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Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and as such, there are certain things that Wikipedia is not.

What Wikipedia is not

  1. Wiki is not paper. 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.
  2. Wikipedia is not a dictionary, a usage or jargon guide, or a genealogical or biographical dictionary. See #2-5, #17 and at the link.
  3. Wikipedia is not a soapbox or discussion forum. See #1, #6, #8, #9, #18.
  4. Similarly, Wikipedia is not a link repository. See #11, 12, 13.

What Wikipedia entries are not

  1. Discussion forums, or Everything2 nodes. Please try to stay on task (the task here is to create encyclopedia articles). Wikipedia is not a discussion forum or chat room (mind you, neither is Everything2, or at least it tries not to be--but because it tolerates that, that's what it has become). But you can chat with folks on their own pages, and you can resolve article problems on the relevant Talk: pages.
  2. Dictionary definitions. Wikipedia is not a dictionary, and an entry that consists of just a definition does not belong. (But an article can and should always begin with a good definition or a clear description of the topic.) If you're interested in working on a wiki dictionary, check out the Wiktionary (http://wiktionary.wikipedia.org) project!
  3. Lists of such definitions. (But an article can certainly consist of a pointer to other pages, where a word is too general to have any one topic associated with it; see freedom and Columbus for examples.)
  4. A usage guide. Wikipedia is not in the business of saying how idioms, etc., are used. (But, of course, it's often very, very important in the context of an encyclopedia article to say just how a word is used. E.g., the article on freedom will, if it doesn't already, have a long discussion about this.)
  5. By a simple extension of the latter, a hacker/computer usage or other slang and idiom guide. We aren't teaching people how to talk like a hacker or a Cockney chimney-sweep; we're writing an encyclopedia. (See Wikipedia:Historical Wikipedia pages/Knocking her dead one on the nose each and every double trey/Talk for a historical example.) (But see jargon file; also, articles, even extremely in-depth articles, on hacker culture are very welcome, and insofar as guides to some particularly essential piece of hacker slang is necessary to understand those articles, of course articles on that slang would be great to have.)
  6. Propaganda or advocacy of any kind. (But an article can of course report objectively on what advocates say, as long as an attempt is made to approach a neutral point of view. Go to Usenet if you want to convince people of the merits of your favorite views--and good luck.)
  7. Mere vehicles for testing anarchism. 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. Our purpose is to build an encyclopedia, not to test the limits of anarchism. (But none of this is to deny that a great deal of our success has been due precisely to our radical openness.)
  8. Neither encomia/fan pages, nor critical pans. Biographies and articles about art works are supposed to be encyclopedia articles. (But critical analysis of art is welcome, if grounded in direct observations.)
  9. Personal essays, that state your idiosyncratic opinions about a topic. We're reporting on what is in the canon of human knowledge; unless you're unusual, your idiosyncratic opinions aren't part of this canon. (But you can put your essays on meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikipedia.com/).)
  10. Original research. If you have done original research on a topic, publish your results in normal peer-reviewed journals. Wikipedia will report about your work once it becomes part of accepted human knowledge. (But of course, you don't have to get all of your information on entries from peer-reviewed journals.)
  11. List repository of loosely associated topics such as; quotations, aphorisms or persons (But 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).
  12. Mere collections of external links. (But of course there's nothing wrong with adding both lists of links and lists of on-line references you used in writing an article.)
  13. Mere collections of internal links. (But of course, there's nothing wrong with pointer pages when a word is too general for any one topic to be associated with it; and of course, it's very important to make collections of relevant internal links, as this conveys useful information and helps navigation.)
  14. 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. (But 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 encyclopedia)
  15. A personal homepage and/or file storage area. Wikipedians have their own personal pages, but they are used for working on the encyclopedia. If you're 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 pertain to encyclopedia articles; anything else will be deleted.
  16. A news report. Wikipedia should not offer news reports on breaking stories. However, creating encyclopedia articles on topics currently in the news is an excellent idea. See current events for some examples. (However, the Wiki process lends itself to collaborative, up-to-the-minute construction of current events of historical significance, as long as these are written as encyclopedia articles.) When updating articles with recent news, authors should use the past-tense in such a way that the news will still make sense when read years from now.
  17. A genealogical or biographical dictionary. Biography articles should only be given for people with some sort of achievement. A good measure of achievement is whether someone has been featured in several external sources. Minor characters may of course be mentioned within other articles (eg Ronald Gay in gay-bashing).
  18. A vehicle for advertising. We don't need articles on items just because a contributor is associated with them. However, commercial links are certainly OK if they can serve to identify major corporations associated with a topic, as in Finishing school.
  19. A collection of photographs with no text to go with the articles. If you are only interested in putting a picture into an article but have no desire to write an explanation as to who the person is and why they should have an article, maybe the article shouldn't exist at all. If the 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 instead.

We shall continue to add to this list as we discover interesting new ways of not writing encyclopedia articles. :-)

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