A single-purpose account (SPA) is a user account or IP editor whose editing is limited to one very narrow area or set of articles, or whose edits to many articles appear to be for a common purpose. If you are in this situation and some editors directed you to this page, pointing out that you made "few or no other edits outside this topic", they are encouraging you to familiarize yourself with the Wikipedia guidelines about conflicts of interest and advocacy. This is because while many single-purpose accounts turn out to be well-intentioned editors with a niche interest, a significant number appear to edit for the purposes of promotion or showcasing their favored point of view, which is not allowed.
Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee has determined that "single purpose accounts and editors who hold a strong personal viewpoint on a particular topic covered within Wikipedia are expected to contribute neutrally instead of following their own agenda and, in particular, should take care to avoid creating the impression that their focus on one topic is non-neutral, which could strongly suggest that their editing is not compatible with the goals of this project."
For these reasons, experienced editors often scrutinize the editing activities of new editors and single-purpose accounts to determine whether they are here to build an encyclopedia (perhaps needing help and advice), or whether they are editing for promotion, advocacy or other unsuitable agendas. Although the community seeks to attract new and well-informed users knowledgeable in a particular subject, Wikipedia is not a platform for advocacy.
The SPA tag may be used to visually highlight that a participant in a multi-user discussion has made few or no other types of contribution. However, a user who edits appropriately and makes good points that align with Wikipedia's communal norms, policies and guidelines should have their comments be given full weight regardless of any tag placed on them.
Evidence that the user seems to be editing appropriately and collaboratively to add knowledge in a niche area may suggest that the user is likely to be an editor with a preferred focus, and is therefore not a SPA. By contrast, evidence that a user is also editing to add promotional, advocative, or non-neutral approaches, or has a personal or emotional interest in the area of focus, possibly with limited interest in pure editing for its own sake, is more likely to suggest that the kinds of concerns described in the introduction may apply to the user.
The following is a list of common misuses of the single-purpose account tag. You should, under no circumstance, consider anything that falls into the below categories as evidence for warranting an SPA tag.
Editing timeline: A given user's overall timeline of editing should be taken into consideration before placing an SPA tag on that user's edits. Only a complete edit history will allow a fair consideration of that editor's intentions. Examples of users whose edits should not be labeled as being those of an SPA include the following:
Edits by a single user within a single broad topic: When identifying single-purpose accounts, it is important to consider what counts as a diverse group of edits. For example, subjects like "spiders", "nutrition", "baseball", or "geometry" are diversified topics within themselves. If a user only edits within a broad topic (such as "spiders"), this does not mean the user is an SPA (though only editing the page Latrodectus might). Some very broad but specialized academic topics may seem narrow to editors with little or no knowledge of the field-- if you are unsure what constitutes a specialized topic, then it may be best to mention this fact when claiming a certain account is an SPA or to not place such a label in the first place.
Lack of a user page or signature: While many single-purpose accounts do not have user pages, this is not a reason for identifying a person as an SPA. Some established users who edit articles on a variety of subjects do not have user pages. In addition, even the most experienced editors occasionally forget to sign their comments.
A subject outside of SPA area: An editor can become labeled as an SPA within a given subject, but do not label other edits as belonging to an SPA if the edits are to a genuinely unrelated page. The tag should only be used on pages that relate to the single-purpose account's "single purpose."
Number of edits: A user should not be tagged as an SPA just because they only have a handful of edits. While all users with just a single edit are by definition an SPA, users with as few as five or even 10 edits are not necessarily SPAs even if those edits are on a single topic or appear to be promoting a "single purpose." More important than the number is the content of those edits. Labeling a new account as an SPA after very few edits may be construed as biting the newcomers.If you are in a discussion with someone who edits with appearance of being a single-purpose account
If you are a newcomer or are editing as a single-purpose account, good policy-based editing will likely earn you rapid respect. Ask others for help as you learn. The same policies apply to you as to everyone else, although your reputation and your evidence will inevitably be taken into account in discussions by some experienced editors.
If you create a single-purpose account, do not pick a username related to the topic you are editing. Adopting such a username might lead some editors to assume you harbour a conflict of interest, causing unnecessary drama.
If you wish to continue working as an SPA, capitalize on the strengths of that role, particularly with regard to sources. Be willing to buy or borrow books and articles on your chosen subject. Search thoroughly for information online. Make notes reminding you from where your information comes, carefully check its reliability and neutrality. Reproduce it in the form of citations.
The community's main concern is that edits by single-purpose accounts stand at odds with Wikipedia's neutrality and advocacy policies. Indeed, in some cases, there may be clear conflicts of interest. Care taken in these areas will be seen as a sign of good editorship.
While a new user without an edit history who immediately performs tasks that seemingly require a post-beginner level of editing skill (such as editing non-mainspace pages, uploading images, or participating in a discussion) may be an illegitimate sock puppet, it remains possible that a new user’s contributions are alternatively the product of a disinterested third party with previous wiki editing experience who wishes to improve the Wikipedia project, or it may even be that tasks, like editing non-mainspace pages, uploading images or participating in a discussion, are nowhere near as difficult as you might think and don't actually require extensive experience or a degree in wikiology. For this reason, statements regarding motives should be avoided in almost all circumstances. The term should be used descriptively and should not be read pejoratively unless a disruptive agenda is clearly established. Users should be informed of relevant policies and content guidelines in a civil and courteous manner, especially if a tag will be applied to their comment.
New users acting in good faith often edit topics in which they have a general interest. Such accounts warrant particularly gentle scrutiny before accusing them of any breach of official policies and content guidelines. Indeed, some new users may be unaware that editing a single topic, and in the process adding their own views, may lead to some editors giving less weight to their ideas in article discussions.
It may be helpful to cite the official policies regarding sock puppets and meat puppets for guidance on such matters, especially if new users have joined Wikipedia specifically to participate in a debate, or if they have joined at the request of another user who wants help in discussions on a particular article.
One can only form opinions of editors as a result of their actions. Over time, they may diversify their contributions. Users who continue to work within a narrow range of articles may find it difficult to build credibility in community discussions, although extended improvement to a specific section of Wikipedia should not disadvantage expert opinions. As with all Wikipedia articles, users need to cite the relevant verifiably published evidence from reliable sources to support their point of view. Inevitably, some experienced editors might not agree with cited interpretations during content discussions. Please do not be discouraged by such editors. Eventually, they will respect you, especially if you remember that you are not personally a source, and your focus, even expertise, is best directed toward finding and citing independent reliable sources for the articles you edit.
If you are new to Wikipedia or if you are unfamiliar with Wikipedia's editing criteria, please read very carefully the following policy and information pages: