Help:Wikipedia: The Missing Manual/Building a stronger encyclopedia/Deleting existing articles

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Wikipedia: The Missing Manual (Discuss)

One of Wikipedia's strengths is how easily editors create new Wikipedia articles—quick, efficient, no bureaucracy to get permission from. But some editors abuse the privilege, creating nonsense articles, attack articles, or promotional articles, for instance. Others just make mistakes because they don't understand Wikipedia's rules and purpose: They create an article about a non-notable topic, or a subject already covered by an article of a different name, or containing a definition (which should be a Wiktionary entry)—not an encyclopedic topic, for example.

In order to keep Wikipedia the useful encyclopedia that it is, articles with all these problems need to be improved or removed. For Wikipedia, the challenge is to have processes that delete inappropriate articles (more than a thousand a day) while keeping potentially good articles and avoiding offending well-intentioned editors. In this chapter, you'll learn the different ways to deal with problem articles (often without resorting to one of the three deletion processes). You'll also learn what recourse you and other editors have if you feel that an article was deleted inappropriately.

Responding to problem articles[edit]

You can stumble across a problem article in a number of ways—doing a search, reviewing the User Contributions page of an editor, looking through Special:Newpages, or just clicking "Random article" to see what you see. When your first reaction is, "You're kidding!" or "I can't believe this is a Wikipedia article," your second reaction should be to analyze the article, systematically. There may be grounds for a quick deletion, or you may have to do some further research.

First analysis[edit]

Here's a systematic approach to dealing with an article that you think may not belong in Wikipedia. Ask yourself the following questions in order:

  • Is this vandalism? What you see may be the result of someone deliberately damaging a perfectly good article. You should look at the article history (as discussed in detail in Chapter 5: Who did what: Page histories and reverting) to see what the article looked like in previous versions.
Obviously, any major decrease in the size of the article is grounds for suspicion. If the article was created recently, check the similarity of the first version to the current one. If it's been around for a while, then check the versions from 3 and 6 months ago. If you do find vandalism, revert the article to its last good version.
  • Is this article worth trying to salvage? Some articles are just junk, not worth the time it would take to fix them. Wikipedia has a Criteria for Speedy Deletion policy (shortcut: WP:CSD). The candidates for immediate deletion include patent nonsense and gibberish; test pages ("Can I really create an article?"); attack pages, including entirely negative, entirely unsourced biographical articles (don't attempt to salvage these); no evidence that the subject is notable enough to belong in an encyclopedia; and no content (only links or chat-like comments about the subject). If the article is any of these things, then nominate it for speedy deletion, as discussed on the section about Speedy Deletion.
If the problem is no content, the easiest course of action may be simply to change the page to a redirect, assuming you can figure out a relevant article to redirect to. See the section about Redirects for more detail on redirects.
  • Does the article look like blatant advertising, or does it appear to be copied and pasted from a Web site (blatant copyright violation)? These criteria both call for speedy deletion, though for the second you'll need to find the source of the text before nominating the article for speedy deletion. But also ask yourself: Is there something salvageable here, something worth an article? If you think there might be, read the next section.

Notability and verifiability[edit]

At Wikipedia, notability (see the section about notability) is an important criterion for creating a new article. Since Wikipedia contains no original research, notability is determined by coverage of the topic in upstanding, independent sources, like books, newspapers, and sometimes Web sites. (For full details, check out the guideline Wikipedia:Notability; shortcut: WP:N.)

At its heart, deleting an article—other than by speedy deletion—is the Wikipedia community's way of saying that reliable sources of information simply don't exist out there in the world to make the article lengthy enough to stand on its own. Of course, it's impossible for you, or other editors, individually or collectively, to know if that's really true. You simply have to make your best guess, because it's impossible to prove something's non-existence.

The challenge of notability and acceptable sources[edit]

Consider, for example, an article about a high school teacher, describing her classroom manner, the names of her pets, and how much her students like her. Is that ever going to be acceptable as an article? Is it likely that a number of newspaper articles have been solely about this teacher? While it's possible (if, say, the article's about the National Teacher of the Year), it's also unlikely. If a quick search turns up nothing, then the article should be tossed.

Compare, by contrast, an article about a 19th-century Portuguese poet. If the article makes no claims about notability (says nothing about "famous", or "well-known", then it's a candidate for speedy deletion. But you're probably not an expert on 19th century poets, of any nationality, so for you it's probably a sheer guess as to whether you're looking at a vanity—someone's great-great-great-grandfather—or someone once famous who's faded into obscurity, but whose life and accomplishments are well-documented in books published more than a hundred years ago.

Possible responses[edit]

You have three options when faced with a problematical article that you decide you don't want to nominate for a speedy deletion until you evaluate notability:

  • If you're inclined toward non-notability, do a quick search or two to see if you're mistaken. Spend, say, 3 minutes on the matter, and then take a look at the alternatives to deletion in the next section.
  • If you're inclined toward notability, but don't have time (or inclination) to spend much time fixing the article, still do a quick search or two (again, just a couple of minutes), add anything you find to the article (as an external link), and then add a cleanup message box to the article if it's lacking one. (You'll find nicely organized ones at the page Wikipedia:Template messages, shortcut WP:TM.)
  • Finally, and best of all, if you have the time, you can fix the article. If the topic is notable but the article is missing sources, put in some citations (the section about Citing Sources in Chapter 2: Documenting your sources). Chapter 18 also discusses a general approach for improving articles, though it's tailored more for long articles than for stubby ones without any sources.
Copyright violations

The hardest articles to fix are massive copyright violations, when you believe there's an article in there somewhere, one that Wikipedia doesn't have. You need to trim these to the bone—keep in only the verifiable facts. When the text is lengthy, you need to remove most of it, because minor rewording isn't going to cure the problem.

If you trim the article to the most important facts (facts can't be copyrighted), then the legal liability issue goes away. (Yes, older versions of the page are still available, but search engines ignore them, as do sites that take large amounts of Wikipedia and reuse it.) Also, you can draw on the text in the older version as you look for acceptable sources, without keeping it in the current version.

If you're not going to fix the article, you need to delete the information that's a copyright violation, and put a template on the top of the page about the problem. (See the "Instructions" section of the page Wikipedia:Copyright problems, shortcut WP:CP.) If you can't find a salvageable article—the topic is non-notable—then recommend the article for speedy deletion to get rid of the article immediately (the section about Speedy Deletion). (Using both may seem like overkill, but copyright violations are dangerous to Wikipedia, and need to be dealt with promptly.)

Alternatives to deletion[edit]

If you find a problem with an article, consider some alternatives that might make the author of the article feel better, while protecting the quality of Wikipedia. These alternatives also have the advantage of not requiring an administrator's help:

  • If there's nothing on the page worth keeping, try to identify a related page that's useful to readers, and create a redirect (the section about Redirects). Redirects work particularly well when the editor who created the page has lost interest and stopped editing, and that would be the only person objecting.
  • Move the page to a new subpage in the user space of the editor who created it. This approach (called userfication) is particularly good for articles where it's unclear that notability can ever be established. It challenges the editor to find sources, or let the page languish. Make sure that you put a note on the user talk page about what you've done, with a link to the new subpage, and offer to help explain policies and guidelines further if the editor would like. (For further information, see Wikipedia:Userfication, shortcut WP:UFY.)
Userfication is excellent for a page that's well-meant but has little hope of ever becoming a valid article. After you move the page to user space, your note should also mention that there are other places where the writing might really belong ( and WP:TRY are particularly good things to include). Also ask that the editor delete the contents of the moved page within a week or so, because Wikipedia isn't a hosting service.
  • Where there's a bit of useful information, but only a smidgen, and you have doubts that the article can be easily expanded (or ever expanded into a real article), merge the information into another article on a broader topic, and put a redirect in place. In the best of worlds, you can create a new section in the article on the broader topic, and link to that. In any case, try to link to a section of the article, to encourage the editor to expand that.
Here too, leave a note on the user talk page for the author of the article, saying that you've merged the information from that article into another article, and that you hope the editor can expand what's in that larger topic.
  • You can also copy the information to a sister project such as Wiktionary (most commonly), or at least put a template on it suggesting that it be copied, and hope that someone else will do so. Once the information is copied across, the page can be made into a redirect, or deleted.
Obviously, this final option is limited to things that really do belong elsewhere, such as a dictionary definition, and only when such an entry doesn't exist at all in the other wiki. (If it does exist, then copying the article in its entirety isn't really an option.) But if you can move the material, it may make the editors feel that's he's contributed to something, even if not Wikipedia. (For more information, see the Meta page Help:Transwiki and the guideline Wikipedia:Wikimedia sister projects; shortcut: WP:SIS.)

Three ways to delete an article[edit]

Only administrators can delete articles outright. Your job is to ask for deletion using one of three methods:

  • Speedy (CSD). If the article meets any of the criteria in the Criteria for Speedy Deletion (CSD) policy, then go for it.
  • Proposed deletion (prod). If the article doesn't quite qualify for a speedy deletion, then use the Proposed Deletion (prod) template, which starts a 7-day countdown.
  • Articles for Deletion (AfD). If you're in doubt, start a discussion at the Articles for Deletion page about whether or not the article is worth keeping.

Each of the three methods follows a different procedure, discussed next.

An article should have only one type of deletion being considered at any time: CSD, proposed deletion (prod), or AfD. If you see an AfD messagebox on an article, you should remove any CSD or prod templates on the same article; if you see a prod messagebox, you should remove any CSD template.
Figure 19-1. During 2006 and 2007, about half the articles that were created were subsequently deleted; an unknown number were also essentially deleted by being made into redirects. Between late 2006 and mid-2007, article deletions averaged about 2,000 per day. Since then, the trend has been downward, with the average in late 2007 being about 1,500 articles per day deleted. [This graph is from editor Dragons Flight (Robert A. Rohde), based on a log analysis he did in late 2007.]

Speedy deletion[edit]

Speedy deletions are based on specific criteria, listed in the policy Wikipedia:Criteria for speedy deletion (shortcut: WP:CSD). (See Figure 19-2.)

Figure 19-2. You can nominate an article for speedy deletion using criteria from either the general ("G") list or the article ("A") list. There are also separate lists, not shown, for redirects, images, media, categories, user pages, templates, and portals.

If you want to propose a speedy deletion for an article, you need to cite a specific criteria found on this page, either from the "G" (general) series (which applies to all types of pages, not just articles), or the "A" (article) series. For example, criteria G2 applies to test page (pages created by a new editor, just exploring possibilities).

You use the criteria to determine the template to post on the article; once you've done that, an admin shows up fairly quickly, reviews your nomination for deletion, and decides whether to remove the template (as an error) or accept it and delete the article. If you've made a particularly egregious error in placing the template on the page, you'll also probably get a note to that effect from the admin.

Initial review[edit]

Take, for example, an article called Timberwilde Elementary School. The first step in any speedy deletion is to figure out whether the article in fact meets any specific Criteria for Speedy Deletion (CSD). The entire article under consideration in this example reads, "Timberwilde Elementary School, Built In 1980, Is A School In The Texas District Northside Independent School District." That's better than the original posting, which read, in its entirety, "Timberwilde Elementary School Is The School Of Awesomeness! It Has A Graet Varitey Of Students Teachers And Staff! Visit Us At NISD.NET/TIMBERWILDE Click On Campus Webpage."

This article looks like it fits CSD number A7, "No indication of importance/significance." But before you pull the trigger, you should check five other things:

  • The article talk page. In this case, it has a template for WikiProject Texas, and the history of the page shows no postings relating to the contents of the article. So, there's no indication of importance/significance. (The article being marked as within the scope of a WikiProject does not prove notability — in this case, it's because the article included the word "Texas.")
  • The article history page. In this case, there were basically two editors—one who created the article (and never came back to expand it) and one who did a tiny bit of cleanup. That's further evidence of non-notability. If the school were notable, a bunch of editors would have contributed at least a little bit each (assuming an article isn't brand-new).
  • TheWhat links here special page. Click the link in the left margin to see it. In this case, no other articles link to this article.
  • TheUser contributionspage'for the editor who created the article'. In this case, it shows only two edits, both on the same day (more than a month ago). The second edit was of a regular article. So there really isn't any reason to assume that the author of the article understands Wikipedia rules.
  • A Google or Yahoo or other search of the topic. In this case it shows nothing significant.

So, from the review, it seems fair to say that this article looks like an A7.

At this point, stop and consider if the solution to this problem article is to create a redirect, as discussed in "Alternatives to Deletion" on the section about alternatives to deletion. Redirects are quicker, and don't require an administrator. In this case, you'd redirect to the school district in which the elementary school is located. In this case, though, you can make a good argument for deleting the page altogether. That way, if the author creates it again, it shows up in the new page log, and gets more review than if an editor simply changes the redirect back to an article.

Making a Criteria for Speedy Deletion (CSD) nomination[edit]

Once you've completed your initial review and found a criterion for deletion that fits, you can turn to the second step: actually nominating the article for deletion. Here's the process:

1. Further down the CSD page, in the "Deletion templates" section, look for the templates that match the specific criteria you've found.

In this case, the choices are {{db-bio}}, {{db-band}}, {{db-club}}, {{db-corp}}, {{db-group}}, and {{db-web}}. All rather specific, and none quite on point. The topic here is an organization. That's OK under criteria A7, but there isn't a specific template for it.

2. When the specific templates for a criterion don't fit the situation exactly, use a general criterion.

You'll find them at the top of the "Deletion templates" section, as shown in Figure 19-3. In this case, a good template is {{db|reason}}.
Figure 19-3. The list of deletion templates for speedy deletions starts with a number of general templates, which you can use for any of the specified reasons, or when you can't figure out which one applies—but you're sure that at least one does. Below the general templates are templates for each of the specific criteria.

3. Edit the article page, adding the template at the top of the edit box.

Paste it all the way at the very beginning of the wikitext, as shown in Figure 19-4.
Figure 19-4. The CSD template goes at the top of the article, above everything else. In this case, because the template allows for a reason, it's okay to type a lengthy one.

4. Add an edit summary, being sure to mention both "speedy delete" and the specific CSD (in this case, "A7"). Preview the page, and then press 'Publish changes'.

You see your request for deletion in a message box at the top of the article, as in Figure 19-5.
Figure 19-5. The message box that appears at the top of an article after you place a CSD template includes the reason for the proposed speedy deletion; information for other editors who might disagree with the nomination, including the editor who created the page; information for the administrator; and a suggestion to place a notice on the user talk page of the editor who created the article.

5. Post a notice on the user talk page of the editor who created the article.

Doing so isn't just being nice (although it is nice). It also creates a record of the fact that this editor created this article. If the article does get deleted, the edit that created it will no longer be visible on the editor's User contribution page, so this user talk page posting will be the only notice to other editors, useful if the pattern persists.

Once you complete these steps, you're done for now. Check back in a day or so. What you do next depends on what's happened to the article.

  • Most of the time the article's gone, deleted by an admin.
  • If the admin reviewing the action rejected the nomination, then you usually want to move to the next step—deletion via proposed deletion (nicknamed prod), as discussed in the next section.
Maybe the reason for rejection is a persuasive argument against any type of deletion. If so, then it's time to move on to something else. But usually rejection is because the admin decided that the CSD criterion really didn't apply. That's fine—there's more than one way to get an article deleted.
  • If the editor who created the article deleted the CSD template (which is against the rules, but it happens), put it back up. You can just revert to your version. Also, post a warning on that editor's talk page about violating the rules.
  • If another editor (besides the one who created the article) deleted the CSD template, look at the stated reason. Hopefully there's one in the edit summary. Try to discuss the matter with that other editor, with the goal of arriving at consensus (you both agree whether the article should stay or go). Or try to get a commitment by the other editor to fix the article by a certain date, or let it get deleted.
If you can't reach a consensus or find a way to fix the article, then go straight to the third type of deletion, an Article for Deletion (AfD) (the section about Articles for Deletion).

Proposed deletions (prod or: PROD)[edit]

Proposed deletion (shortcut: WP:PROD) is a way to nominate an article for deletion, used when you think the deletion won't be controversial. If the deletion meets the more stringent criteria for speedy deletion (the section about speedy deletion), then use that. But often you can't; for example, when an article contains a bit of reasonable content, or indicates that the topic is notable.

Nominating an article as a proposed deletion starts a 7-day clock. If no other editor objects, then an administrator shows up after 7 days, reviews the nomination, and, if it looks okay, deletes the article.

When you can't use the proposed deletion process[edit]

As convenient as the proposed deletion process it, you can't use it on the article if any of the following are true:

  • The article has previously been proposed for deletion. If one editor puts a {{prod}} template on an article and another editor removes it (and the removal isn't part of a vandalizing edit), then the proposed deletion is contested.
  • The article has previously been undeleted. To be undeleted, an editor has to make a case that the article was deleted by mistake. That makes deleting it again at least somewhat controversial.
  • The article has been previously nominated for deletion using the AfD process. Presumably, the editor wouldn't have gone to AfD unless deletion at that time was considered potentially controversial. So deletion may still be controversial.

You can check for these three situations by looking at the article history. Normally it's not very long; if it is, you should rethink the prod (consider an AfD instead).

If you can't do a proposed deletion because of one of these three circumstances, your choices are to drop the matter or use the AfD process (the section about Articles for Deletion) to nominate the article for deletion.

Initial review[edit]

Take as an example the article SQL-I. SQL-I, the article says, is a programming language, "a tool anyone with basic knowledge of SQL syntax can learn in one day." It "provides system administrators, advanced users and independent developers the option to write their own plug-ins." You could argue that this article's a candidate for speedy deletion, either as an A7 (no claim to notability) or a G11 (blatant advertising). But there's a bit of meat to the article (the total text is about three times what's quoted here), and a prod is just as efficient as a CSD (it just takes longer), so you decide to do a prod instead.

When you're considering a proposed deletion, first you appropriately research the article. Researching is critical because an incorrect prod is worse than an incorrect CSD. Articles that meet the CSD usually don't contain much useful material, so if the deletion's in error, very little is lost. With a prod, there's normally more information in the article—more of a potential foundation for other editors—as in this case. So if it's deleted by mistake, more is lost.

Since SQL-I is a current software product, a Google or Yahoo search seems reasonable. In Google, searching for both the product name and the company that sells it, and restricting results to English, yields a total of seven results, none of which are of citable quality. Apparently, SQL-I is not notable.

If you search the Internet and find something useful indicating notability, add that to the article, as an external link. Ideally, take a bit of time to expand the text in article as well, so that other editors don't spend time duplicating exactly what you just did. And of course drop the idea of proposing deletion.

Next, you want to look at the same four other things that you do for potential CSDs:

  • The article talk page. In this case, it doesn't exist, so check it off the list.
If there is a talk page, see if it has anything helpful, like some suggested sources. You also want to see if there's any indication that the article's been through the AfD process (the section about Articles for Deletion); if so, you can't do a proposed deletion. (You can still nominate the article via the AfD process again if you want.)
  • The article history page. In the SQL-I case, one editor created the article, made six more edits on the same day (almost a year previously), and never came back. There are no other contributors. A bot tagged the article as uncategorized, and another editor added a category, but that doesn't count as people actually interested enough in the article to come across it on their own and expand it. So the history page has further evidence of non-notability. Also, there's no indication anyone's ever proposed deletion.
  • TheWhat links herespecial page. In this case, one other article links to this one. And, as you'll find out next, it turns out that other article was created by the same editor.
  • TheUser contributionspage for the editor who created the article. Reviewing this page is the most important step before doing a prod. If the editor turns out to be an active contributor to a variety of articles, then you want to ask that editor about the article, not nominate it for deletion.
In this case, the editor created three articles—this one, one about another product of the same company (this product seems a bit more notable, though the article is similarly unsourced), and a third about a mountain resort (which seems the most notable article of all). There are no other contributions, and the last edit was more than 10 months ago. So, there's no compelling reason to start a dialog before proposing a deletion—it's likely that no one's home.

Making a "PROD" nomination[edit]

Once you've completed the initial review, move on to the second step: actually nominating the article for deletion. Here's the process:

1. Edit the article, placing the {{subst:prod|reason}} template at the top, and then change the word "reason" to explain your rationale.

Place it at the very beginning of the wikitext, as shown in Figure 19-6.
Figure 19-6. Place the {{prod}} template at the top of the article, above everything else. It's important to explain what you did to come to the conclusion that an article isn't salvageable, for both the reviewing administrator (in 7 days) and other editors.
There's a WikiProject for editors who want to systematically check proposed deletions for possible mistakes, so there's a good chance that another editor will take a look at the article after you've made your edit.

2. Add an edit summary, being sure to mention proposed delete.

If you want to add some information on your reasoning, that might save an editor time going to the article to see if the "prod" is justified.

3. Preview the page, and then hit 'Publish changes'.

You see a message box asking for deletion, like the one in Figure 19-7.
The typical way to use the prod template is {{subst:prod|Give your reason}}. But if the text of your reason contains an equal sign (for example, in a URL), then the entire explanation won't show up when you preview or after you publish it. To fix the problem, you need to add the concern= parameter, so the template looks like this: {{subst:prod|concern=Give your reason, which can include an equal sign}}.
Figure 19-7. The article message box that appears at the top of an article after you place a prod template includes the reason for the proposed deletion; information for other editors who might disagree with the nomination, including the editor who created the page; the date and time the message was posted, and when the 7 days will be up; a comment for the editor who created the article; and a suggestion to place a notice on the user talk page of the article's creator and major contributors.

4. Post a notice on the user talk page of the editor who created the article, and anyone else who was a major contributor.

The notification is more than a courtesy. Ideally those editors will come back and fix the article before it's deleted. On the other hand, if you're notifying more than two or three people, you're either over-notifying or you shouldn't have proposed the article for deletion in the first place.

After you're done, check back every day or two. What you do next depends on what other editors do:

  • If no one removes the prod template, then in 7 or so days an admin will probably delete the article.
  • If the admin reviewing the proposed deletion rejected it, then consider the next (and final) step—nominating the article for deletion via Articles for Deletion (AfD), as discussed in the next section.
  • The reason for rejection might be a persuasive argument against any type of deletion. If so, then you're done here. But it's more likely that you missed one of the three reasons why prodding wasn't allowed (see the section about proposed deletions). Fortunately, you can still turn to the AfD process.
  • If another editor has removed the prod template, he should have explained why. But even if he didn't, you should still consider the deletion to be contested. If that editor or others get busy improving the article, then you need to reassess your intent to get the article deleted. If nothing has changed, however, turn to the AfD process. Don't repost the prod template after another editor removes it; removal alone is considered enough to make the deletion controversial.
You have one reason to put the prod template back after removal—vandalism. But you can only assume vandalism if the editor who removed the template damaged other parts of the article. Otherwise, you should assume that even if the edit summary gives no reason, and even if the editor removing the prod template has no prior editing history, the removal was done in good faith, and your only recourse is to escalate to the AfD process.

Articles for Deletion (AfD)[edit]

When you nominate an article for deletion in the AfD process, you must have a good reason. You're asking other editors to spend their time reviewing the article and commenting on the reasons given for the nomination, so don't waste their time. The CSD and proposed deletion processes are preferable, but they don't apply to some articles. Before initiating AfD, explore alternatives to deletion (the section about alternatives to deletion). AfD is a last resort, when an article is unsalvageable and there are no alternatives. Wikipedia:Articles for deletion (WP:AFD) lists measures you should consider first, like improving the article or making it a redirect (Figure 19-8).

Figure 19-8. Don't bring articles to AfD if you can handle them another way. That's the clear message at the top of the page Wikipedia:Articles for deletion. For example, first make sure you can't use the speedy deletion or proposed deletion processes, which make less work for administrators.

Justification for an AfD nomination[edit]

When you nominate an article for deletion using the AfD process, you get to a point in the process where you have to give a reason. Don't make the mistake of reaching that point only to realize that you don't actually have a good reason. Or worse, don't make the mistake of completing the AfD process and discovering, when discussion starts, that what you thought was an acceptable reason was not.

Reading two policies will keep you from making such mistakes:

  • The section "Before nominating an AfD", at WP:AFD, is a quick, step-by-step summary of everything from alternatives (tagging for cleanup, doing a redirect, and so on) to guidelines you should know (WP:BIO, WP:CORP, and so on) to some suggestions on the technical aspects of an AfD nomination.
  • The section "Reasons for deletion" at Wikipedia:Deletion policy (shortcut: WP:DEL) is a list of 15 reasons (some not pertaining to articles) that probably cover almost all successful AfDs.

You need just a couple of minutes to read each of these. Once you read them, you're well-prepared to do an AfD nomination if that is, in fact, appropriate. You may have to follow some links and do some more reading. If so, what you read will be useful in your normal editing work as well, so consider it an investment, not drudgery.

Nominating an article at AfD[edit]

The following steps walk you through the AfD process using the article Salmon fishing with the Dry Fly as an example. An editor had proposed the article for deletion (with a "prod" template, as discussed above). The editor who created the article removed that template, without any explanation.

This example assumes that you've already tried, unproductively, to discuss with the author the unacceptability of such a "how-to" article. You also did a redirect to the article Fly fishing, but it was reverted, leaving no choice but AfD.

1. Review the "Reasons for deletion" section of Wikipedia:Deletion policy (shortcut: WP:DEL) and prepare your argument as to why the article should be reviewed.

If you can't point to one of the reasons here in that policy, like "All attempts to find reliable sources in which article information can be verified have failed", it's more than likely that the nomination won't result in a "delete" decision.
If you're basing your argument on the lack of reliable sources, make sure that you've done some research to confirm that there are no such sources. The purpose of AfD isn't to goad other editors into finding sources, it's to weed out problem articles. Or, to put it differently, AfD is a way of trying to find consensus. If you're not willing to do some research yourself, don't do an AfD.

2. Open the article for editing. Add the template {{subst:afd1}} at the top of the text in the edit box, and add the recommended text to your edit summary, changing "PageName" to the article's actual name.

Preview the page; if you see an article message box that starts, "This article is being considered for deletion ...", as shown in Figure 19-9, then publish the edit. (Otherwise, fix the template.)
Figure 19-9. After you've put the {{subst:afd1}} template at the top of the article, you see a large message box. The link to the discussion page is red, because you have yet to create it. The notice contains a link for the next step, in small print: "Preloaded debate".

3. In the AfD message box at the top of the article, click the "Preloaded debate" link (it's in small print, in the second grouping of text).

That link takes you to a page with a five-step set of instructions (Figure 19-10). These five steps take you through the process of creating a discussion page for this specific AfD, and adding that page to the daily log of AfDs so that other editors can find the page. Each is discussed below.
Figure 19-10. The instructions on this page, five steps in all (only part of the first step is shown) get you through the rest of the AfD nomination process.

4. Do the first two steps—select the article's category, and add a reason to the standard template.

The edit box for the page should look like Figure 19-11.
Figure 19-11. The text you add as a reason, in the {{subst:afd1}} template, shows up as a sort of "opening statement for the prosecution" on the AfD discussion page. So things like logic and spelling do count.
Don't be casual about picking the category—a lot of editors use AfD categories to decide what AfD discussions to participate in. That's because the daily volume is so high (well over 100 per day or so) that many editors want to be selective, focusing on what interests them.

5. Copy (Ctrl-C or ⌘-C) the text listed in step 3 of the instructions (in this case, {{subst:afd3|pg=Salmon fishing with the Dry Fly}}). Then open a new tab or window for the link "today's AfD log", which is also in step 3 of the instructions.

You arrive at the log page for the current date, in edit mode. In the edit box, scroll down until you see the place where you want to paste this text (see Figure 19-12).
Figure 19-12. In the edit box of the deletion log page, scroll down to where you want to add an entry for your deletion, and then paste it. Your entry in the edit box looks different from the others, but it won't after you publish the edit.

6. Flip back to the window where you were editing the discussion page, as shown in Figure 19-11 (this is the page with the five steps on it). Copy the text in step 4 to the clipboard. Now flip back to the log page (Figure 19-12), paste this text into the edit summary, and then publish the page.

Don't bother with a preview, or with looking at the log page after you've published your edit—until you finish creating the discussion page, the log page doesn't show the discussion page correctly. Next, you'll finish the discussion page.

7. Tab to the edit summary box. The box should already be filled in. If not, paste (again) the text from step 4 into that edit summary box. Turn on the "Watch this page" checkbox, if you use your watchlist regularly, since you'll want to watch the discussion. Do a preview, and then publish the page.

What you see should be similar to Figure 19-13. You're almost done.
Figure 19-13. Other editors will comment on this discussion page as to whether they agree or disagree with deleting the nominated article. It includes your reason, your signature, and the category you chose for the article.

8. Go back to the log page and check that it shows your discussion page (it should be at the top). If it does, close it.

If there's a problem on the log page, then fix it. Looking at the wikitext, figure out what's different about your listing, and change that.
The final step is to notify the editor who created the article that it's being considered for deletion.

9. Go to the discussion page, and then click the link to the article. Copy the small print at the very bottom of the message box (in this case, {{subst:adw|Salmon fishing with the Dry Fly}} ~~~~ and paste it to a new section on that editor's user talk page.

Leave the "Subject/headline" box blank—the template will take care of that.

You're done—except for the actual discussion, of course.

If you found these complicated, you're not alone. Perhaps at some point Wikipedia will have a bot to take care of the entry of an AfD in the daily log, and the notification to the article creator. Until then, you need to do it yourself when you nominate an article for deletion via the AfD process.

Participating in AfD discussions[edit]

An AfD discussion normally runs for seven days, though it can be closed earlier if the discussion is clearly, massively one-sided. (The page Wikipedia:Snowball clause, shortcut: WP:SNOW, explains the concept of not letting a process continue when continuing makes no sense. The guideline Wikipedia:Speedy keep, shortcut WP:SK, explains when and how to close an AfD as a "keep" before the full five days are up.)

If you've nominated an article for deletion, be judicious in adding comments to the discussion. You should have made your point when you gave the reason for the nomination. If you keep repeating that, or variants of it, or argumentatively question the reasoning of editors who want to keep the article, you'll lose credibility.

As nominator, think of your role as a facilitator. You've created the agenda, now let the Wikipedia community decide. If you have additional information to offer in response to a posting of another edit, then provide it. Otherwise, let the conversation flow. It's not a win or lose competition; it's a discussion about making Wikipedia a better encyclopedia.

If you want to participate in AfD discussions you didn't start, here are some suggestions:

  • Start by participating in discussion about topics that you know. Use the "Categorized discussions" section at WP:AFD to narrow the range of articles on which you focus. As you get more familiar with AfDs, you can contribute to discussions about topics you know less about, because you'll know more about relevant policies and guidelines.
  • Read the essay Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions (shortcut: WP:AADD), which is a collection of unpersuasive arguments that experienced AfDers have heard over and over: "Delete as unencyclopedic", "Keep—it's clearly notable", "Delete because WP:RELEVANT is only a guideline"; "Keep because I like it", and so on.
  • The best way to win the argument for keeping an article is to improve it with good citations, and text from good sources, while the discussion's going on. If you can fix the problems that lead to the deletion nomination, even the editor proposing the deletion should be happy to see the article kept.
Deletionism versus inclusionism

Some Wikipedians think the best way to handle unsourced or poorly sourced articles is to delete them on sight. Ideally, there should be rigorous standards for new articles, to raise the average quality of Wikipedia articles. Conversely, some Wikipedians think Wikipedia ought to have an article on almost any topic, and that a start to an article, no matter how poor, is better than nothing.

Those are extreme positions—almost caricatures. In fact, there's broad agreement in Wikipedia about whether to delete or keep most articles. Most debates are mostly about inherent notability (should all high schools automatically have an article?) rather than about standards that apply to all articles. Still, editors differ, and occasionally name calling erupts—"Inclusionist!" "Deletionist!" Avoid getting caught up in unproductive bickering.

Some editors do care a lot about what they see as excess deletions. If you're interested, take a look at Wikipedia:Article Rescue Squadron (shortcut: WP:ARS); "Only articles about non-encyclopedic topics should be deleted, not articles that need improvement" and Wikipedia:WikiProject proposed deletion patrolling (shortcut: WP:WPPDP); "responsible patrolling of proposed deletion on Wikipedia".

After an article is deleted[edit]

Someday, an article you created or worked on may be deleted, and you won't know or won't agree with the reason for the deletion. If so, remember that very little is actually deleted in Wikipedia—it's still visible to admins, just not to regular readers. And Wikipedia's processes are not infallible, so you have some options.

First, read Wikipedia:Why was my page deleted? (shortcut: WP:WWMPD). Among other things, this page explains how to find out why an article was deleted. If an article was deleted as a result of a proposed deletion, any administrator will usually restore it upon reasonable request. Follow the link at WP:WWMPD to post such a request.

A second option is to try to persuade the admin who made the deletion that it was in error. This option is worth trying only for CSD deletions, since prods can be reversed on request, and AfDs won't be reversed just because you ask nicely. Before you make such a request, do your homework—does the CSD deletion really seem unreasonable? Don't, for example, argue that the deletion was wrong because the article could have been fixed. CSDs are based on what was actually in the article, not the article's potential.

Another option is simply to start over. If the article was short, you've really not lost much if it was deleted. (You might even find a copy at Google—click the Cached link rather than the main link.) Just be sure that you start the article in your own user space, and don't move it to mainspace (where all regular articles are) until you're sure it can survive on its own. CSD criteria G4 allows the speedy deletion of a "substantially identical" copy of any article deleted via AfD, particularly where the problems identified in the AfD discussion have not been addressed.

Sometimes you might acknowledge that the deletion was probably right, given the shape the article was in, but you think you could fix it. If so, it would help to have a copy of what was deleted. Check the page Category:Wikipedia administrators who will provide copies of deleted articles, and make your case to one of the admins (check his User contributions page first, to make sure he's still active). Ask that a copy of the article be put into your user space, as a subpage. If the article wasn't libelous, a massive copyright infringement, or an attack page, you're likely to succeed.

Finally, you can initiate a deletion review process, at the page Wikipedia:Deletion review (shortcut: WP:DRV). This page is for appeals to restore deleted pages (and also for appeals to delete pages which were closed as "keep'" in an AfD discussion). Before you do so, read the section, "What is this page for?", which explains that DRV is for cases where you believe the process was wrong, or where "significant new information has come to light." DRV is not a place to say that you didn't like the outcome, or a place to go in the hopes that a new discussion can occur that'll lead to a different result.

As of September 2007, 1.2 million articles and redirects had been deleted. Of these, the most frequently deleted articles were The weather in London (70 times), Userboxes (43 times), and Brian Peppers (34 times). (For the longer list, see the page User:Emijrp/Statistics.) Administrators can now protect pages from being re-created; this is called "salting the earth." If you're interested, you can check out the technical details at WP:SALT.