Wikipedia:Beware of the tigers

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The tiger: Awesome. Majestic. Poor house pet.

The following was posted by William Pietri to welcome back a banned editor on a hotly disputed article. Several people have praised it as embodying perfectly the Wikipedian ideals, especially this excerpt:

Wikipedia's articles are no place for strong views. Or rather, we feel about strong views the way that a natural history museum feels about tigers. We admire them and want our visitors to see how fierce and clever they are, so we stuff them and mount them for close inspection. We put up all sorts of carefully worded signs to get people to appreciate them as much as we do. But however much we adore tigers, a live tiger loose in the museum is seen as an urgent problem.

Pietri's posting is an excellent example of staying cool when dealing with people with strong opinions. Another posting on WikiEN-l is also particularly pertinent:

Another key to the problem here, {name of contentious editor}. You don't see yourself as having an opinion; you see yourself as bearing the Truth. You perceive your biases as neutral.

It is inescapably true that, on occasion, all of us fall prey to that particular conceit.

Some suggestions for the passionate[edit]

William Blake's original plate for The Tyger: "In what furnace was thy brain?"
Or: Beware of the Tigers; William Pietri's comment in its entirety:

Above there are a variety of unsigned edits from somebody who is very excited about their topic. Or perhaps it's a few somebodies; it's hard to tell (hint: sign your edits using four tildes and the system will automatically put in your name and a timestamp). I'd like to address that or those somebodies.

I have no vested interest in this topic. I am a San Francisco software consultant and occasional writer. I've never met Guy, never met you, and never met or even heard of Simon Wessely. I've given little thought to CFS, and until seeing this article, never had call to question that it's a real illness.

I only popped in here because I saw that Wikipedia's founder had commented on Guy's talk page, and I was curious to see what prompted a visit from on high.

I'm sorry to say it, but your conduct here is well outside the bounds of what is considered appropriate on Wikipedia. As far as I can tell, Guy has done nothing to justify the accusations you've made. He seems to be working hard to take material with a strong point of view and try to wrangle it into the neutral point of view required by Wikipedia. Although different editors might have gone about it differently, any good Wikipedia editor would have tried to do the same. And frankly, I feel like he's displayed admirable patience in the face of what Wikipedians take as very provoking behavior.

Now I understand you feel like he's being unfair and twisting your prose. I also recognize that you don't get why your behavior seems so far out of line. Those are reasonable feelings to have, and they're typical of a passionate person whose first foray into Wikipedia is a topic where they have strong views. As you come to spend more time on Wikipedia, you'll see why: Wikipedia's articles are no place for strong views. Or rather, we feel about them the way that a natural history museum feels about tigers. We admire them and want our visitors to see how fierce and clever they are, so we stuff them and mount them for close inspection, with all sorts of carefully worded signs to get people to appreciate them as much as we do. But however much we adore tigers, a live tiger loose in the museum is seen as an urgent problem.

I see you've been blocked from editing for a week. When you get back to it, consider first working on some articles where you have knowledge but aren't so passionate. (You may find that hard, but consider that Wikipedia has made it for years without the perfect article on Simon Wessely; another few weeks won't hurt much in the grand scheme of things, and you'll do better work here with a bit more experience.) For example, if you've just gone through the process of writing a book and dealing with lawyers about a potentially controversial book, consider working on related articles like index or publishing or libel.

Also consider reading through the Wikipedia policies to get an appreciation for what we're up to. A good place to start is Wikipedia:Five pillars. You'll come to see that although these may feel constraining, they will work in your favor over the long haul: when people with opposing views to yours turn up, we will be equally dilligent in making sure that they don't delete inconvenient facts or links to your views.

When you do start back on this article, consider starting small. Put in a single sentence that you feel is fair, accurate, and neutrally stated. Give it a few days to see how people react, and then add another couple. And a couple of days later, see how you like your work. As a normal writer, strong views are a great help. But as a Wikipedia editor, they impose a special burden: because you are obligated to be fair to all sides, you must be especially careful that your views don't distort the article.

And when you do get back, best of luck. I took the hour or so to write this because I think your passion and writing skill would be a great asset to Wikipedia. You got your fingers burned on your first go here, but I'm hoping that won't stop you from appreciating what we're trying to do here and joining in. Regards, --William Pietri 18:30, 15 November 2005 (UTC)[1]

See also[edit]