Wikipedia:Contribution Team/OurPrinciples

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Wikipedia has five core principles.
The five pillars of Wikipedia are:

Blue pillar (1: Encyclopedia) Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. It incorporates elements of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, an advertising platform, a vanity press, an experiment in anarchy or democracy, an indiscriminate collection of information, or a web directory. It is not a dictionary, newspaper, or a collection of source documents; that kind of content should be contributed instead to the Wikimedia sister projects.
Green pillar (2: NPOV) Wikipedia has a neutral point of view. We strive for articles that advocate no single point of view. Sometimes this requires representing multiple points of view, presenting each point of view accurately and in context, and not presenting any point of view as "the truth" or "the best view". All articles must strive for verifiable accuracy: unreferenced material may be removed, so please provide references. Editors' personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong here. That means citing verifiable, authoritative sources, especially on controversial topics and when the subject is a living person. When conflict arises over neutrality, discuss details on the talk page, and follow dispute resolution.
Yellow pillar (3: Free) Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit and distribute. Respect copyright laws, and avoid plagiarizing your sources. Since all your contributions are freely licensed to the public, no editor owns any article; all of your contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed.
Orange pillar (4: Code of conduct and etiquette) Wikipedians should interact in a respectful and civil manner. Respect and be polite to your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and avoid personal attacks. Find consensus, avoid edit wars, and remember that there are 5,700,938 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss. Act in good faith, never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming.
Red pillar (5: Ignore all rules) Wikipedia does not have firm rules. Rules on Wikipedia are not fixed in stone, and the spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. Be bold in updating articles and do not worry about making mistakes. Your efforts do not need to be perfect; prior versions are saved, so no damage is irreparable.

To learn more about Wikipedia's principles and guidelines, click "[show]"

Wikipedia is a continuous process with no end. If you write something good, it could be around for centuries! The Wikipedia community, as well, continues to evolve. Over time rules and guidelines have developed which reflect the accumulated experience of thousands of editors, people like you who are constantly learning and refining how to create balanced, well-sourced, informative articles, and how to work with others and resolve conflict when it arises. While there are rules or guidelines that cover almost any situation, a few are really important.

If you follow these behaviors, you will likely be treated with kindness and respect. Don't worry too much if you don't understand everything at first. Someone will clean up after you, and, as time goes on, you'll learn more of the subtleties of how to be a great Wikipedian!

The five pillars

  1. Fundamental principles: There are certain principles which are considered fundamental by the Wikipedia community; these are summarized in the five pillars, and at interwiki level on the Founding principles page. Wikipedia is also subject to the policies of the Wikimedia Foundation, which provides its servers. While anything can theoretically be changed on a wiki, the community up to this point has been built on these principles, and it is unlikely to move away from them in the future. A lot of thought has been put into them and they've worked for us so far; give them a fair shake before attempting radical changes or leaving the project.
  2. Don't infringe copyright: Wikipedia uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License. Everything you contribute must be compatible with Wikipedia's licenses.
  3. Ignore all rules: Rules on Wikipedia are not fixed in stone. The spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. The common purpose of building an encyclopedia trumps both.

Writing high-quality articles

  1. Neutral point of view: Write from a neutral point of view. This is a fundamental principle which allows editors to make a fair representation of the world around them. All articles should be balanced to convey a fair and proportional impression of the various points of view on a subject. Some views may get more attention than others, depending on the attention they receive in reliable sources. Wikipedia has no "opinion" of its own; it just accurately summarizes reliable sources.
  2. Verifiability: Articles should contain only material that has been published by reliable sources. Editors should cite reliable sources for any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, otherwise it may be removed by any editor. The obligation to provide a reliable source is on the editors wishing to include the material, not on those seeking to remove it.
  3. No original research: Articles may not contain previously unpublished arguments, concepts, data, or theories, nor any new analysis or synthesis of published arguments, concepts, data, or theories that serves to advance a position.
  4. Be bold in updating pages! Go ahead, it's a wiki! No mistake can break Wikipedia, because any edit can be undone. Encourage others, including those who disagree with you, to likewise be bold!

Getting along with other editors

  1. Be civil to other users at all times.
  2. Assume good faith: Try to consider the person on the other end of the discussion as a thinking, rational being who is trying to positively contribute to Wikipedia. Even if you're convinced that they're an [insert insult of your choice], still pretend that they're acting in good faith. Ninety percent of the time you'll find that they actually are acting in good faith (and the other ten percent of the time a negative attitude won't help anyway).
  3. Don't revert good faith edits: Reverting is a powerful tool, hence the three-revert rule. Don't succumb to the temptation, unless you're reverting very obvious vandalism. If you really can't stand something, revert once, with an edit summary along the lines of "(rv) I disagree strongly, I'll explain why in talk", and immediately take it to the accompanying talk page.
  4. Be gracious: Be liberal in what you accept, be conservative in what you do. Try to accommodate other people's quirks as best you can, and try to be as polite, solid, and straightforward as possible.
  5. When in doubt, take it to the talk page: We have all the time in the world. Mutual respect is the guiding behavioral principle of Wikipedia. Although everyone knows that their contributions may be edited mercilessly by others, it is easier to accept changes when you understand the reasons for them. Discussing changes on the article's talk page before you make changes can help you reach consensus even faster, especially on controversial articles.
  6. Use clear edit summaries: straightforward, transparent explanations are universally appreciated. Please state what you changed and why. While these are optional, other editors need to understand your process, and it also helps you to understand what you did after a long leave of absence from an article. If the explanation is too long, elucidate on the discussion page. It is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia that anyone may edit articles without registering, so there are a lot of changes to watch; edit summaries simplify this.
  7. Sign your posts: Sign on talk pages (using ~~~~, which gets replaced by your username and timestamp when you hit "save page"), but don't sign in mainspace articles.
  8. Use the "Show preview" button: Repeatedly saving the same page clutters the history-page view.
Also check out the List of bad article ideas for a discussion of article ideas that show up (and get deleted) frequently at articles for deletion, Wikipedia's method of removing articles that don't constitute vandalism in and of themselves.