Wikipedia:Write the article first

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For the official guideline on this topic, see Wikipedia:Red link.

Frequently editors add entries to lists, "See also" sections, templates or disambiguation pages, thus wikilinking those entries to articles that do not exist; the result is a red link like this one. Where the editor goes on and creates the new article, the redlink in the list turns blue, and assuming the article follows Wikipedia's policy on notability, verifiability, and other relevant policies, there is no problem.

In the early days of Wikipedia, this approach was an important part of growing the encyclopedia. Long "Lists of topics" (also called "Index lists"), sometimes with all red links, were some of the first articles created.

Now, however, with the English encyclopedia at 4,628,491 articles, list articles with many redlinks are less essential in leading to the creation of new articles. Instead of using stand-alone "Lists of topics" articles as guides for new articles, editors have largely moved this function to WikiProject pages that cover specific areas of interest.

As a result of this evolution, these days, editors who add these links to a list often have no intention of writing the redlinked article, ever. This may be simply because writing the article is more time consuming than adding the link to the list or template. "Someone else will do it", the editor reasons. Or the editor may be choosing to contribute anonymously, which means that editor cannot directly create an article. Lastly, it may be because the editor knows, maybe even from first-hand experience, that newly created articles that do not follow Wikipedia policies can be deleted, whether or not the editor is aware of Wikipedia's new pages patrol or is familiar with the details of the speedy deletion process or other deletion processes.

It is this last reason that is the most problematic: "List of..." and "Comparison of..." type lists, both stand-alone and embedded are often prone to spam and redlinking. In many cases nearly half of the edits are limited to adding spam and redlinks to the list. A large portion of the remaining edits are removing them, which, while critical to maintaining the quality of the page, is a tremendous waste of WP editor resources. Lists are used in Wikipedia to organize information, and for internal navigation. Lists should only contain internally linked articles, thus serving as natural tables of content and indexes of Wikipedia. Whether its a "List of..." or "Comparison of...", they are subject to Wikipedia's other policies such as WP:LINKFARM, WP:NOT and WP:SPAM. Ask any editor who watches list pages – they will likely have had the same experience. Far too many lists are full of this spam, with no end in sight, often more redlinks than blue. List of demoparties is just one example.

Because of this, editors are encouraged to write the article first before adding it to a list, template or disambiguation page. Don't worry that the article will be exposed to the new pages patrol, which, after all, is much more focused on article improvement than on article deletion. The new article you create will be improved by other editors. Helped by these improvement processes, you can be sure the article is list-worthy, and can then place a link to it on the appropriate list(s), template(s) and/or disambiguation pages, confident the link will be blue from the beginning.

Other examples of articles where red link spam has been an issue[edit]

Categories where red link spam has been an issue[edit]

See also[edit]