Wikipedia:Avoid instruction creep

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This essay is about creep in policies and guidelines. For creep in articles, see WP:Article creep.

Wikipedia policies and guidelines exist to document community norms for all readers, especially those unfamiliar with how Wikipedia operates. It is important that such pages remain readily understandable and in line with community consensus. All edits, especially substantive additions, should be carefully considered. Too much instruction can result in complex pages which will seldom be read and understood.[1]

Development[edit]

Like kudzu, instructions can grow much too fast.

Like articles, policy and guideline pages can generally be edited by anyone. Often, somebody thinks that such-and-such a point should be addressed, or that more explanation would be helpful, and edits accordingly. Such additions can end up being quite unhelpful. Gradual bloating if left unchecked can make a page less and less coherent, less inviting, and less reflective of community consensus, which becomes difficult to gauge when few users are reading and understanding the page. Project pages are meant to be very broad in scope, and thus cannot hope to adequately cover every minute aspect of the issues they deal with.

Prevention[edit]

Keeping policies and guidelines to the point is the most effective way to preserve transparency. Substantive additions to policy should generally be rejected unless:

  1. There is an actual problem to solve, and not just a hypothetical or perceived problem.
  2. The proposal if implemented is likely to make a real, positive difference.
  3. All implied requirements have clear consensus.

All instruction should be as clear as possible. Ensure that additions are placed in a logical context, and do not obscure the meaning of surrounding text.

It is usually better for a policy or guideline to be too lax than too strict. Content not clearly prohibited by any policy is still subject to editor discretion. Consensus-building on article talk pages can be undermined by an over-strict policy, as an editor who wants to follow it literally can claim that the issue is already decided.

If you just think that you have good advice for Wikipedians, consider adding it to an essay.

Fixing[edit]

Since things can sometimes "creep in" without much scrutiny, even longstanding instructions should be subject to review. The amount of time an instruction has been present does not in itself establish consensus, although one should be cautious about removing a longstanding part of policy.

If an instruction does not make sense or does not seem to describe accepted practice, check the page history to see when it was added and how it may have changed over time. Then check the talk page and talk archive, to see whether there was any related discussion. If you think the instruction lacks community consensus, either make your case on the talk page or boldly remove it, giving your rationale in the edit summary. If you meet with disagreement, discuss the matter further. Those who oppose an outright deletion may still be open to changes.

Misuse[edit]

Shortcut:

"WP:CREEP" is not a substitute for actual arguments. Lengthy instruction can be helpful, if it clearly and accurately represents community consensus.

See also[edit]

Policies, essays, and guidelines
Essays encouraging redundancy
Articles

Source[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It | MIT Technology Review