Low-barrier Wikiquote

(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
Work in progress.

Wikiquote can succeed and achieve huge impact, if and only if it's kept low barrier.



Wikiquote has ambitious goals, very closely integrated in the Wikimedia projects mission.

Among other things, it's the only dictionary of quotations:

  • under a free license and free of database rights;
  • which insists heavily on sources and references (for verifiability and precision, attribution and legality, correction of common mistakes and misattributions);
  • more generally, which has a focus on actively educating the users about correct quoting, including being NPOV and avoiding original research.

It's also the only online dictionary of quotations which remembers something of the paper-based past of this genre, in that it has a constant tension between expansion and trimming. The point of quotation is that it reduces; a database of quotations which is only able to grow, or where adding is immensely easier than removing, is condemned to eventual worthlessness.



We have to leverage the biggest advantage of Wikiquote: at the most basic level, everyone can correctly quote a work who is able to read (or listen) and type. For instance, Wikiquote can be great to use in primary and secondary school.

This simplicity must be preserved, also by avoiding templates as much as possible and by simplifying user-facing conventions. Editors should not need to learn more conventions and rules than they need to understand the content structure and browse the dictionary.

Fixing a formatting mistake of a newbie is tedious and may take minutes; maybe they'd make less mistakes if they used templates, but maybe they'd just avoid contributing at all. On the other hand, looking for the source of an unknown quotation can take hours; if a random visitor who knows about the source adds it with wrong plain text formatting, the experienced editor can spend some minutes fixing the formatting but has saved hours of research.

Technical requirements


Adding a reference might sound easy (really?), but there's much more.

Some fundamental things must be kept extremely easy, ideally as easy as a copy and paste:

  • adding a quotation to a work or author page,
  • referencing it from a theme page or theme section,
  • adding a source or translation to an existing quotation,
  • sorting, trimming, removing and refactoring quotations by various criteria.

Some things are crucial even if comparatively rare, and can have a plethora of different cases so they must be flexible:

  • marking a quotation as wrong or disputed,
  • adding nuanced co-authorship data, commentary, links, alternative versions etc. etc.,
  • adding metadata like precise time at which a certain thing happens in a film or who says what,
  • ...

Almost all of the requirements above are satisfied by a simple wikitext page with bullet lists and indenting, without any template; while adding templates for formatting and other "jails" for contributions easily misses several of the requirements above.



Likely failures


The German Wikiquote was rather big and thriving around 2006; at some point it implemented Flagged Revisions, and as of 2015 it's been basically dead for several years.

The French Wikiquote had some legal problems in 2006; it was restarted as a very disciplined project, by chaining every single quotation to the use of a specific template etc. etc. As of 2015, the result seems to be a lower activity, lower traffic and lower quality than could be expected from a Wikimedia project of such a big language.

Unclear cases


English Wikiquote has a lot of users and activity but the situation of cleanup and of content quality is disputed.

Likely successes


Italian Wikiquote has been in the top3 or top2 for Wikiquote for many years, while most Italian language Wikimedia projects are generally around the 10th position. It has mostly eradicated unsourced quotations and applies strict criteria of consistency for inclusion and selection of quotations, yet it manages to have a lot of new active users and unregistered users.

Polish Wikiquote seems similarly high in traffic compared to most Polish Wikimedia projects, but may have a lower focus on clear rules as shown by certain massive fluctuations of content in the past.

See also