User:Andrewa/Please do not be rude

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It is mission-critical that Wikipedia should attract and retain good editors.

It is less vital, but still important, that we should not waste their time. And in fact, not wasting their time is an important factor in attracting and keeping editors.

More generally, the environment in which they work is critical to attracting and retaining good editors. We are all volunteers. Another key part of that environment is that editors must be treated with respect.

Or in other words, please don't be rude.

Rudeness is not just lack of civility, it may be expressed in many other ways, but it always... always... damages the project.

And while it is often tempting to be rude, it is never necessary.

Purpose of this page[edit]

This page offers guidance in making sure that your edits improve the encyclopedia, rather than just changing it. It seeks to look a little more deeply than the behavioral policies and guidelines.

Most editors want to contribute to building Wikipedia as the best possible encyclopedia. And quite frankly, the others are simply not wanted here. And if these others were ever to become a majority, or even a sizable minority, Wikipedia would quickly be reduced to ruins.

Wikipedia has policies and behavioral guidelines designed to protect editors from abuse and unwarranted criticism. Violating these can get you blocked or even banned, but these are really just a last resort.

We are dependent on the good will of editors, both in practice and in theory. This page is to help you, the editor, to exercise that good will, in the hope that by fostering it, we will gain and retain good editors, and be both a better encyclopedia and less vulnerable to the ever-present others.

What is rude[edit]

What will another editor find offensive?

  • Abuse. Words like shut up and worse.
  • Demeaning actions. Failing to respect their point of view.
  • Frustrating actions. Deleting their constructive contributions. Wasting their time.

All of these are to some degree in the eye of the beholder. But most often this is an excuse not a reason for being rude. If we just cut out the obvious rudeness, that will be a very good start.

And all of them are tempting on occasions. But none of them are necessary or constructive.


It would be wonderful if we could say that we have policies and guidelines (such as no personal attacks and civility) to cope with this. It's easy to assume that they should. Well, they never have, and probably never will, cope well with all instances of abuse.

Unnecessarily harsh words, even explicitly aggressive ones such as shut up and worse, are most often completely uncriticised at Wikipedia. And of course unpunished. And probably, most of us are guilty of them at times, so it's not a bad thing that they are unpunished, but it's a shame when they go without criticism.

It's interesting to note that an instant and permanent ban from Larry Sanger's Citizendium would be the result of even one use of abusive words like shut up there. But Wikipedia is not like that, and there seems little chance it ever will be.

The policies and guidelines help, but they are no substitute for attitude. Given good enough attitudes, we wouldn't even need policies and guidelines to control abuse. Given bad enough attitudes, and the rules would not save us.

So please, work on your attitudes at least as much as you work on our policies and guidelines. Your attitudes are by far the more important contribution you can make in this area. And also the more difficult. It's fun to make rules for other people, even at the cost of following them yourself. Just unilaterally cleaning up your own act is a lot less fun.

But even if rules are your thing, good attitudes will help you to write far better policies and guidelines.

Demeaning actions[edit]

These are the trickiest. We all hate patronising, but it's really hard to cite an example of patronising behaviour without becoming patronising ourselves.

Which brings us back to attitude. One of the remarkable things about the Internet is how well we do communicate on what is really just a glorified teletype. In hindsight perhaps we should have been equally surprised at how well telephones work, but while they don't give us facial expressions they do give us tone of voice. Talk pages don't give us either.

(Of course most web traffic, including Wikipedia, does use pictures, sound and even video, and in many ways. Blogs with endless family snapshots. emails with pretty "stationery" and animated GIFF smileys. Video Skype. But Wikipedia uses them very sparingly indeed.)

Talk pages work better than you might expect. There's still an enormous amount of information in a few bytes of text. We reveal far, far more of ourselves than we might like, and that includes what we think of our fellow editors.


Here's a rule of thumb: If you respect the other party in a conversation, then continue. If not, then go away until you do. Simple enough? It will not be easy. But Wikipedia will be improved by your abstinence.

Ah, but how do I know whether I respect them? Come on. Reality check. If you have difficulty in answering the question of whether you respect them, then the answer is "no". Isn't it?

Frustrating actions[edit]

Scenario: User adds good, valid fair-use image to article. Some time later, vandal removes it from the article. A week later it is speedy-deleted. User of course receives no notification until they next sign on, at best.
Results: Lost content, discouraged and possible lost contributor, encouraged vandal who is sure to be back.
Does it really happen? Often.
Advice: Please, do your homework. Even if the image is quickly restored and the speedy is then declined, so the damage is minimal, this means that probably two other editors have had to do a check that you could have done in less time than it took either of them. And that's the best case. Worst case, we lose content, and the contributor has every right to say, well I won't waste any more of my time trying to improve Wikipedia.

Scenario: User saves good-faith bio stub of minor but clearly notable celebrity, but with no references, intending to add them later. It is immediately (legitimately) PRODed. They supply references and challenge the PROD. Another user immediately proposes speedy deletion on very shaky grounds, which is almost immediately declined. The article is then immediately nominated at AfD, which it easily survives... after keeping the user in limbo for a week.
Results: Probable lost contributor. Almost certainly lost if they were new here, which is likely given their blunder in violating BLP, and doubly tragic as they've already shown the will and ability to learn and follow the rules. Worthwhile article now likely to remain a stub for some time.
Does it really happen? Often. Just lurk on AfD for a while and you'll see a steady stream of these.
Advice: If an article has survived one deletion attempt (by you or anyone else), this is a fairly good indication (not proof) that the homework was not done on that occasion, and that someone's time was wasted as a result. Give it at least a week before making another attempt unless you are very, very confident that you've done your homework this time around. You have other things to do, surely?

The common theme of these is do your homework.

Don't expect others to do it for you. That may work, and it may give you a buzz that you're making a lot of contributions to Wikipedia (articles renamed, articles deleted, lots of numerical impact) but really, this is the result of the time that others are spending cleaning up after you. If you weren't around, they'd probably still spend the same time contributing, and would probably achieve even more without you. So there's no upside, and the downside is, you're discouraging others as well as making little if any net contribution, despite your high article and edit counts.

Sobering thought?

What is homework and when do you need to do it?

Wikipedia is collaborative. You don't need to do a PhD in article titling before raising an RM or adding a cleanup template. It's good to flag things that you don't have time to fix yourself, so others can fix them, or even ones that you don't have time to investigate, so others can investigate them.

One key to doing this constructively is to avoid overstating your claims. And it's a cruel one. A common theme to both scenarios above is that claims were overstated. The speedy delete was pure rubbish, it would never have been raised except as a protest to the rejection of the PROD. More to follow

See also[edit]