User:Art LaPella/Because the guideline says so

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The Bureaucrat's Creed[edit]

(referring to Wiktionary:bureaucrat; I'm not a Wikipedia:bureaucrat)

If you're reading this, it's probably because you say one thing, and the Manual of Style (or other guidelines) say something else. You probably believe that any thinking person knows that commas (which I will use as an example) and such should be done your way. But I don't know that. The comma could go here, or go there, and it wouldn't really bother me much. Unfortunately, Wikipedians like to argue about everything.

Some of them feel so strongly about where the comma should go, that they have created guidelines for them. Others say the commas should go somewhere else, so they go to Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style to argue about them. That's a good place to isolate such arguments. So please take your argument (if any) to that talk page, and then change the guideline if the consensus supports you. That will give the experts who wrote the guideline a chance to have their say.

But they're wrong![edit]

But, you argue, it's obvious it should be done My Way, so why should bureaucracy obstruct the obvious?

Because it isn't obvious. It isn't obvious to me, it isn't obvious to the person who wrote the guideline, and more importantly, it isn't obvious to the consensus that allows that guideline to continue to exist.

But it really is obvious! Putting a comma over there is more hideous than September 11!

Well no, it really isn't obvious. A consensus of Wikipedians has decided it should be done the other way. That wasn't an accident or a typo. They really do think it should be done their way, not your way.

But this situation comes up in real articles all the time! It has to be done correctly, with proper English!

Whoever wrote the rule knows the situation comes up in real articles, or he wouldn't have bothered to write a rule about it. He wrote that rule because he disagrees with you about how to do it correctly, and about proper English.

But putting a comma over there is a slippery slope leading to an apostrophe over there!

Would that apostrophe be good or bad? I don't know. So take it to the guideline's talk page. That's where Wikipedia defers authority on this issue. If they are so wrong, then please give all of us the benefit of your wisdom, not just me.

Show some independent thought! The guideline is obviously wrong.

If doing it your way is somehow independent, then I'm hopelessly chained to consensus.

I hate it when people think our guidelines trump reputable style manuals!

I play no trump. But if your evidence or argument trumps Wikipedia's Manual of Style, then you should have no trouble changing it, right?

But My Way is really right! Do you want people to respect Wikipedia, or do you want it to look like a preadolescent blog?

But alas, some of us can't see The Emperor's New Clothes. So who (this is a guideline article, so "whom"!) should I believe? Some guy like you that I don't know anything about, or a consensus of Wikipedia's best opinions on the subject?

But I'm really smart! If Wikipedia can't recognize my genius, I'm going to quit!

Does that mean your genius exceeds the consensus of all the other experts at Wikipedia? How should I know that? I know! You can prove it by going to Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style, and changing the consensus. What do you want me to do, anyway? Do it your way while you're watching, and do it their way while they're watching? That would be neither productive nor satisfying, so you might need to get me banned or something.

But everybody knows you can't talk to those true believers![edit]

But that talk page is a nightmare! Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!

Yes, that talk page is pretty bad. It attracts power-hungry editors who love to make everyone else write their way, just for the thrill of power. When they meet someone who wants to put the comma somewhere else, there usually isn't any objective way to decide which is better, so they decide the issue by trying to outshout and out-insult each other.

But what's the alternative? Do it your way when you're around, and do it their way when they're around? As long as there are unreverted guidelines, the expectation is that the guideline will apply even when they aren't around. So different rules for different Wikipedia subcultures is a recipe for edit wars, as long as one of the rule systems is marked "This is the real rules."

One alternative is to spend some time at the Manual of Style talk page, and try to civilize them. I've spent some time there lately, and they haven't been nearly so unreasonable while I've been there.

Another alternative is to agitate for the delegitimization of the Manual of Style, or of most of it. That would be fine with me. If the Manual of Style isn't the real rules, then let's not allow it to call itself the real rules. Make it an essay. I hope changing your comma makes you angry enough to organize such a rebellion. But as long as Wikipedia is content to recognize the guidelines as authoritative, we should be honest and enforce them.

But the Manual of Style isn't a consensus of anyone but a handful of regulars. Any dissenters are hounded away. So it has no real mandate.

See this page's talk page.

Manual of Style guidelines should each include their rationale, not just arbitrary decrees.

You mean like the unfinished Register? Glad you volunteered! Also on the talk page.

We should wait until all articles become Featured Articles or Good Articles. Then Manual of Style guidelines should apply. Not before.

Expecting all articles (there are 5,250,713 and counting) to become Featured or Good is innumerate, like trying to solve global warming by giving everyone an ice cube. Besides, it's easy for my software to find Manual of Style violations in Featured Articles. Featured Articles are for editors. The most read articles are for readers. I edit Wikipedia for readers.

Ignore all rules[edit]

Ignore All Rules isn't just a guideline, it's a policy!

It's a misnamed policy. As long as we pretend to WP:Ignore All Rules, there's no way to have an intelligent conversation about anything until we come back to reality. Of course we don't Ignore All Rules; Wikipedians spend half their time arguing about them. I obey Ignore All Rules by ignoring that rule. More specifically, I ignore the words "Ignore All Rules", but I endorse the text of that rule: "If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it." That "If" makes all the difference; ignore rules sometimes, not always.

Wikipedia:What "Ignore all rules" means says "'Ignore all rules' does not create a logical paradox, because Wikipedia's policies and guidelines do not constitute a system of formal logic." Of course it's a paradox; the definition of "paradox" doesn't require a "logical system". No applicable, perfectly logical system exists anyway; see Gödel's incompleteness theorems. So I'll ignore that rule too.

If I mechanically applied a guideline to a special case where it shouldn't really be used, then I was wrong. But to convince me, you will have to convince me that the specific edit I made is different from the situation for which the rule was really intended. Arguing against the rule in general is not justified by WP:IAR (except for its misnamed title, which we can't possibly obey in practice). You have to argue that this situation is an exception, or else try to change the rule at its talk page. See WP:EXCEPTIONS.

But we mustn't let some rule become a straitjacket that prevents us from writing it properly!

The consensus that wrote that rule considers you to be a straitjacket that prevents us from writing Wikipedia properly. Unless, of course, the edit is among WP:EXCEPTIONS to that rule, which still applies to most articles.

The consensus at our Wikiproject is to do it My Way.

The bigger consensus is our policies and guidelines. See WP:CONLIMITED and {{Uw-mos}}.

Our guidelines are descriptive, not prescriptive. The guideline should be revised to match the actual practice, not the other way around.

The guideline should be revised? Sofixit! Maybe they will talk you out of it. Maybe they will agree. I don't know. But I know that we shouldn't have one rule here and a different, conflicting rule there. There should be one big consensus.

If you think guidelines are prescriptive, you'll try to make editing match the guidelines. If you think guidelines are descriptive, you'll try to make the guidelines match editing. If you do neither, you're just arrogant.

But it's just a guideline. As the word "guideline" implies, it should guide your own editing, not metastasize across everyone else's editing.

WP:GUIDES, which is policy, says: "Editors should attempt to follow guidelines, though they are best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply." Attempt to follow the guidelines. Nowhere does it say to follow them only on your WP:OWN articles. WP:OWN says just the opposite. You would correct a miscopied statistic in any article, so why should style be any different?


But this issue needs human judgment!

AWB allows users to spend all the time they want reviewing a change; it only speeds the time it takes to find the next example of a problem. So one expects any AWB edit to need human judgment – otherwise, the edit could be fully automated.

AWB is likely to indirectly reduce the time spent reviewing a change. But it's a statistical fallacy to conclude that AWB is bad. AWB reduces the time spent humanly reviewing a specific change, but AWB greatly increases the time spent humanly reviewing the average article. That's because most articles won't get any review at all, especially without AWB. That's also oversimplified; there are trigger-happy AWB users who should give more deference to the previous editors. But they should be dealt with as individuals, assuming we don't want to abolish AWB altogether. Making a fuss over any use of AWB that needs human judgment, which amounts to any use of AWB at all, doesn't control aggressive AWB users; more likely it drives out conservative AWB users.

Most Manual of Style guidelines are so obscure that even most Manual of Style regulars don't know them. They have no practical purpose without some kind of automation. Most articles that readers actually read aren't Featured Articles. We're lucky if they comply with spelling rules, never mind style guidelines. The only hope of cleaning up millions of articles is automation. And even Featured Articles can routinely benefit from style guideline automation that nobody else gives them. The Manual of Style should be redesigned as an instruction manual for automation. If you don't promote automation, then you just aren't serious about using the Manual of Style for any purpose except a social club.

The alternative to editing something with AWB isn't editing the same number of articles manually, giving more attention to each article. Nor is the alternative giving the same amount of time to manual editing that would have been given to AWB editing. In many cases, the alternative to AWB editing is that the editor will find something better to do with his time, whether or not it involves AWB or Wikipedia. If I took your broom away to make you clean our floor more carefully, would you respond by cleaning it with your toothbrush instead? Or would you tell me what I can do with the broom?

But AWB users often enforce the Manual of Style without listening to the consensus. They edit so fast, you know they're blindly saving without reviewing. They should have to document each change so it can be undone.

Each user account has an editing history that automatically documents changes, so perhaps you meant an additional document. Anyway, ignoring the consensus surely isn't limited to Manual of Style enforcement, and neither is not reviewing before saving. Wikipedia has chosen to allow some editors to use AWB, but to regulate it through the Wikipedia:Bot Approvals Group. That regulation doesn't require any additional documentation. And again, this applies to any AWB use, not just the Manual of Style. If an edit conforms to the Manual of Style, that doesn't prove it was done against consensus; if anything, it is limited evidence that it was done with consensus. What's really blind is trying to edit without AWB, because many more articles are never seen.

Some AWB Manual of Style enforcers do need some attention as individuals, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. When someone reverts my Manual of Style edits, I make sure that editor understands my opinion, but I don't re-revert. And therefore you won't find my name at places like Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents (ANI), unlike some AWB enthusiasts I could mention. But Manual of Style opponents also need to calm down. We have a Manual of Style for a reason. And that reason isn't just in case somebody wants to read it. If it were, we would call it an essay.

The bot policy says AWB users should "first ensure that there is a clear consensus". That definitely applies to "enforcing" guidelines!

"Clear consensus" is indeed a quote from Wikipedia:Bot policy#Assisted editing guidelines. "'Enforcing' guidelines" isn't. So far, no one has directly asked me to get approval from the Bot Approval Group, nor to my knowledge has that group ever interfered with editing similar to mine. But if anyone wants to review my editing, it's well documented and the code is listed. Being justified by a guideline isn't a reason for giving an AWB edit more scrutiny; if anything, it's a reason for giving it less scrutiny, and it's at least limited evidence of a "clear consensus". If the fact you're arguing means it's not a clear consensus, then the bot people need to approve everything – because everything stirs up opposition, and it's normal for that opposition to insist it knows better than guidelines, references, or anybody.

But enforcing a guideline is exactly what caused the date delinking drama! You're doing it again!

I didn't pay much attention to that arbitration because I had better things to do at the time, that didn't involve AWB or the Manual of Style. But my impression is that the most easily avoidable cause of the date delinking drama is exactly the attitude expressed above in boldface. Date delinking drama, Act 1 was to change the Manual of Style. Date delinking drama, Act 2 was caused by people who insisted we needed to duplicate that drama in order to determine if Act 1 should have any practical effect. Well no, if a change is worth doing slowly, it's worth doing quickly; the only question should be whether false positives can be held to a minimum. Many Wikipedians disagreed, but businessmen who pride themselves on efficient operation were presumably as frustrated as scientists confronting Randy from Boise – although I would have handled that frustration much more civilly, such as by referring people to this page.