Wikipedia:Be the glue

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To guard against going to the “dark side of the force”, try to construe good faith as the motive of fellow editors.

It must be properly understood that assuming good faith (AGF) is not a matter of mental hygiene. It is not a mandate that you must “patrol” your own thoughts and strike down any interpretation of the behavior of others that could construe bad faith. Because believe it or not, actions taken in bad faith do actually occur on Wikipedia once in a while.

AGF amounts to two basic things.

  1. In terms of smooth interaction with other editors and guarding oneself against “dark side of the force” Wiki rage, it genuinely is the best practice to assume that others are, somewhere deep down, acting with some kind of good faith as their motive, and to speak to that motive in them when you deal with them. No need to act credulously or without a shrewd eye towards underlying motivations: just don't get too far into placing another's actions into a pattern of deceit or deception until you have some substantial evidence of such a pattern that can be articulated to a third party.
  2. More interestingly and less obviously, to the experienced Wikipedian the AGF principle is actually recommending a course of action: a tactic in dealing with apparent bad faith that may help you methodically approach a solution to your problem.

There is a childish response-rhyme to feeling insulted: “I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.”

On Wikipedia, we're adults (at least most of us are) and the things we say don't bounce away or indeed ever disappear at all. The discussion about any particular issue, and the diffs that show what anyone has said about the issue, simply keep accumulating and are always there for reference.[†] So it's kind of the opposite here: when you're worried that someone is acting in bad faith over an important issue you want to be the glue.

Write clearly and in a straightforward manner about the topic. Explore it thoroughly and honestly evaluate and analyze the proposals or comments of others on the issue. If you feel that someone isn't responding to salient points you are making, try rephrasing them, stating them in a different way, or examining them from a different angle.

Try to break down your own proposals or desired changes into the smallest bits possible and provide your interlocutors with some way to indicate line-item veto. That is, don't force them to approach your proposals in an all-or-nothing context: allow them to agree with the parts they actually agree with and disagree with whatever is really a sticking point.

An editor who is acting in bad faith will continuously accumulate evidence of this bad faith, just like the way moss gathers on a stone.

Using this tactic, if you are being opposed by someone who is actually acting in bad faith you will be able to gradually accumulate evidence of that bad faith, like the glue or like a stone that gathers moss.

For example, sometimes an editor who is acting in bad faith will contentiously and cavilously interfere with any action you take at all, even with edits or actions that are peripheral to the issue or irrelevant to it. Noting this, particularly if it's repeated behavior, can provide you with diffs that may enable you to demonstrate to a third party that related actions by that editor may not be consistent with good faith. Breaking down your issue, as described above, will make it more likely that you can capture diffs of bad faith interference in something that is a completely reasonable and uncontroversial action or edit.

An alternative outcome to this approach is that you may find your interlocutor is actually acting in good faith and you misunderstood or misconstrued their actions and statements. Through honest, open, and thorough analysis of the issue you may find common ground or compromise.

And of course a third possible outcome is that in the process of contemplating or articulating the issue and your own arguments you may find an error or misapprehension in your reasoning and discover that you were wrong. In that case, though it's not like you need to grovel and beg forgiveness, it would probably be good for community spirit if you were to explain what happened.

So you can relax and not let this sort of situation cause undue stress. There probably is no precipitous time limit—there never really is, here on Wikipedia which is always and everywhere a work in progress—and you are in the company of a large community of people who are on average reasonable and fair. If you are patient, have faith in Wikipedia's mission and process, and if you are “pure of heart”[‡] you can ensure that your issue is not compromised by bad faith. (Note that this isn't saying you're going to get your way, but if it's truly an important issue getting your own way shouldn't be the priority.)


  1. ^
    † With exceptions: oversighting through an administrator account is an admin tool capable of altering the history of pages and thus destroying evidence of malfeasance.
  2. ^
    ‡ “Pure of heart” is flowery language but in this context it means ensuring that you are not the one introducing bad faith into your important issue.