Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not/Rewrite December 2004
This draft created 24 December 2004 - later changes to original page to be incorporated before (if ever) this replaces it. Please discuss it at Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not#Please discuss the rewritten version.
Please feel free to add to this list as we discover interesting new ways of not writing encyclopedia articles; but preferably discuss your suggestions on Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not first. When adding new options, please be as clear as possible and provide counter-examples of similar, but permitted, subjects.
- 1 What the encyclopedia is not
- 1.1 Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia
- 1.2 Wikipedia is not a dictionary
- 1.3 Wikipedia is not a soapbox
- 1.4 Wikipedia is not a mirror or a repository of links, images, or media files
- 1.5 Wikipedia is not a free wiki host or webspace provider
- 1.6 Wikipedia is not a general knowledge base
- 1.7 Wikipedia is not censored for the protection of minors
- 2 What the community is not
- 3 When you wonder what to do
- 4 Notes
- 5 See also
What the encyclopedia is not
Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia
Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia. Thus, Wikipedia has no size limits, can include links, can be more timely, etc. It also means that the style and length of writing appropriate for paper is not necessarily appropriate here.
Wikipedia is not a dictionary
- Dictionary definitions. Because Wikipedia is not a dictionary, please do not create an entry merely to define a term. Of course, an article can and should always begin with a good definition or a clear description of the topic. If you come across an article that is nothing more than a definition, see if there is information you can add that would be appropriate for an encyclopedia. An exception to this rule is for articles about the cultural meanings of individual numbers.
- Lists of such definitions. But an article can consist of a pointer to other pages, where a word is too general to have any one topic associated with it, these are known as disambiguation pages. Wikipedia also includes glossary pages for various specialized fields.
- A usage guide, or slang and idiom guide. Wikipedia is not in the business of saying how words, idioms, etc., are used. We aren't teaching people how to talk like a leet cracker or a Cockney chimney-sweep. However, it is often very important in the context of an encyclopedia article to describe just how a word is used. E.g., the article on freedom will, if it doesn't already, have a long discussion about this. In some special cases an article about an essential piece of slang may be appropriate.
Wikipedia is not a soapbox
Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a chatroom, or discussion forum. Therefore, Wikipedia articles are not:
- Propaganda or advocacy of any kind. Of course, an article can report objectively about such things, as long as an attempt is made to approach a neutral point of view. Go to Usenet or start a blog if you want to convince people of the merits of your favorite views.
- Discussion forums, or Everything2 nodes. Please try to stay on the task of creating an encyclopedia. You can chat with folks on their discussion pages, and should resolve problems with articles on the relevant talk pages.
- Critical reviews. Biographies and articles about art works are supposed to be encyclopedia articles. Of course, critical analysis of art is welcome, if grounded in direct observations. See also Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles#Check your fiction.
- Personal essays that state your particular opinions about a topic. Wikipedia is supposed to compile human knowledge, not serve as a vehicle for personal opinions to become part of human knowledge. See Wikipedia:No original research. In the unusual situation where the opinions of a single individual are important enough to discuss, it is preferable to let other people to whom those opinions are important write about them. Of course personal essays on topics relating to Wikipedia are welcome at Meta-Wikipedia. Wikinfo is a Wikipedia fork that encourages personal opinions in articles.
- Primary research such as proposing theories and solutions, original ideas, defining terms, coining new words, etc. If you have done primary research on a topic, publish your results in normal peer-reviewed journals, or elsewhere on the web. Wikipedia will report about your work once it becomes part of accepted human knowledge. Of course, you don't have to get all of your information on entries from peer-reviewed journals. See Wikipedia:No original research.
- Vehicles for commercial advertising. External links to commercial organisations are allowed if they can serve to identify major corporations associated with a topic, as in finishing school. The general rule of thumb: if the purpose of the link is to provide additional useful information to the reader, it belongs here; if the purpose is to bring traffic to the linked site, it doesn't. Advertisers will understandably try to blur this line by providing information as well as products on ther sites, so this requires a judgment call. When in doubt, omit the link, or ask for other opinions on the article's talk page before inserting it.
- Vehicles for fan site advertising. Depending on the subject matter, sites created by enthusiasts are sometimes the best source of information on a given topic. However, debates about the quality of sites, and which fan sites should be included, can sometimes be acrimonious. (This may sometimes be solved by inserting a single link to a stable list of fansites, such as an official site's links list, or a dmoz directory category.) The same rule of thumb as for commercial advertising applies: if the purpose of the link is to provide additional useful information to the reader, it belongs here; if the purpose is to bring traffic to the linked site, it doesn't. (Note that discussion forums and mailing lists are generally not appropriate links unless they are noted prominently within the article.)
- Vehicles for self-promotion. Many people consider it a good idea not to start articles about yourself or projects you have a strong personal involvement in. A very few somewhat famous Wikipedians have significantly contributed to encyclopedia articles about themselves and their accomplishments, and this has mostly been accepted after some debate. But of course the standards for encyclopedic articles apply to such a page just like any other. Creating overly abundant links and references to autobiographical articles is not in accordance with the spirit of Wikipedia. See Wikipedia:Auto-biography for more information. (Please note Wikipedia does not endorse any businesses and it does not set up affiliate programs.)
Wikipedia is neither a mirror nor a repository of links, images, or media files. All content added to Wikipedia may have to be edited mercilessly to be included in the encyclopedia. By submitting any content, you agree to release it for free use under the GNU FDL (however, Wikipedia does incorporate many images and some text which are considered "fair use" into its GFDLed articles). See Wikipedia:Copyrights. Wikipedia articles are not:
- Mere collections of external links. Of course, there's nothing wrong with adding both lists of content-relevant links and on-line references you used in writing an article.
- Mere collections of internal links, except for disambiguation pages when an article title is ambiguous; and of course, it may help to make lists of internal links relevant to the article you are editing, as this conveys useful information and helps navigation.
- Mere collections of public domain or other source material; such as entire books or source code, original historical documents, letters, laws, proclamations, and other source material that are only useful when presented with their original, un-modified wording. Complete copies of primary sources (including any public domain documents you can find) should go into Wikisource. Of course there's nothing wrong with using public domain resources in order to add factual content and wording to an article (such as the use of the 1911 Brittanica encyclopaedia). See Wikipedia:Don't include copies of primary sources. Complete copies of primary sources (including any public domain documents you can find) should go into Wikisource.
- Collections of photographs or media files with no text to go with the articles. If you are interested in presenting a picture, please provide an encyclopedic context, or consider adding it to Wikimedia Commons. If a picture comes from a public domain source on a website, then consider adding it to Wikipedia:Images with missing articles or Wikipedia:Public domain image resources.
Wikipedia is not a free wiki host or webspace provider
You may not host your own website or blog at Wikipedia. If you are interested in using the wiki technology for a collaborative effort on something else, even if it is just a single page, there are many sites (such as SeedWiki or Riters.com) that provide wiki hosting (free or for money). You can even install wiki software on your server. Wikipedia pages are not:
- Personal homepages and/or file storage areas. Wikipedians have their own personal pages, but they are used for information relevant to working on the encyclopedia. If you are looking to make a personal webpage unrelated to encyclopedia work, there are many free homepage providers on the Internet. If you upload files, please upload only files that are used (or will be used) in encyclopedia articles; anything else will be deleted.
Wikipedia is not a general knowledge base
Wikipedia is not a general knowledge base, that is, it is not an indiscriminate collection of items of information. Just because something is 100% true doesn't mean it is suitable for inclusion in an encyclopedia. Therefore, Wikipedia articles are not:
- Lists of Frequently Asked Questions. Wikipedia articles should not list FAQs, either with or without answers. Instead, format the information provided as neutral prose within the appropriate article(s). You may want to consider contributing FAQ lists to Wikibooks.
- Lists or repositories of loosely associated topics such as quotations, aphorisms or persons. If you want to enter lists of quotations, put them into Wikiquote, Wikipedia's sister project. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having lists if their entries are famous because they are associated with or significantly contributed to the list topic. Wikipedia also includes reference tables and tabular information for quick reference.
- Cookbook entries. For example, when writing an article about fried rice, don't give "A simple recipe for fried rice." That belongs in Wiki Cookbook. Instead, write an article about what is commonly included in a fried rice recipe, the history of fried rice, types of fried rice, how the Chinese and Japanese versions differ, etc.
- Travel guides. An article on Paris should mention landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but not the telephone number of your favorite hotel or the price of a café au lait on the Champs-Elysées. Such details are, however, very welcome at Wikitravel.
- Memorials. It's always sad when people die, but Wikipedia is not the place to honour them. Of course, you are free to write articles about notable people who have died.
- News reports. Wikipedia should not offer news reports on breaking stories. Our emerging sister project Wikinews will do exactly that instead. Wikipedia does however have many encyclopedia articles on topics currently in the news, as the Wiki process lends itself to collaborative, up-to-the-minute construction of current events of historical significance. See current events for some examples.
- Genealogical or biographical entries, or phonebook entries. Biography articles should only be for people with some sort of notoriety or achievement. One measure of achievement is whether someone has been featured in several external sources (on or off-line). Of course, minor characters may be mentioned within other articles (e.g. Ronald Gay in Persecution of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered). See m:Wikipeople for a proposed genealogical/biographical dictionary project. People who have biographies here should be important or otherwise notable for some reason.
- A Directory or a resource for conducting business. For example, an article on a radio station generally shouldn't list upcoming events, current promotions, phone numbers, etc (although mention of major events or promotions is of course acceptable). Furthermore, the Talk pages associated with an article are for talking about the article, not for conducting the business of the topic of the article.
Wikipedia is not censored for the protection of minors
Wikipedia is not censored for the 'protection of minors' (content-rated). Firstly, anyone can edit an article and the results are displayed instantaneously, so we cannot guarantee that a child will see or read nothing objectionable. Secondly, Wikipedia has no organized system for the removal of material that might be thought likely to harm minors. However, articles can be, and are, censored by consensus.
What the community is not
Wikipedia is not a theater of war
Every user is expected to interact with others civilly, calmly, and in a spirit of cooperation. Do not insult, harass or intimidate those with whom you have a disagreement. Rather, approach the matter in an intelligent manner, and engage in polite discussion. Do not create or edit articles just to prove a point. Do not make legal or other threats against Wikipedia, Wikipedians, or the Wikimedia Foundation1. Threats are not tolerated and may result in a ban.
Wikipedia is not an anarchy
The fact that Wikipedia is an open, self-governing project does not mean that any part of its purpose is to explore the viability of anarchistic communities. (If you want to do so, you can use Wikipedia fork Anarchopedia.) Our purpose is to build an encyclopedia, not to test the limits of anarchism. But of course none of this is to deny that a great deal of our success has been due precisely to our openness.
When you wonder what to do
When you wonder what should or should not be in an article named "whatever", ask youself what a reader would expect under "whatever" in an encyclopedia. For examples of what kinds of articles people consider to be encyclopedic, see Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/Precedents.
When you wonder whether the rules given above are being violated, consider:
- Changing the content of an article (normal editing)
- Changing the page into a redirect, preserving the page history
- Nominating the page for deletion on Wikipedia:Votes for deletion if it meets grounds for such action under the Wikipedia:Deletion policy page. To develop an understanding of what kinds of contributions are in danger of being deleted you have to regularly follow discussions there.
- Changing the rules on this page after a consensus has been reached following appropriate discussion with other Wikipedians via the Talk page.
Note 1: If you believe that your legal rights are being violated, you may discuss this with other users involved, take the matter to the appropriate mailing list, contact the Wikimedia Foundation, or in cases of copyright violations notify us here.
- Wikipedia:Avoiding common mistakes
- Wikipedia:Google test
- Wikipedia:Ownership of articles
- Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/Precedents
- Wikipedia:What wikipedia is
- Wikipedia:What the GFDL is not
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