How to Identify Mean Spirited Articles on wikiHow

Two Parts:Identifying mean-spirited articlesDealing with mean-spirited articles

wikiHow is a valuable repository of useful, helpful and thoughtful material intended to help people do a wide range of activities or achieve certain goals. As such, the spirit of this website is underpinned by caring about people, being considerate of a range of beliefs, values and ideas, and giving a space for a variety of ways to successfully achieve things in life. Sometimes, an article that is added to wikiHow may be filled with mean-spirited content that is intended to upset a reader by being insulting, offensive or spreading negativity. Such articles are not within the keeping of the spirit of wikiHow, and they are not considered useful, desirable or supportive of wikiHow's mission. Knowing how to spot such articles and then knowing what to do with them will allow you to contribute to keeping wikiHow's mission on track, ensuring that what is kept on site will benefit readers.

Part 1
Identifying mean-spirited articles

  1. 1
    Familiarise yourself with the criteria for mean-spirited. At its most basic, it is defined as: "Instructions promoting destructive or mean spirited behavior or activities".[1] In more detailed terms, here are some things to consider when determining whether or not an article is likely to be mean-spirited:
    • Is the content singling out a certain stereotype, group of people, set of values, etc., in such a way as to denigrate, demean or undermine them? Is it entirely negative, attacking such persons or values?
    • Does the content use someone's real name and proceed to say lots of unkind things about that person (disparaging, reputation-muddying, cruel jibes)? (If so, it should also be speedily removed.)
    • Does the content suggest hurting someone, teasing someone in a cruel manner, bullying, exposing a person, making a person feel vulnerable or despised, stalking someone, etc.?
    • As you read the content, does it seem as if the author is sneering, sniggering or insulting you as a reader or the subject it is written about? In this case, it may also cross over into being sarcastic..
  2. 2
    Be aware of what is not likely to be mean-spirited. Although it does annoy or even upset some people, there are areas on wikiHow that are not considered to be mean-spirited without closer examine of their context. For example, pranks, tricks, cheating and practical jokes, fighting and arguing are "grey areas", in which it is perfectly possible for legitimate, common sense and useful information to be imparted. It will depend on the context. To help you learn about the nuanced decision-making required with such topics, take a look at some of the articles on wikiHow that are not considered mean-spirited owing to the way in which they're presented and are considered to be useful:
  3. 3
    Use your knowledge, experience and broader understanding to decide from the context whether or not an article is mean-spirited. This requires you to step outside of your own beliefs, values and biases, to take an objective view of the article, so as to avoid using "I don't like what it says" as the only criteria for its removal. Simply because something doesn't agree with your point of view or it takes a different perspective from you won't automatically make it mean-spirited.
    • Be aware that there is a crossover between mean-spirited as a reason and illegal. If the activity is illegal in many places around the world and is dangerous, hateful, etc., then you can also use the Illegal NFD reason to have it removed.

Part 2
Dealing with mean-spirited articles

  1. 1
    Keep an eye out for mean-spirited articles as you patrol, edit and move about the site. However, keep the need for balance in mind; the intention is not to spot meanness everywhere; remember that not liking a topic is not the same as it being mean.
  2. 2
    Try to approach with a view to fixing before deleting, where appropriate. See whether it's possible to change the content in the article. For example, if it seems to you that one or two sentences, or one step, tip or warning, is mean-spirited, then remove it or rewrite it, so that the mean-spirited aspect is gone. It may well be that one editor dropped in and left a silly comment that shouldn't be there, and it's a simple matter of removing that element. Fixing is the wiki way and it's a good chance to practice your editing skills. On the other hand, if the whole article is irredeemable and no amount of editing could remove its mean-spirited slant, then it will be best to nominate it for deletion, as explained in the next step.
  3. 3
    Nominate a mean-spirited article for deletion. Once you are satisfied that you've found an article that is mean-spirited, comparing the criteria along with analysing it from your own personal knowledge of what is thought to be mean-spirited, add the NFD tag. For mean-spirited, this is: . It is also a really good idea to leave your reason on the Discussion Page of the article, to help those making a decision about the article understand your reasoning for adding the NFD tag.
  4. 4
    Add a speedy if the content is heinous. The speedy tag will bring the article to the attention of administrators who are patrolling and checking for articles in need of fast deletion. This is done using the simple tag of: {{speedy}}. There is no need to add the mean-spirited reason as well, although it can be helpful if the administrator decides that the article isn't to be speedily removed but can still undergo the deletion process.
    • Example of things to be "speedied" include: Attacks on people or groups of people, angry rants, defamatory comments, threats, harassment, exposing personal details, nasty comments, etc.


  • Realise that the majority of people in this world have a good heart. Moreover, many of those that do silly edits here are often doing little more than testing boundaries, testing this site's responsiveness or seeking attention for a variety of reasons. As editors and patrollers, it's not our place to judge people lightly. There are many cases in which contributors who have "mucked about" on wikiHow have actually come to love the place and contribute with great care and respect. As such, be respectful towards the person but make it clear that the mean-spirited content is not acceptable. It is often sufficient to show that editors are responsive to bad edits and will swiftly remove them, for such persons to either cease or to realise that it's a better use of their energies to add useful information.
  • Remember that wikiHow is considered and wishes to remain so considered, a kind and caring community. This can be part of what underpins your thinking about mean-spirited content.
  • The Deletion Policy and understanding what wikiHow is not are both worth a look at to broaden your NFD detection skills. Step 7 of the latter article states: "Understand that wikiHow is not a place to vandalize. Inappropriate or mean-spirited content will be deleted. Be of good faith. Testing is permitted and encouraged, in the Sandbox, to learn how to edit. Disrupting the community, or encouraging others to do so, is strongly discouraged. If you vandalize or misuse templates, serious action may be taken".
  • On the flip side, you can dispute a tag where you consider this would be more helpful.

Article Info

Categories: Article Deletion