Wikipedia:Don't be high-maintenance

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Jânio Quadros threatened to step back as President of Brazil, hoping the masses would rally for him to stay. They didn't.

Occasionally, some long-time users come to believe they are more important than other editors, and act in ways that seek to regularly receive validation of that belief. Validation is obtained by delivering and obtaining compliance with ultimatums, such as threatening to storm off the project in a huff – a "retirement" or long wikibreak. Other examples including threats to make vexatious claims at noticeboards, or to cease all work in a particular topic area. These dramatics are usually accompanied by a long diatribe about whatever petty issue is driving them away this time.

The writer hopes that this fit of pique will attract a flood of "please don't go" messages, along with plenty of support for their side of the dispute that triggered their round of unreasonable demands. The end result sought is that the "high-maintenance" editing behavior gets the editor exactly what he or she craves – validation and support – leading to a triumphant return to the project or article, at least until the next petty conflict. Because Wikipedia is not therapy and most other editors can see through this sort of behavior, such an outcome is unlikely, and becomes decreasingly likely the more times such a door-slamming conniption is attempted, until people hope the editor really quits.

Threats to "leave and never come back" inevitably invite the response: don't let the door hit you on the way out.

High-maintenance behaviors to avoid[edit]

Any of the following are telltale signs that you are acting in a high-maintenance manner:

Self-importance[edit]

You feel you are (and may directly claim to be) the most important and knowledgeable editor in Wikipedia, at least in your topic of preference.

If you have a lack of editorial humility and do not work as part of the editing community a whole, this is a problem. Worse yet, if you consider yourself Wikipedia's last hope against the ruin brought by lesser editors, you are making a terrible mistake. No one cares to see you crowing about your own alleged credentials or expertise, and you will not receive flowers, parades, or a monument built in your honor. Contributions to Wikipedia border on the anonymous, and no glory is to be found here.

Remember that no one can verify your credentials (unless you are incautiously revealing a lot of personally-identifiable information), so your claims of pre-eminence are largely meaningless to other users. Academic editors and other subject-matter experts should not want to be directly identifiable anyway, as any arrogant or childish behavior here may negatively affect their off-Wikipedia reputations (at least one Wikipedian, who was eventually blocked for tendentiousness and other problems, has had a scathing article written about him by a journalist). Remember that Wikipedia articles are the #1 Internet search results for millions of topics, and both the talk page and the edit history are only one click away from any article.

Rudeness to "the help"[edit]

You can't be bothered by the "little people", and are habitually uncivil to those you feel are beneath you.

Those who don't fully conform to your views or demands should not find themselves cast as less valuable members of the community; just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them "Randy in Boise". Taking the attitude that they are is actually a case of incompetence in collaborative editing on your part. Beware of drawing lines between "good" and "bad" editors based on your own arbitrary and subjective preferences. Wikipedia has a community process for weeding out undesirable editing behavior, and it is not your job to make such a determination on your own. If you engage in wikibigotry against users who seem less valuable contributors to your eyes, you are liable to fall into disruptive editing patterns, subject to editorial-community sanctions yourself.

Frequent threats to leave[edit]

Your primary "weapon" in a debate is delivering threats and ultimatums.

If you keep threatening to quit if you don't get your way, the community will get tired of this and simply let you go so that Wikipedia can get back to work. If you are blocked or subjected to another editing restraint for some reason, this is cause to reflect on what you did wrong, not to declare an early "retirement". The community is forgiving. Everyone needs a wikibreak from time to time. When you need one, take it calmly and quietly; don't "retire" in an intemperate rant only to just stay away for a few days. Take a long one, if you are too frustrated to edit productively. If you feel compelled to remind others how much the wiki would suck even more if you weren't around to fix it, no one is going to take you seriously. This is not a playground. If you threaten to "take your ball and go home", or throw some other form of demanding tantrum, Wikipedia will happily move on without you. There are 10,000 other things to do on the project at any given moment than make you happy. Insincere departures have been a tiresome tactic since the earliest days of wikis. If you have threatened to leave more than once, then please just get on with it.

Argumentative in petty disputes[edit]

There is no issue too small for you, and disputes are more about winning the argument than doing what is best for our readers.

If you bully your way over "inferior" editors with a panache that befits your assumed "diva" role, you are headed down the wrong path. A constant pattern of snits and sport argumentation does not help build the encyclopedia. Engage in practical, problem-solving discussions, and avoid emotive hissy-fits, "walls of text" (a.k.a. "proof by verbosity", also known as WP:TLDR), and curt dismissals that are non-responsive to other's views. Cultivate the empathy to picture yourself in a conference room face-to-face with the other editor(s), with everyone wanting to get some work done before the day is over.

Citation of personal perceived "rewards" in disputes[edit]

You want others to think you are indispensable to the project, and frequently promote your own value with editing history stats.

Don't make a point of rubbing in your edit count, Did you knows, Good articles, Featured articles, "tenure" as an editor, etc. By excessively reiterating your own self-perceived value, you are implicitly denigrating the value of those with other views, which is another form of self-validation. But there are no vested contributors on Wikipedia. Being a longer-term or more productive editor, in general or on a particular page, does not give you more editorial rights. Also, if you spend a lot of time narcissistically working on an elaborate user page which touts your contributions, this is not useful to the project; your user page is not a personal website for self-promotion.

Convinced consensus is flawed[edit]

You tend to feel that editorial community consensus is far less important than the micro-consensus of you and your wikibuddies, or even you alone.

It is a mistake to become convinced that whoever is in your wikiproject or otherwise has been most active on a particular article has free rein to determine consensus about everything in it, and that the rest of the community's input is just noise. Avoid abusing the often-misunderstood "Ignore all rules" policy as a rationale for not listening to the community, while you shunt other policies to the wayside if anyone wants to apply them to your editing. Another invalid approach is to propose that the "truth" should prevail over anything else, even when it cannot be verified with reliable, independent sources. An extreme form of this procedural error has it that the self-important editor in question is personally a reliable source, by dint of supposed subject-matter expertise. And remember that no matter how much of a "power user" you think you are, you don't own Wikipedia.

Long memory for others' faults[edit]

You never forget your "enemies", or even the blunders of others, and rarely forgive them without a public show of groveling. Meanwhile, you are resistant to apologizing for or retracting much of anything yourself, even in the face of clear evidence of error on your part.

Repeatedly bringing up ancient grudges that have destroyed someone's credibility in your mind is a hallmark of high-maintenance behavior, as is attempting to "horse trade" for concessions from them, or filibuster their work. Just drop the matter and let bygones by bygones. If someone wants to make amends or simply quietly move on, do not try to force them down a narrow one-way street of apology. If one is offered, do not predicate your acceptance of an apology on the condition that the other editor must agree with your views. Do not persist in treating another editor as useless simply because you feel they've crossed you. Be willing to admit it when you've made a mistake. If you find apology difficult, simply being collegial, reducing your argumentativeness, verbally agreeing with something the other editor has said that you do agree with, and using the "thank" feature in the edit history, can all go a long way to resolving tensions. Be as forgiving as the community is, and recognize that heated arguments mean someone else has as strong an opinion as you do (probably on a basis they feel is as solid as you think yours is), not that the other party is stupid and stubborn. A pattern of vengefulness or perpetual suspicion on your part is only going to lead to problems for you and reduce your productivity within the project.

Persecution complex[edit]

You are highly sensitive to criticism, even in jest, of you or your editing camp's behavior or views, and feel constantly challenged by annoying editors who have nothing better to do than play "wiki cop".

Do you run to noticeboards to complain all the time about others' "disruption" or "attacks"? If your own editing is restricted, do you blame others and complain about the outrage, even campaign to place the administrator's head on a pike, rather than accept responsibility and make moderating changes in your editorial approach or behavior? These are not useful approaches. Do not allow yourself to be drawn to the idea of protesting by doing something passive-aggressive just to prove your point, or even devoting your time to criticizing Wikipedia instead of improving its content (users have been indefinitely blocked for this). You might feel that if you were simply allowed to operate freely, these "abusers" would move on from their bedeviled target, freeing you all up to create reams of improvements. Really, however, there is no conspiracy, or unwashed, pitchfork-bearing mob. If other editors are raising concerns about your editing or behavior patterns, this is not a sign that they are wasting their time and yours; it's a sign that you are acting in ways that are not compatible with the editing community. If you find yourself frequently at noticeboards (especially as the subject of complaints, or the filer of complaints that don't get resolved the way you want) this is a clear indication that your approach is genuinely problematic.

Hypocrisy and double-standards[edit]

You rarely, if ever, admit to engaging in disruptive editing practices; in your view, only your opponents do this, they do it constantly, and you make a point of accusing them of it.

Do you often conclude that those with opposing views to yours are edit-warring, assuming bad faith, tendentiously editing, battlegrounding, harassing or wikistalking you, making personal attacks, or trying to "own" a page? Yet do others often suggest you are doing these things yourself? A very common symptom of high-maintenance editing is psychological projection of one's own anti-collaborative behaviors onto others, often coupled with "civil PoV-pushing", and carefully constructed veiled insults that are just short of personal attacks. Wikilawyering to try to bend the rules to allow you to get away with violating policy is another common high-maintenance trait. In reality, however, if multiple editors have such concerns about you, but you think it's all in their minds or their own actions, odds are you are the one in the wrong, not everyone else. If your self-perceived special exceptionalism demands the presumption that no fault could lie with you, and that the way things work has to be adjusted for your wants, then a collaborative editing environment is probably not for you, and you might be better suited to writing a book or website on your own. You may also try editing Wikipedia in a different role, e.g. working on different topics, or focusing on other internal procedural processes, if this behavior arises from you only on certain pages.

Dealing with high-maintenance editing[edit]

These fellows are trying to stop this angry bull from running off. However, in cases of high-maintenance editing, just let them storm off in a huff.

Like an Internet troll, an editor exhibiting high-maintenance tendencies craves attention. Whereas trolling is primarily destructive jackassery by non-editors, high-maintenance editing is principally a habit of contributors who are productive to the project - at least during times when they aren't storming off in a huff or throwing some other kind of temper-tantrum. Despite this key difference, the basic approach is the same: Deny recognition, validation, or enabling of the childish behavior.

Unlike other productive contributors, editors with high-maintenance issues use their productive contribution history as a weapon against other editors and are prone to gaming the system for their own glory. For them, positive contribution is not always an end unto itself, but rather a means of gaining clout and editorial power. They treat this reputation capital as something like a currency in content disputes: They feel they can trade in some of their stored clout to get their way in disputes with "lesser" editors. This perceived influence also gains them much-needed validation during their frequent "retirements". Such editors usually adopt an "us vs. them" approach to pick up supporters to themselves or their factions, but this inadvertently alienates a large portion of the community.

The best way to deal with high-maintenance editing is to ignore the tantrums. If they storm off, let them go. If you beg them to stay, or engage in public hand-wringing about their having left, you perpetuate the cycle, guaranteeing that they will storm off again in a few months. If you simply wish them well and let them leave, they will almost certainly come back; but with a better attitude. An editor who doesn't get validation will quickly realize that he or she will not be treated more importantly than any other editor, and that one single user cannot make-or-break a project of such magnitude.

In some cases, a high-maintenance editor will stay retired, but the loss will quickly be filled by other editors who are not so high-maintenance, and for whom the consistent goal is not self-promotion and personal validation, but rather improvement of the encyclopedia. Most final goodbyes from Wikipedia happen without much ado, and the project as a whole naturally has constant ongoing churn of incoming and outgoing editors. Some editors also take wikibreaks of a year or longer. The announcement of a "retirement", even in anger or frustration, is often not permanent, and returning editors after long breaks frequently behave differently and more productively, focusing on narrower content-editing tasks instead of the topic- or process-wide "causes" that got them into trouble to begin with.

See also[edit]

Nero: "Qualis artifex pereo ('What an artist dies in me!')

External links[edit]