Wikipedia:Don't shoot yourself in the foot

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A petard, from a 17th-century manuscript of military designs. Petards were early gunpowder bombs that operated on slow fuses. If the engineer failed to set a slow enough fuse, the resulting blast would cause him to be "hoist with his own petard".

Wikipedia is free for anyone to edit. Of course, if you've spent any time on the Internet, you'll know this means that people will disagree and argue about stuff. We like everyone to get along and reach a consensus, but sometimes life just doesn't run that smoothly and so people start edit warring, tearing each other's heads off, getting on the phone to their lawyers or any number of other problems. If people can't work it out amongst themselves, sooner or later somebody's going to complain.

There are often reports on various noticeboards, especially the incident noticeboard, posted by editors who are truly at fault themselves for the problem they're reporting. In other cases, a person might complain about another editor's actions in an incident, yet during the events of that incident they've committed far worse infractions themselves. In both cases, such editors will usually find sanctions brought against themselves rather than the people they've sought to report.

In much of the English-speaking world, such an occurrence is commonly referred to as "shooting oneself in the foot". The behavior of a returning boomerang is similar – if thrown correctly but then ignored, it can come back to injure the thrower.

There is no "immunity" for reporters[edit]

A common statement on noticeboards is "this isn't about me, this is about them". There is sometimes a belief that, if someone's perceived misbehavior is reported at a noticeboard, the discussion can only focus on the original complaint, and turning the discussion around to discuss the misbehavior of the original reporter is "changing the subject" and therefore not allowed. However, that just isn't the case. Anyone who participates in the discussion might find their actions under scrutiny.

How to avoid shooting yourself in the foot[edit]

If you are involved in a dispute with someone, try to discuss matters with the other person via their talk page. If they won't cooperate, seek dispute resolution. Try to avoid reporting someone for administrator intervention when you are angry; wait until you are calm and then think about whether the report is appropriate. If you do report someone, be sure you are at the correct noticeboard and read the rules of the board before making your report. Be up front concerning any of your actions that might have contributed to the problem. Finally, consider whether your own actions in the matter have been entirely blameless.

See also[edit]