Proposal:Raising and resolving article quality issues

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Status (see valid statuses)

The status of this proposal is:
Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

Strategic Priorities

This proposal is associated with the bolded strategic priorities below.


  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content.
  3. Increase Participation.
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


Summary

  1. Add a "signal an issue with this article" tab to article pages, making it easier for readers to signal quality issues.
  2. Automatically provide lists of articles needing attention sorted by article topic, making it easier for editors to resolve quality issues.

Background and motivation

As Wikipedia matures, and many fields of knowledge have achieved extensive coverage, more attention should be paid to quality issues.

Sometimes, while browsing Wikipedia, one comes across an issue with an article – something unclear, implausible, inconsistent, or plainly wrong – which on further inspection appears to have been duly noted years earlier by some reader on the article's discussion page, but no one has taken action on the issue. At least on the English Wikipedia there is the reaction of {{Uw-sofixit}}:

Thank you for your suggestion. When you believe an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top.

However, the user who noted the issue may not have the time, knowledge, or required resources (such as access to reliable sources), to go beyond noting the issue.

For every user who takes the effort of noting an issue on the discussion page, there are possibly a dozen who note the issue but don't realize the article comes with a discussion page for discussion related to improving the article.

The proposal comes in two parts. The first is to make it easier for a reader to signal an issue concerning article quality. The second is to make it easier for editors to find articles with issues that are likely to be in the scope of their expertise or interest.

Detailed proposal

Part 1. Easier signalling of quality issues

Most Wikipedia users have never edited Wikipedia, and may not be inclined to learn to do so just to signal an issue they spot. To make this easy for such users, there should be a prominent signal an issue with this article link (tab, button). Clicking it then should bring up a window with a text such as "Please describe precisely but briefly the issue you have found with this article" with a text entry box, and possibly a list of check boxes ("check as many as apply") labelled with some classifications such as "unclear", "wrong or inaccurate", "dubious", or "garbled text"). Effectively this would then add a section to the article's discussion page. If not already signed, the comment would be autosigned as if " ~~~~" had been appended.

Part 2. Automatic sorting of articles with issues

At least on the English Wikipedia, some tags place articles in a category indicating a quality issue. For example, {{Unreferenced}} puts – depending on how it is used – the article thus tagged in Category:Articles lacking sources or Category:Articles needing additional references. Likewise, {{Clarify}} puts the article automatically in Category:Wikipedia articles needing clarification.

Such categories exist for many quality issues, but finding out which tag will put the article in the appropriate category is not a simple issue for most readers. This also requires that the tag be placed on the article's page, not the discussion page. But what is most problematic is that while a classification according to the kind of issue is useful, it lumps together articles about all categories of topics. This may be the reason that (at least on the English Wikipedia) there is a tremendous backlog. For example, the article Circular dependency has been tagged as needing clarification since December 2006. The editor who can rewrite Circular dependency in a clearer way is unlikely to be easily able to supply sources for List of Japanese political figures in early Showa period, tagged as lacking sources since August 2006, and vice versa.

The proposal here is to create lists, through an automatic process (whether using the category mechanism or some other, bot-assisted method), of articles needing attention sorted according to article topic. Quality issues raised on article discussion pages should also put the article on such lists. Sorting by topic rather than kind-of-issue is likely to be more effective. Ideally, each article should be assigned to at least one WikiProject, such as WikiProject Computer science on the English Wikipedia, and the list of computer-science related articles needing attention (which would then include Circular dependency) should be easily accessible from there. If not through a WikiProject, it should be possible to get a list of articles with issues that are in a given category or a (not too deep) subcategory, such as Category:Computer languages. Given such a list, the user consulting it should be able to sort it by several criteria, such as date, kind of issue, and article category. This way, editors wishing to devote some time to improving flagged articles will be able to focus their attention on those articles that are within the scope of their expertise or interest.


Key Questions

Would making it easier to tag an article as having problems distract people from just fixing those problems?


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Raising and resolving article quality issues.

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