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Forward and backward editing[edit]

Backward editing: "Here is what the article should say, now let's find sources to support each fact..."

Forward editing: "Here are three good sources about this topic, now let's summarize them..."

Forward editing article writing algorithm[edit]

  1. Collect the best available sources on the topic: the most-recent (WP:AGEMATTERS), highest-tier (WP:TIERS), in-depth (WP:SIGCOV) sources available; these are the topic's core sources
  2. Take the shortest (least in-depth) core source and go through it, summarizing everything that is in the shortest source that is also in all of the other core sources
    • What you will be left with is a series of sentences about the topic where every single sentence is sourced to every single core source
    • At this point, the Wikipedia article will probably be short, but it will be a stub conveying the universally-mainstream view of the topic; in can be said that everyone who writes about the topic covers everything that is in the Wikipedia stub
  3. Because the shortest core source used in Step 2 may be outdated, go through the newest core source, and add to the Wikipedia article anything that is in the newest core source that is also in all core sources that were published after the shortest core source used in Step 2
    • This will add to your stub all universally-mainstream information that is more recent than the publication date of the shortest core source used in Step 2
    • The Wikipedia article will probably still be a stub, but it will convey the current universally-mainstream view of the topic.
  4. Now the hard part: go through the core sources again, adding to the Wikipedia article all information that is in most (if not all) of the core sources
    • What constitutes "most" will be case-specific; it's not necessarily 50%+1. For example, if 51 scholars say X and 49 scholars say not-X, that doesn't make X the mainstream view; rather, those are two competing views, neither of which have mainstream acceptance.
    • Considerations may also need to be made for age: some mainstream information may only appear in more-recent core sources because it is "new" mainstream information
    • Editorial judgment will be needed to identify what is not-universal-but-still-mainstream
    • The Wikipedia stub will now be expanded into a more thorough summary of the current mainstream view of the topic
  5. Go through the core sources again, this time adding information that is included in a significant minority (if not most) core sources
    • How many core sources constitutes a "significant minority" will vary on a case-by-case basis depending on how many core sources there are, but a rule of thumb might be 30% (i.e., if it's in 3 out of 10 sources or more, included it in the Wikipedia article); editorial judgment will be needed to distinguish "significant minority" viewpoints from WP:FRINGE viewpoints
    • The Wikipedia article will now summarize the current mainstream view of the topic as well as any significant minority views (which should be identified as such and/or attributed, see WP:DUE); the Wikipedia article will probably be at least start class or higher at this point
  6. Go through each major subtopic of the topic (e.g., each section of the Wikipedia article) and repeat this algorithm for each subtopic
    • A "major" subtopic is whatever the core sources (or most of them) treat as a major subtopic; e.g., if most core source books dedicate a chapter to a subtopic, that is probably a major subtopic
    • If the subtopics become too long, WP:SPINOFF
    • Once this step is complete, it will be a reasonably-thorough Wikipedia article that conveys the current mainstream view, and significant minority views, about the topic and its major subtopics; the Wikipedia article will probably be almost ready for a WP:GA nomination


  • This algorithm will not work well for topics that have few sources, e.g. notable-but-obscure biographies
  • If you cannot access all the core sources, run the algorithm with the sources you can access, and list the others in a "Further reading" section; you or others may be able to access and incorporate them later (e.g., via WP:RX)
  • When core sources directly conflict, editorial judgment will be needed to determine which view (if any) is the mainstream view, and which views are significant minority views; WP:TERTIARY sources, if available, can help determine WP:BALANCE
  • When determining majority/minority views, count the authors, not the works; a single scholar may have written the majority of works on a topic but still hold minority (or even fringe) views on that topic
  • The organization/structure of the article should follow the organization/structure of the core sources (WP:STRUCTURE)
  • Computers will probably be capable of performing this algorithm by 2030 if not 2025

I can be replaced by a bot now[edit]

Three years ago, I started a Wikipedia stub sourced to three newspaper articles: an article by USA Today, one by AP News, and one by CNN.

Today, I asked ChatGPT to write an encyclopedia article about the same topic, summarizing the same three sources. If you want to try it out for yourself, the prompt was:

Write a five-paragraph encyclopedia article about 'the killing of Rayshard Brooks' that summarizes these three texts:

[copy/pasted text of USA Today article]

[AP News article]

[CNN article]

Here are both summaries. Can you tell which one was written by a human and which one was written by a computer?

  • Summary one:

    The killing of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, on June 12, 2020, by Atlanta police officers at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant, sparked outrage and renewed protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The incident occurred during a time of heightened tension following the death of George Floyd, another unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis. The killing led to the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields and ignited a wave of demonstrations demanding accountability and systemic changes in law enforcement practices.

    Rayshard Brooks' encounter with the police began when officers responded to a complaint about a man sleeping in a car at the Wendy's drive-thru, obstructing other customers. Police conducted a field sobriety test, which Brooks reportedly failed, leading to a scuffle between him and the officers. During the struggle, Brooks managed to take hold of an officer's Taser and began to flee on foot. Surveillance footage and witness videos showed Brooks running away from the officers while appearing to point the Taser in their direction.

    In response to Brooks' actions, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, fired three shots, striking Brooks in the parking lot. Despite efforts to provide medical aid, Brooks succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital. The incident ignited immediate outrage and protests in Atlanta and beyond, with demonstrators demanding justice for Brooks and an end to police violence against Black individuals.

    Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields and called for the immediate termination of Officer Rolfe, citing her belief that the use of deadly force was not justified in this case. The incident also led to the placement of another officer, Devin Brosnan, on administrative duty pending further investigation. The officers' actions ignited debates about the appropriate use of force by law enforcement and the broader issues of racial profiling and systemic racism within the criminal justice system.

    The killing of Rayshard Brooks added to the growing list of cases highlighting the urgent need for police reform and accountability. It also underscored the deep-rooted concerns within Black communities about the disproportionate use of force by police officers, particularly against unarmed Black individuals. The incident served as a catalyst for renewed calls for systemic change and inspired ongoing protests advocating for racial equality, social justice, and comprehensive police reform measures across the United States.

  • Summary two:

    Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was fatally shot by an Atlanta, Georgia police officer on the night of June 12, 2020.

    Brooks was reported to police for sleeping in a car blocking a Wendy's drive-through lane, causing other patrons to drive around his car to use the drive-through lane. Police responded around 10:30 p.m. EDT and administered a field sobriety test, which they say Brooks failed, and attempted to place him under arrest. According to investigators, Brooks resisted arrest.

    During the struggle, police used a Taser on Brooks, but it was ineffective. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), "Witnesses report that during the struggle the male subject grabbed and was in possession of the Taser. It has also been reported that the male subject was shot by an officer in the struggle over the Taser". Brooks was taken to the hospital, where he died during surgery. One officer was treated for injuries at the hospital.

    Witness video of the shooting circulated on social media. The Atlanta Police Department asked GBI to investigate the shooting. GBI is reviewing the witness videos. The Fulton County District Attorney's office is also conducting an independent investigation.

    Demonstrators gathered at the location of the shooting on June 12 and June 13. Brooks's death comes amid worldwide protests over police brutality and reforms following the May 25 killing of George Floyd.

Click here to see the one written by a human. It took me a few hours to read and summarize those three sources; it took ChatGPT a few seconds. Sure, a human would still be needed to fine-tune ChatGPT's text, but let's face it: the computer did just as good of a job, if not better, than I did. We've known this day was coming for years; that day is nearly here.