The Orion's Arm Universe Project Forums

Giving the EG a Bit of a Remodel
So, this came to mind during the discussion about modosophont capabilities. Or more accurately, the discussion of modosophont capabilities finally pushed me over the edge on an issue that has been an annoyance for some time now: The many outdated EG articles that we have scattered throughout the EG.

Extherian has had the misfortune to run into this quite a bit lately, but it's been an ongoing problem for some time. Some of the issue is just older articles that haven't been touched in a long time (Hmm - a notion occurs..). But some of it is (IMHO) a result of the way we've structured the EG and our tendency to never want to throw anything away.

More specifically, the overall way that we've set up the EG is with a basic framework of Topics that loosely organize a vast number of Articles,each of which has some number of in text and post article links to other articles. Whenever we want to expand upon or modify a given subject covered by a given article, our tendency is to first generate another article to add to the subject. Only under fairly rare circumstances will we flat out replace one article with a new one, or totally revamp an old article to make it current with new information or a new 'take' on a subject by the project. And it takes something pretty extreme to get us to flat out delete an article completely.

While this approach has worked reasonably well over the years, it has some downsides, the biggest probably being that over time different articles of different vintages can start contradicting each other (which can be confusing to new members, or even experienced members, depending on the subject matter).

The second biggest is IMO, the difficulty in then trying to justify or reconcile the many different viewpoints that these different articles can present. We may end up tying ourselves in knots because of this - as well as probably making ourselves look less than great to members (new and not) when we have to keep saying that Article X is old and doesn't represent our current take on things and we really need to update it someday.

Which leads to the third biggest issue - trying to do a true update on things when our information on a given subject may be spread across 6-26 different articles, some long, some short, some totally contradicting each other.

Finally, there is the issue that trying to impart information about the setting on some subjects in the form of multiple short articles is perhaps not the most efficient or effective method. It is one thing to have 20 different articles about 20 different solar systems or 20 different alien lifeforms or the like. It is quite another to have 20 different articles about Economics.

Finally, finally, there is the issue of how we actually talk about the setting, and how the EG presents some information. Again, our initial way of structuring things has served reasonably well, but could probably be improved - maybe by a significant amount.

With all that in mind, I would like to suggest that we:

1) Do a general sort of high level review of the structure of the EG. Do the current Topic and Article structures still work well? Or could they be made more effective, either with a different structure, or even with something as simple as a name change?

For a specific example of what I'm talking about here, I would like to suggest that we restructure the current Technology Levels subtopics from 6 (Prim Tech, Low Tech, Middle Tech, High Tech, Ultra Tech, Transapientech/Godtech/Clarketech) to 4 subtopics (Modotech, Ultratech, Transapientech, Godtech/Clarketech). The reason for this is that we more commonly refer to 'modotech' or similar than to 'prim, low, middle, high tech' and the new structure should be simpler and easier to read through. Also, as a high technology, far future setting, I'm not really seeing the value of having entire topics devoted to primtech and low tech - a view which is further supported by the fact that we apparently have added almost nothing to either Topic page since their initial creation - and much of what is shown on one Topic page is replicated on the other.

Further, I would like to suggest that for items classed as Ultratech that we replace/modify the opening Topic level verbiage with the Transapient Derived Technologies article and add an indicator for each technology classed as Ultratech as to which kind it is (High Ground, Middle Ground, Low Ground), with the classification verbiage configured as a hyperlink back to the revised Topic verbiage. This should address the recurring issue of what Ultratech is and the different types of ultratech in play in the setting and - in particular - which ones modosophonts can use or invent and which they can't.

2) Review the various 'overview' articles that may be found under a given Topic, determine which article or articles best fit our conception of that Topic and then either fold the remaining articles into it, or eliminate them entirely. Followed by replacing the opening verbiage of that Topic with the verbiage of the article.

As mentioned above, this would be the case for subjects that are not given to lots of versions such as Economics. Specific examples of something relating to the Topic (The Trading Houses of System XYZ) would still exist as individual Articles under a Topic as a they do now, for the most part.

If/when we decide that our 'take' on a given Topic needs expansion or revision, then that process would be applied to the main overview article, rather than generating a separate article that a member would have to first locate and then read to know about. Article updates would be documented via the Forum and the What's New page for existing members. For new members the revised article would be what they would find if/when they read about that topic. All authors for all the different existing articles would be credited in the new revised/combined articles if their content was included, in whole, or in part.

3) Make greater use of lists of in text links in the 6 main Topic intro texts blocks that correspond to the main Topic intros in the EG (Culture and Society, Galactography, History, Science, Sophonts, Technology).

For a current example of this, see the Galactography page in the EG. I think that might do with some updating as well, but it represents more of what I'm thinking of for the revised structure of these pages. Rather than just a high level intro to a main EG topic and then a lot of sub-topics and articles filling in all the details, the goal would be to use the main Topic page to help a reader rapidly come 'up to speed' on that particular element of the OA setting. Sort of like the theory behind the Primer, but operating 'inside the Fourth Wall' of the setting and perhaps a bit more subtle since it would be using EG articles to provide information (which is really what they're there for, of course).

As far as how to do about doing all this, I have some ideas on that as well, but will stop here and see what folks think about the general concepts and the goal of making the EG more user friendly (I hope).



Your ideas seem reasonable to me.

FWIW, I tend to think of the EG as being like a spider's web: you can start with any article and follow its links to other pages which expand on similar topics but also can lead to entirely new (to the reader) subject material. And it can be quite sticky, making it difficult to get away from. Smile

Making it easier to navigate the introductory articles seems to be an appropriate goal. Personally, I dislike short pages which have links to many other short pages. In most cases, I like to see more information in a single page, although perhaps with a table of contents to help navigate through its concepts. In contrast, many people (including myself, I have to admit, so I'm not entirely consistent) have an aversion to a "wall of text" which has nothing visual to distinguish one set of words from another.
I like these ideas. It would simplify things a lot for new content creators.
I like the ideas that you propose. And i think that is not the first time that we attempt to make something similar.

I also agree with selden on his opinion about small articles and wall of text.
If topics could be restructured as core-canon articles that would be useful. The issues we often have are that some articles are stronger canon than others, but it's hard for new users to tell. If we ran with the approach that there was a certain hierarchy then we could mention that in the primer as a good rule of thumb.
OA Wish list:
  1. DNI
  2. Internal medical system
  3. A dormbot, because domestic chores suck!
Just to put in my two credits ....

Perhaps a useful start would be to define the current incarnation of Canon in the form of a set of criteria by which content can be evaluated. Once these criteria have been established, members could methodically scour the EG, taking note of articles which

A) Seem in compliance with the criteria and can likely remain as they are;

B) May be questionable in terms of compliance with the criteria, and may need revising/updating to bring them into line; and

C) Are not in compliance with criteria and may be recommended for removal.

During this process, it might be helpful to have a "sticky" thread available for members to periodically list the articles they have reviewed and whether said articles should be in Category A,B, or C. This can be as simple as ""Looked through Aa to Af ,,, all O.K. except "Adamantium" © and "Aether" (B) ... Radtech497" or a more complete listing of articles reviewed, whichever works best. The objective is to narrow the Index down to a list of (B) and © -type articles that may need another look.

The next step (which, ideally, can be done while the above is still in progress) is to take another look at those articles classified as Type ©. If a Type © article is, on second evaluation, still found to be out of compliance, then it can be removed from the Index, with perhaps a note asking for a compliant rewrite if deemed necessary or desirable.

The final step is to re-examine the Type (B) articles. First, to confirm they are, in fact, salvageable, and if so, to determine how best to transform them into Type (A) articles (using the criteria developed above). This may be as simple as changing a date in the article, or may involve a substantial rewrite. In either case, the proposed change(s) can be brought up in the Forum for Member input/review, as is now the case.

A side-benefit of this process is that the criteria established above can be disseminated (perhaps on its own "sticky page" in the Forum) to the Members, where it can be used to guide future article submissions. The criteria can, of course, be revised from time to time as necessary, and those articles submitted under previous versions can easily be identified by their submission dates for review under the current criteria. If necessary, it should be a simple matter to bring future articles into compliance with the current criteria.

Just an errant notion,

This all sounds good. I'm starting to put more thought and focus on the whole remodel thing. Hoping to start doing some stuff with it fairly soon. Once I do, this process could definitely be useful for some parts of the project.


HI, i think we could make the categories in a more visible way, to see that more articles are available the six main topics.

But meanwhile, as suggested by Radtech497, we could tag some articles for deletion.
Searching the EG by letter, in 0-9 there are some articles that are superfluous. Like:
  • 2d - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Flat screen, non-holographic visual display.
  • 3d - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Three dimensional, holographic or phased optic array visual display.
  • 3Ccos2  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    One of the famous series of Ccos2 aesthetic/mathematical/quantum-diffraction-pattern/crypto-alife commentary-icons created by the second singularity Administration AI "Little San".
  • 5Ccos2  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Perhaps the most pornographic of the aesthetic, mathematical, quantum-diffraction-pattern, crypto-alife commentary-icons created by "Little San".
This other entry that doesn't contain an article and should be removed too:
  • 3187 hypereconomic recession - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Partially triggered by the Copy War.
Because here is already mentioned but with a typo saying: "The economic collapse brought by the Copy War (as it became called) contributed to the 5187 hypereconomic recession." When it should say 3187 hypereconomic recession. House Holsta and The Copy War ,
or put here 2600 to 3200 AT: Age of Establishment, in the 3100-3200 section.

----- A -----
i think we should merge: A-lifes and V-Life, making the latter (V-lifes) a subsection of A-lifes, and deleting or putting a redirect on V-Lifes that directs to A-lifes.
Thanks for the ideas! I like what I'm seeing so farSmile There are a couple of items I'm going to need to ask some follow up questions on.

I'm currently planning to start hitting this project around the beginning of May. Which leaves 12 more days for folks to suggest ideas for making the EG work better.

Keep em coming, folks!


Would the content of the Prim-to-High tech EGs be compiled together into Modotech?

I'd hate to lose them, because although most of OA is hyper-futuristic in the tech-department, there are throwbacks for various reasons. Heck, in 1st World RL, with mid-Middletech the norm, there's still technology around that would be familiar to a citizen of the Roman or Han Empires.

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