Wikipedia talk:Civility

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Proposal to develop concept of bullying in policy[edit]

Currently, the policy contains two brief references to bullying:

Under "Identifying incivility" --> "Other uncivil behaviors":

(b) harassment, including Wikihounding, bullying, personal or legal threats, posting of personal information, repeated email or user space postings

And later, under "Avoiding incivility":

Try not to get too intense. Passion can be misread as aggression, so take great care to avoid the appearance of being heavy-handed or bossy. Nobody likes to be bossed about by an editor who appears to believe that they are "superior"; nobody likes a bully.

I would like to suggest working some more description of what bullying is, and what it looks like, from Workplace bullying.

Bullying occurs when an editor experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others that causes harm. It can include such tactics as psychological abuse and humiliation. This type of aggressive incivility can be difficult to confront because, unlike the typical school bully, bullies can operate within the letter of established rules and policies and still show a pattern of incivility that can harm other editors and make the editing environment feel hostile to some. Bullying can be overt, but is often covert, with plausible deniability maintained to avoid sanctions to the bully. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in overall morale of editors, quality of articles, and a change in organizational culture. Bullying can occur in a single incident, but often it is an ongoing process in which the person confronted ends up in an inferior position socially and emotionally, if the bullying is "successful." Bullying can result in negative effects toward the bullied people, which can cause stress and carry-over outside of Wikipedia. Editors are humans, and human interactions of good kinds can lead to good emotional carry-over, while bullying can lead to negative emotional carry-over. Another aspect of bullying is that bullied people are often treated worse when they attempt to confront the bully or to deal with the bullying behaviors in a direct way. The very act of naming or confronting bullying behaviors is often used as more fuel for the bullying behavior, and the recipient may be accused of making "personal attacks" or "casting aspersions" or "creating drama" for the very act of confronting a pattern of abusive behavior. Bullying is more likely to happen in an environment where bullies feel they have the implicit support of the power structure, and that their bullying won't be officially called out or receive sanctions. Bullies can create a culture of fear, and the impression of petty tyrants who can rule pages, and has some crossover with WP:OWN. Discerning what is a bullying behavior is a complex matter, requiring examination of a history of interactions. Those who evaluate a situation must be careful not to blame the victim, or to see the recipient's defensive reactions as the problem in the context of bullying.

This is some language that i propose. It's not final and it's pretty long. I'd love input about what more needs to be included, and how it could be streamlined. Or any other input. SageRad (talk) 11:31, 10 December 2015 (UTC)

1. It's a start, but as you say it's got to be boiled down. There are too many tangents e.g. I think the stuff about carryover to real life is just too far off point.
2. For better digestibility, you might try breaking out the material into bullet points. (Number them for easier discussion.)
3. We can't define bullying in terms of what the putative victim "experiences". It's got to be what the putative aggressor has actually done.
4. I think attention needs to be given to the common phenomenon (and what to do about it) of inexperienced users interpreting the normal mechanics of the site as bullying. WP is a much-too-complex place -- wish I knew what to do about that -- and it's easy to see how a new user might come to conclude that rules are simply being made up to frustrate him or her.
EEng (talk) 15:18, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
  • Policies never contain details such as the proposed text—they are kept simple to be easily comprehended and to avoid pointless wikilawyering. My first comment regarding this topic included all that needs to be said: We don't care what kind of bullying it is—it ain't allowed here. The purpose of Wikipedia is to develop an encyclopedia, not an everyone can join in and be happy forum. If an editor engages in persistent unhelpful behavior, another editor might attempt to engage them, with escalating expressions of alarm. The proposed text could easily to be used to accuse the second editor of "bullying" when they should in fact be given a barnstar for caring enough to defend the encyclopedia. Johnuniq (talk) 23:03, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
... which is why WP's attempts to legislate civility continually fall down. It's "the encyclopedia anyone can edit". It's pretty uncivil to block a user or to ban someone from a talk page or a topic area – but sometimes these measures are necessary. pablo 12:48, 13 December 2015‎
Your proposed opening line "Bullying occurs when an editor experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others that causes harm." is seriously problematic. For example consider fictitious case description.
I feel strongly about a subject in which I have a stake. I add information, I even find many sources. Yet other editors persistently claim my sources are unreliable, that I my edits are flawed and my contents is fringe theory. But I AM RIGHT, the conspiracy people try to hush it up and keep the truth from the world, harming all of us.
And they conspire with many editors to revert me, I feel bullied. I experience a persistent pattern of mistreatment that causes harm. No further evidence needed, my experience is sufficient for a conviction of the bullies.
Sadly this type of discussion happens (frequently). And sadly supporters of fringe theories tend to stubbornly hold to their convictions, and honestly feel bullied. But, and I will be blunt here, that is their problem, not that of the editors trying to stop such people. Any bully policy should make clear that editors stopping fringe edits should not be burdened with defending themselves against bullying allegations. Arnoutf (talk) 13:46, 13 December 2015 (UTC)
Precisely points 3 and 4 in my list of points a little bit above here. EEng (talk) 22:22, 13 December 2015 (UTC)
I hear you all clearly, Johnuniq, Pablo X, Arnoutf and EEng. I think your concerns are completely valid. I hear your concerns, but this doesn't mean a clearer statement on bullying is not useful.
To address one concern, i don't think that "bullying" is a subjective term based on the experience of the bullied party. There will be times when it's not bullying, but rather simple disagreement. Editors must be able to take criticism. Editors must be able to live with their propsoed content not being adopted. It must be judged from the outside, by uninvolved parties. Other editors must be able to come in and say "yes, this is bullying" or "no, this is not bullying." However, the policy must give a good definition of the behavior to enable it to be referenced and judged in each particular case. I think it would need some qualifiers, to define what bullying is not, as well as what it is.
It is not about being RIGHT, but simply about being right. Sometimes an editor is right, but gets bullied away from being as forceful as they might otherwise be, by emotional dynamics. Sometimes they may be wrong, and then they may perceive bullying when it's not there. That's a judgment call.
I see it happening too much on Wikipedia, and some other editors have, as well, from my recent discussions on the WP:Village pump (idea lab)#Anti-bullying task force. I think we need to define the term better in the policy, and give a list of what bullying is, and what it is not, such as:
  • Bullying is a systematic railroading of an editor with aspersions, telling them them that they are not worthy of editing, that they don't know how Wikipedia works when they actually do, condescension, mocking, and the like. Discussion can be kept to content, except when an editor is getting out of line. Accusation of editing to push a point of view is not friendly, unless they're clearly true and necessary to state. Everyone should edit to sources. Every editor may have a different focus and goal for the article, but no editor owns an article or gets to determine content despite consensus. Every editor needs to participate in dialogue in good faith in order to establish a consensus. Sometimes editors will disagree with consensus and must accept content which they would not personally write, if it follows good sourcing and WP:DUE and especially WP:NPOV.
  • Bullying is not being told you're wrong about sourcing or content suggestions. To edit on Wikipedia, you must be able to admit that you're wrong sometimes. You must be able to admit that your point of view is not the majority point of view and your designs for an article need to be mixed with other editors' designs for an article to arrive at a compromise consensus (especially on controversial or contentious articles). Bullying is not just saying that you "feel bullied" but rather that the community also judges that you are being bullied. It takes a village.
  • Bullying is sometimes a mobbing behavior where multiple editors take part in trying to belittle n editor or outnumber them instead of to reason with them in a good dialogue. Bullying can also take the form of ganging up, including on arbitration cases and at dispute resolution boards like WP:ANI, WP:RSN, and WP:BLPN. Involved editors intervening at appeals can be construed as railroading or bullying.
  • Bullying is not stnding up strongly for what you believe. Bullying is not using swear words. Bullying is an attempt to emotionally undermine another editor to get your way. SageRad (talk) 00:42, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Um, when you say –

It is not about being RIGHT, but simply about being right.

– is that supposed to be some kind of koan? Are you serious about "it takes a village"? We're I-don't-know-how-many-100K into this discussion, and I still don't see anything like text that could be added to the policy. EEng (talk) 01:57, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

As a member of WP:RETENTION, I've no objections to this proposal. If it will encourage editors to join Wikipedia & help retain current editors? then that would be great :) GoodDay (talk) 17:11, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

Dialogue that is ad hominem profiling of one of the editors[edit]

  • @SageRad: Three days ago I skimmed the GMO arb case and found these remedies which shows three arbs saying they would consider a site ban rather than the topic ban. A comment included 'behavior has been extremely combative, with constant accusations of "bullying" thrown at anyone who might disagree'. Searching your talk for "bully" shows more. I wasn't going to raise that here but since you are persisting I believe the background needs to be brought into the open because it highlights some concerns expressed above. Preventing anything which might be interpreted as bullying would be great for a family forum, but here it would give wikilawyers and POV pushers a weapon with which to drive away constructive editors. I don't think further discussion would be productive. Johnuniq (talk) 02:52, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Well, let's not be hasty, Johnuniq. SageRad really does appear to have a lot of experience with bullying [8][9][10][11] that ought to be helpful somehow, if we could only figure out how. EEng (talk) 05:13, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I hatted the above content because its not about content, and is opposition research based profiling and casting aspersions on me. Johnuniq unhatted it and suggested i take it to WP:ANI if i have trouble with this dialogue. Alright then. In any case, as far as i am concerned, this dialogue has now been made unworkable and been obstructed by Johnuniq and EEng by their underhanded tactics here, and Seraphimblade should notice how their offhand and irresponsible comments do damage to my ability edit. Thanks a lot, arb. SageRad (talk) 07:16, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

Johnuniq and EEng, the above comments are absolutely 'NOT ABOUT CONTENT and constituted ad hominem profiling and opposition research. The above comments are completely out of place and against guidelines for talk pages. If you can't comment on the content then don't comment at all. An arbitrator's words are no truer because they're an arbitrator, and those words are completely wrong. You cannot admit them in this dialog. Your behavior in attempting to paint me here are out of line and against guidelines for dialogue. SageRad (talk) 07:04, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

New dialogue after the blocked unhatting[edit]

Yes, i am serious. Why would you think otherwise? I see plenty of useful text that could be used. What specifically do you have a problem with, in the content ideas i wrote about above? Please focus on the content, and explain why you agree or disagree. SageRad (talk) 07:12, 14 December 2015 (UTC)


Ok, this dialogue is over. I cannot talk with Johnuniq and EEng and their participation has ended in their profiling and casting these aspersions in an ad hominem way. This is not talking about the content, and it's poisoning the well. SageRad (talk) 07:18, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

I was really hoping you might suggest some usable text on bullying that could be used here, because there really is bullying on Wikipedia. But after several go-rounds now of long, rambling lectures, it's more than a shock to read your treatment of others in the edit summaries I linked above. (No need for arb interpretation of them BTW—​​they speak for themselves.) I suggest you turn your civility spotlight on yourself, and let someone else more introspective and less sanctimonious take the lead on bullying. It's a shame because for a moment there I thought there was some hope of progress. EEng (talk) 08:34, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Latest edit reason by EEng being "I stand by what I've written, which is (given the amount of my time wasted here) quite mild"... talk about wasting time, it's my time being wasted here and anyone else who might have otherwise participated in this dialogue had it been genuine and on content. SageRad (talk) 14:55, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Note that this dialogue is being discussed at WP:ANI here. SageRad (talk) 15:29, 14 December 2015 (UTC) ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Through my experiences here at this talk page itself, i have realized there is another dimension to bullying. It is not only about emotionally undermining an editor's ability to take part in good dialogue, but it's also about reputationally undermining an editor, which is basically poisoning the well against an editor, making it seem as if they are not fit to be taking part in the discussion, or that their input should not hold equal weight as that of other editors. SageRad (talk) 15:36, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

So, i am going to persist in this dialogue and shake off the above bad dialogue like water from a duck's back, and continue with this, in hopes that other editors will take part with good faith to discuss clarifying the civility policy to include more definition of the types of behaviors we don't want to endorse here on Wikipedia.

We want to be brief enough, but not to cut out relevant detail.

Bullying is an attempt to undermine another editor's emotions and/or reputation to get an upper hand to "win" a dialogue. It detracts from good dialogue, and often muddies the water and poisons the well. It can result in harm to editors and can create a toxic editing environment that can affect ultimate content outcomes. It is often marked by an ongoing behavioral pattern, not just single interactions. Certain editors can be targeted over a period of time. Sometimes, when an editor calls out or names a bullying behavior, the bully will attack more forcefully, blaming the victim, often making it hard to address bullying directly.

There is a lot of material here. I'd like to have text be brief enough, but still contain enough to help readers who come here in search of remedy for bullying behaviors to see that policy is against it, and to find some comfort and remedy. SageRad (talk) 17:12, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

Your first sentence is pretty much wrong as an an assertion. Bullying can be but most of the time isn't what you say it is. If an editor has a history of making fringe theory-pushing edits, BLP violations, etc., bringing that up if the same type of behavior is occurring is not bullying. It reduces the likelihood of a drawn out conversation that goes nowhere and says to the editor in question that they're on the same wrong path which they need to get off of lest they want to possibly face more formal sanctions. --NeilN talk to me 17:28, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Neil, thank. By "your first sentence" i'm assuming you mean Bullying is an attempt to undermine another editor's emotions and/or reputation to get an upper hand to "win" a dialogue. This is a definition of bullying, and it references the motivation of the bully, which i think is necessary. It is a judgment call about intentions of another person, like a lot of things in morality. If someone accidentally steps on your foot, you generally forgive it very easily, whereas if someone steps on your foot on purpose, you see it as aggression. If there is a real content discussion and one editor expresses disagreement on the content, then that's totally fine. We want that to happen. We want people to feel free to express disagreement. The problem is that bullying makes some people fearful of expressing disagreement, and keeps people out of topic areas altogether, for fear of emotional and reputational harm being done to them. I agree that fringe pushing is bad, but that's not the topic here. Sometimes people can feel hurt and think they're being bullied, but they're just wrong and people are telling them that in a direct way. Other people can make those judgment calls, uninvolved observers with experience in the nuance of human interactions. That's what i think we need to clarify here. Please don't think that defining bullying behavior is a way of trying to weasel in content or to stop editors from being vigilant about content being accurate and sourced properly. It's not that at all. It's actually to make Wikipedia function better according to the policies like WP:V and WP:NPOV. SageRad (talk) 17:39, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
I see little need for your proposed text as it stands as we already have, "Incivility consists of personal attacks, rudeness and disrespectful comments. Especially when done in an aggressive manner, these often alienate editors and disrupt the project through unproductive stressors and conflict" and "Harassment, including threats, intimidation, repeated annoying and unwanted contact or attention, and repeated personal attacks may reduce an editor's enjoyment of Wikipedia and thus cause disruption to the project" in WP:HARASS. These are far more concrete statements. --NeilN talk to me 18:02, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Indeed, i had not noticed how well it was fleshed out in WP:HARASS, Neil. Thanks for pointing that out. In fact the intro paragraph of that policy is pretty much what i was aiming for in addressing bullying here, and uses the same conceptual framework, so maybe it's enough to see that as a near-synonym of bullying:

Harassment is a pattern of repeated offensive behavior that appears to a reasonable observer to intentionally target a specific person or persons. Usually (but not always) the purpose is to make the target feel threatened or intimidated, and the outcome may be to make editing Wikipedia unpleasant for the target, to undermine, frighten, or discourage them from editing.

Several things in common with what i was advocating for here. (1) Use of a "reasonable observer" as the judge. (2) Focus on the purpose (to intimidate the target). (3) Focus on the undermining quality of the behavior. This is good to know about. Thanks, Neil. SageRad (talk) 18:23, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Also much of this is covered in the opening statement "Comment on content, not on the contributor" of Wikipedia:No personal attacks; and somewhat later on by "Insulting or disparaging an editor is a personal attack regardless of the manner in which it is done". Some of the emotional harm could be covered by looking at how meta:What is a troll? deals with such behavior. With these policies and guidelines already in place I am not sure what your proposal would add (besides more bureaucracy). Arnoutf (talk) 18:31, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I hear you loud and clear (and often and at great length) too, @SageRad: but what you are not convincing me of is that your proposed changes constitute an improvement. pablo 18:50, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

Thank you, pablo, for your (civil) reply. What i'm finding out is that the content that i thought missing seems to be present in slightly different words at WP:HARASS and that seems sufficient to me. I saw a hole in the policy definition here at WP:CIVIL but seems like the behavior in question is covered elsewhere sufficiently. Thanks for being civil and hearing me. Even if it's defined, though, it still needs to be upheld in practice when editors need help to maintain a good non-toxic editing environment. SageRad (talk) 18:57, 14 December 2015 (UTC)

What the problem is and isn't[edit]

First, it appears that we now have agreement that the language of this policy doesn't need reworking because the policy on harassment more or less says what the original poster (User:SageRad) wanted. That is good. I will comment that I disagreed with the original poster's proposed language because it appeared to me to focus too much on the (subjective) emotional well-being of the editor who is bullied or perceives that they are being bullied. Bullying, like other uncivil behavior, is sanctioned not because of its effects on the emotional well-being of editors (and we are not practicing psychology), but because it interferes with the mission of improving the encyclopedia. Bullying, in my experience, is usually associated with article ownership, and the problem is that, when an editor with a different opinion from the clique who claims ownership of an article is bullied, they may be prevented from improving the article, in particular from making it neutral. (Bullying sometimes is done by a clique who is imposing a non-neutral viewpoint on an article.) I will note that I disagree strongly with the original poster, who said that there are very few false allegations of bullying. Inaccurate charges of bullying are common, especially by editors who insist on pushing a non-neutral POV. (That is, sometimes the clique isn't a clique but really is a consensus.) Robert McClenon (talk) 17:46, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

However, in my opinion, the real context of the problem with bullying is not that it is endemic (in my opinion, it isn't) but that there is no effective institutional way to deal with it when it does happen. There are only three methods in the English Wikipedia by which sanctions can be imposed. First, a single administrator can block, but the block can be lifted, preferably after discussion with the blocking administrator. Second, "the community" can topic-ban, block, or site-ban. Third, the ArbCom can topic-ban, block, or site-ban. However, "the community" at the noticeboards does not deal effectively with editors who divide or polarize the community, or with editors when the community is divided or polarized. The discussion at WP:ANI becomes a shouting match, which is usually archived as no consensus. In any case, the community does not deal effectively with issues that divide or polarize the community. (Perhaps that statement is a truism.) The ArbCom has, in recent years, been slow. It does eventually deal with issues that divide or polarize the community, but not quickly, and it only is able to take on a few toxic issues, and so can't deal with everything. My conclusion is that some sort of enforcement reform is needed. Maybe some sort of panels (jury system) is needed below the ArbCom, with appeals to the ArbCom. Alternatively, community input on bans and topic-bans should allow for secret voting or secret !voting, so that editors do not feel shouted down. At present, the English Wikipedia doesn't have an effective process for dealing with bullying, because it doesn't have an effective process for dealing with issues that divide and polarize the community. Robert McClenon (talk) 17:46, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

Comments? Robert McClenon (talk) 17:46, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

  • First, it is not only myself who saw a need for changes. I am not alone and i'm not the only one. The incivility in the above discussion made this an unfriendly dialogue that appeared to have scared away at least one person.
  • Secondly, we want a non-coercive and non-harmful environment both for the sake of the editors' well-being and for the sake of the quality of articles. Both go hand in hand.
  • A definition of bullying must include reference to the emotions and subjective experience of the target of bullying/harassment/abuse. That's a fundamental aspect of any definition of abusive behavior, and it's a fundamental part of being human and knowing how to act respectfully with other humans. We all do this every day. We don't have to "be psychologists" to do this. We have to simply "be human".
  • I still think it would be useful to update this policy to better express the nature of bullying behaviors. Policies often overlap and it is useful to have good definitions in multiple places. It's the nature of things. I don't know why it rankles you and a few other people so badly. Can you explain what it is that makes you want to oppose any clarification or definition of bullying, if that is accurate, or correct me if i'm wrong?
  • If anyone at ANI would have the insight and wisdom and frankly, the guts, to address bullying, then it wouldn't become a shouting match and it would actually be effective. As it stands now, editors go there seeking help to make a space non-toxic and instead they often get blowback and targeted themselves. It's not a safe place. It's in fact a scary place because of that. I see it all the time. I see people getting chilling warnings when they go to ANI to clarify and ask for help. SageRad (talk) 18:01, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
I will try to respond to the five comments above. First, I agree that the original poster is not the only editor who sees the need for changes. Many editors see the need for changes, although some of us disagree on what those changes should be. I agree that some of the above dialogue was uncivil, in particular because it was ad hominem. I will note that User:SageRad polarizes and divides the community, but that should not sidetrack the main issue.
Second, I agree that we want a non-coercive and non-harmful environment. I don't think that anyone disagreed. We don't need to argue about why.
Third, the definition of bullying, in my opinion, absolutely must not refer to the emotions and subjective experience of the targeted editor. To include such language would permit to raise unsubstantiated claims of bullying by stating that they are upset or that they feel intimidated or derogated. We have to judge bullying by the external evidence, that is, the language used by the alleged bullies, not by the subjective issue of what the target claims its emotional effects are. We absolutely must not refer to the emotions and subjective experience of the editor who claims to have been bullied.
Fourth, I have no objection in general to improving the wording of this policy or other policies. I and some other editors only disagreed with specific proposed changes, especially to the inclusion of the emotional trump card.
Fifth, what SageRad says about WP:ANI is mostly true. However, I don't see any quick fix at WP:ANI, which is why I say that WP:ANI is broken with respect to issues that divide and polarize the community. Saying that administrators should have the insight and wisdom and guts to address bullying isn't helpful, because there is disagreement on the particulars. Perhaps SageRad means that individual administrators should block the bullies. If so, other administrators will disagree. Perhaps SageRad means that there should be a different community at the noticeboards. But there isn't. It is true that the noticeboards are often very hostile. That is why I think that some sort of reform, rather than mere exhortation, is needed. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:39, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Robert McClenon, i appreciate the above comments. I don't agree with all but i appreciate that we're in dialogue. I want to pick up with only your third point above, as there are so many threads here, but i see this one point as most critical to come to terms with.
Any judgment of human behavior has to take into account some inferences about motivations. Please hear me out. I made this point in the previous section, as well, when i first pinged four editors and made a rather long post. I made the same point multiple times. It's a semi-complex thing, but it's really true and really important.
  • Motivation is quite important in determining justice. Like i said above, if someone steps on your foot by accident, generally you'll let it go, and especially if the person says "Oh, i'm sorry!" and really means it. However, if the person steps on your foot on purpose, then you might sock them, or yell at them. It's then an aggression. Even if they say "Oh, i'm sorry!" but you can really tell that they did it on purpose and their "sorry" is a crocodile apology, then you will still be pissed off. The intention is critical in every concept of justice.
  • In a case of abusive behaviors such as bullying, the intention of the perpetrator is to affect the subjective state of the target. At least one of the purposes is that. Another purpose might be to reputationally harm them so they have less cred with others in the dialogue, and another might be to intimidate others who see the abuse of the target, and therefore become less able to speak their minds well.
  • I am not saying that if anyone says "I feel bullied!" that we automatically believe them, and automatically agree that they are correct. I made that point very clearly above. We must use our own minds as a community, as reasonable humans observing other humans. This is central to what it means to be a human in society. When i said "It takes a village" above, i was 100% serious -- even though some people heard this phrase and found it funny, maybe because it was made famous by one Hillary Clinton whom i don't care for, but i meant it. It takes a community to judge and to ameliorate abusive behaviors. The community looks at the evidence, and generally it's pretty obvious what the situation really is. Sometimes a person is "crying wolf" but many times it's real and it takes some empathy and ability to judge complex human interaction, and see that there is an abusive dynamic being perpetrated on a target.
  • This means that we must reference the subjective state of the target, but this does not mean that we simply believe at face value every time what any person says. That would be foolish. In the case of bullying, where one main goal of a bully is to emotionally undermine a target, then we must as a community judge whether the alleged bully is actually intending to do so. Often it's obvious, when they're calling the person stupid or insinuating that in saccharine words, or when they're condescending or implying that they don't know how the world works when it's not really true, or many other tropes of being pushy / abusive / bullying. I see these things going on here, and want people to be able to be called out and really told to "knock it off!" by a community. It really does take some solidarity of community to make a good safe space for good editing when an individual is bent on being abusive. Lack of real sanctions lets it run more rampant, because people know the chances of sanctions are very low. They even say things like "take it to ANI if you have a problem with it" in a taunting way, because they know nothing will come of it, as happened in the previous talk page section. It played out in textbook fashion. So, we must reference the subjective state of the target, to determine if it looks like the alleged bully is doing something with the intention of affecting the target's subjective state to knock them off balance or demean them or otherwise make them shrink away.
We all take this for granted pretty much in daily life, like my example where someone steps on your foot by accident or on purpose. I'm sorry if it seems like i belabored this point, but i think it's really important to be clear and see if we do agree on this or not. If not, i'd like to understand why. Thanks, Robert. SageRad (talk) 19:03, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

Reasonable Man Test[edit]

US law on workplace bullying and on hostile work environments involves a "reasonable man" test, whether a "reasonable man" would feel threatened or made uncomfortable by the conduct in question. In the case of sexual harassment, the test is amended to a "reasonable woman" test. I do not object, at least not on principle, to including language as to whether a "reasonable editor" would think that the conduct in question was emotionally threatening. (I do have a concern that the policies could get too wordy, and workplace policies that will be taken to real courts do need to be wordy and precise, while Wikipedia is a different entity.) If you are suggesting some sort of "reasonable editor" rule about emotional impact, I am willing to consider that. It can't just be the emotional impact on the editor who claims to have been bullied, because we have editors who perceive all disagreement as bullying. Robert McClenon (talk) 19:23, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

The first paragraph of wp:harass does include "appears to a reasonable observer to be intended...." I believe that makes sense. SageRad (talk) 19:34, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
I don't have time to go into much detail at the moment, but I thank Robert McClenon and SageRad for beginning a constructive dialogue. Burninthruthesky (talk) 08:24, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
My issue with the "reasonable man" test is that not every target is the same, and we do need to take into account the specifics of each person, and see that these may be perceived by an abuser and used. For instance, if one person's pet peeve is known to be strawman arguments, and then an abuser uses strawman arguments on purpose to try to get their goat, then we as observers can recognize this dynamic. Human behavior really does go many layers deep. This is really how things work in the real world. Abusers are very often quite smart and skilled at recognizing specific vulnerabilities in a target and exploiting them in a way that can help maintain the covert nature of the bullying. Inside "jokes" that are not jokes but slights and jabs, and the like, are very common fodder for abusive behavior. SageRad (talk) 12:36, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
Does this really need to be codified, or can we reasonably rely on administrators dealing with civility complaints to be aware of it? I am inclined to think the latter. If not, I would like to see the language that you feel should specifically be added to the text rather than more generalized discussion. DonIago (talk) 14:01, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
It needs to be said. By my experience, administrators tend to not enforce civility in this vein. There is much proposed language above in this talk page section. SageRad (talk) 14:09, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes, there is much proposed language above, and I have no desire to wade through it myself. I think what is needed is a clean restatement of exactly what you feel should be added, perhaps as an RfC. With the current state of this discussion, I am otherwise unable to currently support any changes. DonIago (talk) 15:00, 16 December 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── It takes time and effort to work on this. I will quote the latest and briefest version. It's also contained in the definition of WP:HARASS in large part, but i think it can be stated better in WP:CIVIL to serve editors:

Bullying is an attempt to undermine another editor's emotions and/or reputation to get an upper hand to "win" a dialogue. It detracts from good dialogue, and often muddies the water and poisons the well. It can result in harm to editors and can create a toxic editing environment that can affect ultimate content outcomes. It is often marked by an ongoing behavioral pattern, not just single interactions. Certain editors can be targeted over a period of time. Sometimes, when an editor calls out or names a bullying behavior, the bully will attack more forcefully, blaming the victim, often making it hard to address bullying directly.

That's one short version of a proposed more nuanced summary of bullying. SageRad (talk) 15:18, 16 December 2015 (UTC)

This seems to me like more detail than is needed here, though I'd be willing to defer to other editors on that. DonIago (talk) 15:44, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
I agree that it is more detail than is needed. I disagree with the proponent, who apparently wants to insert detailed language about the effect on the emotional state of the editor who is being bullied or perceives that he is being bullied. I think that excessive detail will increase the likelihood that emotionally fragile, but possibly aggressive, editors will manipulate the language to frame legitimate disagreement as bullying. I would like to keep it to a "reasonable man" test. Robert McClenon (talk) 16:20, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with Robert McClenon on this aspect. A reasonable observer test is appropriate and is sufficient. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 07:08, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I concur with User:Ryk72. Going into excessive length about the emotional consequences of bullying is likely to encourage editors to cite these details and to claim that they were bullied, but the editors who respond to this encouragement are likely to be editors whom a reasonable observer simply thinks were editing against consensus. The claim of being bullied by editors who are not being bullied is quite common (User:SageRad is just good-faith mistaken in thinking that it is like the claim of rape and unlikely to be made wrongly), because some editors have a low ability to accept honest disagreement as honest disagreement. A reasonable observer test is sufficient, without going into detail that will encourage difficult editors to argue that they were bullied. Robert McClenon (talk) 16:36, 18 December 2015 (UTC
  • I too concur that the "reasonable observer" test should be sufficient. pablo 19:46, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  • Me too, and I'd like to suggest that even that need not be stated, since it applies to everything we do at WP to evaluate behavior. This isn't a court and we don't need "jury instructions". EEng (talk) 20:20, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
I suggest that an uninvolved administrator close this discussion as concluding that there is consensus that a "reasonable observer" test is sufficient and that we do not need an additional discussion of the emotional impact on the victim or alleged victim. If the original proponent disagrees, as is their right, they may obtain a community-wide consensus by Request for Comments. That is my suggestion, to close this thread with consensus that "reasonable observer" is sufficient. I can argue further why the additional proposed language would actually be detrimental, but I don't think it is necessary unless there is an RFC. Robert McClenon (talk) 00:36, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
Admin availability for formal closes is, of course, precious and in critical need throughout the project. I'd prefer to see the OP withdraw, at least as to any text proposed so far. After that if we just let the discussion sit a while maybe someone will think of another direction to go in that will be helpful. Those big pastel-background closes are so... final. EEng (talk) 01:20, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
I agree closing would not be helpful. Since I'm busy in real life, here are a few very brief points on this discussion:
  • Honest disagreement is not bullying; ad hominem argument is generally not honest disagreement. The difference is important.
  • I don't know why the rape analogy has been imported to this discussion. Tim Field said, "Bullying is a form of psychological and emotional rape because of its intrusive and violational nature." I don't think framing the discussion in those terms is helpful here.
  • The fact false accusations of breaking a rule can be made is not a reason to abolish the rule.
  • The "reasonable man" does not ignore the "specifics of each person". If someone says (as a purely fictitious example) "stop calling be Big Nose, I don't like it", a reasonable person will respect the person's feelings, rather than insisting, "I really do think your nose is ugly".
  • There is precedent for discussion of the impact of misconduct. See WP:Harassment#Consequences of harassment.
  • This discussion is not solely about the "reasonable man test". There is no time limit.
I may be unable to take any further part in this discussion at least until the new year. I hope you all have peaceful and refreshing holidays. Burninthruthesky (talk) 07:43, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
I believe that Burninthruthesky highlights a couple of reasons why a "reasonable observer" test is preferable. Ad hominem and other bad faith argument will, it is to be hoped, be seen as such by a reasonable observer. Additionally, the specifics of each person will be taken into account - where they have been communicated (per the example above), and. more importantly, where they are reasonable. I would consider it reasonable for an editor to request a focus on content, not contributor; I would not consider it reasonable for an editor to request they be addressed using honorifics. I have seen both. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 19:47, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

Adding in about no third-party threats[edit]

There was a recent ANI/AE situation (which otherwise resulted in no actions, but only concern on the fundamentals of behavior raised) where a user claimed to want to go to the press to alert them to a situation on WP with the intent to enact change this way. It was generally agreed this was not a legal threat, but it was worrisome to some that this was a chilling effect to try to swing discussion and should not have been used.

While threatening to go to a third party is not as disruptive as issuing a personal or legal threat, it still falls into the same concern that the current section on "no personal threats" covers. I think it might be appropriate to add language that threatening, in the course of discussion, to engage a third party by any means to influence change on WP is something that should be strongly discouraged in behavior, though cannot be enforced as punitively as we do for legal threats. This would include going to the press, going to an external forum, or threatening to bring in meatpuppets. It should be noted that we can't stop people from actually following on this, and the net result may not even be disruptive, but its the weight of saying that "if you don't do X, I will go to this group to tell them..." that needs to be strongly discouraged. --MASEM (t) 14:32, 5 March 2016 (UTC)

We're setting the wrong bar for incivility[edit]

We seem to require incivility to be severe and disruptive before we are willing to take it seriously. I think we need to consider an ongoing low-level of incivility as just as disruptive as an acute incident. A pattern of low-level incivility from multiple editors across many article talk pages is what makes WP feel hostile and chases away editors who might otherwise stay to build. I believe it contributes extremely strongly to the gender gap. I think we need to consider an incivility noticeboard. Incidents of incivility at ANI don't seem to get much traction; even the most insincere apology will get them closed, so taking an incident to ANI pretty much guarantees that the most that will happen is less than a slap on the wrist, which makes it not worth the trouble, which means we're basically encouraging low-level incivility. If we want to make WP more civil, we need to take seriously even minor incidents when they form a pattern of behavior. valereee (talk) 12:38, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Perhaps something analogous to WP:3RN, where four or more relatively recent cases of incivility coupled with at least one warning for such could be considered blockable? I'm not advocating for this, merely offering a possible course. DonIago (talk) 14:58, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, something like that. I'm not advocating overreacting to minor isolated incidents of incivility. I'm advocating that we treat some nth incident as evidence of an ongoing pattern of behavior and worthy of a warning, and the nth+1 as worthy of an hour's block, which gets an editor's attention because it puts it on the editor's easily-discoverable record. Not a punishment, just a tool for gaining compliance with civility policy. I am just really concerned that we tend to forget the cumulative effect of all the incidents of low-level incivility toward the random editor is what harms our overall welcoming atmosphere, much worse than any one incident in which one experienced editor goes ballistic on another experienced editor, which is what we tend to pay serious attention to. We don't want to overreact to any one of these incidents, so we tend to just let them go. If we don't treat these things as something to avoid doing because repeated incidents are going to be treated seriously (rather than something that might waste a little of your time responding to ANI with a halfhearted apology, nothing worse than that) then we're in effect tolerating them. valereee (talk) 15:33, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
There was previously an incivility noticeboard, Wikipedia:Wikiquette assistance, which was closed down - you might want to review the discussions around that. Nikkimaria (talk) 17:31, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Ongoing discussion at Meta[edit]

See meta:Grants talk:IdeaLab/Propose Wikimedia Code of Conduct (adapted from open source Contributor Covenant) JbhTalk 13:45, 7 June 2016 (UTC)


Do you support or oppose this entry? Pwolit iets (talk) 01:50, 18 September 2016 (UTC)

This is all about the absurd idea that saying "It's all Greek to me" is "prejudiced". See [12]. EEng 02:22, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
@NeilN, yes I did read that. @EEng, no, its not necessarily about that - if you're curious you're welcome to ask on my user talk page. Pwolit iets (talk) 02:33, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
"Before using the RfC process to get opinions from outside editors, it's often faster and more effective to thoroughly discuss the matter with any other parties on the related talk page. Editors are normally expected to make a reasonable attempt to working out their disputes before seeking help from others." Where's the discussion? --NeilN talk to me 02:38, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
I did not view it as a dispute but rather a misunderstanding; the misunderstanding being that my edit is a follow-up from a previous thread elsewhere. Thats why I thought it didn't apply to me. Pwolit iets (talk) 02:43, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
By the way, feel free to remove the rfc template if you want. Im still getting used to all this. Pwolit iets (talk) 02:49, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
  • No Adding obvious stuff to policy is not helpful—of course anyone displaying prejudice would be stopped, regardless of what this policy says. The trick, however, is deciding what is prejudice and what is fair comment. In general, policies never identify all bad things that should not be done—instead, the principle applies and there is no need to provide an exhaustive list as might be needed for a court of law. A more fundamental reason that this addition is unwise at this time is that it is never a good idea for an editor to modify policy to either support their position at ANI, or to express displeasure with the outcome of a discussion at ANI. The section at ANI is here (permalink). In that section, Pwolit iets fails to understand a common English idiom and maintained their position regardless of several explanatory comments. Johnuniq (talk) 02:27, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
Well, don't get your Irish up. EEng 02:34, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
That's called reading someone's mind. Yes that was partially a motivation but at best only negligibly so. I frequently press the history tabs of multiple articles I read about in order to view previous versions of the page to check what the version appeared like. So that has been the larger influence. Pwolit iets (talk) 02:40, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
  • No per Johnuniq. -- Begoon 02:42, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
  • No "Prejudiced" is hopelessly vague, and policy doesn't attempt to be exhaustive. EEng 02:51, 18 September 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose. To the extent the proposed addition is not so vague as to be useless, it's needlessly redundant with the existing injunctions. Also, it is beyond belief that the impetus for this change is only distantly related to the proposer's recent position at ANI. Rebbing 04:59, 18 September 2016 (UTC)