Wikipedia talk:Five pillars

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Is this page a policy or guideline, or the source for all policies and guidelines?
A: No. It is a non-binding description of some of the fundamental principles, begun by User:Neutrality in 2005 as a simple introduction for new users. For comparison, WP:NPOV and WP:NOT were begun in 2001, WP:IAR in 2002, and WP:NOR and WP:V were written in 2003.
Q: What was this page originally based on?
A: It was an expansion of WP:Trifecta.
Q: Does the title refer to the Five Pillars of Islam?
A: No. It also has nothing to do with the Five Precepts of Buddhism or the Five Pillars puzzle.
Q: Even though it has nothing to do with the Five Pillars of Islam, won't Muslim people be offended anyway?
A: Muslim editors commenting here have confirmed that there is nothing offensive in this. The Arabic Wikipedia uses exactly the same words to title their version of this essay. The words "five pillars" are not inherently sacred; the same words might be used by Muslims in everyday speech, such as to describe architectural elements in a building.
Q: Does this page list every single important principle?
A: No. It does not discuss the importance of using common sense, not charging money to readers, cooperating with Wikipedias in other languages, the desirability of making pages accessible to people with disabilities or limited internet access, or any number of other principles that the community has identified as important over the years.
Q: Where can I find similar pages?
A: See Wikipedia:Principles.
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Wikipedia is an encyclopedia[edit]

I propose that the phrase "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia" link to Wikipedia:Wikipedia is an encyclopedia instead of Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not. When I made the change earlier today, I was (appropriately) reverted and asked to raise the issue on the talk page because it has come up multiple times before, most recently in July (diff).

The arguments for linking to WP:NOT appear to be:

  1. WP:NOT is, unlike WP:ENC, a policy.
  2. WP:NOT contains a lot of useful content.

The arguments for linking to WP:ENC include:

  1. It is counterintuitive for a positive statement (Wikipedia is X") to lead to a list of negative statements ("Wikipedia is not X, Y, and Z").
  2. WP:ENC is neither wrong nor controversial. It contains a definition of the term "encyclopedia", a modified statement of the first and third pillars, and a link to WP:NOT.
  3. The first pillar currently contains two links to WP:NOT, as well as multiple links to individual sections.

Changing the link from WP:NOT to WP:ENC does not, in my view, take away anything since WP:NOT will remain prominently linked both on this page and at WP:ENC. -- Black Falcon (talk) 23:45, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

I can't see the point of linking to something that says nothing new, in fact says practically nothing, and isn't a policy or guideline. Dmcq (talk) 23:52, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
See my comment at "02:23, 23 August 2013" in the preceding section. Johnuniq (talk) 03:31, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm the one who did the reversion and requested this be brought here, as I recalled a previous discussion about this very topic. I agree with Dmcq. Even though the 5P itself is only an essay it should link important ideas to the nearest relevant policy or in specific cases guidelines and not have links going to essays. Which by definition essays may not even be accepted by a substantial minority of the Community, let alone a majority.Camelbinky (talk) 19:54, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I believe that linking to NOT helps new users more than linking to ENC. Andrew327 19:57, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Despite the Title, WP:NOT actually describes what Wikipedia is in the first sentence, and in the nutshell. It then elaborates on that premise, with answers to common FAQs around the root-question "Is Wikipedia a ... ?"
In addition to that, WP:ENC served a completely different purpose for many years (2005 till early 2013 it looked like this). It is still a very oddly conceived page, that is placed at a prominent title - ifwecoulddoitalloveragain, we'd probably just make it redirect to WP:NOT, and/or retitle WP:NOT to "What Wikipedia is and is not".
Therefore, I believe the pillar should continue to link to WP:NOT. It's a bit WP:ZEN, but then so are a lot of things around here (eg. WP:IAR). –Quiddity (talk) 22:25, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Surely this could most easily be resolved by renaming (i.e. moving, and leaving a redirect) Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not to Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is and is not? Given the opening sentence described above, that would seem to be a more appropriate name in any case. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 11:38, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

I'd support that. –Quiddity (talk) 23:43, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
So a month later and the move still hasn't happened...Camelbinky (talk) 19:04, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
If you're moving/rename NOT, you would need to gain consensus to change it there. --MASEM (t) 20:20, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
Actually the WP:VPP would be the more appropriate place as a larger audience would have a say and be a more neutral area, whereas on the WT:NOT would be heavily influenced by those with a bias to keeping things the way it is.Camelbinky (talk) 16:18, 6 October 2013 (UTC)
Irregardless, the point is that the page that is being moved needs to be notified; the decision can't be made elsewhere without mention there. --MASEM (t) 17:40, 6 October 2013 (UTC)
I disagree that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and 'the sum of all knowledge'. Wikipedia is a compendium of secondary sources that meet certain rules. Sure, primary sources are allowed occasionally, but this thing is really aiming to be 'the sum of all reputable, published, summary of secondary source knowledge'. If they're not published somewhere reputable then it doesn't rate a mention. If that message got out I think there'd be many less new editors wondering why their new articles were deleted. AnonNep (talk) 17:17, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
The link should stay to WP:NOT. The goal here is to communicate what (some of) the policies are (at least in theory). ENC says next to nothing and it's just going to be some chaff to distract the new user from clicking on the underlying WP:NOT policy that the admins will throw at them chapter and verse if god help them they try to add something controversial. Wnt (talk) 19:29, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 5 June 2014[edit]

Edit articles Dusty2013 (talk) 15:43, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

Red question icon with gradient background.svg Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format. I've left you some links on your talk page that should help you get started. -- John of Reading (talk) 15:48, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

Real Information[edit]

I think it is important to mention in the pillars that information are real information. Abdusalambaryun (talk) 12:17, 7 June 2014 (UTC)

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you mean by "real information". WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:36, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
There are different information in literature, some real, some imaginary, some false, some true and mixture. Usually in our work the authors and editors seek real and true information. Abdusalambaryun (talk) 03:15, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
That is already covered in the second pillar. Verifiability matters more than truth on Wikipedia. ~Amatulić (talk) 15:25, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, modify, and distribute:[edit]

I think adding modify is unnecessary and confusing legalese at this level so have removed it. We are not covering everything allowed and this does not totally delimit restrictions. If somebody is doing that they should check further than here.

The link also point to WP:Wikipedia is free content which is not a policy, and more to the point seems a pretty useless nothing pointing to free content which is a Wikipedia article instead of s policy or guidelines. I changed the link should be to Wikipedia:Copyrights. I also linked Wikipedia:Editing policy for the mercilessly edited part and Wikipedia:Reusing_Wikipedia_content for the reusing bit. Dmcq (talk) 11:06, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

What is this page?[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

There is no clear consensus as to what this page is, though there does appear to be general agreement that it's not really a policy, a guideline, or an essay in the sense that we normally use those terms on Wikipedia. Several people question the need for any such classification, so, without wishing to enter a supervote, might I suggest that—as Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy—we leave it the way it is? HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 19:40, 22 September 2014 (UTC)


Right, looking at the history I can see it was created by Neutrality on 4 May 2005, but am trying to figure out where the discussion for it arose. Looking through Neutrality's contribs at the time (sorry for invasion of wiki-privacy), I can't see where it was discussed prior. It has no classification, so it isn't clear whether it is a policy, guideline or essay. So we may as well settle this now with a big RfC hug-fest, and folks can comment below and add some reasoning. I'll ask Neutrality to comment as well. Cheers and wikilove, Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 14:55, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Policy[edit]

  1. No. You can't be sanctioned for violating this page, even though you can be sanctioned for violating any of the five pillars. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. According to Policy, it "is a popular summary of the most pertinent principles." Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:27, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Guideline[edit]

  1. No. You can't be warned for violating this page, even though you can be warned for violating a guideline. (In some cases, you can be sanctioned for violating a guideline, but not for this, only for the rules that it cites.) Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Essay[edit]

  1. Probably. Since there is no definition for what an essay is, it appears to fall within the non-boundaries. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. This is an essay that very ably summarizes most of our important Wikipedia:Principles and Wikipedia:Policies (and some guidelines, too) for newcomers. It is the most important and most widely accepted essay, and it needs WP:NOTAG to be useful, especially since some people think that 'policy means you get blocked', so adding the correct tag might mislead newbies into thinking they can violate it with impunity. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:47, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  3. I don't oppose it being tagged as an essay. However extra clarification would be needed so that new users are not confused. After all it is summarizing and linking to policy which is not optional. Chillum 16:08, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  4. Yes, that's where it sorts. Many, maybe most essays guide the reader through some relevant policies and this is no different. Wikipedia notoriously has a proliferation of policies and any time we can clearly show one is not on the list that makes it easier for someone to get started. Fewer policy pages make for "more maintainable code", you might say. If you want, make up a sentence like "this is an essay, but accurately summarizes the policies it refers to." Wnt (talk) 19:33, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
    note, on reading comments below, I think Template:Information page is a good markup for this page. I assume information pages are at most a subtype of "more popular" essays, even if isn't currently a subcategory of essays... if it's a fourth type, well, the whole idea of having a fourth type and what that means is a headache. Some items like WP:Power don't seem different from a garden variety essay at all. Wnt (talk) 22:27, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  5. Yep. Essays can and do point to policies, but that doesn't make them policies themselves. Nikkimaria (talk) 22:07, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Something else?[edit]

  1. Maybe. In view of the vagueness of what an essay is, it probably doesn't have to be something else. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
    I would call it an "Official Policy Summary," although there is no such thing under our structures and creating the new category is more trouble than it would be worth. Carrite (talk) 17:19, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. No tag. It is a helpful document that links to our core policies that he show new users. Calling it an essay will confuse new users as it points to strict policies. Calling a guideline or policy is erroneous. I suggest we leave it untagged. Chillum 15:51, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  3. But I rather doubt that has to be said. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 16:14, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  4. No tag, per Chillum essentially.--cyclopiaspeak! 17:02, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  5. I don't think this should be tagged, but technically it appears to be an essay in origin, which has become a highly official very short summary of policy for newcomers. It's definitely more than an "essay" now even though its elevation to policy has never run through the appropriate process. Carrite (talk) 17:14, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  6. Just leave it like it is, I guess. Everything in life doesn't have to fit into a box or need a little tag. It's fine. (Expanded on this in the following section.) Herostratus (talk) 01:53, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  7. You're all wrong! This page is an aptitude test. People who believe everything must follow a predefined rule fail because of IAR. People who believe arguing over which decoration should be at the top fail because of NOT. The page is fine as is. Johnuniq (talk) 02:36, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  8. People who come here are not seeking induction into the hierarchy of the WP: namespace. They are trying to understand what Wikipedia is, or at least purports to be. This should be a gateway to the stuff it's actually about, not to the policy/guideline/essay multichotomy. There's a striking symbolism here: Is Wikipedia about the five pillars, or is it about arguing over which of the arbitrary and ever-growing categories of regulations the five pillars belong to? I think the fifth pillar has the answer. Lagrange613 05:26, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  9. It describes best practices, cultural norms, and other important principles of Wikipedia. It doesn't matter what you categorize it as, such categorization doesn't make it less useful or important. All the wonks who need things in neat little hierarchies to decide if they need to follow them or not are just going to have to learn to be OK with not being able to do that. --Jayron32 19:11, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
  10. It is was it is, and it need be no more than that. (If I must be more explicit, I'm more or less agreeing with the "preamble" conception, as well as the idea that this doesn't need a tag.) --j⚛e deckertalk 22:12, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
  11. It is not a policy, guideline, or essay.  It is "fundamental principles".  Tag it.  Unscintillating (talk) 00:52, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
  12. While we're looking at this we should also include WP:NUTSHELL; that being said I think it's fine as is.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 22:59, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
  13. Leave it untagged, like WP:42 (which, incidentally, has the line This is not a Wikipedia policy or guideline; please defer to such in a case of inconsistency with this page.). It's a useful summary, but the actual substance lies in the links. Ansh666 09:38, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
    P.S. the bikeshed should be green. Ansh666 09:40, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
    You are wrong, Ansh! The bikeshed must be blue! Face-wink.svg WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:38, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

Discuss away, folks...one of the issues is I have is that the FAC declares that it is not a policy or guideline, yet is then (presumably) treated like it is one, or some sort of fiat or something. Not really happy with that ambiguity. Each of the pillars is a policy, so is it automatically a policy too? Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 15:03, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

I always assumed it had something to do with the Seven Pillars of Wisdom but when Wikipedia started the proto-geeks were too wasted to remember the other two. AnonNep (talk) 15:32, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
It started life as only three at WP:TRIFECTA. Perhaps a seven-point version will follow some day. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:01, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
It is a summary of our 5 most fundamental policies. It links to policies. If the text of this page and the text of a policy it is linked too differs then that needs to be resolved.
If someone is saying that because this is not a policy they don't need to follow it then refer them to the actual policy.
By the way, this is the document that made me want to edit Wikipedia. Chillum 15:49, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Cas, this has been discussed repeatedly in the archives.
One of the problems with this is trying to get people to agree on what it means to say that something policy is a policy. That is, are we talking about "policy", lowercase, meaning the standard practice, or are we talking about "An Official English Wikipedia® Policy™", uppercase, an official description of same? Here's the difference:
  • When we're talking about "policy", then any statement, even a talk page comment, that accurately describes proper behavior is a policy statement. Under this model (think British constitution), this page (and hundreds of others) are "policy", and so is every single (accurate) talk page message left for people telling them to please not violate copyrights or add unsourced material about BLPs.
  • When we're talking about "An Official English Wikipedia® Policy™" (or Guideline™), then only a page that has been formally (bureaucratically) approved and labeled as such is "policy". Under this model (think American constitution), this page is "just" the most popular and well-written essay in the history of the English Wikipedia.
All of this adds up to: It is not really possible to answer your question. Formally, this page is an essay; informally, it is the best policy statement for newbies that we've got. Both the people who say that it's a policy and those who say that it is not a Policy™ are absolutely correct. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:01, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  • {{Information page}} seems like the best option since it summarizes policies and guidelines without being one itself. --Jakob (talk) 16:58, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
That looks perfect. I would support that. Chillum 17:03, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
"Information Page" sounds right. It is a summary of main policies for newcomers, the details of which are formally explained elsewhere. I don't think the page should be tagged at all, however. Carrite (talk) 18:22, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

I got to thinking about similarities between this and Preamble to the United States Constitution. There's a few similarities... it'd be easy to overstate this, but:

  • In the United States Constitution, everything is either an Article or an Amendment and has a number, except the Preamble which is outside that structure,
  • Similarly here, every page has a overarching category (Article, Essay, Policy, etc.) except this one which is outside that structure.
  • The Preamble is not really actionable. No court is going to overturn a law solely on the ground that it doesn't "insure domestic Tranquility" or whatever if it passes constitutional muster in every other way. So (unlike everything else in the Constitution) it's not really a law, exactly.
  • Ditto here, you never going to see "Blocked for violating WP:5P". This page is not really a policy, exactly.
  • And of course both the Preamble and this page could be described as "summary of what we're about, here".

So that's fine. I haven't seen anybody run around screaming "OMG, we have to rename the Preamble to Article 1 because everything has to fit into a structure of numbered laws!". It works fine. I guess that's my point: it's OK the way it is for this page too, it doesn't have to be called an Essay or a Policy or whatever. It just is what it is, a thing in itself. Herostratus (talk) 02:15, 15 August 2014 (UTC)


Hi all. I'm the one who began the 5P project page, some nine years ago. I never envisioned that this page would take off as it has, with translations on nearly every language version. I am gratified that so many have found it useful.

I claim no special insight on how to classify this page (i.e., as an policy vs. essay vs. some third option), but I would submit that the specific classification is not all that important. At core, this is a summary and a point of reference. I would submit that there is wisdom in thinking of this page as a preamble (as Herostratus suggested), or, as an abbreviated table of contents. It may be wise to intentionally not categorize this page as either a policy or essay. Not everything must be labeled. Neutralitytalk 03:10, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

Not label it?? what a heretic! Next you'll be telling us to ignore all rules! Thanks for WP:5P—we all love it, even those who haven't yet been assimilated. Johnuniq (talk) 04:28, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.


Fundamental principle[edit]

Considering this page is fully protected I don't think anyone should be making edits without talking about it first. Otherwise there is a risk of this being an admin only page. Chillum 16:05, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

You might have checked your premise before you take sideswipes at "anyone" based on it. The page is semiprotected. Bishonen | talk 16:13, 14 August 2014 (UTC).

I was not naming names to avoid being rude. I misread the protection and read the move protection. My apologies if I have offended you.

Regardless of the state of protection if you are reverted then you should discuss it and not remove the same text again.

The text you removed did not claim this page was a fundamental principle. It says it summarizes our fundamental principles. The 5 pages linked are indeed the founding principals of the project, at least that is what I was told when I joined 8 years ago and they have all stood since. So I don't think the line should be removed. Chillum 16:19, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Ok - while we're all here, we can vote on whether we keep or remove. clearly it's at 1-1 - Chillum says keep and Bish says remove - let's get consensus on this. I could take it or leave it. Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 21:16, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Remove please. Not necessary. Nikkimaria (talk) 22:07, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Keep per WP:PG first para. last sentence. Alanscottwalker (talk) 22:28, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
    • Alanscottwalker, I was the most recent person to edit the particular sentence you refer to. I assure you that when I wrote that 5P is "a popular summary of the most pertinent principles", that I did not mean "5P is a policy". WP:Principles and WP:Policies are not the same thing. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:28, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
        • The intro sentence does not say it is policy, so your point about whatever you meant does not address my argument. Alanscottwalker (talk) 10:22, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Keep. It's not wrong, and concise introductory text is a hallmark of good writing. Lagrange613 05:29, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  • Remove per... the fact we've had this discussion so many times and it is always a vocal minority that continues to oppose removing/ r at least rewording the sentence to make it clear, as What states- these are just SOME of the principles.Camelbinky (talk) 20:43, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

On the general question of what to say (by way of introductory sentence), it's been discussed a couple of times in the last couple of years. One of my favorite formulations runs something like "Some of Wikipedia's fundamental principles..." What I like about this is that it does not claim to be a complete list. In the current formulation, if what's important to you isn't on the list, then some people read this page and conclude that "_____" (fill in the blank: accessibility, education, not getting sued into oblivion, personality rights, user privacy...) isn't actually important. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:35, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

'Some' is especially bad as it makes it sound like a hotch potch. And by the way the things you mentioned are not fundamental principles of this part of Wikipedia. For instance the education aspect is really part of the foundation's aim for what to do with what we do, we're here to get the information organized. Dmcq (talk) 08:07, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
"Some" is worse than no introductory text at all. 5P is not a place to be wishy-washy. If there's another fundamental principle then it's time for 6P. Lagrange613 23:22, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principles (from 2001) lists eight principles. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:39, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
There's significant overlap between those eight principles and the five pillars, except maybe for principle #4, which is less a fundamental principle than just sound software engineering for a large, open project. Feel free to propose it as the sixth pillar if you disagree, but I don't think you'll get very far. Lagrange613 05:31, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Well I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition - "Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our four...no... amongst our weapons.... amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again." ;-) Dmcq (talk) 08:31, 16 August 2014 (UTC)