Wikipedia talk:Competence is required

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Proposed Name Change[edit]

The title "competency is required", in addition to violating WP:civility as many have pointed out, and biting newcomers as many have pointed out, is also incorrect as a matter of policy. There is no actual requirement of competency, and furthermore the "encyclopedia anyone can edit" tagline as well as Don't bite the newcomers, and furthermore this essay by title alone explicitly and directly violates Wikipedia's editing policy which states Perfection is not required: Wikipedia is a work in progress. Collaborative editing means that incomplete or poorly written first drafts can evolve over time into excellent articles. Even poor articles, if they can be improved, are welcome. For instance, one person may start an article with an overview of a subject or a few random facts. Another may help standardize the article's formatting, or have additional facts and figures or a graphic to add. Yet another may bring better balance to the views represented in the article, and perform fact-checking and sourcing to existing content. At any point during this process, the article may become disorganized or contain substandard writing. Therefore, I propose changing the essay name from "Competence is required" to "Competence is encouraged." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mmyers1976 (talkcontribs) 17:02, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

"Competence" is not synonymous with "perfection". The current title may be blunt, but it is not insulting; the essay simply states a (sometimes hard to swallow) truth that there are certain standards of quality for contributions and conduct below which the costs of allowing someone in a community outweigh the benefits. And the rename is not going to fix any problems with the essay's misuse. —Keφr 18:16, 8 September 2015 (UTC)

Target audience? Purpose? These are spectra, and they are discussed backwards[edit]

Who is the target audience for this essay? What is its purpose? Aside from brief mention about knowing our own competence, this reads like a commentary on those other people who we decide are incompetent and how we should deal with them. It reads like it's addressed to an in-group, perhaps admins, and how they should handle the poor but well-meaning out-group. There are too many broad generalizations. For example, concerning language. The message here seems to be that people who can't write fluent English should go to the Wikipedia of their native language. There is little acknowledgement of a spectrum of language skills. It is presented as a yes or no issue - competent or incompetent. Who decides if an editor's skills are incompetent (an oxymoron)? And what is completely ignored is the contribution that such people might give in understanding and collecting sources in their native language. (Our reliance on Google Translate is, IMO, excessive.) WP is for everyone, as has been said. People with limited language skills can do their best to write up and article or large edit, and then others can come by and clean up the language. That's how I think WP is supposed to work.

We should not be so proud of our encyclopedia that we become intolerant of sub-par writing in a few articles, for a short while. The world knows our limits (our competencies). They know our encyclopedia can never be truly authoritative on every page because anyone can edit it at any time. But we do have the best encyclopedia humankind has ever known for looking stuff up quickly and learning a tremendous amount of information, and having the best collection of hyperlinked sources so people can find the authoritative information. We can never be more than that as long as we are open and inclusive, and sloppy writing on a few of our pages doesn't really hurt that function. We can pretend to be more than we are, and we are VERY close to being the authoritative collection of knowledge and well written articles, but give a little wiggle room, and don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

The fact is that none of these types of incompetence are truly incompetence. They are types of competence that are discussed backwards. They all exist along their own spectra. Is someone a newbie? No. That's a fairly useless label. The important question is how much experience a person has, not some yes or no convenience. Language skills? Technical know-how? Social skills? Bias? None of these issues is a simple binary yes or no. Experience in WP, English proficiency, social competence, technical knowledge or comprehension, these are what we are talking about, not lack of them. No one who completely lacks these things could make their way to WP and edit anything in the first place. In all cases, we are talking about how much, how far along the spectrum a person is, and again, who will judge? What objective criteria can be applied to such things? Should we require editors to pass certain written exams to demonstrate sufficient competence? Without objective instruments like that, all we have is someone's subjective judgement, and it becomes scary when the people who stand in subjective judgement are also the same people who can impose and enforce sanctions for their own opinion regarding a person's "incompetence". Who can judge a person's potential to improve their competence?

I reject this essay as anything but trouble. I question its value as guidance when it guides the reader to judge others as having incompetence when what is relevant is sufficient competence. I reject the opinions expressed about language as poorly thought-out and counterproductive. I see this essay as little more than ammunition for people who want to be unkind to each other, and the only time I have seen it referred to was such an example. (That is why I am here now.)

Competence is important - don't get me wrong, but incompetence in this sense is nonsense, and it is a setup for abuse, drama, and misunderstanding. Dcs002 (talk) 04:46, 26 November 2015 (UTC)

The issues discussed above do not address the point of the essay which is that Wikipedia exists to develop an encyclopedia, and some people assist that aim, while others hinder it. Those who regularly monitor noticeboards know there are contributors who hinder the project due to an inability to do constructive work. Usually the cases at noticeboards involve people who do not recognize their limitations and who enthusiastically participate in some area, with the result that others have to do a lot of clean-up work. Further, when problems are raised, they are dismissed or ignored by the contributor. This essay is saying that if an editor is a problem and cannot change their ways, they need to be removed. Johnuniq (talk) 06:38, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Thank you for reading my wall of words. Brevity and concision are clearly competencies I need to work on, and they have been problems in the past.
I think a major point of mine got lost. Incompetence means someone does not have a given competence. IMO, that is meaningless in this discussion, as we all have minimal levels of competence or we would not be here. This essay might come across as less offensive if it did not discuss such negatives as absolutes. We need sufficient competence (a gradient, an amount), not a lack of incompetence to be good editors. There is no way to say someone is incompetent in some regard without being unnecessarily offensive. Insufficient competence is still a subjective judgement, but not inherently offensive. It acknowledges what a person has, even if it's not enough, without suggesting they have nothing.
"This essay is saying that if an editor is a problem and cannot change their ways, they need to be removed." This was not at all clear to me as a central point when I first read this essay, nor do I think we need another way of making this very obvious point. "Competence is required" is a very, very oblique way of referring to that problem. What I hear you saying is that unintentional disruptive editing is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and here's what we should do, how we can identify it, etc. All this talk about incompetence isn't really necessary then, is it? That message was completely lost on me. It would be much clearer if you wrote an essay on unintentional disruptive editing. That would also avoid the civility issue completely. I don't think the abuse potential of this essay is worth the roundabout approach to the real problem of unchanging, unintentionally disruptive editors. I say call it what it is. Dcs002 (talk) 11:13, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
If you can think of an inoffensive way to explain why someone is being indefinitely blocked, please suggest it. The explanation is for the benefit of third parties who know what it means. Johnuniq (talk) 23:02, 26 November 2015 (UTC)

Missing an obvious but common competence failure: Reasoning skills[edit]

I would never want to frame this as "reasoning ability", an uncivil and unprovable assumption about someone's innate capacity. But a very common problem on WP (often mired deep in the Dunning–Kruger effect, WP:TE, WP:IDHT, and related problems), is low competence in reasoning, logic, how to frame arguments, reading comprehension (not related to ESL issues), and general critical thinking skills. People with this presumably rectifiable deficiency who do not rectify it are among the longest-term and worst disruptive editors on Wikipedia, especially in discussions and editing relating to science/medicine, religion, politics/law, and philosophy, as well as WP's own internal WP:POLICY pages. WP:COMPETENCE is frequently cited when dealing with them at WP:ANI or wherever, because we all expect this to be covered here, yet it actually is not. Surely it's time to fix that.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:30, 30 December 2015 (UTC)


At the moment (Special:Diff/709858922), the plan of this essay looks like this:

  1. Versus good faith
  2. Some common types
    1. Newbie
    2. Factual
    3. Social
    4. Bias-based
    5. Language difficulty
    6. Editing beyond your means
    7. Lack of technical expertise
    8. Grudges
    9. Inability to talk about incremental changes
    10. Close paraphrasing
  3. What "Competence is required" does not mean
  4. The bottom line
  5. This essay...

Perhaps it would be useful to change this plan to the plan used in the Lithuanian version (lt:Vikipedija:Kompetencija nėra nereikalinga, lt:Specialus:Diff/5002755)? It looks like this:

  1. What competence is required?
    1. Linguistic competence
    2. Subject matter competence
    3. Social competence
    4. Technical competence
    5. Understanding the order in Wikipedia
    6. Ability to reason and offer arguments
    7. Ability to choose a work one can do
  2. When competence is insufficient
    1. Substitutes of competence
      • Humility and obedience
    2. Unsuitable substitutes of competence
      • Good faith and productivity
    3. What to do with the ones with insufficient competence?

It seems to have some advantages. For example, that way it should be possible to avoid the impression that "Competence is required" somehow competes with assumption of good faith. Another advantage might be a possibility to point the reader to some material (in, let's say, Wikibooks) that might help one to acquire the specific competence, or to specify which competence is required for what task. --Martynas Patasius (talk) 21:46, 10 April 2016 (UTC)

  • I like your proposal. Go ahead and do it is my view. Oiyarbepsy (talk) 22:16, 10 April 2016 (UTC)
OK, done: Special:Diff/709858922/714805686. --Martynas Patasius (talk) 23:27, 11 April 2016 (UTC)
This page is on my watchlist, but I just noticed this change by Martynas Patasius, and I must state that I prefer the long-standing version, which included a lead. How is this new version better? I'm not seeing it. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 06:06, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
Yeah, comparing both versions, this new version is too vague and doesn't really explain the matters at hand; it's more like an opinion piece. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 06:10, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
I just reverted the changes. The new version used poor English, which is not what we want here. Binksternet (talk) 11:45, 25 April 2016 (UTC)