Wikipedia:On assuming good faith
This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
Two sides of a coin
The guideline Wikipedia:Assume good faith and policy Wikipedia:Vandalism can be seen as two sides of one coin. The basic idea is this: each person editing Wikipedia is either trying to make it better, or trying to make it worse. If they're trying to make it better, that's a good faith edit; if they're trying to make it worse, that's vandalism.
Since we can't see inside of people's minds, and determine whether they're trying to make the encyclopedia better or worse, we have a rule to decide how we react to others' edits. Assume good faith says that we should assume, when we can do so reasonably, that they're trying to make it better.
Our definition of vandalism at Wikipedia is essentially the same policy, in different words:
- Apparent bad-faith edits that do not make their bad-faith nature inarguably explicit are not considered vandalism at Wikipedia.
In other words, when in doubt, consider it a good-faith edit. That means, even if the person is dead wrong, deeply misguided, stubborn, rude, biased, bigoted, and acting against overwhelming consensus, we continue to assume that they are trying to make the encyclopedia better, not worse. As soon as we label someone's edit as "vandalism", we are giving up our assumption of good faith.
This is why "the V-word" is so touchy here, and it's why we protect the definition of vandalism from increasing its scope, bit by bit. (See Instruction creep.) The definition of vandalism tells us the permissible exceptions to our Assume Good Faith policy. As WP:VAND widens, WP:AGF weakens. If WP:VAND remains narrow, then WP:AGF remains strong. (Please pardon the WP:WOTTA!)
Basis in core policy
The incentive for keeping our assumption of good faith strong is nothing less than our core policy: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia:
- Wikipedia is first and foremost an online encyclopedia and, as a means to that end, an online community of people interested to build a high-quality encyclopedia in a spirit of mutual respect.
The cooperation necessary to build the encyclopedia is impossible amid accusations of bad faith, and without that cooperation, we have no encyclopedia.
IP-profiling is the act of assuming bad faith and placing a vandal warning on an anonymous user where the person would have assumed good faith if the user had been registered. Searching the recent changes and expecting anon edits to be vandalism is unfortunately a practice on Wikipedia. If an anonymous edit is not clearly vandalism, you can always leave a personal note asking them to explain why they made their edit. If the IP address is not used again, it doesn't matter if they don't respond.
Innocent things that look like vandalism
Not all things that appear as vandalism are actually vandalism.
- Trivial information, especially if it is not cited can be removed from pages. This should not be assumed to be vandalism. Sometimes less is more.
- There is a bug in MediaWiki that removes the bottom of long pages or sections. If you see the bottom of a page is removed assume this is a bug. If the user is new and has an edit history showing only the removal of the bottom of the page, then it likely is a vandal. This bug appears to be caused by the Google Toolbar extension for the Firefox browser. This test page will recreate the bug. Please uninstall the Google Toolbar.
- If an edit changes all occurrences of
\\), either in the whole page or in a single section, it means the user has edited the page via a buggy PHP-based web open proxy. While the proxy's IP address should be indefinitely blocked, this does not mean the edit itself was vandalism.