Wikipedia:Don't be a fanatic

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"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim."[1]

George Santayana

Wikipedia is a communal effort. To make it work, contributors must think from a community perspective as well as a personal one. This means:

  1. Respect common standards: If the Wikipedia view of how articles should be presented differs from one's own perception of the subject, then it's important to recognize that Wikipedia has standards applicable to the community and all its members.
  2. Don't over-guard articles: Even if a subject is close to an editor's heart, or an article has been fostered lovingly, remember that no one owns an article and articles are built by communal shared collaboration. Even if an edit takes the article in a direction that the original editor doesn't agree with, so long as policies are being followed, allow communal ownership to supersede personal emotional involvement.
  3. Don't be too certain: Too much certainty can lead to assumptions of bad faith, or to inability to listen to others properly, both sources of conflict.
  4. Don't be zealous to the point other goals are lost: Intense caring for Wikipedia's policies and ways can at times lead to such excess of zeal as to be a problem in its own right. Such editors often do not understand why others criticize them, because in their own eyes they are "just doing what's right for Wikipedia".
  5. Don't slip into bad behavior: Fanaticism often leads towards personal attacks and breaches of civility, if "the truth" becomes "what one wants to hear", rather than "what's best for the project and those one is working with."
  6. Don't marginalize others: If you dismiss other points of view, or attempt to marginalize the people who hold them, your position may actually be the marginal one. Instead, ask sincere questions to see where the differences are and which editors are on solid ground.

Remedies[edit]

  • If in doubt, take a break from the article. Have a snack. (The world won't end if you do)
  • Ask a trusted neutral friend to help explain the other viewpoints.
  • Seek dispute resolution in a conflict.
  • Lighten up and take another break! Go offline and have a cool beverage or switch to one of the millions of other articles and "to-do" tasks in Wikipedia.

Common standards[edit]

Main articles: Wikipedia: Policy trifecta, Wikipedia:Five pillars

Wikipedia is a balance between personal approaches and interests, within a framework of common values and policies.

It is this framework that ensures the result is actually useful to Wikipedia and meets its communal goals. When it comes to article content, the communal goals matter more than personal viewpoints. It's important not to lose track of the greater good.

Advocacy[edit]

Main articles: Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:Ownership of articles, Wikipedia:Wikipedia in brief

A major way to be a fanatic is advocacy, often leading to breaches of civility and breaches of neutrality. Don't. However passionate one may be – and passion is valued in any community – channel the passions you bring into creating good articles that fall in line with Wikipedia standards for neutrality and notability. Nobody owns articles, even those who have created them or worked on them many months from the beginning.

Certainty[edit]

No individual is the universe's answer to all questions. Knowledge is one thing, but it should be tempered always by the awareness that there are thousands of other editors. Some are quite likely to understand how Wikipedia works, or the subject, or how to present it well – and understand these better than you might think. Listen to them, and consider that their viewpoint is not arbitrary, either. Belief that one is right should never be allowed to slip into the closed-minded assertion that "I'm right; they're wrong."

However, it is important to read this in the context of policies such as WP:NPOV and guidelines such as Wikipedia:Consensus. Good editorship asks for, and respects notable viewpoints and information even whilst disagreeing, and seeks to prevent poor or factually incorrect edits. There is a balance involved, and this is what is sought. Fanaticism, by contrast, is often characterized by lack of balance whichever side it is on.

"Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt."

Robertson Davies

Zeal[edit]

Zeal is a good thing if balanced, but unbalanced zeal is a flaw, which as frequently becomes a social problem as a social help. Unbalanced zeal often leads people to impulsive, poor or even abusive decisions. "I did it to protect you" is often cited as a justification both online and offline for fanatical, excessive or unwarranted behavior. There are many editors who support Wikipedia strongly; most do not find it necessary to justify fanatical intensity, or to reject constructive criticisms regarding aspects of their behavior if it's problematic.

"Bold but fair" is a necessary part of a good editor's role. But a dozen good acts do not mean that the abusive, rash, excessive or poorly judged ones may be ignored. As a guiding principle, one should not use good conduct in some areas as a way to condone lack of change, or less positive conduct, in others. Higher power must be balanced with more thought in its use under all circumstances – do not use "zeal" to excuse or justify excessive action. Misapplied zeal is often a considerable problem within any community.

Note that these points apply to many situations. They are an observation on problems that often come with being too forceful and ego-involved. Especially for administrators and those who have asked for positions of responsibility – it's more important to be able to balance with moderation when given power beyond the norm.

"Fanaticism obliterates the feelings of humanity."

Edward Gibbon

See also[edit]