Wikipedia:Autobiography

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"WP:AB" and "WP:AUTO" redirect here. For information on autoblocks, see WP:AUTOBLOCK. For WikiProject Automobiles, see WP:CAR. For the Abuse Reports noticeboard, see WP:ABUSE. For information on autoconfirmed accounts, see WP:AUTOCONFIRM. For information about the autopatrolled user group, see WP:AUTOPAT. For the administrative backlog, see CAT:AB.

Writing an autobiography on Wikipedia is strongly discouraged, unless your writing has been approved by other editors in the community. Editing a biography about yourself should only be done in clear-cut cases.

Wikipedia has gone through many prolonged disputes about the significance, factual accuracy, and neutrality of such articles.[1] Avoiding such editing keeps Wikipedia neutral and helps avoid pushing a particular point of view.

Writing autobiographies is discouraged because it is difficult to write a neutral, verifiable autobiography, and there are many pitfalls.

If you have published elsewhere on a topic, we welcome your expertise on the subject for Wikipedia articles. However, every Wikipedia article must cover its subject in a neutral, fair, and comprehensive way to advance knowledge of the subject as a whole. Please forget your biases while enriching the Wikipedia readers' knowledge. Articles that exist primarily to advance the interests of the contributor will likely be deleted.

The problem with autobiographies

It is said that Zaphod Beeblebrox's birth was marked by earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, firestorms, the explosion of three neighbouring stars, and, shortly afterwards, by the issuing of over six and three quarter million writs for damages from all of the major landowners in his Galactic sector. However, the only person by whom this is said is Beeblebrox himself, and there are several possible theories to explain this.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Fit the Ninth

Although humorous, the above illustrates the several fundamental problems with autobiographies:

  • They are often biased, usually positively. People will write overly positive impressions of themselves, and often present opinions as facts. Wikipedia aims to avoid presenting opinions as facts. (Neutral point of view does not mean simply writing in the third person).
  • They can be unverifiable. If the only source for a particular fact about you is yourself, then readers cannot verify it. (One common area where this is the case is with hopes, dreams, thoughts, and aspirations. There is no way for readers to verify what you think.) Everything in Wikipedia articles must be verifiable.
  • They can contain original research. People often include in autobiographies information that has never been published before, or which is the result of firsthand knowledge. This type of information would require readers to perform primary research to verify it. Wikipedia does not distribute previously-unpublished information; original research is not permitted in Wikipedia.

Why these problems exist

Just because you honestly believe you are being neutral doesn't mean you are. Unconscious biases can and do exist, and are a very common cause of the problems with autobiographies—which is why we discourage autobiographies themselves and not just active, deliberate self-promotion. Not only does this affect neutrality but it also affects the verifiability and unoriginal research of the autobiography. One may inadvertently slip things in that one may not think need to be attributable even though they do, due to those very same biases.

The threshold between objectivity and autobiographical puffery is culturally constructed and the measure derives from what we are accustomed to consuming as disinterested journalism. The more truly neutral the source, the more truly diverse the sources, the more truly relevant the information, the less risk of the material presenting a self-aggrandizing impression. The principle of neutrality can be understood from the idea that facts appear impressive only when presented matter-of-factly. Merely using neutral language does not guarantee that the language will sound neutral.

Even if you believe you can synthesize an autobiography based only on verifiable material that is not original research you may still not be able to synthesize it in a completely neutral manner. For example, a recognized authority or prominent figure (or a writer composing on the person's behalf) might list objective summary data indicating such things as the sheer volume of one's published material, or the fact that their work has been translated into numerous languages or performed abroad. True claims expressing mere volume or scope can present a non-neutral impression that is usually recognizable to observers as deliberate self-aggrandizement as opposed to restrained journalism. Likewise, deep biographical detail, such as details of one's religious beliefs, the careers of one's non-notable family members, or the mere fact that one has famous friends may not become relevant until and unless one has gained substantial fame. Avoid writing your own eulogy: as economist John Maynard Keynes pointed out, "In the long run, we're all dead."

If Wikipedia already has an article about you

Shortcut:

It is difficult to write neutrally and objectively about oneself (see above about unconscious biases). You should generally let others do the writing.

Contributing material or making suggestions on the article's talk page is considered proper—let independent editors write it into the article itself or approve it if you still want to make the changes yourself. It may help attract attention to your talk page request to include the {{request edit}} template as part of the request.

In clear-cut cases, it is permissible to edit pages connected to yourself. So, you can revert vandalism; but of course it has to be simple, obvious vandalism and not a content dispute. Similarly, you should feel free to remove obviously mistaken facts about yourself, such as marital status, current employer, place of birth, and so on. (Note it on the talk page.) If the fact has different interpretations, others will edit it.

Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, it should be a tertiary source—it should not contain any "new" information or theories (see Wikipedia:No original research) and most information should exist in checkable third-party sources. Facts, retellings of events, and clarifications which you may wish to have added to an article about yourself must be verifiable with reliable sources.

If you are a regular Wikipedia editor, you can identify yourself on the article's talk page with the {{Notable Wikipedian}} notice.

Problems in an article about you

Shortcut:

If Wikipedia has an article about you, we want it to be accurate, fair, balanced and neutral – to accurately reflect the sourced, cited opinions of reliable sources. If you believe reliable sources exist which will make the article more balanced, you can help by pointing other editors to such sources.

You may wish to make suggestions on the article's talk page or, if the problem is clear-cut and uncontroversial, you may wish to edit the page yourself. If your edit may be misinterpreted, you should explain it on the talk page. Note that if the fact has different interpretations, others will edit it. Your edits are more likely to be accepted if they are neutral and well-sourced to third parties.

If others do not agree with the changes you propose, you may pursue dispute resolution. For instance, the Biographies of living persons noticeboard may offer a forum for impartial contributors to help resolve differences.

If you feel insufficient attention is being paid to problems with an article about you, try placing a note on the help desk detailing the problems. Legal problems with material in an article about you, please email info-en-q@wikimedia.org promptly with full details. But do not post legal threats on Wikipedia itself (articles, talk pages, noticeboards) –doing so is a serious violation of Wikipedia rules (see WP:No legal threats) and will lead to your being immediately blocked from further editing until you withdraw the threat.

If the article about you has no photo, or you can supply a better one, feel free to contribute one under a suitable free content license. (If you did not create the photo yourself e.g. photos from promotional materials, make sure you have the legal authority to release the photo under such a license.)

Creating an article about yourself

Policy shortcut:

Upon some of Cato's friends expressing their surprise, that while many persons without merit or reputation had statues, he had none, he answered, "I had much rather it should be asked why the people have not erected a statue to Cato, than why they have."

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1797)

If your life and achievements are verifiable and genuinely notable, someone else will probably create an article about you sooner or later. (See Wikipedia:Wikipedians with articles.)

Creating an article about yourself is strongly discouraged. We want biographies here, not autobiographies.

  • Independent creation encourages independent validation of both significance and verifiability. All edits to articles must conform to Wikipedia:No original research, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, and Wikipedia:Verifiability. Even if you did manage to pull off an autobiography conforming to our content policies, it still may not get checked simply because you made it.
  • If no third party has yet created an article about you, there is the danger that, should the article be vandalised, there will be no interested editors watching and the vandalism may remain uncorrected for long periods.
  • Self-created articles are often listed on articles for deletion. Deletion is not certain, but many feel strongly that you should not start articles about yourself. Beware that third-party comments may be most uncomplimentary.
  • Many people exaggerate their own significance or notability above what third parties would think. If you are not "notable" under Wikipedia guidelines, an article you create about yourself may qualify for speedy deletion.

Note that anything you submit will be edited mercilessly by others. Many autobiographical articles have been a source of dismay to their original authors after a period of editing by the community, and in at least four instances have been listed for deletion by their original authors. In some cases the article is kept even if the original author requests otherwise.

If you create an autobiography, you must have no promotional intent and must be willing to accept it being neutralized if it is not neutral, or even deleted if it comes to that. If you do turn out to be notable, you must expect the article to stay—you cannot just get it deleted because you are not happy with it. Our neutral point of view policy is absolute and non-negotiable, and all encyclopedic topics are fair game for Wikipedia.

One thing which you can do to assist other Wikipedia editors is, if you already maintain a personal website, please ensure that any information that you want in your Wikipedia article is already on your own website. As long as it's not involving grandiose claims like "I was the first to create this widget," or "My book was the biggest seller that year," a personal website can be used as a reference for basic biographical information. As the Wikipedia:Verifiability policy states: Self-published sources and other published sources of dubious reliability may be used as sources in articles about themselves ... so long as the material is neither unduly self-serving nor an exceptional claim, it does not involve claims about third parties, it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the source, there is no reasonable doubt as to its authenticity, [and] the article is not based primarily on such sources."

Finally, one should also make considerations of time and effort upon the Wikipedia community, as well as one's reputation. Even if you do manage to pull off a neutral, verifiable autobiography, the very fact that so many autobiographies have not been that way has trained Wikipedians to expect the opposite—and hence editors may feel they are wasting their time or effort if they become provoked by the fact it's still an autobiography, regardless of policy compliance. This may also result in a reputation hit not only because you violated the guideline, but also because editors may feel that you have wasted their effort.

The proper way to get your own writing about yourself into Wikipedia if you really think that you can meet the inclusion criteria and are willing to accept having a neutral, non-promotional article, is to make a proposal at Articles for creation containing the text you want, instead of just putting it into the encyclopedia directly, and seek the consensus of the community through discussion. Not only does this provide independent viewpoints on it that can allow you to discover biases you were not aware of having, it also helps provide an indication of good faith and that you are willing to put the interests of Wikipedia first instead of standing in a conflict of interest.

See also

References

  1. ^ Rogers Cadenhead (2005-12-19). "Wikipedia Founder Looks Out for Number 1". cadenhead.org.