Wikipedia:Dissent is not disloyalty

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Editors who express dissent about Wikipedia and its policies and guidelines may be accused of being disloyal or of not working to improve the encyclopedia. In meta-discussions about Wikipedia, avoid trivializing others' opinions by attributing the difference of opinion to others' character flaws, immorality, trolling, or other wanton bad faith. Instead, try to recognize the fundamental philosophical differences underlying the disagreement, accept the validity of opinions other than your own, and discuss the issue, not the participants.

  • In general, avoid making ad hominem arguments . (see No personal attacks and Civility)
  • In general, try hard to assume good faith. (see Assume good faith)
  • Remember, Wikipedia is not a Battleground. Whenever possible, discuss the issue, not the person.
  • Remember, if an editor DISCUSSES a view, that does not necessarily mean he subscribes to such a view. If an editor LINKS to a document, that does not necessarily mean that views expressed in that document reflect the opinions of the editors who posted the link.
  • Avoid implying guilt by association. Editors are responsible for their own actions, not the actions of others.
  • Avoid creating strawmen.

Role of dissent[edit]

While dissent plays an important role in democracies, as it enables citizens to contest laws and actions of the government, Wikipedia is not a democracy, even though it incorporates some elements which are also present in democratic governments, such as forums for review of decisions, administrators and bureaucrats and rules. Wikipedia is not a democracy, but like democracies, it allows editors to express dissent regarding the content on the encyclopedia or the rules governing the project, with various limitations (e.g., WP:SOAP, WP:NPA, WP:Disruptive editing). Some forms of dissent on Wikipedia, such as respectfully proposing changes on talk pages, can be done without leading to any negative consequences for the editor. Other forms of dissent, such as engaging in personal attacks or disrupting the encyclopedia-building process, may lead to editors being blocked or even banned. This shows one of the many differences between a democracy and Wikipedia.

Another example of this difference is that in many democracies, citizens are given a wide latitude to write criticism about specific government leaders, even to the point of using pejorative terms in protests or editorial pages of newspapers. On Wikipedia, criticizing another editor in this manner is strictly forbidden (WP:NPA) and it can lead to blocks or bans.

In Wikipedia, the text of articles can be changed by the consensus of editors, even longstanding content that has been given Featured article status. As well, even the guidelines and policies can also be changed by the consensus of editors, although changes to guidelines and policies have to have broad consensus across the entire Wikipedia community. It is acceptable to advocate for changes to guidelines and policies by doing so in the appropriate talk pages and forums. That said, expressing dissent regarding a particular guideline or policy by deliberately disrupting the encyclopedia-building process is not acceptable. For example, if an editor disagrees with the Wikipedia notability guidelines for sports, it is acceptable for her to argue her position on the talk page of the sports notability guideline. However, she should not go around deleting content because it does not conform to her views on sports notability.

Constructive dissent[edit]

If a Wikipedian expresses dissent regarding guidelines or policies in an inappropriate way, such as through disruption or personal attacks, she may be blocked or given other sanctions. WP:SOAP states that editors' expression of their opinions in the Wikipedia namespace must be "non-disruptive." However, it is possible to propose changes regarding guidelines and policies without losing your editing privileges. The key elements to expressing dissent in a constructive way are as follows:

  1. Right approach: Dissent on Wikipedia concerning guidelines and policies should be grounded in a sincere goal to improve the encyclopedia and its editing process, and all criticism should be constructive criticism which proposes concrete possible improvements. If your goal is not to improve Wikipedia, but rather to attack it, then a better forum for expressing your views would be a personal blog website or another non-Wikipedia forum, such as a letter to a newspaper editor.
  2. Right forum: Use the right forum to express dissent. If you disagree with WP:NOR, expressing this view on hundreds of article talk pages is not appropriate, and could be viewed as disruptive behaviour. The correct place to express your concerns with this policy would be the talk page of the policy itself.
  3. Right tone: Using inflammatory language and rhetoric (see WP:SOAP) is not desirable. Express your views using polite, calm, wording. Using "softer" wording such as "may" can work better than words like "should" or "must". Avoid extreme positions, such as "never" or "always". Other editors are more likely to agree to a nuanced proposal. Avoid exclamation marks, underlining and all caps.
  4. Right proposal: Calling for the removal of a policy–which by definition has massive, project-wide consensus–is neither feasible nor strategic. However, editors may be more open to hearing proposals for conservative, incremental modifications to a policy, or to some type of very limited exception to the policy.
  5. Right speed: Avoid appeals to "urgency" and the need for "immediate action" (remember, there is no deadline). While appeals to urgency may work well at a political rally or a protest, on Wikipedia, the wheels of change turn very slowly, as the encyclopedia has a huge number of editors' views to take into account. As a result, even a relatively minor modification to a guideline or policy may take a long time and a lot of discussions on the talk page.
  6. Right interaction: Build a dialogue with other editors. Do not simply keep repeating the same statement. Repeating the same argument without acknowledging the responses and criticisms (WP:ICANTHEARYOU) can be seen as problematic behavior. When other editors suggest re-wording your proposal, try to accommodate their views. If you keep making accommodations with other editors, eventually, a proposal with some degree of consensus may emerge.