Wikipedia:Here to build an encyclopedia
|This is an information page that describes a communal consensus on some aspect or aspects of Wikipedia's norms and practices. It is intended to supplement and/or clarify a process or some guidance. It is not one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines; where something is inconsistent with this essay, please defer to those.|
|This page in a nutshell: Wikipedians are here to build an encyclopedia, i.e., a neutral, reliable public reference work on notable topics. Users whose behavior suggests they are here for some other purpose risk being blocked or banned.|
|Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and the community of people who build it: It combines many features of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, an indiscriminate collection of information, or a web directory. It is not a dictionary, a newspaper, or a collection of source documents, although some of its fellow Wikimedia projects are. —Wikipedia:Five pillars|
A major pillar of Wikipedia is that it is an encyclopedia plus a community of editors who build it. This means that an editor is here primarily to help improve encyclopedia articles and content, and to provide constructive input into communal discussions and processes aimed at improving the project and the quality of our content, and do so in line with the project's intended boundaries, policies, and wider mission. Because Wikipedia is a collaborative community, editors whose personal agendas and actions appear to conflict with its purpose risk having their editing privileges removed.
The expression "here to build an encyclopedia" is a long-standing rule used to distinguish constructive and non-constructive users and pages. It has been written at various times into the Five Pillars of Wikipedia and older versions of blocking policy.
Being here to build an encyclopedia
Signs that a user may be here to build an encyclopedia include:
- Genuine interest and improvement
- A genuine interest in improving the encyclopedic content (articles and media). This often involves a wide range of interests, and substantive edits/article writing or other significant activities (e.g., coding, patrolling, or wikignoming). It may also include significant constructive improvements to the processes that are involved in improving content, or mitigating and reducing problems that make a negative contribution to Wikipedia.
- Respect for core editing standards
- Behaving in accordance with core agreed policies when editing, including policies on content, and policies on behavior.
- A focus on encyclopedia building
- Non-encyclopedia-related contributions kept to a limited level, in comparison to positive and directly constructive contributions to the encyclopedia or its editorial processes.
- Self-correction and heeding lessons
- When mistakes are made, there is visible effort to learn from them; the user appears to take editing seriously and improve their editorial ability and their quality of input.
Clearly not being here to build an encyclopedia
Indications that a user clearly may not be here to build an encyclopedia include:
- Narrow self interest and/or promotion
- Narrow self-interested or promotional activity in article writing (see WP:SPA).
- Focusing on Wikipedia as a social networking site
- A primary focus on Wikipedia as a social networking space (resumes, social media type pages, etc.) (see WP:NOTSOCIALNETWORK).
- General pattern of disruptive behavior
- A long-term history of disruptive behavior with little or no sign of other intentions.
- Treating editing as a battleground
- Excessive soapboxing, importing or exporting of disputes, repeated hostile aggressiveness, and the like, may suggest a user is here to fight rather than here to build an encyclopedia. If a user has a dispute, then they are expected to place the benefit of the project at a high priority and seek dispute resolution. A user whose anger causes them to obsess may find the fight has become their focus, not encyclopedia writing.
- Dishonest and gaming behaviors
- Gaming the system, socking, and other forms of editorial dishonesty. Wikipedia broadly works on a basis of trust, and such activities undermine that trust and suggest other motives such as "lulz" (amusement at destructiveness or schadenfreude) or a complete lack of interest in good editing conduct practices.
- Little or no interest in working collaboratively
- Extreme lack of interest in working constructively and in a cooperative manner with the community where the views of other users may differ; extreme lack of interest in heeding others' legitimate concerns; interest in furthering rather than mitigating conflict.
- Major or irreconcilable conflict of attitude or intention
- Major conflicts of attitude, concerning Wikipedia-related activity. A user may have extreme or even criminal views or lifestyle in some areas, or be repugnant to other users, and yet be here to "build an encyclopedia". However some activities are by nature inconsistent with editing access, such as legal threats against other users, harassment, or actions off-site that suggest a grossly divergent intention or gross undermining of the project as a whole. Editors must be able to relax collegially together. There is a level of divergence of fundamental attitudes, whether in editing or to the project as a whole, at which this may not be reasonable to expect.
- Long-term agenda inconsistent with building an encyclopedia
- Users who, based on substantial Wikipedia-related evidence, seem to want editing rights only to legitimize a soapbox or other personal stance (i.e. engage in some basic editing not so much to "build an encyclopedia" as to be able to assert a claim to be a "productive editor"... when their words or actions indicate a longer-term motive inconsistent with "here to build an encyclopedia").
- Having a long-term or "extreme" history that suggests a marked lack of value for the project's actual aims and methods
- This may include repeated chances and warnings, all of which were flouted upon return, or promises to change that proved insincere, were gamed, or otherwise the word or spirit was not actually kept.
- Interest in gaining as many rights or "flags" as possible (or overly focusing on rights in general)
- User wants to gain as many flags as possible or focuses a lot of attention on gaining those rights. While having flags is not negative overall, focusing on the flags as a right and not a privilege is distracting and not the goal of userrights.
What "not here to build an encyclopedia" is not
Some users may be interested in building an encyclopedia in accordance with Wikipedia's principles, but with different areas of focus or approach to some other users' goals or emphases. Differences that arise where both users are in good faith hoping to improve the project should not be mistaken for "not being here to build an encyclopedia".
- Focusing on niche topic areas
- A user may have an interest in an obscure topic that other users find trivial or post contents that are difficult to comprehend. Diversity in interests and inputs from specialists in many fields help us function as a comprehensive encyclopedia. Even if you have never heard of a certain obscure school of 16th century philosophy or a little-known physics theorem, if these topics have received significant coverage in reliable sources–even if those sources are printed books and specialist academic journals–then they merit a Wikipedia article.
- Focusing on particular processes
- A user may have an interest in creating stubs, tagging articles for cleanup, improving article compliance with the Manual of Style, or nominating articles for deletion. These are essential activities that improve the encyclopedia in indirect ways. Many "behind the scenes" processes and activities are essential to allow tens of thousands of users to edit collectively. Not every editor needs to perform "on stage", by creating articles and drafting new guidelines. Some articles do not belong in Wikipedia, others should be improved, and new articles are often appropriately created in an unfinished state.
- Advocating amendments to policies or guidelines
- The community encompasses a very wide range of views. A user may believe a communal norm is too narrow or poorly approaches an issue, and take actions internally consistent with that viewpoint, such as advocating particular positions in discussions. Provided the user does so in an honest attempt to improve the encyclopedia, in a constructive manner, and assuming the user's actions are not themselves disruptive, such conversations form the genesis for improvement to Wikipedia.
- Difficulty, in good faith, with conduct norms
- A number of users wish to edit, but find it overly hard to adapt to conduct norms such as collaborative editing, avoiding personal attacks, or even some content policies such as not adding their own opinions in their edits. While these can lead to warnings, blocks or even bans in some cases, failure to adapt to a norm is not, by itself, evidence that a user is not trying to contribute productively.
- Expressing unpopular opinions – even extremely unpopular opinions – in a non-disruptive manner
- Merely advocating changes to Wikipedia articles or policies, even if those changes are incompatible with Wikipedia's principles, is not the same as not being here to build an encyclopedia. The dissenting editor should take care to not violate Wikipedia policies and guidelines such as WP:SOAPBOX, WP:IDHT, and WP:CIVIL in the course of expressing unpopular opinions.
Review behavior as a whole
A number of disruptive users may at times post constructive edits, in order to avoid being blocked, or may attempt to give tendentious editing the surface appearance of positive edits. In addition, a constructive user may at times make the occasional error, and a genuine newcomer may need considerable time to acclimatize their conduct to the community's ways and norms.
Being "here to build an encyclopedia" is about a user's overall purpose and behavior in editing Wikipedia. In considering whether or not a user is here to build an encyclopedia, the user's overall pattern of editing and behavior, as well as the clarity of past warnings or guidance and their attempts at improvement, should be reviewed as a whole.
Because Wikipedia is a community as well as an encyclopedia, the community tolerates a reasonable degree of non-encyclopedic content. Examples include certain humor pages, userboxes, and a wide range of user page designs.
However, pages that stray too far outside this are frequently deleted under community processes. This is especially the case if it appears to the community that their primary author is not mainly here to write an encyclopedia. Examples include social network pages and promotional material in user-space, negative pages about other users, "laundry lists" of complaints, cliques and self-selecting or "restricted membership" user-created bodies, and non-project material likely to prove overly disruptive or divisive.
Purpose of Wikipedia:
Editorial actions on Wikipedia:
- Wikipedia:Conflict of interest
- Wikipedia:Editorial discretion
- Wikipedia:Expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community
- Wikipedia:Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point
- Wikipedia:Disruptive editing
- Wikipedia:Tendentious editing
- Wikipedia:Gaming the system
- Wikipedia:Edit warring
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not about winning
- Wikipedia:Dispute resolution
- Wikipedia:Don't be a fanatic
Unregistered contributor participation: