The 3 rules of Wikipedia biographies

Wikipedia is a free, crowd-sourced encyclopedia that holds its users accountable for its contents. The site is all about volunteering knowledge and, theoretically, anyone in the world can post information about anything. But there are guard rails. The Wikipedia community has several requirements and unofficial guidelines that all updates and new entries must meet.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Autobiographies are a Non-Starter
Having a personal Wikipedia page is awesome: It’s a sign of clout, it ranks well in search engines, and it tells the world you did something worth knowing about. So why doesn’t everyone have a Wikipedia profile page? Because Wikipedia is not Facebook.

Wikipedia exists to note the notable, vetted by interested people who serve as proof that someone cares about the contents of an entry. Which leads us to the first rule for getting a Wikipedia biography about you published:

1. Have someone else post it because autobiographies are rejected on Wikipedia.

This is logical. Wikipedia is a site for useful information, not self-promotion. Someone else has to care about the content of the entry — go you! But the truth is that, even if you don’t have a single friend in the world, you could create an account under a fake name and try to post an entry on yourself (we didn’t tell you that). Even if you result to skullduggery, it still has to be a biography, not an autobiography — and it will be vetted by a volunteer army. Any chance of success comes down to language (watch your pronouns!) and verifiability, two points we’ll address next.

Get Neutral
Most of the time, it’s insulting to be called a fence sitter. On Wikipedia, however, maintaining a neutral position is imperative to getting published. Words like terrible or great don’t fly — your entry should read like hard news, not an Op/Ed. Which leads to the second Wikipedia rule, one we affectionately call the law of Sgt. Joe Friday:

2. Stick to the facts, not your opinion on them.

Following this language rule will ensure your submission’s tone of voice is consistent with the Wikipedia community’s expectations. It will also conveniently make it much easier to comply with the third rule for having your own Wikipedia entry…

Show the Receipts
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, 12 references are still required for it to get its own Wikipedia entry. Verifiability is the lifeblood of Wikipedia entries, and it is earned by linking to reputable external sources. With the spirit of a scientific research paper but the flexibility of a creative blog post, sources on Wikipedia can include articles, company websites, books, TV shows, podcasts, YouTube videos, other Wikipedia entries…you name it. But prestige counts for a lot:

3. Reference credible, well-known news publications as much as possible.

This, of course, implies that you already have an online news presence. We’re here to help if you need assistance with that.