Wikipedia:Common sense and decision making

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While Wikipedia tries to make sure that every decision its admins make is backed up with policy, unfortunately there are times when decisions will be made based on an admin's perception of what appears to be the common sense thing to do even if it is not clearly backed up by a specific policy. This essay is designed to outline why this is sometimes necessary, but also to help draw a line between making necessary decisions based on common sense and abusing one's authority as an admin by making a controversial decision (e.g. issuing a block) without sufficient justification.


If a reason for a block (or other controversial decision) cannot specifically be found in one of Wikipedia's core policy pages, often the reason given for it will be cited as "disruption". Some view this as a weasel word and an attempt to justify issuing a block without a specific instance of policy being violated by the blocked user. However, though the word is vague, and is at times used as justification for an inappropriate action on the part of an admin, there are times when sadly no more specific term or policy can be used to describe a user's behavior, yet the user must clearly be blocked to stop them from performing a certain action that is clearly disruptive. An example of behavior which is not specifically prohibited by a policy but is clearly disruptive and must be stopped would be creating a new deletion review for an article immediately after a previous review of the article had just taken place and consensus had determined that the article did not deserve to be recreated. Though there is no specific policy which prohibits this, the action would clearly be disruptive, and would merit at least a warning, and opening such a review a second time would possibly need to be dealt with by a block.

Even determining simple vandalism is a matter of using common sense[edit]

When it comes down to it, any decision made on Wikipedia, even ones that have a very specific policy to back them up, are a matter of using common sense. Using common sense is inherent in every decision that we make, on or off wiki. To point out how using common sense is necessary in even enforcing Wikipedia's most basic policies, I will use the example of vandalism reversion. Look at this edit made to the article James Bond. The edit is clearly vandalism. However, the user who made this edit could point out that there is no policy which prohibits adding the words "homo sexual prostatute" to an article. Wikipedia's policy on vandalism does cover this type of behavior under "silly vandalism" which is described as "Adding profanity, graffiti, random characters, or other nonsense to pages; creating nonsensical and obviously non-encyclopedic pages, etc." However this user could argue that words such as "profanity", "graffiti", and "nonsense" are weasel words and that there is no policy which states that the words "homo sexual prostatute" qualify as such, and the fact is that there isn't. Nevertheless, the user would not win the argument, as anyone using common sense can tell that the edit is vandalism.

In summary[edit]

The point that I'm trying to make is that in order for Wikipedia to function, decisions based partially on common sense must be made and any decision made, even those which have highly specific policies to back them up will always be made based partially on common sense. While this does not excuse the use of terms such as "disruption" to justify decisions which are clearly made without sufficient justification, decisions simply cannot always be 100% policy-based, and even in the case of those which are backed by a specific policy, it is only through the use of common sense that we determine that the policies apply to said decisions.