Wikipedia talk:Expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community

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The aim is to provide a one page guideline/policy, mainly for newcomers, covering the main areas we have social norms and what the main norms are. We don't seem to have such a page at the moment – and for reasons described it would help many newcomers to create it. Improvements requested. FT2 (Talk | email) 12:49, 10 November 2010 (UTC)


This is about newcomers. We have a large edifice of bureaucracy and spread-out policy. We need that detail somewhere, to run a huge project of conflicting personalities and agendas.

However a newcomer needs access to a simple but comprehensive guide, "what do I need to know", not a facile or dense brief paragraph with a dozen policy links at WP:5P, not 50 intricate policy pages, and not "we say you can just edit but then you get bitten when it isn't what we expected". Something easy, digestible, that they can go "okay, this is most of what's important" and pick up the rest at leisure.

I tried as an experiment editing as a newcomer a while back, to understand how Wikipedia worked for a newcomer. By my 10th "edit as a newcomer" I could see how easily we deter people by not being simple. I also noticed how easily a user can do something wrong believing it's helpful (possibly serious - like re-re-reverting to correct information, or posting private info to prove an editor's COI). Where does a newcomer learn how we work? Nowhere. That goes for about 80% of stuff thats fundamental here.

So... this page lists the major areas we have norms, and the major norms and principles in those areas. A user who follows this will largely understand what we look for, behaviors to avoid (which might be ok elsewhere), and how to be a reputable editor.

More on purpose

The target audience is anyone who wants an overview of the community's core behavioral expectations and why they matter. We probably should have a summary of the key principles involved in "being a Wikipedia editor" even if policies themselves constantly evolve. Few visitors will have the patience to carefully read the entirety of each conduct policy. This might

  • demystify Wikipedia,
  • avoid confusion/misunderstanding,
  • reduce the risk of people thinking "games" are being played,
  • provide a clear statement of what's expected that users can "get the gist" when they might not read an entire nuanced policy,
  • reduce the risk of newcomers "starting off on the wrong foot" due to misunderstandings.
"Help needed" areas

The 3rd paragraph of the introduction is too long. For a simple introduction it's tl;dr and partly duplicates "Purpose of editing". Suggestions requested how to shorten the intro without losing content so readers aren't put off. Shortening of the rest welcomed too.

Also a distasteful question - the section "off-wiki issues" mentions pedophilia as an exception in the "text" (1st paragraph). But is it helpful or counterproductive for the page to also mention it in the "summary box"? Pros - it's policy and drives home our norms. Cons - it provides WP:BEANS and may in fact be counterproductive, letting such people know they need to hide themselves. This just occurred to me. I can see this being an issue needing wider views, but hopefully not a "blocking" one.

FT2 (Talk | email) 03:19, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Views on possible promotion as guideline/policy[edit]


  • No, it's more like a guide for people who are serious about getting started. It's a compilation of expectations, and there's always IAR. It's fine as a guide, but making it policy/guideline just doesn't seem like it would mean much. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 03:17, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Seems more of an {{infopage}} --Cybercobra (talk) 20:50, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
  • While the above two comments are probably correct, I think that's not a desirable state of affairs. We currently have policies and guidelines on various minor points battling with each other and increasing in scope until they are plainly contradictory. That's not a satisfactory state of affairs, and a unified guideline or even policy that ties everything together might be able to prevent some of the friction. Hans Adler 10:19, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I think it's kinda like a behavioural guideline, concerning user conduct, falling under the auspices of Wikipedia conduct policy. - jc37 10:28, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Or it doesn't necessarily need to be labeled as either guideline or policy, but like Wikipedia:About, could be just an introductory/summary page. -- œ 10:55, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
    I like that idea OE. No reason it has to have the label of policy/guideline/essay to be useful. Ocaasi (talk) 04:30, 20 November 2010 (UTC)


Comments by Sphilbrick[edit]

First, my overall reaction to the page is positive. I like the message it sends. It is generally well-written, and usually clear and to the point.

I have a number of questions and comments. In some cases, I've identified something that doesn't quite sit right with me - a helpful comment would include a specific recommendation - I won't always do that on the first pass, but will try to return.

I like the overall structure. Intro, followed by ten sections. Each section with links to the existing policy of guideline, then a reasonably concise summary of the policy or guidelines, followed by an even more concise summary expressed as a list of rules to follow.

I like the "rules to remember" sections, but I have a question - I don't recall seeing that structure anywhere else. I probably haven't seen all the policies, but I just spot-checked a few and didn't see it. Do you foresee any issues with a "new" paradigm?

I have some minor issues with the relative lengths of the section discussions and rules to remember sections, but let me summarize that separately.

The overall summary is written as follows:

While anyone is welcomed to edit, the purpose of editing is to improve the encyclopedia, not to promote any personal agenda. Our community is founded on individual reputation and trust, so deliberate deception is strictly forbidden when it will adversely affect the editing or processes of Wikipedia, and users should treat others respectfully, work together collegially, and avoid behavior that will be widely seen as grossly unacceptable.

In bold is a troubling sentence. It isn't that I disagree with the sentiment, it's that it appears out of place. The rest of the paragraph is a high level, generalized summary of all that follows, yet we include a very specific example, which take about a quarter of the summary, yet isn't even the main subject of any of the ten sections (it seems to mentioned in Antisocial conduct, but is hardly the main point of that section. What privileges "deliberate deception" to earn it such emphasis in the summary? As an minor aside, why "grossly" unaacceptable? I don't think it adds anything useful. "Unacceptable" makes the point.

  • 1.1 Purpose of editing, there should be a comma after "However" (3rd sentence)
  • 1.1 Purpose of editing Rules to remember : I think bullet points should cover a single issue, or several very related issues. Thus, the first bullet is OK with multiple items, because they belong together. However, the second bullet had two unrelated thoughts. (promotion and advocacy are arguably distinct, but close enough for me, however, social networking is unrelated.). I presume the goal is to be succinct, and that is helped by keeping the bullet count low, but putting two different thoughts in a single bullet is counter-productive. Better to separate.
  • 1.2 User anonymity and privacy I'm fine with the sentence "We allow anonymity in order to allow everybody to contribute without having to fear adverse reactions from government authorities, employers, friends or family." but think it would be better if we included "colleagues" or "coworkers" or "colleagues, co-workers".
  • 1.2 User anonymity and privacy - third bullet (Experienced users will try to help if privacy is breached, but this may not always be practical.) left me scratching my head. I feel like I'm missing a subtext. Why is the qualifier needed, given that the first part is qualified by "try"?
  • 1.3 Off-wiki issues, second bullet (Posting off-wiki private communications on the wiki without permission by all involved is forbidden.) Is this literally true? I know I've seen one editor - I think an arb, who has a notice on their page indicating that email sent to the arb constitutes waiver of expectation of privacy. I'll see if I can find it so we can determine whether, one I remember correctly, and two, whether it constitutes an example of an exception to this rule.
  • 1.4 Collaboration and honesty - I wonder about the opening statement (Wikipedia's principle means of "getting things done" is self-motivated collaborative activity.). Largely yes, but then concept of barnstars and Wikiprojects sounds like community motivations, rather than just self-motivation. I have to think about this more. I think I understand the goal to distinguish from a corporate or governmental hierarchical organization, where you have bosses who dictate deliverables, but we may have gone too far.

I'm obviously not done, more tomorrow.--SPhilbrickT 01:43, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

Additional comments[edit]

  • 1.1 Purpose of editing, fourth bullet point contains the phrase "and links placed on Wikipedia pages do not affect page rankings." This seems out of place. The statement isn't so much a rule (in the sense of desired or required norms of behavior) but a fact. Presumably it helps support why we have certain other rules, but this is a listing of rules, rationales for rules belongs elsewhere.
  • 1.5 Supportiveness and thoughtfulness. The phrase in the second sentence "For this end" is awkward. To what end does it refer? Is it supposed to be an expansion of the thought that many user volunteer, therefore they deserve respect? If so, "For this end" interrupts that thought.
  • 1.5 Supportiveness and thoughtfulness. The second and third sentences in the third paragraph reads awkwardly (That said, newcomers editing in a very improper manner (vandalism, pure self-promotion, etc) may be find themselves treated more strictly or rapidly sanctioned. If it appears that a disruptive user is trying to help the project then usually they will be warned before any action.). The last sentence is stated as a conditional observation, rather than a suggestion for conduct. I would prefer to change the order (address the mostly helpful user first), such as "Users who are generally trying to helpful but happen to be disruptive should be warned before any more serious action. Users whose only edits are disruptive (vandalism, pure self-promotion, etc) may be find themselves treated more strictly or rapidly sanctioned."
  • 1.5 Supportiveness and thoughtfulness. The last bullet reads "Especially, "gaming" social norms to "get at" others or unfairly discourage users from genuine involvement is strictly forbidden." I have two minor concerns. First, I don't disagree with the broad sentiment, but the word "especially" implies this rule is more important than the others. Perhaps that was intended, but I see them all as useful rules, and don't see any reason to elevate this one to a special position. Second, while it is discouraged, it does happen, and sometimes is simply ignored. The word "strictly" implies a much stronger standard than I've seen applied. I'd be happy with simply "forbidden" (although "discouraged" is a more accurate reflection of reality).
  • 1.6 Policies and norms Paragraph 2, sentence 3. It is rarely good form to start a sentence with "so" exception exists, this isn't one. Simply removing it works.
  • 1.6 Policies and norms. First sentence "Community policies, guidelines, and norms are effectively rules established by the community through discussion." I think of policies and guidelines as explicit rules, while norms are implicit rules. At the moment, I'm just commenting, I don't have a proposal for change, but if there is discussion about this section, this distinction may be worth considering.
  • 1.6 Policies and norms. I like the explanation of IAR. It is something I have given some thought, this isn't exactly how I would have expressed it, but it may be a better summary than my own summary.
  • 1.7 Disputes and disagreements. In the third sentence, "seek uninvolved help" reads oddly to me. I'd prefer something like "seek help from uninvolved editors in the community..."
  • General—I think the admonition "comment on the edit, not on the editor" is a useful rule. It may have been expressed and I missed it. If I didn't miss it, then let's discuss if it is worth adding and where.

--SPhilbrickT 00:20, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Response (SPhilbrick points)[edit]

Newcomers often get into problems due to inappropriate behavior, which they only discover is inappropriate after the fact. While the main content norms are summarized on a few pages, the key conduct norms are not, yet it's the latter that affects whether newcomers think twice before acting. There are a few ways it could be laid out, but the audience here is someone who has a desire to edit and needs a quick overview of do's and don'ts. We provide a summary of the key areas we have expectations on their conduct, what those are, and (briefly) why. There's usually a difference between a detailed document and the "1 - 2 page summary", the latter being intended to help a reader who doesn't care about the detail, to get a basic orientation. Simplifying by categorizing areas of expectation, overviewing, then listing key rules, helps.

  • 1.1 Overall summary - agree, sentence removed
  • 1.1 Agree, comma added
  • 1.2 Agree, promotion split from webhost
  • 1.2 Clarity of expectation. We aren't writing a formal policy but a document we want newcomers to understand and appreciate. "try" does imply "may be unable" but when addressing newcomer lay-public it's worth a few more words to explain "but may not be practical".
  • 1.3 Yes, it's generally true. Not least emails are generally copyright material. Even if there are exceptions we don't want users to arrive believing the exceptions are common - they are very rare. Example where this happened and needed removal: Talk:Janette Turner Hospital#Full text of the original email sent to the USC MFA listserv. Even if a user stated "email me and that's evidence I can post it", it would stand a good chance of being removed.
  • 1.4 This isn't about why people edit; it's about how things get done. Articles get written because a person chooses to write. Backlogs get cleared and disputes mediated because users choose to work on the backlogs and offer to mediate others' disputes. That's how we do things. We could add "... and recognition by one's fellow editors" but that speaks to why people edit. A user who visits this page isn't being told why they might want to edit, they are learning how they know what they can do and how jobs get done (allocated by some boss? formal promotion? free choice?) and the norms expected.
  • 1.1 (again!) given many users visit here to advocate or promote, it's worth noting "adding links won't work" even if technically that's a fact not a behavior. It goes well as an addendum to "advocacy and promotion is not allowed".
  • 1.5 "For this end, users are asked to act" reworded as "Users should act".
  • 1.5 No objection to changing order, reworded somewhat smoother too.
  • 1.5 It's a guide for newcomers, including newcomer advocates and those with strong views or other motives. In that context it's worth emphasizing the "this is really bad" over the rest. "Especially" emphasizes the point that whatever else might go on in disagreements and discussions, gaming or trying to undermine other users, is particularly and strictly not okay, more than most things.
  • 1.6 Rewritten relevant sentences and avoided the issue.
  • 1.6 Reworded this as "rules or common expectations" etc.
  • 1.6 IAR - thanks!
  • 1.7 Unsure - want to emphasize that help is being sought that is 1/ uninvolved help, and 2/ from the community as a whole rather than (cherry-picked?) specific users within it.
  • General - It's under "collaboration and honesty" (When users disagree, both should treat each other respectfully and focus on the project issue). See also "Supportiveness and thoughtfulness" commenting on the role of calming things down not provoking them, and "Disputes and disagreements" commenting on calm standards, dispute resolution, and Points made in a dispute are expected to focus on the project's benefits, the merits of the views stated, and community norms, not on personalities and emotional escalation..

A bunch of other edits also. Re-review? FT2 (Talk | email) 02:58, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments by Ncmvocalist[edit]

I echo the first paragraph of Sphilbrick; I'm quite impressed with parts of this. As with any concerns I express in a policy debate, I've tried to limit the concerns to those which are concerned with practicalities, and those which have a combination of form and substance issues (they're the fundamental ones), rather than including a huge list of general copyediting preferences too. Due to time constraints, this is an incomplete review, but it's a start. It's numbered per the table of contents. Ncmvocalist (talk)

Section 1.1[edit]

  1. I think we should add emphasis to the link "What Wikipedia is not" rather than cherry picking. For example, an user who first edits Wikipedia will read "Wikipedia is not a social networking site" and think OK, only to be somewhat confused by what it is they see on some user talk pages, and the conflicting notes about reputation and Community (which if I understand correctly, is the sort of thing you'd see in some facebook circles). If we do keep that, then there should be an emphasis on Wikipedia is not a battleground (there is presently no emphasis on that, and a large number of other things which Wikipedia is more frequently mistaken for by some new users).
  2. In this part, the "rules to remember" is fine. However, I think calling it a reputation system is probably not quite right about Wikipedia right now. I suspect many people would be familiar with how a forum of some sort works and that they'd think that is the sort of reputation points system that runs here. There was some talk of moving away from an award-based system after the incident concerning Rlevse, and perhaps it is time to find a more suitable term to describe the system we find here. I don't think we want users running around interacting with editors based on their reptuation (even if, for example, they're still in "good standing"). That another part of the policy might address this bit isn't good enough when it's one of the first things they're reading and the page is long (that editors might not even make it to the end of the page).
  3. I'm not sure this goes far enough to be honest - particularly in relation to editor privacy; I think more needs to be said.
  4. Will attempt copyediting on this point later.

Ncmvocalist (talk) 14:14, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Response to Ncmvocalist (so far)[edit]

  • WP:NOT is a {{main}} link for that section, it gets high prominence that way. Remember the aim is to explain the most common basic understandings, not to rehash all of policy. Exceptions exist and users can safely find those out as they edit.

    The main social restrictions users need to know about WP:NOT are advocacy/promotion, battleground, and webhost/myspace. The placement is by social area, not by the policy they happen to be in. So for example WP:NOT contains both "what Wikipedia is/isn't" (WP:NOT#SOAPBOX is under "purpose of Wikipedia" along with WEBHOST as improper uses), and also "how editors should work together" (WP:NOT#BATTLE is under "working together" along with DR as interactions and behaviors).

    The draft probably needs a mention of democracy/bureaucracy somewhere (including "product not process" and 'lawyering) though. Addressing what I think your point is, perhaps it could mention that as a community some mild and proportionate personal pages related to the community are tolerated. But that seems to open the door too wide - it's safer to keep this to "boundaries newcomers need to know". Exceptions can be discovered at leisure.

  • Perhaps semantic rewording; some other term or way of wording rather than "reputation system" which might have a specific connotation? Update - perhaps just reword the first sentence as "While no formal rating system is used, each editor will gain a reputation over time based on their actions and the formal and informal views of their peers", and retitle the section as "Reputation and user accounts". The world is used to the idea of "user reputation" as a social basis, so long as we make it clear that it's informal here.
  • (awaiting the rest) FT2 (Talk | email) 16:08, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Response to FT2[edit]
  1. Yes check.svg Done
  2. This is better; I'm a bit wary about comparing it to the systems one would find on EBay (at least as seen in the hyperlink of informal online rep), but I guess it's a simplified version of the complex system we find here. :) Will revisit once more at the end, but it should be Yes check.svg Done I guess.
  3. Will have to revisit these points seeing I've run out of time again! Ncmvocalist (talk) 15:15, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Placeholder for section 1.2 content[edit]

To be written out within a month of this timestamp. 15:15, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Section 1.3[edit]

I think the best way to approach this is to (hopefully seamlessly) intertwine the structure of Wikipedia with the other sections. That is, I think this section is out of place; the content in the subsections should be moved into one of the other sections as appropriate. For example, 3.13 could be moved (and reworded) to fit into section 1.1 to make the content more relevant to each user's account. 3.11 social structure could be put in 1.12 - I realise it adds more words, but that can be revisited. Also, 3.12 should come in the next (sub)section.

For the content of 3.12 (policies), suggest something like this (based on the audience this page would be targetting). Time is really not on my side, but have a look; it'd be easier if you pointed at which bits you don't prefer rather than me nutting every single little change I'd made when I was brainstorming. Ncmvocalist (talk) 15:15, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments by Hans Adler[edit]

I haven't read any of the other comments, so sorry for any duplication. Generally I think this kind of document is extremely important and should actually be the primary policy, with details delegated to sub-policies and -guidelines. As to the implementation, it is so good overall that I can restrict myself to the rough edges that need further work. I didn't try to assess completeness, since that would be a lot of work and require more thought.

Antisocial conduct[edit]

To use this strong term in such a general way is simply not acceptable. The UK is currently obsessed with "antisocial behaviour". See Anti-social behaviour#Anti-social behaviour in UK law for the legal definition. It is totally bizarre, if not antisocial, to apply the term to "ordinary impoliteness and sarcasm". If we don't stop this now we risk that, like "stalking", the term gets a specific wiki meaning that can affect users' real-life reputation. We have seen how hard it is to correct such a problem, and how long it takes. Even though doing so is antisocial, I feel compelled to mention the black triangle in this context.

I would like to propose an alternative term, but I couldn't think of one. Maybe retitle the section as "Getting along", and rephrase it so as to avoid using a general term for the kind of negative behaviour described. Or just use "conduct", but of course this also necessitates further changes.

I understand but I'm not sure how what weight to give it. Many terms we use have connotations in one or more countries - we have "administrators" who do not "administer" the site, "bureaucrats" whose role can hardly be called "bureaucratic", "oversighters" who provide no "oversight" of the community generally, our own customized policy defining "personal attacks" which are specific to ourselves, and so on. "Anti-social conduct" is an easily understood expression and carries weight, it says "These behaviors are considered harmful or destructive and are disapproved and for the most part forbidden". Note the definition in the same article you linked:
"Anti-social behaviour... is behaviour that lacks consideration for others and that may cause damage to society, whether intentionally or through negligence, as opposed to pro-social behaviour, behaviour that helps or benefits society".
That's the message we want a newcomer to understand, as those behaviors may be very common where they are used to or in other cultures. A strong wording here may be what's needed to ensure newcomers understand and take seriously that we have different norms than they may be used to, on attacks, outings, tendentious argument, veiled threats, or "trying to win by force". On Wikipedia those are indeed anti-social, and anti-social is a term universally understood to convey strong disapproval, a sense of a code or boundary being breached, and "don't do it". FT2 (Talk | email) 16:38, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Let me put it this way: Some of the relatively minor behaviours that are currently listed as "anti-social" are perfectly normal and very hard to avoid in practice. While they should of course be minimised, I am not going to even try to avoid them completely, because that would be so stressful that I would either stop editing or would resort to devious but superficially perfect behaviour. If people start calling me anti-social for that, then that would fall under my personal definition of anti-social. If this kind of extreme personal attack becomes the norm, I will abandon my real-name account to protect my real-life reputation. Hans Adler 22:55, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
In other words while it's accurate, if used as a meme it could escalate issues or label them as more serious sounding (in some cases) than they should be, even though technically it's a correct word for the behavior. At a first glance, it seems to mainly needs clarity that not all behavior in this section is appropriately tagged as "antisocial" in discussions. Expanding to "inconsiderate [or offensive] and anti-social behavior" might solve that. ("Wikipedia has a number of strict norms on inconsiderate [or offensive] and antisocial conduct...", etc). FT2 (Talk | email) 23:19, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I am not even sure it's technically accurate under the scientific definition of "anti-social" as (according to Wikipedia) "behaviour that lacks consideration for others and that may cause damage to society". In some situations it's appropriate to put a persistent non-constructive or misinformed editor into their place by methods other than taking them extremely serious for months and drawing dozens of uninvolved editors into the discussion, or bombarding them with impeccably formulated formal warnings until they are ripe for a block. E.g. a strategically placed repartee to a personal attack might fall into this category. We have a wide range of personality types here, and they can't all be treated the same way..
I object to every use of the word "anti-social" for a description of a section that includes much more minor points. It is a fighting word, a personal attack, and as such undermines the message of this section. There is still a large number of editors who object to the civility policy. Anything that looks like an attempt to label them "anti-social" is most inappropriate. Hans Adler 11:42, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
But this isn't just civility, and it's not a "yet another venue" for advocates on civility policy. The context is a section overviewing all types of interactional behaviors that in varying degrees are seen as inconsiderate, improper, harmful, antisocial, or forbidden, by the community.
Wording like "should always", "unacceptable" and "disruptive" are strong words. Wikipedia's "forbidden conducts" contain a lot more than that. Harassment, personal attacks, tendentiousness, edit warring, and vandalism, are all antisocial behaviors for an encyclopedia-editing community. "Antisocial" is a precise, exact, neutral, and widely understood word for these in a Wikipedia context. That's both the literal and everyday meaning of the word, and the word is one that conveys precisely that the community has consistently described these as unacceptable. Educating newcomers on this is accurate and beneficial, even if some would prefer to interact via epithet and insult. The modification "inconsiderate [or 'offensive'] and antisocial conduct" would probably be enough of a relaxation to cover the concern about misuse of the term. FT2 (Talk | email) 12:47, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Reject guideline status as long as this page is trying to inject the extremely offensive term "antisocial conduct" into wiki terminology. Hans Adler 13:01, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Problem solved through excellent rewording ("Inconsiderate and forbidden conduct"). Thanks, FT2. Hans Adler 10:13, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
(e/c) It is a strong but accurate word. So are "never", "disruptive" and "unacceptable". Sock-puppetry, harassment, and vandalism are all activities that the community would see as meriting an extremely strong word showing condemnation and disapproval, and if you asked editors generally I think most would agree they are antisocial behaviors so far as Wikipedia and its community are concerned. If you can think of a different word conveying that same unambiguous very strong and clear sense in everyday English, please suggest it. FT2 (Talk | email) 13:08, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Then remove references to civility and NPA. A section following the pattern "abrasiveness and homicide" is simply not acceptable. Hans Adler 13:16, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Welcome :) FT2 (Talk | email) 05:01, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Off-wiki issues[edit]

It's fine to mention our zero-tolerance rule for pedophilia here, especially as it illustrates how tolerant we actually are otherwise that such a no-brainer even needs mentioning, but it is hardly among the things that a new editor needs to specifically remember. We could just as well write that editors are reminded not to forget eating, drinking and breathing during extended edit sessions. It doesn't serve a purpose. Hans Adler 15:47, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Good point, that clears my mind a lot (I had this listed as a specific query above). Waiting a bit longer, maybe others will comment too. FT2 (Talk | email) 16:51, 10 November 2010 (UTC)


Can we toss an NLT sentence in there somewhere? Something like "If something happens on wikipedia that leads you to file a lawsuit, or threaten to file a lawsuit, you will be asked not to edit wikipedia until the lawsuit is completed?" Hipocrite (talk) 13:55, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Probably, would like to include it in some other text/list rather than a specific extra point. It's an example of something we don't allow on-site. FT2 (Talk | email) 16:08, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Fetchcomms[edit]

  • A little tl;dr for me. Really, we can keep the "Rules to remember" stuff and remove the rest, and it will be a great "guide": short, sweet, and to the point. We want people to understand the basics here—and not make them skip most of it.
  • "Because Wikipedia is reputation based" not sure what this means; it gives me the impression that admins have a higher say in disputes than other users. I think it is using "reputation" as in "level of trust the community has in you", but this could be clarified IMO.

Otherwise, I like this idea. Just sort of ... lengthy for a new user to go through. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 03:25, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

I thought about putting the textual parts in collapse boxes titled "More" as a way for users to look at if they want to or if needed. On the other hand, the textual parts contain the actual rationale and spirit of the "rules" and the principles of the project, as well as matters which otherwise would expand the short lists of "key points". FT2 (Talk | email) 08:33, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
But we have to realize that most people don't in fact bother to read the "rules". I've been in the #wikipedia-en-help channel for a year or so, and the number of people who seem to be illiterate is simply astounding. New users don't care about the rationale or the spirit, they want a simple "is this allowed or not" and then if they need to know why, they can look further. I'm hoping this is more of a basic listing that starts users off the right way, not a more comprehensive read for slightly more experienced users. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 16:51, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes - as commented to Gigs (which is a more complete reply) there may be no easy way round the fact that most people are as you describe. But other organizations, corporations and groups address that by making their necessary documentation as easy to read as they can. This is an attempt to do that for Wikipedia social expectations, the main way that newcomers who get into trouble will fall foul of norms. FT2 (Talk | email) 04:43, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Swatjester[edit]

  • All comments below are purely in my role as a volunteer, not as a staff member, and should not be taken to be endorsement or views of the WMF.
  • I think broadly speaking this is a great idea, and I think there is a great overlap between this policy and the goals of the Wikipedia contribution team. I hope people viewing this discussion will join. So much of this guideline (I assume, right? Not a policy?) is already approved in other areas. However, I have noted a few areas for improvement.
  • Reputation system --> rules to remember: the section about multiple accounts is not clear, and the exceptions do not clarify it. This should be a link to the relevant policy. It should also be more clear and say that under most circumstances, we discourage multiple accounts, however there are exceptions (exceptions being a link to a full list). I believe it should also link to a list of unapproved uses of socks (things we block for) as a "heads up".
  • User anonymity: This should point out that registering with an account is MORE private than editing under an IP. Under rules to remember, it is not clear who "their" is in regards to outing.
  • Working together: This should have "use talk pages for discussion and collaboration, or if you are unsure about an edit" in just about every box. Should also point out "be bold" somewhere. Needs something about always cite your sources. Absolutely needs a sentence somewhere about NLT: there is no quicker way to be blocked than issuing a legal threat. This should link to OTRS (
  • Antisocial: should put in something about refactoring of others comments is not encouraged except in rare conditions. I think this should be retitled to be "Civility and editing behavior" and focus primarily on the civility rules, and the disruptive/tendentious editing rules. Antisocial is way too broad -- we have many good, antisocial editors. We don't really have a policy or any restriction about being anti-social; we do have them about being uncivil or disruptive.
  • Offwiki: perhaps a link to where the pedophilia discussion took place so users can see why that action was taken? I agree with Hans it doesn't really need to be here. Anyone who disagrees with it is probably going to be an avowed pedophile and thus banned anyway (most likely).
  • Policies: should encourage talk page discussion first.
  • Ownership: something about self-citation.
  • Social structures: This should both point out that real world credentials do not provide on-wiki benefits; but also point out that we encourage those with credentials to use their expertise, and to identify themselves if they so choose (can link to some example user categories etc. or on the talk page) so their knowledge can be utilized by others to improve articles. Should also highlight more about citation of sources.SWATJester Son of the Defender 18:23, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
"Antisocial is way too broad -- we have many good, antisocial editors." I find this comment very puzzling. Could it be that the term has significantly different connotations on the two sides of the Atlantic? In Nazi Germany thousands of people were killed for being antisocial, and in the modern UK we have numerous, sometimes drastic, court sentences for antisocial behaviour, see ASBO. In Europe you can't use this word in the sense of "grumpy". Hans Adler 08:13, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
It's a connotation issue then. Over here, it means someone who doesn't prefer to socialize with others, a.k.a. a loner, or someone whose socialization is curt or negative, (grumpy, abrupt, etc.). It's not ideal, but it's certainly nothing against policy. DanRosenthal Wikipedia Contribution Team 19:00, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
If you read ASBO, you will see that it probably means something completely different in the UK. If native speakers from the UK can confirm this, it means that we simply can't use this word freely in a guideline without seriously alienating UK editors. Hans Adler 22:13, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Wow, looking at that, I see it the other way, we couldn't "ban" anti-social behavior without completely alienating US editors (based on the way we use the term, and the social acceptedness of some things on that list of banned behavior). DanRosenthal Wikipedia Contribution Team 23:32, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Page 4f of the book chapter "What is anti-social behaviour (ASB)?" gives significant insight into what is going on here on the UK side:
"Within a public order enforcement context ASB is a comparatively recent addition to the common lexicon. However, within psychosocial literature ‘anti-social behaviour’ has been a term used for many years as a label for unwanted behaviour as the result of personality disorder and is the opposite of pro-social behaviour [...]. [...] ‘covers a multitude of sins … such as theft, burglary, robbery, violence, vandalism, fraud and drug use … bullying, reckless driving, heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity … heavy smoking, heavy gambling, employment instability and conflict with parents’. This is an exceptionally broad remit. Relatedly, sociopathy and psychopathology are now more commonly regarded under the umbrella term ‘anti-social personality disorder’ (ASPD) [...]."
"Antisocial behaviour" is a an originally medical term that has been instrumentalised by UK politicians and is currently so hot that entire laws and books are written about it. It has no business in wikispeak. Hans Adler 23:51, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, I think we have the same problem on both sides. What if we were to instead of anti-social say "unfriendly"? It's OK to be unfriendly, it's not OK to be uncivil -- you don't have to like or even associate with any editors, but you must be civil to them. If we put it like that, it is a little longer, but it gets the point across much more clearly to both sides without any terminology mixups. SWATJester Son of the Defender 17:34, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Sounds OK to me. Hans Adler 21:01, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for this. Thoughts:

  1. Clarification and links are easy to add. No reason not to.
  2. Anonymity - a short sentence would probably be okay. Wary of bloat given we want people to read it!
  3. A mention of talk pages for collaboration is fine, WP:BOLD is in there already (paraphrased). Legal threats added but not linked to OTRS - little point of this. We want them to not make such threats. If they do then they need to know they will be blocked and how to get unblocked.
  4. Antisocial is noted, edits made shortly may address this. Users need to know there are behaviors that we don't condone, even if for some of them (mild or infrequent incivility) we sometimes find it best to ignore them.
  5. Pedophilia - no need to link to discussions of these. A page bristling with links will be a bit forbidding. Useful links are mainly to the key policies, and listed at the bottom, other wikilinks are selective to keep it simple.
  6. Policies/talk page - noted above, covering at the same time.
  7. Ownership - no need to mention self citing. Not a big enough or common enough problem to warrant it really, and this is more a content than a conduct matter.
  8. Real-world credentials - makes sense.

Edits shortly. FT2 (Talk | email) 06:34, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from OlEnglish[edit]

I find this to be a well-written, comprehensive, very informative page helpful to new users in a ".. for dummies" kind of way, and with the added refinements noted from the other users on this talk page I would fully support it becoming an 'official' guideline, else a supplementary page, though either way it would still be beneficial to link this page prominently and from most new user 'entry points' such as Help:Contents, WP:Introduction, WP:About, and the various welcome templates. I was a little confused by the "insecure editing" part so I changed it to read "editing from insecure locations" which I think is clearer. -- œ 20:47, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Gigs[edit]

I'm not sure if the authors were aware of WP:Editing policy, not that I can blame them, it's a policy that doesn't get much cross-linkage. I think the editing policy covers some of this material, in a more limited way. My only concern outside of that is that of policy overlap. I get the feeling that our policies are becoming subject to a sort of "overlap creep".

If policy A says "do this", and it's used by a wikilawyer to justify the violation of another policy B, then there seems to be a strong urge for someone to to edit policy A to add a caveat that policy B still applies. This sort of thing has lead to situations like the BLP policy being more or less duplicated or summarized in every other policy, as an easy example. Our policy on policies advises editors to avoid redundancy between policies, but that seems to not be widely followed, with all our policies slowly growing into summaries of each other. (WP:POL being another poorly-trafficked policy that most editors seem to not be aware of).

If this document can somehow reduce this overlap creep by saying "yes, you have to follow all the policies, there's no need to summarize one within the other", and serving as an umbrella, then I would be in favor of making it more official. Gigs (talk) 00:52, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

You're right about WP:Editing policy. The intention was to summarize (as you surmized) all the conduct norms a newcomer needed to know and their brief rationale - i.e., to how to behave, not just how to edit. Looking at that policy I can see it covers more than that, and is worth a closer look. I have tracked WP:POL and contributed to that one [1].
I think that an overhaul of our policy pages would be no bad thing - the root I think is they serve two purposes. They document norms (which requires no duplication) and they explain and educate norms applicable to given areas (which may well require repeat mentions as the same issue can impact multiple areas, BLP being your example). Both aspects matter, and technical pages as the "first resort" have the advantage of clarity but are a tough read for many people. In fact they are often not read till someone says "You're in breach of our policy on X". (Policy? What policy?)
A better way to organize might be a few carefully selected and easily readable summaries of key principles with click-through or pop-up information for the detail, but that would be a whole new way to do it. The problem remains that a newcomer needs a simple summary of areas where we have principles on conduct, the principles in those areas, and the key rules a newcomer needs to know related to those principles. None existed. If it did then the detailed policies could back it up rather than being a heterogenous confusion to newcomers. I don't think any layout can "make" people read material, but if it's stated more approachably at least that's a start. This one's important enough that a "plain English" specialist might be in order. FT2 (Talk | email) 04:34, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from jc37[edit]

I think that the page is nicely formatted, I especially like the rules boxes. (There are some other pages I can think of which could benefit from such formatting...)

That said, I have to agree with those above that the content (and for that matter, length) of the page is off-putting.

Further, this page by its topic could never be a policy page: it would be codifying the social makeup of the ever-changing society that is Wikipedia.

Yes, policy is supposed to reflect common practice and not be prescriptive, but this can't be policy, because it would be prescriptive. And worse, since the community of Wikipedia is ever changing, it wouldn't necessarily reflect common practice.

At best this seems to be a page concerning: "acceptable ways to behave when editing Wikipedia".

So I suppose, overhauled more than a bit, it could potentially be a behavioural guideline... - jc37 01:09, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Thamjks! On the first part of this, I'm not very convinced of an issue. WP:5P for example provides and codifies statements of principle for the project but has not been limiting to other developments. WP:ABOUT is another such page which hasn't limited or prevented change (on most sites the "about us" page is a major introduction/orientation document). Pages change as time passes. A summary of social expectations would probably not be any exception. FT2 (Talk | email) 04:38, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
The main phrase that I'd really like to see removed is "reputation based".
I realise that you're trying to warn new people of particular biases that may be around, but in the strictest sense, Wikipedia isn't supposed to be reputation based. "We're all Wikipedians here", as the saying goes.
So to include this concept would be to codify it as not just acceptable, but desirable.
And I think that that should be avoided at all costs. - jc37 02:15, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not trying to warn of biases. I'm trying to alert people that they choose how others see them, as opposed to it being determined by some kind of hierarchy or status system.
I'm thinking of reputation based in this sense: - what trust others will extend if asked to trust you for a given (restricted) tool - be it anything from rollback to oversight - is dependent on how others have seen you and the trust they have gained in you from your editing activities and contributions. You don't get trusted with tools or roles because of nepotism (those who support you), duration of editorship, number of articles edited, number of awards of any kind - none of that counts. It's 100% a meritocracy - how others see you based on your actions. Your reputation in others' eyes, earned by your own actions (nothing else), determines what trust is extended in non-editing activities.
It's also reputation based in two other senses - the weight others will attach to your arguments is based on the quality of insight shown in those arguments. A reputation for edit warring or unreasonableness in an area tends to lead to less weight being given in that area. Also the extent to which others see your other editing as valuable may also determine, if you screw up badly enough in one area, whether the handling will be a summary indef block/site ban or a topic ban/editing restriction.
FT2 (Talk | email) 11:38, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Which is somewhat a bias, but as i wrote it I knew that the word "bias" wasn't conveying well enough what I meant.
The second section isn't badly put, and should probably be on this page somewhere. (Though re-structured, of course : )
The third section, though, is a part of what I mean. You're describing (for good or bad) part of human nature. So on one hand, that should be presumed, and on the other hand it should not be codified here as "expected", because, as I mentioned, it will suggest that this is something to be desired from editors, when it isn't necessarily.
To try to put it another way: Editors are typically assessed (though only in situation when we would need to assess editors - like RfA), based directly upon their edits. not their reputation, or the reputation of their edits.
Otherwise this page starts to feed into the idea that "some editors are more equal than others", which I'm fairly certain isn't your intent : )
Which is at least part of why I was suggesting that "reputation" is probably a word to be avoided on this page. - jc37 17:22, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
We seem to agree on the underlying principle we'd like to be presenting. To the extent there would be an issue, it's with the wording not the concept and can be avoided by wording it in other ways. Clarifying, the third comment is intended as descriptive not prescriptive (ie describes what does or doesn't happen in practice rather than what should or shouldn't happen). In a dispute, where a user's conduct is problematic, the harshness of other users' views are often linked at least partly to their reputation - ie, their reputation for heeding advice or WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT, and whether it's a been-here-before ignoring advice case or "more trouble to help than is worthwhile", etc. This is the essence of "the community has lost patience" - people remember disruption and after a while, patience runs out (a term often seen in ban discussions). Whether or not it's human nature or "how it works in reality", we don't want to appear to codify acceptance of problem conduct in any way, whether by experienced or new users. But how a user has acted in the past, and past issues the community has had with their editing and their ability to collaborate effectively, do tend to strongly affect how the community views newly raised issues and the outcome of subsequent RFARs, RFCs, ANI threads etc. To that extent a user's "reputation" is something they build up or change over time. It's in that sense that the term is intended. The section can probably be reworded if the term itself is a concern though. FT2 (Talk | email) 18:01, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
(de-dent) - I don't think that we're disagreeing all that much.
I think the word just has/presents the wrong kind of semantics/baggage for this kind of page.
Is the page "closed" from BOLD-ness due to being a work in progress? Otherwise, I'll see if I can take a crack at it later (I may use some of your comments here as a base to work from : )
Or, obviously, you're welcome to beat me to it, lol : ) - jc37 18:55, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Go for it :) FT2 (Talk | email) 19:05, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm still working on the words atm. But wanted to also suggest a possible rename: "Interacting with other editors in the Wikipedia community", or some such. I think that the term "Wikipedia community" should probably be in the title. That's about as general as wanted, and yet specific too. - jc37 20:16, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Not so sure of that one. These are expectations, and the word suggests "what is expected" much more directly than "interacting with". We refer to "norms" very often as well. As a couple of people commented, this is almost a statement of the expectations, norms and principles from which our conduct policies themselves derive. Breach of many of these is going to be a policy breach at best, sanctioned foir many, instant block for quite a few. "Expectations" is a good word because of its immediate well-understood connotations of "what's expected" where a page titled "interacting with" could be informal advice, comment, or whatever. FT2 (Talk | email) 20:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Anthonyhcole[edit]

This is an extremely good idea. Do mention WP:NLT, and one mention of pedophilia is appropriate, but two is overkill. Concision is everything here. I like the description of WP as a community based on trust and reputation. This is a serious step forward. Anthony (talk) 15:05, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

NLT, sure, but please let's not bring up pedophilia in here. Doing so would imply that we have a serious problem with pedophiles, when in fact we have a serious problem with deciding what to do with the non-promoting-pedophilia ones. Any user promoting pedophilia is indef'd quickly—that's a no-brainer, I imagine—but we don't have a pandemic of them, and it's a controversial issue that probably doesn't need to be mentioned in this summary guide. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 21:49, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
OK. You've convinced me. It would imply there's a problem where there isn't one. Anthony (talk) 01:53, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Rd232[edit]

Comment: done well, this is a pretty good idea, and it looks good so far. I would suggest (i) using {{Nutshell|title=In a nutshell|nutshell summary of section}} and (ii) trying to find relevant images (icons, screenshots, whatever; see eg MediaWiki:Welcomecreation) to reduce the "wall of text" effect. Rd232 talk 22:26, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

PS minor point: the yellow border around "rules to remember" is too close to the green tick on the left hand edge of the box. It needs more padding. Rd232 talk 22:31, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
PPS I would make the level 2 subheadings ("your account" etc) Level 1. It would break up the page better and be easier to read. Rd232 talk 22:33, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Comment from ResidentAnthropologist[edit]

I personally Like it, it summarizes expectations well. My first 6 months here was Hell. Our 56 Policies, dozens of Guidelines, and hundreds of Essays create a system too complex to fully grasp after editing for over years. Not to mention our quasi-policies like WP:BEANS, WP:DENY, WP:SNOW, and WP:HORSEMEAT that we cite so regurally we dont even think of them as essays. I would nominate article for deletion on based on an Essay or hide behind Guidelines when confronted with policy. This simplifies things alot for the Noobs. Aslo something like the tag at WP:SNOW (example below) should be on here if it it does not get pumped to that level of authority

Updates based on feedback so far[edit]

Edits made as a result of the above. Eyeballs welcomed:

  • Length - Agreed shorter will be a lot better. The problem is not much can be stripped out and still do the job. Using collapse boxes probably causes 90% of useful info to be unseen, and would cause text to move into extra bullet points. Tempted to try a 2 column approach like this:
Possible alternative layout for the "purposes" and "policies" sections
Principles Light green check.svg Rules to remember

Wikipedia is a community that exists for one purpose: writing a neutral, well-sourced encyclopedia. Anyone is invited to edit who shares this goal and is capable of working as part of a community of other editors. However, Wikipedia is owned by a non-public not-for-profit foundation, and editing this communally operated website is not a right, but a privilege. It may be revoked or restricted by blocking, banning or otherwise restricting people who damage or disrupt Wikipedia. Wikipedia covers topics selectively, not indiscriminately.

  • Wikipedia editing exists for users who together with others want to help write a neutral encyclopedia.
  • Wikipedia pages are only available for project-related use while inappropriate content will be removed.
  • Wikipedia is not for indiscriminate or ephemeral topics. (Coverage is quite selective)
  • Wikipedia is not for promotion or advocacy of any kind, and links placed on Wikipedia pages do not affect search engine rankings.
  • Wikipedia is not a social networking site.

Principles Light green check.svg Rules to remember

Community policies, guidelines, and norms are effectively rules or common expectations established by the community through either common practice or discussion and agreement. From time to time they are reconsidered and amended. There are many of them, and they tend to grow in an "organic" and somewhat anarchic manner. Not all policies and norms are agreed upon or have the same level of "buy-in" (or general acceptance), but those that gain consensus to be designated policies or guidelines are usually considered to be widely supported and will often be strongly enforced.

Policies and guidelines reflect (and are written descriptions of) communal views. They may become close to mandatory when they reflect a norm that the community has shown it agrees and accepts, and may be set aside in rare cases where the community feels it is appropriate to do so. They may change whenever a change is proposed and the community shows the change is agreed and accepted. Policy wordings are in ongoing development so the on-wiki wording may not always or fully reflect community norms at any given time.

While anyone may post a suggested norm or a proposed change, it takes considerable experience to learn the kinds of norms likely to gain widespread agreement.

Wikipedia also has a few policies that describe how other policies should be used. The best known is "Ignore All Rules", a policy that states written policies exist to benefit the project; in exceptional circumstances there may be a need to place the core principles of the project above its written policies, if there is a conflict between the two.

  • Written policies and guidelines provide guidance to the community's widely agreed norms. They are periodically updated by users to better reflect the view of the community, fix issues, or when a change is agreed upon.
  • Anyone can propose or change a policy or guideline. Because policies and guidelines have very wide agreement users should not make major changes to them without a good understanding of the community's likely view on the matter.
  • Users generally discuss issues based upon their understanding of community norms as well as policies.
The size is still apparent, but the length issue may be seen as better handled.
  • Reputation - issues noted, reworded this significantly and edited section title to avoid the impression a formal reputation system (as some sites operate) exists on Wikipedia. Also moved 1st sentence from "collaboration and honesty" to that section and added a note that "The community tends to treat old behaviors as non-current over time, if they have truly ceased". Eyeballs requested.
  • Antisocial conduct - concern noted, reworded this, please review.
  • Comments by SWATjester -
  1. Multiple accounts - slight reword and links added.
  2. Legal threats now added
  3. Talk page usage added
  4. Real world credentials/expertize - section added
  • Pedophilia - one mention per various comments on this. I retained "zero tolerance" though - do people think this is okay or should it be removed?
  • Layout - extra padding added inside yellow boxes, and sections broken out a level (per Rd232)
  • Other -
  1. There is overlap between "Reputation and user accounts" and "Social structure", although they are probably two distinct areas. Suggestions for fixing or merging?
  2. Gig's point about helping reduce policy redundancy - I haven't done anything on this because 1/ not sure what if anything to do, 2/ a bit advanced for a beginner/newcomer's summary.


FT2 (Talk | email) 07:19, 16 November 2010 (UTC)


I think the side-by-side makes it more confusing, and less "readable". (Even discounting that I like the yellow and green boxes - though I would agree that some padding between the yellow and the green would be nice : ) - jc37 09:50, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm looking at it again today and thinking that the "yellow box below the text" approach isn't as readable as it could be. Also the repetition of the green tick isn't as welcoming as it might be. What about using {{Quote box}} (see eg WP:WIZ) to put the text on the right, get rid of the yellow box and have the bullet points as the main thing for users to read? This would work well in most sections, but perhaps not all. It's worth trying something in that direction I think. Alternatively, put the text below the bullets (sans box and tick), and in a collapsed hat. Rd232 talk 09:59, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
I really think the yellow box and green tick should stay. Most readers skim, they want to be visually directed to the important facts in a quick bullet-point style. It's this kind of eye-catching summary style that's made the "For Dummies" books so popular and successful. I think the current layout works really well. -- œ 08:04, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps I wasn't clear: I want to make it more skimmable, not less. That means collapsing the text (or tucking it out of the away), and once that's done, the box and tick reduce skimmability, not increase it, so should go as well, leaving the unvarnished bullets. Rd232 talk 15:54, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Can you do a mockup for discussion? I tried but couldn't get a version that worked. Collapsing the text does just leave the bullets - but then you need to move 1/2 the text into new bullets which kills the benefits (the text contains important principles that work better as explanation than bullets). FT2 (Talk | email) 16:08, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
You'd be surprised at how lazy some readers can be.. enough to not even click on the 'uncollapse' link, they may rationalize that since it's hidden from view it's just not that important anyway.. -- œ 16:21, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Here's a mockup [2], with quotebox and icons. Rd232 talk 16:42, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I had a go based on this, I may have a resolution. Take a look at this page - the first two sections are done as yours with minor changes (keeping icons simple and fixing margin issues for the bullets). The next is a further version based on it, and the fourth is the same but left/right reversed - I could be persuaded to like the 4th as a layout more. The rest of the page is in the original layout for comparison. Thoughts? FT2 (Talk | email) 17:45, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Er... I like my one :) I don't think two boxes side by side looks good, and I think "rules to remember" is not only an unnecessary phrase but somehow unWikipedish ("points" would be OK). You've got the formatting of the icons in the first two sections sorted better than in my version, but I do think it's helpful to have different icons representing Dos, Don'ts, and Think Abouts. Rd232 talk 18:14, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Again, I come round to newcomer info as the key factor. A newcomer doesn't know how we work, and "consensus" or "norms" are references without actual understanding. People outside Wikipedia understand rules and expectations. Our approach is "in-universe" -- we know it and the terms and approaches seem the most natural thing to us -- but it's very strange and intimidating to most, and we mustn't forget that, if we want to be approachable and understandable to more people. We have a very difficult system to learn and many people trip up over it.
There's a learning curve to wiki work, and this page starts where most people are at (ie not wiki editors) and guides them to at least be able to edit without issues. In that world and its terms, we have "rules". As close as makes no difference for a beginner - Don't sock-puppet is a rule. Don't post people's private information is a rule. Discuss rather than fight is a rule.
As users develop they refine that, they pick up the rest and any nuances. At the beginning we need to give key information most can readily understand and stick to. "Rule" does that - it means "you're pretty much expected to do this here". if they stick round, they'll learn the subtleties around that and our in-house jargon and attitudes (which this page begins to introduce but doesn't force people to learn). I thought hard about this because "rule" is indeed unwiki-ish. I ended up with the view that ease of comprehension given the target audience is more important. We want people to "get the idea" and familiar words do that better. Same way every link removed from the fundraiser banner increases donations. Keep it simple.
For the same reason, we don't need 4 different icons. These are things to learn. A newcomer looks at a list of bullets with check marks, and it's easy and clear: "do this or learn this". Same list but some are tagged with green checks, some with yellow triangles, some with red exclamations? Now they can't just read and follow the words. So they skim. The bullets actually have a big negative impact. Visual communication 101. That's not helpful to the project or possible newcomers. FT2 (Talk | email) 18:41, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I disagree. I don't think we need "rules to remember" at all, especially if using ticks or other icons which communicate the message of expectation. And "points" or "norms" would do the job as well, if necessary. On the icons, I think the opposite: the eye bounces off a list of bullets and checks that look the same, whereas different icon types emphasise that the points are qualitatively different, and make the reader slow down and read the text - and then reinforce the textual message associated with each icon (while the checkmarks alone are little more than decoration). Put another way, simple bullets or just checks, especially when stuck in a box, reinforces the impression of a skippable Block of Text, leaving readers skimming the headings. At least, looking at how I read the two different versions, that's my experience. Rd232 talk 18:52, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
There's about 3.5 million google hits for the old saying: Tell your audience what you're going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them. Tell people "these are the rules you need to remember". Then show them the rules.
Our intended editors and newcomers are everyday folk. Tell them clearly and exactly what the bullets mean, don't assume they'll somehow understand that a green icon means this or that and don't confuse them with different icons when the words are clear already as to what's intended. If needed, we could pass it to the usability team - it's important enough to get good eyeballs on it, considering what this is hoping to help with. On the subject of a box, I'm not sure if this is a plus or as you feel a minus. Draws attention for sure, and key points are often boxed in books which makes me think it's a plus. Again, may be best to seek input if there's doubt. FT2 (Talk | email) 19:03, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Books are different, not least because there tends to be a lot more text which boxes are summarising. I would love to have to the usability team comment; I have my own strong ideas about usability from experience with web design, but I know there's a fair element of personal opinion. Rd232 talk 19:06, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Then let's clear up any other issues or excessive wording, then then get useability team input on the layout and see what they feel or what they come up with. Sounds sensible? FT2 (Talk | email) 19:09, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, absolutely. We so easily get ANI threads running to book length - this is worth spending time on. Rd232 talk 19:16, 18 November 2010 (UTC)


After some thought I've removed the new bullet about IAR. This is a beginners overview, and detailed coverage of exceptions may need to be left out of it (even though the principle that exceptions exist is important). The temptation to expand this into "cover everything" must be resisted.

As well, newcomers almost by definition will be unlikely to know enough to appropriately call on IAR, and this aims to provide clear guidance, not imply that all norms can be overridden if you "think it's better your way". Finally, IAR is already well covered and explained in the text, so it doesn't need repetition in the bullets too. FT2 (Talk | email)

  • It's all good. --Jayron32 05:24, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Formatting idea[edit]

First, great work on this FT2. Nicely done and very useful. Here's my readability critique with two ideas.

1. Summary boxes come after the text. This contradicts our general nutshell approach, and especially given the visual similarity between your summary boxes with checkmarks and the policy boxes with checkmarks, I expect them to come before the paragraph. So, perhaps a mock-up with the summaries first. The tell them/tell them/tell them model is one way, but I think the 'here's the key points, read on for details' model is also effective.

2. Summary boxes are as large as the explanatory text. Maybe the explanatory text is not really needed. Perhaps try a draft with all of the key points listed as bullets and no paragraph text entirely. Paragraphs are scary and detailed; new readers will like the bullet points, even more so I think if there is nothing but them. Maybe there's room for footnotes or links to more comprehensive policies at the bottom of the page. That way, users can get more detail without having the page become any more dense. It is a very good overview, but even bullet points can become info-dense when there are 30-50 of them on a page. Thoughts? Again, great work. Ocaasi (talk) 04:41, 20 November 2010 (UTC)


I think that anything named "Expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community" must be presented as a personal essay, not as a proposed guideline or policy. Norms are unwritten guidelines that develop in a community in addition to, or in response to, the officially stated rules. Like to advise these official rules A, B, C are really important and u need to focus on them, but D, E, F are not important, u can learn about them later. It can be helpful for newcomers to have an informal essay-like guide to norms as you perceive them. I don't think you can legislate norms. And if a set of unwritten rules become official, i.e. by becoming an official guideline, then they are not norms any longer. And a new, different essay on what are norms in relation to all the official guidelines (now including this new official guideline) becomes possible. I think this just be labelled as an essay providing one or a few editors' advice to newbies, which is fine and good and a good service. --doncram (talk) 08:46, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

  • This is quite a nice summary, and the contents are generally hard to disagree with, but do we need yet another behavioural policy or guideline? --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 04:19, 1 December 2010 (UTC)


As well written as this is... you have to assume that people won't want to read it. It needs to be short. It also needs to be easy to quickly find that little nugget that you need to know. The question is no longer what to add. It's what to take away.

If there's one thing to fix, it's how to deal with the "rules to remember". The infoboxes are pretty redundant with the prose. It's not even like they summarize the paragraphs. They're not shorter. They just restate each paragraph in bullet form. There are three potential solutions as I see it. One is to drop the paragraph and keep the bullets. The other is to drop the bullets and keep the paragraph. The final and least appealing alternative is to maybe keep both but have only *one* quick bullet highlight instead of four long sentences.

Another suggestion... take full advantage of the table of contents for information, not just navigation. There's no reason to hide "ceasing editing can be done at any time" until after you've navigated down to the section. Explain the main point in each heading.

If you don't believe me... find someone you know with only a mild interest in Wikipedia and ask them if this makes Wikipedia seem easy, or if it makes it seem more complicated than they thought. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Shooterwalker (talk) 21:03, 4 December 2010 (UTC)

Yes, that's what I meant in my comment above. Among experienced editors, it's always tempting to include as much useful guidance as possible, forgetting just how little new editors have encountered to begin with. Special cases are almost always going to be meaningless where they haven't personally been encountered, and any extra words will only slow down the absorption of the key points. Still great work... Ocaasi (talk) 05:45, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

This should be an essay, not a policy or guideline[edit]

I saw this on centralized discussion and have read over it only very briefly, but my response to making it a guideline, policy, or process is already strongly negative.

The main reason is simply that it rehashes every policy on Wikipedia in slightly different terms. If it has policy or guideline power, that means that every summary will be quoted by those looking to censor articles. Deletionists already have a near-endless supply of ammo - we don't need to hand them shafts like that wikipedia is "very selective" and avoids "ephemeral" topics. The text of those policies as written and abused gives us more than enough trouble already.

Additionally, I dislike it because it avoids the traditional approach of guiding users through the "five pillars of Wikipedia". The five pillars are the winning strategy that built Wikipedia. By comparison, this essay reads like a long spiral staircase down into the pits of Moria.

There are also many specifics that I doubt - for example, editor reputation is not really that serious a factor most of the time. It's not like there's a number value that people can just look up - they'd have to go back and review thousands of edits. Those actually sanctioned by admins do suffer a loss of reputation, with admins only, and probably more than is deserved, but that's not really what the section seems to be talking about.

I understand the desire to create new help for users to explain the myriad ways that they can come under fire, but such a file should be strictly instructive, without representing itself as enforceable policy, or even as something agreed with by a majority of editors. Editors joining Wikipedia will prefer different strategies and establish different priorities. Wnt (talk) 19:41, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

I think this should be a supplement, using {{Supplement}} as the tag. That way if it contradicts policies or guidelines, they take precedence no matter what. Fences&Windows 06:13, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
{{Infopage}} could work too. -- œ 13:44, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes, that's a good alternative, I don't mind which it is. I already swapped to {{Supplement}}. It's clearly never going to be adopted as a policy or guideline for all the reasons in the various threads above. It is a necessarily imperfect summary of policies and guidelines, which needs to defer to the more indepth pages describing the full policies and guidelines. Fences&Windows 19:25, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Another comment from a random passerby[edit]

I like this. It's well written and the principle behind it is very important and much overlooked, imho. However, I have a couple of thoughts:

  1. Although it does a fairly good job of summarising hundreds of pages of policies, consensuses, and widespread assumptions, I think it's still too long. Bear in mind that the intended audience is somebody not yet used to spending hours rummaging in the innards of wikipedia. Although there are no truly redundant parts, I would suggest that trimming would be helpful even if it's difficult. This should be a first port of call; a quick-start guide; a summary.
  2. I think more attention should be paid to sourcing; providing a source isn't just a way to settle a dispute, it's the way to get information into articles. An overwhelmingly large proportion of well-intentioned new users (as opposed to vandals, socks, &c) are likely to try adding / correcting something in article space - and this is to be encouraged - so it's worth underlining the principle that we're looking for verifiability, not truth. We should resist the temptation to explain every possible principle of wikipedia, but sourcing should be at (or near) the top of the list for new editors.

Also, echoing Wnt's comments - I think this would be much more positive if framed as an effort to help new/inexperienced editors, rather than as policy, per se. bobrayner (talk) 13:10, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

The expectations on content are explained on numerous pages and have numerous summaries. The gap this is trying to fill is expectations on behavior. Sourcing, NPOV etc are crucial but more users fall out or have issues through lack of understanding of our behavior norms than anything else. Similarly, a user who respects our conduct norms will pick up editing norms more easily. FT2 (Talk | email) 20:05, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
A basic principle here is to discuss the edit, not the editor. Thus it is not an accident that policies focus on content rather than behavior. Creating a new policy specifically aimed at behavior would obsolete this principle. Wnt (talk) 03:47, 11 January 2011 (UTC)