Vim Tips Wiki

Lox federico

aka Federico

15 Edits since joining this wiki
February 8, 2013
  • I live in Poland
  • My occupation is Tech Lead and Manager @ Wikia
  • I am a geek d(^_^)b


Perhaps as a staffer you are immune to the automated welcome? At any rate, welcome to the Vim wiki, and we will know who to contact with any problems! Perhaps you know that Tim Starling is also a Vim user, so you are not alone. Shout (here will do) if you have any Vim problems. This wiki is very quiet, but I hope to return in due course and do some more serious work in cleaning it up. Most of the tips need a lot of fixing, but there are lots of gems, and even basic stuff like searching (and the pages it links to) is worth browsing.

BTW, do you have privileges here? If so, have a look at Special:AbuseFilter for a laugh. There are currently 379 hits since 10 December (and I think only 2 were false positives). JohnBeckett (talk) 11:00, February 8, 2013 (UTC)

Hi John,

Thanks for the welcome! (I'm not surprised we're not employing CPU cycles to welcome ourselves ;])

This wiki is pretty awesome indeed and I'll definitely stick around.

May I ask what's the relationship between this project and the main site (

I'd love to help somehow, I've got full rights (WikiaStaff and Wikia utils), that includes enabling/disabling any kind of extensions (also those not available to admins) and as part of Wikia's Engineering I know the platform pretty well.

BTW, you cannot imagine the crazy stuff we get to see in the logs of the "spam wikis" (i.e. wikis created for the sole scope of spamming our network) cron job... XD

Lox federico (talk) 20:59, February 8, 2013 (UTC)

There's some "origin" information at Vim Tips Wiki:About, but I'll add a long note with some details as it may be of interest to you or others in the future. Originally, (a Sourceforge site) hosted both tips and scripts. Anyone could quickly register and add a tip, and each tip page had an "add comment" feature where anyone could add whatever they liked (it went at the bottom). Only the script author could modify a script page (but it is easy for anyone to become an author and create/maintain their script pages). Vim was and is written by Bram Moolenaar, and Bram likes things to be as open as possible, and the old system worked well for some years. There was a major problem, namely that the tip pages were not editable, and not even the tip author could alter the content. All that was possible was to add a comment at the bottom. The result was that a tip would be created, then some content-free comments would be added, then someone would point out a much better approach, or a bug, or some improvement. There was no way to clean the mess up, and stuff just kept accummulating.

Then the reality of the Internet hit, and around 2007 the spammers got busy. There had been spam problems before, but they were manually cleaned up with difficult manual editing of the PHP source (by changing fields in the MySQL database!). From 2007, it was obvious to everyone that the spammers could not be handled anymore, so Bram disabled the "add comment" feature, and the tips were frozen for some months. However, spammers added new tips with 100% spam, and we were desperate. The vim_use mailing list (for info, click "Community portal" in the sidebar) discussed what to do for months. I gave lots of advice during that time, but did nothing. In those days (early 2007), Wikia was picky, and you had to apply to create a wiki. The founder of this wiki (Tom Purl) was the person from the mailing list discussion who arranged with Wikia (mainly Angela, I think) to create the wiki. Tom didn't have time to do much more than set up a couple of things, but he played that vital role. Then there was several more weeks of discussion of how to copy the tips from to the wiki, and whether all the junk comments should be copied. Finally, Bastl got tired of waiting for a conclusion to the discussion, and he spent a few days writing Python scripts to scrape and create wiki pages. Then a few of us got busy trying to clean everything up. It was a complete shambles with many problems. The original imported tips enclosed the tip in a template, with all comments underneath. However, many of the tips use funny punctuation which completely broke the template. Also, Bastl's scripts changed every "@" to "--AT--" because there were a lot of email addresses in the comments. Of course, that broke many tips which used the "@" character. There was more similar stuff. Several people got stuck in and cleaned tips, but it was too hard to do it one at a time, so I wrote some Python to download tips to a local computer, where I was able to edit the wikitext in Vim, doing bulk changes. Another script uploaded them (after checking that no edits had occurred while I had been working). After a year or two, and the work of lots of people, the tips reached a "clean" state where nearly all junk comments (and all spam) had been removed, and template/punctuation problems fixed. Then a few of us stayed on to try to fix the tip content by removing obsolete or misguided material, and merging helpful suggestions. Just fixing blatantly bad tip titles (info) took ages, and that's after fixing titles which originally had invalid punctuation.

Bram is very happy that someone else (us) gets to worry about the tips now, and he has no real interest in what happens here because he has to devote his time to maintaining Vim. The original pages were lost when the Sourceforge system crashed and no good backup was available (each of the old tips was read-only, and had a link to the corresponding page here). There is now just one page which links here (

The pages still operate (and I occasionally have to remove spam from there by executing SQL delete statements). Each page links to a page for comments on this wiki (Bram did that). For example, see the "Vim wiki" link at the top of script 2981 which links to Script:2981.

Apart from me, we have Fritzophrenic and Chrisbra as active admins, but we're all pretty busy and not doing much work here at the moment. JohnBeckett (talk) 06:40, February 9, 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the in-depth look into the wiki's origins.

So my understanding is that the current "mission" is to cleanup and review the tips with the main goal to remove those that aren't working anymore?

Is there any other initiative going on on the wiki (random examples from the top of my head: reworking the navigation, switching to using Wikia's comments/forums instead of the manual "comments" section in each page, use GeSHI for adding syntax highlighting to vimscript snippets, prepare different portals for different users levels like beginner, intermediate, advanced linked to relevant stuff)?

I'd be happy to contribute somehow.

Lox federico (talk) 17:19, February 9, 2013 (UTC)

That's right, we want to clean up or merge as many tips as possible. We'll probably never get that finished, but my hope is that we would fix the core content (what a Vim user should know), and leave esoteric stuff for the far future.

There are some useful ideas at Vim Tips Wiki:Todo, which I put roughly in order with the most achievable or desirable first. The new tips issue mentioned there is a pressing problem. I occasionally get a burst of energy and time and fix a couple of months, but I got stalled with some important tips which are a shambles and which need a lot of cleaning up. We like to only accept a new tip if it really is new. Often new tips should be merged into existing tips (we generally merge so that the final tip ends up on the lowest tip number, that is, the first on the topic), and that is what stalled me. I have a lot of nearly finished work on my computer where I've looked at a dozen tips on a particular topic and have nearly worked out what I want to do to merge them. I hate promoting a new tip to a "permanent" tip when I know that the material should be treated on another page. Apart from the tidiness of merging, the real problem with keeping every tip is that the duplication makes finding useful information very difficult.

There is a tension between merging all related information into one gigantic tip (everything in one place), and the benefit of having short and digestible tips (short tips are more readable and useful).

If you feel inclined, any progress with new tips would be good, but you probably should ignore difficult cases, and look for reasonably simple stuff to start. We avoid deleting new and old tips unless they are quite unhelpful, preferring to make them a redirect to some earlier tip roughly on the same topic. That helps preserve incoming links to avoid irritating readers, and is kinder to the author.

We have used GeSHi (see CSV for example), but we're not really sure how useful it is. We use lots of <pre>...</pre> (putting the tags on their own lines to make working on the wikitext easier), and that is more legible and seems good for a few lines.

Portals might be useful in the future, but the essential problem now is that we lack useful advice in a lot of areas (see vimrc which is linked from a hundred tips). It would be good to have a series of tips for beginners to show them what to do, and to that end we have Category:Getting started. Cleaning up or expanding tips in that category would be good. When in a reasonable state, we could work out how to promote the category and make it easier to find/use (perhaps a list that might go on one of: New to Vim or Vim IRC FAQ or Quick tips).

Navigation is tricky. Do you mean something like categories in concept but which is easier for non-wiki readers, or do you mean the two lines at the top of each tip which give the tip number and the fairly useless previous/next links, with some often obsolete info about the author/status? Any ideas would be good, but you might not get much enthusiasm from me until we are able to link to useful advice. JohnBeckett (talk) 07:24, February 10, 2013 (UTC)

Hey, sorry for the late reply :)

Re: Navigation, what I meant is both categorization and refreshing the navigation bar at the top of the page (the one which currently hold "on this wiki", "community portal" and "todo", with the last two being empty sub-menues).

Concerning the "starter guide", I'd be happy to work on that if you guys don't mind as I'm learning now and know pretty well what a beginner would be searching for.

Let me know. Lox federico (talk) 14:58, February 14, 2013 (UTC)

For navigation, I'd love to see somebody who understands Wikia's enhancements in this area, to put something useful together. We once had a navigation bar with the most recently updated pages and the most viewed pages, but that stopped working at some point, I guess it was replaced with something new. I'd like to see another "most popular" list, and also a list of pages for beginners; just the top pages in the "getting started" category would probably work, with a link to the entire category.

Just making the starter tips more prominent would be a good first step, but obviously we could use improvement on those pages as well as new pages.

--Fritzophrenic (talk) 18:55, February 14, 2013 (UTC)

Guys, sorry if I didn't get back to this convo, got a bit busy with the work on the site.

I worked on the Nav code so I know how to bring back some of the items Fritzophrenic has mentioned and some more stuff, I'll have a stab at it and then we can discuss further changes to it.

--Lox federico (talk) 16:29, March 6, 2013 (UTC)

Task for an experienced wikian Edit

Hi there! I understand from the above discussion that you've got some experience with some of the trickier things that can be done while editing on wikia.

I noticed today at the bottom of Run_matlab_script there is a "Read More" section, which contains (for me) several boxes with content, "Newly created tip This tip was added very recently and we have not yet decided what" which is the text inserted by template on tips which need reviewing. This is not useful. Do you think you can find a way to edit some of our templates to make them not appear as summary text? The ones I noticed today are Template:TipProposed and Template:Review, but there may be others.

--Fritzophrenic (talk) 14:30, March 14, 2013 (UTC)

There was a similar issue for which I implemented a work around in January 2010. I can't remember exactly what the fix achieved at the time, but I see that it is again rather broken. This wiki now does well in Google rankings, but it used to be quite poor, with weaker sites being ranked higher. I did a few things, including tweaking some templates to encourage more helpful selection of text for the <meta name="description" content="..." /> in the HTML source. One of the edits I did to a template was this, and I described the issue here.
Tip 1 (Searching) now has a description of "Tip 1 Printable Monobook Next created2001 complexitybasic version6.0 This tip shows how to...", so it is picking up junk from the mini header we have on each tip. I could be persuaded to remove that header, at least temporarily for a trial, although some of the links are occasionally useful.
I agree with Fritzophrenic that the "Read More" section often appears very peculiar here. JohnBeckett (talk) 07:51, March 19, 2013 (UTC)

Hey guys, that snippet of text is created by ArticleService, an helper meant to extract abstracts from articles. It turns out the template used for that "disclaimer" at the top of most of the tips pages here is using a div tag and ArticleService is not disposing of it when processing the text to use for the snippet, see the list of tags (and their contents) being removed here.

I've opened a ticket in our tracking system and will commit a change to solve this issue ASAP, it should go live next Wednesday; after that we'll need to wait some time for all the cache layers to decay and the snippets to be generated (either that or we'll need to update the disclaimer template wikitext which will trigger automatically a purge on all the pages that includes it which in turn will regenerate the snippets).

For now just wait for the change to go live next week, than we'll see what to do :) If you don't hear back to me till next Thursday (Mar 28 2013) just ping me back here, you know sometimes here at Wikia things get pretty hectic with all the stuff we're working on.

Thanks for helping me finding this edge case and improve our code :)

--Lox federico (talk) 19:09, March 19, 2013 (UTC)

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 8.27.10 PM

Alright gentlemen,

that's fixed, on the right you can see a screenshot taken from our staging server and here's the commit.

As said this will go live next Wednesday and then we'll need to wait for the caching layers to be refreshed.

--Lox federico (talk) 19:36, March 21, 2013 (UTC)

Thanks! That will be a big improvement. JohnBeckett (talk) 05:05, March 22, 2013 (UTC)

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