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.
Q: What was this page originally based on?
A: It was an expansion of WP:Trifecta.
Q: Does the title refer to the Five Pillars of Islam?
A: No. It also has nothing to do with the Five Precepts of Buddhism or the Five Pillars puzzle.
Q: Even though it has nothing to do with the Five Pillars of Islam, won't Muslim people be offended anyway?
A: Muslim editors commenting here have confirmed that there is nothing offensive in this. The Arabic Wikipedia uses exactly the same words to title their version of this essay. The words "five pillars" are not inherently sacred; the same words might be used by Muslims in everyday speech, such as to describe architectural elements in a building.
Q: Does this page list every single important principle?
A: No. It does not discuss the importance of using common sense, not charging money to readers, cooperating with Wikipedias in other languages, the desirability of making pages accessible to people with disabilities or limited internet access, or any number of other principles that the community has identified as important over the years.
Q: Where can I find similar pages?
A: See Wikipedia:Principles.
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What is this page?[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

There is no clear consensus as to what this page is, though there does appear to be general agreement that it's not really a policy, a guideline, or an essay in the sense that we normally use those terms on Wikipedia. Several people question the need for any such classification, so, without wishing to enter a supervote, might I suggest that—as Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy—we leave it the way it is? HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 19:40, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Right, looking at the history I can see it was created by Neutrality on 4 May 2005, but am trying to figure out where the discussion for it arose. Looking through Neutrality's contribs at the time (sorry for invasion of wiki-privacy), I can't see where it was discussed prior. It has no classification, so it isn't clear whether it is a policy, guideline or essay. So we may as well settle this now with a big RfC hug-fest, and folks can comment below and add some reasoning. I'll ask Neutrality to comment as well. Cheers and wikilove, Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 14:55, 14 August 2014 (UTC)


  1. No. You can't be sanctioned for violating this page, even though you can be sanctioned for violating any of the five pillars. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. According to Policy, it "is a popular summary of the most pertinent principles." Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:27, 14 August 2014 (UTC)


  1. No. You can't be warned for violating this page, even though you can be warned for violating a guideline. (In some cases, you can be sanctioned for violating a guideline, but not for this, only for the rules that it cites.) Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)


  1. Probably. Since there is no definition for what an essay is, it appears to fall within the non-boundaries. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. This is an essay that very ably summarizes most of our important Wikipedia:Principles and Wikipedia:Policies (and some guidelines, too) for newcomers. It is the most important and most widely accepted essay, and it needs WP:NOTAG to be useful, especially since some people think that 'policy means you get blocked', so adding the correct tag might mislead newbies into thinking they can violate it with impunity. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:47, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  3. I don't oppose it being tagged as an essay. However extra clarification would be needed so that new users are not confused. After all it is summarizing and linking to policy which is not optional. Chillum 16:08, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  4. Yes, that's where it sorts. Many, maybe most essays guide the reader through some relevant policies and this is no different. Wikipedia notoriously has a proliferation of policies and any time we can clearly show one is not on the list that makes it easier for someone to get started. Fewer policy pages make for "more maintainable code", you might say. If you want, make up a sentence like "this is an essay, but accurately summarizes the policies it refers to." Wnt (talk) 19:33, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
    note, on reading comments below, I think Template:Information page is a good markup for this page. I assume information pages are at most a subtype of "more popular" essays, even if isn't currently a subcategory of essays... if it's a fourth type, well, the whole idea of having a fourth type and what that means is a headache. Some items like WP:Power don't seem different from a garden variety essay at all. Wnt (talk) 22:27, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  5. Yep. Essays can and do point to policies, but that doesn't make them policies themselves. Nikkimaria (talk) 22:07, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Something else?[edit]

  1. Maybe. In view of the vagueness of what an essay is, it probably doesn't have to be something else. Robert McClenon (talk) 15:09, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
    I would call it an "Official Policy Summary," although there is no such thing under our structures and creating the new category is more trouble than it would be worth. Carrite (talk) 17:19, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  2. No tag. It is a helpful document that links to our core policies that he show new users. Calling it an essay will confuse new users as it points to strict policies. Calling a guideline or policy is erroneous. I suggest we leave it untagged. Chillum 15:51, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  3. But I rather doubt that has to be said. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 16:14, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  4. No tag, per Chillum essentially.--cyclopiaspeak! 17:02, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  5. I don't think this should be tagged, but technically it appears to be an essay in origin, which has become a highly official very short summary of policy for newcomers. It's definitely more than an "essay" now even though its elevation to policy has never run through the appropriate process. Carrite (talk) 17:14, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  6. Just leave it like it is, I guess. Everything in life doesn't have to fit into a box or need a little tag. It's fine. (Expanded on this in the following section.) Herostratus (talk) 01:53, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  7. You're all wrong! This page is an aptitude test. People who believe everything must follow a predefined rule fail because of IAR. People who believe arguing over which decoration should be at the top fail because of NOT. The page is fine as is. Johnuniq (talk) 02:36, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  8. People who come here are not seeking induction into the hierarchy of the WP: namespace. They are trying to understand what Wikipedia is, or at least purports to be. This should be a gateway to the stuff it's actually about, not to the policy/guideline/essay multichotomy. There's a striking symbolism here: Is Wikipedia about the five pillars, or is it about arguing over which of the arbitrary and ever-growing categories of regulations the five pillars belong to? I think the fifth pillar has the answer. Lagrange613 05:26, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
  9. It describes best practices, cultural norms, and other important principles of Wikipedia. It doesn't matter what you categorize it as, such categorization doesn't make it less useful or important. All the wonks who need things in neat little hierarchies to decide if they need to follow them or not are just going to have to learn to be OK with not being able to do that. --Jayron32 19:11, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
  10. It is was it is, and it need be no more than that. (If I must be more explicit, I'm more or less agreeing with the "preamble" conception, as well as the idea that this doesn't need a tag.) --j⚛e deckertalk 22:12, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
  11. It is not a policy, guideline, or essay.  It is "fundamental principles".  Tag it.  Unscintillating (talk) 00:52, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
  12. While we're looking at this we should also include WP:NUTSHELL; that being said I think it's fine as is.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 22:59, 8 September 2014 (UTC)
  13. Leave it untagged, like WP:42 (which, incidentally, has the line This is not a Wikipedia policy or guideline; please defer to such in a case of inconsistency with this page.). It's a useful summary, but the actual substance lies in the links. Ansh666 09:38, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
    P.S. the bikeshed should be green. Ansh666 09:40, 10 September 2014 (UTC)
    You are wrong, Ansh! The bikeshed must be blue! Face-wink.svg WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:38, 23 September 2014 (UTC)


Discuss away, of the issues is I have is that the FAC declares that it is not a policy or guideline, yet is then (presumably) treated like it is one, or some sort of fiat or something. Not really happy with that ambiguity. Each of the pillars is a policy, so is it automatically a policy too? Cas Liber (talk · contribs) 15:03, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

I always assumed it had something to do with the Seven Pillars of Wisdom but when Wikipedia started the proto-geeks were too wasted to remember the other two. AnonNep (talk) 15:32, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
It started life as only three at WP:TRIFECTA. Perhaps a seven-point version will follow some day. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:01, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
It is a summary of our 5 most fundamental policies. It links to policies. If the text of this page and the text of a policy it is linked too differs then that needs to be resolved.
If someone is saying that because this is not a policy they don't need to follow it then refer them to the actual policy.
By the way, this is the document that made me want to edit Wikipedia. Chillum 15:49, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Cas, this has been discussed repeatedly in the archives.
One of the problems with this is trying to get people to agree on what it means to say that something policy is a policy. That is, are we talking about "policy", lowercase, meaning the standard practice, or are we talking about "An Official English Wikipedia® Policy™", uppercase, an official description of same? Here's the difference:
  • When we're talking about "policy", then any statement, even a talk page comment, that accurately describes proper behavior is a policy statement. Under this model (think British constitution), this page (and hundreds of others) are "policy", and so is every single (accurate) talk page message left for people telling them to please not violate copyrights or add unsourced material about BLPs.
  • When we're talking about "An Official English Wikipedia® Policy™" (or Guideline™), then only a page that has been formally (bureaucratically) approved and labeled as such is "policy". Under this model (think American constitution), this page is "just" the most popular and well-written essay in the history of the English Wikipedia.
All of this adds up to: It is not really possible to answer your question. Formally, this page is an essay; informally, it is the best policy statement for newbies that we've got. Both the people who say that it's a policy and those who say that it is not a Policy™ are absolutely correct. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:01, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
  • {{Information page}} seems like the best option since it summarizes policies and guidelines without being one itself. --Jakob (talk) 16:58, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
That looks perfect. I would support that. Chillum 17:03, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
"Information Page" sounds right. It is a summary of main policies for newcomers, the details of which are formally explained elsewhere. I don't think the page should be tagged at all, however. Carrite (talk) 18:22, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

I got to thinking about similarities between this and Preamble to the United States Constitution. There's a few similarities... it'd be easy to overstate this, but:

  • In the United States Constitution, everything is either an Article or an Amendment and has a number, except the Preamble which is outside that structure,
  • Similarly here, every page has a overarching category (Article, Essay, Policy, etc.) except this one which is outside that structure.
  • The Preamble is not really actionable. No court is going to overturn a law solely on the ground that it doesn't "insure domestic Tranquility" or whatever if it passes constitutional muster in every other way. So (unlike everything else in the Constitution) it's not really a law, exactly.
  • Ditto here, you never going to see "Blocked for violating WP:5P". This page is not really a policy, exactly.
  • And of course both the Preamble and this page could be described as "summary of what we're about, here".

So that's fine. I haven't seen anybody run around screaming "OMG, we have to rename the Preamble to Article 1 because everything has to fit into a structure of numbered laws!". It works fine. I guess that's my point: it's OK the way it is for this page too, it doesn't have to be called an Essay or a Policy or whatever. It just is what it is, a thing in itself. Herostratus (talk) 02:15, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

Hi all. I'm the one who began the 5P project page, some nine years ago. I never envisioned that this page would take off as it has, with translations on nearly every language version. I am gratified that so many have found it useful.

I claim no special insight on how to classify this page (i.e., as an policy vs. essay vs. some third option), but I would submit that the specific classification is not all that important. At core, this is a summary and a point of reference. I would submit that there is wisdom in thinking of this page as a preamble (as Herostratus suggested), or, as an abbreviated table of contents. It may be wise to intentionally not categorize this page as either a policy or essay. Not everything must be labeled. Neutralitytalk 03:10, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

Not label it?? what a heretic! Next you'll be telling us to ignore all rules! Thanks for WP:5P—we all love it, even those who haven't yet been assimilated. Johnuniq (talk) 04:28, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Semi-protected edit request on 10 October 2014[edit]

I am trying to learn wikipedia to contribute arictles for educational propuse.

thanks a lot Muuse12 (talk) 10:50, 10 October 2014 (UTC)

X mark.svg Not done That is not a request to edit this page
May I suggest you look at the links on your talk page - I'd start with Tutorial (just click the blue text) but the other links are good as well. - Arjayay (talk) 12:12, 10 October 2014 (UTC)

Clarifying for new editors the difference between "Wikipedia editorial consensus" and the "General English language" understanding of the term[edit]

I have recently been surprised to find out that very few Wikipedia editors seem to know the difference between the Wikipedia editorial consensus process and what is generally understood as the Consensus process in the general English language. This confusion has caused a number of misunderstandings in my own particular case, as I always assumed that when it said "consensus" in the 5 pillars, that it meant "consensus". It turns out that the "Wikipedia consensus process" we are talking about here is not at all the same as the larger world's understanding of the word "consensus". Read about the larger world's understanding of the word in our Consensus article to find out for yourself if you don't believe me. Our process is kind of like a stripped down go cart version, while the larger world's version is more like the Cadillac version. They both get you there, but not really the same thing. I would propose improving the language of the five pillars to read: "Civility.... Seek Wikipedia editorial consensus and agreement, avoid edit wars." Instead of what seems to me to be its current rather misleading wording: " Seek consensus, avoid edit wars." Scott P. (talk) 23:25, 25 October 2014 (UTC)

I have read the article about consensus and it is in line with the Wikipedia meaning. Why don't you devote your energies to something like original research which is a bit surprising. Dmcq (talk) 00:43, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

@Dmcq:, One method only allows the taking of the action after the consensus is arrived at. The other says you can take the action (the edit) first, then sort of have the edit war, discussion, administrative action, or whatever after, as a sort of an afterthought. I like your original research. Scott P. (talk) 01:01, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

Maybe there should be a distinction if a new source is introduced to an article, vs just editing existing materials? Zulu Papa 5 * (talk) 01:06, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

@ZuluPapa5:, thanks for looking this over. How then would you suggest rewording the sentence "Seek consensus, avoid edit wars." in order to avoid the possible confusion? Scott P. (talk) 01:17, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
As a matter of article style it's fine as as is, since the other links aren't specified like proposed. Maybe the point should be made in the Wikipedia editorial consensus article. Zulu Papa 5 * (talk) 01:26, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
@ZuluPapa5: the reason I think it should be clarified in 5P is because there are two very different definitions of consensus, the first is the "Simple Dictionary Definition" which Wikipedia is now using for its purposes. The second is the "Professional Group Facilitator's Definition" which is described in Wikipedia's article under Consensus. The Group Facilitation Definition is the style of consensus that Quakers have been using for 300 years. It is also specifically designed to reduce or eliminate conflict, and generally does quite well at this. But maybe this article is not the best venue to be trying to begin explaining this concept...... Thanks for your help though. Scott P. (talk) Comment first edited at 02:07, 26 October 2014 (UTC), last edited at Scott P. (talk) 05:16, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
Please stop pinging people if you are just replying to a point. A ping is for something that is personally relevant. This is not an appropriate forum for pushing your ideas about what consensus is. Get agreement at WT:CONSENSUS that it is not consensus as normally understood and then you can point at that agreement here. If you can get no satisfaction on there you can complain at the village pump which can agree a change is needed in multiple places. Otherwise you wasting people's time here with your multiple discussions on the same subject. Dmcq (talk) 08:12, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
Someone needs to brush up on how not to be a dick and then come back to discussing topics of relevance before continuing to be a bully and shout people down. Civil discussion is the manner in which we have threads, not this half-ass dismissive crap which accomplishes nothing but ill-will and incivility. And anyone may ping anyone they want.Camelbinky (talk) 17:45, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
Well I reverted that last contribution and another editor also reverted it, and it was put in yet again a third time. I complained at WP:ANI but seemingly the admins there think that is reasonable comment in Wikipedia rather than a personal attack and say I was asinine in my responses so it pretty well reinforces for me why I have gone to semi-retired on Wikipedia. It seems to me that 'Editors should treat each other with respect and civility' is perhaps an unnecessary pillar since one has to do something pretty unusual to go against it. If someone would like to say how I should have responded so it was less asinine be my guest. Dmcq (talk) 00:58, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
Camelbinky's appeal to civility is way less civil than the comment of yours he was responding to, but I'm not sure it rises to the level of a personal attack requiring admin attention. My response would have been to just let it stand; it speaks pretty well for itself. Regardless, it would probably be best if you both backed away from this particular horse while it has a chance at recovery. Nothing productive is likely to come from this slow-motion sniping. Lagrange613 03:28, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

Wikipedia has its own working definition of "consensus" as it has its own unique definition of "notability". Despite whatever theoretical weaknesses these definitions may have, according to some pedantic editors, they have enabled Wikipedia and its volunteer editors to create the number 6 website in the world. The Quakers have failed that challenge, and therefore have little to contribute to this conversation. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 08:41, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure where you get your idea of 'failed' from. I just see the Wikipedia ideas of consensus and notability as being pretty much in line with the common sense ones. Consensus doesn't have to be unanimous as for the Quakers and we don't have precisely identifiable interested parties for a consensus but that's okay as far as the common sense view and the Wikipedia article on it are concerned. The Wikipedia terms I see as being confusing by their divergence are original research and verifiability which are always being misunderstood because they don't correspond closely enough to common notions. Neutral point of view also keeps being interpreted as like on television shows 'balancing' the sides. I am also concerned by Wikipedia's idea of what civility is which I don't think corresponds with any common notion of the same name. Dmcq (talk) 10:40, 12 November 2014 (UTC)
I wasn't aware the Quakers set out to build a popular website. You know everything, Cullen! Let's get our lessons from you instead of a community that's been practicing civility and consensus-building for hundreds of years. Lagrange613 04:12, 13 November 2014 (UTC)
Anyone who wishes is welcome to take lessons in civility and consensus-building from the Quakers, who in my experience, are mostly wonderful people. They are a religious denomination while we are an encyclopedia building project. Our definition of consensus works for us. I see no evidence whatsoever that any of our problems are due to shortcomings in our definition of consensus. Perhaps my formulation "failed that challenge" was rhetorical excess. But I feel confident in saying that Wikipedia is far more important and useful to hundreds of millions of people on an every day basis than is Quakerism. Other than the Quakers themselves, that is. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 06:29, 13 November 2014 (UTC)
The question though was whether the Wikipedia idea of consensus was close enough to the usual understanding of the term to be used straightforwardly without causing problems. I don't doubt that Wikipedia has more impact nowadays but that does not mean no improvement is possible, only that one has to be careful about possible improvements as one may not have figured out the full implications. As to the Quakers their way of working contributed greatly to the Midlands Enlightenment which was a principal basis for modern industrialization, plus of course they were major movers in Abolitionism. Dmcq (talk) 09:20, 13 November 2014 (UTC)
My cousin Richard Nixon was a Quaker, yes I believe he could, as a Quaker, have taught us about consensus, civility, and (expletive deleted) teambuilding.Camelbinky (talk) 21:27, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

Why noinclude tag before WP:5P5's ending div?[edit]

The wikitext for this page has a noinclude just before WP:5P5's ending div tag. Is there a reason for this? Presumably if transcluded, this would leave WP:5P5's div tag open. I don't immediately see why we'd want this. (And if we did want an open div tag for some reason, we probably wouldn't want WP:5P5's but a div tag surrounding all the pillars.) Jason Quinn (talk) 12:53, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Digging into the history it appears that the current nesting of tags was introduced with this edit by Gutza on 14 June 2013. My guess is that it is simply a mistake. Jason Quinn (talk) 13:02, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
I haven't had the time to investigate this properly (I obviously can't remember if there was any logical reason from two years ago), but it appears that the noinclude tag was actually present before my edits (search for it in the diff, and you'll find it in both the left and the right side). It might be that my edits have changed the document structure, and it ended up nesting differently, though (again, no time to investigate this properly right now). --Gutza T T+ 14:14, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Me again – I took a second look, and yes, it was most certainly a mistake; I don't see any possible reason for adding it there. Please address this as you see fit. --Gutza T T+ 14:17, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks Gutza for looking into it. I didn't word it so well but it isn't the noinclude but the div's added in your edit which ended up being improperly nested. I'm going to just switch order of the two conflicting tags to get the nesting correct. Jason Quinn (talk) 15:39, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Fixed. I made the change on June 11, 2015 with this edit. Jason Quinn (talk) 12:06, 9 July 2015 (UTC)

Protect this page[edit]

I think this page should be semi-protected or maybe even "'fully-protected'". It's a very special page and it should be correctly looked after. (talk) 11:34, 9 July 2015 (UTC)

We don't protect pages because they're special. We protect pages because they've been targets of frequent vandalism. This page is doing fine on that front. Full protection would mean only administrators could edit 5P, which would violate the spirit of 5P. Lagrange613 11:50, 9 July 2015 (UTC)