Wikipedia:Not ready for primetime

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Our ultimate goal here at Wikipedia is to create a free and open repository of encyclopedic information, one that is not only vast, but as accurate and legitimate as is humanly possible. This is our creed. Too often, however, is Wikipedia derided from the outside for the poor quality of some of its articles. Negative comparisons are made to ink-and-paper encyclopedias and reference works, where no article is published without the strictest of scrutiny, fact checking and revising. Articles on Wikipedia can be, and are, published with the click of a mouse and can be, and often are, done so without any forethought. It is true that we believe that this freedom is what makes this project so powerful, free and spontaneous creation and collaboration. It is also true that Wikipedia is a work in progress and so is every article in it, and that being bold in creating content is how greatness is achieved.

However, to the end of creating an accurate and legitimate compilation of knowledge, we do have article standards agreed upon by the community. Our freedom of instant creation does not give us license to create articles that are not ready for primetime. Right out of the gate, articles in the main encyclopedia article space should at LEAST be well-formed stubs with clear potential for improvement. In any article created, there should be:

  1. Enough content to establish the context of the subject;
  2. Some third-party reference(s);
  3. And a basic establishment of verifiability, notability, and non-originality through said reference(s).

Your new article can be crude, but it should at least be able to withstand a review for speedy deletion and should not resemble anything we agree Wikipedia is not. Main article space is for valid encyclopedia articles, not for unsourced statements, subjects with no indication of notability, little content, a few thoughts, brief outlines, idea sketches, rough drafts, etc. In sum, if you do not have enough yet to create an article that will survive immediate scrutiny, one that is at least a well-formed stub, do not create it. "I'm still working on this" is not a valid excuse to save an article from an early death. The "under construction" template may buy you some time... but not much if what you've got is really no good.

The justification for immediate and strict scrutiny brought down upon newly created articles is that since Wikipedia is so popular and so highly ranked in search engines like Google, once an article is created, it's likely to be found by those on the outside very quickly. If an article discovered by those seeking information (which is, after all, exactly why we create articles – so that those seeking information can find it) is not up to some degree of Wikipedia standard, it damages our credibility and reflects poorly on the project as a whole. Also, articles created on a whim are often left as neglected orphans, subsequently ignored by the community and never improved upon. Many of them will end up on the deletion heap. Articles that have some prior work put into them are ones that turn in to featured articles.

So, you ask, how does one work on an article that is not yet ready for the world to see if you can't put it up in the encyclopedia immediately? You could use your own word processor, but those don't generally understand Wiki markup. Instead, create a subpage in your user space and work on your article idea there. Research carefully. Ask for help. Then, when you think your article is ready, move it into the main encyclopedia. Receive the praise of your peers. It's just that simple.

See the history of this page for an illustrated example of how well this works. T'Shael worked carefully on this article in her user space, sought advice from others, and then, once she thought it was ready, she moved it out into the encyclopedia.

Following this procedure could save so many articles with such great potential that barely see the light of day.