RationalWiki:What is a RationalWiki article?
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What is a RationalWiki article? RationalWiki articles encompass many things and many goals. These vary slightly from other wiki based projects, so this is a guideline about what a RationalWiki article should be, and importantly what it should not be.
Note: This applies only to main namespace articles, which is what is meant by "rational wiki article". Other namespaces may have different standards or no standards at all. This document is, like pretty much everything else, free to be altered by anyone who feels they have something to add or change about it.
RationalWiki is not an encyclopedia
“”When sitting down to write an article for RationalWiki, remember that it is not an encyclopedia.
Many of the contributors for RationalWiki will be most familiar with wikis that are attempting to be an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias are collections of knowledge, with articles neatly and thoroughly describing a topic and giving pointers about where to go to find the original data or learn what is beyond the scope of the encyclopedia article. Wikipedia is the real big fish in this online pond, but others, such as Citizendium, Conservapedia and Google's "knol" thing, are other examples. Additionally, there are "fan" encyclopedias that don't restrict themselves to real life, Memory-Alpha and Wookiepedia being prominent examples. There are also very subject-specific encyclopedias developing all the time.
Most of the contributors at RationalWiki enjoy Wikipedia, and we encourage people to use it for research, fun, or anything else that requires more encyclopedic and neutral articles. We cannot and do not want to compete with Wikipedia - we are attempting to create something that is different but hopefully complementary to the projects started by the Wikimedia Foundation.
RationalWiki is not neutral point of view
“”A RationalWiki article is not afraid to clearly state that some idea is bullshit.
In line with the "not an encyclopedia" guideline, RationalWiki is not required to present a "neutral" point-of-view (POV). While this doesn't mean that it censors, hides or ignores things, it does mean that it is uncompromising on what is right and what is wrong, and most importantly, why this is so. As a site, RationalWiki does have a strong point of view; and that point of view is that the scientific method and the information gained from its application is better than almost anything else humanity has come up with. The site's POV is that the support of, profiting from and creation of pseudosciences is as dangerous as it is wrong. Articles are created from this perspective, demonstrating the strength of science and the folly of the cranks. Similarly, articles relating to Authoritarianism, logical fallacies and similar ideas need to expose their flaws and dangers.
RationalWiki is original research
“”These are collaborative essays as much as articles.
RationalWiki is not an attempt to be a repository of knowledge that has already been written. This means that collection and synthesis of sources into new ideas is actively encouraged. While references are always desired, writers should feel free to draw conclusions not clearly stated in a source, and feel free to synthesize multiple sources into a new pattern. Writers should feel free to offer commentary and analysis that is outside their sources, providing they can explain it well. They should feel free to slant the content (but not the facts) towards the goals of our site - there are a wide array of writing styles, from the deadly serious to outright sarcasm, that can be used in order to make points clear.
RationalWiki does have a sense of humor
“”This page needs more goat!
While most of our random jokes will wind up in the Fun: namespace (which is there to make it abundantly clear when the site is not being serious), RationalWiki articles do not abandon the humor that has been cultivated by the community over its history. Indeed, this plays an important part of what differentiates a RationalWiki article from a Wikipedia article; the archetypal Wikipedia article being perfectly neutral, dry as the Sahara Desert and devoid of all adjectives. Sarcasm, satire, absurdist commentary, frank language and witty asides are all part of how the site wants to present its material to the world. It makes it both fun to edit and fun to read.
For the main space though humor should be directed at making a point. RationalWiki has a point of view and a goal; if the humor helps highlight our point in a constructive manner then it's probably better than the dry and "not funny" option!
RationalWiki can be serious
“”Someone should have finished reading a page having learned something more than five new goat jokes and a random bash against Andrew Schlafly.
Perhaps this is more important than the above point, but as with all things, humor cannot be all things to all people. Articles that do not have any real serious material or point probably are best placed in the Fun: namespace, or even deleted outright. Remember, the main name space is what we present to new users as "who we are and what we can do for you" - if the first thing they see is an article that is nothing but inside jokes, not only may it make them ignore the good aspects of good articles but it may well drive them away entirely.
How to RationalWikify an article
“”You can always be bold - mistakes only happen 5% of the time and can be undone. But if in doubt, the talk pages for articles are open to anything and everything.
Remembering all of these guidelines, how might someone go about RWifying an article that has been marked as "good" but still needing some of our good old POV?
The first step to fixing an article might be to start a dialog on the article's talk page or bringing up the issues in the Forum. If you have new material, think; how might this material be used to refute a pseudoscience topic, how might this material be misused to support a pseudoscience topic, and how might this topic illuminate some aspect of human thought or culture that might help us answer "why do people believe stupid things"? There are many such questions to ask, and the answers should give you clues about how best to angle the topic to play to RationalWiki strengths.
The final question you should ask when looking at an article is: If someone came and read our article after looking it up on Wikipedia, would they come away with new information, new perspective or new thoughts they could not gain from an encyclopedia entry? If every article we have can answer that question with a yes, then RationalWiki is achieving its aim!
There is a category (Category:Articles needing expansion) which is added to articles in need of expansion i.e. Where the subject would be improved by application of some (your?) expert knowledge.