Wikipedia talk:Ignore all rules/Archive 1

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I say this'll work fine so long as people exhibit common courtesy and don't decide wikipedia is a medium for proselytism. -- JoshuaGrosse

It is interesting to think about the dynamics of social interaction within a wiki. Everyone's impact on the medium is, in a sense, exactly equal to their participation in the medium.

As an example, let's take a view which is just obviously wrong to most of us (although someone else might not agree), let's say the view that the earth is really flat. If flat-earthers descend on the site in hoards, then they will eventually win unless pre-flat-earth regulars band together to continually refactor the pages. It isn't necessarily about numbers, but also about how dedicated the numbers are.

On Usenet, the same people argue endlessly for years on end. I know of some newsgroups that I used to be addicted to, where I know that if I went back today, some of the same people would be there arguing the same things they were arguing 10 years ago.

The interesting thing about Wikipedia, though, is that another group might end up with the real upper hand -- those who seek to refactor pages in an effort to end controversy. A statement, for example, of the Scientology issue, that is satisfactory to both sides, would probably be a great achievement, recognized by all as such. It would probably be left alone.  :-) --User:Jimbo Wales

I now pleasantly ponder the paradox encountered by those who seek to rigorously follow this rule. --User:Jimbo Wales

Well, what about the related paradox that there is no Rule to decide that something is a Rule (and so should be ignored) --User:OprgaG

I don't know what's going on but I'm sure Kurt Gödel would have something to say about it.

My MBTI is INTJ. I live to make the rules. :-) <>< User:tbc

My MBTI is ESTP. I must destroy rules - create m:visions - however I tend to agree with Axel that deliberate disciplined rule-breaking sets useful precedent, but disagree about ignorance - a healthy ignorance of what does not matter is necessary to a happy life 24

User:Jimbo Wales's observation of the 'no-rules' paradox has an interesting implication for wikipedia. As with all real-world paradoxes, this one generates a possibly infinite loop: one person edits a page any way they want, another person disagrees and changes it, the first person changes it back, and so on. Although one of the parties will probably get tired of this loop, the possibility of its existence does imply that those editors who follow no rules will waste their own editing time, and possibly require extra editing time for others as well. When you multiply such infinite loops by the number of such contentious pages, you probably would get a major drain on the encyclopedia's resources. David 11:40 Aug 9, 2002 (PDT)

The real paradox is that in order to follow this rule you must ignore it.
is this a flaw in the NPOV? or a flaw in the software?
The rule begins with "If rules make you nervous and depressed..." There is no paradox at all, this rule serves to (1) permit editing by the chronically-afraid-of-doing-things-wrong and (2) reduce their nervousness and depression about the rules (someone will come along and fix the problem without yelling at you). Wikipedia has a lot of rules (Naming conventions, Describe external links, Use color sparingly...), it's just that we won't kill you if you break them. Perhaps this rule should be rephrased: "The purpose of editing articles is to make them better, not to make them perfect." Paullusmagnus 23:09, 6 Aug 2003 (UTC) (P.S.: my MBTI is INTP: I live to rewrite the rules)

IMHO, this rule is the essence of Wikipedia, as it reflects the axiomatic supremacy of the individual. To wit, those who need rules can make them up and debate them; those who don't need rules can ignore them. As for the 'no-rules' paradox, and the resulting drain on the encyclopedia's resources, this is a necessary evil. I, for one, have never been a believer in the "practical limitations" of openness. Rather, when I disagree with someone, I state my view and state my reasons, then I do my best to figure out what their view is and the reasons why they hold that view. In the context of Wikipedia, I believe that this sort of debate should take place on talk pages rather than turning Wikipedia articles into ideological battlegrounds. But that's just my personal opinion. Other people are free to ignore it.--NetEsq

I wrote this rule and was its first supporter; but I think we have outgrown it. I'm moving my name to the "opponents" category. --Larry Sanger

I think common sense is pretty useful. Lir 19:15 Nov 9, 2002 (UTC)

"Common sense is merely the collection of prejudices aquired by the age of eighteen" - Einstein
"Common sense is not so common." —Voltaire
"Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He’s high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a grey suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it’s always somebody else’s money he’s adding up." —Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), Philip Marlowe, in Playback, ch. 14 (1958).

I would rather see a rule similar to the one that the great haiku poet Bashō is supposed to have told his disciples: "Know the rules before you break them." BlankVerse 05:24, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)


The point is fulfillment, fun , a sense of contribution. Too many rules tend to choke this out.--Jondel 07:48, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Shouldn't the title be changed to "Ignore rules when necessary". "Ignore all rules" could be used by people vandalizing Wikipedia. тəті 18:52, Mar 25, 2005 (UTC)

You've just made the mistake of reading the rule too literally. Part of the purpose of having such a guideline is to remind people not to be excessively literal in following the letter, rather than the spirit, of the rules. --Michael Snow 20:37, 25 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Proposed rephrasing

After reading some of the discussion above, perhaps a more agreeable rule is this one:

Enforce rules gently.

In other words, don't attack people who don't bold their article title or name an article with a verb. Just fix it for them and drop them a friendly reminder if warranted. I think this has much of the desired effect of this rule (you can edit without fear) without its strange connontations of encouraging rampant rulebreaking. Deco 05:40, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Or Give some kind of first warning(?) The second or third (or fourth )administrators are ussually ruthless or bold. I'm sure everybody follows rules more or less and will do something to prevent wikipedia from devolving to anarchy.--Jondel 05:59, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I disagree most strenuously with this rephrasing. This rule is not, and never really has been a warning to sysops. Rather, it's a permission to everybody. It's saying, "Look, if you really want to do X because X will be easier for you to contribute, do X, and we'll tidy it up." The two implied howevers are "But do keep in mind, we're going to tidy it up, and if you pitch a fit we'll be mad," and "X had better be done in good faith." But first and foremost, this rule means "Go ahead, we can fix just about anything you do in good faith." That's very, very different. Snowspinner 14:09, Mar 30, 2005 (UTC)

Concur with Snowspinner. Note that the implication is "Ignore all rules... even this one." It's not promoting anarchy, it's promoting common sense: policies and guidelines are good and necessary, but too much legalistic enforcement of them is neither. Also, I am sure that anyone using this rule to justify blatant abuse would have to face the consequences they deserved from nearly every single person on the Support side, and as well they should. Mindspillage (spill yours?) 14:26, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Would a note about respect the spirit of the rules be useful here? Thryduulf 14:55, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)
This is true — it's sort of aimed at a different audience, the idea being that it's not a rule you follow but a rule you take solace in others following. I also agree that it's more a guideline than a rule. I do disagree though with your implication that only sysops enforce rules — to the contrary they bear very little of this collective burden. Deco 03:29, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I think spirit of the rules/law would be useful, at least as a corollary along with enforce rules gently. When I said fourth administrators are ruthless, I didn't meant that is this rule is a warning to sysops. I meant administrators may have to be ruthless to enforce rules.(eventually someone will ) But it is really to keep out habitual and frequent vandalizers,trolls,etc. Veteran wikipedians become familiar with the rules and comply by habit. I'm very sure even all the supporters don't support anarchy and blatant abuse. It's just that, some people loose enthusiasm with too many rules and leave. --Jondel 01:33, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Added to my responce above: Eventually sysops and/or users will enforce rules.--Jondel 04:09, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Not policy?

This still shows 73% support above, and I'm not at all sure that there's consensus for the declaration that this is no longer policy. I think the policy could use clarity, certainly - perhaps with a note about the sorts of rules that are to be ignored, perhaps with a note about how, in the end, Wikipedia is run on common sense, not policy, and that if something doesn't seem to work, you should go ahead and try ignoring it to see what happens (With a note about how if you seem to be upsetting people, it may not have been as good an idea as you thought). I don't know. But I think it's clear that "not policy" does not describe this.

I don't believe the vote has been taken seriously for quite some time by anyone but the iconoclasts among us. Perhaps there should be a new vote. The Uninvited Co., Inc. 21:32, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps. Then again, I don't think the policy has been usefully cited in some time either. I think its current status as an old and rarely cited but stil present bit of policy is pretty much appropriate. To my knowledge, it hasn't even ever been employed as a defense in the arbcom, so I certainly don't see its harm. Snowspinner 21:35, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)
Any poll in which Larry Sanger voted should be taken with a grain of salt due to its age. →Raul654 21:38, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)
I'll admit that it's a pretty old poll. But I don't think the move to "not policy" is at all clear, or necessarily wise. Snowspinner 21:41, Apr 5, 2005 (UTC)

The intent of this policy could be worked into Wikipedia is not (an experiment in anarchy). Gazpacho 21:45, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)


The poll is perennial, it looks like. People keep adding to it from time to time. I find it fascinating to hear (from this section) that people like Jimbo "wikipedia" Wales and <math>TAW</math> are considered iconoclasts in some circles. (Actually, come to think of it, that might be accurate. Down with the Britannica! O:-) )

In any case, this policy appears to have sufficient support, and should thus be treated with respect :-) Kim Bruning 10:48, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)


I took the liberty of rephrasing this to reflect some of the comments above, particularly from Mindspillage. As to the issue of how this should be classified, might I suggest Wikipedia:Ignore all categories? --Michael Snow 22:53, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Rules of the Chinese road

Anyone who has lived long in China and also in another country, such as US or Germany, has noticed some striking contrasts. Chinese traffic law is not that much different from American -- drive on the right side, stop for red lights, and so forth. Chinese traffic signs generally conform to the international standard. But the customs of Chinese drivers and others who share the road are very different.

A common conveyance is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxicab, about the size of deep freezer, with just enough room for two skinny-hipped passengers to sit behind the driver. They resemble Bangkok's tuk-tuks and so I call them, since Chinese themselves do not seem to be able to agree on a name.

Long accustomed to hard bargaining with tuk-tuk drivers and wild rides through packs of bicyclists, I still found room one day for some amazement when my driver accelerated on approach to a red traffic signal at a skewed intersection. The angle of the cross street meant that two acute corners were totally blind to drivers on either side; fortunately, perhaps, the cross street was one-way.

My driver gunned the motor right up to the moment we actually entered the intersection. The light was still red; heavy cross traffic was passing with the light; and meanwhile, an oncoming dusty black Stalinesque sedan was also violating his red light, bulling his way into the throng. We not only cut off bikes, motorbikes, peditrucks, pedestrians, and a bus all moving with the light; we made a left turn into the cross street, cutting off Uncle Joe.

Note that with three wheels, tuk-tuks do not corner like bikes; there is no leaning into the turn. I cannot say whether my American fast-food bred fat acted as ballast, but in any case, we merely slid, and did not roll. Straightened out again, my driver fully opened the throttle and we zoomed down the one-way cross street at about 70 Kph (45 Mph) -- the wrong way.

Not only did all the oncoming traffic move aside as we passed, but not a hand was raised, not a toot was heard; I did not even see anyone make eye contact. My driver ignored not only the law of man, not only the signage and local custom, not only the laws of physics; but, head high, ignored the very presence of any other soul on the street. And everyone else ignored us, too. I arrived at my destination cold sober (and I do not drink).

Chinese drivers simply do not have a concept of Right of Way. You may drive however you please; and by the same token, you must permit anyone else to do as he pleases.

Contrast a very late night in the city of Chicago, America, near the downtown Ohio-Ontario feeder to the Kennedy Expressway. The streets in that area are one-way and very wide -- I don't know, 5, 6, maybe 7 lanes wide; wider at 3 am, since nobody is parked at either curb. A fool (I assume), or merely some disoriented soul, makes an unwise turn and begins driving down Dearborn, the wrong way, in what would be the far right lane if traffic was permitted in that direction.

The street is so wide here, it is almost wider from side to side than the block from Ohio to Ontario is long; it is designed for Crush Hour traffic, a million office drones fighting for the relative safety of the suburbs before the lights go out in the City. There is next to no traffic now; most of the drunks are long gone.

Yet I see the only other driver on the street flick his headlights and swerve across 3 lanes to position himself directly in front of the malfeasant; the two of them brake with front bumpers a kiss apart, furiously honking, screaming obscenities at one another. I pass on; I cannot tell you now if firearms were drawn.

At first, it seems that the Chinese are smarter. They've been living in crowded cities for a long time, and they've learned that the best way to deal with slight offense is to ignore it. Americans, it seems, are arrogant fools -- creating problems where there are none, bickering over a point that will not make sense even to themselves in the morning.

But this does not take into account the accelerating effects of technology. Despite all the good will (or studied indifference) in the world, the tuk-tuk man and I might well never have arrived, and you would be spared this tale. When machines hurtle past one another at speed, there is simply not enough time for all parties to gradually, with no particular method, edge out of each other's way. Pedestrians completely ignore jostles from other pedestrians, and a shopping basket in the kidneys is not remarked upon. But even slight contact between two moving motor vehicles means a trip to the repair shop, and it takes little to render machines and their drivers permanently inoperable.

China's rate of traffic fatalities, per car, is 8 times that of US. [1] As charming as the first picture is, and as ugly the second, the sad truth is that "just getting along" does not work -- not with modern technology on the street.

The reason American traffic fatalities are so much lower, despite road rage, cheap guns, and disrespect for one another and the law, is that Americans are very clear on the concept of Right of Way. It has little to do with vigorous law enforcement, although that is a factor. The main control on an American driver is the concerted attitude of every other driver, any one of whom may defend his Right of Way to the death. This customary Right of Way may be traced to written ordinance, honored in the breach as it is. It keeps everyone moving in roughly the same direction. When there is a dispute, say, at an intersection, even a malefactor is generally aware that he is running through a Stop sign; if push comes to shove, everyone may assume that he will probably back down.

In China, nobody ever backs down; not on the street. They avoid confrontation as much as possible, but when it is inevitable, there is no way to decide the matter, with or without loss of face, in the short time it takes to crash. I have watched Chinese truck drivers spend 20 minutes rubbing past one another in a narrow alley, leaving streaks of paint on the brickwork on both sides, rather than admit that one must back out and wait for the other. Cyclists crushed by buses are commonplace.

  • This policy is a noble ideal, and may have been workable at one time, when WP was a smaller community; even now, it may give good advice to a timid newcomer if understood to be severely limited in scope. But now it is a ticking time bomb waiting to be used as a defense in every silly matter. It must be retired -- with honor, but retired. — XiongXiong2char.pngtalk 01:32, 2005 Apr 6 (UTC)
I am speechless in awe. Wikipedia:Brilliant prose, Xiong. The Uninvited Co., Inc. 01:56, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Excellent essay — I'm not sure if I agree with your conclusion (that Wikipedia needs rules to ensure continued growth and preservation of article quality) but I will admit that rules are a critical mechanism for ensuring uniformity and preventing needless conflict. Deco 02:19, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)
wonderful text, but I disagree. As Wikipedia and its policies grow and grow, this rule becomes essential as never before. I gave the german page a rewrite a while ago (de:Wikipedia:Ignoriere_alle_Regeln), it lacks the beautiful conciseness of the english version but states IMO more clearly what this rule is about: Wikipedia is a project to create collaboratevily an encyclopedia. Rules are just a mean to this end. As a newbie (and even as an old hand) you can't know all the rules which developped here over time, so just use your best judgement and do what you deem reasonable in order to achieve this goal. --Elian 02:25, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Something that might help with the impossibility of knowing all rules is to reduce the number of rules. Then there would be fewer rules for people to ignore, and fewer problems with people ignoring said rules (cf. instruction creep). Elian's rules from the German page are a good set; m:Foundation issues is another. For an actual proposal to have rule cuts (hey, tax cuts are always popular, right?), see Wikipedia:Wikirules proposal. While I'm skeptical that the mechanism proposed there is the right one, I understand the feeling behind it. --Michael Snow 06:04, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Concur with Elian and Michael. And Xiong, that was a wonderful essay; so much so that I hate to disagree with it. But Wikipedia is not a road. No one will get killed if someone doesn't know about yield signs and no passing zones, nor even if they haven't the faintest idea about traffic lights. You can still get where you're going, though if you appear to be terribly clueless some kind soul should (and will, probably, from what I've seen) come by to help you out so you don't keep crashing into oncoming traffic and spoiling everyone else's travels. I'd imagine even in China—though I've never been and know little about it—that those who deliberately disrupt traffic are not tolerated for long. Blatant abusers who will brandish "Ignore All Rules" as justification for their actions can be dealt with, because we as Wikipedians largely have the common sense to distinguish between good faith and bad.
The American response to the traffic incident is far worse. It values strict adherence to policy over basic civility, and an ugly one-upmanship on the part of the would-be cop over someone who was at the time hurting no one. Would-be Wikicops insisting on process over product already exhibit some of that same behavior, with the same effect: both parties' tempers flare and nothing productive is accomplished. On the road it is excusable: it's difficult to swing by later and talk to the traffic offender to say "hey, please don't do that, someone might get killed", and one cannot see whether it is someone with a history of disrupting traffic or someone who is just a little lost in an unfamiliar town. Here, it is a simple task. Just my pedestrian opinion, Mindspillage (spill yours?) 16:27, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)
(As a side note, Wikipedia:Simplified Ruleset has also been proposed, as an alternative to the above-linked Wikirules proposal.) Mindspillage (spill yours?) 16:27, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Quick answer about real situation, not analogy: Chinese drivers tolerate everything, up to and including determined efforts by other drivers to run them off the road. You cannot imagine, until you have seen it, the Chinese capacity to absorb insult without return. Note that once a certain point is passed, reprisal is swift and deadly; but that point is far beyond Western credibility. I got on the plane shouting, "You can't let Them walk all over you like that!" — XiongXiong2char.pngtalk 18:52, 2005 Apr 10 (UTC)

Right of Way explained

Very briefly: I tried to tell a story without introducing my own biases, so now others impute them to me, willy-nilly. I failed to draw what I thought were obvious conclusions. I am compelled to speak.


1. The American system of arbitrating Right-of-Way disputes does not work especially well.

A deranged teen Jolt junkie could program, in a week, a box that would control every automobile on the road, and the rate of crashes and fatalities overall be less than today. It's a relatively simple problem of physics and motion control; the only hairy part is predicting the presence of uncontrolled objects in the roadway. (Note I said "predicting", not "detecting". If the object is already there, it's not so hard to spot. Objects not in the vehicle's path, which may cross it in near future, are much more difficult.)

2. The Chinese system of arbitrating disputes worked very well for thousands of years, during which it was endlessly refined.

My mother, who traveled to China long before I, told and retold a shaggy dog story of her own, which spoke of an intercity bus barreling down a narrow dirt road between two rice paddies. She spotted another bus zooming toward an inevitable head-on collision; there was simply no shoulder at all, no room on the single dirt track for even two manure carts to pass one another. She squeezed her eyes shut and, being simultaneously an atheist and an Orthodox Jewess, prayed mightily to a god in whom she had no faith. Hearing no crash and feeling no jerk from this world into the next, she looked out the rear window to see the other bus rapidly disappearing in a cloud of dust. Chinese really do know how to avoid contention.

3. The Chinese system now fails miserably only within the modern, speeded-up environment of the congested city street, full of mixed vehicles and pedestrians, some of which are highly maneuverable automobiles, trucks, buses, and motorbikes. Available reaction time is cut to about 10% of what is available when pedestrians throng along motorless streets; and consequences escalate as the square of velocity of collision -- roughly 10,000% as dangerous for collisions at 10 times the speed of a walking man, and that's neglecting the increased mass of the colliding vehicles.

4. The relative success of the American system is not evident during the occasional pissing contests, which merely serve to underpin the concept of more or less absolute Right of Way. It is evident in the innumerable small conflicts which are passed over with hardly a thought, in which one party yields to the other, both parties secure in the knowledge that, given the relative situation, they are each confident of who has the Right of Way; the dominant party accelerates, the submissive party yields, and all is well.

The pissing contests are the price we pay to enforce the concept of Right of Way. They are true cases of honoring a standard in the breach. In the worst case, when a raging motorist tracks another down ten miles of freeway, draws a firearm, and gets on teevee, every single American who sees the evening nooz has the same thought: "One of those guys had the Right of Way, and the other guy stole it." Yes, all the viewers also have the same, rational, criticism: "I don't really care which guy was Right and they were both stoopid." But nobody watching thinks the shooting was about anything except who cut who off -- and to have that thought, one must implicitly accept the idea that one driver can cut another off, and that means to steal the Right of Way. The concept is upheld.

5. Right of Way is a formal rule of the road, a written law of man; but it is also a law of physics: whatever is in a spot first has the Right of Way, since no two bodies can occupy the same volume. It is also a social custom, and most drivers have never even glanced at the book they got from the DMV since they cribbed their written test. "Who has the Right of Way in this or that situation" is a lesson learned again and again, over the course of years behind the wheel, taught by one driver to another, and the one-finger salute is not really an insult, but teacher's red pen. Some drivers also require the heavier black marker of the bill from the body shop to underline specific instances of customary Right of Way, and John Law gets his licks in, too -- but the vast control of drivers' day-to-day actions is the vigilance of other drivers: peer pressure.

That said, it still doesn't work very well. Drivers are essentially all Anonymous Cowards -- flashy as they may be, as distinctive as their cars may seem, they enter each new conflict as anonymous as an egg. Positive peer pressure only goes so far; it is the naked threat of being rammed that negatively pressures drivers to conform.

6. The Wikipedian is like the Chinese driver, but with American blood.

He began, when WP was small and he knew everybody, and everybody knew him; by yielding gracefully, and indirectly, to others, with no thought for "who is Right". On receiving a minor insult, he just ignored it. Most times, even two parties with adverse intent simply went ahead as directly as possible, doing nothing obvious to avoid collision, but not provoking it, either. This worked very well.
Time went by, and the road became more congested. It is a feature of cyberspace, especially wikispace, that all users are almost everywhere almost all the time. There is no such thing as a quiet corner; every street is a main drag, with packs of moto-vandals roaring along, herds of nitro-fueled trolls shooting up passers-by, and stealthy orcs deliberately altering the signage and standing on busy corners (mis)directing traffic. Not only do some of these troublemakers deliberately flaunt the unwritten, unspoken convention to avoid trouble and escalation of trouble; there are also waves of immigrants who simply know nothing, too numerous to educate individually, or even to watch closely enough to identify and distinguish from the rest -- not to mention the tourists who stop to make a random edit or three.
Wikipedians are overwhelmingly white male American college dropout ex-computer pros, and we reacted in typical white male American college dropout ex-computer pro fashion -- by forgetting all the Cliff-Notes Asian philosophy (though continuing to shout it in most-un-Asian fashion); by running to the thumb-sucking security of resort to authority; by building castles of ever-more elaborate rules, regulations, procedures, tribunals, sanctions, rules, more rules, rules of order, points of procedure, policies, guidelines, more rules, jockeying for high ground, Orwellian sanitizing of history, doublethink (of course), groupthink, clerkthink, and naive pleas for peace, love, and good vibes; by descending to the level of the trolls and orcs, eventually joining their ranks; and finally all join in a hundred choruses of "Four legs good; two legs better!"
It's a good thing we aren't all white male American college dropout ex-computer pros; I suspect the 3 or 4 female Mexican high-school grad preschool teachers here are holding the entire project together by the skin of their teeth and when they finally get tired and go home to their friends and families, Devil Gates will come with his team of Men in Black (but no ties), kill it, cook it, freeze it, and laugh all the way to the bank. After the implosion, a hard core remains to sue Gates for his violation of GFDL. Guess what? He has more lawyers than you do.

7. The best outcome if we continue on this road is that real growth will slow; the membership will level off as the PO'd leave as fast as newbies come in; existing members will spend more and more time in factional conflict and endless refinement of procedural points and puffy debate (like this bit). There will be no new articles on Real topics, because (1) everyone is already busy attacking, defending, or congratulating each other on not fighting; (2) everyone is afraid to make edits that might invite a reprisal, but for the trolls begging for one; (3) everyone has exhausted his own personal stock of expertise anyway, and the hostile climate excludes serious new members -- although the door is still wide open to the Visigoths.

Fortunately, there will still be some numerical growth to point at, as hundreds of magical-weapon-foo-in-this-fantasy-universe pages will be copied in from user mans, and sooner or later, Somebody will propose that all Talk pages be added to article mainspace.

If there are any doubters here, I propose a simple metric. We are all proud of the number of mainspace articles, but let us compare number of edits to articles with number of edits to all other namespaces -- none of which do the Reader any direct good. Graph this ratio over time. I don't have the tools to do this, especially not stretching back to the beginning of the project -- but I guarantee Somebody does.

8. -- which is Chinese Good Luck -- All is not lost and the project is not doomed. I took one thing away from China, if nothing else: the amazing way in which they are able to stubbornly resist all change in an area, right up to the point where they change everything all at once.

We just need to dump all the rules, all the nasty little procedures, all the crutches for little minds, and return to a simple philosophy of common sense, basic intellectual honesty, and good faith efforts to accommodate one another and reach consensus, not simple majority, on matters which perplex us.
Of course, we also must return the size of the community to a point where once again, everybody knows everybody, and implicit reputation management serves well. And we must do that without imposing new, Draconian rules which exclude new members or chase existing ones away.
Finally, we must agree on a Wikipedia:Charter -- a simple document that anyone can grasp, with the absolute plainest statement of basic principles, and which is not subject to debate or revision under any conditions short of a Constitutional Convention.
Impossible? Well, of course. But then, what isn't? — XiongXiong2char.pngtalk 18:52, 2005 Apr 10 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Charter? that's not too difficult:

of course, the devil is in the details ;-) --Elian 02:13, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

For some strange reason, I'm working on something close to what you're looking for here: Wikipedia:Simplified_Ruleset. Please come over and help out! Kim Bruning 12:47, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

from User talk:Jimbo Wales


There has been further discussion of the "ignore all rules" rule that User:Lee Daniel Crocker created back somewhere around the dawn of time. Some years ago you had voiced support for that "rule" on its talk page. While the general idea of not getting bogged down in the minutae of policy is still a valid one, I believe that there is today much more consensus regarding, and reliance upon, policy. In this light, I'd like to encourage you to review your support for "Ignore all rules" and see whether it is still appropriate. Kindest regards, The Uninvited Co., Inc. 15:49, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps I should explain what it means to me. It does not mean that it is ok to make personal attacks. It does not mean that it is ok to be a POV pusher. And so on and so forth. What it really means is that, ideally, our rules should be formed in such a fashion that an ordinary helpful kind thoughtful person doesn't really even need to know the rules. You just get to work, do something fun, and nobody hassles you as long as you are being thoughtful and kind.
What we want to avoid is a situation in which people are blasted for petty offenses with rules that they could never have guessed at in the first place. Yes we have style standards for example, but if someone doesn't adhere, we just fix it and leave them a friendly note, rather than yelling at them for breaking a rule.--Jimbo Wales 16:36, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think that we should choose a more suitable title and try to rework this page in the spirit of Jimbo's comments. Wikipedia:Treat fellow editors as colleagues, for example (c.f. Collegiality). The Uninvited Co., Inc. 17:59, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Nope, I kind of like "Ignore all rules", including the inherent paradox. There's no reason whatsoever why people should just follow rules and refuse to think. In fact, that's the point. :-) (ps. who would have thought that Jimbo was an iconoclast? ;-) ) Kim Bruning 18:53, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I'm fine with the title as is. But I've added a little more guidance to clue people in on when this "rule" doesn't apply. --Michael Snow 17:29, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Does Ignore All Rules include the 3RR? Does it include the CSD limits on admin deletion of pages? Does it include NPOV? does it include NPA? Does it include civility? I am serious here. This page was cited to me, within the past 24 hours, as a justification for a speedy delete on a page in no way coverd by WP:CSD. Mind you, the admin involved had reasons far beyond whim for what was done, but no WP policy to support the action, except this one. I think this page should be clearly declared NOT to be policy, and NOT to be used as a justification for violating core policies like the ones I just cited, or perhaps simply deprecated. DES 15:28, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
Yes, it includes the 3RR. Renaming it "Use Common Sense" might be less problematic than the suggestion rules should be ignored without reason. Angela. 16:19, July 20, 2005 (UTC)
I see. How, in your view, does this interact with Wikipedia is not an anarchy? If "use common sense" trumps all rules here, then it seems to me that it is precisely an anarchy, albiet a benevolant one (mostly). The reason for rules is that we can't always agree on what is "common sense" -- in other words it isn't so very common. Some rules, IMO, ought to be strictly interpreted and not have any margin to be ignored, particualrly not unilarterally. DES 16:27, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
  • The precise difference is this: if WP were an anarchy, then everybody would do what they would personally consider was in their own best interest. The point of IAR is that everybody should, regardless of policies or guidelines, do what they, according to their best experience, judgment and common sense, consider in the best interest of the wiki. The key is progress. You should not let a rule stand in the way of a good idea. Just make sure that your idea is a good one or someone will contest it. Radiant_>|< 17:27, July 20, 2005 (UTC)

Just in case you didn't know, this exists.--Jondel 09:08, 15 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Larry Sanger on the origins of this rule

Some questions have been raised about the origin of Wikipedia policies. The tale is interesting and instructive, and one of the main themes of this memoir. We began with no (or few) policies in particular and said that the community would determine--through a sort of vague consensus, based on its experience working together--what the policies would be. The very first entry on a "rules to consider" page was the "Ignore All Rules" rule (to wit: "If rules make you nervous and depressed, and not desirous of participating in the wiki, then ignore them entirely and go about your business"). This is a "rule" that, current Wikipedians might be surprised to learn, I personally proposed. The reason was that I thought we needed experience with how wikis should work, and even more importantly at that point we needed participants more than we needed rules. As the project grew and the requirements of its success became increasingly obvious, I became ambivalent about this particular "rule" and then rejected it altogether. As one participant later commented, "this rule is the essence of Wikipedia." That was certainly never my view; I always thought of the rule as being a temporary and humorous injunction to participants to add content rather than be distracted by (then) relatively inconsequential issues about how exactly articles should be formatted, etc. In a similar spirit, I proposed that contributors be bold in updating pages (the current version is much expanded, as it should be).

Larry Sanger

nyenyec  20:24, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)


What is this page supposed to be?

just ignore it!


Anyone think that maybe clarifiying that ignoring rules is diffrent from breaking them to prove a point/be an ass is in order?--Tznkai 00:15, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

The point of IAR is that you're supposed to use your brain. Spelling it out sort of moots that.  ;-) Kim Bruning 01:23, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Ignore all rules; serve all gangsters

  • Rules are made because opinions differ as to what is and is not reasonable and sensible action. If we all agreed on all points, we would need no rules. We do not; thus we do need rules. It is the essence of a rule that it is obeyed and enforced; breach is punished.
Although rules in general are a requirement of any large group's social structure, any particular rule may not serve the common good. One definition of a good society is one in which efficient, effective mechanisms exist to modify or eliminate foolish rules or those which act against the interests of the community. When these mechanisms are lacking, frequently the only way to oppose evil rules is to violate them.
However, it is absurd to enshrine the principle of civil disobedience as a rule itself. This promotes, in the most literal sense, anarchy.
Ideally, anarchy is an orderly, utopian state in which Nietzschean Übermenschen go sensibly about their own business without interfering with the business of their neighboring supermen. All men are rational and wise; thus rules are superfluous.
In practice, anarchy is a chaotic mess which is unable to exist in pure form for any length of time unless overwhelming forces repeatedly destroy all possible power structures in embryo. Otherwise, chaos quickly gives way to gang rule, as the loudest, strongest, and most vicious bullies organize to impose their arbitrary will upon all others. These gangsters usually uphold the banner of some ideal, but their only true creed is that they shall remain in power.
If the gangsters are successful, they often grant themselves titles and, through sheer tenure, assume the mask of respectability and order. It is even possible that over time, gang rule evolves to something less arbitrary. More often, the gangsters must be entirely overthrown.
When bad men combine, good men must congregate. Many social organizations of a higher order than gang rule have been tried, offering various degrees of protection to the individual. All have rules, though these vary widely; all have leaders who are more or less accepted by those led; and all, without exception, have been opposed by the gangsters.
I suggest that the Wikipedian Community is in a state of crisis today. We have grown beyond the cozy confines of small group dynamics and have entered the world of large group politics; the Dunbar Number was passed a long time ago. We now find ourselves in a disorganized state, with sporadic and uncoordinated efforts to establish workable rules; while the loud, strong, and unprincipled members grab for power.
At such a pass, Ignore all rules appeals to the peaceful-minded and battle-weary, promising a completely unrealistic return to small-group Eden. But those who endorse this mirage merely prolong and intensify chaos and the victimization of those who would spend more time in construction than in domination.
I urge all editors to turn away from this false hope and work together to establish a solid, broadly-based, effective foundation for our Community and Project. — Xiongtalk* 04:23, 2005 August 11 (UTC)
    • I'm confused about this "gang rule" imagery. Does it refer to the present administration, or to some perceived future administration? Factitious 07:18, August 11, 2005 (UTC)
Our Community has no administration, in the sense of an executive organization with more or less transparent, more or less uncontested, more or less public and transparent rules and processes. Administration is a function of government; gang rule is an intermediate, perhaps inevitable stage between anarchy and other, stable forms of government. It is not itself a form of government, because no gang holds monopoly -- a prime requirement.
It's not imagery. Gangsters don't all drive pimp rides and sport gold chains. You're a gangster if you belong to a gang -- a small group that attempts to impose its will on the community at large. Hallmarks of gang rule are that it is contested, secretive, plastic, incompetent, and brutal. This is the current state, here and now.
The rule of those groups struggling to control our Community and Project is:
  • Contested: There is no cabal. No single group is in control; various groups make cyberwar on one another. It may appear to the newcomer that some cabal is in control and all who oppose it are mere disorganized dissidents; but in fact many long-time Old Heads, with considerable power, find themselves on opposite sides of pitched battles.
  • Secretive: Although various members have gained certain degrees of power, few disclose this openly. Worse, whatever rules and processes are in place are extremely difficult to identify. It is especially unclear to the newcomer which statements have the force of law and which are mere rude remarks. The entire power structure is opaque.
  • Plastic: The rules change from day to day, even hour to hour. I have seen a rule changed by an editor especially to justify his next action. I speak of rule text itself -- interpretation is even more variable, with most who cite a given rule able to spin it in either direction as the situation favors.
  • Incompetent: Gang rule is the opposite of efficient management. Gangsters force they way into positions of power; this is opposed to the principle that competent managers rise upon merit. Indeed, this is what we find here -- inefficient, often destructive process; failure to take appropriate action; growing backlogs of work of all kinds. Gang headquarters often look like pigsties; nobody wants to take out the trash.
  • Brutal: More advanced forms of government are often ruthless, but heavy penalties are levied impersonally, as a matter of policy. Here we find malefactors subjected to a range of cruel and arbitrary torments, beginning with vicious personal attack thinly disguised as cold analysis. Penalties escalate from socialist struggle sessions to full-blown gauntlets of rhetorical beatings. Since use of force -- overt or covert -- and pandering to the mob are the only routes to power, the fastest way to the top ranks is to intimidate others and gather a circle of supporters who respect, fear, and idolize this sort of image. Thus, we see that members are often sanctioned for an offense not before lengthy public degradation.
Please note that we cannot look to Jimbo and WMF Board for community leadership. Our Wikipedian Community exists in cyberspace, in a universe created by machines that are owned, operated, and maintained by WMF. This puts Jimbo and the Board into the position of gods, not men.
Do not discount my last statement. Monotheists may find it very difficult to credit the fact of a pantheon of purely local gods, but we must remember that ours is a completely artificial world. If you met Jimmy Wales at a bar, you could poke him with a stick, just like any man. But within our world, he is a deity in fact, not merely in name; the designation is real, not a joke.
Gods often put on human form and walk among men; rarely, they may even lose their divinity (see Larry Sanger). Occasionally, men find themselves elevated to godhood, too. Polytheists have no trouble understanding this. And while the gods may sometimes lead men, or merely meddle; their concerns are on another plane from those of men, who must always lead themselves. — Xiongtalk* 04:59, 2005 August 12 (UTC)
I'll say first of all that this discussion is, whether intended or not, quite amusing. I'll go on to say that I believe that Xiong's essential misinterpretation lies in the intent of the rule. Ignore all rules isn't about creating a mechanism for fighting unjust rules through "civil disobedience". In a way, it's not a rule at all, but a statement about the way in which we intend to enforce our other rules. Those who support Ignore all rules are claiming that the rules should be soft - that while we may expect contributors to follow them, and many do voluntarily, no harsh penalty or even preventative action will be dealt to those who choose not to. Thus, it is safe to ignore rules you don't know about or don't understand, because you will not be banned, intimidated, or yelled at.
What makes soft rules critical for Wikipedia is the idea that we are a community of volunteers. If every contributor were getting a paycheque from Wikimedia, we could damn well expect them to follow the rules or else. But when a volunteer is adding value to the encyclopedia, but just happens to be violating some minutia of the policies, it only takes away from our mission to kick them out, especially when we can easily clean up any damage they do. We may not be starving for contributors anymore, but we never want someone just starting out to leave because they feel intimidated. Perhaps a more detailed rephrasing might be, "If you're adding value, don't worry too much about the rules."
That said, I do believe that rules for administrators should be more strictly enforced, but the punishment for disobeying them should never be any worse than de-adminship. Administrators are given privileges in exchange for demonstrating responsibility with and adding value using those privileges. Deco 23:24, 12 August 2005 (UTC)
I don't know how to untangle the semantic muddle above. Where to begin?
  • Why would you find this discussion amusing? The rules that govern a community (or fail to do so) are essential to its character. When you say you are amused, I infer you do not take the matter -- or the community -- seriously. I am certain that this is a serious topic.
  • I have misinterpreted nothing. Intent is treacherous ground when writing law. Later jurists will interpret the law written today; they may stretch it to suit their convenience or attempt to penetrate to the writers' intent; but the only assurance that the intent of the law is carried out is to express it clearly. "Ignore all rules" is a formal endorsement of anarchy.
  • The intent you appear to desire to express is, "Ignore written rules and do as you please. When Someone tells you that you are doing wrong, don't do it." "Someone", of course, being a member who has bullied others into believing his word is law.
  • To say that you do not intend to enforce rules is either, again, a formal endorsement of anarchy or pure bullshit. If it is not enforced, it is not a rule at all. There is obviously a range of enforcement strategies, from mild to harsh, consistent to inconsistent. But it is pure nonsense to suggest that all behavior shall be tolerated -- nonsense or anarchy.
  • ...we never want someone just starting out to leave because they feel intimidated. Whose side are you on, then? Rules are not made to oppress or intimidate. They are made to set explicit limits on conduct. By the grand principle, That which is not forbidden is permitted, these limits also define areas of conduct that, since permitted, may not be censured.
Let me give a concrete example of this last. Let us say that a rule is established that forbids an editor from placing photos of dogs on his user page. No other rule speaks to the question of photos on user pages; thus the user is free to put a photo of a cat or chimp on his page. Since the forbidden conduct is clearly defined, so is the conduct permitted. Should another user come along and bully the first on the grounds that cats ought not be seen, the first user is protected and may demand sanctions be taken against the bully. The bully is without grounds.
If nothing is forbidden, then by the same token, nothing is truly permitted -- again, unless one entertains pure anarchy. Vague clouds of smoke preaching common sense must devolve into one thing only: A strong voice demanding that his judgement be respected.
I cannot think how it could ever be safe to ignore rules, or that this page provide any protection from harassment.
  • If you're adding value, don't worry too much about the rules. If that is your intent, so state. I see a great chasm between this statement and "Ignore all rules".
But granting for the moment that I tolerate such sloppy interpretation, I assert it is foolish, naive, and unworkable. Who says if I added value today? You? Me? Gangster Number Eleven? How much worry is too much? Enough?
  • Adminship has grown cancerously from a purely janitorial, administrative position, to the office of straw boss, a fat man who throws his weight around wherever he thinks it will do good -- a bully, a petty tyrant, and as one of a group, a gangster. It was not always thus and it can be no longer -- but that is what it is today. Some admins -- perhaps most -- may be men of good will, but in the absence of clearly written, unambiguous, consistently enforced rules, admins have far too much power. This power corrupts some; others merely wield it gleefully.
It is more or less fatuous to speak of sanctioning admins (or anyone else) when there are no rules in the first place -- when all rules are plastic, soft, open to wide interpretation. Given a good set of rules, then obviously any admin who violates them ought to be suspended or removed from office. Members of all levels who violate rules must be sanctioned, and the ultimate penalty is exclusion from the community.
  • We are indeed a community of volunteers -- but we do not need to accept all who wander in the door. Perhaps the majority of new users should be frog-marched right back the way they came -- those that do not heed a polite request to leave quietly.
It is precisely because we are all volunteers that rules are essential -- for many reasons:
  • Volunteer organizations have high turnover; new members must be screened and oriented to community norms quickly.
  • Brutalized volunteers will often leave -- and it does not take much in some cases. One nasty remark may be quite sufficient. In a for-profit factory, paying high wages, it may be workable to appoint one man the boss of the Foo Section and tell him to run it any way he likes. Most workers will remain and endure Boss Foo. So long as his section is profitable, what does it matter whether the workers are happy?
An atmosphere of contention, disrespect, and arbitrary enforcement of vague, ambiguous, poorly-written principles does not merely increase turnover in some neutral fashion. It selects for troublemakers, malcontents, and disruptive elements. Peaceful, thoughtful, intelligent, educated men run away. (I believe it is to my discredit that I have returned from wikivacation; a more generally useful person would have gone on to better things.)
  • As volunteers stream out of the revolving door into the larger world, they carry with them stories to tell; this affects our reputation at large. We should like that negative stories bear the stamp of personal and unreasonable grievance, not valid and justifiable complaint of arbitrary mistreatment.
Ignore all rules is not, in fact, proposed policy -- it is a naked statement of the current state of affairs. If it has any motion to it at all, it is an attempt to calcify and enshrine gang rule at the expense of orderly, congenial, efficient, and just government.
I stand opposed in the strongest terms. — Xiongtalk* 02:17, 2005 August 13 (UTC)
I apologise if my attitude offended you. I guess I found your strong opinions regarding Wikipedian politics surprising when most people I interact with have been friendly and open, and also how seriously you take an unofficial rule that I always took as being a sort of joke. I hope we both agree that admin rules need stronger enforcement than "ordinary" rules, and also that there are times when a friendly warning is more appropriate than strict enforcement and punishment. It is true that the absolute terms in which this "rule" is currently stated certainly leaves too much room for interpretation, and I hope that eventually we'll find more precise language that everybody could agree on. Deco 04:37, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
If everyone took this kind of thing as a joke, it wouldn't be so poisonous. I'm pretty friendly and open in general, but the way I see it, if I don't have a strong opinion, why should I bother to make a wishy-washy statement? I don't ask you to slog through every comment I've ever made on talk, but if you did, you'd see I often admit doubt and error. But I work like hell to avoid both.
Admins must be held to a higher standard than others; and bureaucrats and developers to standards higher still. I agree that one-on-one, gentle comment is not only idealistically preferable to burn-and-stomp; it is more effective -- and even with what may appear to be a greater upfront investment of time and energy, more efficient.
But there is no way to "restate" anarchy in realistic, acceptable terms. Humans come in a disconcerting variety and it is utopian to hope for universal good judgement. Our rules should be few, fair, and flexible, to a point; but rules we must have, and obedience we must compel. — Xiongtalk* 11:01, 2005 August 20 (UTC)

Problems with this

I have seen much abuse of this recently. The worst has been admins justifying blocks with it. As common sense is a misnomer, I will explain. The whole point of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit, and that admins are just regular users with a few tools. Thus anything that restricts either one user's editing or anything that cannot be reverted by anyone should be done carefully and have its basis in real consensus policy. It's not enough for the block to be "common sense" to the admin making the block.

Also, IAR states that one can ignore all rules... including IAR. But it's kind of hard to ignore a rule, even IAR, when one has been blocked for it. --SPUI (talk) 17:33, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Definitely. However, seeing as this is a WP policy, I don't think you can just add clauses to it, such as this one. Anyway, this is a common sense rule, and you have to use common sense when applying it. Obviously it doesn't mean just blocking someone because you feel like ignoring rules and because you can. I'm reverting the change, not because I don't think it's a totally valid point, but because I think it ought to be mentioned here for a little while first. --Blackcap | talk 17:57, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
It doen't have the {{policy}} tag. when and where did this get consensus to be a policy? I don't recognize it as one. DES (talk) 18:04, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
I'm not exactly sure. I guess it's not policy as such, but my point was just that you can't make arbitrary changes to something that exists as some kind of guideline, policy, or whatever. --Blackcap | talk 18:40, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
  • IMO IAR should not be used to ignore clearcut policy issues, particualrly process policy issues. it should also not allow the bypassing of basic policies like WP:NOR or WP:NPOV. In fact i think we would be better off if this page were deleted altogather, or clearly maked "not a policy", and not ofg any particular force. IMO IAR is of the most potnetial use in reinforcing WP:Bold in content editing decisions. I have never seen IAR cited excpet to justify what IMO were improper violations of policy. DES (talk) 18:01, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
  • I propose a new varient of Godwin's law The user who first cites WP:IAR in a policy debate shall be judged to have lost the debate. as IMO and IME such citaion is always made by a party with very weak arguments otherwise. DES (talk) 18:01, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

See also: This recent thread on the mailing list about the valid of IAR and the way it is presented. Dragons flight 18:18, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Policy or essay?

Should IAR be policy or policy-like (policy, guideline, proposed, rejected) or essay-like (Category:Wikipedia essays)? If it weren't for the link to Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines, I'd have added it to the essay category long ago. --cesarb 18:12, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

  • essay please. DES (talk) 18:34, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
I think both "proposed" and "rejected" are inaccurate. I usually regard it as a guideline. I do believe the the spirit of it means that it doesn't matter what you call it... Mindspillage (spill yours?) 18:43, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
It should be in [[Category:Ignore all categories]]. --Michael Snow 20:51, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
  • The spirit in which this was written is correct, in that people shouldn't get bogged down in trying to adhere to the letter of the law (to " every I and cross every T", as it were). However, I think that the name "ignore all rules" and the current form of this page are both very, very wrong. (Speaking as a member of the arbitration committee:) There are some rules that if you ignore them, you will get yourself into a lot of trouble (like no personal attacks, NPOV, 'etc). There are some rules that there are few or no consequences of ignoring, except perhaps to irratate others a bit (like not signing your comments, or putting your FAC noms at the bottom instead of at the top, 'etc). This page could be properly renamed to "Don't let the small stuff get you down" and it would still have the same meaning. →Raul654 21:47, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
    • Now that i could support. But no one ever cites IAR for that kind of stuff in my experiece (although they may use it to help make up their minds). They cite it for out of process deletion and undeltion of pages, and similer actions. I could cite examples, but need I? DES (talk) 21:50, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
    • Agreed - Tεxτurε 21:51, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
    • How about moving it to Wikipedia:Use common sense? That seems much more appropriate, and accurate. It could also use a good rewording or caveat. --Blackcap | talk 22:05, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
  • I would be careful about talking about "small stuff". As I noted on the mailing list recently, lots of admins apply IAR to deletions and speedily delete things not within the formal boundaries of the criteria for speedy deletion. This isn't because they're rogue admins, but because the criteria for speedy deletion don't well-represent what the community considers speedily deletable. We "ignore the rules" because they are badly written. And I think this is exactly what this policy is saying to do, and for good cause. Kelly Martin 22:16, 20 September 2005 (UTC)
    • IMO violating the precise strictures of WP:CSD knowingly is a very good definition of rogue admin and ought to be grounds for desysoping. DES (talk)
        • You'd be desysoping a LOT of admins, then. Kelly Martin 02:42, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
      • Violating the precise wording of WP:CSD knowingly was done all the time in the past, when deleting the so-called "attack pages". I do not think anyone complained of that. (In fact, that bending of the rules was so accepted it's now CSD A6.) --cesarb 01:49, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Whatever else this is categorized, I simply do not think "historical" applies; that template implies that the page is no longer applicable and not in current use, kept only for archival interest, which I do not believe to be true. Raul654 claims his reason for marking it such is because IAR is often abused. This may be so. But blatant abuse of it is no reason to abandon it, and you cannot take it out of currency just by recategorizing it, anyhow. (If abuse of a guideline were reason to abandon it, we'd have to mark WP:POINT and WP:RPA as historical, too...) Mindspillage (spill yours?) 00:13, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

I tagged it as historical (replacing the absolutely incorrect {{policy}} tag that had been there) because I recognize the fact that this page was written by Lee Daniel Crocker (a long-gone wikipedian) way back in the dark ages of Wikipedia and laid dormat for almost 4 years after that. It's never been policy, and 95% of the time it is invoked it is done so erroniously. →Raul654 00:24, 24 October 2005 (UTC) 00:21, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

passing comments

I haven't been as active with WP in the past few weeks (mostly due to having to edit from an old iMac with IE 5 after spilling water on my laptop :( BTW -- did I mention how bad WP looks in IE 5 on an iMac?). Anyhow, mostly I've been limited to reverting vandalism on pages on y watchlist and haven't been able to follow many policy discussions lately.) IMO, the spirit (though not necessarily the precise phrasing or title) of this is indeed a fundamental part of the WIKI-ness of Wikipedia. I'd have no problem with renaming it to something like Wikipedia:Use common sense as someone suggested above. Or making it clear in the page that ignoring rules does not in any way mean that you will not be held accountable for your actions. Invoking this page does not absolve one of responsiblity and is not a "get out of jail free" card.

I think the essential point is that WP should ALWAYS welcome people who want to make good faith contributions to building an encyclopedia, but who may find all the voluminous (and often confusing) policy and guidelines daunting. I think this page was intended in that vein--that one doesn't need to pass a qualifying examination to be able to edit here. This page does not give one the "right" to do whatever one pleases--and it does not obviate the enforcement of Wikipedia rules in cases of continued and deliberate actions that disregard community consensus. The page should make that clear. olderwiser 01:32, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Hear, hear. Though I have to admit I am greatly attached to the current title because of the obvious conclusion: "...including this one". Mindspillage (spill yours?) 02:48, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
I share Mindspillage's sentiment (not least because that turn of phrase was my contribution to the page)(technically true, in terms of the edit history, which I checked; now that I review the earlier discussion, I realize it came from Mindspillage herself. Let's just say you know you've been persuasive when other people adopt your ideas and think they were the ones who came up with them). Incidentally, Wikipedia:Common sense was already a redirect to the page, and I went ahead and made one at Wikipedia:Use common sense as well. I also changed the redirect's title to bold in the text to give it equal emphasis.
(as an aside, to the original version of this post I thought "ah, it figures, I usually like Michael's comments" and not "wait a minute, I wrote that", because I didn't remember it myself!) Mindspillage (spill yours?) 06:14, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I also very much enjoy the minimalist nature of the page, and its resistance to instruction/categorization creep (in notable contrast to all of the rules it tells you to ignore). The simplicity is a substantial reason for its effectiveness, and should not be lost if tweaks are made. --Michael Snow 04:21, 21 September 2005 (UTC)
I also like the title and the direct simplicity of the page. But if people are indeed using this page as an excuse to get away with actions that they know are contrary to accepted rules of the community, then perhaps some tweaking is in order. -- Bkonrad posting from work 12:05, 21 September 2005 (UTC)

Name: "Use common sense" back to IAR

Thank you Phroziac for moving it back. Much better at IAR.

James F. (talk) 02:17, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

Concur, for reasons detailed in various places above. :-) Mindspillage (spill yours?) 02:23, 25 September 2005 (UTC)


This is listed in WP:5P as one of the "five unchangeable pillars that define Wikipedia's character." Yet, there isn't a {{policy}} tag on the page (although there was for a little bit until it was removed). I definitely understand why some would oppose this policy, but as it's listed there and apparently Jimbo supports it (as evidenced by his vote at the top of this page, and yes, I do know that it's old), I think it ought to be considered as such, or at least be given a new vote. If that's not done, then it should be removed from or otherwise annotated at WP:5P because it's pretty confusing having a policy, which isn't policy, listed on WP:5P and be supported by WP's benevolent dictator. 00:54, 27 September 2005 (UTC) --Blackcap | talk 01:02, 27 September 2005 (UTC)

Sorry. I keep getting kicked out of my account for some reason. --Blackcap | talk 01:02, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
Well, word from Jimbo is enough for me. I'm a-putting the policy tag up. --Blackcap | talk 04:46, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
I agree it's policy. But, to my knowledge, it was not originally intended to be policy, and was just sort of an essay. It's not like saying it's not a policy will change anything though, IAR is just common sense. --Phroziac(talk)Flag of Phyzech Republic.svg 05:42, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
I agree completely, but it makes things clearer (in my mind) to have the tag up. I'm not trying to instigate some big change, just to make things obvious. It just seems kinda silly to have Jimbo support/create something, and not have it be recognized by the community. --Blackcap | talk 16:15, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
We're entitled to disagree with Jimbo, but I'd like to think that we'd only do so when we have a good reason. Kelly Martin 16:49, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
Of course we're entitled to disagree with him, on everything and forever, if we want to. But that doesn't change his status as the grand dictator of this project who has the right (and ability) to do absolutely anything he wants. --Blackcap | talk 16:53, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I too feel that as a pillar, this deserves to be treated as policy, unless we want to made a header for pillars. As for "who decided to make it a pillar", I believe the pillars come from the very top. Friday (talk) 17:21, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

WP:IAR is for editing, not administrative action

As with WP:BOLD, there has been a good deal of "stretching" of this policy recently by a small number of administrators. These folks have referred to this policy in defense of administrative actions that have been challenged -- recently, particularly deletion and undeletion without regard for consensus. I find this highly troubling.

(Please note: I'm referring to a small handful of administrators, and indeed a small handful of cases. I'm not alleging massive corruption, or trying to get anyone desysopped, or the like. Rather, I'm trying to undercut what I see as a baseless and community-weakening misuse of this policy before it gets out of hand.)

Models of administration

There seem to be two disparate and incompatible ways that administration can be understood. We can safely call them the civil service and aristocratic models:

  • In the civil service model, administrators are trusted with powers for specific and limited purposes. They are not assumed to be any better (or more right) than other editors. They are not permitted to use administrative access to get their way over other editors. Their access exists solely to serve duties discussed in policy, and use of it beyond these duties is not acceptable. Other editors are both permitted and expected to review the actions of administrators. Administrators are expected to act in support of consensus of other editors, not against it.
  • In contrast, in the aristocratic model, administrators are granted powers under the belief that they are better and more deserving than other editors. Their access may be safely construed as being a reward and a higher social rank -- and rank hath its privileges. Because administrators are privileged over others, their actions are not subject to limitations of policy or consensus. As a matter of decorum for the project and respect for their peers, administrators are expected not to conflict harshly with each other. Non-administrators, however, are held not to be competent to review or judge administrative action.

Administrative IAR is aristocracy

Any reference to IAR in defense of administrative action is precisely an appeal to the aristocratic model of administration. To dismiss a criticism with "I was Ignoring All Rules" is to, in effect, hold that administrative access is its own justification, and may be used for whatever the administrator sees fit -- that administrative action is above any rules, rather than in service to consensus and policy.

(A side note: I hold that consensus and policy are largely equivalent. (The exception is core policy such as WP:NPOV.) Written policy pages exist to describe what editors have agreed upon. Votes are held to ascertain whether consensus exists. It is not the procedure of proposing and voting that creates policy -- rather, the procedure is a way of measuring whether consensus exists for an idea; if it exists, consensus has already created policy whether or not it has yet been measured.)

There is precious little defense for the aristocratic model to be found in Wikipedia policy. Established policy and practice make it clear that admins are not allowed to use their powers to lord it over other editors -- for instance, to roll back non-vandalism edits; to protect an article that they have been involved in conflict over; to speedily delete articles that do not meet the WP:CSD criteria; or to block users because they disagree with them.

Indeed, the basic Administrators policy makes it clear that "administrators do not have any special power over other users other than applying decisions made by all users." That is, the only proper use of administrative access is in service to consensus and policy. This is precisely the civil service model I've described above, and it leaves no room for "ignoring all rules".

What is IAR for then?

IAR is for editing. It's not so much about the sort of "rules" that we call policy, but rather to the ones we call guidelines -- the Manual of Style and so forth. Nobody expects IAR to apply to rules against vandalism, personal attacks, or legal threats. We would never accept a defense of "I was following IAR when I vandalized those articles," or "I was Ignoring All Rules when I called that editor a worthless craphead and threatened to kill his dog and to sue him for negligent crapheadedness." Someone who did that would still get blocked, possibly banned.

Likewise, IAR doesn't justify disrupting procedures like AfD, RfA, or RfAr. We wouldn't accept "I was Ignoring All Rules when I blanked that deletion vote," or "I was following IAR when I replaced that nomination for adminship with 'This editor is a terrible person!'," or "I was Ignoring All Rules when I posted a bunch of completely erroneous information to that arbitration request."

IAR means that editors, particularly new ones, should not need to familiarize themselves with a lot of rules and stylistic requirements before they start editing. A good-faith editor should be able to be bold and jump right in to improve articles. If they write well but don't follow Wikipedia style conventions, they won't be punished -- instead, someone else will come along and clean up their prose.

However, in contrast, we do expect administrators to familiarize themselves with a lot of rules and requirements -- that's the Administrators' reading list. ("Sysops are expected to have an intimate understanding of Wikipedia policy.") We don't have a "be bold" guideline for administrative action; WP:BOLD is Be bold in updating pages. And because administrative actions have profound effects on other people that editing generally doesn't, we don't want administrators to leave messes that other admins have to clean up.

IAR is a promise that our policies will not become so complicated or non-obvious that a good-faith editor will get themselves in nasty trouble for not knowing them. It means that "Love, and do what thou wilt" shall be a safe rule for editing. It means that ignorance of the law (plus good faith) is a defense for editors. But it stops somewhere -- and administrative action is well past that point. --FOo 19:56, 19 October 2005 (UTC)


Good arguments, but I don't see such a clear borderline. The rule was formulated in 2002, for a very different Wikipedia. And for that time, you're right, it was about encouraging people to literally ignore the rules and get on editing.

Three years on, the wiki is encrusted with rules and processes, and someone who just practised 2002-brand IAR would soon find himself in trouble. Don't like the article? Blanking the page will get you a warning for vandalism, and continued actions like that will result in blocking.

Instead, a new justification has arisen. Sometimes our procedures get in the way. The criteria for speedy deletion don't quite match a case where commonsense says an article should be deleted. The administrator should, according to the rules, list the article on AfD. Instead he speedies. He's probably not consciously following IAR, but IAR provides a justification. Don't let the rules get in the way of doing something that will obviously benefit the wiki. --Tony SidawayTalk 14:50, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

That, is IMO abuse of IAR, and it ought to result in sanctions. Indeed the potential for people to claim to use IAR in the way Tony outlines is the main reason i oppose the very existance of IAR, and that any time someone cites IAR to justify administrative action, i am convinced, byt that citation alone, that the peerson probaly was unjustified and has a very poor case. I have come to see a wikipedia equivalent of Godwin's law here, with the citaion of IAR in an administrative context having the same rhetorical effect as an unjustified comparison to Hitler has in a political context. DES (talk) 15:02, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
Tony, IAR "should never be used to justify making up and enforcing one's own set of rules." - Tεxτurε 15:33, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
  • Mostly good points above. I propose the following addition: "if you Ignore All Rules to take any kind of action, that in no way absolves you from responsibility for that action". A select few people have been taking actions that were heavily disputed, and then basically hiding behind IAR. That is entirely improper. If think some action is a good idea, go ahead and do it. If it turns out to be controversial or disputed, you should consider whether in fact it was a good idea, and you should likely be more careful for repeated issues. Radiant_>|< 15:39, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

I quite agree that IAR in no way absolves anyone from responsibility for their action. However, the trick with IAR is to use it only when what you do is so obviously right that it succeeds. Therefore when I see an RC patroller deleting a non-CSD speedy I don't say immediately "right, he's broken the rules, this was an out-of-process speedy and I should therefore undelete it under the terms of the undeletion policy." I ask myself: "was what this administrator did the right thing for Wikipedia?" The answer is a matter of judgement, and I'm happy to say that usually the answer I get is "yes, this article is worthless." The trick with IAR is to make the right decision, and only ever to use it for obvious cases where the rules break down.

My response to "why not follow process..." is "Why fetishize process over product?" Automatically listing a junk article on VFU is pretty close to WP:POINT, in my opinion. Are we here to exactly follow a rigid set of rules, or are we here to make an encyclopedia? Friday (talk) 17:05, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
I understand your point and it is valid. However, wouldn't you love to not have to talk about adverts like this at all? Why not make it process to delete them? - Tεxτurε 17:13, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

I won't do as Texture suggests because I don't believe that all ads should be speedied. This is a case for judgement call, not for giving admins carte blanche to delete all ads. As for "violating consensus by following IAR", if someone violates consensus when following IAR, then they end up with egg on their face, because the action gets reversed.

I don't think there's anything wrong with DES listing the article on VFU, or even unilaterally undeleting it under the admin exception, for it's a blatantly out-of-proces speedy. However I hope that DES actually thinks that Wikipedia would be better off without the article, otherwise in my opinion he's just clogging up VFU with an empty bureacratic maneuver. I could fairly easily give a hundred more examples of IAR involving speedies; watching speedies happens to be one of my open tasks.

And Friday, thanks for an excellent reformulation of IAR! "Why fetishize process over product? Are we here to exactly follow a rigid set of rules, or are we here to make an encyclopedia?" Alas, VFU/DR has become one forum that has raised process to the level of a sacrament. --Tony SidawayTalk 17:14, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for your responses, Tony, Texture, Radiant, and DES.

I'd like specifically to respond to Tony's point regarding "obvious" speedy deletion. I agree that Jni did the right thing in deleting the advertisement in question, and that it would not be a good idea to undelete it. I'd suggest that the deletion was covered by our vandalism policy, which lists spam as the first type of vandalism. Removing vandalism is recommended for all users, and in this case a reasonable way to do so was to delete the advertisement entirely.

Nonetheless, for the sake of argument let's assume that there wasn't any justification in written policy for this deletion.

If nobody is prepared to argue that the advertisement is a worthwhile thing to have on Wikipedia, then there exists consensus to delete it. Note that DES's argument above doesn't claim that the advertisement is worthwhile, only that the deletion didn't follow the process described on the WP:CSD page. But if nobody really thinks that this material belongs on Wikipedia, then the stated CSD policy is incomplete; it should be amended to reflect the actual consensus.

(Consensus creates policy. If an action is agreeable to the consensus, then it's acceptable, even if it is not yet described by any stated policy. Policy pages are attempts to describe what's been agreed upon, so that it can be understood by new editors and others.)

There's one aspect of Tony's response which strikes me as troubling, though. When he says, "We can look at the deletion log and undelete any major errors, so it's a reversible action," he's referring to something that only administrators can do. By "we" he means "administrators", not "contributors". Deletion is reversible only by administrators, so it's especially important that administrators be confident that they are acting with consensus support when deleting.

The speedy deletion criteria are one attempt to describe consensus. But they can be incomplete; consensus can exist to delete things that don't quite fit. Deleting these things isn't a case of ignoring rules, but of following rules -- rules that simply haven't yet been written down in the policy pages. --FOo 17:24, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

IMO There is a resaon why WP:CSD is writen as it is, and why its rules ought to be strictly followed. The reson why advertisemet articles are not subject to speedy deletion (and this has been proposed in the past) is that in some cases a good NPOV article can be built out of them. Now there is an arguement that it is better to delete the ad and simply let anyone who finds the company worth writing about to do so from scratch. Such an argument is parallel to the argument for deleteing biography articles that fail to claim notability, even though they may turn out to be about notable people and could be converted to fully encyclopedic articles. But that arguemnt has not yet persuaded a community consensus. To speedy delete such ads now is to substitute one admin's judgement for the community consensus, indeed to violate the existing consensus. I thak it that the general meeaning of WP:CSD is "There is consensus that articles fitting these criteria, and only such articles, may be deleted without discussion. all other articles must be discussed. If Tony really wants to rely solely on individual judgement for sdeletion, let him propose a pure-wiki deletion system and try to get consensus for it. Or let him propose a new speedy criterion for articles that seem primarily ads -- I might support that one. Or let him propose "An admin may freely delete any article that seems clearly not to contribute to the encyclopedia". Ot whatever proposal he wants -- let him seek consensu for it. There is, as far as i am aware, no consensus for simply deleting articles felt by some admin to be "junk" but which do not fit any of the CSD. In nominating such improperly speedy deleted articles for undeletion, I feel that I am defendign the existign consensus on what may be deleted without discussion and what requires individual consensus. DES (talk) 17:27, 20 October 2005 (UTC)
As to whether the encyclopedia would be better off with the articel included I don't know. I don't think the person who deleted it knew either. Finding out is what AfD is for. But I do think the encyclopedia will be vastly better off if we can trust admins not to delete articels without a celar consensus, eithjer expressed in advance as part of the CSD, or individuallly in an AfD debate. There is, IMO a very good reason why the main protection for civil rights and liberties is "Due process". While the wiki is not a government nor a social experiment, process is still vital -- it helps ensure traspanency and trust, and thus allows people to cooperate on building content. Thus in my view adherence to process is far more important than any single piece of content, because failure to adhere to process will ultimately destroy the entire project, and every single violation damges the essential communityu trust. DES (talk) 17:27, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't think Fubar Obfusco and I are that far apart, really. What he sees as following some unwritten policy delineated by consensus, is actually a pretty close to a good formulation of IAR. I think we're talking about more-or-less the same thing in different language. I expect that Fubar Obfusco would accept that when someone gets bitten for not following the rules, it isn't the same as successfully accomplishing a task for Wikipedia. The rule-ignorer must carry the day, or withdraw immediately. An example of this is my undeletion related to Wikipedia:Votes_for_deletion/List_of_biomedical_terms. When I saw that my undeletion had no consensus, I withdrew. Was it an action against consensus? No, it was an analog of being bold. A gambit. You don't know what consensus will be until you try it. I got it wrong on that occasion. On a more recent one, Albert M. Wolters, I judged it right.

Now one thing I want to clear up. This is Fubar:

When he says, "We can look at the deletion log and undelete any major errors, so it's a reversible action," he's referring to something that only administrators can do. By "we" he means "administrators", not "contributors".

Absolutely not. Anyone, anyone at all, can watch the deletion log and have an item undeleted via the process in VFU. We have similar processes for deletion, blocking, and moves. These are all reversible actions, well within the reach of any non-admin, whether logged in or not. The wiki is not a place run by royalty. --Tony SidawayTalk 17:46, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Tony, do you think that each and every article that in some way falls under CSD is deleted? Do you think that each and every one should? Or do you feel that CSD is merely a set of "categories" or reasons for speedy deletion? As is the case for any article tagged for speedy delete, the admin has discretion over whether it should be deleted. What's wrong with formalizing that discretion? If it concerns you propose the rule as being specifically at admin discretion for adverts. Are you afraid that not enough people agree with you that admins should have such discretion? (I actually think the opposite - that people would welcome this kind of admin discretion.) - Tεxτurε 17:29, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

I'll ignore your taunting. Obviously enough people do agree that admins have discretion, otherwise speedy deletion wouldn't work, and the wiki would be pretty much unusable.

I don't want to make ads speediable because I don't think ads should all be deleted; some contain useful information and just need to be cleaned up. I don't want to make ads speediable because I don't want to send admins the wrong message. I'd rather that admins speedying ads knew that someone like DES could come along and disagree with them, with a basis in policy to defend a potentially useful article from summary deletion. In other words, I oppose that speedy criterion because I don't want to give admins that much discretion--quite the opposite reason to the one you believed I had. It's preferable that most ads, at least items that are not obviously mere spam, should be decided on by consensus in AfD. --Tony SidawayTalk 17:52, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

"If "Most Ads" should be discussed on AfD before being deleged, why do you find the particular case you have cited acceptable as a speedy deletion, or more accurately an IAR deletion with no specific basis in policy? what make this one different, and where should the line be drawn? of couser if you can specify a clear line, a new speedy criterion could be devised using that line. If ads that "contain no useful information" are ok to delete, should that be a speedy criterion? And you haven't addressed what I see as the breakdown in trust resulting from people deeltign things with no particular consensus or policy to back them. You are (or at least Fubar is) defending informal consensus, the way people actually work -- as establishing a de-facto policy that can then be followed properly. But you reject those very same arguements on undeletion policy, and on the use of "notability" as a deletion criterion. This seems inconsistant to me. DES (talk) 18:05, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

DES makes a point. Somehow you think IAR is the admin's discretion but making that discretion valid is somehow wrong. That doesn't make sense. You seem to want to be able to do what only you think is right (meaning the admin) but you don't want them to have that authority in the first place. Makes no sense. - Tεxτurε 18:43, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Good questions. I think the answer is that discretion, by its nature, cannot be legislated. It's a judgement call. The law gives me the right to self defense, which means if someone attacks me, or I think they're attacking me, and I'm in fear of my life, I can use anything up to lethal force, depending on what is reasonable in the circumstances (which may be a split second, and the law takes that factor into account), to defend myself. The law doesn't say "Tony, if someone attacks you, you may kill them." I hope that the applicability of this distinction between discretion and right is plain. --Tony SidawayTalk 20:53, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

The issue of whether ads should be speedily deleted is not directly relevant here. Personally, I think we should do what's necessary to discourage blatant abuse of Wikipedia's good name. But that's a different issue.
I certainly am defending informal consensus, as DES notes. Consistently with this, I approve of the use of notability as a deletion criterion, when notability is suitably inclusively defined. Notability -- or relevance to a general encyclopedia -- is the broad overarching theme behind more formal deletion criteria such as vanity, spam, dicdef, the WP:MUSIC criteria, and so forth. As with DES's objection to speedy deletion outside of the explicit CSD criteria, I understand that
Regarding undeletion -- Tony has missed my point. The act of undeletion is only available to administrators. Ordinary editors may only petition for undeletion, which is up to an administrator to grant. That is why administrators should make sure they're confident they're acting in support of consensus before deleting: because if they're mistaken, they've broken something that not just anyone can fix.
Moreover, I'm discouraged to see that Tony is continuing the mistake of citing Be bold in updating pages as if it applied to administrative action. That guideline does not refer to administrative acts at all, and there has never to my knowledge been anything resembling consensus to extend it there. Recent attempts at "boldness" by administrators -- such as deleting VfD -- have met with solid opposition. The Administrators policy, which appears to enjoy widespread support, makes it pretty clear that administrative access is only to be used for pretty narrowly drawn purposes. I'm starting to think we need a new guideline, Wikipedia:Be timid when doing something not anyone can undo. --FOo 20:48, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

The idea that VFU is a petitioning page isn't mine. I've done my best to make it operate under both the deletion policy and the undeletion policy, which would make it an organ of group consensus, but enough of that.

The only instance where I've mentioned being bold on this page (which is what makes me wonder what you mean by "continuing the mistake") is in using being bold as an analogy. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the analogy. Both bold editing and bold administrative actions are subject to consensus. If you screw up either of them, you end up with egg on your face. Of course if I took the analogy further then I'd be wrong and you'd be right to reprove me for doing so.

The irony of citing Wikipedia:Administrators in the context of a policy called Ignore all rules, is not lost on me. IAR is not a subtle policy. It's a stick of dynamite. The trick in using it is not to be sitting around in the vicinity when it goes off. --Tony SidawayTalk 21:01, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

On boldness by admins, I've already cited the mundane occurrence of IAR in speedying articles. There was also the recent Albert M. Wolters case, which was overwhelmingly successful. The deletion of the old VfD page also had a predominantly salutary effect. When IAR works, it just seems like common sense. When it fails (and even, in theory, when it doesn't) the normal disciplinary procedures apply. Win-win. And of course it provides an outlet for initiative. --Tony SidawayTalk 08:31, 21 October 2005 (UTC)</nowiki>
Hmm, okay, I think I see what you mean. Let me see if I have it:
I'm going to take you at your word when you say that "[w]hen it fails (and even, in theory, when it doesn't) the normal disciplinary procedures apply."
Now, I'd rather not use the term "disciplinary procedures", for the same reason I've argued against the use of the term "punishment" to refer to blocking and so forth. Wikipedia isn't a bureaucracy, and nobody here has any business punishing or disciplining anyone else. (I take blocking to be a tool to protect the encyclopedia, not a whip to beat misbehaving people with.) I'm taking your use of the expression to mean the various processes that deal with user conduct, that we usually call dispute-resolution procedures -- such as RfC, mediation, and arbitration.
But if what you say is true, then there's not going to be any excuse for bringing up IAR as a defense against charges of having done wrong here. If someone brings up an RfC stating that a user has done something egregious in violation of consensus, then the "accused" has no business pleading "Hey, I was Ignoring All Rules and Being Bold" -- the very fact that an RfC is filed and certified strongly suggests that IAR has already failed in that specific case.
So in that sense, IAR is self-negating: you can ignore all rules if you want to ... but as soon as someone has a problem with what you did, you can't use IAR as a defense.
Or put another way, "Ignore All Rules, Unless Someone Notices."
Which is just another way of saying that consensus rules the day, and cannot be safely ignored. --FOo 02:41, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

Sorry for my faux pas, I do agree that disciplinary is the wrong word to use. It carries the wrong baggage.

I agree that if someone violates consensus through IAR, then it's failed. There's sometimes an easy out on this; if you find you've misjudged you just back off--what one might call the Uncle Ed defence, "oops, I boobed". This wouldn't apply if you blocked against the blocking policy because, even if someone unblocked, disruption would still have occurred for the period the wrongful block was in operation. The same would go for history merging, which cannot easily be reversed.

You write: you can ignore all rules if you want to ... but as soon as someone has a problem with what you did, you can't use IAR as a defense.

It depends on whether there is a consensus that supports the action. In IAR undeletions, that is very easy to see. If someone objects, pop it on AfD, and if there is a consensus to delete you probably did the wrong thing. The same applies to undeletions covered by the undeletion policy, so there's nothing special about IAR there.

Someone may approach you about it later and say "you're not allowed to undelete", and you just point to the support for keeping the article.

If a couple of people approach you with that question, and they're dissatisfied with that answer, they may put an RfC up. There may be a consensus there that, even though the article was kept, you still shouldn't have undeleted. So the effect for the individual can be negative while the effect for the encyclopedia is positive, and the overall effect for the community is also positive because it gets a chance to make a better appraisal of the once-deleted article and decide that it's actually rather good. The way I resolve this is that I think that personal RfC is a matter for those involved in it; IAR has worked well for the community and for the encyclopedia, and that's all that matters.

So looking at IAR as a defense doesn't make sense. The important question to ask of an action under IAR is: did it work? --Tony SidawayTalk 01:39, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

What in the hell?

How can you organize the efforts of a large group of people by saying that it's okay for them to ignore editing (not administration, I know, but still) rules? Not all users have the correct amount of common sense to know when and when not to evoke such a rule. In otherwords, some folks need straightjackets. It could be seen as an allowance of fancruft and all sorts of festering problems that leave Wikipedia looking more and more like a chitty mess with every poor user who signs up or edits anonymously. --FuriousFreddy 01:25, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

Well, let's not forget that we aren't trying to organize a large group of people -- we're trying to write an encyclopedia. We're trying to organize words; we certainly aren't trying to organize people -- to create places for people and to put people in their places. Wikipedia isn't a bureaucracy. We're trying to create a work of nonfiction -- an encyclopedia -- and to do so in a way that doesn't require an editor-in-chief, deputy sub-editors, staff writers, and so on.
There is a place for the "ignore all rules" sentiment. Indeed, there are a number of places for it, because Wikipedia "rules" -- written policies -- are fallible & limited attempts to summarize the rough consensus by which Wikipedia works. There's never going to be a written rule to cover every situation. And what's more, attempting to apply every fiddly little guideline (from the Manual of Style, for instance) is going to stifle a lot of creativity and new user input.
A problem occurs when people use IAR to mean (to put it bluntly) "fuck you all" or "I don't care who gets hurt, I'm doing it my way." But the reason that's a problem doesn't have to do with ignoring rules -- but rather with ignoring people, their efforts and contributions, and consensus.
And it's that very problem which is implicated whenever IAR is used in defense of an unacceptable administrative action. Because administrative powers -- such as deletion or blocking -- have the effect of overruling "ordinary" editors, any out-of-policy use of them does come across as a "fuck you all" ... a disregarding of the principles supporting the trust that the rest of us place in the administrators. --FOo 02:26, 24 October 2005 (UTC)
I mean, I understand the reasoning behind it, but it seems one of those things that worked better when Wikipedia was made up of a smaller group of editors. Yes, at times, rules need to be contested or reanalyzd if it is found they do not work, but, like you said, something like "ignore all rules" can easily be abused by some editor who doesn't understand encyclopedia writing, or doesn't care to understand it. It's certainly something that requires large doses of common sense to execute, but, unfortunately, common sense isn't as widespread as it needs to be.
I've seen instances where users resit the work of others who try to clean-up articles according to the MoS (they don't at first enforce it on them, until the cleanup editor finds he's "not allowed" to cleanup the work of the original author, and points otu that they're only doing it in the interest of improve the English in the article), and all sorts of edit wars and such that go against the very spirit of the project. And those are the types to abuse something like this. People who use it with discresion would probably be able to do so without controversy (and probably without notice as well). --FuriousFreddy 15:59, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

Alternative to policy or guideline template

Would something like this work?

This page is one of the five pillars of Wikipedia. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. Feel free to update the page as needed, but make sure that changes you make to this policy really do reflect consensus, before you make them.

Friday (talk) 17:31, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

The problem is that the page does not have "wide acceptance", not unless you include a commeht that it is also widely disputed/objected to, if perhaps not as widely. The wording above implies that the page is supported by consensus, which the discussions here indicate is not the case. DES (talk) 17:45, 24 October 2005 (UTC)
I can see two ways for this to go, then. First, we need to figure out whether the pillar "Wikipedia does not have firm rules" is the subject of such controversy, or whether the particular wording here is the reason for the disagreement. If it's the former, we could use wording like "Although this is defined as one of Wikipedia's five pillars, there has been some controversy surrounding its application..." If it's the latter, we either fix the wording here or make a "No Firm rules" page, and put the policy template on. My understanding of the pillars is that they're fundamental and not really intended to be subject to debate. Of course, just because there's not supposed to be disagreement, this doesn't cause all editors to magically agree. Friday (talk) 18:14, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

I concur with DES - it doesn't have wide acceptance, and it would be a lie to say it does. Furthermore, this page is blatantly misunderstood by 95% of people at large, who think they can use it to justify misbehavior in whatever fashion suits them. →Raul654 18:16, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

Do you really think it's such a large percentage? Or are there perhaps a smaller number who's actions are sufficiently controversial or disruptive as to make it seem like more? Friday (talk) 18:22, 24 October 2005 (UTC)
Well in the "poll" above, i see 57 people indicating "support" and 23 indicating "oppose". When i first saw this page, my immediate action was to log an "oppose" and frankly i would be happiest if this page were to silently vanish forever -- i think it does harm to the project. I belive that there is a sizable percentage of regular editors here who share my views on this, to some extant. There is also a sizable number who feel quite the opposite. I don't know what the percentage is, and I don't belive that the poll above, with "votes" spread out over years, is a good indicator of current community feeling about this concept. But i don't have a better one. There are certianly a number of respected long-time editors who have expressed opposition to the concept here and elsewhere, and a number of others who have supported it. I don't think it can safely be described as having consensus support, or "wide support" unless the rather wide opposition is also mentioned. Perhaps a tag similar to the one on WP:RPA (which i also oppose) might be a good idea? DES (talk) 21:42, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

"Ignore all rules" is an unfortunate title for an important concept. The fact that Jimbo supports IAR in its present form has ended most serious debate about it. There is widespread support for the core concepts that (a) rules are a means to an end rather than an end in themselves, (b) judgement and the best interests of the project take precedence over rules, (c) wide lattitude is given to serious participants in the project who take action in good faith that is technically not in compliance with the rules, and (d) none of this is an excuse for recklessness or personal aggrandizement. There is considerable opposition to oversimplifying this concept into "ignore all rules." There is also considerable support for the oversimplified edition of the concept. The Uninvited Co., Inc. 17:06, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

Wow. That was clear, concise, and probably in line with Wikipedia consensus. Have you considered adding that to the policy page? TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:12, 25 October 2005 (UTC)
I support your points A and D, strongly oppose your point C, and I am dubious about yout point B. I don't honestly think your point C can be supported without effectively supporting what you call "the oversimplified veersion" of the IAR concept. The problem with B is that I have seen too many cases where experienced users were conviced that their judgement told them that what was best for the project was to ignore a rule that on its face seemed to be clearcut. So far IMO not one of those people was correct. On my experience, such use of judgement in fact does more harm than good -- far more. Not everyone agrees with this view, indeed it is probably a minority view. I am not at all sure it is rare enough that even your "more nuanced" version can be said to have "wide support". DES (talk) 17:16, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

I like the current formulation. All it's saying really is:

  • This is a wiki.
  • This wiki is for making an encyclopedia.

All the other stuff is just a means to an end. If the rules don't work, ditch the rules, not the encyclopedia. --Tony SidawayTalk 01:45, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

Tighten; dynamite

I've tried to make the writing tighter — make it something people might actually read rather than have wash over them. Also added the dynamite analogy - David Gerard 20:15, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

This latest edit is great! It seems clear to me, and I cannot possibly fathom how anyone could disapprove of it. Since there are no objections, I think it should be given a {{policy}} tag ASAP.  ;-) Friday (talk) 20:19, 28 October 2005 (UTC)

Cast as a dispute resolution tool?

TenOfAllTrades, I'm not sure what you mean by, "WP:IAR shouldn't be cast as a dispute resolution tool." Of course it shouldn't, and nobody has claimed that it should. In fact, quite the opposite as stated in the When NOT to ignore all rules section. Could you please clarify your concern? --Zephram Stark 02:51, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

You have, in fact, claimed that all Wikipedia rules are for the purpose of dispute resolution. Jayjg (talk) 03:56, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
Which is why you can ignore all rules when there isn't a dispute, right? --Zephram Stark 03:59, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't understand your statement. The purpose of rules/policies in Wikipedia is to create a great encyclopedia - that it the whole purpose of this venture, and the rules around it. Jayjg (talk) 04:11, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
Also, the paragraph you inserted - In a perfect Wiki, everyone would place the importance of collective thought above personal bias, but we sometimes find ourselves in disputes where bigotry threatens the NPOV of the article. Natural human tendency prompts us to offset unyielding partiality by any tools at our disposal——disparaging remarks, counterbalance bigotry, and unintended use of administration power——but these tools only compound perceptions of intolerance. Wikipedia has created policies and guidelines to assist us in resolving partisan disputes. These policies are not weapons to destroy an obdurate editor. They are only a means of achieving consensus. To minimize vandalism and enable the collective power of easy mass editing, our aim in using rules must always be to get to the point where we can ignore all rules. We must always strive for a system that works without them - is a just a completely POV summary of what you claimed happened at the Terrorism page, and has nothing to do with "Ignore all rules". Please recall that Wikipedia is not a soapbox. Jayjg (talk) 04:16, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
I also support the removal of Zephram Stark's additions; they're drifting off into soapboxing and overspecific interpretation, which I don't believe suits the nature of this page. Mindspillage (spill yours?) 06:05, 30 October 2005 (UTC)


Am I the only person who thinks that IAR should hold IAR, with the fewest words possible? We can always make a Philosophy behind IAR page to complement it.

Else we'll end up with a page *about* IAR, but no page that actually has the rule :-/

Kim Bruning 04:05, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

I am in favor of keeping this page as the minimalistic version, for this reason. A thought: Wikipedia:Use common sense currently redirects to this page. I wonder if it couldn't be used instead to present the philosophical notes and interpretations that have been inserted on IAR, with a sentence of text on IAR itself directing the reader there... this as the provocative page name with the short statement, the other titled with the intent as commonly interpreted giving the common interpretations, as a companion page. Mindspillage (spill yours?) 06:19, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
The current version is a mess, IMHO. The page should be reverted back to the one-paragraph version of little over a month ago. BlankVerse 06:29, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

something to ponder

It has been stated that the entirety of wikipedia policy can be derived from (one of the sane versions of) IAR. Consider how IAR could be interpreted in this way? :-) Kim Bruning 04:22, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

Someone started the concept of IAR, so somebody understands it. The oldest edit listed in the article's history was (17:21, 17 April 2002 Lee Daniel Crocker m). I assume that the m means he could not have started it, so who did? The IAR is obviously an advanced level postulate, so what are the premises we have to assume for its foundation? How can we objectively define "common sense?" When exactly do we ignore all rules? There are answers to these questions, but we have to explore the foundations of IAR in order to find them. --Zephram Stark 13:43, 30 October 2005 (UTC)


See #Larry Sanger on the origins of this rule. -- nyenyec  17:47, 30 October 2005 (UTC)
The history of IAR is very interesting. It shows that rules weren't needed in the beginning of Wikipedia, and Wikipedia worked rather well without them. In fact, it seems that the more rules that are added, the more are needed. This observation is consistent with government in general. To end the downward spiral, we have to ask ourselves and our administrative representatives, "Under what conditions would rules be unnecessary?"
  • A representative of a stable administration will tell you that consensus of action by all constituents would render the need for rules obsolete.
  • Whereas, a corrupt administrator will tell you that rules are needed to steer constituents in the right direction.
--Zephram Stark 19:32, 30 October 2005 (UTC)

My edit asserts that "Wikipedia rules exist for the sole purpose of creating structure for dispute resolution when consensus is not reached." If that is not true, what other reasons exist for Wikipedia rules? --Zephram Stark 02:31, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

That diagram is useful, but the top rule should be "Don't be a dick" - David Gerard 14:47, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

LOL, exactly. --Zephram Stark 15:36, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
"whatever version we use, it can't be one which asserts that Wikipedia rules are solely for dispute resolution" - Jayjg (from IAR history)

In fact, any one of WP:TRI could be equally usefully be on top, that's what TRI is about :-) Kim Bruning 18:26, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

In addition to all policy being derived from the trifecta, any two parts of the trifecta lead to the third. For instance, you could say, "If you aren't a dick and your edits are NPOV, you can ignore all rules." --Zephram Stark 19:29, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
If you wanted to be objective about it you could say, "For those whose highest priority is to reach consensus, rules are not needed." --Zephram Stark 04:24, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

Good rewrite

I think the expanded version of the page goes quite a way towards nipping obvious objections to the original wording in the bud. I do believe IAR is important, albeit a difficult idea to express. It's neither a license to create mayhem nor a rally for anarchy — it's simply a way of saying that it's the spirit of the rules and good-natured contribution towards our mutual goal that matters, not bickering over the fine points and corner cases of some well-intended policy. Deco 02:17, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

Objectively Defining the IAR

There's nothing a good editor hates worse than a bunch of rules, unless it's a promise that they have certain editing rights when, in fact, they don't. Wikipedia claims to give editors a level playing field, so that the best edits will naturally win out over POV, grabs for power, and history rewriting, but it doesn't deliver on that promise. I don't think the answer is to give new editors more rules. I think the answer lies in being honest. If the rules are so subjective that administrators can do anything they want, why have the pretense of rules at all? Why not just say that the senior editors (read: administrators) control the content of Wikipedia? That's the way it is, so why all the illusion of arbitration committees that merely side with fellow admins? Why have a list of reasons for blocks when administrators don't have to cite any of those reasons?

Wikipedia would get a few good editors if it admits that administrators control content. I'm sure that at least one person in a hundred would be willing to pay their dues as a non-administrator until they can work their way up the ladder. But our current method of promising new writers that a better-written, more neutral edit will become the article through consensus, when all they see is administrative bias determining the outcome, will surely scare off every new good editor we attract. In a best case scenario, they will go away believing that Wikipedia is fundamentally flawed. In a worst case scenario, they'll be so angry that they become petty vandals or worse, but what would it take to attract and keep great new editors? If we put ourselves in their situation, imagining ourselves new to Wikipedia, what would we want?

I believe the number one thing a new editor would want is an objective definition for the IAR. They would want to know that they can ignore all rules and concentrate on just helping to write a great article within an expressly defined arena. If that arena were that a new editor merely had to work with other editors, considering their opinion as equal to their own, I don't think we would scare away a single great writer. To a large extent, Wikipedia already makes this promise, but we also have to deliver on it if we want to stem the growing tide of vandalism, poor editing practices, and a general sense that Wikipedia doesn't belong to the editors—that unless we are administrators, we have no real stewardship of Wikipedia. --Zephram Stark 02:35, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

However, with a project this large, you really can't afford to just ignore all the rules. Such a concept assumes that a user is mature and reasonable enough to know when and how to impliment it, and, trust me, not all Wikipedians are on that level. You end up with editors blissfully ignoring established precedents, templates, layout schemes, and basically using Wikipedia like a message board or a free fansite server. In my humble opinion, we need more rules, or at least we need to do a better job of enforcing the ones we already have. Otherwise, I don't forsee Wikipedia developing into a reliable reference, but instead into a dense, inconsistent, and low-quality repository for any and everything. --FuriousFreddy 07:40, 6 November 2005 (UTC)
I don't know. It seems to me that part of the magic of "everybody can edit everything" is that someone who doesn't know the rules and has no desire to learn them can still deliver useful content that's reformatted and edited by others into a standard Wikipedia article. Just think of it as a two-step process: the unwashed masses spend lots of time writing detailed content, and then the veteran Wikipedians with a good grounding in the rules and standards spend relatively little effort to polish it. If a reader happens to stumble across an intermediate version of the article, well, it's better to have some poorly organized information on a topic than none at all. Deco 02:37, 7 November 2005 (UTC)
As a Jeffersonian, I'm of the opinion that, given enough transparency, communication, and consensus enabling tools, the best content is created through peer proofing, not through administrative content control. --Zephram Stark 14:17, 7 November 2005 (UTC)