Wikipedia talk:Avoid instruction creep

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RfC: Should WP:CREEP Be Promoted to a Policy or Guideline?[edit]

WP:NOT, an accepted policy, references WP:CREEP, which is an representation of WP:NOTLAW and (my favorite) WP:RAP. It's been debated for this essay to be promoted since March of last year, but no one has done anything, so I'm filing this RfC. ηoian ‡orever ηew ‡rontiers 06:03, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

  • Promote to procedural policy. This page describes a very good principle which should be followed in the development and maintenance of policy and guideline pages. PSWG1920 (talk) 21:03, 16 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose as, well... WP:CREEP. Face-smile.svg It's just not needed, and it's perfectly usable as an essay. The reason essays are essays is because they document widely held viewpoints, regardless of any opposing views or reality within the Wikipedia community. Policies and guidelines should be much less opinion oriented, and shouldn't exist to try to impose rules (which this would attempt to do as a policy or guideline). It's a principle that most choose to espouse, just leave it that way.
    V = I * R (talk to Ohms law) 07:22, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment This strikes me as meaningless and impossible to implement. what difference would it make if this were policy or an essay? are we going to start having official sanctions for people who try to make too many rules? It might make sense to make it a guideline (and I'd probably support that), but there isn't anything tangible enough here for policy. --Ludwigs2 07:59, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose - it's written in essay style, and the points made in "Avoiding instruction creep" can be summarised on existing policy pages, most obviously Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines. Basically, no benefit to it being a guideline, and it risks yet more overuse/abuse of reference to WP:CREEP, which already gets thrown around as a moralistic "I don't like it and I don't want to talk about it" response to proposals, as a substitute for reasoned discussion of pros and cons and possible alternative proposals etc. Rd232 talk 10:14, 20 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:CREEP. --Carnildo (talk) 00:16, 21 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Promote to guideline. Not directly actionable enough to be policy, but provides a very good and needed caution of what should not happen on policy and guideline pages, and giving it a bit more "bite" would be a good thing. Mildly ironic, yes, but the page is relatively short and seems to align with consensus. Even those opposing its promotion don't seem to be disagreeing with the page's substance. (talk) 01:18, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There is a need for instructions and I have had editors citing this essay as a reason to not add what I considered to be suitable policies and guidelines. If it becomes a policy or guideline we may see good suggestions shot down with WP:CREEP. -- Alan Liefting (talk) - 09:00, 6 February 2010 (UTC)
    • Again, see the recently added section Practical application. The purpose of this page is to prevent instructions which are not reflective of true community consensus. PSWG1920 (talk) 03:04, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose I have just come from "Wikipedia talk:Quotations#Proposal to promote to policy/guideline" after stating that promoting that essay would be instruction creep ditto. -- PBS (talk) 11:11, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose174.3.107.176 (talk) 15:35, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
    • Just a pointer, if you want this promoted, define "instruction creep" better. (talk) 15:42, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Promote Promote to procedural policy. This page describes essential principle which should be followed in the development and maintenance of policy and guideline pages. It does not only protect every rules but also qualifies them as evidence that they should gain support of significant users. It is important enough to be considered as a guideline even if the style of this document is like an essey.--P.Andretti (talk) 01:27, 6 June 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose, per Rd232. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 21:28, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Nah. It's good advice sometimes, but it's used to justify inertia and that'd be made worse if it became policy. It's just something to bear in mind, not to etch in stone. Fences&Windows 22:15, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Promote It will keep wikipedia from bad constraint against the free policy. this check list is more important in some local project. On the other hand this rules doesn't make any adverse effects.--Miradorador (talk) 08:12, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment Instruction creep (and instruction growth in general) is a bind, especially for new or newish contributors—including valuable topic experts who maybe don't feel a broader vocational interest in Wikipedia. It's a thorny issue that's likely to continue to grow in the absence of a concerted move to prune the plants. However, I cannot see how straightforward promotion of WP:CREEP to policy status would be effective, at least in the absence of a clear-cut definition of what constitutes "creep", accompanied by greater practical advice on how to tackle it and avoid inadvertently propagating it... Otherwise, it might just join the other creepers. I think alternative interventions need to be considered. For example: by weaving the rationale of WP:CREEP into policy and guidelines; by introducing stronger measures to keep local guidelines in line with general guidelines unless there's a compelling reason to fork (as sometimes does happen); by introducing smart forms of housekeeping; etc. A pair of secateurs, —MistyMorn (talk) 12:23, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment. I guess the most essential points of this page are already policy. PSWG1920 (talk) 22:42, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

"policies and guidelines should be as brief and simple as possible."[edit]

Is this a policy on policy and guideline editing? Koakhtzvigad (talk) 10:48, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Its an "essay", not a policy or guideline, expressing good faith opinions based on experiences of the small group involved in editing it. PPdd (talk) 15:40, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

Creep in articles[edit]

This discussion regards these images and content. PPdd (talk) 16:00, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

I just reverted a bunch of edits that added a lot of content to this page. Although I thought there was some good material there, it seemed beyond the scope of this page, which is specifically about Wikipedia's policies and guidelines, not articles. Pages like this really need to focus on a single topic, so that when people refer to them their meaning is unambiguous. The material might be better in a user essay. (Incidentally, the Boiling frog story is probably not true [1].) Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 15:43, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
(I didn't believe that a frog dropped in boiling water could jump out and live, either.)
From personal experience, the creep concept applied to many articles. It is identical to the concept as it pertains to guidelines and policies, and the same reasoning and examples apply. "Reverse creep" happened in many guidelines; when I went back to them I could not find any mention of applications of them that had been useful, as they had crept out, antd the entire focus of the guideline had changed by slow stepwise deletions.
The creep concept may even be more useful when applied to articles, than to guidelines and policies, since many more editors will see the problem when they are aware of it. PPdd (talk) 15:55, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
The other problem is that the term "instruction creep" originates from outside Wikipedia and applies specifically to instructions (and therefore, in Wikipedia, the policies and guidelines). I disagree that the process you're describing in articles is the same kind of thing. As I understand it, you're describing a mechanism of article degradation through a series of well-intentioned edits that are not individually problematic, but collectively cause WP:NPOV or WP:UNDUE problems. "Instruction creep" may also be due to a series of well-intentioned edits, but the problem is not with NPOV or UNDUE, but that instructional pages become so bloated that no-one reads them, and/or that the key points become lost in a sea of special cases. A similar mechanism, but a different problem. Have you considered creating your own essay, perhaps User:PPdd/Article creep? Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 18:58, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
You are correct. Instruction creep and article creep both share creep, but have different applications. It's best to keep this article as simple and focused as possible. I will create another brief essay. PPdd (talk) 19:24, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

This essay is the opposite of accurate and sensible[edit]

Most of the time when the status quo zealots shout down any reform or proposal as "CREEP", it's not because that change would embody rule creep. The exact opposite is the case: Many changes are being opposed as "instruction creep" precisely when that change would streamline things and actually reduce the variety and arbitrariness of rules which some individual editors and groups of editors tend to build into a rule vacuum. So, I posit, almost anytime a proposed change is shouted down as "CREEP", that is actual rule creep. "per CREEP" has become the primary instrument of rule creep. Just stating the obvious since nobody else bothered to. -- (talk) 14:04, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

This page does recognize that the status quo can itself be instruction creep. If you think this needs to be made more clear, go ahead and edit it. PSWG1920 (talk) 15:13, 29 August 2012 (UTC)


In regards to these changes:

  • "Bloat" doesn't seem necessary to include in the lead paragraph. PSWG1920 (talk) 17:48, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
  • "expand beyond brief and simple explanations" seems rather awkward. Imo it makes more sense with "what they are supposed to be". PSWG1920 (talk) 17:48, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
  • I understand the reason for splitting up what was the section "How Instruction Creep Develops", but both sections now seem to lack context. Previously, it was explained that policies function technically like articles but should be treated differently, but that point is now pretty much lost. PSWG1920 (talk) 17:48, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
  • You are right, "bloat" isn't necessary. That said, I think it is helpful in the introduction because the word is used often in edit summaries and discussions. But if you feel strongly that it should go somewhere else then don't let me stop you from moving it.
  • I'm not sure I follow your second point. "Expand beyond" is in both versions. "Brief and simple" is substituted for "straightforward." I'm not married to "brief and simple," so if you want to change it back to straightforward then be my guest. Finally, "what they are supposed to be" is eliminated. My thinking is that this phrase didn't add any real meaning to the sentence. Do you think it does?
  • I suppose we could add "Unlike content articles, ..." to the first sentence of Why instruction creep is discouraged. However, as I understand it, even content articles are not supposed to cover every minute aspect of the subjects with which they deal. So using that as the distinction might be inappropriate. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 19:13, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
  • I moved "bloat" down into the body, replacing "lengthier and more complex".
  • I had thought that "what they are supposed to be" made it sound better. I guess there's no compelling reason for it, though.
  • I restored the previous "How instruction creep develops" section with a few changes. The overall context just seems better that way. PSWG1920 (talk) 16:33, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Looks good. The one thing that bothers me is the section title. The content seems broader than "How instruction creep develops." Maybe something along the lines of "Why instruction creep is a problem"? Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 17:43, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Maybe it could just be combined with the lead? PSWG1920 (talk) 18:23, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Done. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 12:18, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I wonder whether the first part of this edit is an accurate definition of instruction creep (and, if it is, whether a separate essay saying that policies should reflect consensus is essay creep.) My understanding, drawn from m:Instruction creep, is that IE occurs when "instructions increase in size over time until they are unmanageable," even if each of the individual instructions reflects "true" community consensus. What do you think about reverting that part of the edit or, perhaps,replacing it with the phrase from m:Instruction creep? Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 12:18, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

To say that instruction creep occurs when instructions increase in size over time until they are unmanageable makes it easier to oppose any addition to policy as WP:CREEP. The point is that keeping policies simple makes them more transparent and thus more likely to reflect true community consensus, since something controversial would be noticed by enough users who would object to it. PSWG1920 (talk) 13:06, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
So much for my alternative "or, perhaps" suggestion. What about my primary proposal to return to "expand beyond brief and simple explanations of community norms"? Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 02:09, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay in responding. I was distracted, and also not sure what to think about this. I still find "expand beyond brief and simple explanations of community norms" awkward for some reason, but if you find the current wording too problematic, I will not object to changing it back. PSWG1920 (talk) 19:16, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

You are doing good work on reducing text-bloat on this essay. Keep it up! Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 22:56, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

I've shortened the lead. I thought unread and uninviting were pretty much the same point, so I combined them and tidied up from there. Perhaps the point about being unrepresentative could return to the lead, but it is covered in the body regardless. PSWG1920 (talk) 02:52, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, I'll miss the structure. But brevity should probably be the primary goal with regard to this essay. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 11:45, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
The problem was that two of those points were essentially the same. I'm not totally satisfied with the current lead, so feel free to try other things. PSWG1920 (talk) 19:10, 15 October 2012 (UTC)


In regards to this revert, WP:MTAU is about articles. WP:CREEP is about understandability as well as succinctness. The current nutshell is not bad, but it is a bit long. PSWG1920 (talk) 21:06, 5 October 2014 (UTC)

Nah, I don't think you understood the essay very well. The replacement you proposed is not a summary of this essay. It refers to other, related ideas, but not this essay. The essay doesn't say to dumb things down. It doesn't say to make guidance necessarily more succinct. It doesn't say to make guidance more broadly intelligble. These are other goals, part of them also laudable, but not the essence of this essay. --Francis Schonken (talk) 21:27, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
I understand this essay. It doesn't say instructions should always be succinct per se, but it does say they should be understandable. The current nutshell is OK, but it sounds a bit awkward. Maybe it could start with "To avoid overcomplexity,". PSWG1920 (talk) 01:47, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Avoiding overcomplexity is more a corrolary, than the first reason why. Don't think that would be an improvement for the nutshell. --Francis Schonken (talk) 06:15, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Well, let me give an example: WP:COP#Ordering names in a category is "not succinct" and really, unless one expects a general audience to be both categorization geeks, and accustomed to collation habits encompassing all languages, regions and eras, "overly complex" (for a general audience). Yet, I see no tension with WP:CREEP, because that piece of guidance is "in line with community consensus", addressing a real issue, and explaining the techniques to address it as understandable as possible for those trying to remedy the problems associated with it. There would be a tension with "Wikipedia policies and guidelines should remain succinct enough to be understood by a general audience" as well as with "To avoid overcomplexity,..." — which would be misleading nutshells. In other words, the guidance I referred to is long and complex, but not hopelessly so (as the current wording of the nutshell has it), because of its wide-reaching practical value. --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:25, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
Giving a contrasting example: in this discussion I opposed a minor rewording of a guideline (basically no more than giving another set of examples), for a WP:CREEP reason: "I don't want to legislate something that is not a current issue" [2] — Note that the change I opposed proposed more clarity in the guidance, so neither complexity issues nor understandibility issues were served by opposing the change, only the proposal involved addressing "possible", but not actual problems, so WP:CREEP per the current nutshell, not, however, by the rewordings proposed for that nutshell. --Francis Schonken (talk) 10:28, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
In sum, in my view, Wikipedia:Avoid instruction creep is more about the application of Wikipedia:If it ain't broke, don't fix it in the context of Wikipedia guidance, than about the application of Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable outside main namespace, and I oppose rewordings of the essay or its nutshell that would give another impression. --Francis Schonken (talk) 10:40, 6 October 2014 (UTC)
OK, I see what you're saying. Maybe the nutshell could say something about sticking to the important points? PSWG1920 (talk) 03:06, 7 October 2014 (UTC)
The essay might also say something about editor discretion (but in a wider sense than what is in the Wikipedia:Editorial discretion essay), as the alternative to instruction creep. Don't know whether that would go in the nutshell though. --Francis Schonken (talk) 05:57, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

I just changed the nutshell to "Wikipedia policies and guidelines should not be more complex than is necessary to serve their purpose." It could be even shorter: "Wikipedia policies and guidelines should not be more complex than necessary." But I'm not sure if that would really convey the point. PSWG1920 (talk) 05:34, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

Neither does. There's also no goal as such to make the nutshell "shorter". --Francis Schonken (talk) 05:37, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
How about "Wikipedia policies and guidelines should stick to the important points, rather than addressing every possible problem." PSWG1920 (talk) 18:56, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
"Important" is such a vague concept that it gives less clarity than using length and complexity as corrolaries. "should not address every possible problem" as central and first message in the nutshell works better for me. --Francis Schonken (talk) 19:41, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

Just picking up what I ran into: here's something that might serve as a base for an improved nutshell: "guidelines (...) that are too wordy and try to cover all the bases and every conceivable outlying case are counterproductive." [3] --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:41, 14 October 2014 (UTC) How about this:

? --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:57, 14 October 2014 (UTC)

Maybe "Wikipedia's written rules should not aim to cover every outlying case." PSWG1920 (talk) 05:19, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
"counterproductive" is a good summary of the why for me. --Francis Schonken (talk) 05:35, 17 October 2014 (UTC)