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Scheinwerfermann's Guiding Principles of Wikipedia Editing[edit]

Attitude & Philosophy[edit]

Steady, incremental improvement[edit]

Most articles on Wikipedia have problems. Nobody's interests would be served if we let the unrealistic goal of instant perfection interfere with the realistic and achievable aim of steady, incremental improvement. If you can make a contribution to an article, please be bold and go right ahead, even if it means leaving a problem only partly fixed, or leaving other problems in the article totally untouched.

Coöperate, don't compete[edit]

Please keep in mind that Wikipedia is a coöperative venture, not a competitive one. It is not a forum for credentials-wielding one-upsmanship, nor is it appropriate to beat editors over the head with the rules. The verifiability and reliability criteria for information sources and all the other protocols and regulations exist to facilitate the improvement of the project, not to foment the aggrandizement of one editor over another.

Please register...please?[edit]

There is no intentional bias or vendetta against unregistered (IP-only) editors. Unfortunately, a large amount of the spam, vandalism, and other disruptive behavior on Wikipedia is done by IP-only editors, so whether intentionally or not, others will regard you as more of an integral part of the Wikipedia community, genuinely interested in contributing and coöperating, if you register and do your editing under a user name. If you're ever involved in a dispute, others will more readily tend to assume you're acting in good faith if you're registered, and if you want to weigh in on a question being discussed, your opinion will tend to get more listeners and be given more weight if you're registered. Registration is free, you get to pick your own user name, and it hides the IP from which you make your edits.

There is a standing — and entirely reasonable — expectation that everyone will strive to coöperate with one another, registered and unregistered alike.

The rules work for you[edit]

Those who don't coöperate are asked to please do so and shown how. Those who continue to refuse to coöperate are regarded as disruptive, and steps are taken to limit the damage they can do to the project. It may seem as though Wikipedia's rules are a bunch of legalistic babble used to block well-intended efforts to contribute, but in fact, the rules work very much in the favour of all who take the short time needed to read, understand, and follow them.

Although Wikipedia is not a system of laws, in some respects editing and making contributions is like driving on public roadways: We're not allowed to drive the wrong way down the street, go 30 over the speed limit, go through red lights or stop signs, drive after drinking alcohol, and so forth...even if we manage to do so in perfect safety without causing injury, death, or property damage. Likewise, the standard of behavior here on Wikipedia is whether you follow the protocols and procedures for whatever you are trying to do here, not whether you're right or wrong. Similarly, the standard by which contributions are evaluated on Wikipedia is not truth, but verifiability, and there are clear criteria for what is and isn't a reliable source of information. As frustrating as it can be sometimes, what you or I or anyone else knows (or thinks he knows, or says he knows) is not relevant. It's what we can prove that matters.

(And if you're still feeling overwhelmed by the idea of a big truckload of rules and procedures, don't worry...Wikipedia is also like a telephone directory: it's five inches thick and contains thousands of numbers, but at any given time you only need to know one or two of them!)

Selective enforcement[edit]

Sometimes it will happen that an editor can make contributions that don't meet Wikipedia's requirements, and can go on doing so for weeks, months, or even years before encountering any objection, resistance, or enforcement. This can create the impression that when the rules eventually are enforced, the editor is being unfairly attacked after having become accustomed to doing whatever s/he wants. In fact, the rules apply to all Wikipedia articles and all Wikipedia editors. But everyone on Wikipedia is a volunteer, and some articles are more closely watched than others. Article quality is strongly correlated with adherence to Wikipedia's standards and expectations; please try not to take the rules' existence or enforcement personally. They apply to everyone equally, from the first-time unregistered contributor to the most experienced administrator.

Article ownership[edit]

When you've spent a great deal of time and effort improving an article, it's only natural to feel hurt, insulted, or indignant when your text is later changed or partly removed. Remember, on Wikipedia, there is no my article or your article — this is a community-based coöperative project. Once you make a contribution, it no longer belongs to you; it becomes a part of the encyclopædia, subject to improvement and alteration by any other contributor. By the same token, you can object to alterations made to article elements contributed by anyone, including you. But be careful not to dismiss others' alterations just because you don't like them, and resist the temptation to get into an edit war; remember, without sticking to Wikipedia's standards, any effort put into an article is wasted right from the start, which is a shame.

Templates & tags[edit]

Sometimes, you'll find an article you're interested in will have had a template applied. Here are some examples of templates:

Or, you may find some of your text has been tagged with markers indicating a need for improvement. Statements that haven't been verified by means of support with appropriate citations of reliable sources may be tagged like this[citation needed], or like this[unreliable source?], or in the case of a dubious source, perhaps like this[verification needed]. Text along the lines of "It has been said" or "Some say" or "Many believe" will often be tagged like this[who?]. Text that's not clear might be tagged like this[vague]. Although you may feel these templates and tags are an ugly, negative judgment of the quality of your text, that's not so. In fact, they're a tool that will accelerate the improvement of the article. They call attention to the parts of an article most in need of development and improvement, so it's likely to happen sooner. Please don't remove templates or tags without fixing the problem they indicate.

How to edit with panache[edit]

Write your own text[edit]

While Wikipedia requires that all statements likely to be challenged be verified by citations of reliable sources, that doesn't mean blocks of text should be lifted intact from whatever source you might find. Article text should be largely original, but supported by verifiable, reliable sources. More sources are better than fewer sources; it's problematic when an article has only one or two sources referenced.

Consolidate your edits[edit]

Please try to make all your edits to any given article, section, or talk page in one go, rather than making a small individual edit, saving it, making another edit, saving it, making another edit, saving it, and so on. Numerous sequential edits to a single page greatly hinder the productive editing and discussion process, because they create and exacerbate edit conflicts. Consolidated edits are considered much more coöperative and user-friendly than numerous individual edits. You'll find the sandbox and the Preview button are great tools; they let you see what your edit will look like before you actually save it.

Find and use good sources[edit]

One of the main frustrations of an effort to document a sequence of events after they occur is that once a fact (or factoid) gets uttered or printed or posted, it gets repeated and cited as authoritative regardless of its veracity. Errors are thus propagated and imbued with increased levels of baseless authority. Thus, a statement's inclusion in even a reliable source does not necessarily imply veracity, so it is important to evaluate sources' quality, not just their quantity. The process of steady, incremental improvement to an article is not centred around a majority-rules vote or popularity contest to see who can come up with the greatest number of sources supporting his assertion, but rather on an effort to create an accurate encyclopedia entry.

Correct vs. verified[edit]

Wikipedia's standard for information included in articles is not truth, but verifiability. Remember, it's not what you know — or think you know — it's what you can prove. These principles can be difficult to accept, particularly when one is passionate and knowledgeable about the subject of the article being edited. Fortunately, where there is knowledge, there is usually support for that knowledge, so most assertions of personal knowledge can be backed up with reliable, verifiable sources. It's more work than just doing an info-dump from one's own personal knowledge, but it's what's required for the improvement of Wikipedia articles. Obviously, it's best to have both truth and verifiability in the assertions we add to Wikipedia articles.

The phrases It is worth noting that..., or Something worth noting..., or It should be noted... almost always precede unsupportable POV personal essay. When you see such phrases, carefully scrutinize the text that follows them, and rewrite or remove it as appropriate to comply with such Neutral Point of View, Verifiability, Reliable Sources, and What Wikipedia Is Not.

Interacting with other Wikipedians[edit]

Commenting on talk pages[edit]

Be polite[edit]

When you post on a talk page, you're having a discussion with other people. Their opinions and preferences may differ from your own, but they are generally not stupid, ignorant, or malicious, and they have feelings that can be hurt, just like yours can. Please observe the rule against personal attacks, remember to keep your behavior civil

Keep it neat[edit]

Last things first: Please always remember to properly sign your comments. It's really easy.

Please don't intersperse comments amongst existing text on a talk page. Put all of your comments in one block of text, at the end of the existing text. Otherwise you disrupt others' ability to keep track of who said what, and in what order. An easy key to making your comment easily discernible from those around it — thus making your opinion heard — is to indent your comments properly relative to the text above your comment. This works by looking at how many colons are before the first character in each paragraph of the text above yours, then using one more colon than that. If there are no colons before the first characters of the paragraphs you're responding to, you use one. If one, you use two. If two, you use three. If three, you use four. If four, you use none. When you edit the page, put together your text like this-

Comment text from an editor
:Comment text from a second editor
::Comment text from a third editor
:::Comment text from a fourth editor
::::Comment text from a fifth editor
{{outdent|::::}}Comment text from a sixth editor
:Comment text from a seventh editor
::And so on
:::And so forth
::::et cetera
Lather, rinse, repeat

Which will result in the talk page looking like this-

Comment text from an editor

Comment text from a second editor
Comment text from a third editor
Comment text from a fourth editor
Comment text from a fifth editor

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Comment text from a sixth editor

Comment text from a seventh editor
And so on
And so forth
Et cetera

Lather, rinse, repeat