Wikipedia talk:Five pillars

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Is this page a policy or guideline, or the source for all policies and guidelines?
A: No. It is a non-binding description of some of the fundamental principles, begun by User:Neutrality in 2005 as a simple introduction for new users. For comparison, WP:NPOV and WP:NOT were begun in 2001, WP:IAR in 2002, and WP:NOR and WP:V were written in 2003.
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Is "mercilessly" really the correct term?[edit]

Under the pillar heading "Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit, use, modify, and distribute" (within wikipedia page Wikipedia:Five pillars) it states that "any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed" (emphasis added). I'm not sure 'mercilessly' is really appropriate in the context. It isn't really a situation evoking an absence of pity or compassion. Perhaps 'dispassionately', or 'impartially' would be better use of English. Or 'without prejudice'? Would anyone else discuss alternatives? El srettiws (talk) 09:15, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

That depends on whether you expect the 5P to describe what may (and in some cases, will) happen to someone's edits and contributions, or what should happen if WP:DONTBITE was strictly enforced. I think that as it stands, "mercilessly" is an accurate description of reality, regardless of whether or to what extent mercifulness is desirable. The Crab Who Played With The Sea (talk) 13:31, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Thanks PauAmma. The term 'mercilessly' implies an element of cruelty, Draconianism and severity, and might be expected to be heard from someone/thing seeking revenge or punishment, rather than enlightening, sharing, correction, improvement and the pursuit of consensual accuracy. May be then 'forthrightly', or 'sincerely' (as in 'without hypocrisy or pretense') better describe Wikipedia's approach to editing and redistribution? There is nothing wrong with replacing 'mercilessly' with two or three words which capture the tone and intent Wikipedia wishes to embody. I find it hard to believe that its participants intend to be merciless, or that mercilessness is the rightful principle or fundamental ethos of an encyclopedia? El srettiws (talk) 14:37, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Yes thank you. The cheeky imagery of cruelty and battle grounds throughout wikipedia governance could be cleaned up, albeit at reflection of our minds. The simplest solution here is to remove the word. Zulu Papa 5 * (talk) 15:50, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

No, the word should stay. It is a warning to potential contributors that this is a collaborative project, so they do not own their contributions and must expect their words to be edited, and should not suffer from hurt feelings or wounded pride when they are. Being polite and welcoming to newbies does not mean that others should refrain from editing their work: they must expect editing to be "merciless" in the sense that other editors will not, and should not, be restrained by consideration for their feelings in making changes that will improve the encyclopedia. JohnCD (talk) 16:04, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
A less loaded word word, and I think equally descriptive, would be "relentless(ly)". I'd support using that or an equivalent word instead of mercilessly. The Crab Who Played With The Sea (talk) 16:53, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Great discussion and fair point John, some appreciation of dispassionate resolve by contributors and editors is appropriate. Can I propose as a replacement something like: “ … any contributions can and will be edited with relentless scrutiny and without prejudice, and redistributed without hindrance or restraint.” El srettiws (talk) 17:30, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Mostly support as written, but I'd prefer something less verbose, like "… any contributions can and will be relentlessly scrutinized and edited, and may be redistributed at will." (Also, leaving out the "without prejudice" bit, because although it would be true in an ideal world, it's often enough not the case on Wikipedia that it doesn't belong in a sentence that tries to describe harsh facts.) The Crab Who Played With The Sea (talk) 18:51, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

I'm going to add some history in that the term is somewhat historical in that it has roots in c2wiki's "refactor mercilessly". Until some time in the fairly recent past (the last year or so), it was also displayed in the "save page" space below the edit summary. --Izno (talk) 18:27, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Relentlessly suggests that your contribution will be continuously modified (e.g., getting a new change every day), which is not true. I think that mercilessly is approximately right. It constitutes fair warning that people aren't always going to accept and build on your work, or even necessarily be kind about its destruction. (There is a significant gap between "kindness" and "civility": "Rm massive copyvio" is civil, but not a kind or pleasant explanation.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:53, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

WhatamIdoing that is incorrect. 'Relentlessly', in the sentence proposed, is an adverb modifying the verb 'scrutinise'. It does not state that 'contributions and edits will be modified relentlessly'. If it did your interpretation would be founded. The phrase 'mercilessly edited' is far more suggestive that your/a contribution will be continuously modified, because editors have no mercy. It appears clear though that a punitive attitude wishes itself to be expressed by the community. That might be better addressed separately. But I believe the word 'mercilessly' is out of context - unless I am missing a cultural point here and the word has taken a modern usage in a similar vein to the way 'awesome' has? — Preceding unsigned comment added by El srettiws (talkcontribs) 04:21, 23 April 2013 (UTC) El srettiws (talk) 04:27, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

The current text is:
...and any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed.
and the proposal is to change it to:
...and any contributions can and will be relentlessly edited and redistributed.
or perhaps:
...and any contributions can and will be relentlessly scrutinized and edited, and may be redistributed at will.
The aim of using precise language is admirable, as is the desire to not use words that may be confrontational. However, the original wording is much better in the context of 5P as it succinctly and accurately describes the situation—good edits will be mercilessly edited (and will be packaged by freeloaders who hope to sell "books" to the naive). If a new editor cannot stomach that wording, think how they will feel when confronted by editors with a different opinion, and POV pushers, and trolls. One aspect of "mercilessly" that has not been mentioned is that the word is used playfully and with humor in ordinary discourse—it does not mean pitiless torment in this context. Take the proposed change as an example: if someone were to make that change it would probably be reverted, but there would be no "relentless" involved—it's just a difference of opinion, and editors do not consider the feelings of the person making the edit when wondering whether to revert. Johnuniq (talk) 06:01, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

Then it's more like "impersonal", but correctly, it's not "merciless". The sentence really is not clear as it is; 'redistributed' is also conjoined with the adverb 'mercilessly' which I'm not even sure makes sense. Can written script be mercilessly reallocated? — Preceding unsigned comment added by El srettiws (talkcontribs) 08:18, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

You are reading too much into "mercilessly". It doesn't necessarily imply torment or punishment: what it is saying is that someone contributing material must not expect that others will allow pity or sympathy or consideration for his feelings to prevent them modifying it to improve the encyclopedia, or to stop them exercising their CC-BY-SA rights to redistribute it.
I would add that the Five Pillars are so fundamental to Wikipedia that (as with constitutions in many political systems) they should not be lightly or easily changed. The word "mercilessly" has been accepted there for nearly eight years (actually introduced May 2005). Even if consensus appears here, it should at least take a formal RFC, advertised at WP:CENT, to make a change, and I would even argue that it should take more than a simple majority. JohnCD (talk) 11:04, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

Right, but merciless is still not applied correctly. There are other words synonymous with an absence of pity that do no imply cruelty. It's clearly not intended to be figurative, it is meant to be literal, and so doesn't accurately apply. Surely a better way of expressing the intent can be found, regardless of whether or not it has been accepted for a long time? Also, the French language page doesn't refer to mercilessness. I'm beginning to think that " ... reviewed without sympathy, edited without prejudice, and redistributed without hindrance" is an improvement. El srettiws (talk) 14:19, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

In all irony, I can assure you that whoever placed the word "mercilessly" there in the first place is now being given kind and deliberate consideration to having it edited and distributed. Zulu Papa 5 * (talk) 19:16, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

User:JohnCD- The Five Pillars are not a constitution, nor fundamental TO Wikipedia, they are a non-binding DESCRIPTION of what happens to be fundamental about Wikipedia. The Five Pillars flow from the combined different consensuses that happen in Wikipedia, not the other way around, note that the majority of the most important policies predate by years the invention of this page. With that mentioned the fact that this one word has appeared in this page for over 8 years means nothing. This page is an essay, not a policy, not a constitution, not a law, not a government. Simple consensus here based on logic with proper weight given to the arguments pro and con are all that are needed; this is not a vote, whether here or at a RFC, and an RFC is never needed to change such a minor word in the 5P. (talk) 17:12, 25 May 2013 (UTC)

How about "unsparingly"? 069952497a (U-T-C-E) 19:55, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

I see no need for any word. 'contributions can and will be edited and redistributed' seems fine to me. Dmcq (talk) 17:02, 24 July 2013 (UTC)


I don't mind the recent aesthetic change to the page overall, but could we get some white space between the points? White space makes the page easier to read, especially for people with dyslexia or limited English skills. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:51, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Ditto. Before and After diffs, fwiw. –Quiddity (talk) 03:14, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree that some white space between the points (the five pillars) would make the page more pleasant to look at and easier to read. Invertzoo (talk) 20:43, 11 July 2013 (UTC)
I prefer a bit of white space too. The page looks more like small print saying I agree to my email being used for spam now rather than something we're hoping people will read. Dmcq (talk) 16:56, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
I've added some padding to the bottom of the divs, which hopefully implements this thread's consensus acceptably. :) –Quiddity (talk) 04:23, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

A random recommendation[edit]

We define "encyclopedia" by use of WP:NOT, which could be stronger. It should be (not saying it is!) that one of the pillars of what we do is that we are writing for the readers, not for our own agendas, and that the readers come first. While most of the pillars are honored more in the breach than the observance, having a positive definition of what we mean by "encyclopedia" rather than just a definition by exclusion would seem to be useful for the page. Just a thought from a former editor. (talk) 01:10, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

A nice feature of WP:5P is that nearly all of it provides actionable advice—saying "Wikipedia is not a soapbox" provides guidance, whereas most positive statements that have been suggested don't really help. Of course readers come first, but that's not quite as direct as saying "not soapbox" (and the other nots). Johnuniq (talk) 02:23, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia[edit]

I propose that the phrase "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia" link to Wikipedia:Wikipedia is an encyclopedia instead of Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not. When I made the change earlier today, I was (appropriately) reverted and asked to raise the issue on the talk page because it has come up multiple times before, most recently in July (diff).

The arguments for linking to WP:NOT appear to be:

  1. WP:NOT is, unlike WP:ENC, a policy.
  2. WP:NOT contains a lot of useful content.

The arguments for linking to WP:ENC include:

  1. It is counterintuitive for a positive statement (Wikipedia is X") to lead to a list of negative statements ("Wikipedia is not X, Y, and Z").
  2. WP:ENC is neither wrong nor controversial. It contains a definition of the term "encyclopedia", a modified statement of the first and third pillars, and a link to WP:NOT.
  3. The first pillar currently contains two links to WP:NOT, as well as multiple links to individual sections.

Changing the link from WP:NOT to WP:ENC does not, in my view, take away anything since WP:NOT will remain prominently linked both on this page and at WP:ENC. -- Black Falcon (talk) 23:45, 2 September 2013 (UTC)

I can't see the point of linking to something that says nothing new, in fact says practically nothing, and isn't a policy or guideline. Dmcq (talk) 23:52, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
See my comment at "02:23, 23 August 2013" in the preceding section. Johnuniq (talk) 03:31, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm the one who did the reversion and requested this be brought here, as I recalled a previous discussion about this very topic. I agree with Dmcq. Even though the 5P itself is only an essay it should link important ideas to the nearest relevant policy or in specific cases guidelines and not have links going to essays. Which by definition essays may not even be accepted by a substantial minority of the Community, let alone a majority.Camelbinky (talk) 19:54, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
I believe that linking to NOT helps new users more than linking to ENC. Andrew327 19:57, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Despite the Title, WP:NOT actually describes what Wikipedia is in the first sentence, and in the nutshell. It then elaborates on that premise, with answers to common FAQs around the root-question "Is Wikipedia a ... ?"
In addition to that, WP:ENC served a completely different purpose for many years (2005 till early 2013 it looked like this). It is still a very oddly conceived page, that is placed at a prominent title - ifwecoulddoitalloveragain, we'd probably just make it redirect to WP:NOT, and/or retitle WP:NOT to "What Wikipedia is and is not".
Therefore, I believe the pillar should continue to link to WP:NOT. It's a bit WP:ZEN, but then so are a lot of things around here (eg. WP:IAR). –Quiddity (talk) 22:25, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

Surely this could most easily be resolved by renaming (i.e. moving, and leaving a redirect) Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not to Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is and is not? Given the opening sentence described above, that would seem to be a more appropriate name in any case. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 11:38, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

I'd support that. –Quiddity (talk) 23:43, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
So a month later and the move still hasn't happened...Camelbinky (talk) 19:04, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
If you're moving/rename NOT, you would need to gain consensus to change it there. --MASEM (t) 20:20, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
Actually the WP:VPP would be the more appropriate place as a larger audience would have a say and be a more neutral area, whereas on the WT:NOT would be heavily influenced by those with a bias to keeping things the way it is.Camelbinky (talk) 16:18, 6 October 2013 (UTC)
Irregardless, the point is that the page that is being moved needs to be notified; the decision can't be made elsewhere without mention there. --MASEM (t) 17:40, 6 October 2013 (UTC)

Five pill....what???[edit]

Five pillows of Wikipedia ;)

scnr --BR, Jan (media) 01:32, 28 February 2014 (UTC)

I think someone is trying to have some fun here. -- Kndimov (talk) 17:46, 25 March 2014 (UTC)