Wikipedia:Don't overload your watchlist!

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Can you really keep track of all the news going on in the world all by yourself?

Watching pages is a capability provided by Wikipedia that allows users to efficiently see if any changes have been made to any articles to the user's interest. It is easily possible for any registered user to watch any page, and to remove a page from one's watchlist at any time when logged in. This is far easier than visiting each page in which you have interest and visually observing changes.

Why watch a page?[edit]

That is a good question. Why do you want to know if any changes have been made to any particular page?

The following are some possible reasons:

  1. You created the page, and you want others to expand it, or to know when others do
  2. The page has the potential for more information to be added in the future, and you would like to know more about the subject from someone else
  3. The subject may require updating, and you want to see if updates are made
  4. The page is at risk for vandalism, and you want to be alert to catch the vandalism early

What is recommended to watch[edit]

  • Pages you have created (unless the creation was only for technical reasons, and you otherwise have no interest in the subject)
  • Pages on which you have made significant contributions
  • Pages to which you have made a recent contribution, even possibly a minor one, and you would like to see if it was accepted by others
  • Pages you have never edited, but would like to learn more about the subject one day than is currently provided
  • The subject receives frequent or periodic updates, and you would like to know when they occur
  • Pages you have marked for deletion in any manner. If those pages are deleted and then recreated, the recreation will appear on your watchlist and you can take action where appropriate.
  • Non-existent pages, if you would like to know if they are ever created
  • Pages that are common targets of vandalism or other disruptive activity, if you wish to assist with preventing or reverting the vandalism

What is not recommended to watch[edit]

Watching the following types of pages is not recommended unless you have some other interest in the subject:

  • Pages on which you have made extremely minor edits only
  • Additions of categories, navboxes, links to other Wikipedia pages, or other small details that are included on many pages
  • Pages on which you have reverted vandalism, unless the vandalism is ongoing, and you wish to help stop it
  • Pages you have previously edited, but since lost interest in
  • Redirects, unless they are controversial
  • User pages and talk pages of others, unless you are having an ongoing discussion with that user
  • Closed deletion discussions, unless they are currently under deletion review. These are never supposed to be modified.
  • Pages that you have patrolled and templated

Pages that are frequently edited[edit]

There are two settings for your watchlist: one in which only the most recent edit appears, and one in which all edits within the given timeframe appear. The advantage to only the most recent edit appearing is that the watchlist looks less overwhelming. The advantage to all edits being displayed is that you can see a significant edit that was not the most recent. If you choose the first of these two, it is possible for that a page could be vandalized, the vandal can make another seemingly acceptable, possibly minor edit, and the act of vandalism could go unnoticed to you.

Displaying all edits can be a drawback though if you are watching one or more pages that are edited many times on a single day regularly. This could be truly overwhelming for you to track, especially when you have multiple pages like this.

As an alternative to watching such pages on your watchlist, if you are interested in seeing how one changes, it may be useful to simply to visually observe it each time, and to check its edit history.

Pitfalls of an overloaded watchlist[edit]

The human mind has limits to what can be read and comprehended in any given period of time. This varies for each person, but everyone has some limit. The more pages that are on one's watchlist, the longer it'll take to read the watchlist.

If you have a long watchlist, you may find it exhausting to read it all. As a result, you may quickly scan it over, ignoring all but the most significant changes. The purpose of the watchlist is to look out for changes to pages. If you are ignoring the bulk of changes on your watchlist, this defeats the purpose. There is also the chance that you may miss an edit which is meaningful to you.

How much is too much?[edit]

There are also technical issues with watching too many pages. If you watch more than 9800 pages at a time, this may slow down the system, and the watchlist may malfunction. Of course, this is a very high number. But if you set your preferences so any page you edit automatically enters your watchlist, and you edit a lot of pages, particularly if you make more technical edits of articles that are not to your interest, you may reach this point one day.

In the event that you come close to or exceed 9800, it may be time to remove some pages from your watchlist. If you choose to, you can start by removing those in which you will never desire to know anything about, such as closed AfDs, those on which you have made the most minor edits (like spelling, grammar, and punctuation corrections), those on which you have added navboxes or categories, or pages you have done nothing more than patrolled and templated.

Even if you are far below this limit, there are issues with the human mind. This varies for each person. For some, it could be hundreds of changes a day. For others, it could be a single digit number. For many, it is somewhere in between. That is all your call.

See also[edit]