Wikivoyage:How to handle unwanted edits

(Redirected from Wikivoyage:UNWANTED)

This page deals with how we, as Wikivoyagers, deal with unwanted edits.

What is an unwanted edit?

Unwanted edits are changes made to Wikivoyage that don't jibe with our policies and guidelines and manual of style. Such edits don't help us get towards our goal of making a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. Some examples of unwanted edits are listed below, along with our strategy with dealing with them.

One may ask why unwanted edits are, in fact, unwanted. Sure, they may not get us towards our goals, but why not just leave them on Wikivoyage anyway? The answer is that unwanted contributions clutter the guides, making it harder for travellers to find the information they're looking for. In addition, they make it harder for contributors to find where to share their knowledge, or may give them the wrong idea about our project and what kind of knowledge we want.

One thing to note is that we talk about unwanted edits, and not unwanted editors. Wikivoyage is open to anyone who has knowledge to share, wants to help us reach our goals, and is willing to work with other contributors to get there (see the Wikimedia Foundation Terms of Use for more information). The lifeblood of any Wiki Web site is the ability of any reader to add, edit, and delete information on the Web site. For Wikivoyage in particular, we absolutely depend on a large pool of casual readers to share their knowledge about places around the world.

Executive summary

For the impatient, here's the basic idea: the basis of Wikivoyage's editorial integrity is that a large community of editors with their head on straight can revert and correct unwanted edits made through ignorance or malice by individuals. In other words, if someone makes an unwanted edit, someone else reverts it. It's also usually good practice for the one who reverts the edit to inform the first editor what was wrong, and maybe try to help them do it better next time.

It's a community solution to the problem of unwanted edits. It's based on the idea that there are more people interested in fixing and correcting unwanted edits than there are people making them. So far, it's worked. It works for a lot of wikis. It's a pretty darn good system.

Simple cases

Here are some simple cases of unwanted edits:


Graffiti is the insertion of off-topic messages into Wikivoyage pages. Examples: "BOB IS AN IDIOT", "asdfasdfasdfasdf", "Does this really work?" Most graffiti is simply a test that the Wiki principles we espouse are actually in use. The editor is in effect asking, "Can anyone write anything on any page?" The answer, of course, is yes, indeed, they can. Another common bit of graffiti is selecting the entire contents of a page, deleting it, and saving the now blank page.

Graffiti can be a first step to becoming a real contributor. For this reason, it's best to treat graffiti as experimentation, and simply revert the edited page to its previous version without graffiti. A message to the person who made the graffiti edit, letting them know that it was noticed, and that they're welcome to make more valuable contributions to the guide would also be a good idea. It can also help to point them to the Graffiti wall, where they can practice their Wiki markup skills without scribbling on regular pages.


Vandalism is the deliberate replacement or deletion of page content in a way that obviously damages or destroys an article. Vandalism should be reverted immediately, and users engaging in a pattern of vandalism should be subjected to either a short or long-to-indefinite block, depending on how serious and extensive the vandalism is. If no admin has blocked the vandal or if multiple sockpuppets are vandalizing, post to Project:Vandalism in progress so everyone can help repair the damage.

What you should not do: It is best to never acknowledge an act of vandalism - neither by posting a message on the vandal's user page nor by commenting about the act in the edit summary. Vandals (trolls) love to be acknowledged and any comment ("nice try," "why are you doing this," "you can't win," etc.) will only encourage the vandal. It can be boring to repeatedly make edits without a reaction and the focus should be on making it as boring as possible for vandals.


Spambots are automated scripts posing as a user that post irrelevant links on pages in any namespace (most frequently mainspace or userspace). Their reason for doing this is to improve a website's page ranking in a Google search. They may not even care if their edits are reverted or the pages are deleted, as once their links are posted they sit in the page history, where the Googlebot and other search engines can find them. Disallowing search engines from history pages defeats the spambots' intentions. Wikivoyage's spam filter may also be a useful tool for blocking automated spambots.

Spambots should be blocked with no talk page access to prevent spamming on the user's talk page. Following this, if the spambot has made edits on multiple wikis, it should be reported to global steward requests so that a Wikimedia steward can lock the account, preventing login on all wikis. Even if an account has already been locked, it can be advantageous to locally block an account, as locking an account does not trigger an autoblock of the underlying IP address. Stewards can also use the CheckUser tool on the English Wikivoyage to find the relevant IP address or range of addresses and globally block the address or range for an extended period of time.


Everyone makes mistakes — spelling errors, typos, punctuation gaffes, factual errors, bad article names or page formatting that doesn't conform to the manual of style. The easiest way to deal with mistakes is to correct them. If a contributor continues to make mistakes, it can be helpful to send them a message letting them know what they're doing wrong, and perhaps pointing them to the page on the manual of style that describes the correct way to do what they're doing.

It's important to be friendly when telling people about mistakes. Almost all mistakes happen due to ignorance and not stupidity or malice. Let them know that their input is valuable, but that it makes it easier for other editors if they do it right the first time.

Defiance of policy

Sometimes contributors who make mistakes just won't agree that what they're doing is wrong, no matter what the policy says. Such a refusal is a defiance of policy. Stubbornly plowing ahead in defiance of established policy is not an effective or polite way to challenge a policy. If you think our community should review the policy in question, start a discussion on the policy's talk page. Wikivoyage policies are not sacrosanct, and are revised and updated regularly. Is it stated well, or does the explanation need to be clarified to make the policy more explicit? Do we explain why the policy is the way it is — even if it's just an arbitrary decision one way or another? All of this is subject to discussion, but policies are not to be flouted instead of or in addition to the discussion on the relevant talk page.

Challenges to policy can help improve our community. They give us incentive to make our policies clearer, fairer, and more effective towards reaching our goals. In addition, having policies based on input from lots of people makes our policies fairer and lets all contributors feel "ownership" towards the project.

If you tell a contributor about a mistake, and they challenge the policy that defines that mistake, point out the page that explains that policy, and suggest that they explain on the talk page why they disagree with the policy. If the policy hasn't been fully stated or elaborated, feel free to update the policy page to state it more clearly, or give the reasons why it's policy. If there's no page for the policy at all, but just "general ideas", suggest that the contributor bring up the issue on the travellers' pub.

If the only way to make the case for a change in policy is by letting the contributor continue his or her edits and see how the article develops, then you may agree with the contributor to defer discussion of the issue till it is clear how the article will turn out. But make it clear to the contributor that if the challenge fails to gain consensus, the edits will have to be reverted.

One thing to avoid is to tell people, "That's just the way it is." Contributors need to feel that they're part of the community and have a say in the decision-making process. It's up to the contributor to decide whether they can live with the policy or not; they're always welcome to work on another project. It is fair, however, to insist that they challenge the policy on the appropriate policy talk page, rather than simply continue making edits in defiance of the existing policy.


While business owners are welcome to contribute to Wikivoyage and lively edits are encouraged from all users, edits that are clearly advertising for a business or service are not appropriate. Wikivoyage:Don't tout provides details for identifying touting as well as guidelines related to promotional editing. When an edit is identified as touting it should either be edited to remove promotional phrasing or simply reverted. In either case, a message should then be placed on the user's talk page letting them know why their edit was inappropriate. Template:Tout is a useful template that can be placed on user talk pages to notify touts about problem edits.

Copyright violations are contributions of text or images that the contributor didn't create themselves, and didn't get the original author's permission to license under our copyleft policy. This kind of contribution is occasionally made by overzealous editors who think it's more important to have lots of information in Wikivoyage, forgetting our goal that the information has to be free, too.

If a text edit is a copyright violation, simply revert the edit, and add a note on the Talk: page explaining where the text came from and why it was removed. It can sometimes be helpful to send a message to the user who posted the text, pointing out our copyleft. As usual, a gentle approach, without recrimination, is the best way to make sure that a contributor continues to help with our guide.

If an image is a copyright violation, it should be nominated for deletion. A Google image search for the file name or the name of the subject is often a quick way to find that an image is used also on another web site, which then probably is the source. Check the file description page for whether the claimed author and the uploader agree, and whether there is a source link and a licence statement at the linked page (or some obvious page linked from there, or some other hint on the status). Again, a polite note to the uploader explaining the copyright issue can be helpful. If in doubt about an image's copyright status (e.g. it's on another web site, but maybe it's the uploader's site) tag it with {{copyvio|}} on the file talk page and ask the uploader to clarify.

Most images used on Wikivoyage are actually stored on Wikimedia Commons, so their procedures need to be followed: go to the file description page at Commons, click the "nominate for deletion" link in the left margin and write an explanation, linking the page making you suspect a copyvio. The discussion may take months, without many comments; obvious cases can be tagged {{copyvio}} instead. If there is a problem in raising the issue there, instead call out the issue at the article's talk page, in the Pub or at some other suitable place. If the image is indeed locally uploaded, list the image on our votes for deletion page. If the photo is free, but the subject is not, such as in Freedom of Panorama cases, the photo can sometimes be hosted here, based on fair use: see Wikivoyage:Non-free content.

Harder cases

See also: Wikivoyage:NOTHERE

These are some harder cases to deal with.

Excess baggage

One specific type of mistake, probably worth pointing out here, is when contributors bring excess baggage to Wikivoyage. Everyone in the world has opinions, ideas, beliefs and causes, and it'd be kind of weird if anyone contributing to Wikivoyage held our goals and not their own. But when a contributor doesn't respect our goals at all, and merely wants to use our Website as a soapbox to broadcast their opinion, well... we have a problem.

Our official content policy is to use the traveler's point of view for articles. This means that we don't espouse any particular ideas about culture, religion, nations, politics, or other non-travel topics. We also don't espouse any particular philosophies of travel, but try instead to provide information for as wide a range of travelers as possible. In addition, we don't endorse or advertise any particular travel-related businesses, services, or venues, but try to give them fair and honest reviews.

The easiest way to deal with edits that espouse a particular point of view is to correct the edit. Remove advocacy, and if the issue could have any importance to travelers in particular, explain the issue in an objective way. Generalize advertisements for businesses or services into suggestions for the activity or destination, and perhaps a review of the business or service. If necessary, add a note to the Talk: page for the article explaining why you changed the content, and if you want, send a message to the person who made the edit.


The basis for a lot of humor in the English-speaking world is tweaking the tail of authority figures, zealots, and the self-righteous. The Internet example of this is trolling — a practice of disrupting an on-line community for amusement. People who troll — themselves often called "trolls" — enjoy seeing someone get all red in the face over an issue they themselves don't actually care about in the least. The more people that get in the argument, the more successful the troll.

(Note that sometimes the term "troll" is generalized to mean what this document calls "excess baggage", and even to mean what this document calls "challenges to policy". Because the word is emotionally charged, it's probably not a good idea to mix those concepts with deliberate disruption.)

There are any number of trolling techniques, but most involve starting an argument through feigned ignorance or advocacy, then fanning the flames with outrageous assertions or personal attacks. In general, a troll works to instigate conflicts by focusing attention away from the project's goals and instead towards individuals or policies. Note that in the case of trolls it is always best to err on the side of being overly tolerant as it is far worse to alienate a new (but possibly confused) contributor by treating that user as unwanted.

The best way to protect yourself and Wikivoyage against trolling is to keep an open mind and not take yourself or the site too seriously. Keep a level head during editorial conflicts and edit wars, remember to be fair and objective as often as possible, and try to keep focused on issues rather than on personalities. Most of all, avoid being pompous, authoritative, or pushy. One of the best ways to let yourself be trolled is to accuse someone of being a troll.

Repeat offenses

It can happen that, even after having been notified with polite but firm requests, a contributor continues to make deliberate unwanted edits. The appropriate response is to revert them. If they continue to ignore the policy, escalating blocks may be appropriate.

Our community and professional attitude are stronger than any particular person's commitment to mess up the guide. It may seem kind of annoying and distracting, but it actually strengthens the project when we deal with problems like this. It only takes a very little time to correct unwanted edits, fix mistakes, and keep the guide in good shape.

If you get tired of following around a particular person making unwanted edits, let it slide. Someone else will jump in. If you have to, ask for help from other Wikivoyagers. Continue to try to make contact, look for ways to come to a solution that pleases all sides. Always concentrate on the edits themselves, and not getting drawn into personal issues.

Last resorts

These are some last resort options for dealing with really, really problematic situations.

Escalating user blocks

This procedure is an alternative to going straight to a user ban using the Wikivoyage:User ban nominations process (for which, see the following "User ban" section). It may be used, for example, in the case of editors who, on the one hand, make positive contributions, and on the other hand, repeatedly make problematic contributions or behave in a disruptive way. It consists of a series of steps: educating and counseling the user; documenting unwanted edits and giving a formal warning; blocking the user for increasingly longer periods; finally, applying a user ban (indefinite block).

The first step in dealing with editors who make a mix of positive and negative contributions is to give them positive feedback on their constructive edits, to educate them about the community's policies and norms, and try to persuade them to edit constructively and cooperatively within those norms. If they continue to make problematic edits, the second step is to point out the specific edits (with links to the edits if they are not obvious), and to describe why they are problematic.

Types of unwanted edits include:

If the editor continues with unwanted edits, the third step is to give a warning on their user talk page. It is recommended to use Template:Unwanted edits for the warning.

If the editor continues with unwanted edits after the warning was given, an administrator can block their account or IP address from editing, initially for up to three days. If the unwanted editing resumes after the block ends, a second administrator may apply a longer block. This process can continue with increasingly long blocks as follows. Blocks should not be placed by an admin who is in a content dispute with the editor.

  1. Three-day block. The aim is to turn a problem editor into a non-problem editor. For a very active problem editor, a three day block might be all it takes for them to realise the community is serious and to change their ways.
  2. Two-week block. We are still hoping the editor will reform.
  3. Three-month block. Redemption is not looking likely, and we need a real break from the disruption and distraction. But redemption is not impossible. For IP addresses (rather than user accounts), user blocks of longer duration than this should be avoided, as addresses may be re-assigned or have different users.
  4. Indefinite block for user accounts. IP addresses should almost never be blocked indefinitely.

In general, a user should not be blocked from editing their own user talk page. They should only be blocked from editing it if they use it for unwanted edits of an egregious nature. At the discretion of an administrator, the talk pages of spambots, long-term vandals and abusers may be protected from all edits by users without admin rights.

IP addresses should be blocked only for as long as they are likely to remain assigned to the same person. We don't want to block other people trying to use the address. Block periods should be shorter than above if there is a real risk that other people will be blocked. It is better to block an IP address for a shorter period and then reimpose another shorter block without notice if problem editing resumes after the earlier block expires. Avoid disabling talk page and email access unless absolutely necessary, as this makes it difficult for other users accidentally caught up in the block to draw attention to their predicament. Difficulties around blocking IP addresses are generic to wikis and Wikipedia has useful information on its Blocking IP addresses page.

User ban

A user block is a suspension of an editor's ability to edit the site for a period of time. A user ban is an indefinite suspension of a user's editing privileges on Wikivoyage. User bans are a last resort that should be used in only the most extreme cases. Before even considering a user ban, exercise patience and professionalism to try to work with the user who is making unwanted edits; doing otherwise might make an enemy out of a potential friend. A user ban should only be considered when a contributor has made it clear that they're not interested in the site's goals, and/or not interested in compromising or working with other Wikivoyagers to achieve those goals.

If there is a need for a user ban or block, someone needs to nominate the user or IP address for banning on the Project:user ban nominations page and also place a notice on the nominated user's talk page. If the proposed suspension of the user's editing privileges is supported by two administrators, and there is a broad consensus for the suspension, after 3 days the suspension will go into effect.

Blocks and bans made without a nomination and without an understanding of the gravity of this action (and not covered by one of the exceptions listed below) are considered abuse by the administrator. In other words, suspending a user's editing privileges is a really, really big deal.

The following list contains exceptions for which no ban nomination is required; if there is any doubt as to whether one of the following criteria apply admins should err on the side of caution and add a nomination to the Project:user ban nominations page:

  • Blocks of one day or less when used as a discretionary tool for administrators. These blocks are sometimes used in slowing high-volume unwanted edits or in getting the attention of a user who is editing in unwanted ways. In general such blocks should be applied for very short periods (two hours or less) and only increased in length if the unwanted edits persist.
  • Blocks of obvious vandals. An obvious vandal is someone who is not here to create travel guides but is instead here to edit maliciously. These users often add racial slurs or obscenities to multiple articles, or have clearly malicious user names such as "User:I AM GOING TO VANDALIZE!!!!!" or "User X is a NAZI!!!!!!". Registered accounts of malicious editors may be blocked indefinitely, while IP addresses should be blocked for shorter periods, which can be successively increased if the malicious editing re-occurs.
  • Blocks of users or IP addresses that are blocked for vandalism or other malicious editing on other Wikimedia projects. If a user or IP address has been blocked on another Wikimedia project and makes a similar malicious edit on Wikivoyage, the same block settings that have been used on the other project may be applied here.
  • Blocks of automated spambot scripts. Some of the more advanced spambots are actually capable of creating user accounts, and these accounts should be permanently blocked as soon as they are identified as spambot accounts. IP addresses used by automated spambot scripts are typically blocked for a period of three months. Note that if the IP address being used for spam has also been used to make legitimate edits then a shorter block should be applied since some IP addresses are shared by large pools of users.
  • Blocks of Doppelgangers, which are user accounts meant to mimic another account for the purposes of causing confusion. For example, "Joel" and "JoeI" look the same, but the second version uses a capital "i" instead of a lowercase "L". Doppleganger accounts may be permanently blocked without any need for a ban nomination.
  • Blocks that follow the escalating user blocks process described above.

Sockpuppets of vandals with a history of targeting multiple wikis should be reported to stewards on m:SRG for a global block if they're using an IP or a global lock if they're using a username.


A slightly less dramatic reason to employ a user ban is for unauthorized or erroneous scripts. As mentioned above, our editorial integrity depends on the community of editors checking and correcting each other's mistakes. But it can be hard, if not impossible, to correct the mistakes of a buggy or malicious automated editing script.

We have a script policy that outlines how to write scripts that edit Wikivoyage pages in a safe and sane way. There are a couple of ways of stopping a well-behaved script without employing a user ban; see the script policy page for details.

However, if a script is badly-behaved — due to programming error or malicious intent — an administrator can and should put a user ban on the IP address and/or user account the script is using. Again, the administrator should note the ban on the user ban nominations page, and the same procedure applies as for other bans.

Range blocks

Range blocks are generally used only to stop users from evading blocks by rapidly changing the IP address from which they edit. The only other plausible case for using a range block is to block a formally registered organization from editing from their own range of IP addresses.

Range blocks are an exceedingly powerful and potentially dangerous tool, because they can accidentally block users other than the target. Details of their usage can be found at MediaWiki: Help:Range blocks. While this is a tool that hopefully will not need to be used much, the following guidelines are in place should such a block be required:

  1. Unless you are well-versed in the proper usage of these blocks, do not use them.
  2. A range block is a last resort. Do not implement a range block unless blocking individual IP addresses becomes impractical.
  3. A range block should be implemented for the shortest time period possible to stop any vandalism. In general, the larger the range of addresses being blocked, the shorter the block should be. Like most short-term blocks, a block of 1–2 hours is generally a good start, with increasing time periods allowable for repeat offenders.
  4. Any block of more than one day requires a ban nomination.
  5. Range blocks should always be made for the smallest possible range of IP addresses.

Project fork

It may occur that some editor or group of editors challenges one or another policy for Wikivoyage, and we can't come to terms with a compromise that works for everyone. If that person or persons just can't live with the policy, but wants to try something else, it's possible that we have a project fork.

A project fork means that the editors take the content of Wikivoyage and create a new wiki — or conceivably, another kind of collaborative Web site — and continue developing the content there. This is, of course, entirely compatible with our copyleft.

If possible, it would be nice to make forks "friendly" — understanding that people may see things in different ways, or may want to get to our goals by different paths. It's better for our project to have Fellow Travellers than rivals.

User pages

While Wikivoyage provides users considerable freedom to post what they want on their user pages, if you find something that violates Wikivoyage:User page help, you can ask the user to remove it by posting a message on their talk page, or let the administrators know by posting a notice at WV:Requests for comment with a link to the user page, indicating what part of it is offensive.

  • If it is something is clearly unacceptable, then an administrator will delete it immediately from the user page. If you're a non-admin, then tag the page with the {{delete}} tag. An admin will later delete it.
  • If it is something where there is doubt about it being unacceptable, the administrator should exercise their discretion. They may ask the user to remove it from their user page and explain why. If the user is unwilling, then the administrator should post a note at WV:Requests for comment to solicit the views of other editors. If other editors agree that it is offensive and the user still refuses to remove it, then any administrator could do so.

Where any unacceptable material has been posted on a user page by someone whose activity on Wikivoyage has been limited to posting such material, an administrator may delete the unacceptable material from the user page.

Removing content from a user page is a serious matter that could drive contributors away from Wikivoyage. Administrators should exercise caution, and seek to resolve problems through discussion with the user if possible.

Users who believe that the content was removed inappropriately, may appeal to other editors for reconsideration by posting a note at WV:Requests for comment.

See also