Many thousands of editors volunteer their time, viewpoints, creativity, and knowledge with the intention of creating the most accurate and complete encyclopedia possible.
There are no strict rules and no real hierarchy of power, but somewhere out of this potential chaos some order has been established, setting the bare minimum of behaviors to create Wikipedia. The community's basic policies and guidelines are summarized below.
The five pillars
The fundamental principles by which Wikipedia operates can be summarized in five "pillars":
Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute: Since all editors freely license their work to the public, no editor owns an article and any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed. Respect copyright laws, and never plagiarize from sources. Borrowing non-free media is sometimes allowed as fair use, but strive to find free alternatives first.
Editors should treat each other with respect and civility: Respect your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and don't engage in personal attacks. Seek consensus, avoid edit wars, and never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point. Act in good faith, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming to newcomers. If a conflict arises, discuss it calmly on the nearest talk pages, follow dispute resolution, and remember that there are 4,568,293 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss.
Wikipedia does not have firm rules: Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, but they are not carved in stone; their content and interpretation can evolve over time. Their principles and spirit matter more than their literal wording, and sometimes improving Wikipedia requires making an exception. Be bold but not reckless in updating articles, and do not agonize about making mistakes. Every past version of a page is saved, so any mistakes can be easily corrected.