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User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principles

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This is a statement of principles from Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales, as updated by the community since then. The original version of this page was published on 27 October 2001.[1]


As we move forward with software and social changes, I think it is imperative that I state clearly and forcefully my views on openness and the licenses. This page, like all Wikipedia pages, is a living, dynamic document, which I will update and clarify as legitimate questions arise.

I should point out that these are my principles, such that I am the final judge of them. This does not mean that I will not listen to you, but it does mean that at some ultimate, fundamental level, this is how Wikipedia will be run.

(But have no fear, as you will see, below.)


  1. Wikipedia's success to date is entirely a function of our open community. This community will continue to live and breathe and grow only so long as those of us who participate in it continue to Do The Right Thing. Doing The Right Thing takes many forms, but perhaps most central is the preservation of our shared vision for the neutral point of view policy and for a culture of thoughtful, diplomatic honesty.
  2. Newcomers are always to be welcomed. There must be no cabal, there must be no elites, there must be no hierarchy or structure which gets in the way of this openness to newcomers. Any security measures to be implemented to protect the community against real vandals (and there are real vandals, who are already starting to affect us) should be implemented on the model of "strict scrutiny". "Strict scrutiny" means that any measures instituted for security must address a compelling community interest, and must be narrowly tailored to achieve that objective and no other. For example: rather than trust humans to correctly identify "regulars", we must use a simple, transparent, and open algorithm, so that people are automatically given full privileges once they have been around the community for a very short period of time. The process should be virtually invisible for newcomers, so that they do not have to do anything to start contributing to the community.
  3. "You can edit this page right now" is a core guiding check on everything that we do. We must respect this principle as sacred.
  4. Any changes to the software must be gradual and reversible. We need to make sure that any changes contribute positively to the community, as ultimately determined by the Wikimedia Foundation, in full consultation with the community consensus.
  5. The open and viral nature of the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License is fundamental to the long-term success of the site. Anyone who wants to use our content in a closed, proprietary manner must be challenged. We must adhere very strictly to both the letter and spirit of the licenses.
  6. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. The topic of Wikipedia articles should always look outward, not inward at Wikipedia itself.
  7. Anyone with a complaint should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. They should be encouraged constantly to present their problems in a constructive way. Anyone who just complains without foundation, refusing to join the discussion, should simply be rejected and ignored. Consensus is a partnership between interested parties working positively for a common goal. We must not let the "squeaky wheel" be greased just for being a jerk.
  8. Diplomacy consists of combining honesty and politeness. Both are objectively valuable moral principles. Be honest with me, but don't be mean to me. Don't misrepresent my views for your own political ends, and I'll treat you the same way.

See also[edit]

External videos
video icon Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia, TED (conference), 2005.


  1. ^ According to the copy of the page at the nostalgia wiki the original version of this Statement of Principles was created at: 01:34, 27 October 2001. Find more history here.

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