SPIRIN:Introduction/4. Ways of working

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Introduction to SPIRIN
Inigo Bocken
Jos Huls
Hanno Wupper
Kirstin Zeyer

SPIRIN: ways of working - introduction

Building an encyclopedia for research an learning

SPIRIN is much more than a web site and quite different from a text editor. It rather is something like a special purpose Wikipedia[1]:

an encyclopedia under construction that supports collaborative reseach and learning[2].

SPIRIN allows to...

  • build navigation facilities that provide access to the contents like we know from Wikipedia in order to relate articles, ongoing work and new ideas to each other,
  • order the results of research in several useful ways, using a system of metadata,
  • work with source texts and translations, including automatic synopsis of several versions of a text,
  • order and access long texts in a hierarchical way,
  • order ideas that have not yet lead to an article and discuss them with colleagues,
  • collaborate in developing thoughts and writing articles via the internet,
  • make certain results readable to the world, while other results areaccessible to certain collaborators only,
  • connect research and teaching in various ways,
  • work on assignments for courses and assess assignments in context,
  • find other participants with similar interests in research,

and much more.

Most of this cannot be achieved by one of the usual text editors, as it requires functions beyond the scope of text editing[3].

Articles you have written in Word, OpenOffice or any other text editor can be placed in SPIRIN without loss of information and layout, but if you want to make use of the navigation and structuring facilities of SPIRIN you will have to provide the necessary metadata and links after you have placed them.

At any time you can convert SPIRIN articles back to PDF of Word/OpenOffice format, but of course the extra structuring and navigation information will not be included.

The machine under SPIRIN is the same as the one under Wikipedia: MediaWiki[4]. It is public domain, open source software, which means that thousands of people in the whole world contribute to achieve the best possible and to continuously improve everything. The focus is on building an encyclopedia together, navigation en creating structure like summarised above.

Many millions of people contribute to Wikipedia, and they all have learned to appreciate the way of editing, which is inherently different from Microsoft Word's way of editing, but not more difficult.

Degrees of participation

How much you have to learn about this mechanism depends on what you want to do with it.

Passive member: You introduce yourself, show your fields of interest so that others can find you. You use SPIRIN to find other people and to look up articles.

If you are not (yet) interested in the possibilities of collaborative working and don't contribute contents, it is easy.

  1. You only have to fill in a form with what other participants should know about you. See Help:How to introduce yourself. Before you do that, you might like at the themes others are interested in.

Corresponding member: You provide finished articles to the encyclopedia.

You can contribute to SPIRIN without having to learn the mechanism, if you send articles to a colleague who places them for you.

  1. Write your article as you are used to do.
  2. Ask someone to place it in SPIRIN when it is finished.
  3. Check if the metadata (in the golden meta-box) of the result and change them by means of the "edit with form" tab, if necessary.

Alternatively, you can use your text processor to upload your articles: Help:Uploading articles This is easiest by means of OpenOffice. After uploading you will still have to provide the necessary metadata.

Supervisor, intervisor: You follow what a student or colleage does in SPIRIN and give comments.

  1. Ensure that the work you are interested in is on your watch list: Click "watch" on those pages.
  2. How you place comments is described here: Help:How to use comments.

Encyclopedian: You use SPIRIN to order your thoughts, to relate you work to other work and to collaborate with colleagues

If you want to profit from the structuring facilities and the possibilities of collaboratieve working you will have to becom acquainted, to a certain degree, with the usage of the mechanism. It is less difficult that it looks in the beginning. Rather than reading manuals you should just start.

  1. Ask someone to create a page for your first article and to fill in the first version of the metadata form.
  2. You can change the metadata with "edit with form" whenever you like. The form will tell you how and what.
  3. With "edit" just start writing.
    • Type two newlines to start a new paragraph.
    • Enclose headings betwee two or more equals signs.
    • Press "preview" to check how it will look.
  4. There are help pages and FAQs. You may like to begin here or here: How to work here FAQ. But the following may be more efficient:
    • If you do not know how to achieve something, do not hesitate to press the "edit" button of a page where it has been achieved, and look how it is done there. As long as you do not press "save", you cannot destroy anything there. And even if you do, your action can be undone.
    • Ask someone if you want to achieve something and do not see how. In the MediaWiki-community this is more efficient than trying to read manuals.

A platform for publication?

At this moment, SPIRIN is not an official platform for publication. You will still send your articles to established journals as usual. What you develop in SPIRIN will not automatically be visible to the outside world. Your rights as author and the rights of editors of journals etc. will not be afflicted when you choose to develop your work together with your co-authors in SPIRIN.

This page about how to work in SPIRIN is not about publication and copyright questios.


Look at this Wikipedia page as an example of what is possible:


It is more than an article with notes, references and pictures:

  • It contains links to other Wikipedia articles (and, like any web page, to www-pages outside Wikipedia). When the name of an article is changed, these links will automatically be redirected.
  • The information box at the top right is the same for all articles about kings and queens. It is not built into the software, it had been defined by the contributors to the encyclopedia at the moment when it turned out that many articles (in casu about kings) had information of a similar structure and should be connected by contents-dependent navigation facilities. Articles about contries, for example, got different, equally content-dependent information boxes:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands
  • At the bottom of the article about king James there are more examples for content dependent navigation boxes (click on [show]).

As SPIRIN grows, it will become apparent where such facilities will help te visitor. When there are ideas they can easily be realised.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org
  2. The philosophy of SPIRIN is explained in several articles:SPIRIN Encyclopedia, , Transversale Vernunft, Die elektronische Werkstatt
  3. e.g. data base facilities, templates, parser functions
  4. http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki