A Closer Look On Syria:Community portal

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Mission Statement

This Wiki was created to structure collaborative research into incidents and issues in the Syrian conflict of 2011 to present. Initially in mid-2012, A Closer Look on Syria (ACLOS) focused heavily on the so-called Houla massacre, but have since covered other areas in useful detail, specializing in those war crimes, massacres, etc. in which "both sides blame each other."

There is a bias inherent in this site’s approach that starts from a sad fact the contributors noticed. The narratives of such events accepted and promoted in the western media are almost totally based on claims and characterizations provided by anti-government “activists” and even rebel fighters. Little if any effort is ever put into questioning these self-serving allegations.

Maybe it's only a coincidence that things like "Shabiha" massacres also serve the geopolitical designs of “the West” at large. This quite clearly desires regime change in Syria and wants it to be, or seem, justified by the regime's own brutality. Quite often, however, the rebel claims can be shown untrue, and beneath the lies are signs that anti-government forces themselves are responsible for the crimes used to demonize the target government.

With the world community so frequently taking that one side with no real doubts, it is with no apology, and only this short explanation, that A Closer Look on Syria (ACLOS) takes the roughly opposite default position, to help slightly in bringing balance and fairness to the broader discourse. Intense scrutiny is applied here to rebel claims, and government claims are given a rare benefit of the doubt. The difference in results is remarkable - far more facts can be included and explained than in the usual, vague, "activists say, we can't verify, this has happened many times before, so it's probably as true as ever" reports that line the road like rubbish.

Within that basic philosophy, this site does strive to consider both sides. “The doubt” we grant the Syrian government is minimized by, and the basic bias is moderated by, careful research. With as much information as possible considered together, especially visual/video evidence, we leave as few unknowns as we can, and shape the remaining speculation into something best fitted to the facts.

Since 2014 we also cover events in (post-)Maidan Ukraine. Ongoing coverage of Ukraine events especially strives to have as little bias as possible, while inspired originally by the same questioning attitude described above.

In general, ACLOS contributors support genuine struggles against oppressive regimes, as well as genuine loyalty towards pressured governments. We pity but do not support sell-outs. We support truth, even when it’s upsetting to some, over convenient lies, however widely-hailed as truth they might be.

We also regret acts of violence by both/all sides in Syria over the last years, the tens of thousands killed, and millions displaced. We encourage peace and reconciliation based, as much as possible, on truth, recognizing how insanely distant that is in the current climate of brutality and deception. It's a long trail. Someone had better start blazing it.

If you feel like contributing to the project, sign up so you can add to every existing article (editing by unregistered guests is turned off to prevent vandalism). The following tips might turn out to be helpful if you aren't familiar with Wiki software.

Use primary sources

ACLOS, Wikipedia and Wikispooks differ by their epistemological principles:

  • Wikipedia uses "reliable secondary sources" and rejects primary sources. Evidence has shown that on geopolitical issues, "reliability" in Wikipedia terms correlates inversely with the facts and what primary sources tell. This can be objectively demonstrated by observing the asymptotic divergence of narratives by two geopolitical camps from each other and from primary sources – they never converge!
  • Wikispooks accepts secondary sources, but ranks them by their distance to "power." The closer they are to "Powers that Be", the more unreliable they are considered to be.
  • ACLOS relies only on primary sources. Secondary sources are utilized only as much as primary source material can be extracted from them – or where the information provided is non-controversial.

Editing

Basic Rules

  • You can't break anything for good. Every edit is recorded in the edit history and can be undone.
  • The discussion pages work a bit like forum discussions, but there is some handwork needed: When you answer to something, try to indent the reply one more step than what you answer to. Please sign your contribution (see formatting below).
  • The article pages are collaborative work. You are free to add information if it is sourced (especially if you read it on a discussion page and it isn't yet to find on the article page). If you want to override or delete larger pieces of existing information, please explain your reasoning on the discussion page before doing so. Don't sign on article pages.
  • On longer pages it is useful to not click on the page edit button top right but on the edit button right to the subsection you want to edit. This leaves you with less code in the edit window and avoids edit conflicts with other contributors who might work on other sections at the same time.
  • Guess that's it. Following are the basic formatting codes you will likely need. For advanced formatting, see the help category on the MediaWiki page. You can try it in the Sandbox.

Basic Formatting

Description You type You get
Character (inline) formatting – applies anywhere
Signature
~~~~

CE (talk) 10:34, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

External Link
[http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Category:Help MediaWiki Help]

The first space inside the brackets separates the link from the description.

MediaWiki Help
Internal Link
[[Main_Page|Home]]

Double brackets. The pipe separates the page name from the description.

Home
Reference
<ref name="Name of reference">Description 
with [http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.org a link]</ref>

or

<ref name="Name of reference" />

A reference doesn't have to have a name. If it has a name, it can be referenced again without repeating the content, like in the second example.

[1]
Italic text
''italic''

italic

Bold text
'''bold'''

bold

Bold and italic
'''''bold & italic'''''

bold & italic

Section formatting – only at the beginning of the line
Indent text
: Single indent
:: Double indent
::::: Multiple indent
Single indent
Double indent
Multiple indent
Headings of different levels

== Level 2 ==

=== Level 3 ===

==== Level 4 ====

===== Level 5 =====

====== Level 6 ======


  • Skip Level 1, it is page name level.
  • An article with 4 or more headings automatically creates a table of contents.

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5
Level 6
Horizontal rule
Text before
----
Text after

Text before


Text after

Bullet list
* Start each line
* with an [[Wikipedia:asterisk|asterisk]] (*).
** More asterisks give deeper
*** and deeper levels.
* Line breaks <br />don't break levels.
*** But jumping levels creates empty space.
Any other start ends the list.
  • Start each line
  • with an asterisk (*).
    • More asterisks give deeper
      • and deeper levels.
  • Line breaks
    don't break levels.
      • But jumping levels creates empty space.

Any other start ends the list.

Numbered list
# Start each line
# with a [[Wikipedia:Number_sign|number sign]] (#).
## More number signs give deeper
### and deeper
### levels.
# Line breaks <br />don't break levels.
### But jumping levels creates empty space.
# Blank lines

# end the list and start another.
Any other start also
ends the list.
  1. Start each line
  2. with a number sign (#).
    1. More number signs give deeper
      1. and deeper
      2. levels.
  3. Line breaks
    don't break levels.
      1. But jumping levels creates empty space.
  4. Blank lines
  1. end the list and start another.

Any other start also ends the list.

Templates
Indent longer text The above indent method will have to be repeated at the beginning of each paragraph. If you want to indent a longer text with several paragraphs and internal formatting, you can use the following template to make it more convenient. The number behind the first | indicates the number of steps you want to indent. The text comes after the second |. Don't forget the closing brackets.
No indent.

{{I|1|
This indents over several paragraphs.

See?
}}

:: Yup.

{{I|3|
L

*O

L
}}

No indent.

This indents over several paragraphs.

See?

Yup.

L

  • O

L

Further information for potential contributors

The ACLOS admins are Caustic Logic, CE and Petri Krohn.

Sign-Up and Speak-Up Policy Explained

Editing by non-registered readers has been turned off to prevent casual vandalism. We invite contributions, but have to impose the hurdle of registering (standard process, upper right corner). Anyone registering here to contribute will be much appreciated, even if it's only one or two things they have time to add. Even with that, spam and zombie accounts proliferate. We block these aggressively almost every day, leading to the second hurdle. There's little point registering unless you mean to type something, so register when you're in the mood, and make a contribution and/or type a little introduction to let us know why you're not a zombie (silent) account. Otherwise, actually, we presume zombie 100% of the time. I was giving grace periods and then sometimes forgetting to delete the silent ones later. They're some kind of nuisance, I gather, that needs weeded out. So, no more grace periods. Silent sign-up = waste of time (except rare cases where we know the person, etc.) So sign up, speak up, and then take whatever sized part you like in one of the important discussions and cutting edge research at A Closer Look On Syria. --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:27, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

CE, Petri, anyone else: Does this sound about right? --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:27, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Side-chatter: CE, is there a way to build a note to this effect into the registration process? Can that be added to? --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:27, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Added three words, fine. I think there are templates to add content to the register page ... will take a look soon. --CE (talk) 12:18, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
There are a ton of textblocks at Special:AllMessages. I didn't find the ones on the account creation page itself, but I found the one for the page you see after an account was created. Just edit this page. --CE (talk) 13:48, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Finally added a shortened message in bold red with link to your text here. Now we can hunt them Zombies down without any remorse (not that we had any before) ;oP --CE (talk) 11:14, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Using a throwaway user name (like Debbie3494 or LeannaXYZ) will get you blocked on sight – unless you speak up. Using your real name or a well known screen name may give you a longer grace period. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 00:21, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

And it should be your own well-known screen name, not someone else's! Also, a lot of real-looking full name and even odd name accounts wind up fake or zombie/blocked. So I'm not much for grace there. I guess an Arabic sounding name could get you a pause. But speak up! It's what you came for! --Caustic Logic (talk) 00:27, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
What's with that DEADBEEF character? I really feel like blocking his tasteless rear end. Make him speak up, Petri! --CE (talk) 11:24, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Let's not be the exception. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 19:34, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

Hi there!

We are looking for more people to contribute to this research wiki. If you remotely agree with our mission statement on the start page and think you have something of value to add, please register an account and go ahead. We try to keep the article pages neutral in language and sharp in research. When in doubt, add the information first to the Talk page of an article and it will get picked up from there. If you are not familiar with the workings of Wiki software in general and/or MediaWiki in particular, get help here. The fastest way to get familiar with the basic formatting is to look at how the others do it, by clicking "Edit" at the top right of an article and analyzing the "source code". Try it with this very basic conversation I pretend to have had with myself:

Hi there!

Same to you. This line is indented and I will sign it, it's just good form although I can see who you are when I "View History". --CE 11:20, 12 September 2012 (EST)
Yes, yes, I know, you must have read this article where you learned how to sign. --~~~~
Hahaha, that didn't parse, did it. If I were you I'd try again in the Sandbox! --CE 11:27, 12 September 2012 (EST)

Facts and Neutrality

CE said above "We try to keep the article pages neutral in language and sharp in research." We do try, but we, mostly I, have slipped from overly-neutral language into some sharp sarcasm in spots. Facts and evidence and likelihoods must, however, be kept paramount, and are, I think. Then the snark can be applied to a solid platform that'll hold it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 00:03, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

Don't be Intimidated!

Or else! Kidding. We pull some fancy tricks around here, especially with video analysis and map placement, but also with finding and translating foreign-language sources, compiling and comparing sometimes obscure information with extreme details, etc. Perhaps it's ego that makes me imagine people might be intimidated by that. Anyone with such skills can be of great use here, and I dare you to try and intimidate us with excessive brilliance. But mainly it's not specific skills, but inspiration to help find and develop the truth (and then registering) that makes a wiki member. There are plenty of simpler activities that need done -starting pages based on one interesting article on an incident not yet covered, Googling up a new source for an existing page, fixing typos and grammar errors you see (two core members are not native English speakers, and the other can be sloppy), etc. In short, if you feel like you have something to contribute, you probably do, and will be appreciated by our still-too-small community. --Caustic Logic (talk) 00:03, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

Community Chatter

Hi there, I'm CE and created this wiki. Feel free to mess around but do it reasonably. If you're not familiar with how things work here, read the links offered on the Help page and try it out in the Sandbox. A statement like this is signed in the software MediaWiki by four tits like this: CE 07:27, 25 June 2012 (EST)

Hi, I'm CL, member #2 (in order of appearance). PK is #3. Is this how we talk here? Or am I typing in the wrong box? Whoever is most familiar with wiki formatting can feel free to tell me how to best do it here. My starting format like [BW] is only temporary, from habit, but I'm not sure what to replace it with. SOurces per page, at the bottom, simply numbered, maybe? Hyperlinks within the page like Wikipedia has? One big page for all sources? I don't know. Can i fix others' spelling like I just did? Or put words in their mouths? Too many questions. Do I have to type in my signature or does it just appear? Let's see.

I have put a link to basic formatting help on the help page in the navigation on the left. Every created page automatically has a "talk" page (see second tab top left) where discussion normally can take place.
An external link looks like this: [URL description] One set of brackets.
Two sets of brackets create an internal link: [[NewPage]]
I have used the "nowiki" tag in the lines above, which tells it not to parse what is in between.
Here is an external link being parsed (look in the "edit" code how I did it, the colons make my lines indent): A link to a description of talk pages and how to sign comments
Here is an internal link with double brackets: NewPage Notice that the link is red, which means that the page does not yet exist. If you click on it it takes you directly to edit mode and asks you to create the page.
Signing is always good on talk pages but we can see who edited what and when in any case, because everything is remembered and can be restored in the history top right of every page.
more later, thinking about how to collect the sources.--CE 01:34, 27 June 2012 (EST)
I see you have already figured out most of that. I remembered how to use the references properly and re-formatted the Rebel Witness page. Our friend is the tag "ref". Format:
<ref name="Reference Name">Description with [http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com a link]</ref>
It does numbering and anchors automatically and collects all references at a place on the site where a <references/>-Tag is. If that doesn't exist, it complains.[2] --CE 02:30, 27 June 2012 (EST)
Thanks, CE! I'm starting to get it. May take a while to update things and get more up.--Caustic Logic 08:21, 27 June 2012 (EST)
I've added some observations about the rebel attack sources on the talk page there. Please check that out.CE 02:10, 28 June 2012 (EST)
Reusing my reference here without repeating the content.[2]

References

  1. Description with a link
  2. 2.0 2.1 Description with a link