|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
|This page in a nutshell: While you can edit Wikipedia on behalf of your unit, it can be tricky to do so effectively and productively within the bounds of policy. Work with others, and we will try to help you with your goals if we can.|
If you're reading this essay, you've probably been referred here because you disclosed your reasons for editing are orders from your military superiors. You might be a public affairs / civil–military relations rep, a unit historian, or just whomever was handy at the time when your commanding officer noted a problem on Wikipedia that he or she wanted fixed. The chances are slim that you've ever edited Wikipedia before, and even slimmer that you are familiar with our myriad policies and guidelines. If so, you need to familiarize yourself with them, or your time on Wikipedia will be short and frustrating. If you work with other editors, you may very well be able to report mission success.
Editing Wikipedia can be rather confusing and intimidating for new users. Please read the welcome page, and if you need help, visit WikiProject Military history to meet the collaboration of editors with an interest in military-related articles or the Help desk for general Wikipedia-related help. Once you get going, you may find that you enjoy editing, and might want to edit for your own sake as well.
To be frank and honest, the bottom line is simple: neither the military nor the government can dictate what Wikipedia covers in its content, and how it covers it. What you and/or your superiors want to see on Wikipedia might not be possible.
Wikipedia is governed mostly by consensus. Our policies and guidelines were created by editors collaboriting and compromising on every facet of encyclopedia building. If consensus is against you and your unit's goals, then they will not be met on Wikipedia. The best way to go about this is to be civil at all times, and work with other editors towards a collective goal. Other editors are all volunteers, but generally try to help out newcomers. However, they cannot allow violations of policy and guidelines to happen, and if you are responsible, you will be held accountable for your actions. Cooperation is key: if you are friendly, flexible, and have a spirit of teamwork, others will bend over backward to help you.
Conflict of interest
Because of your conflict of interest, you will have to tread very lightly. Your edits on the topic you have a COI with must be impeccable and completely in line with policy and guidelines, or they will be reverted. You should use talk pages (sometimes known as "discussion" pages) regularly, especially for edits that might be disputed or controversial. You will have to follow the Manual of Style, cite references that are verifiable and reliable sources, don't contain original research, and adhere to a neutral point of view without fail. Some people consider servicemembers editing as a type of paid editing, which has proven to be quite controversial in the past.
First off, you should do some searching to make sure that there isn't already an article! The article title policy and the Manual of Style sometimes mean that the topic you want may not be at an obvious title. Keep an eye out for disambiguation and redirect pages.
There are lots of ways to get help in starting a new article. If you don't feel confident in doing it all yourself, try asking for help at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history, or make a request at Wikipedia:Articles for creation. If you feel like trying it yourself, there is an article wizard and this how-to guide; be sure to watch the instructional video.
The best practice for new editors is to create a userspace draft: you'll need to create an account to do this. It will create a draft as a user page; these aren't visible as articles. You can then improve it and ask for help until it is ready to go "live".
One of the biggest hurdles you will probably face is creating new articles that fall in line with our notability guideline. There are few ways to get a new article deleted than for it to fail the notability requirements. Depending on the type of article, there may be specific subguidelines that apply as well, such as organizations and companies, biographies, and books. However, the general notability guideline (GNG) is a requirement for all articles, regardless of topic:
|“||If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to satisfy the inclusion criteria for a stand-alone article or stand-alone list.
A topic for which this criterion is deemed to have been met by consensus, is usually worthy of notice, and satisfies one of the criteria for a stand-alone article in the encyclopedia. Verifiable facts and content not supported by multiple independent sources may be appropriate for inclusion within another article.
When it comes to military subjects, WikiProject Military history's notability guide is the best rule of thumb to consult when regarding notability. There are nine possible avenues for notability for people, and seven for units/formations/commands. While these are not all inclusive, articles that don't meet at least one of them are very unlikely to survive consideration for deletion. Other topics, like weapons, vehicles, military science, or other concepts don't have specific guidelines, but must pass the GNG to be kept on Wikipedia.
It's important to read What Wikipedia is not for an idea of the many things that aren't suitable for Wikipedia. While it's unlikely that a unit-directed editor will be ordered to create such an article, editors with an interest in military topics sometimes have to be made aware of WP:NOT#DICDEF, WP:SOAP, WP:LINKFARM, WP:NOTDIR, WP:NOTMANUAL, WP:INDISCRIMINATE, and especially WP:NOTMEMORIAL. Things that were made up one day or not covered by any sort of reference are not notable.
If your article faces scrutiny, it may be helpful to read Wikipedia:Help, my article got nominated for deletion! and Wikipedia:Why was my page deleted?.
So, what if the article already exists, but your command thinks there is a problem with it? Well, it depends on what the problem is. Not all of the articles on Wikipedia are in good shape, and most could surely use some work. Never hesitate to remove vandalism from any page. Adding content to an existing page is usually not very controversial, as long as it's not self-promotional or violates the policy on neutral point of view. This is also where Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not comes into play, because even if an article is notable, some types of content on an article is not. For example, in writing about a battalion, an overview of the unit's capabilities/mission, combat history, notable deployments, and awards would be relevant, but a list of every executive officer, a phone directory, deployment roster, or detailed list of equipment that roughly matches every other similar unit would not be appropriate. Follow the image use policy; don't upload unofficial logos or patches, don't post personal photos that don't represent the unit as a whole, and don't post non-free content unless it meets the criteria.
Format is also important to consider. The Manual of Style (MOS) is rather large, with many sub-pages and exceptions, and this can be rather intimidating for new editors. The layout MOS is a great start, and any military editor should read Wikipedia:Manual of Style (military history). Help:List of Manuals of Style will help you find any other specific rules, like abbreviations, dates and numbers, and links.
There are always resources to go to for help. The first place to turn for anything related to military topics is WikiProject Military history, whose editors have experience in writing from scratch, improving, and reviewing a wide variety of articles, and are always happy to help a newbie (or experienced editor, for that matter).
The way that Wikipedia works is a bit different from a traditional encyclopedia, or your unit's official website. We don't publish original research or thoughts, so everything you add to a Wikipedia article must be able to be verfied. The only real way to do this (for 99.999% of cases) is to cite a source. This is a requirement for virtually anything that can be added to an article, so even if it's true, you have to be able to prove that it is true with a reference. Because this is a website on the internet, there are plenty of ways to find references, not to mention that militaries tend to keep detailed records on a variety of topics.
However, one must be careful about what to cite, as some types of sources are less appropriate than others. First and foremost, you shouldn't cite yourself; even if you are an expert in a given topic or field, it can't be proven simply based on your word. If you've been published in some kind of journal or news media, that might be an acceptable source, but be cautious and seek advice. Your unit's official website probably makes an acceptable external link (but not others such as social media pages or association/reuinion sites), but is rarely an acceptable source for anything outside of the routine (such as the name of the current commander). Be cautious about citing press releases or news written by your unit/military, since these may be regarded as a COI and/or a self-published source. Avoid citing sources that are restricted (and certainly don't try to cite anything that is classified; while this may be acceptable for Wikipedia, it will surely get you into trouble with your command!) or otherwise unavailable to the general public.
So, what if you've written an article, or started editing an article, and somebody has come along and reverted some or all of your contributions? The first step in dispute resolution should be to discuss the matter. Avoid reverting back or editing your changes back in, because this can lead to an edit war and possibly blocking for violations of the three revert rule (3RR). Any sort of disruptive behavior, including incivility or harassment will be detrimental to your goals; if you get blocked for bad behavior, you will fail to get the mission done! Use the talk pages, either for the article or for the user who you have a dispute with, and be sure to follow the talk page guidelines (especially signing your posts to help identify who said what). Use good etiquette, assume good faith, and stay cool if the discussion gets heated.
Simply put, the best way to get what you want is through cooperation and talking. If you try to bully, provoke, dominate, or push other editors, you will surely fail. You will need to ask questions, do some research, and read the replies of others with an open mind. Consider what others have to say carefully, because sometimes, what you want may not be possible; there are usually compromises, but sometimes there simply isn't any room for it on an encyclopedia. If that's true, learning the rules and why they are there will allow you to go back to your superiors and tell them why the goal isn't possible with Wikipedia.
If you feel that discussion is going nowhere, or that you're dealing with a troublesome editor (defined as disruptive past the point that he or she merely disagrees with you), there are other methods of dispute resolution, and feel free to take them up. Or, simply bring the matter up at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history or one of the many Wikipedia:noticeboards to get more parties into the discussion.
Hopefully, your goals are compatible with those of Wikipedia. If they are, then we look forward to working with you to create quality articles! If not, then we are sorry that we can't help you, and hope you can find other ways of meeting your unit's goals.