Article improvement example

We often train and guide our clients in how to compose or clean up article content. What follows is an example of an issue that comes up, and how to approach it.

You have likely seen Wikipedia articles with alert tags, as illustrated in the first screenshot below. These tags are meant to disclose shortcomings, so the reader understands the article doesn’t (yet) meet Wikipedia’s standards; and to alert writers and contributors to issues that should be addressed.

In this case, three tags indicate that the article (1) generally needs cleanup; (2) doesn’t have many incoming links from other Wikipedia articles, making it hard to find; and (3) doesn’t cite any independent references.

The tags are intended to be temporary; but often, they will persist for months or years, if nobody fixes the underlying issues.

From a technical standpoint, removing the tags is not very difficult; you just click the “edit” button and delete the relevant code. The second screenshot shows how the article looks without the tags. It’s much cleaner; the reader, who may not be very interested in Wikipedia’s editing model, gets to the content more quickly, with fewer distractions.

But Wikipedia’s thousands of volunteer editors take the editorial process very seriously. If you try to simply delete the tags, without improving the article accordingly, your changes will usually be reverted in a matter of minutes. The third screen shot shows the article’s edit history; you can see that Wikipedia editor Ironholds reverted the removal of tags, commenting that the problems they identify remain.

This is an example of the sort of issue an aspiring Wikipedia contributor may face. New Wikipedia contributors often have difficulty finding the best way to engage with the Wikipedia editorial community. Poorly executed changes to articles may be unsuccessful, and can even backfire, by prompting Wikipedia editors to add even more unsightly tags.

Wiki Strategies offers expertise in the technical, editorial, and cultural aspects of improving articles. When working with clients who have concerns about tags on an article, we begin by clearly identifying the underlying issues. We will then walk our client through the steps to resolve it, including full disclosure of their connection to the article.

This approach yields two important results:

  1. The article is substantially improved, and unlikely to be reverted by other editors in the future.
  2. Our clients establish an understanding of Wikipedia, and also a reputation for reasonable, good-faith editing that will serve them well in any future efforts.

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