[Citizendium-l] Let's write catalogs!

Larry Sanger sanger-lists at citizendium.org
Tue Apr 24 14:31:40 EDT 2007


All,

Please read!!!  This will be fun!!!

I'd like to suggest that we create a new sort of reference page, distinct
from encyclopedia articles and also from mere lists of articles: for lack of
a better term, "catalogs."

Two examples already in existence (though they still need more work) are
"Countries of the world" and "Catalog of religions":

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Countries_of_the_world
http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Catalog_of_religions

For geographic entries, I think we could use the term "gazetteer."  See:

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/CZ:Geography_Workgroup/Gazetteer

(So, one suggestion that someone made was that we rename "countries of the
world" as "world gazetteer.")

If I have learned one thing in my time leading encyclopedia projects, it's
that people love making lists.  I don't know why :-), but they do.

Wellll...so I had an idea.  I will restrain myself from naming the idea "The
Big" anything.

Let's (1) decide on some appropriate titles for "catalog" entries, and (2)
link to them from the front page, and (3) start cataloging!  As to (1), I
have started a list of catalogs myself, here:
http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Talk:Main_Page

Obviously, we need commentary on this list and on the methods of cataloging,
listing, tabulating, etc.  Please do that on this forum page:

http://forum.citizendium.org/index.php/topic,849.0.html

Then I hope some enterprising soul(s) will sum up the results on
[[CZ:Catalog Policy]] (it doesn't exist yet, because I don't know if the
community is going to go for this--but I hope so!).

Below, I've explained some more about the notion of a catalog.

--Larry

===================

What exactly is a catalog?

The American Heritage Dictionary (on dictionary.com) says it is "A list or
itemized display...usually including descriptive information or
illustrations."  But as I'm using it, it's a general term for the sort of
summary displays of information that one finds in handbooks and almanacs.
In general, it lists facts in brief, tabular fashion, that makes it easy to
scan and find information.

As to what knowledge to include, that depends entirely on the subject.
Generally, if there is some significant category of information that can be
tabulated, common to many items in a set, then it can (in principle) be
included.  In a catalog of planets and moons, we would list information such
as diameter, distance from sun (or earth), elements in atmosphere (if any),
etc.

For display, generally, we should use tables.  We should probably design
special--but still easy-to-fill-in--table templates for different sorts of
information, somewhat in the way Wikipedia does.  But these tables need not
be narrow; they can fill the width of a page (not more than ~600 pixels,
though, I'd say, if there is some reason to make them a set width).

Since the same item might be catalogued in several different lists, it is
worth thinking about whether items in a catalog should themselves be made
into templates which can be inserted at will.  Then we can have both a big
catalog of all planets and moons, and a catalog of the Jupiter system,
without duplicating effort.  We could also have a catalog of
African-American novelists and a catalog of Southern novelists, with some
overlap, without duplicating labor.

The idea then is that each catalogable item has its own template, perhaps
placed on the article about the item.  One complication of this idea is that
there are likely to be different requirements for different catalogs; for
example, for actor catalogs, we might have one template, and for singer
catalogs, a different one; but David Hasselhoff, of course, would needs
both!




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