Wikipedia:Avoid instruction creep

Avoiding instruction creep keeps Wikipedia policy and guideline pages easy to understand. These pages exist to explain community norms for all readers, especially those unfamiliar with how Wikipedia operates.

Excessive instruction often results from a series of edits by well-meaning editors that end up producing very long and complicated directions or information separated over many pages that nobody reads. Wikipedia has more than 50 full policies and more than 500 guidelines and WikiProject advice pages. As a practical matter, even with the most succinct writing, few users will even read one such page from start to finish.[1][2]

DevelopmentEdit

 
Like kudzu vines, instructions can grow much too fast.

Like articles, most policy and guideline pages can be edited by any user. Often, somebody thinks that such-and-such a point should be addressed, or that more explanation would be helpful – such additions can end up being quite unhelpful. Gradual bloating can make pages less coherent, less inviting, and further from real community consensus, which becomes difficult to gauge when few users read and understand the pages. Project pages are meant to be broad in scope, and cannot hope to cover every minute aspect of any issues dealt with.

PreventionEdit

Keeping policies and guidelines to the point is the most effective way of preserving transparency. Substantive additions to policy should generally be rejected unless:

  1. There is a real problem that needs solving, not just a hypothetical or perceived problem.
  2. The proposal, if implemented, is likely to make a real, positive difference.
  3. All implied requirements have a clear consensus.

All instruction should be as clear as possible. Ensure that additions are placed in a logical context, and do not obscure the meaning of the surrounding text.

It is usually better for a policy or guideline to be too lax than too strict. Content not clearly prohibited by any policy is still subject to editor discretion. Consensus-building on article talk pages can be undermined by an over-strict policy, as an editor who wants to follow it literally can claim that the issue is already decided.

If you just think that you have good advice for Wikipedians, consider adding it to an essay.

The {{Simple help page}} edit notice can be added to pages designed to provide simple instructions for newcomers.

FixingEdit

Since things often "creep in" without scrutiny, even longstanding instructions should be subject to review. The amount of time an instruction has been present does not strengthen consensus behind it, though one should be wary whenever removing a longstanding part of policy.

If an instruction does not make sense or does not seem to describe accepted practice, check the page history to see when it was added and how it may have changed over time. Then check the talk page and talk archive, to see whether there was any related discussion. If you think the instruction lacks community consensus, either make your case on the talk page or boldly remove it, giving your rationale in the edit summary. If you meet with disagreement, discuss the matter further. Those who oppose an outright deletion may still be open to changes.

MisuseEdit

Just citing "WP:CREEP" is not a substitute for actual arguments. Instruction can be helpful, even if long – when clearly and accurately representing community consensus.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Vergano, Dan (January 3, 2013). "Study: Wikipedia is driving away newcomers". USA Today. Retrieved November 19, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Simonite, Tom (October 22, 2013). "The Decline of Wikipedia". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved April 6, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit