Wikipedia:Don't overload your watchlist!
|This page is an essay, containing 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: A watchlist becomes harder to navigate the longer it is. Only watch articles that need watching.|
Watching pages is a capability provided by Wikipedia that lets users efficiently see if any changes have been made to articles the user cares about. Any registered user can easily watch any page, and as easily unwatch (remove a page from one's watchlist) when logged in. This is far easier than visiting each page in which you have interest and visually observing changes.
Why watch a page?
That is a good question. Why do you want to know if any changes have been made to any particular page?
The following are some possible reasons:
- You created the page, and you want others to expand it, or to know when others do
- The page has the potential for more information to be added in the future, and you would like to know more about the subject from someone else
- The subject may require updating, and you want to see if updates are made
- The page is at risk for vandalism, and you want to be alert to catch the vandalism early
What is recommended to watch
- Pages you have created (unless the creation was only for technical reasons, and you otherwise have no interest in the subject)
- Pages on which you have made significant contributions
- Pages to which you have made a recent contribution, even possibly a minor one, and you would like to see if it was accepted by others
- Pages you have never edited, but would like to learn more about the subject one day than is currently provided
- The subject receives frequent or periodic updates, and you would like to know when they occur
- Pages you have marked for deletion in any manner. If those pages are deleted and then recreated, the recreation will appear on your watchlist and you can take action where appropriate.
- Non-existent pages, if you would like to know if they are ever created
- Pages that are common targets of vandalism or other disruptive activity, if you wish to assist with preventing or reverting the vandalism
What is not recommended to watch
Watching the following types of pages is not recommended unless you have some other interest in the subject:
- Pages on which you have made only extremely minor edits
- Additions of categories, navboxes, links to other Wikipedia pages, or other small details that are included on many pages
- Pages on which you have reverted vandalism, unless the vandalism is ongoing, and you wish to help stop it
- Pages you have previously edited, but since lost interest in
- Redirects, unless they are controversial
- User pages and talk pages of others, unless you are having an ongoing discussion with that user
- Closed deletion discussions, unless they are currently under deletion review. These are never supposed to be modified.
- Pages that you have patrolled and templated
Pages that are frequently edited
There are two settings for your watchlist: one in which only the most recent edit appears, and one in which all edits within the given timeframe appear. The advantage to only the most recent edit appearing is that the watchlist is smaller. The advantage to all edits being displayed is that you can see a significant edit that was not the most recent. If you choose the first of these two, it is possible for that a page could be vandalized, the vandal can make another seemingly acceptable, possibly minor edit, and the act of vandalism could go unnoticed to you.
Displaying all edits can be a drawback though if you are watching one or more pages that are edited many times on a single day regularly. This could be truly overwhelming for you to track, especially when you have multiple pages like this.
As an alternative to watching such pages on your watchlist, if you are interested in seeing how one changes, it may be useful to simply to visually observe it each time, and to check its edit history.
Pitfalls of an overloaded watchlist
The human mind has limits to what can be read and comprehended in any given period of time. This varies for each person, but everyone has a limit. The more pages that are on one's watchlist, the longer it'll take to read the watchlist.
If you have a long watchlist, you may find it exhausting to read it all. As a result, you may quickly scan it over, ignoring all but the most significant changes. The purpose of the watchlist is to look out for changes to pages. If you are ignoring the bulk of changes on your watchlist, this defeats the purpose. There is also the chance that you may miss an edit which is meaningful to you.