is a reference for frequently asked questions about the Idealogs project

What is Idealogs? [edit]

Idealogs is a wiki. Meaning anyone can edit any article at any time. Pretty neat, if you ask me.

What is its purpose? [edit]

To define controversial subjects from a neutral point of view. That is, for a given dispute, our job is to summarize–to the best of our ability–the current state of the conversation surrounding it. This involves bringing in and summarizing the major primary sources, sifting those sources down to their major claims, and then weighing those claims against one another.

This is a hard thing to do, but I think there are people out there–like you, maybe!–who have the necessary expertise and are looking for an outlet to share it.

Note: our job is not to answer the dispute, but define it.

How is this different from Wikipedia? [edit]

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. For a given subject, an encyclopedia’s purpose is to summarize the knowledge we have on it. This model works well for many subjects (proof: the overwhelming success of Wikipedia), but I think it fails for ones that are under heavy dispute. That is, when I read a Wikipedia article on a particularly controversial subject, I always feel like it fails to capture the essence of the controversy.

That is why I created Idealogs. Idealogs is a new kind of reference work, which I call a synesiary, which is designed specifically for breaking down complex, controversial subjects which encyclopedias like Wikipedia, and all other reference works for that matter, fail to treat properly. This is done through collecting and summarizing the major writings, statements, and questions that define the subject. Each writing, statement, and question is represented by an article in the wiki.

How do I start contributing? [edit]

First, find a writing on your topic published anywhere on the web that is well-written and which you think the community might enjoy reading. Catalog it on the site in an article and summarize the writing’s contents. Repeat.

Next, distill one or more writings into a statement that can be proven. Create a new article which summarizes the major proof(s) of the statement using logic from your writings above. Important: you should not be generating new proofs or arguments, only explaining the ones your writings are already bringing. Everything should be cited properly.

Third, find statements that contradict to form an interesting question. Catalog that question in a new article, and use the space in the article to explain the nature of the question, what the major claims are and how they interplay, and what writings one should read to be able to understand the question.

Transfinite? Infinite? Finite? [edit]

See here.

Why handles? [edit]

Handles are a unique way to reference articles in a sunesiary. In a wiki, articles need a unique referencing system so that they can be linked to from other articles on the site; this is one of the core features of a wiki and what makes them such a powerful tool for collecting and organizing information. A wiki traditionally assigns a unique ID to an article based on the article’s title (e.g. “Cheesy Wonderland” gets the unique ID “Cheesy_Wonderland”, but that model falls apart for a catalog of writings, statements, and questions.


Consider the scenario of an Idealogs editor who wants to catalog a recently published Wall Street Journal article entitled “Cheese” on the site. To her dismay, she discovers an academic paper published in Nature called “Cheese” that has already been cataloged here. With the standard wiki referencing system, the article’s titles will collide and there will be no way to uniquely identify each. In this small case, one might propose to title one article “Cheese (WSJ)” and the other “Cheese (Nature)”. But what if there are 100 articles with that exact same title? Or what if Nature published two articles with the same title but twenty years apart, and editors want to catalog both? Or what if the title is incredibly long, and so every time you want to link to the article, you have to type out its title exactly right? That solution unfortunately does not scale.

Handles, however, solve all of those problems by making the title of the article (and also its publisher, author, etc) irrelevant when constructing its unique ID.

Statements and Questions

The following applies equally to statements and questions.

For a given statement, one can generate a near-infinite number of ways to rephrase it–using synonyms, word order, etc–such that the meaning of the statement is essentially the same but the words are different. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the exact wording of statements cataloged on this site will change over time as the community understands the statement better over time and finds clearer, more exact language to describe it. Constantly changing titles, however, are a serious problem for standard wikis as every time the title of an article changes, one has to modify all the articles which link to it, as each of those links is now broken. Also, like above, linking to statements based on the article title is problematic as statements have the potential to be somewhat verbose, and this would make inter-article linking incredibly cumbersome.

Again, handles solve all these problems by separating the article title from the way that article is uniquely referenced.

Additional benefits of handles

  • The handle system completely eliminates the need for redirects, “moving” pages, broken link management, and disambiguation pages. Hooray!
  • Handles provide a unique way for WSQs to be referenced anywhere. There exists today many different ways to uniquely reference writings (dewey decimal, DOI, PMID), but none are as simple as this system, and none provide a mechanism for uniquely identify statements and questions.

How am I supposed to memorize those long strings of numbers and letters?

That’s the beautiful thing! You don’t.

  • For readers of Idealogs: the handles are truncated automatically by the software to make them unobtrusive to the eye.

  • For editors of Idealogs: there is never a need to memorize a handle. If you want to know an article’s handle, simply go the edit page of any article, search for the desired article, and its handle will show up in the top left corner. Click the button and the handle will automatically be copied to your clipboard.

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