What makes a great Wikipedia page?
This question defies easy answers, but many awesome Wikipedia pages do have some or all of these 11 attributes. Here’s a look at why they’re so important, and how you can ensure that your page has as many of these traits as possible.
- Introducing Entirely New Concepts
Not every Wikipedia page can live up to this one. By definition, many pages cover well-worn concepts, or tangible subjects whose existence is self-evident: people, places, companies, things.
If you’re looking for a memorable entree into the wide world of Wikipedia editing, you’ll want to treat concepts that are entirely new to most readers. For instance, this popular list of people who’ve lived in airports is a run-down of individuals who’ve made their homes in air travel limbo for months or even years at a time. Readers of a certain age might remember the Tom Hanks film The Terminal; this Wikipedia entry is confirmation that the film’s conceit wasn’t totally outrageous.
- Sticking to the Basic Facts
If your page can’t introduce entirely new ideas to curious readers, do the next best thing and provide an unbiased, straightforward accounting of the topic at hand. This corporate Wikipedia page is an otherwise unremarkable exercise in objectivity, which is no doubt just what readers searching for information about the company want. Objectivity is paramount in any Wikipedia entry, but particularly those covering human or corporate subjects.
- Lively Talk Sections
All Wikipedia entries have talk sections. Some are livelier than others. As a general rule, talk sections grow livelier in direct proportion to entries’ overall popularity. But not always: Some topics are wildly controversial within narrow or highly specialized scientific or cultural communities.
A busy talk section isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary: Discussion implies interest and engagement. The more Wikipedians you can get engaged around your entry, the more you’ll raise the profile of the entry—and its subject. That’s good news for Wikipedians hoping to use their entries for marketing purposes.
- Thorough Citations
Wikipedia derives its legitimacy from objectivity. Objectivity depends on verifiable facts. And facts can’t be verified without accurate citations.
As you put together your Wikipedia page, remember this cardinal rule: Always cite sources for your assertions, no matter how trivial or self-evident. The more complete your source literature, the less likely your post is to attract the attention of Wikipedia’s self-appointed guardians of accuracy.
- Great Image Libraries
The best Wikipedia pages have robust image libraries. Sure, not every page is built for abundant, immediately engaging photography. (After all, it’s hard to beat photos with captions like “a cat on a fence.”) But even dry subjects benefit from colorful images. For instance, your company’s Wikipedia page should have key employee headshots, logo images, product or packaging shots, and miscellaneous pictures that help tell the organization’s story—exterior images of its first storefront location, or candids of its employees in action.
- Uncompromising Commitment to Truth (As Currently Understood)
As noted, Wikipedia is premised on absolute objectivity—for better or worse.
In fact, some of the most compelling (if not popular) Wikipedia pages are devoted to the furtherance of truth. For instance, this list of common misconceptions—which states right up top that it’s “not intended to be exhaustive”—is devoted to exposing and correcting common misunderstandings that all too often contribute to real-life conflict.
- Lively Editing Histories
Not all great Wikipedia pages are controversial, but many controversial Wikipedia pages are great.
For insight into what this means on the ground, check out this list of the most frequently edited Wikipedia pages. It’s clear that some of the conflicts generated by their subjects are bitter, perhaps intractable. But that’s not the norm. Many entries are simply subject to good-natured, if deep-rooted, disagreements whose stakeholders nevertheless agree on one principle: It’s more important to uncover the truth than to be right.
- Exhaustive Background Detail
Great Wikipedia pages really dive into the details. This is especially important for pages treating individuals and entities, since they’re in many cases the most visible sources of unbiased information about their subjects.
The history and corporate overview sections of McDonald’s Wikipedia page feature an exhaustive overview of the company’s backstory and corporate structure. Even if the average reader glosses over these details, they exist independent of the spin applied in other sources of information about the company. If you’re concerned about protecting your personal or corporate reputation, unbiased information is a crucial asset—and one more reason to pay close attention to your Wikipedia entry.
- Thorough Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Wikipedia frowns on overly self-promotional entries. Self-editing is another no-no. Still, it’s not entirely off-limits for individuals connected with a subject—for instance, employees of a company or friends of an individual—to edit its Wikipedia page. They just have to thoroughly disclose any conflicts of interest. Skipping this step is one of the surest ways to get dubious edits changed or an entire page taken down pending further review.
- Expert Quotes and Interpretation (With Proper Citations)
Whenever possible, let the experts speak. Use, but don’t overuse, properly cited quotes from written source material. When it makes more sense, paraphrase source material with thorough citations (to avoid charges of plagiarism or co-optation). Call out really important sources in the body of your entry, rather than in the footnotes, or link directly to the relevant Wikipedia entry.
- Working Links
Last, but not least: Great Wikipedia pages have working internal and external links. This is especially important for internal links in the body of your entry, but dead footnote links won’t escape notice either. The longer they go uncorrected, the greater the likelihood that fellow Wikipedians will flag your page for so-called “issues” that threaten its apparent impartiality.
What’s the one thing you need to do to make your Wikipedia page better?