10 Monitoring and notifications
The page Special:RecentChanges is extremely important. As you might guess, it shows the latest set of changes to the wiki. By default, it's linked to from the sidebar, and it's publicly-viewable. And by default, it shows the latest 50 changes, over the last seven days, and changes made by bot users (see here
) are not shown. These settings can be changed within the interface itself, and the defaults can be modified by an administrator, though in general these defaults work fine.
Minor edits are shown with an "m", and newly-created pages are shown with an "N"; and for every edit, the page name, revision time, user, edit summary (if any) and the number of bytes that were added or removed in this revision are shown. The display is similar to the history page (see here
You can make the display of the Recent Changes page slightly more sophisticated, by going to your Preferences page, selecting the "Recent changes" tab, and then checking the option "Group changes by page in recent changes and watchlist" (and saving). This will group together all recent changes to any one page on one line – so that, if there are many edits to a single page, it doesn't end up overwhelming the Recent Changes display.
The Recent Changes page is crucial for monitoring recent activity. Conveniently, it's also available as a feed, using Atom, which means that you can just add the feed to your RSS reader (if you use one, that is – and if you don't, they're highly recommended). Then you will be automatically notified of all new edits at the same time that you check your news, etc. You can just go to the Recent Changes page and get the URL of the "Atom" link from the sidebar.
For larger wikis, monitoring recent changes is unwieldy – if there are more than, say, 10-20 edits a day, it becomes untenable to try to monitor all activity, every day. That's when another page becomes crucial: the Watchlist page, at Special:Watchlist.
Every user has their own watchlist, which others can't see. You can add pages to your watchlist in various ways:
There's a "watch" tab at the top every page, which lets you add that page to the watchlist (or, if it's already on your watchlist, remove it). On Wikipedia, this is instead just a clickable star icon – that's a nice interface enhancement available by adding the following to LocalSettings.php:
$wgVectorUseIconWatch = true;
It only works when using the Vector skin, however.
When you edit a page, you can check the "Watch this page" checkbox, which adds that page to your watchlist. This checkbox is checked by default if you're creating a new page.
You can directly edit the set of watched pages at Special:EditWatchlist/raw. You can also use the interface at Special:EditWatchlist, although that one only allows for removing pages, not adding them. Both pages are linked to from the top of Special:Watchlist.
The Echo extension provides a mechanism for user notifications, with an interface reminiscent of notifications in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Without it, the only way a user can be actively notified of some event is via email. With Echo, users see two icons at the top of every page, which change from gray to colored if there are any new notifications; these represent "alerts" and "notices", respectively. Clicking on either one drops down the user's set of alerts or notices. You can see an example of the header in Figure 10.1, and of the main display in Figure 10.2.
Figure 10.1 The top of the page of a wiki with the Echo extension installed, for a user who has 2 unread alerts (the red square over the bell) and 10 unread notices (the blue square over the paper tray)
Figure 10.2 The Echo extension's "Alerts" display, after the Alerts icon has been clicked
For the most part, Echo's notifications cover events that do not generate an email to the user, by default. "Alerts" include events such as one of the user's edits getting reverted, or the user being mentioned by someone else in a talk page. "Notices" include less-user-specific events, like a watched talk page getting a new topic.
Clicking on "All notifications" at the bottom of the dropdown brings you to the page Special:Notifications, which offers a more detailed interface for viewing these notifications, where users can see a longer list, broken down by date and type.
There are also various extensions that make use of the Echo framework. One example is
Thanks, which is in use on Wikipedia; it lets users "thank" other users for their edit to some page. Another is StructuredDiscussions, which provides threaded discussions on talk pages; see here
You can read more about Echo here:
You can set a message to be displayed at the top of every page; this is useful when you want to make a general announcement, such as that there will be an upcoming site outage, or that the wiki has some new feature, or that volunteers are needed for some task, etc. This can be done in a variety of ways:
Setting the global variable $wgSiteNotice in LocalSettings.php.
Modifying the page "MediaWiki:sitenotice".
Modifying the page "MediaWiki:anonnotice" – this displays a notice only for anonymous, non-logged-in users.
Using the extension CentralNotice – this is a fairly heavy-duty extension, that allows for coordinating an entire "campaign" of banner ads and the like among a group of wikis; it is used by the Wikimedia Foundation during its annual fundraising drive:
Using the extension DismissableSiteNotice – this extension displays a site notice that users can dismiss by clicking on a link, after which they won't see it again:
Using the extension WikidataPageBanner – despite its name, this extension can be used anywhere, and does not require connecting to Wikidata. It displays a banner at the top of the page holding a large image; you just need to specify the image:
Most of the non-editing administrative changes, like the blocking of users, are logged, so that the history of those changes is preserved. (In most cases, these actions also show up in the Recent Changes page.) Each type of action is contained within its own log. You can see all of the logs at the page Special:Log, which is publicly-viewable.
Actions that are logged include creation of user accounts, blocking of users, page moves, page deletions, page protections, page imports, and file uploads. Some extensions also define their own additional logs, including Approved Revs and FlaggedRevs.
The Statistics page, at Special:Statistics, holds some nice top-level information about the wiki: the number of pages, the number of edits, the
number of users in the various user groups, and so on. Figure 10.3 shows the top of the Statistics page for mediawiki.org.
Figure 10.3 Special:Statistics page on mediawiki.org
Note the distinction between "Content pages" and regular "Pages". (The text that explains the two here is specific to mediawiki.org, though it's fairly similar to the default text.) This is often a cause of confusion, because the number given for "Content pages" tends to undercount the true number of content pages. This number only includes pages within the "content namespaces" (by default, this is only the main namespace, though that's settable via $wgContentNamespaces). And it only counts pages that contain at least one wiki-link. Pages that do not are considered "stubs", and not counted. It's not a perfect system, and it can end up undercounting severely, depending on the type of content you have.