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Why Do Wikipedia People Keep Deleting My Stuff?

Some idiot just deleted all my changes and hours of work! What gives?

Imagine barging into a room, announcing that the people there are idiots, and rearranging the furniture. Wouldn’t you kick that person out?

The important thing to remember about wikis, especially active ones, is that they’re social in nature. Other people have put their best efforts into making it good, and they won’t appreciate an outsider making changes without first seeking their approval.

If you really don’t know why people are deleting your edits, go to the “Discussion” area of the entry and ask. Tell the others that “Hey, I wrote this about that, but someone deleted it. Any idea why that’s happening?” There’s a lot of give and take going on behind the scenes, which really isn’t all that “behind” the scenes since it is made visible. If you know you are right, you may have to convince someone who has more clout, a more respected ethos. But if you provide the necessary evidence and rationale, your stuff may just become part of the record.

Example of Wiki Comments

Figure 5. Many wikis offer commenting features and encourage editors to discuss their work. The Threats to Sustainability of an Organizational Content Strategy wiki was created by students in a professional writing class at Michigan State University.

It’s better, though, to preempt deletions by announcing your intentions first. Go to the discussion or talk page for the article you want to change, and read what’s there (in order to find out whether you’re about to walk into a minefield). Then, describe what you think needs doing on the page. If no one objects after a reasonable time (say, a day), go ahead and start making the changes. Also, when you do make a change, be sure to use the justification feature to explain why you thought the change was necessary. If you’re only making a small change, such as adding a missing period or correcting a misspelled word, click the “minor change” option.

Most wiki people are happy to have you join their efforts, but only if you’re sensible enough to be polite and upfront about what you’re doing there.

On a side note, some wiki people are skeptical of students who are only there because of a required project or assignment. Even if this is the case, don’t announce it or act like you’re just there because it’s required. Don’t ask the community to help you with your project. Instead, be sincere about wanting to join the community and contribute towards the project.

A good rule of thumb for dealing with strangers online is to be ten times more polite and friendly than you normally are. If you go to great lengths to show respect and sincerity, you’ll be welcome on almost any wiki. If you go in “guns blazing” and treating the locals like crap, don’t expect your edits to stick.