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Wikipedia:An article about yourself isn't necessarily a good thing

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Thinking of writing an article about yourself? Beware, because the "mirror" will reflect both your virtues and aspects of your private life that you would prefer to keep to yourself.

Are you planning to write a Wikipedia article about yourself? Are you planning to pay for someone to write an article on your behalf? Before you proceed, please take some time to thoroughly understand the principles and policies of Wikipedia, especially one of its most important policies, the neutral point of view (NPOV) policy.

Wikipedia seeks neutrality. An article about you written by anyone must be editorially neutral. It will not take sides and will report both the good and the bad about you from verifiable and reliable sources. It will not promote you. It will just contain factual information about you from independent, reliable sources.

This is a mixed blessing.

Some accomplishment or event, good or bad, may give you notability enough to qualify for a Wikipedia article. Once you have become a celebrity, your personal life may be exposed. No one is perfect, so your faults may get reported, and overreported, and reported enough to end up on Wikipedia. Even if you have lived a life free of scandal, and your Wikipedia article is spotless, at some time in the future your first publicized mistake may well end up getting into that article. Suddenly your fame may turn into highly publicized infamy. Yes, Wikipedia is highly publicized! It is mirrored and copied all over the place. Some reporters use Wikipedia as a source for their articles, so information about the mistakes you have made which end up in the Wikipedia article about you and which are covered in independent reliable published sources may be repeated.


Getting attention is not always a good thing

An article about yourself is nothing to be proud of. The neutral point of view (NPOV) policy will ensure that both the good and the bad about you will be told, that whitewashing is not allowed, and that the conflict of interest (COI) guideline limits your ability to edit out any negative material from an article about yourself. There are serious consequences of ignoring these, and the "Law of Unintended Consequences" works on Wikipedia.[1] If your faults are minor and relatively innocent, then you have little to fear, but coveting "your" own article isn't something to seek, because it won't be your "own" at all. Once it's in Wikipedia, it is viewed by the world and cannot be recalled.

For example, Tiger Woods is one of the most accomplished golfers, yet his possible fall from grace is mentioned in his article.[1] Michael Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals in Olympic history, but his drunk driving arrests in 2004 and 2014 and a bong photo published in 2009 are both mentioned on Wikipedia, not violating Wikipedia's BLP guidelines. Rolf Harris has been regarded as a national treasure for many decades, but his arrest and prosecution for child abuse was widely reported in the mainstream and broadsheet media, and it would be against Wikipedia's neutrality policy to not include it.

Elected officials (such as heads of state), entertainers with commercialized productions, authors of published materials, and professional athletes can reasonably expect various details of their personal lives to receive coverage.

While having a Wikipedia article may make you a celebrity of some sort, be ready to have your personal life exposed. If you are seen at the side of the road being issued a speeding ticket, and that gets reported, it may end up in an article about you. If your house is foreclosed and this gets reported, it may find its way onto Wikipedia. And if you get into an argument with another person in public, someone may report that in a reliable source, and it will be fair game for Wikipedia.

So is a Wikipedia article about yourself good for a resumé? Probably not. On a resumé, you want to tell all the best about yourself. Even if one day the article looks great, it may tell something very different the next. The nature of a wiki is such that information can change at any time. So beware — your boss, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or anyone else you are trying to impress may think one thing of you on one day, and you may lose all that respect by the next. All because of well-verified information in your Wikipedia article.

Hopefully, by the time you are ready for a Wikipedia article that would meet all inclusion guidelines to exist, you already know what fame feels like, are already aware of what is being said about you, and what to expect.

Miscellaneous things to be aware of

A memorial has been erected. It may be ignored by most passers-by, but it will surely be noticed by someone.

These are some miscellaneous things you should know in order to be prepared for there to be an article about you. They may be good or bad, depending on your expectations.

  • Since all information added to Wikipedia must be verifiable, this may make it difficult or impossible to defend yourself against sourced negative information added to an article about you. If the information is added within guidelines, you cannot tell "your side" of the story or otherwise provide a response other than what has already been reported in reliable sources.
  • Most terms, when entered into a Google search, will reveal 1–2 Wikipedia articles with an identical or closely matching title within the top 10, and often the first two hits. If there is an article about you, and your name is googled, especially if it is uncommon, chances are the article will come up as one of the first hits.
  • Wikipedia is cloned by many other sites and has many mirrors and forks, perhaps hundreds that follow a single article. If your name was never previously found via a Google search, and suddenly there is an article about you, it may lead to dozens of Google hits that are all some variation of either the current or a previous version of the article.
    A previous version of the article may contain possibly inaccurate derogatory statements which are not subject to editorial correction without a long, difficult and in some cases almost impossible process of locating, contacting, and persuading the person in control of the offending webpage to make the corrections you desire. Litigation might even be required, which would require advance expenditures and might not be successful.
  • There is a site called Deletionpedia that preserves copies of deleted Wikipedia articles. Even if you or someone else manages to get the article about you deleted, it may turn up there.
  • Random articles are often found by hitting the "Random article" tab on the left. Though there is no way of knowing exactly how often a random article is searched, whenever the number of times this occurs exceeds the number of Wikipedia articles, there is a good chance (about 63.2%) that the article about you will be displayed to someone. Unless you are very well-known, that person probably has no prior knowledge of you, and is unlikely to care much one way or the other who you are or what you have done. That person, however, may examine the notability of the article, or look out for other issues it may have.
  • Even if there is nothing bad to say about you, vandalism on Wikipedia is quite common, and most articles are vandalized by someone at one time or another. Vandalism consists of a variety of additions, removals, and other changes, often including hate speech (possibly against your ethnicity or the cause you stand for), profanity, inappropriate images, external links, or just random characters. Vandalism is generally reverted quickly, but unless oversighted, will remain permanently in the edit history. Most edit histories are likely ignored unless they bear some significance. (Older versions that remained around for some time are often robotically cloned to other sites.)
  • If you share a name with one or more other people, there is a good chance the article will be found by someone either on a disambiguation page or hatnote who may otherwise have no interest in who you are but may read the article out of curiosity. For example, the article titled Michael Jackson is about the pop singer. It bears a hatnote that reads For other persons named Michael Jackson, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation). That page lists a few dozen other lesser-known people who have this common name. The article about James Joyce (the novelist) contains a hatnote that reads This article is about the 20th-century writer with a link that leads to articles on other people called James Joyce, for example a baseball umpire and a 19th century politician. You would probably not expect that a reader looking for information about a specific person would read up on a different person in an unrelated field simply because that different person shares the specific person's name (e.g. you probably wouldn't expect someone trying to find out about the writer named James Joyce to read up on the congressmen named James Joyce simply because of the shared name), but there are many curious people who just might do exactly that.
  • If you do not push to have an article about you on Wikipedia, but one was created without your involvement, you are probably notable for something to begin with. Any negative coverage about you has probably been known already to someone. But since Wikipedia joins multiple sources of information about you together, something that is not known to readers of one external source may suddenly be known just because Wikipedia readers are given instant access to multiple sources. In addition to being summarized within the article, footnoted sources are often external links, and readers of the article can then click on them and read in full something they would otherwise not know. So if Source A says only nice things about you, and Source B includes some things that are less-than-nice, someone who has relied on Source A (who thought nice things about you) and then decides also to read Wikipedia may suddenly learn about what is in Source B.

How Wikipedia's COI guideline applies

No ownership of articles

You do not own "your" article and cannot control what is in it. Read the conflict of interest (COI) guideline. It applies to you and limits your ability to edit out any negative material from "your" article. There can be serious consequences if you ignore this guideline because the Law of Unintended Consequences always applies:

If you write in Wikipedia about yourself, your group, your company, or your pet idea, once the article is created, you have no right to control its content, and no right to delete it outside our normal channels. Content is not deleted just because somebody doesn't like it. Any editor may add material to or remove material from the article within the terms of our content policies. If there is anything publicly available on a topic that you would not want included in an article, it will probably find its way there eventually. More than one user has created an article only to find themself presented in a poor light long-term by other editors. If you engage in an edit war in an attempt to obtain a version of your liking you may have your editing access removed, perhaps permanently.
In addition, if your article is found not to be worthy of inclusion in the first place, it will be deleted, as per our deletion policies. Therefore, don't create promotional or other articles lightly, especially on subjects you care about.

No autobiographies

The one fundamental rule for inclusion of any article here is notability as established in third party sources. Too many biographies exist here on people who aren't really all that notable, but by "squeezing blood" out of their pitifully few "turnips", they end up with a biography. They may think it's a good thing, but many end up regretting it. Even many famous people wish they didn't have a biography here. Some have threatened to sue Wikipedia to get theirs removed, but few succeed, as well they shouldn't.

Biographies should really only be written by third parties who discover a person's notability because they are truly notable, not because a friend or family member thinks they are more notable than they really are. We don't have autobiographies here, so if you started the article and thought you could promote yourself with a hagiographic article, you will quickly discover that you can't eat your cake and have it too. Why? Because your "autobiography" will quickly be turned into a biography. According to our policies, once the article has "gone public", it is too late for the author to do much of anything to keep it only positive, especially because it is thanks to NPOV that unsavory details get added, as they should. In fact, such attempts are considered disruptive and a violation of our NPOV policy. If the author now regrets that such details have been added and (mis)uses the "articles for deletion" (AFD) process to plead for the article to be deleted, their pleadings will actually violate the principles written above. They should have known about the COI warning above, but they chose to ignore it. Too bad. One could say that this is the just rewards of attempting to misuse Wikipedia for promotion or advocacy. We don't write hagiographies or sales brochures here, and we don't allow whitewashing.

This is a serious encyclopedia, not a free webhosting service where personal articles can be written and displayed on the world's biggest "billboard". To seek to misuse Wikipedia to write a hagiography, and then seek to misuse the AfD process to undo the unintended consequences of ignoring policies just won't do. One cannot rejoice when a policy-violating article somehow initially makes it through, but then regret when it gets revised into an article that abides by our NPOV policy. Such an AfD strikes right at the heart of our most sacred policy, NPOV. The proper response to all such AfDs is to keep the article with its negative content and make it even better.

What can be learned from all this? Seeking fame comes with a price, and part of that price may be an article here! "The higher they climb, the harder they fall." Self-promotion is often not a good thing, because "pride goes before a fall."

Articles about companies and organizations

Wal-Mart is renowned for selling plenty of goods at low prices, but the company is also opposed for a variety of reasons.

Just like an article about you or someone close to you, articles about companies and organizations can face the same issues. It may be exciting if the company you started and are trying to grow gets a Wikipedia article, but the purpose of the article is not to sell its goods or services, or to link to sites that do so (though a company's own site may be linked). Articles here are not sales brochures.

An article about a company or organization is not here to promote it; it is here to tell about it from a neutral point of view, using the information published about it in reliable sources. In many cases this will often include criticism of the company.

Many articles on companies and organizations have their own criticism sections. Some even have their own sub-articles devoted to those criticisms (e.g. Criticism of Wal-Mart, Criticism of Amnesty International). Wikipedia's mission is not to damage a company's or organization's reputation. Negative thoughts about these entities will probably be well-known to some of the public, and opinions one way or the other will be well-formulated in many people long before such an article is written, but once that article is written, many more people will know.

Still, even a single sourced scandal involving a company that is in its infancy, or even in a company around for a long time, can end up on Wikipedia. For example, the Peanut Corporation of America wound up with a Wikipedia article as a result of a food safety scandal. It was the scandal itself, not the Wikipedia article that led to the company's demise, but the company had no mention on Wikipedia until the scandal broke in the news, and the article certainly didn't help the company.

Some comforting thoughts

Believe it or not, Wikipedia will usually treat you more kindly than the rest of the world. While the goal of Wikipedia is to document all significant knowledge, facts, events, people, history, opinions, etc., it has some rules that serve to ensure accuracy, and also to reduce the risk of libel and malicious gossip from becoming a part of your biography. You can be sure that The National Enquirer, private websites and blogs, radio and TV, and even some newspapers, will not treat you as kindly as Wikipedia does. Even though you will have a significant conflict of interest that limits your right to edit your biography, you will still have a right to use its talk page to make suggestions and to request the correction of inaccurate information.

Policies and guidelines that serve this purpose are:

So even if you have an article here that contains negative information, comfort yourself with the thought that things could be much worse, just like they probably are outside of Wikipedia. Out there it can be hard to defend yourself, while here there are policies that you can use to do so. To top it off, your article here will probably become the highest ranked by search engines rather quickly.


  1. ^ For example, author Robert Clark Young is now better known for his attempts to add fluff to his own Wikipedia article than he was ever known for his books. Many other famous people have been embarrassed when caught editing their own articles – see Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia

See also

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