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Everything you need to know about Wikipedia, in two quotations

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit... Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

— How Facts Backfire, Boston Globe, 11 July 2010

The Cynic's Guide to Wikipedia

He who is attached to notability criteria and NPOV will suffer much. The man who expects only self-promotion and POV-pushing will never be disappointed.

The Fourth Law of Stupidity: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular, non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places, and under any circumstances, to deal with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.[1]

  1. If you wrestle with a pig, both of you will get muddy. And the pig will enjoy it.
  2. Ignorance is infinite, while patience is not. Ultimately, you will lose patience with the unchecked flow of ignorance, at which point you'll be blocked for incivility. The goal is to accomplish as much as possible before that inevitability comes to pass.
  3. If a person edits Wikipedia largely or solely to promote one side of a contentious issue, then the project is almost certainly better off without them.
  4. On Wikipedia, any form of real-life expertise is a serious handicap. If you have real-life expertise on a subject, do not under any circumstances mention it here.[2]
  5. If your edit sticks close to the original source, you will be accused of plagiarism. If your edit is paraphrased to avoid plagiarism, you will be accused of straying from the original source. Rinse and repeat.
  6. Jimbo's talk page is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
  7. If you hand an olive branch to a Wikipedian, he will likely try to beat you to death with it.
  8. Anyone who edits policy pages to favor their position in a specific dispute has no business editing policy pages. Corollary: these are the only people who edit policy pages.
  9. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to keep proposing civility paroles.
  10. The more abusive an editor is toward others, the more thin-skinned they are about "personal attacks" directed at themselves.
  11. The more a viewpoint is odious, ignorant, wrong-headed, or obscure, the more likely its adherents will perceive Wikipedia as their best opportunity to promote it.
  12. The most challenging, nuanced problems facing Wikipedia tend to attract the editors least capable of handling complexity or nuance.
  13. Anyone who defends their edits by citing WP:NOTCENSORED doesn't have the first clue.
  14. When a Wikipedian uses Latin, you can be sure they are up to no good.
  15. if $username =~ m/truth|justice|freedom|neutrality/i, then the account should probably be blocked preëmptively, because nothing constructive will ever come from it.
  16. Being blocked has never made anyone more civil. On many occasions, it has made people less civil. Nonetheless, our default approach to increasing the general level of civility is to block people.
  17. Forced apologies are worse than meaningless; they're demeaning both to the apologizer and to the recipient. Nonetheless, Wikipedians are obsessed with demanding forced apologies from people who clearly aren't sorry.
  18. When someone complains that Wikipedia is biased, it usually means that their ideas have failed to gain traction because they've misunderstood this site's goals. For example, to a committed flat-Earther, Wikipedia will appear to have a systemic round-Earth bias which stymies their efforts to contribute.
  19. The more an editor is incapable of assuming good faith, the more prone they will be to cite WP:AGF at others.
  20. Wikipedia's processes favor pathological obsessiveness over rationality. A reasonable person will, at some point, decide that they have better things to do than argue with a pathological obsessive.[3] Wikipedia's content reflects this reality, most acutely in its coverage of topics favored by pathological obsessives.
  21. The more often someone cites WP:CIVIL, the less likely s/he has any idea of what actual civility entails.
  22. You can tell everything you need to know about an editor's understanding of Wikipedia's sourcing guidelines by their approach to the Daily Mail.
  23. The amount of fuss that an editor makes over retiring is inversely proportional to the likelihood that s/he will actually retire.
  24. Anything truly insightful has been said better, and earlier, by someone else.

Received wisdom

Sources of self-esteem

The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
Barnstar of Diligence.png The Barnstar of Diligence
I thought I'd give you this Barnstar of Diligence for your combination of extraordinary scrutiny, precision and community service in numerous articles. Wikidudeman (talk) 05:38, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
Working Man's Barnstar.png The Working Man's Barnstar
I, Durova award The Working Man's Barnstar to MastCell for diligent efforts countering sockpuppeteers and long term vandals. Keep up the good work! DurovaCharge! 20:27, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
WikiDefender Barnstar.png The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar
I award MastCell this barnstar for quick and decisive action at the Community sanction noticeboard, thereby sparing all those articles on smoking from so much obstructive and pointless POV-pushing. Peter Isotalo 12:47, 18 October 2007 (UTC)
Tireless Contributor Barnstar.gif The Tireless Contributor Barnstar
For your tireless contributions to controversial articles and effort to strengthen the NPOV in Wikipedia. миражinred (speak, my child...) 03:32, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
WikiDefender Barnstar.png The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar
To MastCell, for maintaining the neutral viewpoint. Axl (talk) 10:38, 16 January 2008 (UTC)
The Wiki Wiffle Bat
Your courage is contagious, your reasoning is infectious, and your patience is the kind of communicable bug we should all be so lucky to catch. Thanks for just being. -- Levine2112 discuss 09:02, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
WikiDefender Barnstar.png 100px The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar & the General Alexander Haig Medal of Honor

These barnstars are presented to MastCell for courage and clear thinking in the face of obstinacy. -- Fyslee / talk 01:14, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

Homemadebarnstar.png Home-Made Barnstar
For all your good work. I associate you with intelligent and insightful views, and I respect your thoughtfulness. John (talk) 07:41, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Barnstar of Humour3.png The Barnstar of Good Humor
I'm stumbled across User:MastCell/UBX-CIV and it completely caught me off-guard. I laughed long and hard enough to cause the knitting broken bones in my face to hurt. Despite the resulting discomfort, I needed a good hearty laugh and I thank you for it. Vassyana (talk) 03:54, 18 July 2008 (UTC)
Barnstar of Diligence.png The Barnstar of Diligence
For being an administrator who is willing to look into the complex yet very important problems that show up at WP:ANI which most other administrators don't get into for lack of diligence. Bravo, and keep up the good work (though don't grow too big a head). The Evil Spartan (talk) 23:25, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

For MastCell, this award was meant for you. It is for those who seem to do everything right on Wikipedia, and go beyond that to show excellence and be respected in every aspect. You have the uncanny and never-ending patience to control your words in even the most intense and controversial situations. You are special. I hereby award MastCell with the “Cool Award.” -- Dēmatt (chat) 15:25, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

Writer's barnstar.png The Writer's Barnstar
What a nice article on an important book, Autism's False Prophets. I wish I could write articles so effortlessly. (At least, you make it seem so effortless.) Thanks. Eubulides (talk) 20:19, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
WikiDefender Barnstar.png The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar
To MastCell, for insisting on sensible, neutral articles. Axl ¤ [Talk] 16:25, 19 April 2009 (UTC)
Barnstar-atom3.png The E=mc² Barnstar
To MastCell, for hard work and common sense. Tim Vickers (talk) 18:55, 22 April 2009 (UTC)
Civility barnstar.png Civility Award
You're a better (more civil) man than I am, Gunga Din. Quartermaster (talk) 21:44, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Barnstar of Diligence.png The Barnstar of Diligence
Kudos to you for your watchful eye over Water ionizer. You are always polite, firm and evidence based. Gillyweed (talk) 04:01, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
Socratic Barnstar.png The Socratic Barnstar
For helping to remind us that a tempest in a teacup is still just in the teacup. Sodam Yat (talk) 18:54, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
Mensch5.png The Barnstar of Integrity
For resisting the temptation on the John Yoo discussion page to argue with bitterly ideological editors, despite being "a little leery about what's going on here," thus demonstrating selfless forbearance, dignity, calm good manners, and above all the personal integrity of balanced perspectiveElijahBosley (talk) 14:46, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Surreal Barnstar.png The Surreal Barnstar
By the powers vested in me, which are minimal, I hereby award you the surreal barnstar for your comments made during the Middleton dog deletion thread. It's been a long time since I laughed that hard at a wikipedia comment (I'm still giggling), which actually fit in well with wikipedia policy as well. We need more people like you in wikipedia. Bravo! Thegreatdr (talk) 22:25, 5 May 2011 (UTC)
WikiDefender Barnstar Hires.png The Defender of the Wiki Barnstar
It's about time you got some positive reinforcement for your tireless work editing articles and as an example for how to not only edit and collaborate but not take this place too seriously. Yobol (talk) 19:24, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
Kindness Barnstar Hires.png The Random Acts of Kindness Barnstar
MastCell, I can hardly find the words to express how impressed I am with your ability to step into a difficult situation with intelligent guidance in such a non-threatening manner. While other admins just banned the editors, you offered good, sound advice that may help to bring about a resolution rather than just anger and hurt feelings. I wish that there were more admins like you. You are my HERO for the day and many days to come. Gandydancer (talk) 15:28, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
United States penny, obverse, 2002.pngUnited States penny, obverse, 2002.png Cents for Sense
Sometimes two cents is worth alot more than it seems. Your comments always broaden the base for communication and discussion, widening the circle to include many Wiki-editors. Thank you for your continued concern about our most precious commodity---our reader. ```Buster Seven Talk 16:58, 15 April 2012 (UTC)
Cheeseburger.png You may need some sustenance since you've been on the Trayvon Martin case for quite a while now. Hang in there--your work is appreciated. Which reminds me: I had an edit request, that we include the number of nose hairs counted in recent photographs of each of the two participants; can you just stick that in? Thanks! Drmies (talk) 15:17, 10 April 2012 (UTC)
Special Barnstar Hires.png The Special Barnstar
Awarded to MastCell, for telling it like it is. JN466 01:30, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
Administrator Barnstar Hires.png The Admin's Barnstar
Yes, MastCell, looking at your years and years of contributions, wise advice, and janitorial work, it's hard to understand how you became an admin. If only you were as calm, reasonable, neutral, and smart as Whatzisname. Sarcasm aside, I was torn between giving you an admin's barnstar, and creating a "How The Hell Do You Stand Dealing With These Fuckwits" barnstar, but I figured if I gave you the latter, I'd get in trouble for personal attacks (and horror of horrors, have my own adminship questioned). It should be obvious, but perhaps bears repeating, that outside of Bizarro World, you are valued very highly by the grownups. Floquenbeam (talk) 22:24, 10 May 2012 (UTC)
Rainbow trout transparent.png The Frozen Trout of Seafood Justice
But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses. Ravenswing 10:57, 19 May 2012 (UTC)
Barnstar of Humour Hires.png The Barnstar of Good Humor
I love your user page and the good sense of humor you show. Now ... back to writing articles! Bearian (talk) 01:10, 31 May 2012 (UTC)
Special Barnstar Hires.png The Special Barnstar
You are a fucking awesome Wikipedia editor and administrator. Gandydancer (talk) 21:07, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Original Barnstar.png The Original Barnstar

Thank you for preventing perennial edit wars by simply editing to coalesce divergent views. You've earned the gratitude of the WP Community! I'm always so very impressed with your clarity of thought and clear expression of tolerance toward the wayward and pernicious inclinations of ludicrous hullabaloo-ers. ```Buster Seven Talk 15:51, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

Special Barnstar Hires.png The Special Barnstar
For your userpage, probably one of the best I have ever seen. It is deeply inspiring. 069952497aComments and complaintsStuff I've done 22:29, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
Cornflower blue Yogo sapphire.jpg

"hope—the most important thing in life"
Thank you, master of edit summaries, for quality contributions to articles on medicine, for advice on arbitrary arbitration, your compliments, for placing "hope—the most important thing in life" on top, but not without The Cynic's Guide to Wikipedia, - repeating: you are an awesome Wikipedian (2 February 2009)!

--Gerda Arendt (talk) 22:03, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

Allaroundamazingbarnstar.png All-Around Amazing Barnstar
To MastCell, I give you this award for your long-term service to Wikipedia as an editor and an administrator; you've done excellent work, have sound judgment and are highly fair. While we have had few interactions, my observations of you over the years have always been positive. Thank you for everything that you do. Acalamari 19:43, 12 January 2014 (UTC)
Editors Barnstar Hires.png The Editor's Barnstar
I've ran across you on multiple occasions and every time you are improving an article substantially. Keep up the great work! Meatsgains (talk) 05:59, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Today's recommended reading

Prepare to be horrified


  1. ^ For example: Alfred Russell Wallace once accepted a challenge from a Flat-Earther who offered him ₤500 if he could prove that the Earth was round. Wallace demonstrated the curvature of the Earth in a simple, elegant, and irrefutable manner. But instead of paying up the wager, the Flat-Earther launched a years-long campaign of defamation and harassment against Wallace.

    In the end, Wallace won a libel suit and put an end to the nonsense, but it had cost him years of his life and well more money than the wager was worth in the first place. A more elegant demonstration of the Fourth Law Of Stupidity would be hard to invent. The moral of the story: you cannot reason someone out of a fundamentally irrational belief.

  2. ^ You might naïvely think that a project attempting to summarize human knowledge would value people who actually know things. You would be badly mistaken, for two reasons. First of all, Wikipedia tends to attract obsessive amateurs—people who are deeply interested in arcane topics but who lack academic qualifications or recognition and thus view such things with suspicion and/or envy. Secondly, Wikipedians have really strange ideas about "conflicts of interest". It's been seriously suggested, for instance, that a physician has a conflict of interest in writing about medical topics, by virtue of actually knowing something about them.

    Wikipedia's hostility toward real-life expertise is usually externalized and blamed on the experts, who are portrayed as too arrogant and entitled to thrive in this democratic marketplace of ideas. But that's bullshit. Experts get frustrated because Wikipedia lacks any mechanism to ensure that sane people triumph over pathological obsessives. (If anything, our existing processes reward pathological obsessiveness much more than sane, reasonable approaches).

  3. ^ Or, as my father told me when I was young, "Only a dumb-ass argues with a dumb-ass."