Entering Trunk System Data in the Wiki

From The RadioReference Wiki

Why Set Standards and Procedures?

There is a huge amount of data regarding trunked radio systems in the RR wiki. Everything from physical system details, talkgroups being researched, radio and user IDs and much more is stored here. Consequently, it has become necessary to codify standards as to how and where we store this data.

The first, and perhaps the most important thing that needs to be understood is what the wiki is not. It is not;

a. Private

b. Restricted to access it via the RRDB link

c. A text based application that's attached to the RRDB.

In point of fact, MediaWiki(tm) software is a database application, which executes under several different platforms including php, Oracle and IBM's DB2. As a result, there are times that we must apply a certain amount of database logic in order to keep the wiki structure healthy, as well as attempt to make things easy to find. We must also fulfill certain legal requirements. There are a number of standards that have been developed and documented in the Wiki User Guide that address these needs.

It should be stressed that the wiki can be accessed without having to go through the RRDB link. Once an article is published, after a few days it will become visible to anyone using a search engine like Google. Because of this, it's important that these articles contain enough information (or links to information) that will allow anyone to read and understand it.

In addition, the wiki and the database are physically and logically 2 distinct applications. Neither is able to link to the other without various structures. In many places, the database has a WIKI button that sends the user to the wiki, and there are several templates and other coding that can be used to pull data to the wiki from the database. So just creating an article does NOT insure that the wiki will address it properly.

So how do we properly define trunk data in our wiki? Well to begin with, unlike the database, we don't use fixed pages. Each new page is a blank slate that is populated using various wiki based structures. This allows us a great deal of flexibility, but also introduces some complexities as to how to present this data.

These structures include the following;

Various templates (including Trunk System Warnings) are documented in the Templates-List article. Infoboxes, Trunk System Warnings and other useful templates are all documented here, and the user is encouraged to read about the desired structure before using it. In most cases, data needed for a template is very much plug-and-play. Used in conjunction with one another, these 4 structures form the basis for storing and explaining trunked system data in our wiki

Trunk System Warnings

These warning templates replicate, and often expand, on the warning that is given if you view a Phase 2 system in the database. They can be found in the Tracker-Related section of the Templates-List: Infobox-Related article.

Unlike the database, which only issues a warning for Phase 2 systems, our templates cover most of the common trunking formats. Anything that can be decoded creates a link to an article that describes the scanners and/or applications (for example MOTOTRBO), as well as flagging those that can't be decoded at all (Open Sky, as an example).

If the system you are defining has one of these types, the use of these templates is required. Only the LTR template requires filling in the specific system type (MultiNet or Passport), as these are systems that can't be trunktracked by any scanner out of the box. Otherwise it's a simple one line call, and should be separated before and after by a couple of empty lines to make it stand out. See the documentation for examples on how to call the desired template.

Other Useful Templates

These templates are used throughout the wiki in many forms for different functions. Please see the associated documentation to see how they're used and what is involved in coding them;

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid using the ampersand (&) in the name of the article. There is a bug in the wiki software that causes it to be treated like a HTML tag. Spell out the word and instead. It's just as accurate.
  • Don't try to cram too much detail on the TRS page. There is a fixed limit of 32k per page size; anything more than this, and the wiki will issue a warning when you edit it. In addition, if the article gets crammed with information, it becomes harder for a novice to edit it. Split the data off into separate articles, with their own categories, as discussed earlier.

Linking Articles

Linking articles in the wiki is a very simple but important process. If a wiki article isn't linked to something else in the wiki, it is called an 'orphan'. By policy, orphans are not allowed in the RR Wiki except for a very narrow exception (coding a multi page article). It shows up on a maintenance report that our Wiki administrator has to go through and remove manually (it's a very tedious and time consuming process).

Unfortunately the database and wiki are 2 completely separate environments, so when you create an article using the Wiki button on the RRDB, it doesn't consider the database a valid wiki environment, so the article becomes an orphan.

So how do you link an article? Since we are using a Trunked System article as the top level for describing a trunk in the database, we must find a home for it. Each state, and most of the provinces, have a Trunked System page set up to catalog and index these pages. For example the page for the Maryland trunks can be found at [[Trunked Radio Systems (MD)]]. Notice how it's written; the 2 square brackets that encompass the title can be found to the right of the 'P' key on your keyboard. It also has the state (or province) abbreviation in parenthesis and capitalized.

Most of these pages use tables, and they can be a bit intimidating to the newcomer. It's best to clone the line above it and enter your data. Remember that system types must match the terminology we use in our Glossary. Each entry is a high level summary of the characteristics of the trunk - the name, system type, frequency usage, cities and states covered. If the TRS covers multiple counties or states, putting 'Various' in these positions is fine. Please post a question in the wiki Forum if you have trouble with entering this data.

This will resolve the orphan and tie the article to its home state or province. This should be the minimum that should be done; you may also link the article to whatever wiki structure seems appropriate, such as a particular county name.

Copying Data from the Database

You can use the wiki extensions to pull data from the database if you find you need it. See the RR Wiki Extensions for a full list of these and how to use them. Please note that if you do choose to use them, you must also use the Refreshpage template at the bottom to insure that a fresh copy of the data can be loaded. See the Refreshpage template for a description of the template and how to code it.

The Trunk System isn't in the database yet

In this case, you can't get a callsign or sid since there's no entry for them yet. It's suggested that you build the articles with as much data as possible, and make sure they are categorized and linked properly. The categories will make it easier for any future editors to parse the data to different articles. In addition, this insures that the articles are linked properly to resolve any orphan issues. If you have questions about this, feel free to post them in the wiki Forum.

The Trunk System Name Changed

There are a number of different ways to handle this situation. First go down on the left, about 2/3 of the way, and in the Toolbox you will see a link for What links here. Make a note of all the links shown on this screen. Also make a note of any articles in the Trunk system article itself. This is because no matter what you do, all of these links will need to be changed. Now you can use the MOVE function (look immediately left at the very top). This will move the article to the new name. You may also need to change all the names of the articles you found that previously linked to it.

A better way is to create an article with the new name, and cut / paste the old article's data into the new. Remember to do this for every article that originally linked to the old name. Make sure that the old article (and everything that was linked to it) is now an orphan, and is totally empty. Email W9BU and have him delete the old article(s).

The Trunk system is marked Deprecated in the RRDB

This indicates that the system has either been superceded by something else, or has been taken out of service. Such entries must also be reflected in the wiki. There are 3 simple steps to be taken; in each case <entryname> refers to a state or province;

  1. In the <entryname> Trunked Radio Systems article, cut the system entry out of the appropriate table, and add it to the Deprecated section found at the bottom. If there isn't one there, create it. Only the TRS name is required. This prevents the deprecated article from becoming an orphan
  2. At the very top of the TRS article, install the Text Deprecated template. This puts a standardized warning message at the very top that tells the reader that the TRS has been deprecated
  3. At the very bottom of the article, remove the <entryname> Trunked Radio Systems category and replace it with the <entryname> Deprecated Trunked Systems category. If there is more than one state the TRS serves, make sure all of the impacted states or provinces are changed. This removes the article from the active systems category listing.