Wikipedia talk:Competence is required

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Technical expertise[edit]

Maybe intelligence and technical expertise should be two different kinds? I see them as mostly separate. Friday (talk) 17:22, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps - if so, explain what subtleties you were talking about. I assumed you meant wikicode and the like. xenocidic (talk) 17:24, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Fancy formatting isn't something that most people need to understand. We've got people who learn that stuff and use it well, and people who don't worry about it, and it all works out. I meant tricky things like understanding the nature of "rules" on Wikipedia. Friday (talk) 17:36, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
k, I misunderstood where you were going with that. feel free to revert - but do suggest fleshing out "subtleties". xenocidic (talk) 18:04, 19 June 2008 (UTC)

Technical expertise is required sometimes in assessing reliability of some source, some people not knowledgeable in some domains can deny RS status to some sources based on lack of technical understanding.-- (talk) 10:58, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

Excellent stuff[edit]

A very good, coherent, and enjoyable read :) Nice work. Moreschi (talk) (debate) 16:13, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Agree. /Blaxthos ( t / c ) 12:22, 22 June 2008 (UTC)
I'd buy it for a dollar.--Crossmr (talk) 03:33, 24 October 2009 (UTC)

Not every person belongs at Wikipedia, because some people are not sufficiently competent[edit]

But don't assume.

WTF, sounds like it came straight out of rand's mouth herself —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:00, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

Well how about, Not every person belongs on a tightrope, because some people are not sufficiently competent. I know that I don't have a good enough sense of balance and will therefore never be competent on a tight rope. But even if I wouldn't admit it, it would quickly be obvious to anyone else who was watching by the fact that I kept falling off. Likewise with Wikipedia, you just need to check someone's contributions to find out how competent they are and whether they are becoming more or less competent, whatever they personally may think of their own level of expertise. Nothing particularly Randian about it. It's just common sense. -- Derek Ross | Talk 21:34, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
I've heard of Argumentum ad Hitlerum. Is there also a version of that fallacy for Ayn Rand? As with everyone else, both Hitler and Rand were right about some things, and wrong about some other things. What made Hitler dangerous was that he was extremely competent politically, which put him in a position to do some real damage with his incorrect ideas. Incidentally, the essay should mention the Dunning-Kruger effect, which when it applies can make persuasion alone a very weak tool for changing the behavior of incompetent people. --Teratornis (talk) 22:00, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't know how easy it is to recognize the simply hopelessly incompetent. I think other types of editors are more disruptive, especially when they have a seemingly infinite amount of time to fight for anything they desire:
  1. FreshStarts, that got banned, and come back with another user name.
    As the essay states, "many of our trolls do their trolling by feigning incompetence." When a tendentious FreshStart, that has lost the confidence of the community, comes back and starts hollering don't bite me I'm new -- while demonstrating they know all about Wikipedia -- they cause problems for good editors, and drive some of them away.
  2. It states in the essay, when someone "causes major disruption, this is a bad thing that must not be allowed to continue. A bull in a china shop" that has been editing for a long time, and has lots of edits -- and has risen above the need to follow Wikipedia policies and guidelines, due to allies -- can be very disruptive, especially when s/he's an administrator. The ones that fight for policy and guideline changes, or resist changes, that might keep them from being disruptive -- gaming the system in the process -- cause people to lose faith in the sustainability of Wikipedia.
  3. Established editors that rush to accuse opponents of breaking dubious or trifling rules, ad nauseum, half the time in error.
    They go off on a never-ending series of fishing expeditions, to see what sticks, to try to make a record of an adversary's alleged wrongdoing -- to repress, drive off or silence their opponents -- to win disputes over an article. These editors -- who usually have reason to be unafraid that they will get into trouble -- can make less experienced editors afraid to discuss, much less edit.
None of these types care a lick about how disruptive they are to other editors, and they know how to avoid getting into trouble over it.
Left unchecked, they cause editors to lose respect for Wikipedia -- and when an encyclopedia loses respect, people cease to see it as one. -- Rico 19:35, 24 April 2010 (UTC)
lol - this is getting a little Animal Farm-ish: we're all equal as editors, except some editors are more equal than others...
while I don't disagree with some of the points of this essay, i does tend to mix a number of unrelated issues, in some odd ways. emotional incompetence, bias and grudges, ESL issues, stupidity and lack of education: it reads like a litany of bad faith assumptions, and the original author probably should have read through wp:BEANS first. No sense encouraging people to give up AGF too quickly. I'm tempted to go through and rewrite it from somewhat more philosophical/psychological perspective. would that be acceptable? --Ludwigs2 06:04, 8 June 2010 (UTC)
I say go for it. -GTBacchus(talk) 22:40, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

It's all circular[edit]

(in a good sense)...because it is only according to consensus that we can determine who has been unreasonably incompetent, when. Still, a great essay, IMO!--Hodgson-Burnett's Secret Garden (talk) 20:34, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Anyone who disagrees with the consensus, that the incompetents' opinions are not required for consensus, is unreasonably incompetent. Why else do you think it is so easy to establish a consensus? (talk) 03:48, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure but...[edit]

I hate to resort to the slippery slope argument, but I really do imagine that people will one day start using this as a golden excuse to avoiding the assumption of good faith policy. Basically anyone not assuming good faith can simply say they actually are assuming good faith.

A:"Omg you're a total failvalanche get out of this place"
B:"Assume good faith"
A:"[WP:CIR]" (talk) 03:45, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

Indeed, most Wikipedia policies can be abused as sticks to beat other Wikipedians with. Personally I've very rarely witnessed Wikipedia:Assume good faith invoked by someone whose own faith was blameless. Guidelines are abused by editors who lack moderation and invoke them as ironfast regulations. --Wetman (talk) 05:18, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
Actually, this page is required because of excessive interpretations of the AGF policy. A typical example was an editor who, apparently, was not able to communicate with others except by writing sonnets, of all things.
A: "Please stop communicating in sonnets, except in personal communications with editors who have made it clear that they don't mind. It's almost impossible to understand what you mean to say with them, and the mere attempt wastes valuable time and attention of editors who have better things to do."
B: Responds with a sonnet about unfairly he is being treated and what a strange and unfriendly place Wikipedia is.
(Made-up example dialogue from memory.)
It took ages to get this editor banned indefinitely, because there was no reason to suppose we were dealing with a prank, as opposed to a severely disturbed individual. IIRC, in the end he was blocked for the evident lack of competence that very obviously made the necessary collaboration in a project to build an encyclopedia impossible. Hans Adler 06:33, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
I guess Wikipedia rules, just as all systems of enforcement will never prevent people from causing damaging. We sometimes have to face it: if people want to do damage, they can, either by direct damage when a rule is missing, or by framing others when the rules are present. Reminds me of when I heard that, man have always dreamed of a way to make others' hate and disobedience futile, but the real solution is to prevent reason for hate and disobedience to emerge in the first place. (talk) 01:46, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
There's a more recent ArbCom example when someone got banned for their "unusual style of communication" among other things: Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Senkaku Islands. Have mörser, will travel (talk) 06:04, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I encountered an editor once who said the following about himself:
  1. He was a German living (permanently) in some small Asian country.
  2. He had horrible repetitive stress injuries that made typing painful.
  3. He believed that English spelling was irrational.
  4. As a result, he "needed" to communicate by typing enormous comments that were phonetically spelled and omitted all spaces and nearly all punctuation because his "disability" prevented him from using normal spelling, pushing a space bar, using voice-to-text software (the "disability" here was apparently about his unwillingness to buy it), etc. So "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" might be rendered as something like "nawisthetymferolgudmentokumtotheeduvderkontri"—and he generated huge volumes of this.
  5. All editors were required by American laws to not only let him do this, but to be kind to him and to defend him against people who complained, and to "translate" his near-nonsense so that others would be less likely to complain.
I don't remember what happened to him: People were rude, so he left? He got blocked? He got bored with his performance art project (one did wonder if he was simply making it all up)? I don't remember. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:01, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't know if your example is just hypothetical, but I found a wikisonnet [1]. (talk) 07:49, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Making this a guideline[edit]

Does anybody have thoughts on potentially promoting this to a guideline? It would probably have to be rewritten so that it's not read from a first-person perspective, and cleaned up to be a bit more professional, but overall, it does seem like a good essay to counter overuse of WP:AGF. Inks.LWC (talk) 06:05, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

  • No. This is best left as an essay. It is interesting and informative, but it does not guide any decision. It does not help decide who is, or who is not competent, and does not guide decisions as to what to do when encountering incompetence. Not should it. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 06:22, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
That might have been true in 2011 but it's not true anymore. CIR is often used as a reason for administrative action. In this case, for example, an editor of two months was indef blocked on the basis of WP:CIR. If admins are going to do this sort of them then WP:CIR should be promoted to policy status. --Nstrauss (talk) 00:34, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
On the contrary, administrators citing this essay to people that it applies to, is an indication of a need for administrators to be reminded of the contents of the essay ("if WP:COMPETENCE applies to an editor, it is usually not appropriate to tell them so"). --Demiurge1000 (talk) 17:34, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Strongly agree. It's nice to assume good faith...but having to constantly clean up after editors who do not understand the concepts that they are editing is a colossal waste of time/energy. --Xerographica (talk) 00:41, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
  • No. While the basic idea is sound, it is not possible to tie down precisely enough what constitutes "competence" to make it a firm guideline. We have enough guidelines and policies already, without more instruction creep. Also, a proposal that stood here for six months without attracting any significant amount of response can scarcely be considered to have strong community support. JamesBWatson (talk) 17:03, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
  • No. While this is an interesting essa, JBW's comments are well taken. CIR may be cited as an admin action rationale, but I would think the citation is done in connection with other, more basic and well defined rationales. --S. Rich (talk) 17:18, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

Lack of competence vs incompetence[edit]

One of the difficulties with using this essay is that it is perceived as a personal attack to suggest that any editor is incompetent in any particular area. The word "incompetent" has very strong negative connotations. The problem here is that forms of negation such as "in", "un" or "not" have two meanings: "the opposite" [antonym]; or "anything other than" [complement]. The confusion is that those who are not (entirely) competent [complement] are (completely) incompetent [antonym]. However, there are degrees of competence. Being able to ride a bicycle is some competence towards riding a moped, motorcycle, or even driving a car. And a lack of competence does not imply uselessness. Even those who cannot drive can recognize bad driving.

In my view this essay might work better if it were more explicit about the distinction between "not competent" and "incompetent", and recognized the shades of gray in between. What matters is that editors should be sufficiently competent to contribute in the way that they contribute to the areas to which they contribute. Being insufficiently competent does not imply incompetence. Geometry guy 23:41, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

There has been no reply here (or edit to the article) in nearly two weeks: I shall bear this in mind when other editors cite this essay in discussion. Geometry guy 23:29, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
  • I'll be happy to answer this for you.

    In the essay, there's a bit commenting on the tendency of some to call the essay uncivil. This stems, IMHO, from a persistent fallacy: that "civility" = "being nice/uncritical." This is, of course, not true. Civility simply means acting with courtesy and due respect. It is not, by definition, uncivil to tell someone "Your actions and statements are disruptive, and continuing them puts you at risk of being blocked" when, in fact, they are and they will. Uncivil is "You're a troll, and if you don't take a hike I'm going to block your ass."

    In like fashion, I see no reason for politically correct weasel-wording in discussing competency. If you are incompetent in a particular field, and you insist on editing articles in that field, it is not uncivil to say so, and it neither implies nor infers that because you are incompetent in X field, you're incompetent in every other field as well.

    Is it "nice" or "uncritical" to say so? Probably not, no. But someone clueless enough to not recognize that he knows nothing about an area, impetuous enough to determine he needs to push his POV on the subject nonetheless into the world's largest encyclopedia, thin-skinned enough to resent being called on it, and lacking enough in English language skills to jump to the conclusion that a charge of incompetence in one area must equate to a comprehensive condemnation of him as a human being? That fellow isn't an asset to a collaborative project such as Wikipedia. Ravenswing 06:27, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

If people citing this essay normally did so with a coherent explanation of what areas of competence the person being addressed lacked, that would be all well and good. However, most references to this essay boil down to "I don't like the way you edit. You should read WP:COMPETENCE or you will probably get blocked." That's much closer to "a comprehensive condemnation" than a meaningful explanation of a problem in a particular area. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 14:14, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
I am not a fan - and no editor should be - of the syndrome where an essay is cited as the authority for backing up any action, whether it be a deletion, a block, an edit war or opposition to the same. That people misuse or miscite essays, or mistake them for black-letter policies, is not the fault of the essays. Ravenswing 18:14, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Indeed not. But when objections are raised to the existence of this essay, its defenders (including myself at one time) generally say "that's not actually a problem because the essay is not intended to be cited that way". That defence holds no water if the essay is generally mis-used. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 22:48, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Someone has claimed that misuse of an essay isn't a problem? Perhaps so, although that's a particularly muddleheaded way of thinking; misuse is always a problem. That it's a problem requiring the elimination of the essay is another thing altogether, and that's absurd. If every essay, guideline and policy on Wikipedia that has been misused by idjits were eliminated, for no other reason than that some people just can't be trusted, it'd be a pretty bare field out there.

For my part, I'd much rather respond sensibly to such situations and resort to calling people on any such misuse, rather than just throw up my hands. Ravenswing 01:18, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

We need more Wikipedians like you, then! So far I've not seen anyone else "call people on" such misuse of this essay.
If the essay were properly used more often than it's misused then it wouldn't be such an issue, but right now, it seems to be rather the other way round.
And if we find ourselves trying to eliminate the majority's natural behaviour when such an essay is available to them, because it's not acceptable to eliminate the essay, then we have things rather the wrong way round. It's an essay, it's not holy writ. If there's a way of fixing the essay through ordinary editing, then that should be the first step. If not, AfD beckons. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 02:58, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

I read this thread with interest, but it seems only to address the first two sentences of my initial post. What about the rest? Geometry guy 01:03, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Personally I think the essay will still be used (or perceived) in an inappropriate manner so long as it has any association with the word "competence". Emphasising the difference that you point out will not solve the problem, because, of the two meanings you discuss, the common English understanding of the word "competence" is that one is either competent or incompetent. (So for example, in a work environment, if I say "this issue was caused by a lack of competence on the part of the engineer", then the assumption is that I am insulting the engineer even though I am using your "lack of" wording rather than the "incompetent" wording. What I might say instead could be something like "a lack of appropriate training for the engineer contributed to this issue occurring" or something about the engineer's expertise being more focused on other areas).
By which I mean, even if I say "I'm sorry, but you're not quite competent enough to copy-edit articles for Featured status yet" or "I'm sorry, you're not quite competent enough to edit Wikipedia at the moment", then readers will naturally assume that what I am actually stating is that they are incompetent. It's easy enough to write both the sentences without using the c-word (and I've done so on quite a few occasions), and probably that's what needs to be done for this essay too. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 01:29, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
Until, of course, the new word is proclaimed by a vocal enough minority to be pejorative, and yet a newer word is requested. That being said, GG, the first two sentences of your post were far less muddled, and far more readily addressed, than that which followed. As far as your "shades of gray" go, I disagree; it is entirely subjective, and not particularly useful, to attempt to gauge whether someone is only "partially" competent in a particular field, and if so, to what degree. IMHO, for the purposes of Wikipedia, either you are competent in a field or you are not; we don't need half-educated/trained people writing articles on subjects they do not fully undersand. Ravenswing 01:53, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
So you're expecting the euphemism treadmill to be a problem? I don't know but what you are right.
Fundamentally, there's no method that accurately communicates the issue and is totally inoffensive. There never will be. Some people will always be offended by hearing that someone else thinks they aren't perfect. We cannot copyedit our way into a world in which narcissistic injury does not exist. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:09, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
"Euphemism treadmill." Huh; I hadn't heard that turn of phrase before, and shall have to remember it. Quite useful. Ravenswing 22:44, 16 March 2012 (UTC)

Great essay but...[edit]

It doesn't talk about how to properly deal with incompetent people. It's hard going through the whole dispute resolution regimen without sounding like a total newbie biter, and clamping down on their edits until they get the hint isn't very nice or effective. _dk (talk) 21:04, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

I haven't looked at this talk page recently, but the (present) last section indicates a problem with competence, although, on whose part, is not at all clear. Any ideas? — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:42, 6 January 2013 (UTC)


I see someone asked for clarification for "It is also not free license to ask for someone's credentials", what's not clear about it? You cannot ask other people's credentials to imply they are not appropriately qualified for the purposes of the article. -- (talk) 09:38, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

Questions regarding possible inclusion of "Disabling conditions" section, and also about how to specifically deal with individuals with such[edit]

First, I think that this essay probably needs some sort of acknowledgment that there are individuals who might be psychologically incompetent to edit. I am thinking here specifically of cases like Attention Deficit Disorder, senility and other age-related mental deterioration, people with memory loss issues, as well as, possibly, people with some form of schizophrenia or other mental impairments which prevents them from seeing reality in a way conducive to editing.

Also, I think that there might be reason to include a specific section regarding how to deal with such cases. I believe that there might be one such editor here right now, who, based on some of their own comments, may well qualify under one or more of the points I raise above. This comment is not however specifically directly about that individual, and on that basis I am not offering any names. Also, honestly, if we haven't yet encountered any instances of previously useful and productive editors who suffer some sort of mental deterioration which proves to be an impediment to their continued functioning here, I think it likely we will in the future. While none of us would want to see that situation arise, I think it would be very useful if we might be able to come up with some specific ideas regarding how to deal with individuals who are experiencing some loss of mental agility, as well as, potentially, people who are experiencing such loss but are not themselves able or willing to acknowledge it or change their on-wiki behavior based on it. John Carter (talk) 19:39, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

I guess people with existing mental health disorders (or specific memory problems, cognitive problems, etc.) simply do not spontaneously feel like "hey, let's be a highly active editor at the very complicated Wikipedia, this is where I belong". They might try a few times though. This may change when the interface will be changed for a simpler one (the upcoming visual editor for example) - then we may have to deal with such cases.
I guess the current problem might rather arise with existing good and active editors. Some might be fairly old and may begin to have memory problems, for example. Some might have a accident. It might be hard for them to acknowledge the change, and give up on their hobby to edit Wikipedia - we all know how being addicted feels. ;-) Such cases should be dealt with delicacy. Cheers, Dodoïste (talk) 08:20, 11 January 2013 (UTC)
We have had such problems. I can think of two banned editors offhand whose mental conditions (one psychiatric, the other on the autism spectrum) were a significant factor in the inappropriate behavior that led to their bans. Editors with Asperger's syndrome are not unusual, and some of them find Wikipedia both extremely compelling (many tedious tasks with a defined "correct" or "incorrect" outcome) and extremely difficult (social interactions). We need people who are willing to go through thousands of articles to (for example) correct list formatting to comply with WP:ACCESS#Lists, but some of the people who are willing to do this task have trouble handling disputes that inevitably appear if you change thousands of articles (e.g., an ignorant editor reverting their corrections and yelling at them about it. Not everyone handles false accusations gracefully). WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:53, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Competence vs good faith[edit]

Recently I was blocked for a week for referring to two editors and one admin as incompetent. Here's third party evidence of their *insert euphamism here* ... User_talk:Bwilkins#Concentrated_benefits_and_diffuse_costs_2. I also referred to the two editors in question as Value Destroying Editors (VDEs).

When I asked all the editors involved to copy and paste exactly which passage from the personal attacks entry was applicable to my behavior...they were unable to do so. That's because my behavior has focused ENTIRELY on what the editors in question have been doing...and NOT on who the editors are as people.

This entry needs to be improved so that editors know exactly what steps can be taken to deal with editors who consistently edit way outside their areas of expertise. For example, should there be a noticeboard specifically created to deal with incompetence? --Xerographica (talk) 19:53, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

The entry needs to be improved so that editors know exactly what steps can be taken to deal with editors who understand the subject, but do not comprehend, or are incapable of following, Wikipedia policies and guidelines. (I don't know whether you were serious, but I am.) — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:44, 6 January 2013 (UTC)
I have a problem with the "area of expertise" concept as it's being used, since it seems in contradiction to the ban on original research. That is, you should not necessarily have to have expertise in medicine to edit a medical article. There are perhaps types of edits that require knowledge in the subject area, like being able to summarize a highly technical journal article into a new paragraph, or changing the meaning of an existing paragraph based on such new research, but there are many types of edits that don't really require any such specific knowledge (e.g. MOS issues, spelling, grammar, punct, etc.). In other words, it should be more clear that one can be competent for certain types of edits, while not necessarily being competent for others, and it would be better to point out the specific areas of incompetence (as others have said) as well as suggested work for which the editor may be better suited.
That aside, I haven't seen WP:CIR misused in the several months that I've been watching the admin side of things. In fact, it wasn't even mentioned in one case where it was clearly applicable and the user was eventually (and correctly IMO) blocked for some of the reasons cited in the essay, after a significant amount of discussion and attempts to work with them. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 20:03, 11 January 2013 (UTC)

Competence is not ...[edit]

I've modified the bullet item about credentials. (It was tagged for clarification.) The idea of asking or demanding credentials is problematic. After all, how would we really know if the stated credentials on a user or user talk page were genuine? I could set up an account that looks like I'm a MacArthur Scholar, who's written various best sellers, and have appeared in Playboy/girl magazine, etc. But would you really know if this is true? (In fact, it's sorta like Internet dating!) Also, showing credentials in order to make or justify an edit is rather ad hominem. The real issue is whether the particular edit is worthwhile.

Here is an example: someone pretending to be Sue Gardner has made certain edits [2] to an article I've been watching. This ersatz editor (warning -- WP:EGG!) has a total count of 1,669 edits. (I think I'll post a Service award on her talk page.) Is she competent? Is she really Sue Gardner? What does she know about rent seeking? After all, she doesn't tell us anything about her knowledge of tenantism or landlordism. Along comes User:PAR -- who has a higher edit count -- and, thank goodness (?), Sue's edit is reverted. (See: [3]). The real issue is whether the edit or contribution or reversion or revision helps the article. The skill of the editor in making the edits in accordance with guidelines is important. But posting credentials won't change any editor's skill level or competence, nor change the value of any particular edit.--S. Rich (talk) 05:14, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

I suggest the following be added to the "Competence is not..." section: Accusing an editor of incompetence should not be misused in order to censor reliably sourced information from Wikipedia, to "protect" an article from expansion, or as part of an unsubstantiated personal attack." Ghostofnemo (talk) 00:05, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
I posted a version of this, but it was immediately deemed unacceptable and removed from Wikipedia (but NOT censored). Here's the diff of the deletion: Ghostofnemo (talk) 11:46, 17 November 2013 (UTC)


What do you think about deleting or rephrasing the sentence "We must always value the project as a whole more than we value the contributions of any individual editor" ? If a contribution is individually valuable, it is necessarily (i.e. by definition) valuable to the whole. Alfy32 (talk) 21:38, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

One possible example for a situation underpinning that sentence would be a hypothetical where one editor may do good work, but their actions cause other editors to depart the project, resulting in a net negative to the project when compared with the removal of editing privileges for that individual editor. VernoWhitney (talk) 22:33, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
Does that indeed happen? Do editors indeed happen to boycott someone despite him doing a good job? Or do you have a better example? Alfy32 (talk) 23:05, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
There are several editors who do excellent work in one area (e.g., grammar or bot-writing) but are extremely rude to other people. We have lost editors because of the social incompetence of "good" (but rude and uncollegial) editors. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:05, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

Competence: continuous and infinite in both directions[edit]

I want to add a paragraph as to how "competence" is not defined monolithically. It is mentioned that one must be competent to edit on a given subject, or must altogether know how to write - i.e. as if whether or not to participate in our collective wealth creation process was a mere binary decision.

But apart from actual editing, there are many other ways one can help the community. Undo vandalism, add sources, translate, comment on AfDs, etc. Even when it comes to editing, there are various ways (levels at which) one can contribute. Just like in a real economy, the productive capacity of individuals is heterogeneous and specialized, and distributed along non-discrete scales. In short, Wikipedia needs a working class (that is, above the bots).

I think that many good-faith contributors that may be labeled "incompetent" (and thus discouraged) could be redirected towards other (nonetheless helpful) tasks.

If anyone has ideas or sources/references to share on this I would appreciate it.

PS: newbies such as myself also like to work up the competence scale, by assuming more productive tasks as familiarity with rules and traditions increases (and as does the Peter wariness).

Alfy32 (talk) 22:19, 22 January 2013 (UTC)



I saw this:

"After all, the whole point is that they are either incapable of recognizing their own incompetence when pointed out to them, or are incapable of changing their behavior."

Does this mean that when this "essay" applies, the only option is (like it or not), a block? After all, if they cannot recognize the incompetence even after having it pointed out, then they cannot even restrict their participation and will continue to disrupt. Also, isn't it so that "incompetence is incompetence", and some of the stuff from the "essay" may apply even if they can change or recognize? mike4ty4 (talk) 01:45, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Yes, people get blocked over this. No, that's not the only option. Sometimes they get so discouraged or mad that they quit first.
It's also not true that all incompetent editors are incapable of recognizing it. Some are fully aware that they're not being positive contributors. They're the ones most likely to quit on their own. WhatamIdoing (talk) 13:49, 20 June 2013 (UTC)


"Some people just can't function well in this particular collaborative environment. We can't change Wikipedia to suit them, so if they're unable to change themselves, they'll need to be shown the door. Editors with disabilities that affect behavior or those that suffer certain mental health issues sometimes fall into this category. This isn't an anti-disability statement, but an explanation that these are not acceptable excuses for poor interaction." Isn't this gross? Yogesh Khandke (talk) 17:24, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

I agree. Discriminatory and stereotyping language is unacceptable on Wikipedia, even in the context of an unofficial essay. We must not single out editors with disabilities and mental health issues, just as strongly as we would not tolerate any statement that implied an editor was not welcome on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation. I have removed the two sentences starting with "Editors with disabilities ...". Gandalf61 (talk) 09:26, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Hmmmm. I disagree strongly with that action. It's all nice and well to want to not say rude things about people with mental illness, but it IS real, it IS an illness, and if it affects peoples' ability to work collaboratively here, we must acknowledge that, and take appropriate action. Pretending mental illness has no impact is no solution to either editors whose ability to work here is negatively impacted by their condition, or the problem of mental illness in general. HiLo48 (talk) 09:49, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
People are unable or unwilling to work collaboratively for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with mental illness. On the other hand, many people with mental health issues are completely happy with collaboration. What I strongly object to is the implication that there is some sort of correlation between mental health issues and inability to work in a collaborative environment such as Wikipedia. This is offensive, and simply not true. Gandalf61 (talk) 10:11, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
There is no such implication in the wording that was used. It carefully used words like "Some people", and "sometimes", and "This isn't an anti-disability statement." It very clearly said that it did not include all people with mental illness, What's with your over-sensitivity and paranoia? HiLo48 (talk) 10:19, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Let's keep the discussion factual, and drop the ad hominem attacks, please. The implication of correlation is inherent in the singling out of the people with mental health issues for special mention. It would be just as true (and just as irrelevant) to say "Editors with red hair sometimes fall into this category". Gandalf61 (talk) 10:32, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
No it wouldn't. That's a stupid thing to say. You really are showing some sort of massive sensitivity over this. And it's not adhooonmoim or whatever to say so. YOU stick to facts please, and keep the paranoia out of it. THE ARTICLE EXPLICITLY DID NOT SAY "ALL"!!!!!!!!! HiLo48 (talk) 10:47, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Okay. Since you seem to be incapable of having a calm and civil discussion about this (which is somewhat ironic, given the issue we are discussing) then I am done here. Gandalf61 (talk) 11:02, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Something needs to be said along the lines that some disabilities are (strongly) correlated with the inability to participate here, and that it is not "anti-disability" or "discriminatory" to note that. I, personally, don't see anything wrong with the statement you deleted, but I'm still proposing an alternate. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 11:16, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Arthur - thank you, your alternate wording is an improvement, and I have attempted to improve it further. It would be helpful to know which specific conditions you have in mind here when you say "some disabilities". Gandalf61 (talk) 11:35, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
That's better-phrased. I was thinking of a particular editor whom, according to editors who had an in-person communication with him, had an autism-spectrum disorder and was visually impaired, to the extent that most editors had absolutely no idea what he had written, even if it may have made since to him. But simple paranoia may both lead to the inability to accept NPOV on certain issues, and the belief that the editors who disagree with him are "the enemy", leading to a failure to accept the possibility that his actions may be "wrong" (in the sense of differing from Wikipedia policies and guidelines). — Arthur Rubin (talk) 15:35, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I don't consider HiLo48's comments to be civil, but Gandalf61's comments resemble bullying. Furthermore, HiLo48's comments are not an ad hominem argument; both of the arguments fall under the special pleading fallacy. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 11:25, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
I have no idea what you'r talking about, but I do know that some (NOT ALL!!!!!) mental illnesses can (BUT DON"T ALWAYS!!!!!) cause irrational behaviour of a form that would lead to incompetent editing. And that's exactly what the content in the article was saying. I cannot comprehend how anyone could take offence at what was being said. Oh, and red hair CANNOT cause irrational or incompetent behaviour. That suggestion IS irrational and incompetent. (And possibly offensive to some.) This whole thread was based on a very poor understanding of the words in the essay, and possibly some weird sensitivity and paranoia. I'm desperately trying to understand the complaints. They seem quite irrational to me. (Is that a form of incompetence?) HiLo48 (talk) 19:46, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I've boldly generalized the statement. We're concerned here with the social skills, behaviors, and traits that are necessary to edit Wikipedia with competency. I see no reason to mention "disabilities and mental health" since these problems we're concerned with are not so specific, nor do we want make implications about the causes of people's social problems here.

We should instead be identifying specific social behaviors/skills/etc described in our behavioral policies/guidelines. --Ronz (talk) 21:14, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

OK, I can go along with that. But I still have problems with the comments of our first two posters above, especially Gandalf61. What both claimed the article was saying was absolute nonsense. The name of this section is certainly wrong. It was nothing of the kind. HiLo48 (talk) 21:22, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
Ronz - thank you for your amendment, which has made this section of the essay much better. As you say, the emphasis should be on social skills and behaviours, rather than on speculation about the possible causes of inappropriate behaviours. I completely agree that certain behavioural traits may make a person unsuited to particpation in Wikipedia. Examples might be a compulsion to pick fights with others editors, an inability to see other editors' points of view, or a low anger threshold. If an editor exhibits these behviours consistently over a period of time, and they show an unwillingness or inability to modify their behaviour, then blocking or even banning that editor would be an appropriate response from the community. But we should not speculate about the underlying cause of such behaviours. Gandalf61 (talk) 08:44, 15 November 2013 (UTC)
Stop trying to be clever, and try to explain exactly what was "discriminatory and stereotyping" about the language in the original text. It had so many qualifiers and conditions it could have offended no rational person. And try to explain why you supported a thread with the name "Gross". HiLo48 (talk) 10:22, 15 November 2013 (UTC)
The text in question (in the OP and now replaced in the essay, diff of 4 edits) was probably intended to address the issue that has arisen two or three times at places like ANI where various editors complain about some user, then someone offers an explanation for the user's behavior ("they have condition X which means Y and that causes them to perform the problematic behavior"). Perhaps once or twice there has even been a suggestion that attempting to stop a problematic user would be discrimination because they can't help it. Whether the original text was "gross", or whether certain editors are too sensitive, are not topics for discussion here. I don't particularly like either the original or the current wording, but the current version is an improvement because speculating about whether an editor may "suffer certain mental health issues" is never productive. Johnuniq (talk) 00:11, 16 November 2013 (UTC)
I don't think that there was a serious problem with the previous wording, but if it offends a significant number of people, then I'm not sure that the code phrase "some behavioral issues", is actually a significant improvement. From where I sit, it implies greater moral culpability for the person who is misbehaving, but will still be read as meaning "disabilities that affect behavior". That may be appropriate for this page, whose purpose is a bit more like "Even if you don't have a disability to blame your poor behavior on, we can ban you for being incompetent".
As for what's meant, it might be instructive to compare it to the closely related WP:NOTTHERAPY, which is explicitly about editors whose disabilities affect their ability to participate. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:28, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Create sub-section on intellectual incompetence[edit]

Under "common types" of incompetence, I think we should create a (very) brief section about users who lack intelligence. It's clear that someone below a certain level of intelligence could not effectively learn and apply the rules of WP. Steeletrap (talk) 04:58, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

IMO it is not needed and potentially offensive. WP gets editors from around the world and at times there grammer, speling, and sintax is not up to university standards. We ought not be labeling those contributors as less intelligent (or is it intellectual?) than others (much less, ourselves). Also, such edits get culled out mainly through the constant review process we undertake when monitoring our watchlists. The basic message of the essay works fine as is. – S. Rich (talk) 05:12, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
I think WP:Competent users are perfectly able to discern a language barrier from an intellectual one. To avoid offensiveness, we can add some sort of disclaimer to the 'intellectual' section. But it's pretty clear that intellectual incompetence of a certain level prevents effective editing. Steeletrap (talk) 12:51, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
I would oppose this, if only to keep this page short. And because "intelligence" is a quite vague concept. Though I would welcome an "unawareness of policy" section, because that does not seem to be covered yet. Keφr 14:02, 23 December 2013 (UTC) "grammer, speling, and sintax" — was that intentional? Nice.
As these comments develop they indicate a certain lack of competence in even defining the issue. Are we actually talking about "intelligence" and editors who "lack intelligence"? Those ideas are different than "intellectual competence". We have editors who say "I've got a degree in Antidisestablishmentarianism. Therefore I am an intellectual. And therefore my edits in subjects related to this area are more effective." But this is different than those editors who are intelligent, educated, intellectual, but WP:NOTHERE or plagued by WP:IDONTUNDERSTANDIT. Either way, such a section is prone to abuse because anal-ysis of editors native intelligence or intellectual achievement too easily leads to Orange-tinted remarks in Graham's hierarchy of disagreement. – S. Rich (talk) 16:19, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
@Kephir It's true that intelligence is virtually impossible to objectively define. It's also true that the colloquial (and psychometric) constructions of "intelligence" (e.g. IQ tests) are extraordinarily good predictors of competence in a wide variety of tasks, including in education and the professional world. (in these discussions, I'm grateful that I (a liberal/progressive) went to the school I did, and got the un-PC truth about such subjects rather than the doctrinaire leftist version.)
@Rich, honey, where oh where did you draw this inference from? No one has said intelligence=education, even if the latter is also relevant for competence. Steeletrap (talk) 22:28, 23 December 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It's rank equivocation to suggest that awkwardness in English is what's meant by "intellectual competence". It's also absurd and irresponsible to ignore the natural fact that human intelligence is stratified and that such differences might correlate with differential success among the editors who participate here. As to the application of any such requirement, however, there would need to be an operating definition rather than an abstract principle.
Srich, since the issue of language barriers is already addressed in the essay, why are you accusing @Steeletrap: of denigrating non-English fluency as a defect of intelligence? Have you read the essay? If not, please study the current version before commenting further. SPECIFICO talk 01:10, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

Yes, this has nothing to do with linguistic skills. It's about skills in comprehension and logic. Several of my most unpleasant experiences here have been with well intentioned but determined editors who simply know the (incorrect) truth about something, but who cannot change their view no matter what facts and logic they are presented with. In the cases I'm referring to it's clear that this is not so much an unwillingness to change, but an inability to comprehend certain levels of logic. Conversations are pointless. It's impossible to draw a precise line, but it's a genuine issue. HiLo48 (talk) 01:19, 24 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm totally into sensitivity, and I especially appreciate the need to be sensitive to the incompetent. But nonetheless, this is a real problem that the essay should address. Perhaps we can use a euphemism such as "ability." Steeletrap (talk) 01:35, 24 December 2013 (UTC)
@HiLo48: - You have identified a real problem on WP. There are editors who are inclined to think that they are stating a reasoned argument when in fact it's just their preconception with a few links attached. I've also seen serious allegations leveled on ANI and SPI threads in which the accusers did not know the difference between statistical evidence and casual observations of biased samples. And then there are the citation googlers, who do not evaluate the search results they eagerly acquire... The problem, however, is that the editors who do these things have little understanding of alternative modes of thought and tend to react badly to discussion of the issue. Any thoughts about how to create operational criteria to deal with this problem would be welcome. SPECIFICO talk 01:50, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

Solution: whenever we come across such intellectually (or intelligentsia) impaired editors, I suggest we cite this essay and tag their userpage with:

Code Result
Mediocre Editing.gif This user is a mediocre+ Editor.

S. Rich (talk) 06:02, 24 December 2013 (UTC)

Unheeded advice[edit]

I think this proposal is unnecessary. There are no editors out there who would benefit from this addition, because the ones without intellectual competence would not read the guideline, or they would not think it applied to them. Binksternet (talk) 02:28, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps the incompetent would not benefit from it, but her or his peers certainly would. Steeletrap (talk) 03:26, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
Removing this statement is problematic: It does not mean we can label people as incompetent. For example, we do not say "You are incompetent because you don't know anything about the subject of this article."
It's important that we specify it is uncivil to go around labeling editors as incompetent, calling them that repeatedly, blaring it about. It only should be brought up in an ANI or RfC/U with a solid listing of examples supported by a number of editors, none of whom have some agenda for declaring someone incompetent who is not incompetent. Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 03:29, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
We can reiterate that in the 'intellectual incompetence' section, if you feel that particular type of incompetent is particularly susceptible to PAs. Steeletrap (talk) 04:25, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── These comments are taking a personal turn. Shall we ask for page protection? – S. Rich (talk) 04:35, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

What are you talking about? Who do you believe was personally insulted here? Steeletrap (talk) 04:36, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
We all know about the personal interactions that have taken place. This is an essay and talkpage for the community to consider. It should not be used for our own agendas. The Policy on PA works well enough. If competence or remarks about competence degenerate to PA, then there are other solutions. – S. Rich (talk) 04:43, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
Well, I think I was being clear that the issue is labeling to point of harassment, as opposed to bringing issue up. (In fact I think I made a mini-joke about it somewhere in my travels today.) In any case, I agree that any change needs community support and should not be made just for some partisan agenda or other. Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 05:09, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
On that score, Srich you really should undo your EW reinsertion of your language which I reverted. That language is not in the spirit of the essay and sets an affirmative obligation to engage with incompetent editors to "cure" them. It reminds me of Michelle Bachmann's husband and all that sort of thing. No editor is obligated to "cure" the incompetence of another, for reasons which should be obvious (as stated by Bink and others here.) Please undo your reinsertion of your preferred text. SPECIFICO talk 05:15, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
What problem are those wanting changes here attempting to remedy? There will never be perfect wording for an essay on a delicate topic such as competence, but there is no need to spell out that some people are dumber than others. In essence, the community does not care why someone is incompetent at editing—perhaps they lack intellectual capacity, or perhaps their English is poor, or their temperament unsuitable—who cares? The point of this essay is that endless rounds of people offering to assist a problem editor so they won't be blocked is not productive. While yet another remedial attempt may work, as far as this essay is concerned, there is a certain point ("I know it when I see it") at which an editor's lack of competence is established, and such an editor has to try another website. The current wording is fine. Johnuniq (talk) 05:19, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
John, I agree with your sentiment, but if you look at the language which Srich has EW back into the article, it talks about following incompetent editors around "mentoring" them possibly against their will and trying to force them into a shoe that does not fit. That language is not in keeping with the spirit of this essay as you summarized it. SPECIFICO talk 05:22, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────:::::Let’s separate the issues. One is removing reminder not to label people incompetent. A separate issue is adding language to make it seem more incumbent on us to help people. Please specify which you want to keep and which you want to get rid of. Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 05:51, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

Suggested edits[edit]

Hello concerned editors – @Steeletrap: @Binksternet: The edits in this sequence [4] are significant. Proposed changes should be discussed so that collaboration and consensus prevails. – S. Rich (talk) 06:08, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

The problem is that Bink used a logical fallacy to support his argument. Bink supported his edit by arguing that the text should not discourage users who are incompetent in a field from correcting spelling errors in articles relating to that field. My version did not imply that incompetent users are unfit for basic copy-editing. So that was a straw-man argument. Steeletrap (talk) 06:17, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Incidentally, the importance of logic and reading comprehension should be underscored in future edits to the WP:Competence page. Steeletrap (talk) 06:19, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
eye disagreee. Yur sugested edditt serwes too xclude editers frm maquing simpl copiedittype correcttions. Binkster keps de feild opepn four non-SME's two provid helpfull an valueable improvments. Oui shuld leve de verbage ass ist. – S. Rich (talk) 06:36, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
The old version which I am trying to restore is virtually indistinguishable from the one that was there for years. As I demonstrate above, Bink's version (added in late January, supported by no one but Bink, and justified by no talk page discussion) is rooted in a logical fallacy. It is also poorly phrased, and lacks talk page support. Steeletrap (talk) 07:21, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Srich, this is a serious issue and an important one for the Project. Clearly the discussion here has aroused some controversy. Your attempt at humor appears to belittle the issue and it is disruptive. If you have thoughts to contribute here, please do so in a straightforward way that you can be sure will not derail the discussion. Thank you. SPECIFICO talk 14:35, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The edit you are discussing is from AlanM1 who added it in late December 2013. We should allow AlanM1 to voice his thoughts. Binksternet (talk) 17:51, 22 February 2014 (UTC)

Copy edit and spelling corrections of my comment above (which Murray Horwitz thought was good.): "I disagree. Your suggested edit serves to exclude editors from making simple copy edit type corrections. Binkster keeps the field open for non-SME's to provide helpful and valuable improvements. We should leave the verbiage as is." – S. Rich (talk) 20:21, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
The point of my version was that you need not be an expert in electronics to edit for grammar and punctuation in even the most technical of electronics articles. However, it's probably not good to wade too deeply into re-wording without an understanding of the underlying subject. Further, experts in a field are often incapable of dealing with "boring" things like spelling, grammar, layout, punctuation, wikilinking, proper references, etc. If both electronics and English expertise were required to edit electronics articles, there would be far fewer of them, and they'd look like crap. That's the point I feel needs to be clarified, however it should be worded. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 02:36, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
That's all correct. There seems to be a straw man argument put forth here by editors who are sensitive about their lack of subject expertise and are trying to suggest that CIR would prevent them from doing purely editorial clean-up. It should go without saying, there is no such principle implied. I think the former stable version is fine. SPECIFICO talk 02:43, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
I agree with AlanM1 that the point needs to be clarified. His wording could be tweaked but the principle needs to remain. Binksternet (talk) 02:46, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The previous version was:

"Clearly, every editor is incompetent for some subjects, so it is important to know or discover your limitations."

The meaning of "is incompetent for some subjects" can very easily be taken to mean that they are not competent to edit articles on those subjects, which we all agree is not true, right? That's why I changed it to:

"Clearly, every editor is incompetent for some types of edits in some subject areas, so it is important to know or discover your limitations."

to specify exactly what we mean.

While one may infer this meaning if reading the entire article, many readers do not do so. Article sections are routinely linked to and read alone, which can result in language that is clear in context becoming ambiguous on its own.

I don't understand why the addition of this clarity is a problem, except that it seems to have turned into a battleground based on a lot of old baggage.

In short, I believe there is consensus for the principle and object to its current vagueness. We should say what we mean. I would even add the example I gave above, if it were my own project. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 05:13, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

But my edit of that was much better :) (diff):
Every editor is incompetent in some areas, so it is important to learn one's own limitations to avoid causing problems.
And I'm happy with Smtchahal's edit which inserted "Clearly,".

But what I really think is that we should stop fiddling with this essay until the Arbcom case is settled. Johnuniq (talk) 05:49, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

  • "Clearly" was there to begin with.
  • "In some areas" still sounds like it's talking about subject areas, and does not distinguish that from spelling, grammar, etc., which is why I used the word "types". I would even expand on it further as I did in the example I gave above, given the chance.
  • "to avoid causing problems" is vague (what problems?) and unnecessary (isn't that the point of most of these policies?).
  • Thanks for pointing to the ArbCom case. Now I know what the old baggage is. Shouldn't those involved recognize that they might have a COI in trying to drag this small clarification into their existing argument, or is there real disagreement over the substance of this issue?
  • Is there consensus for the point I am trying to clarify, which is that one need not be familiar with a subject area to perform some types of edits (e.g. style, spelling, grammar) on articles in that subject area?
—[AlanM1(talk)]— 08:44, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
I know this section has been stable for 3 months, but I have run across edits by someone who is clearly incompetent to edit mathematics articles, to the extent that he frequently changes spelling of a technical term to a similar English word. It is not necessarily the case that someone incompetent in a technical field is necessarily competent to correct spelling errors. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 20:05, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
I'd think this is a problem in particular articles or particular editors. So seeking to have the essay distinguish between these areas of competence may be difficult. As for the particular articles, perhaps editor comments are the best way to thwart such changes. (Still, don't take the articles off your watchlist!) – S. Rich (talk) 20:31, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Bias as a type of incompetence[edit]

I disagree about including bias as a type of competence or incompetence. Bias deals with all sorts of NPOV-type problems, such as WP:BOOSTERism or righting great wrongs, and (not just) religious or political bias. Some people with such inclinations are quite capable in editing – and they use their skills in a biased fashion. Indeed, we might see them use their skills to insidiously push their views. In this sense they are over-competent. If we include this "test" of competence, we run the risk of editors complaining that such editors are "incompetent" because of disagreement over POVs. Best to leave out this section and deal with basic skill type competence. – S. Rich (talk) 05:24, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

On the other hand, there are people whose bias does make them incompetent. Just because it's possible to be both biased and competent does not mean that it is impossible for bias to cause incompetence. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:10, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
The recent edit misses the point that the purpose of this essay is to explain that Wikipedia is not for fun or therapy—the encyclopedia needs edits that improve it, not merely edits that are well intentioned. Adding detail about religious or political bias does nothing because the nature of a bias is irrelevant. The point is that a bias may result in consistently poor edits in a particular area, and that is a competence problem which may be resolved with a topic ban.

It was also not a good idea to remove 'we do not say "You are incompetent ..."' because the WP:CIVIL policy requires that we don't go around labeling each other as incompetent, and the removed wording is correctly reminding the reader that this essay is not a green light for attacks. Johnuniq (talk) 06:38, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

In fact, NPA dictates that "You are incompetent..."-type remarks are not appropriate. Should this essay be used when making remarks like "You are incompetent because of your biases" or "You are incompetent because you lack social skills" or "You are incompetant because you simply can't spel correctly"? Certainly not. IMO the essay is useful to the extent it gives us perspective as to what Wikipedians should be doing and what level of skill is needed to do so – but when this essay becomes a tag to attack other editors in content-related disputes, the essay is misused. – S. Rich (talk) 06:59, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Yes, this essay cannot allow the reader to blithely violate WP:NPA. Binksternet (talk) 07:05, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

Rolling back[edit]

I just rolled back the essay to this version by WhatamIdoing, from January 21. The changes flying back and forth here should be discussed and settled, otherwise the current spate of edit warring has no foreseeable end. Binksternet (talk) 06:46, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

It seems that I began it by adding the nutshell. The page was pretty stale before that; last edit before that one was made in January. Anyway, I would appreciate what people think about the nutshell. I was surprised to see that an essay as important as that (or so I think) did not have one and was bold enough to add it. Smtchahal (talk) 07:15, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
It is a good nutshell. The changes (fairly recently) are related to editors who are concerned about article improvements in topics subject to dispute. As far as the essay improvement process goes, I endorse including your nutshell. – S. Rich (talk) 07:24, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
I agree it is a good nutshell, Smtchahal. It should go in.
The rolling back I performed was because the dispute here is carried over to this essay by multipple editors who are involved in the ArbCom case about Austrian economics articles. Part of the ArbCom dispute is how the Competence essay may be used by topic experts against non-experts. My take on the Austrian dispute is that two topic experts, Specifico and Steeletrap, have been trying to protect their particular editing bias from challenges via the Competence essay. They have been accusing others of incompetence as a part of battling for control over content. I hold that a biased editor making biased changes is violating WP:NPOV whether or not they are an expert in the topic. In that regard, NPOV trumps COMPETENCE. This essay should not be changed to make it easier for biased editors to use it against non-experts in content disputes. Binksternet (talk) 15:05, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying that for other editors who may be wondering about the sudden interest in the essay, which after all is not even policy. Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 15:44, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Bink, the fact is you and Carol are violating the spirit of the essay by making substantive edits to pages whose subject matter you know nothing about. Steeletrap (talk) 16:03, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
If you are so expert on the topic, how is it that you could not find proper sources for the articles about Mark Thornton, Jesús Huerta de Soto, Stephan Kinsella, Ben Swann and Sharon Presley, all of which you nominated unsuccessfully for deletion? Regarding my "substantive edits" to Austrian articles there has been only one: "Intolerance in covenant communities", at the Hans-Hermann Hoppe biography; a change which is largely still in place today. Somehow my supposed incompetence did not prevent me from adding good material, which was in response to your misrepresentation of Hoppe's views. A topic expert who misrepresents the topic is a greater danger to Wikipedia than an incompetent. Binksternet (talk) 17:45, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Note to Bink: A "substantive edit" can include a revision. I do realize that you have not been able to add new content to the articles, and have said so many times. You are focused on undoing other people's edits and haranguing them on talk pages. Steeletrap (talk) 18:22, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Also: I'm hardly an "expert" in econ. I am not economist. However, I am well-read layperson with a bachelor's in econ from a top program. You know nothing about economics and have said so yourself; why on earth do you think you are able to judge who is and who is not in the mainstream of economics? Steeletrap (talk) 18:24, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
I just got around to reading it and it doesn't really describe the contents and is obviously a vague club that those who like to claim incompetence can swing around. Time for an RfC?? Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 17:51, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Wait, is there a disagreement yet? Some users have said that they think the nutshell is good, you say it isn't. But those who say it's good don't yet know what your version is, so I think it'd be better if you just say what a better nutshell in your opinion would be and see if everyone agrees with that. Smtchahal (talk) 18:39, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

First you have to look at the context, as explained by Binksternet earlier, here with my reply. You've had four editors screaming "incompetence" at those they disagree with in economics articles. One was site banned in January for disruptive behavior, including of course yelling incompetence willy nilly.
There is right now an Arbitration where I mentioned their editing this essay to change the policy to sanctify their yelling incompetence willy nilly. I've complained this itself is against the spirit of the Arbitration.
So my complaint is that IMHO this is not a conversation going on with the best interests of wikipedia in mind. Don't you think this whole conversation is just too tainted to continue until after the Arbitration is over and sanctions are levied? I'm annoyed at myself for getting involved at all and not speaking more plainly earlier. (Or even asking Arbitrators to levy an injunction on any of us editing the essay?) Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 20:11, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
I agree that significant changes shouldn't be made to this essay if an ArbCom case (partly) regarding changes being made to this essay is currently ongoing, and that the editors involved in the case shouldn't be making significant changes to the essay until the issue is resolved, but I am in no way involved in the case and was merely someone who comes across this essay and says, "Hey, why doesn't it have a nutshell?" and decides to add one. I have no problem in waiting for the case to end. Should I revert the essay to this version, then? It seems to be the last revision since Steeletrap and SPECIFICO edited it. Smtchahal (talk) 21:25, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
IMHO, this essay is not so central that non-involved editors can't edit as they wilt. Just the involved ones should not edit or opine, and we know who we are. Carolmooredc (Talkie-Talkie) 21:50, 26 February 2014 (UTC)
I'd prefer rolling to this version, which contains my clarification. Additionally, I'd like to add one of my examples from above to expand on the meaning of "some types of edits". —[AlanM1(talk)]— 20:14, 2 March 2014 (UTC)

Trolling paper[edit]

Spaking of what competence isn't, has anyone else seen this article on the psychological profile of internet trolls (the paper itself appears to be paywalled)? I was wondering if it might make a good external link in a Wikipedia essay. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:35, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

There is some discussion of social skills in the essay. While "trolling" is a loaded word, I think that there are some behavioral patterns and proclivities which make collaboration difficult or impossible. Collaboration is an acquired skill and some editors are not competent in this regard. I'm not talking about the occasional heated exchanges or an editor who loses her temper but then steps back. I'm referring to people who fundamentally cannot see themselves as part of a peer group of editors and engage others with respect for their contributions. SPECIFICO talk 17:33, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

"Intelligence" is covered in the "Editing beyond your means" section. "Administrator" competence is well-beyond the scope of this essay. The vetting process for admins is complex, thorough, and sometimes described as onerous. There are procedures for recalling admins. Such recalls rarely, if ever, hinge on basic competence. With these thoughts in mind, I think that discussion and consensus is needed before "Intelligence" and "Administrator" subsections are added. – S. Rich (talk) 18:19, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Rich, think before you write. Is editing beyond your means really synonymous with lack of intelligence? Answer: Not at all. If I tried to edit on a Medieval history question, I would be editing beyond my means. But my problem is not lack of intelligence. It's lack of education. Generally speaking, I recommend you brush on how to draw these sort of conceptual distinctions. Steeletrap (talk) 18:31, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
The idea of an "intelligence" subsection was discussed earlier. Thus far there's been no consensus to add the subsection. – S. Rich (talk) 18:39, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
  • I support the removal of these edits which show little understanding of standard procedures. Personal opinions are not helpful in this essay. Johnuniq (talk) 00:28, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Is 'incompetent' an ad hominem attack?'[edit]

The article, somewhat incongruously, says that competence is required of WP editors but also admonishes us not to raise attention to the incompetence of others, because that is a forbidden PA. However, "incompetent" strikes me as a description of someone's cognitive state, not an insult or value judgment. Steeletrap (talk) 19:13, 20 May 2014 (UTC)

Yes, that's why anyone citing this essay at or to a person, should expect such comments to be redacted without discussion by others. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 19:16, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
If we believe calling attention to someone's incompetence is a PA, that we cannot hold individuals accountable for their incompetence. (Or at least, we have to admonish such a user in a duplicitous, roundabout way which fails to address the heart of the issue: namely, that s/he is an incompetent) Steeletrap (talk) 19:29, 20 May 2014 (UTC)
There is a brief archived discussion of the issue at WT:No personal attacks/Archive 11#Competence vs good faith. – S. Rich (talk) 20:39, 20 May 2014 (UTC)20:31, 26 May 2014 (UTC)

Suggested improvements (BRD'd)[edit]

Steeletrap made various Bold changes, Binksternet Reverted, so here starts the Discussion:

  1. "Good will is for naught if a user's worldview is misinformed...." (Educational) – problematic change. Steeletrap has a concern about AIDS denialism, but this essay is not the place to highlight the concern. The prior sentence/version works just fine to explain the need for "basic understanding....." without giving ammunition to someone who wants to say "You are incompetent because your worldview is misinformed." or "I have a Master's degree, therefore I'm a better editor and you are incompetent."
  2. "Grudges" – not a good paragraph from the get-go (IMO). Simply a editor behavior type problem. Some editors may have grudges against each other because of blocks or bans that resulted from edit warring reports, POV editing, etc. But that does mean they are incompetent.
  3. "Bigotry" – problematic addition. Simply a variation on "worldview", but basically a NPOV matter, not a competence matter.
  4. "Talk about incremental changes" – problematic paragraph. Basically a behavior problem. For the newbies, we should revert multiple diverse article changes, post a welcome message to them, and urge them to study up more on how WP works. Getting them to learn has nothing to do with basic competence.
  5. others — please add.
S. Rich (talk) 19:43, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
You don't think that bigotry is a real issue in Wikipedia or the world? I think it's absurd that this page has nothing about ethnic or racial prejudice. Do you think a Holocaust denier would be competent to edit about the Holocaust?
Also, I didn't add two of these three paragraphs. I just re-sectioned them. Steeletrap (talk) 23:24, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
Of course bigotry is a real issue everywhere. An editor who was a Holocaust denier is unlikely to announce their beliefs, but they still might be able to edit Holocaust related articles with competence. It all depends on what they want to add or subtract, not who they are. Same thing applies to ethnic, racial, political, philosophical etc. prejudice. What is added in terms of BALANCE and POV is important. In fact, an editor might be "prejudiced" in favor of some group or idea, but that does not mean they are incompetent. (Regarding my description of the changes, I said "addition" because the term bigotry was added replacing another term here.) – S. Rich (talk) 23:58, 9 August 2014 (UTC)
I don't know how anyone can object to my presentation of the "bigotry" section. I am not talking about political views. I am talking about hatred of people because of skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so forth. While I'm pleased to say that most Wikipedia editors -- hell, even most incompetent Wikipedia editors -- do not appear to exhibit such attitudes, they do exist. And they render one incompetent at editing about the group he or she hates. Steeletrap (talk) 00:07, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Along with the first diff about bigotry I posted, I'll add this one. IMO using the term "bigot" just opens up the essay to be used for arguments that are actually WP:ASPERSIONS such as "You are a bigot. You are bigoted against wo/men. You are anti-this-or-that. You are incompetent." Adding examples to the section, no matter how it is titled, also opens the essay up for those who want to add their favorite anti-bigotry or cause-related theme. (Other examples might be vegetarianism, homeopathy, capital punishment.) We don't need any specific examples. Still, no matter what, a person can be a bigot and yet be competent to edit. When we see the problem with their edits, it arises as a POV-pushing problem, not one of competence. – S. Rich (talk) 01:23, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Surely whether such an accusation is appropriate turns on whether it is true and provable? Steeletrap (talk) 02:34, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
I disagree that, for example, neo-Nazis are competent to edit about the Holocaust. As a matter of logic, it's possible that they would be competent. But, as a matter of course, they should be presumed incompetent on that subject matter. This does not mean they can't contribute to WP; but they should stay away from subjects intimately related to their prejudices. Steeletrap (talk) 02:35, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
In terms of the essay, the issue is how to best describe or define competence of editors. As for any particular editors, their activity/edits should be brought up on the appropriate notice boards. At that point we can look at the evidence (e.g., their edits) and determine what to do. But, again, it comes down to how they edit and not who they are. This essay should not be fodder for someone who wants to say "I think editor Adolf is a neo-Nazi and is therefore not competent." Besides, how would we know that editor Adolf is a neo-Nazi? Because Adolf has said so on their userpage?? – S. Rich (talk) 03:27, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Calling people incompetent is not the purpose of the essay. And saying that someone is (literally) a neo-Nazi would, if undocumented, be a bannable offense. Steeletrap (talk) 03:35, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Exactly – which is why we don't need to say Nazis, AIDS deniers, Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, anti-Arabs, etc. are "incompetent." (Shall we await comments from others? I'd like to see what other input we can get regarding your proposed changes.) – S. Rich (talk) 04:02, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
I do not think that personal prejudices is necessarily a barrier to competence. It only becomes an issue when editors violate neutrality and other policy in order to push their views. But that can happen with editors who are not bigoted. Mind you people with views far outside the mainstream are unlikely to contribute in a constructive way. TFD (talk) 03:40, 12 August 2014 (UTC)
Regardless of whether prejudice is a critical disability, I agree with TFD that in practical terms we need to deal with specific actions which may be identified on their face without reference to the underlying thought process. However, it is a recurring problem on WP I think that editors with strongly held minority views may not be fully aware of mainstream opinion on their subjects of interest and may deny that their judgment is flawed and biased as to proper balance and due treatment of alternative views. SPECIFICO talk 03:51, 12 August 2014 (UTC)


Let's please discuss these productively rather than making accusations of POV-pushing bereft of evidence. People are (of course) entitled to revert, but their reversion should be reverted if they don't provide a rationale for it. Steeletrap (talk) 00:49, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

We don't need a section about educational level, as educational level does not always indicate a person's position on the competent–incompetent continuum.
We don't need a bigotry section because bigotry may operate independently of competence. Not all bigots are incompetent.
I don't think this essay is for airing pet peeves. I think it should serve as a description of widely observed patterns. Binksternet (talk) 01:22, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
The "incompetent" categories are not meant to be categorical statements about a user. They refer to contextual incompetence. For instance, someone who isn't fluent in English may be perfectly well qualified to add RS to Eng WP; but she wouldn't be competent to add a large summary of the text. Similarly, a Holocaust denier could make competent contributions to a variety of subjects but would tend to be incompetent in her edits about the Holocaust. Steeletrap (talk) 03:40, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I disagree with you on education. I certainly agree that autodidacts without formal education can and do edit WP effectively. But if you are "uneducated" (meaning you've never studied something seriously, in a formal or informal way) about a technical subject, such as physics, you are clearly incompetent to competently edit encyclopedia articles about physics (apart from copy editing, vandalism reversion, and removal of obviously unreliable sources). Do you disagree? It seems to me that a big problem with Wikipedia is that many editors no nothing about the subjects they edit other than information obtained in a halfhearted, 5 minute Google session. Steeletrap (talk) 03:43, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
It looks like you are trying to institute changes which you prefer, but which do not have consensus from other editors. – S. Rich (talk) 04:07, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
It seems to me that four editors have weighed in. I favor the change and SPECIFICO seems to as well, given his reversion. You and Bink are in opposition. The wholesale (as opposed to partial) reverts without explanation are odd. Why, for instance, should the grammatical corrections be reverted? How are they POV? There also seems to be little justification to eschew the use of sub-sections for the common types of incompetence, since the point of the essay is incompetence and that is the only time in which incompetence is described concretely. Steeletrap (talk) 04:38, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
The grammatical corrections relate to the terms we use for "types of incompetence." Generally, we can use a lot of leeway with sub-section headings. But that section heading specifically identified what the sub-sections would be. (the sub-sub-sections, on the other hand, have more leeway, because they are not similarly identified.) Steeletrap (talk) 04:46, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Regarding grammar fixes, are you referring to this one? Seems you've taken a gender neutral version and turned it into a sexist one by using the female pronoun. Regarding the number of editors who have weighed in over the last several months, the number is much more than four. You have not gained consensus for any of the changes as far as I can tell. – S. Rich (talk) 05:52, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm not referring to my allegedly "sexist" edits. In the spirit of WP:Competence, let's try to refrain from ad hominem attacks rooted in grudges. I'm referring to my correction of the sub-section heading titles, as explained above.
Incidentally: using "they" in a singular sense is arguably ungrammatical (this is, as my edit summary indicated, a hotly debated subject. I tend to think it's ungrammatical because the verb that follows the singular they does not agree with its subject; suppose I say "they are a tease" and you ask who I'm talking about, and I say Binkster (one person); I effectively said "Binkster are a tease," which is obviously not right.) It is not appropriate to interject (arguably) grammatically incorrect phrasing into an encyclopedia. On the other hand, using "she" is perfectly grammatical as a pronoun.
It would indeed be sexist if everyone used only "she" in her or his writing. But as things stand, we're not even close to that; people tend to use "they" (i.e. commit a grammatical error) or he. Ideally, uses of "she" and "he" should be of equal proportion. I am trying to make up for all of the people who only use he by only using she. Steeletrap (talk) 06:23, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
I support Kephir's removal of the recent changes. The essay is fine as it was, and the attempts to pad it out with pet theories is not appropriate for an essay in Wikipedia space. The community has to use the information available to assess an editor—their edits. We are never going to require that someone has sufficient educational qualifications to validate their participation in a particular topic. If any change is warranted it may be to say that settling scores by rewriting essays is not desirable. Johnuniq (talk) 08:12, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
You're making straw-man arguments, Johnny. First, you're claiming that my changes call for an educational "requirement"; this implies 1) a requirement of formal education (as it would be impossible to provide evidence of independent study) and 2) an enforcement of WP:Competence as a matter of policy. But clearly, my edits to the page do not call for either, and in fact expressly state that formal education is not necessary to meet the "educational" requirement. Steeletrap (talk) 08:21, 21 August 2014 (UTC)