wikiHow:Policy Proposals/Sources and Citations

This has now closed. This proposal has passed.


  1. Change the current name of "External Links" to "Sources and Citations".
  2. We will only allow links in the "Sources and Citations" sections to be submitted by people who have also made content edits to the article. Therefore, links that are placed by people who only add a link, without adding any content, will automatically be rolled back by RC patrollers.
  3. We will encourage but not require that authors link to any third party sources they used while researching a page they write or edit on wikiHow. Linking to outside sources will not become mandatory since we encourage people to share "home remedies" and quite frequently many topics here are not covered in any other published source.

EditProblems This Tries to Solve

wikiHow has two problems that we can start solving with this proposal:

Problem 1: Subtle Spam

Our goal of creating the world's highest quality, most useful, most accurate how-to manual is being undermined by subtle spam. We deal quickly and decisively with the obvious spam, where an automated bot will leave dozens of non-related links on a page, but when a human editor leaves a link to a website that they want to promote, that link often stays. Over time our articles are adding more and more "subtle spam" external links that are essentially a disservice for our readers. Over time these links will hurt our credibility and ultimately undermine our ability to build a high quality, trusted resource.

Even good RC patrollers do not remove subtle spam. For example, look at all the mostly low value, commercially oriented external links that have been added to this article since the initial author stopped working on it:


And all of these "subtle spam" edits were checked in as OK, recently by multiple different patrollers. (I say this not to point the finger at any RC patrollers; I probably checked in many of these edits too! I suggest this only to show that we don't have a good system right now to NOT allow these sort of spam links):








As wikiHow becomes more popular subtle spam will become an increasing problem for us. Ultimately it threatens to undermine our credibility among readers.

Problem 2: Low Perceived Credibility

All wikis, including wikiHow, suffer from the problem of perceived low credibility. By allowing anyone to edit at any time, we invite people to add information which is not corroborated by any third parties. We can start addressing this problem by encouraging editors to cite their sources. It is considered that a rich selection of external links in "Sources and Citations", all of which will be written by real editors, not spammers, will provide a great resource to readers, enabling them to verify our information for themselves.

EditFuture Scenarios With and Without Proposal

Scenario 1: We Change to "Sources and Citations"

  • Usefulness of links to the reader: All external links will be placed by a real editor of wikiHow who has looked at the external sources and confirmed that they offer valuable information on the subject. Thus the links, for the most part, will be a useful tool that provides a real service to our readers.
  • Number of external links: The number of external links per wikiHow article will probably be more than we have today. Since editors will be encouraged to cite sources, many reference quality links will be added to articles, resulting in good faith editors adding more links. You can see this dynamic already happening on all Wikipedia featured articles. Just scroll down to the bottom to see all the citations.
  • Accuracy of articles: By encouraging editors and authors to cite sources, we will create a dynamic that will make wikiHow more accurate and more helpful over time. Other editors will be able to use these source links to confirm information and to remove inaccuracies. Wikipedia requires this on all articles:
  • Credibility of wikiHow: wikiHow will be seen as a more credible source by readers. The high quality source links and citations will demonstrate that our articles are well researched and accurate.

Scenario 2: We Stay on the Present Course:

  • Usefulness of links to reader: While there will be some useful external links, many, arguably the majority, will be links placed by marketers or "point-of-view pushers". These links, at best, are a disservice to our readers who want a wiki to offer unbiased, helpful, user (not marketer) generated instructions.
  • Number of external links: Much like the expansion in external links on the "buy cheap college textbooks" article, many articles will have dozens of low quality links.
  • Accuracy of articles: No improvement over current situation.
  • Credibility of wikiHow: These low quality links significantly affect our credibility. Readers will begin to view wikiHow skeptically as something controlled by marketers and point-of-view pushers.

EditPrevious Discussions on This Topic

EditFinal Vote

Please help determine the fate of this policy proposal by signing your name in one of the three groups below by writing any comment and then your wiki signature which you do by writing ~~~~ and pressing save.

EditI support this Proposal

  1. Support. I just learned that the Wikipedia now receives 10,000 subtle spam edits a day. Let's avoid that fate. Jack H 16:45, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  2. I support this proposal as it stands now. I admit a little skepticism, but I'm ready to give it a shot. Harold R 17:37, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  3. I support the proposal as modified to include links to valid external sources. Tviren 17:48, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  4. I like this idea. On other sites, I have been guilty of this with out relizing it. Richard 15:27. 20 April 2007 - This user is an impersonator of User:Mocha aka Richard (notice the username is not exactly the same. He is not a real community memember and this vote does not count. Jack H 19:11, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  5. I think this is a good idea. --Tderouin 18:46, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  6. I completely support and welcome the proposal as written Sondra C 19:22, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  7. Fully support. Davecrosby 09:49, 21 April 2007 (GMT)
  8. Completely in favour of this proposal. After its execution, RC Patrollers will not end up just preventing the spam from wikiHow. They will be able to provide even more time to the edits on articles.--Vivek D. 14:25, 21 April 2007 (GMT)
  9. I'm still skeptical, but wikiHow isn't supposed to be a link farm so I'd be willing to give this a shot. Elocina 12:41, 22 April 2007 (GMT)
  10. I support this - we need to get a leash on spam, before we get too much larger. --Versageek 00:49, 23 April 2007 (GMT)
  11. I vote in the affirmative. Mocha 22:04, 22 April 2007 (EST)
  12. This makes sense! Krystle 19:24, 25 April 2007 (GMT)
  13. I think it's worth a shot. Ben Rubenstein 17:45, 25 April 2007 (CST)
  14. Zack 13:23, 26 April 2007 (GMT)
  15. In that this proposal seems to me to be a way of offering support to hard-working patrollers and other editors, I fully embrace it. Since wikiHow runs on the graces of volunteers, and there would be no wikiHow without volunteers, it is always good to make improvements and policies which will help the volunteers. KnowItSome 02:48, 27 April 2007 (GMT)
  16. I support the proposal on the proviso that:
    • a) It is always reinforced that authors/editors do not have to cite sources for their article/additions to stand. Here commonsense should be relied upon as we are trying to create a how to site, not an encyclopedia. Some wisdom is not found in easily referenced book or website or whatever and I feel that we have a more practical means of verifying our info than an encyclopedic approach does. I remain wary of tying ourselves too closely to the expectations set by Wikipedia at this stage of wikiHow's development. I love the idea of us being accurate as can be but I worry about verifiability swamping traditional wisdom of everyday people.
    • b) We continue to work on making it easy for patrollers to know what externals are acceptable and unacceptable in general - this is both in existing and future articles. Without this knowledge, I have some doubts that the exploratory effort required to assess an external link will necessarily be undertaken by hard-pressed patrollers. To verify a person as having both edited and added an external link will often require opening edit history and checking carefully. I am not convinced this will occur each & every time. I do suspect it will slow down patrolling. I'd like to see further development of a clear document on dealing with externals as part of the clarification process for editors and patrollers.
    • c) I would like to think we use some commonsense in patrolling the "one edit" rule when it comes to well-known editors adding a link to an article. In general, I do not think such people are likely to be spamming.
    • d) We reassess the viability of this action at some reasonable future date. I really feel it is only going to be one part of a wider approach we will need to take to spamming and should be viewed as a piece of a broader response.Flickety 03:22, 27 April 2007 (GMT)

I support this proposal. A non contributing editor who wishes to add a link can probably still add it , if it is deemed important, by entering an edit and the link then re- accessing and deleting the dummy edit. A spammer does not have the time to go to that length . On that basis the proposal should only help Wiki How. terrence thompson

EditI don't completely support this Proposal, but I can can live with it.

  1. Neutral - I don't like this proposal, but I can live with it in effect. Misskatie 18:03, 20 April 2007 (GMT) ~~~~
  2. I'm not convinced it will really help, but it's definitely worth a try. -- Jonathan Thorne 19:02, 20 April 2007 (GMT)
  3. I think this is an extra complication to contributing to the site, that is going to have minimum positive impact. However the spam problem has to be dealt with. I think it’s worth a try just to see the effect. Edge 21:24, 22 April 2007 (GMT)
  4. What concerns me the most is what will be done with the multitude of articles that we already have containing External Links. It's going to be a tremendous job to sift through the verifiable links and low quality links. But I suppose this is a start to approach the subtle spam problem, before things get too hectic later. Rob 15:50, 23 April 2007 (GMT)
  5. I am firmly against disallowing adding links without content edits, but as this is apparently viewed as unimportant, I guess I can live with it. Josh W. 22:19, 23 April 2007 (GMT)

EditI am opposed to this proposal

  1. Stargirl 16:50, 20 April 2007 (GMT) I am opposed since editors who have not made other edits to the article should be allowed to add links.

Article Info

Categories: Policy Proposals That Did Pass

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