How to get started

How to get started

How to get started


If you have any material you’d like to add to the nLab, be it

  • a tiny correction,
  • a major correction,
  • a missing aspect,
  • a missing topic,
  • a missing reference,

or whatever, please do it. It’s quick and easy.

The following gives you a quick idea of how to proceed.

If you feel you can most easily start by modifying an example, look at the template page.

If you feel you want more details, there is more information on the main HowTo page.

Don’t worry too much!

First a remark on what not to worry about.

No need to be perfect in the first go

Don’t worry if things don’t come out quite the way you would like them at the first go – the important point is that we have your material in some form - the lab elves will eventually go over the entry and polish it, if necessary, expand it, if necessary, etc.

No need to worry about breaking anything

Never worry about “breaking” or “ruining” anything. Each and every revision is stored and we can always “Rollback” to an earlier version if you make some mistake, e.g. delete material on accident. To see a list of revisions for any page, hit the “History” link at the bottom of any page.

Learn by example

A good way to learn about how to format nnLab pages is to look at the source of another page. Near the bottom of each page is a list of “views” (these are different displays of the page) one of which is “source”. This shows the raw code that generates that page and can be cut-and-pasted into another page.

See the latest changes to get an impression for what other contributors are working on currently.

Forwarding your blog comment to the nnLab

You might already be familiar with discussions and with posting comments at the n-Cafe. This section describes how you forward material from a blog comment to the nnLab.

After you typed your blog comment into the n-Cafe comment edit box and before you hit submit copy the source code of the comment: the text that you just typed.

To paste that into an nnLab page, note the “Edit” link at the bottom of each nnLab page.

Clicking on this will bring up the edit box.

From here, you simply paste your copied content into the edit box and hit the “Submit” button at the bottom.

Putting your name in the text box next to the “Submit” button is optional but recommended.

This works best if your original comment was composed using the text filter (see the pulldown menu atop the blog comment edit box) called Markdown with itex to MathML. If you’re writing a lot on the Café and want to write on the Lab too, then it may be wise to use that filter by default.

Copying material from elsewhere on the web into the nnLab

If you wish to copy into the nnLab a blog comment after it has been posted – or if you wish to copy other material from elsewhere on the web –, you proceed as above but should be aware of two dangers:

  • cutting-and-pasting from what is on the screen will result in much of the formatting being lost,
  • and what happens to any non-standard characters will depend on a variety of factors (they may come out as unicode characters, they may get converted to the nearest alternatives in your charset).

Slightly better is to copy the XHTML+MathML source (in Firefox : “View” followed by “Page Source”) except that then you are pasting raw XHTML into the nnLab. Whilst this will work, it makes it harder to others to edit afterwards. (But a lab elf will probably come by to clean it up afterwards, so don’t worry about this too much.)

OPTIONAL – how to place your material in context

If you do feel like going a bit further, here are some remarks on how to make your material interplay nicely with the whole structure.

Use Google to check for existing content

If you don’t know where to put your material, Google for “nLab your keywords” to see which entries exist. Better yet, you can Google

and it will look for only keywords on the nnLab. (Most other search engines can do similar tricks.)

Create a new entry by creating a link to it

If the entry with the title that you are looking for does not yet exist, find some entry that is somehow related, go to the edit window as described above and add a line “see also [[your keyword]]”. Then after hitting submit the [[your keyword]] will appear with a clickable question mark. Click on that question mark to create the desired entry.

Add links back and forth between other nLab entries: enclose important keywords in your material in double square brackets [[your keyword]]. That equips them with links to the corresponding other nnLab entries. Conversely, go to related nnLab entries and add pointers to the entry you just created.

Depending on the kind of material you included, you may feel like adding a reference back to the nnCafé discussion.

The first thing to do that is to get a copy of the nnCafé link, which may be obtained via “permalink” at the bottom of the comment.

The link to this comment on the nnCafé is:

To add a link with the label “Link to the nnCafé”, you need a combination of square brackets and parentheses Link NameRL) as indicated below:

[Link to the n-Cafe](

This results in a Link to the n-Cafe.

Log your changes

In order that the rest of the nnLab crew has a chance of becoming aware of your changes, drop a note about what you did at latest changes. Click on “Start a new discussion,” enter a descriptive title, and then describe the changes you made. Please include a link to the page(s) you edited; the same link syntax <span class='newWikiWord'>page name<a href='/nlab/new/page+name'>?</a></span> to nlab pages works on the “latest changes” forum. You’ll have to either create an account at the forum, or reply to a captcha in order to post as a guest. For more detailed instructions, see the sticky post at the top of the link.

Pat yourself on the back

Congratulations! By helping the nnLab, you have done your good deed for the day. All glory comes from daring to begin.

For more information, try the HowTo page.

category: meta

Last revised on April 17, 2018 at 23:59:42. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.