say, "(name in parenthesis)"-style and "[number in a bracket]"-style citations in the same article. One or the other.
- Requires an "accessed on" date for all internet sources.
I'm not familiar enough with this format.
Not as well-known as MLA or APA, but extremely flexible.
- Allows commentary-type footnotes as well as references.
- Allows mixing of different styles ("(name in parenthesis)"-style and "[number in a bracket]"-style) in the same article.
- A much more reasonable requirement for "accessed on" dates: they're only needed if the page is frequently updated. If the source is static (e.g. a specific revision off a wiki page, a blog post, forum post, or archived web page), it's not considered necessary.
- Fun fact: MediaWiki's reference format already technically follows the Chicago format. (Superscripted number in the text, with the corresponding number followed by a period in the footnotes section.)
- ↑ Like so.
 Obscure and subculture-referencing names
 The Good
 The bad
If the name is not self-evident, then the category is functionally useless. It's doomed to be forgotten as soon as the two editors that really liked its shitty name leave the site.
Category:BloodSugarSexMagik: Pointless cultural reference. Category:We're on a mission from God: Pointless cultural reference.
 Unneeded categories
 The good
Category:Chickenhawks is a useful category. The phrase "chickenhawk" has an established usage outside of the wiki, referring specifically to pro-war conservatives that weaseled their way out of being drafted.
 The bad
Other categories clearly exist only because someone thought it would be clever to lump an engineered subset of people they don't like together. (I'm ashamed to admit I created at least one of these, myself.)
Category:Insufferable assholes Category:Soulless evangelists
 Extreme redundancy
 The good
Category trees are good. Category:Science is obviously going include all of Category:Scientists under it. Similarly, an article about the Bible doesn't go in Category:Religion, but Category:Bible, because the latter is clearly a subset of the former.
If an article can be included in two similar categories, then it should obviously go under the narrower, more specific one, instead of the broader, more general one.
 The bad
If it's not immediately obvious which category is the subset, then one of them is redundant.
- Category:Batshit crazy, Category:Extreme moonbattery, and Category:Extreme wingnuttery. Pick one and stick with it.
- Category:Anthropology and Category:Sociology.