Wikipedia:Content forking/Internal

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Discussion forks[edit]

Discussions should not be forked to multiple talk pages, noticeboards, or other venues, but centralized in a single place. Opening duplicate discussions wastes editorial time, scatters editorial input, and can even lead to conflicting outcomes. Intentionally forking discussions may be interpreted as forum-shopping or canvassing.

It is sometimes useful to relocate a discussion to a more appropriate page; this is usually effectively done by posting a pointer to the new discussion from the old one, though if discussion continues in the original location, it may be appropriate to close it, for example with:

==Discussion heading here==

{{Discussion top|result= {{Moved discussion to|[[Other page name#Thread name]] }} }}
[Forked discussion here]

{{Discussion bottom}}

When neutrally advertising a discussion to other talk pages, you can help prevent discussion forking at the locations of these notices by prefacing them with {{FYI|pointer=y}}, immediately after the section heading for the notice. It is also helpful to spell out the location of the discussion (e.g., Please see [[Pagename#Thread]].) rather than to effectively hide it with a piped link (e.g., Please see [[Pagename#Thread|this]].).


In most cases, an open discussion is preferably kept at the place where it first began, with split-off discussions closed and retargetted to the oldest open discussion. However, in some of the exceptional cases described below it is also possible, depending on circumstances, that both old and new discussion are kept open concurrently, or that the older discussion is closed rather than the newer one. Examples:

  • When a discussion moves from an article talk page to WP:Dispute resolution noticeboard (WP:DRN), the article talk topic is hardly ever formally closed;
  • When a discussion moves from that noticeboard to another noticeboard, it is always the older DRN discussion that is closed in favour of the newer one.

Content issue versus behavioral issue[edit]

Some pages are not suitable for discussing behavioral issues (e.g. article talk pages, WP:DRN); Other pages are not suitable for discussing the content of a particular mainspace article (e.g. user talk pages, WP:ANI). If an issue inappropriate for the present venue turns up in a discussion that by its nature is otherwise in an appropriate place, the new issue can be split off to an appropriate venue.

Escalation to a broader venue[edit]

If a local consensus fails to emerge (other than perhaps meta-agreement that no clear consensus on the substance can be expected to emerge from the discussion in that place), the discussion may be brought to an appropriate, broader venue. For example, whether to include information from a given source can, if the discussion remains unresolved, be escalated to WP:RSN; or, if the content regards a living person, to WP:BLPN; etc.

Patently wrong venue[edit]

If a new discussion topic is opened in a venue where it doesn't belong (e.g. an issue regarding the biography of a 19th-century person at WP:BLPN), the topic may be closed or moved to a more appropriate venue. (See also: {{Wrong venue}} and {{Moved discussion to}}.)

User talk[edit]

While splitting up user-talk discussions is most often undesirable and potentially confusing or unconducive to resolution of issues, users have broad leeway to reply on their own talk page or that of a particular editor to issues or questions that are sometimes inappropriately raised elsewhere, and may ping the other editor(s) to that new thread. "Take it to user talk" is a common response to inter-personal conflicts that pop up in article talk pages, for example, where the focus should be on content. Some users may request that a reply to something they have posted at one talk page be taken to their own (or not taken to their own). Some may also prefer to move a discussion mostly about another user or topic from their own talk page or even to a noticeboard; or to refactor the off-topic portion to somewhere else; or to close the original discussion and open a new one at a more appropriate venue. There are no hard-and-fast rules about such matters. In general, if an editor expresses such a preference and it is not a big deal to you, just go along with it. Remember that the community norm is to respect, within reason, the wishes of another editor with regard to the management and use of their own talk page.

Clarity about venue[edit]

A bit of advice for closers of discussions: It is best to not leave participants in a discussion guessing where to go next after a discussion has been closed – regardless of the nature of the discussion (other than {{hat}}'ed trolling and the like). E.g., at WP:AE and WP:ANI, a closing admin imposing a restriction will usually include where and after how much time the sanction can be appealed. Or, the closer of a requested move that didn't quite come to a consensus will often suggest to give the matter a rest for a few months and then to open a new RM with a narrowed rationale and more data, at the same venue. Or, a no consensus close of an RfC, in which two sides both cite a large number of sources but cannot reach agreement on the sources' reliability, might be recommend WP:RSN for some source examination by uninvolved parties.

Policy forks[edit]

It is never constructive to attempt to create a new page or section of WP:POLICY-style material that conflicts with or contradicts an existing one. This applies to any proposed policy, guideline, supplement, information page, wikiproject advice page, help/how-to page, or any other material meant to provide serious advice for editors or to establish rules or best practices. Even a proposal that is simply redundant will not be accepted, but merged or deleted, as retaining separate pages covering the same issue would inevitably lead to diverging advice and avoidable conflict between editors. The same concerns apply to modifying an existing page of this sort to conflict with another existing one. In particular, forking topic-specific guidance to conflict with site-wide norms is against the Consensus policy. (If you're certain a general rule needs a special exception, propose that an exception be listed at that rule, rather than fork your own erstaz "counter-rule".)

When summary style is applied to such material – e.g., with one narrow page summarizing the applicable guidance of another, broader one – the original page or section should be linked to from the summarizing one, and it may be appropriate to use a {{Main}} template atop the summarizing section to point to the original prominently. This helps people find the controlling material, and helps editors keep the advice and its language compatible across pages.

If you disagree with the wording or interpretation of any policy material (broadly defined), the appropriate process is to open a discussion on its talk page and seek consensus to change or clarify it. While an attempt to just boldly change the content without prior discussion is not forbidden, there is a high likelihood that it will be reverted, because changes to these materials require an elevated level of care and acceptance.

Essay forks[edit]

Wikipedia essays that serve an op-ed purpose are often forked intentionally and permissibly, to provide differing perspectives.

However, a few essays, and other types of pages with the authority level of essays (i.e., below policies and guidelines) are informational not opinional, and are well-accepted by the community, representing a broad consensus. It is not constructive to do something like draft up your own opposition version that directly contradicts a page like WP:Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions, Help:Images, WP:Compromised accounts, WP:Core content policies, or WP:Five pillars (humor pages aside). If you disagree with something in a page like this, it is more productive to propose a change to the current version at its talk page.

Even for opinional essays, avoid creating a new essay page when an existing one can be expanded to include your new material (even if it is a counterpoint, in a new section for that). Wikipedia already has more essays than anyone will ever read. This is both a maintenance problem and a limitation on how much influence your material could have. You will find a bigger and more attentive audience if your work can practicably be integrated (with consensus) into an essay that is frequently read than if you create a new page no one knows about or is likely to discover. However, highly personal ruminations are best as stand-alone pages; avoid changing the overall nature and thrust of an existing community or single-author essay. Such materials generally belong in the "User:" namespace; especially contrarian or idiosyncratic essays in "Wikipedia:" namespace are often user-spaced or even removed by WP:Miscellany for deletion.

If you do feel your material should be in a separate page, please ensure that it is categorized appropriately in the subcategories of Category:Wikipedia essays (if in the "Wikipedia:" namespace) or Category:User essays (if in the "User:" namespace), has cross-references to it in the "See also" sections of other relevant essays (to avoid the orphaned essay problem), and see Wikipedia:Essays § Finding essays for some indexes in which to list your essay and a brief description of it. Unless you expect that people will frequently refer to the essay on talk pages, it is not necessary and is even undesirable to create a shortcut for it; the available intelligible shortcuts are a finite resource.

Redundant essays should be merged. If you run across some, consider proposing them for merger, or if they are disused and their principal authors are not active, boldly just doing the merge yourself.

Process forks[edit]

Process-forking (or procedure-forking) is generally a poor idea. Process is important (both as to benefits and costs), so a new process should not be created (especially not an overlapping one) without a community consensus that there's a need for it. Unnecessary process is undesirable and counter-productive. No one is going to take it seriously if you create a "WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents/Biochemistry" as a topical alternative to WP:AN/I; it would be deleted quickly. Many wikiprojects have found that after creating an "/Assessment" or "/Peer review" process subpage that no one ever uses it; try to create sufficient editorial interest in running a peer review process first, to ensure that it will be practical. Similarly, it is strongly discouraged to create a new wikiproject or taskforce/workgroup without a consensus at Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Proposals that it will be useful and will have sufficient participation.

Disruptive process-forking: Creating a new process page in opposition to an established one will almost certainly be interpreted as disruptive, and get sent to WP:Miscellany for deletion (MfD). Wikiprojects are a form, or at least locus, of process. A bogus wikiproject set up as a "canvassing farm" – to oppose a consensus, lobby for changes to policy, over-control article content for a specific viewpoint, or any other activity antithetical to Wikipedia goals and smooth operation, will be deleted with prejudice at MfD.

Some process forks can have incidentally disruptive effects – usually a result of insufficient competence with Wikipedia norms, procedures, and maintenance tools, or an improper understanding of how project organization and management work. An example is the creation of new (or modification of existing) content assessment classes, which breaks compatibility with various templates, bots, and categories. A related example is the forking of general wikiprojects into increasingly narrow sub-topical ones (especially without a successful WP:WikiProject Council/Proposal); this simultaneously drains editorial activity from the viable, broader wikiprojects, and sets up too-narrow "micro-projects" which become moribund within a year or less due to too few participants. Another type of case is the creation of a wanna-be noticeboard on a topical basis; it is not within a wikiproject's scope or authority to set up a kangaroo court of a dispute resolution and sanctions venue to enforce its viewpoint on content matters. Yet another example is the creation of a bogus pseudo-process inside a wikiproject to change article titles to suit the preferences of the project participants, and bypass established WP:Requested moves process; one project trying this caused a tremendous amount of disruption over several years until a move review and an RfC reversed them.

Remember that a "local consensus" among a small group of editors can't override site-wide consensus – including about how Wikipedia operates – absent a very good reason that the community accepts.

Some process forking has been organic, with different – even confusingly dissimilar – procedures evolving over time for rather parallel processes. These have polar tendencies to either slowly normalize towards each other, or to become ingrained and ossified. The former is preferable since it reduces the number and peculiarity of rules and systems that Wikipedians are expected to learn and comply with.

Template forks[edit]

Wikipedia has thousands of templates (what in most other contexts would be called scripts) that produce reader- and editor-visible, pre-formatted output. Many of these form consistent series that are explicitly intended to produce similar and compatible results. While there is some room for variation (e.g., many infoboxes and navboxes subtly use color associated with the topic, such as a sports team), "output forking" the results of one of a set of templates to clash with the rest of them is not constructive.

Just directly forking the code of a template is often ill-advised. New templates that substantially duplicate the behavior of old ones with a minor variation are usually merged and redirected by WP:Templates for deletion (TfD) back into the parent template, either as an undesired variant, or as an output option simply toggled with an additional template parameter. Templates that output something radically different from Wikipedia's normal style or expected needs are usually simply deleted outright. Unnecessary templates have considerable editorial maintenance costs, so TfD is a busy place. See also WP:What Wikipedia is not, especially the sections on it not being a Web host, a social-networking site, a publisher of original ideas, a forum, or a soapbox for promotion. A large number of inappropriate template and output forks are attempts to impose a personal "design vision" on something, to add features that don't belong in an encyclopedia, or to visually emphasize something in an undue way. (If such a template has legitimate uses in the "User:" or "Wikipedia:" namespaces, it might be retained but re-coded to not produce such output in mainspace articles.)

If consensus has been achieved for a template to format something a particular way (e.g for accessibility reasons), or to not include some information deemed inappropriate, it is generally not okay to fork your own copy that does it the way you wish consensus had settled on.

Finally, when two templates are very similar (or a old-style template and a newer Lua module are, and the template does not already rely on the module), and they are kept un-merged for a reason, it is not helpful to fork their options – especially what parameters are supported and what their names are – without a very good reason to do so. It makes using our templates much more difficult for everyone when related ones are not in-sync.

See also[edit]