Wikipedia:Civility

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Civility is part of Wikipedia's code of conduct and one of Wikipedia's five pillars. The civility policy is a standard of conduct that sets out how Wikipedia editors should interact. Stated simply, editors should always treat each other with consideration and respect. In order to keep the focus on improving the encyclopedia and to help maintain a pleasant editing environment, editors should behave politely, calmly and reasonably, even during heated debates.

This policy describes the standards expected of users when they interact, and appropriate ways of dealing with problems that may arise. It applies to all editors and all interaction on Wikipedia, including on user and article talk pages, in edit summaries, and in any other discussion with or about fellow Wikipedians.

Cooperation and civility[edit]

Differences of opinion are inevitable in a collaborative project. When discussing these differences some editors can seem unnecessarily harsh, while simply trying to be forthright. Other editors may seem oversensitive when their views are challenged. Faceless written words on talk pages and in edit summaries do not fully transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, sometimes leading to misinterpretation of an editor's comments. An uncivil remark can escalate spirited discussion into a personal argument that no longer focuses objectively on the problem at hand. Such exchanges waste our efforts and undermine a positive, productive working environment. Resolve differences of opinion through civil discussion; disagree without being disagreeable. Discussion of other editors should be limited to polite discourse about their actions.

Editors are expected to be reasonably cooperative, to refrain from making personal attacks, to work within the scope of policies, and to be responsive to good-faith questions. Try to treat your fellow editors as respected colleagues with whom you are working on an important project. Be especially welcoming and patient towards new users. Welcome other people to edit the articles but politely discourage non-constructive edits.

Avoiding incivility[edit]

Incivility – or the appearance of incivility – typically arises from heated content disputes.

  • Explain yourself. Not sufficiently explaining edits can be perceived as uncivil, whether that's the editor's intention or not. Use good edit summaries, and use the talk page if the edit summary doesn't provide enough space or if a more substantive debate is likely to be needed.
  • Be careful with user warning templates. Be careful about issuing templated messages to editors you're currently involved in a dispute with, and exercise caution when using templated messages for newcomers (see Wikipedia:Please do not bite the newcomers). Consider using a personal message instead of, or in addition to, the templated message.
  • Try not to get too intense. Other people can misread your passion as aggression. Take great care to avoid the appearance of being heavy-handed or bossy. Nobody likes to be bossed about by an editor who appears to believe that they are "superior"; nobody likes a bully.
  • Avoid editing while you're in a bad mood. It does spill over. (See Editing under the influence!)
  • Take a Real-Life check; disengage by two steps to assess what you're about to say (or have just said). Asking yourself "How would I feel if someone said that to me?" is often not enough, many people can just brush things off, and it's water off a duck's back. To get a better perspective, ask yourself: "How would I feel if someone said that to someone I love who can't just "brush it off?" If you'd find that unacceptable, then don't say it. And, if you've already said it, strike it and apologise.
  • Just because we're online and unpaid doesn't mean we can behave badly to each other. People working together in a newspaper office aren't supposed to get into punch-ups in the newsroom because they disagree about how something is worded or whose turn it is to make the coffee. Nor are volunteers working at the animal rescue centre allowed to start screaming at each other over who left ferrets in the filing cabinet or the corn snake in the cutlery drawer. In fact, there's pretty much nowhere where people working together to do something good are allowed to get into fist-fights, shouting matches, hair-pulling or name-calling. The same applies here, too.
  • Someone may very well be an idiot. But telling them so is neither going to increase their intelligence nor improve your ability to communicate with them.
  • No matter how frustrated you are, do not tell people to "grow up" or include any wording along the lines of "if this were kindergarten" in your messages.
  • Be careful with edit summaries. Edit summaries are relatively short comments, and thus potentially subject to misinterpretation or oversimplification. They cannot be changed after pressing "Save", and are often written in haste, particularly in stressful situations. Remember to explain your edit, especially when things are getting heated; to avoid personal comments about any editors you have disputes with; and to use the talk page to further explain your view of the situation.

Edit summary dos and don'ts[edit]

Remember you can't go back and change them!

Do
  • Be clear about what you did, so that other editors can assess it quickly
  • Use neutral language
  • Be calm
Don't
  • Make snide comments
  • Make personal remarks about editors
  • Be aggressive

Incivility[edit]

"Civility is to human nature what warmth is to wax."
Arthur Schopenhauer[1]

Incivility consists of one or more of the following behaviours, especially when done in an aggressive manner: personal attacks, rudeness and disrespectful comments. These often alienate editors and disrupt the project through unproductive stressors and conflict. While a few minor incidents of incivility that no one complains about are not necessarily a concern, a continuing pattern of incivility is unacceptable. If incivility consists of repeated harassment or egregious personal attacks against one or more individuals, then it may result in blocks. Even a single act of severe incivility can result in blocks; for example, a single episode of extreme verbal abuse or profanity directed at another contributor, or a threat against another person.

In general, be understanding and non-retaliatory in dealing with incivility. If others are uncivil, do not respond in kind. Consider ignoring isolated examples of incivility, and simply moving forward with the content issue. If necessary, point out gently that you think the comment might be considered uncivil, and make it clear that you want to move on and focus on the content issue. Bear in mind that the editor may not have considered it uncivil; Wikipedia is edited by people from many different backgrounds, and standards vary. Only take things to dispute resolution (see below) if there is an ongoing problem you cannot resolve.

This policy is not a weapon to use against other contributors. To insist that an editor be sanctioned for an isolated, minor incident, to repeatedly bring up past incivility after an individual has changed their approach, or to treat constructive criticism as an attack, is itself potentially disruptive, and may result in warnings or even blocks if repeated.

No personal attacks or harassment[edit]

Editors are expected to avoid personal attacks and harassment of other Wikipedians. This applies equally to all Wikipedians: it is as unacceptable to attack a user who has a history of foolish or boorish behaviour, or even one who has been subject to disciplinary action by the Arbitration Committee, as it is to attack any other user. Wikipedia encourages a positive online community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks and harassment are contrary to this spirit, damaging to the work of building an encyclopedia, and may result in blocks.

Identifying incivility[edit]

Shortcuts:

It is sometimes difficult to make a hard-and-fast judgement of what is uncivil and what is not. Such a judgement may need to take into account such matters as (i) the intensity and context of the language/behaviour; (ii) whether the behaviour has occurred on a single occasion, or is occasional or regular; (iii) whether a request has already been made to stop the behaviour, and whether that request is recent; (iv) whether the behaviour has been provoked; and (v) the extent to which the behaviour of others need to be treated at the same time.

The following behaviours can all contribute to an uncivil environment:

1. Direct rudeness

  • (a) rudeness, insults, name-calling, gross profanity or indecent suggestions
  • (b) personal attacks, including racial, ethnic, sexual, gender-related and religious slurs, and derogatory references to groups such as social classes or nationalities
  • (c) ill-considered accusations of impropriety
  • (d) belittling a fellow editor, including the use of judgmental edit summaries or talk-page posts (e.g. "that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen", "snipped crap")

2. Other uncivil behaviours

  • (a) taunting or baiting: deliberately pushing others to the point of breaching civility even if not seeming to commit such a breach themselves. All editors are responsible for their own actions in cases of baiting; a user who is baited is not excused by that if they attack in response, and a user who baits is not excused from their actions by the fact that the bait may be taken.
  • (b) harassment, including Wikihounding, bullying, personal or legal threats, posting of personal information, repeated email or user space postings
  • (c) sexual harassment
  • (d) lying
  • (e) quoting another editor out of context to give the impression they hold views they do not hold, or to malign them

In addition, lack of care when applying other policies can lead to conflict and stress. For instance, referring to a user's good-faith edits as vandalism may lead to their feeling unfairly attacked. Use your best judgement, and be ready to apologize if you turn out to be wrong.

Assume good faith[edit]

Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, assume that editors are trying to help, not hurt the project.

The Assume Good Faith guideline does not require that editors continue to assume good faith in the presence of obvious contrary evidence; however, do not assume any more intentional wrongdoing than the evidence clearly supports, and given equally plausible interpretations of the evidence, choose the most positive one.

Dealing with incivility[edit]

  1. First of all, consider whether you and the other editor may simply have misunderstood each other. Clarify, and ask for clarification.
  2. Consider the possibility that something you said or did wrongly provoked a defensive, irritated or fed-up response. Be prepared to apologise for anything which you could / should have done better! (Note: if an awful lot of people seem to be getting ratty with you, the problem may be with you!)
  3. Even if you're hurt, be as calm and reasonable as possible in your response. The other editor probably didn't mean to cause you pain or harm.
  4. Explain, clearly but kindly, exactly what you felt was uncivil. Sometimes it helps to let the other editor know how their edit made you feel. Editors aren't mind-readers! ("That made me feel..." is much less likely to incite more anger or resentment than "Your post was...")
  5. Ask them to strike out an uncivil comment, or re-word it calmly and neutrally, if they haven't already done so by this point.
  6. If none of this is working, either walk away (if the other person isn't damaging the project or being uncivil / unkind to other editors), or get help. Dispute resolution from uninvolved editors might resolve something. It's worth a try!
  7. No matter how much you're being provoked, resist the temptation to snap back. It never works well; it just makes things worse. Strive to become the editor who can't be baited.
  8. In "emergency" situations (where the other editor needs to be stopped in their tracks to avoid causing serious disruption or needs a fast and strong wake-up call) take it to the administrator "Incidents" noticeboard.
  9. For longer-term, less acute, but persistently unkind/uncivil editors, request for comment from the community.

Dispute resolution[edit]

In a case of ongoing incivility, first decide if anything needs to be done. Confronting someone over a minor incident – particularly if it turns out that you misinterpreted what they meant – may produce more stress and drama than the incident itself. Consider your own behaviour, and, if you find you have been uncivil, apologize to him or her instead.

In escalating order of seriousness, here are the venues you may use for dispute resolution if the relevant page's talk page is insufficient:

  • User talk page. If some action is necessary, first consider discussing it on that user's talk page. Be careful not to escalate the situation, and politely explain your objection. You may also wish to include a diff of the specific uncivil statement. If you are in active dispute with the user, consider offering an olive branch to them instead.
  • Third opinion. This forum can be used to request outside input from an uninvolved user regarding the problem.
  • Request for Comment on user conduct. RfCs are intended to discuss a specific user who has violated Wikipedia policies and guidelines persistently, or in a major way. During an RfC, scrutiny may be applied to all editors involved.
  • The last step – only when other avenues, including RfC, have been tried and failed – is the Arbitration Committee, who will scrutinise all sides involved in the dispute, and create binding resolutions.

Threats of violence (including death threats in general, and suicide threats in particular) should be reported immediately by e-mail to the Wikimedia Foundation at emergency@wikimedia.org; see WP:VIOLENCE for more on this. For legal threats, bigoted attacks or other hateful speech, and other cases where immediate action is required, use the Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents page to contact the site's admins.

Removing uncivil comments[edit]

Shortcuts:

Where the uncivil comment is yours, any of these options will help to reduce the impact:

  • Where someone is unintentionally offended at your comment, calmly explain what you meant.
  • Strike it out (using <s>HTML strikeout tags</s>), to show, publicly, that you withdraw the comment.
  • Quietly remove it, or rewrite the comment to be more civil – Usually only a good idea if you think better of it before anyone objected to it. If someone has already reacted, you should acknowledge the change in a quick comment after the changed text, for instance, Comment removed by author.
  • Simply apologize. This option never hurts, and can be combined well with any of the others. Even if you feel the thrust of your words is true, or that they are misunderstanding what you meant, you can still apologize.

In the event of rudeness or incivility on the part of another editor, it may be appropriate to discuss the offending words with that editor, and to request that editor to change that specific wording. Some care is necessary, however, so as not to further inflame the situation. It is not normally appropriate to edit or remove another editor's comment. Exceptions include to remove obvious trolling or vandalism, or if the comment is on your own user talk page. Derogatory comments about another contributor may be removed by any editor.

A special case is outing, that is, revealing personally identifiable information about another editor that they have not revealed themselves and probably do not want known, such as their name, phone number, or address. These should be immediately reverted, then an oversighter should be contacted to remove the information from the edit history, so that it cannot be found by anyone else later. This applies whether or not the information is correct, as to confirm the information is incorrect by treating it any differently gives the outer useful information. Wikipedia:Outing has full information.

Different places, different atmospheres[edit]

Article talk pages should be, on the whole, considered to be professional workspaces. They're places to talk about how to improve the article, and to discuss the article (though it's OK for conversations to wander into related areas, or go more into depth than the article does, as that helps with research and gives ideas on improvement). But an editor's talk page is more like their kitchen; it's more informal, and (within reason) it's up to them what happens in there. Clearly, just like in a real kitchen, it's no more acceptable to stick a knife in someone than it is in the office! Personal attacks aren't acceptable anywhere, but expect users' own talk pages to have a much more informal atmosphere than article talk pages.

Apologising: It's OK to say sorry[edit]

Disputes, and even misunderstandings, can lead to situations in which one party feels injured by the other. There's no loss of face in apologising. We all make mistakes, we all say the odd hurtful thing, we all have bad days and bad moments. If you have a sneaky feeling you owe someone an apology, offer the apology. Apologising doesn't hurt you.

Remember, though, that you can't demand an apology from anyone else. It will only get their back up and make it either less likely to happen, or to be totally insincere if you do get an apology. Never be too proud to make the first move when it comes to saying sorry. That kind of "pride" is destructive. An apology provides the opportunity for a fresh start, and can clear the air when one person's perceived incivility has offended another.

Blocking for incivility[edit]

Blocking for incivility is possible when incivility causes serious disruption. However, the civility policy is not intended to be used as a weapon and blocking should not be the first option in most cases.

  1. Be sure to take into account all the relevant history. Avoid snap judgments without acquainting yourself with the background to any situation.
  2. Think very hard of the possible merits of all other avenues of approach before you take action. Sanctions for civility violations should only happen when nothing else would do. Poorly considered civility blocks have at times worsened disputes and increased disruption. Remember that sanctions may be more applicable under another heading (disruption, personal attack, tendentious editing, or harassment)
  3. Civility blocks should be for obvious and uncontentious reasons, because an editor has stepped over the line in a manner nearly all editors can see. In cases where you have reason to suspect this would not be the case – cases where there is reason to believe that taking admin action against someone who was uncivil would not be an uncontentious (or nearly so) prospect – it is expected that discussion will be opened on the matter, via WP:ANI or WP:RFC/U, before any admin action is taken. Benefits derived from long or controversial civility blocks should be weighed against the potential for disruption caused by block reviews, and unblock requests.[2]
  4. Users should be clearly warned, in most circumstances, before being blocked for incivility, and should be allowed sufficient time to retract, refactor or explain uncivil comments. Even experienced contributors should not be blocked without warning. Exceptions to this may include users who make egregious violations or threats, or who have received multiple warnings.

This is not to say that blocking for incivility should not or cannot happen, but immediate blocking is generally reserved for cases of major incivility, where incivility rises to the level of clear disruption, personal attacks, harassment or outing. As with other blocks, civility blocks should be preventative and not punitive.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Grayling, A.C.. The Meaning of Things. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 2001. p. 13.
  2. ^ Administrators should try to follow The Principle of Least Drama: when given a choice between several ways of dealing with a problem, pick the one that generates the least drama.
  3. ^ "the law and its fulfillment, namely punishment, are directed essentially to the future, not to the past. This distinguishes punishment from revenge, for revenge is motivated by what has happened, and hence by the past as such. All retaliation for wrong by inflicting a pain without any object for the future is revenge, and can have no other purpose than consolation for the suffering one has endured by the sight of the suffering one has caused in another. Such a thing is wickedness and cruelty, and cannot be ethically justified." —Arthur Schopenhauer The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 62.

Further reading[edit]

Related information[edit]