Wikipedia:Don't be a bull in a china shop

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New Wikipedia editors have the capability to cause a lot of damage.

Wikipedia is a collaborative project with thousands of editors simultaneously working on millions of articles. Since Wikipedia places very few restrictions on who can edit an article, it's not uncommon for problems to arise when some editors are not working towards the same common goal. Editors who purposely cause problems are labelled vandals and are dealt with accordingly. However, even well-intentioned new editors who are unfamiliar with the core policies and guidelines run the risk of inadvertently creating a lot of work for other editors. Examples of behaviors which characterize a bull in a china shop include:

  • Creating multiple articles on non-notable topics
  • Creating multiple spam or advertisement articles
  • Creating multiple articles which are unreferenced and/or require major cleanup
  • Adding inappropriate external links to articles
  • Unilaterally making bold edits to a large number of articles without discussion or consensus. However, it should be noted that bold edits, even unilateral ones, are usually not a problem unless one continues to make them despite reasonable objections.

The problems associated with such behaviors are often exacerbated by a distinct lack of communication on the part of the "bull", as well as a marked inability or unwillingness to correct the offending behavior. Below are some signs for spotting a bull in a china shop, as well as some suggestions for how to minimize the extent to which other editors need to clean up after you.

Spotting a bull in a china shop[edit]

Most signs of a bull in a china shop involve unsuccessful attempts to communicate on the editor's talk page. Below are some examples:

Deletion notices on your talk page[edit]

Does the table of contents of your user talk page look like this? If so, you might be a bull in a china shop.

One of the clearest indications that an editor is causing problems is a user talk page which is full of little else than deletion notices. This type of editor is creating a lot of articles, many or all of which are being nominated for deletion. Worse yet, the editor may not be responding to the deletion notices or participating at the deletion discussions. To be clear, simply receiving deletion notices on your talk page is not evidence that you have done something wrong or made a mistake, but having a large number of similar warnings tends to imply that you are causing problems which you are not making an attempt to correct.

It is of the utmost importance that new editors are responsive and communicative with other editors, particularly experienced editors who post warnings on their talk pages. No one expects new editors to be perfect, but responsive editors are given far more leeway than editors who ignore the warnings and cannot be reasoned with (i.e. a bull in a china shop).

Think of the time wasted by such editors. If an editor creates an article which doesn't pass Wikipedia's notability guidelines, it will eventually be nominated for deletion. The deletion discussion will likely be visited by 5-10 editors, each of which will probably spend at least 5 minutes reading the article and submitting their opinion. Then, after a week, an admin will come along and probably spend 15 minutes reading the article and all of the responses at the deletion discussion in order to determine whether the article will be kept or deleted. All in all, each poor article that is created and subsequently deleted wastes at least one man-hour of time. Reckless editors sometimes create dozens of articles which eventually get deleted, thus wasting dozens of man-hours.

Warnings on your talk page[edit]

Similarly, an excessive quantity of warnings on a user's talk page may be an indication of "bullish" behavior. An editor doesn't have to necessarily be creating articles to cause problems. Adding inappropriate or poor quality content to an article also wastes the time of editors who must review that content and either fix it or revert it. Adding that same inappropriate content (i.e. links to a website which an editor is trying to promote) to dozens of pages wastes far more time.

Escalations[edit]

Eventually, if an editor's behavior is destructive enough, they may attract the attention of other editors who seek to limit the damage. Often, problematic editors will be discussed at the administrator's noticeboard. If the offending behavior is deemed destructive enough, the editor may be banned or blocked. When dealing with an editor who is unresponsive and does not engage in discussion about the problems they are causing, the community quickly tends to feel that nothing can be done to change the editor's behavior. Therefore, these types of editors are often blocked or banned much more quickly than responsive, repentant editors.

Don't let the bull get you by the horns[edit]

There are a lot of things you can do to avoid being a bull in a china shop. Below are some examples:

  • Be responsive. If editors are sending you messages which indicate that you have made mistakes which are being corrected, be sure to engage them in discussion to get more information about what you may have done wrong. Don't take the messages personally, but do take them to heart. Consider trying to fix the mistake yourself, if possible. If you are well-intentioned but still not up to speed on how Wikipedia works, then we want you to stay, and we understand that the quickest way to learn is to make mistakes. As long as you show you are learning from your mistakes, you will never be unwelcome. If you're unsure of how to do something and are not sure who to ask, just place {{helpme}} anywhere on your user talk page and someone will be along shortly to help you.
  • Include references in articles you create. One of the primary deficiencies with new articles is a lack of references. At worst, articles which don't cite reliable sources will be deleted. At best, they will be tagged as unreferenced and added to the backlog of unreferenced articles. Either way, they will eventually require the attention of another editor in order to be fixed.
  • Familiarize yourself with the core policies and guidelines. The more you know about how Wikipedia works, the lower the chances you will make a mistake. Some great places to start learning are Wikipedia:Introduction, Wikipedia:Your first article, and Wikipedia:List of policies and guidelines.

See Also[edit]