Wikipedia:Don't shoot the messenger

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"WP:SHOOT" redirects here. For the essay about editors finding sanctions brought against themselves rather than the people they've reported, see Wikipedia:Don't shoot yourself in the foot.

Wikipedia is a collaborative editing environment. This means that people of differing views, talents and commitment must rub along with each other whilst trying to stay happy.

Because of this, much communication on Wikipedia is conducted by templates, shorthand statements or doesn't exist at all.

Communication is good. We all work better together if we talk more. But we all have to remember that the communication we receive is merely a single facet of the larger project we're involved in.

People[edit]

It can be very annoying: you make a good edit and someone pops up and says "please don't add a list of your kittens to the article Kittens." Or you spend half an hour carefully crafting 25 articles about non-speaking, unnamed characters seen in the background of The Simpsons and someone redirects or deletes them all and says "please don't create 'cruft' here."

How dare they! They should be banned, or killed, or killed and then banned twice! However, before you send off that email to them suggesting they jump in front of a train, or head to an administrators' noticeboard to denounce them LOUDLY IN ALL CAPS, or write to Jimbo to tell him that you are one of a few million or so editors that he is going to have to live without and your forthcoming Wikipedia-rival site will blow him out of the water: stop.

Wikipedia's rules and regulations have been developed over years, seeking consensus and wide input. The person who contacted or reverted you isn't usually operating as a freelance gun-for-hire. If they have linked to a policy in their message, then assume that they know the policy better than you. Read the policy. You may not agree with it, but is what they are saying within the spirit of it? If it is, and usually it is, then your problem is with the policy, not the person.

If you think the person has got the policy wrong (or it has changed and you haven't just changed it yourself a few moments ago to exempt your edits) contact the person and ask for clarification before screaming for a block or ban. The behaviour of a rogue editor can be summed up in very few words ("tagging legitimate articles"; "warning users with no edits"; "repeatedly reverting a page") backed up with three or four diffs. If the problem needs several sentences or paragraphs to sum up, or you can't provide a clear set of diffs summing up the problem, then you are shooting the messenger.

Don't do that.

Bots[edit]

For the most irritatingly slow and repetitive tasks, we use bots – automated or semi-automated editing programs – to cut the workload. These bots don't think, don't rationalise and don't (we hope) depart from their programming. They just do what they're told.

This can mean that users get unwelcome or semi-incorrect talk page messages from bots. Your helpful edit is reverted and you're warned about it by a machine; or that image you uploaded is about to be deleted because of some arcane rule that you weren't aware of, wasn't previously enforced or has recently been created.

This isn't the fault of the bot. This isn't your fault either. The bot isn't, in most cases, going to ask for you to be blocked or delete the image or article. It's just a bot. Asking for the bot to be blocked, suspended or abolished is an over-reaction. Instead, read what the bot has told you, follow the links it will have provided, and try to correct the errors it has notified you of.

If this fails, contact the bot's operator and ask for clarification – only after you've done the above – before arguing for a block. A genuinely malfunctioning bot can have the errors it is generating summed up in very few words ("tagging legitimate articles"; "warning users with no edits"; "repeatedly reverting a page") backed up with three or four diffs. If the problem needs several sentences or paragraphs to sum up, or you can't provide a clear set of diffs summing up the problem, then you are shooting the messenger.

Don't do that.

See also[edit]