Wikipedia:How to break the rules

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Wikipedia has evolved into an amazingly complex collaboration of people all over the world—not just a free encyclopedia, but one with academic references, up-to-date content, and information about many types of products, customs, places, and people that would never have been described in any previous cyclopedia of the world. Given the number of perspectives and strong opinions in the world, we should not be surprised that there are conflicts and rules made to address them. But sometimes the rules can seem to get in the way. The purpose of this essay is to consider how the thoughtful editor can reach his goal despite an inconvenient rule that blocks his path, in a way that most people can approve of.

  • I want to argue my point of view on Wikipedia
  • The wrong way is to change an article to make it look like "Wikipedia" supports your position. If people read that Wikipedia says that roach racing is an inhumane practice, will it matter? It's just a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. The die-hard fans of cruelty to cockroaches would simply reach for their revert buttons and scowl at how their opponents are trying to skew the article.
  • The right way to push your point of view is to provide the facts that led you to believe what you do. Cite academic references on the prevalence of arthritis in insect athletes. Provide an external link to a videotape of a famous blatellid athlete falling to his doom from the table of honor. If the facts led you to a point of view, they'll lead others to the same point of view.
  • I want to wipe out the opposing point of view from the article
  • The wrong way to kneecap your opposition is to delete his "bogus" claims, sources and all, from the article. Never mind the revert war—do you want your audience to remain vulnerable to the fallacies he raises? No, if he's raising a point that's been raised before, then you should be able to find rebuttals that people have made to it before. Again, provide your facts and sources. The battle goes not to the swiftest reverter, nor to the most strongly worded edit, but to those who persevere in their research and dig up citable sources for every fact that can be found.
  • There are an infinite number of perspectives on a subject, even if you are aware of only two. At the least, consider what ideas and assumptions you and your opponents share as common ground, and also what alternative solutions to a problem can be found that rely on neither your side's assumptions nor the other's for their validity. If you want to succeed in making an article include the facts about your point of view, accept that your point of view when you finish may be more informed than when you began.
  • I have a great company and I want to promote it on Wikipedia
  • The wrong way to promote your company is with blatant advertising and vanity links. They'll only get you in trouble and lead in the long term to suppression of future attempts.
  • The right way to promote your company is to bear in mind that "advertising" on Wikipedia can indeed be bought with the right currency: information. If you can provide a good, thorough, useful reference on a subject on your company Web site, then you can cite it sparingly in relevant articles and thereby establish your company as a legitimate, trustworthy authority. Literally or figuratively, go into the back room and see what you can take a picture of that the public doesn't normally have a chance to see. What is interesting that you can present for the first time? What data have you collected that you could present on the Web? Once you make an informative company Web site that bears your copyright and provides much useful information, the only way that Wikipedia can use it is by reference or external link, which brings readers to your doorstep.
  • The rules on conflict of interest can be strictly interpreted, but if your bait is tasty enough there will be no resisting it. If you can survive this examination, then your account provides another link back to the company and another chance for it to appear in a favorable light, if the account is used only with temperance and civility.
  • I want to make a legal threat against someone
  • Instead of screaming you're going to sue somebody, consider the rational approach. Mention what law you feel has been violated, Wikilinking the appropriate legal precedents—start articles for them if they aren't in Wikipedia. Say what the liability for breaking the law could be. But say nothing that a disinterested third party observer idly commenting on the case might say, if he agreed with your analysis. Then see what the actual third party editors think, and that way you either get your point across, or save a bundle in legal fees for a lost cause.

The common thread that runs through all these cases is that Wikipedia is a collection of information, and if you can lay down enough information you can bridge almost any obstacle you may encounter here.