Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines/Archive 9

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NPOV/FAQ status

Should the "Frequently Asked Questions" page for a Policy also be a Policy? From my understanding, FAQ's are never policy, they are merely a guideline to an actual policy or other areas that have a need for a FAQ on them. There was some material that legitimately fell under Policy, but it was moved over a month ago. Please weigh in on the RfC: Is a FAQ a Policy RFC to determine if there is consensus for this (or any) FAQ to be a Policy or a Guideline - if even could be just left as a FAQ page with no designation. Thanks! Dreadstar 02:05, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

A quorum for policies and guidelines - and possibly a sunset clause. There are far too many guidelines

I also wonder if we don't need a quorum for adopting guidelines. There are apparently over 20,000 active Wikipedia editors. If fewer than 0.2% of them think it would be good to have a guideline on X then that's lovely - but (especially if there is a dissenting minority) we can hardly claim that this 'is "generally accepted". In practice the first most editors know of the existence of a new guideline is when someone comes up to them and says "you have violated guideline X". It is also much easier to add guidelines than to remove them, so they are proliferating. More than 200 guidelines is ridiculous! Not quite sure what to suggest but here are some thoughts:

  1. We could simply set a quorum for a guideline vote. Perhaps 1% of the number of editors.
  2. It might be better to have a category called "new guideline" which could be adopted by consensus of (say) 0.5% of the number of editors, but which could then be applied for a period of time (say 6 months) during which time people could vote on whether it was promoted to a guideline. This would allow us to see whether in practice the guideline was accepted, and also help improve them.
  3. We should have some kind of sunset mechanism, so that a guideline will automatically lapse after (say) 12 months unless there is a strong consensus to keep it.
  4. It might be worth deciding on a sensible limit for the number of guidelines we should have. 20 would be fine (there are 20 listed in the sidebar) 30 might be OK, 40 at an absolute limit. Then we could vote on which of the guidelines should be kept.

What do people think? NBeale (talk) 16:58, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

There are quite a large number of guidelines; however, the reason there are so many is that most of them have quite a narrow scope; arbitrarily limiting the number of guidelines ignores the fact that there are 2,892,267 articles out there; 200 guidelines to cover them all is actually quite small, if you think about it. Quite a lot of the guidelines are part of the Manual of Style (in which case not many people actually care about the issue one way or the other, and they generally only get strictly applied to featured articles) or the naming conventions (which generally only apply to a narrow category of article, anyway). Requiring a quorum smacks of instruction creep to me; we are not a bureacracy, any guideline which loses consensus will get ignored anyway. Guidelines are descriptive, not prescriptive. They should describe what the community thinks is best practice. If you think the guideline does not reflect best practice, then start a discussion on the talk page to change it until it does. If the editors of WikiProject Iraq want to create a guideline that only applies to Iraq-related articles, it's going to be quite difficult to get even 50 editors to comment. Most requests for adminship, probably the most-participated in discussions on the site, don't even get 100 participants. There is no reason for an arbitrary quorum; if the guideline has no consensus, it will be demoted or simply ignored. Most of the active users on this site aren't interested in the arcane discussions that take place in the Wikipedia: and Wikipedia talk: namespaces; setting an arbitrary minimum based on that number makes no sense.--Aervanath (talk) 17:21, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
The proliferation of guidelines seems to me to be precisely an example of instruction creep and bureacracy. At the very minumum there needs to be an effective mechanims to demote a guideline. And surely it should be harder to promulgate a guideline than to get an Admin position. NBeale (talk) 06:11, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
If the guideline is only going to apply to a very narrow field of articles, why should it need so much participation? See my example concerning Iraq in my last comment. Be careful when invoking WP:CREEP; it's only bad if it's not actually needed. Most of the guidelines we have are necessary. If you find some that are not, you are free to propose their demotion on their talk pages.--Aervanath (talk) 07:06, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Here we have 26 editors deciding to promulgate a guideline (with 6 voting against and 99.8% of editors knowing nothing about it), and now you are threatening to block other editors for violating this guideline. It just won't do. NBeale (talk) 11:28, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I'm not threatening to block you for violating that guideline before it was promoted. I'm saying that you will probably be blocked if you continue to plagiarize, both because of the guideline and because it is a fundamental tenet of intellectual honesty. Regardless of the guideline, plagiarism is not acceptable on Wikipedia, or pretty much anwhere else, for that matter; I challenge you to find any reference work that encourages copying text without attribution. If you disagree with the guideline, take it to WP:VPP and the guideline's talk page and try to get it demoted. I highly doubt you will be able to. If you read the debate, the six editors arguing against the guideline were not arguing that we should plagiarize, they were simply arguing that the current wording of the guideline wasn't suitable. If you can find other editors on Wikipedia who feel that plagiarism is the proper way to build our encyclopedia, good luck to you. You'll need it. There are already 26 editors who have expressed support for the guideline, not counting myself and the anonymous editor in the thread above. There are many more out there who would support it, I'm sure. But, as I said, if you believe Wikipedia consensus actually supports plagiarism, go find those editors that agree with you.--Aervanath (talk) 17:04, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Minor thing

Here's a small thing I'm checking with first; WP:PAG also redirects here. So it should be included on the shortcut list, right?

7h3 0N3 7h3 \/4Nl)4L5 Pl-l34R ( t / c) 04:45, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Actually, you'll find that a lot of policies have redirects that aren't listed on the page. Also, my knee-jerk reaction to "pag" is that it just sounds bad (maybe because it rhymes with "sag", "nag", and "fag", none of which carry particularly nice implications). However, "I don't like the way it sounds" isn't exactly a solid argument to object to you adding it to the shortcut box here. I usually regard four (or at the most five) as an appropriate number of redirects to have on the page, so I guess you can go ahead and add it.--Aervanath (talk) 05:29, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Dating policies & guidelines

A few days ago a 26/6 vote promulgated a guideline on plagarism. The first I heard of it was when some editors started visiting my talk page complaining that articles written long before this guideline violated it. The guideline clearly needs some more work and I do worry about the small number of voters - but more generally the guideline template should specify the date at which a guideline was adopted. NBeale (talk) 06:20, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

If it's an issue of plagiarism, then the existence or otherwise of a WP guideline is irrelevant. By reason of simple law, WP articles should not plagiarize sources. If an article is plagiarized, you cannot hide behind "oh, the guideline didn't come into force until after I copied the material from elsewhere and failed to attribute it." (talk) 07:10, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
Hi Anon. What simple law do you suppose forbids plagarism (as opposed to copyright violation)? In what legal system? NBeale (talk) 20:59, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
Sorry - yes of course I should have said that it's copyright that is a matter of law, while plagiarism is a matter of common sense and common courtesy, not to mention avoidance of misleading your readers and cheating. And none of it can be excused because that particular guideline on plagiarism had not appeared when you were plagiarizing those sources. (talk) 09:52, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
Precisely: common sense and courtesy. Which means that you give specific attributions where it makes sense to do so, but not on every conceivable occasion, applying the Golden Rule. Wikipedia is not an exam or a work of attributed authorship, and it is silly to act as though it were. However this is not really the point of my post, which is that "a generally accepted standard" cannot be retrospective. I also think that there should be a quorum - see below. (BTW if you are a new anon you might want to learn some basics of Wikipedia before posting - and if you are not you might want to recall them and have the courage to make your comments under your own ID) NBeale (talk) 16:40, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
I have to disagree that "Wikipedia is not ... a work of attributed authorship". Read the GFDL; attribution is the one thing we are REQUIRED to provide. So yes, plagiarism has always been implicitly forbidden; the guideline only makes this explicit. If you have plagiarized, please go back and fix the plagiarism. This can simply be done by paraphrasing, nothing mindbogglingly complex need be done.--Aervanath (talk) 17:01, 25 May 2009 (UTC)
I've read the GFDL. It was developed for software manuals and contains a great deal that is not relevant to Wikipedia. For example to talks about listing "on the Title Page, as authors, one or more persons or entities responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified Version, together with at least five of the principal authors of the Document" but that is clearly not applicable for Wikipedia and usually impossible. Apart from that, I cannot find anything about attribution. What text do you think is relevant? I haven't "plagarized" or "cheated" - these concepts don't apply in Wikipedia articles in remotely the same way that they do in (say) exams. It seems to me to be a fundamental fact about Wikipedia that editors should not, and do not, claim credit for authroship of particular articles. NBeale (talk) 06:24, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Whatever you think about the GFDL or its original purpose, it certainly does apply to Wikipedia. Also, the new CC-BY-SA license also carries an attribution requirement. That is the whole point of having the revision history attached to each page. While Wikipedia authors can not claim ownership of articles, they certainly can claim attribution rights. This is non-negotiable, and continual plagiarism will probably result in editors being blocked by an administrator. Not because it's "cheating", but because it violates the common-sense reasons set forth in Wikipedia:Plagiarism. While that guideline may have been recently promoted, the reasoning behind it is not new, and still makes large amounts of sense. For your own sake on Wikipedia, please follow it.--Aervanath (talk) 07:16, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Sorry - where do you think attribution is required in the GFDL? And how does an Editor "claim attribution rights" (non-negotiable or otherwise)? Especially since most of them are anonymous and very few articles can be said to be written by any single Editor NBeale (talk) 11:25, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

How about "4. MODIFICATIONS ... you must do these things in the Modified Version: List ... the principal authors of the Document ... unless they release you from this requirement"? That seems pretty clear. But in any case, you surely do not need a WP guideline to tell you that using another's words without attribution is wrong. You can't hide behind "nobody told me" - it's been common practice on WP from Day One, and common knowledge in life for far longer than that, that plagiarism is wrong. (talk) 11:59, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Hi Anon. (Are you Aevenath BTW? - If so why are you anon? In any case why do you think you know about Day One on Wikipedia?). This is a requirement (that AFAIK is never enforced) that people who copy text from Wikipedia should list the 5 principal authors of an article. (a) in most cases this is impossible. (b) this has nothing to do with whether Editors should give the kinds of attributions to sources that we would if we were writing a book or an academic paper. It is simply ridiculous to claim that "using another's words without attribution is wrong" in all contexts and situations. NBeale (talk) 12:51, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I can assure you that is not me; I have never edited Wikipedia anonymously, as I want all my edits attributed to my username. I also wouldn't say that either I or (who I wish would get a username so that I wouldn't have to type those digits out every time, *grin*) have any direct knowledge of Day One, as you put it. However, we are trying to make a professional reference work here; Wikipedia is continually being held up to other respected encyclopedias such as Britannica. If we are to do that, we can't plagiarize. Simple as that.--Aervanath (talk) 17:00, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
We are absolutely not trying to make a professional reference work. The whole point of wikipedia is that it the editors are an open set of (often anonymous) amateurs who are not claiming personal credit for the work, and that most wikipedia articles are not written by anyone- but the composite result of a large number of edits. This is precisely why the concept of plagarism does not apply, and why Wikipedia has managed perfectly fine without this absurd guideline until now. NBeale (talk) 21:45, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
Except, of course, insofar as the whole blockable offense thing at WP:CP is concerned--which has been in place for several years. When Fox News views plagiarism on Wikipedia as worthy of reporting, we have pretty good evidence that the public expects Wikipedia not to plagiarize. So does Jimbo Wales, according to what he told the press in 2006: that when we find a contributor who has plagiarized, we check every contribution that this contributor has made. To quote that Associated Press article, "Wales said plagiarism is always possible in a site that offers “wide-open editing ... but in general we take a very strong anti-plagiarism stance.” Any time plagiarism is brought to the site's attention, he said, Wikipedia administrators review all postings made by that author."[1]. That plagiarism is a concern to Wikipedia, one to be taken seriously and on which we should have a strong stance is by no means a new concept. Even before this particular scandal, Wales had a strong stance on plagiarism, saying almost a full year prior that "There is no need nor intention to be vindictive, but at the same time, we can not tolerate plagiarism. Let me say quite firmly that for me, the legal issues are important, but far far far more important are the moral issues. We want to be able, all of us, to point at Wikipedia and say: we made it ourselves, fair and square."(ANI, 12/2005) and "We need to deal with such activities with absolute harshness, no mercy, because this kind of plagiarism is 100% at odds with all of our core principles. All admins are invited to block any and all similar users on sight. Be bold. If someone takes you to ArbCom over it, have no fear. We must not tolerate plagiarism in the least." (AN, 12/2005). See also [2] for some of the other discussions on the two primary administrators' noticeboards. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 22:16, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Jimbo's role

Over at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Paid editing Jimbo has recently asserted his continuing ability to make policy decisions above and beyond those required by the Wikimedia Foundation. This is consistent with this page and his past role on the English Wikipedia. Is it still necessary and proper for him to have this authority? Eluchil404 (talk) 00:02, 11 June 2009 (UTC)

Part of me wants to say "yes" because this is HIS creation, regardless of all the talk of this being a user-driven consensus oriented place, I know how I would feel about something I created having rules that are opposite of what I had intended and wanting to correct those mistakes. Another part of me wants to say "no" because even George Washington stepped aside after 8 years and let the country go its own way and evolve on its own even though it did not turn out as he had hoped (we've actually become the country Alexander Hamilton dreamed of and the complete opposite of what Thomas Jefferson wanted). And so like the Founding Father's perhaps Jimbo should step aside and allow his creation to continue to mature and grow and yes even perhaps become something opposite of what he wanted. He always has the right to start a new online encyclopedia in the image that he wants (unless there is some sort of non-compete clause in a contract he has signed somewhere). But in the end- it is Jimbo's decision (or that of the Wikimedia Foundation) to define Jimbo's role on policy decisions and not the role of a consensus of users here to define his role. This is no place for a "palace coup" against Jimbo and say "no, Jimbo cant state policy on here that contradicts the community". We are users of a website he created, we arent the owners.Camelbinky (talk) 22:47, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Categorization of people/boilerplate fact policy

Resolved: Already resolved at another talk page, referenced below.

An editor recently added this page to Category:Wikipedia content policies. I don't see any support from anyone else for including this page in our content policies, and when I look at the other 7 pages in the cat and then look at this new page, I get a very "one of these things just doesn't belong here" impression. Thoughts? My sense from here is that he hasn't read the link to WP:POLICY that I mentioned when I reverted. - Dank (push to talk) 15:39, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

P.S. I'll go add a link from WP:VPP. - Dank (push to talk) 15:39, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I don't see how it belongs in that category (or any policy category at all, really). Or indeed why such a page needs to exist.--Kotniski (talk) 15:54, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
  • Of course they belong. Categories are how we keep track of these things. Certainly, this isn't the first. (Is Kotniski now WP:STALKING my talk page, having never edited here before?)
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 16:11, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Huh? I have this page on my watchlist, having edited it many times. AGF, NPA, etc. etc.--Kotniski (talk) 16:38, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
  • Pardon me, I mistakenly checked the Project page history, not the Talk page history. It seemed odd that you commented about the same time I'd gotten the orange note from my Talk.
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 17:15, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

So, the general question, and I'm hoping people will weigh in so that we can handle this with less fuss the next time it happens: when it's time for the monthly WP:Update of policies, and someone has added a page to one of the content, deletion or enforcement cats without any apparent consensus to add the page, what do we do? I follow WP:1RR, so there's nothing I can do in this and similar cases except hope that other people will get involved. Anyone have a preference what forum I should use for stuff like this? - Dank (push to talk) 16:29, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

I think this forum and VPP are most appropriate. If people are policifying pages without consensus, they need to be reverted, and reported to ANI if they repeat. --Kotniski (talk) 16:43, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
  • I'm happy with this forum. VPP for notices as always. (I prefer to talk elsewhere than VPP, as the crowd can make the notices roll off the watchlist.)
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 17:15, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
The summary at the top of the page WAS is referring to says: "This page includes a summary of official policies on the English Wikipedia which are set out in detail elsewhere. Policies have wide acceptance among editors and are considered standards that all editors should follow. When editing this page, please ensure that your revision is consistent with the underlying policies. When in doubt, discuss first on the talk page." - Dank (push to talk) 17:28, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

OK, I think I now see what this page is doing. It's being transcluded onto two different policy/guideline pages, as if it was a part of those pages. I really don't think this is a good use of transclusion. It means that people think they are watching certain pages, but will be unaware of changes being made to those pages via the transcluded page. If the subject matter is within the scope of two different pages, then write it out on one of those pages, and on the second one (summarize it and) give a link to the first one.--Kotniski (talk) 16:52, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

  • So, you made several edits here without actually looking at the page? The history? The links? The log? (Anytime I'm working on an edit, I've found it best to put those in tabs before starting.) Quantity of comments is not quality. Could be that's how you beat me to my own Talk.
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 17:15, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
  • It's early in the discussion and this is growing tiresome already. You were asked to WP:AGF and I think Kotinski deserves it. Just because you take the time to open four additional tabs before making an edit does not mean that is the standard practice for all editors. Kotinski merely weighed in on this discussion about appropriate use of the page and appropriate location for the discussion with no personal attacks to warrant your attitude.
  • Additionally, is it not you who has the most quantity of comments in this discussion?
  • In the interest of disclosure, I found out about this discussion on WP:VPP and I've never edited here. I hope that does not mean my motives will be questioned, too. —Ost (talk) 19:01, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
  • And a hearty welcome to you. Do you have something of substance to add? This is only my 3rd edit here (note time stamps). The context you are missing is that Kotniski has been responding to my work everywhere for several weeks, with edits only a few minutes after mine. In this case, without understanding the substance. Yeah, it's tiresome. Presumably he's using some kind of program. All in good faith, I'm sure....
    --William Allen Simpson (talk) 07:02, 24 June 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry if you've got the impression I'm hounding you, but I can assure you that's not the case - it's pure coincidence that we both happened to be in this conversation, as I've already explained. And it's hardly surprising that I should respond to your comment within a few minutes in a discussion that we're both already involved in (per your link). As I've asked you several times already - please calm down, assume good faith, stop personalizing, discuss the issues of substance (as I did above), and we'll get along fine. Now, can you address the substance of the issue with the transclusion? Does it offer any benefits to outweigh the drawbacks I've mentioned?--Kotniski (talk) 08:43, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

"Categories are how we keep track of these things." vs "My answer is that the Category is used to collect pages with policy, but the Wikipedia:List of policies is definitive, as that has a history, can be annotated, and has a related Talk page." Would I be right in thinking that tags at the tops of policy pages automatically categorize them? I ask because I've more than once had to point out on the list talk page that there are pages with policy tags not listed in the list, or vice versa. If it isn't automatic, then there are 3 different views about what's policy. I'd point out that the reader is directed to the list, so it would help if that were correct. Peter jackson (talk) 16:58, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Template:Policy certainly does automatic categorization. It would certainly be nice if the tags, the categories and the list were all consistent. Although the situation with guidelines is much worse - there are hundreds of them, and I don't suppose anyone's keeping track of them.--Kotniski (talk) 17:10, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

This was resolved amicably elsewhere. To avoid textual drift, put all our eggs in one basket, and watch that basket! I'll see what I can do about the parallel language at WP:GRS#Sexuality, too.
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 01:24, 28 June 2009 (UTC)


last edit was: this has been the standard way of stating this for at least six years here. It doesn't show up in any of the monthly updates. - Dank (push to talk) 12:50, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

"Here" is Wikipedia. Not this page. However, if you'll look at the May 2003 section on how policy comes to be formed, you'll find almost identical verbiage. There is also this, which might be illuminating. I assure you; for people here since 2005 or so, this is not news. It seems to have been lost in the shuffle, however. KillerChihuahua?!? 13:31, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Adding, "descriptive" was in the first instance of this page, in 2001. Here is a link to the 2003 verbiage. KillerChihuahua?!? 13:41, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Adding, what the heck is a "monthly update"? KillerChihuahua?!? 13:43, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Oh, you're in for a treat: WP:Update. - Dank (push to talk) 14:00, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
I see they've been doing this since Aug 2008? Dear me. Six months of digests. Not sure I'd call this a "treat". KillerChihuahua?!? 14:08, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
I take that back. this is highly useful, thanks. KillerChihuahua?!? 14:20, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

(Copied from KC's talk page): Hiya, I know you've got tons of clue from your RFA comments and elsewhere, so I'll get right to the point: "policy is X, not Y" is bad for all combinations of X and Y. The whole WP:POLICY page goes to some pains to try to convince people that it's not that simple. In particular, saying that policy is not presciptive tends to get repeated at ArbCom (despite the fact that it's not our policy) by troublemakers as a get-out-of-jail-free card. That's the downside ... can you tell me a little bit about what you're looking for as an upside? It's likely that some kind of suitable change can be made to the page that addresses your concerns. Feel free to respond wherever you like, or not. - Dank (push to talk) 13:27, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Lets keep it on the appropriate talk page, shall we? As you've already begun Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines#O RLY? I see no reason to duplicate discussion and exclude others by splitting the topic here. KillerChihuahua?!? 13:36, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, I think the change he's looking for is "policy is descriptive, not prescriptive". There's some meta-humor in your asking for upsides or downsides: perhaps there are some, but at the end of the day: what is, is. ;-)
To put it in another way, wikipedia policy pages are like an "encyclopedia about our encyclopedia". They tend to describe what works and what doesn't, although there's a notable bias being introduced by people who like to play politics (see also: Nomic).
To put it another way, there's a tension between realists and idealists. The realists describe how Wikipedia works, whether good or not, while the idealists try to write how they think wikipedia *should* work.
Ironically, the idealists end up disenfranchising themselves and others, because they end up removing actual empowering knowledge on how to make the wiki bend to one's will.
This is why the realists will always win in the end. <#include evil_laugh.h> --Kim Bruning (talk) 13:43, 27 June 2009 (UTC) I'll admit this answer is annoyingly meta. If you're stuck with it, I can try a different tack, if you like. Also, let's go to WP:POLICY?
Isn't it possible that some of the people who have kept up with and worked on policy pages over the last year, including this one, might object to the idea that both their work and the contents of the page over the last year are irrelevant, because of something someone said in 2005? Presumably, they have ideas about what they're trying to achieve with the more nuanced wording, and I hope they'll weigh in. (Disclaimer: as people have become more satisfied that there isn't anything seriously wrong on pages like this one, or at least not so serious that it's going to destroy the wiki, interest has waned in keeping up with day-to-day discussions; thus the WP:Update. So we may not have hordes of people jumping to the rescue of their favorite sentence. All the more reason to make changes slowly and with deliberation.) - Dank (push to talk) 14:18, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Missed this earlier, apologies: Who the heck said anyone's work was irrelevant? You're tilting at windmills here, no one has even implied anything of the kind. KillerChihuahua?!? 15:20, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
KC, when I click on your link above, the first thing I see is: "Did you mean: Policy is descriptive, and prescriptive?" Yes, "not prescriptive" is currently in WP:NOT, but there's been a lot of wrestling with that over the last year, and more importantly, the paragraph makes it clear that the statement is supporting and explaining the topic sentence, "Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy". I don't object to the sentence (much) in that context. On this page, it's a bit jarring in its bare form. I'd be okay with it if you want to add language giving context and precision, otherwise it's going to create a headache for ArbCom because of the way many people interpret the sentence. - Dank (push to talk) 14:26, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Google is fond of offering "suggestions" for possible mis-spellings and mis-phrasings. Google search's suggestions are often unhelpful. As it happens, I meant precisely what I typed. Which leaves us with your statement, boiled down and mightily paraphrased, as "I think it could cause ArbCom problems with wiki-lawyers. We should take this out" to which I reply "ArbCom already has problems with Wiki-lawyers and is quite capable. Since you're an admin(!) and woefully unaware that this is in fact how it is, you have yourself been the poster child for why this needs spelling out here. Had you already been aware, I would not have been so convinced that it required inclusion. Now I am certain." Oh, and try actually looking at the instances in the search results, too. KillerChihuahua?!? 14:35, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
I would imagine that people who have actually been keeping up with changes in the policy pages don't need to use Google searches to tell them what Wikipedia policy pages say and have said. Anyway, I suggest, I don't dictate, that would give me too heavy a footprint here. Change the wording as you like, but please keep the edit summaries accurate, that's why I had to start this thread. If you'll look back through the updates, you'll see I generally don't comment, and it generally all gets sorted out in the end. - Dank (push to talk) 14:54, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Two questions and a comment: have I used an inaccurate edit summary, and if so, please take that to my talk page with a dif so we can sort it out.
Second, you had to start this thread? Really? Why is that? And the Google Search is not about "changes to the policy pages", I have no idea where you got that idea at all. KillerChihuahua?!? 15:13, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
KC: Didn't the whole discussion start on your talk page with the "inaccurate edit summary" thing? ;-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 15:34, 27 June 2009 (UTC) just trying to be helpful
 ? I must be having a senile moment, I have no idea what either of you are talking about regarding an inaccurate edit summary, sorry. Please link a Dif to summary, post about summary??? KillerChihuahua?!? 15:37, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

If Dank has some time left: as per "work over the last year", was there a particular single objective to that work, from your point of view, or was it more like general maintenance? --Kim Bruning (talk) 15:36, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Even though I've asked for help with this many times, it's (almost) all my work. I haven't said this before (that I can remember) ... I'm saying it now because I think it's the best way to answer your implied question of whether I've been pursuing some agenda or leaning in some direction with my edits and comments. If I had, there are always at least two sides to every policy issue, and someone on the other side would have complained ... no one has complained about the quality of my work on this, not once (til now). My two-cent summary of what's going on in this thread is that the nature of the work means that I can't be my usual self: I can't just edit it the way I think would be best (which frankly, probably would have made both of you happy, we're in agreement on the "big question", I just think know that we'll get into trouble if we try to say it in 3 little words ... "descriptive not prescriptive" ... because there are specific situations where that particular phrase, without any other explanation, adds fuel to a fire. On the other questions: this is in no way the fault of either of you, there's a pendulum that was swinging one way for about a year (less contentious, more useful and nuanced arguments on policy pages) that has just over the last two months started swinging back the other way. In this new environment, it would be better for me not to say anything about anything, but just record changes and let things play out as they will. So, in this spirit: I withdraw everything I've said in this thread, and sorry for the trouble. - Dank (push to talk) 16:03, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Take it easy dude. :-) I'm not accusing you of anything, I was just wondering if you have a particular take on things somehow. I find it interesting how you note there's some sort of pendulum, can you tell me more about that?
My own position wrt particular wording is that if you agree with the wording, why not try it out and see what happens? Worst case you Find a bunch of people who don't quite understand how policy works, and get an opportunity to educate them, right?
You have every right to do what you've been doing, and we're not really implying any criticism. (or at least, no more criticism than is typical for a typical wiki page ;-) ).
In content, even if you're not going to edit further, can you help us out with your experience? Experience is important!
In what kinds of situations does "descriptive not prescriptive" add fuel to the fire, according to you? And, in those cases, why is that particular fire not useful to the wiki? --Kim Bruning (talk) 16:21, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
It would be better if someone else answered these questions; the nature of policy is a neverending debate, and I can't say that one side of a debate is more credible than the other without risking my reputation for neutrality and accuracy in the WP:Update, which occasionally requires judgment calls in how much to say and how to say it. On the question about the pendulum ... this is just one editor's opinion, and per WP:BEANS, I don't want to talk about what seems to be going wrong in any detail. It's just getting harder and harder to attract attention to potential problems by making a post on WP:VPP, and some of the experienced editors aren't paying as much attention as they used to ... and some other editors who "lost" previous battles have noticed this, and are back at work. This is not necessarily a bad thing ... but just recently, it's started to look to me like more attention needs to be paid to the updates than is being paid, people are missing some changes that used to be very hard-fought battles. - Dank (push to talk) 16:32, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Interesting. I would expect absolute neutrality (or good attempts thereto) from all wikipedians, and I'd assume that your opinions were neutral and accurate from the start. I would be very interested to hear why you felt you needed to institute this personal policy in more detail. (here or elsewhere, as you see fit) --Kim Bruning (talk) 16:39, 27 June 2009 (UTC) (Edit conflict... after conflict... VERY interesting :-) )
The best answer I can give is Wikipedia:Village_pump_(policy)#Removing_text_from_a_policy_page_and_then_transcluding. - Dank (push to talk) 18:27, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Ah, cool! --Kim Bruning (talk) 18:56, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Let's not have the descriptive v prescriptive discussion again. It is both, obviously. If the policies and guidelines weren't prescriptive, we wouldn't use those words for them. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:29, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
I had a discussion with the person who invented the policy/guideline/essa templates. He intended the templates to be a form of simplification for new users. Imho, That approach did not backfire but rather worked a little too well.
So your explanation does not fit with intent of the actual inventor of the templates. --Kim Bruning (talk) 22:05, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
  • To get back to what started this thread: policy is mostly descriptive. In my experience, though, there have been quite a few discussions on the talk pages which said "Hey, wait a minute, we've been doing it this way, but it should be that way, why don't we change it?" Then there is a discussion, and the policy gets changed (or not). If the policy is changed, then, by definition, it becomes prescriptive; this lasts until such a time as the change has filtered down to most of the body of editors, at which time it can be considered to be descriptive, not prescriptive. On the other hand, I think there are a lot of instances where people change a policy or guideline simply because it's at odds with what they've seen the majority of editors doing. If that change sticks, then this skips the prescriptive phase and is purely descriptive. Summary: All of you are right. :)--Aervanath (talk) 01:59, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Nicely put, and good mediating, too. - Dank (push to talk) 02:25, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
See below, where I'm saying "all of you are wrong" instead :-P --Kim Bruning (talk) 18:56, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Kim, what people may originally have intended doesn't matter. What matters is what the words mean in the English language, and by any definition, and according to the practice which you're so keen on, they are descriptive and prescriptive, as this page clearly indicates, because it is advocating for them, recommending their content (i.e. prescribing it). SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:04, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
I believe this is a matter of semantics. When we say "prescriptive, not descriptive" we mean no higher power mandates this from on high; the policy describes consensus of the community on what policy should be. You cannot possibly argue with that. I disagree with your view, SV; policy is descriptive of how we as a community think policy should be. We then explain and apply this, which you are referring to as a prescriptive; however the policy remains descriptive of the community consensus for policy. Regarding Aervanath's statement about "hey wait a minute" that was covered in the "evolving nature" content which SV removed. I'm more than willing to work with anyone on this, but am rather shocked and surprised that SV reverted wholesale, even reverting Kim's slight tweaks to other sections of the policy, for which SV gave no rationale for her revert. KillerChihuahua?!? 10:59, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Okay, if that's what you mean, you have to say that. But "descriptive, not prescriptive" is not what that means. It's a phrase that Kim has been trying to add for years, and it's just false. They are both, clearly.
We know they're prescriptive, because if you violate them, you can be taken to ArbCom and sanctioned. We know they're prescriptive, because if write an FA candidate that doesn't follow them, it fails, and so on. That is what it means for policies and guidelines to be "prescriptive"; as does the use of the terms "policy" and "guideline." In addition, they are descriptive of best practice, but of "best" practice, not of actual practice. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:39, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Oh geeze, I thought she'd know better by now! :-/ --Kim Bruning (talk) 11:39, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
And you should know better than to disrupt these pages every year with this nonsense. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:39, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Nonsense? Slim, any particular reason you're being so rude? Also, if you're going to blast someone by calling their edits "nonsense" please aim correctly - I made the original edit. I am more than happy to disagree, but would appreciate you not calling my good-faith efforts at improving this page "nonsense". There is no need for such hostility. KillerChihuahua?!? 09:31, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

Policy pages are not descriptive of what policy *should be*, it's descriptive of what it *is*. (Documents which describe what something "should be" are called "prescriptive").

This is also why you should take policy pages with a large barrel of salt: it is quite possible to get told off, blocked or even banned for following policy as written; simply because some yahoo decided that it might be a good idea to add some prescriptive stuff because "wouldn't it be cool?". *sigh*

How to

If you think something "might be a good idea", or "this is how we should do things", you DO NOT add that to a policy, guideline, or even essay. That is called being prescriptive. If you do so, not only do you waste a lot of people's time due to useless discussions (only to get reverted at the end of the day), but worse, you also get some foolish people into trouble who think that your idea is actually policy when it's not.

Instead, be bold, and just start doing whatever the thing is that your idea is. You are totally permitted to do so, as per WP:IAR. (IAR is policy! Use it or lose it!)

When people like your ideas and start doing the same (aka you gain consensus), and it looks like everyone is doing it, you can then end up writing a page in the wikipedia: namespace describing what people are doing.

This is why the requirement is to first have consensus before you start writing something on a policy/guideline/essay page.

What is meant here by consensus is not to gain consensus on the policy talk page, and in fact, that's exactly what won't work too well. (see Wikipedia:Consensus#exceptions: "Consensus decisions in specific cases do not automatically override consensus on a wider scale – for instance, a local debate on a WikiProject does not override the larger consensus behind a policy or guideline in the overall community (such consensus may be documented in policies or guidelines, for instance)."). (Note that I'm making a slight clarification to the consensus page on that matter)

Instead, what is meant here is to gain consensus in the larger community, by *doing* things. Durova has a lovely word for this, she calls it "Do-ocracy" ;-)

--Kim Bruning (talk) 12:01, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Concur with Kim above.
I've been involved in consensus political and technical organizations for 30+ years, and what passes for consensus around here often doesn't fit with the traditional meaning of consensus. Back in 2005, when I was urged to join using my own name (instead of a pseudonym, however well-known and published), we did that to improve the reputation of Wikipedia (suffering in the popular press at that time).
Many folks worked for months to develop solid policies and guidelines in contentious areas. We gathered what precedent we had (only 1 or 2 years back then), argued about inclusion, lawyers and law students helped craft language, and divided things into "policy" and "guidelines" (parallel to statutes/regulations/guidelines in administrative law).
When I explain that changes to policy and guidelines require notification at multiple (usually specified) places, follow an established process (AfD, CfD, TfD, etc), often waiting for the discussion to be archived after a few weeks with no substantial objections, I've seen editors simply change the notification requirements on the policy/guideline page! (Then complain vehemently after being reverted.)
Or argue that 2 editors discussing at Village Pump (miscellaneous) is sufficient to change the established procedures for all projects everywhere, because "Any editor on Wikipedia works on anything. That is what Wikipedia is about." (Archived at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive539#CfD categories renamed, where they went after being reverted.)
But what can be done?
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 17:21, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Oh look, more 2005 folks! Hello William Allen Simpson. Nice to see another real name person around. Would you argue that you were writing prescriptive or descriptive policy at the time? :-)
Typically I don't believe that changes to policy pages require multiple notifications, but I think you can guess why already. In your language: I feel that people should only be recording existing precedents and knowledge, not creating new rules de novo. (or at least, Policy pages are not the appropriate venue to create de novo procedures.) --Kim Bruning (talk) 18:49, 28 June 2009 (UTC) I notice your activity in policy discussions was likely more in 2006? Not that it matters much. :-)
Both. Descriptive in general terms of what has gone before, but also prescriptive as specifying patterns and limits on what is permitted in the future. And all the policies/guidelines describe some form of limit, even IAR!
We are agreeing vehemently about recording existing precedents and knowledge. For example, when I got caught up in Naming conventions in late 2005 (under this user name, as opposed to the older one used mainly for watching technical articles), finding and specifying what folks actually did in the real world was my position (with a fellow named Golbez and others I've not seen around lately), while a "grand unifying theory" was the vocal opposition (primarily Tobias Conradi). As I became involved in other naming conventions, I continued in that vein.
Yes, in 2006, I helped organize the current CfD discussion process, and somewhat TfD, too. I think that (under many circumstances) CfD is a fine example of gathering decisions on specific cases, and codifying the precedents in the Naming conventions (categories) policy page. Unfortunately, not everybody seems willing to abide by previous precedents, arguing that every decision is de novo.
Heck, lately a common plaint is that I edited the policy language (even 3 years ago, with 3 more years of commensurate support), as a somehow disqualifying factor.
As to multiple notifications, I firmly disagree. Even under the best circumstances, gathering and summarizing all the information in one place and inviting folks to look at it, sometimes more eyeballs find a conflict or other problem – or an indication that things went down the wrong track entirely! I'm not advocating having multiple parallel discussions, just that policy (or guideline) changes need notice at VPP and specific Talk pages related to the policy, inviting everybody to take a look. (I don't find actually discussing at VPP useful.)
And I strongly object to folks adding a notice to the Talk only, and then making changes on the Project page after only a few minutes or days, except for the most trivial edits. The notification requirements should actually help smooth the process, as there's nothing like an enforced wait for others to comment to help cool the passions....
--William Allen Simpson (talk) 22:16, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
Fair enough. Generally when I do notify people (and I always make sure that everyone gets involved over time!) I tend to do so at a very slow and measured pace, preferably at a rate of only a couple of people at a time; for instance by using WP:BRD. This is to prevent the number of participants exceeding Dunbar's number. While the wiki does split people out over a large number of locations -so that dunbar's number is not typically a problem- there is no actual system for preventing or handling an "overflow". There is nothing to prevent dunbar's number being exceeded at some particular location; at which point the wiki-consensus-system breaks down.
I have seen a large number of discussions fall down, simply due to people over-notifying. It's better to be patient and stretch discussion out over time, because (somewhat ironically), that's actually faster than trying to talk to everyone at once, in fact by a rather large margin. :-)
--Kim Bruning (talk) 11:45, 29 June 2009 (UTC) Though I still have a bone to pick with some of the harmful effects of the current deletion systems, which I partially blame on attempts at prescriptive-ism. That may be a discussion for another day, however.:-)

Separating verses of poems and songs

I have written articles, which include songs or poems. The verses were separated with breaks. Recently other Wikipedia users have "standardized" my articles using "grammar bots" that seem to treat everything as prose. The breaks have been removed, and the lyrics now appear as an undifferentiated mass. The results look terrible. Is this official policy? Can the breaks be restored? Pfa (talk) 16:16, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Try adding {{bots|deny=[name of offending bot]}} to the top of the relevant page, and change it back the way you want it. - Dank (push to talk) 16:24, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Unless there's something you've missed out in your story, it should be fine to restore the breaks, just revert or undo them out in fact. Bots (automated programs) are known to make occasional mistakes, so humans always overrule bots.
If the bot(s) continues to make this kind of mistake, you could contact the bot operator(s) and politely explain your issue with their bot.
Finally, lots of people complain about bots in an angry tone of voice. However, if you're nice and polite about it, you'll find that you can catch more flies with honey. :-) Also, what Dank said.
Does this help? --Kim Bruning (talk) 16:29, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the helpful advice from both of you. It's good to know that a human can overrule a bot. For one of my articles I restored the breaks only to have them removed again. It was not the same user, though. The changes were made by two different bots. They seem to be going through the Wikipedia universe with a fine tooth comb. I will continue to monitor my articles and maintain the breaks between verses. If the same bot returns to wreak havoc, I will contact the user and explain my concerns in a calm and polite manner. I have the feeling that these bot users don't even read the articles. Pfa (talk) 17:25, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
That's correct. Bots are mere computer programs, not people. So the bot operator is indeed not actually reading the article in question. If they had known what the bot was doing, they probably would have fixed it already, eh? :-). Like I said, if you feel strongly, and/or the bot blocking code Dank mentioned doesn't seem to be sufficient for your needs, do contact the bot operator. Your input may help them improve the bot!
So no need to feel hurt or threatened, the bots are not going to take over. ;-)--Kim Bruning (talk) 17:58, 27 June 2009 (UTC)


KC, I've removed the "remember" paragraph, because it's kind of patronizing as written, and that it's only descriptive is just false. Yet without that, the paragraph makes no sense, so I couldn't see how to rewrite it:

"If a policy is unclear or does not conform to actual practice (remember that policy at WP is descriptive not prescriptive)it should be changed to reflect that practice. This is an ongoing task, as policy at WP evolves."

It's provocative, because it's encouraging new editors to be bold on policies. It's unfair, because if they follow that advice, they'll get themselves into bother. Also, it should be "best" practice, not actual. Actual practice is no sources. Actual practice is to ignore the MoS etc. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:29, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

I stated in my edit summary that it needed work. I didn't expect wholesale blind reversion and insults. I expected, oddly enough, for copyediting and civil discussion. Silly me. KillerChihuahua?!? 09:39, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
I don't see where the insults are, and this is civil discussion. As I said, I can't see how to copy edit it given that it contradicts other parts of the policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:58, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
There's something of an internal contradiction when two people who believe the policies to be descriptive try to force something into a policy. If you're right about them being descriptive, others will agree, and the policies will be so regarded no matter what this page says. If you're wrong, people will carry on seeing them as prescriptive, also no matter what you say. Trying to force something in (and Kim has been trying to do it for years) suggests you also see the policies as prescriptive. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:04, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
If youc annot see the insult in calling a good faith edit "nonsense" and accusing someone of "trying to force something in" when they added a phrase has been a mantra, or meme, of Wikipedia almost since its inception, and there has been zero edit warring or "forcing" then I cannot explain it to you. KillerChihuahua?!? 10:24, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps you're not aware of the background. Kim has been doing this for a long time on various pages, and has caused chaos on a few of them. So far as I know, the changes have never had support. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:38, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
You and I both know that you can do a lot better than this kind of ad hominem argument, and I expect that you will adhere to the high standards of conduct and behavior that we both share, as I am sure you expect of me. --Kim Bruning (talk) 14:24, 29 June 2009 (UTC)


I reverted this because it's false. All policies start life as proposals now, and there's no problem with that. Kim, you've been trying to insert this for a long time, as I recall, but I've never seen the point of it.

"Proposals are not a very strong method for obtaining consensus for a change. In fact, -ironically- the best way to shoot down an existing (but as-yet undocumented) process is to frame it as a proposal."

SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:31, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Agree with removal. This paragraph is too negative. If an existing but undocumented practice does not go through the proposal-discussion-amendment-consensus process then how else does it become agreed policy ? And what evidence is there that "the best way to shoot down an existing (but as-yet undocumented) process is to frame it as a proposal" ? Gandalf61 (talk) 08:12, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
In my view of the world, it is already "agreed policy" (or rather "agreed best practice" --I'm old, I get to use alternate terms :-P ) with extensive consensus, before ever being documented. The policy eventually gets documented by people who get tired of negotiating the same consensus with people over and over. In the end they put it all on one page and tell people to "go look at WP:IJUSTDOCUMENTEDTHIS". ;-)
A famous example of this approach is the somewhat controversial WP:SNOWBALL. Some people love it and live it, some people hate it. Incidentally, that particular page is a good example of why you should take the wikipedia namespace with a grain of salt.
So from my POV, the whole of wikipedia is just one big consensus-system. (Wait, isn't that policy somewhere? ;-) ). Policy/Guideline/Essay pages are tools to document existing consensus.
--Kim Bruning (talk) 18:06, 29 June 2009 (UTC) I must have done the process a squillion times, at that. Haven't you?

No policies start life as a proposal. All start as an idea, concept, or recognition. A thought, if you will. And Gandalf, I know of none of our current policies which actually went through the proposal-discussion-amendment-consensus process, as you put it. I am certain a few actually did, but they are the minority. This is linear thinking, not wiki thinking. This is the same kind of thinking which would state, Wait, how can you have a model for building an encyclopedia with no paid positions, no review board,only a mass of volunteers who govern themselves by a kind of mass anarchy? The model looks like it won't work, but it does. KillerChihuahua?!? 09:43, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

Can you name a policy that didn't go through some process of proposal/discussion (except for the very old ones created when the project started)? Even BLP, one of our most important and accepted policies, started life that way. [3] SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:54, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
BLP started on a mailing list, and was mandated. It is the worst example possible. KillerChihuahua?!? 10:25, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
To the best of my knowledge, you're wrong about that, because I was one of the first editors of it. In fact, I wrote the first draft. It was started as a proposal by WAS 4.250 as the link above says. Others pitched in, and it was at that point that it started being discussed positively on various mailing lists. But it started as a grassroots thing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:36, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
(ec)Grassroots? "grassroots" sounds just like community recognizing a need, not a single person writing a proposal. You mean, some individual did not write it as a proposal, then submit it for formal review? I swear, we are saying exactly the same thing. No policy on Wikipedia began as a "proposal" - as I state above, all "start as an idea, concept, or recognition. A thought, if you will." I cannot speak for Kim, but I believe that was what the intent of the addition was: that if you think something needs tweaking or fixing or there is a gap which needs adressing, etc, then writing a proposal solo and submitting it is a fairly sure way to fail. You say you wrote the first draft, but you link to the first instance of the page, which WAS wrote, and we all know there had been foundation email list discussion about the need prior to all of this. The point is, discussion, recognition, came prior to the proposal. Now, if you didn't get that from the added sentence, then it needs copyediting for clarity. Now, this wasn't my addition and it isn't my fight. But your comments agree with the addition; they do not refute it. You simply say "I don't see the point" and all I can say is, dang, have you noticed all the time wasted on well-intentioned but utterly non-supported "proposals" every year? Yeah, there's a point, and its to save people from wasting their time and effort and others as well. However, it would be inaccurate to make it sound as though policy never changes or there is no room for improvement, so that should probably be noted as well. But there is indeed a point. KillerChihuahua?!? 10:47, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by submitting it for formal review. I don't think there had been talk on the mailing list before WAS's proposal. Do you have examples? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 11:07, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
As well as WP:BLP, a quick check shows that WP:PROXY, WP:GB, WP:LIBEL, WP:PROD were all tagged with Template:Proposed at an early stage in their lifecycle. Other older policies such as WP:DISPUTE were less formally marked as a proposal in their earliest versions. I repeat my question to KillerChihuahua - if an existing but undocumented practice (so not a spin-off from an existing policy or a guideline being promoted to policy) does not go through the proposal-discussion-amendment-consensus process then how else do you suggest it should become a documented and agreed policy ? Gandalf61 (talk) 10:38, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Am I being unclear? I never said they'd nver been so tagged, or discussed. Are you even reading what I write? I said, fairly clearly I thought, that none of them began that way. See my answer to SV above pls. KillerChihuahua?!? 10:48, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
You originally said "I know of none of our current policies which actually went through the proposal-discussion-amendment-consensus process" (my emphasis). You later said "No policy on Wikipedia began as a "proposal"", but I hadn't seen that when I posted - look at the timestamps. I note that you have still not answered my question. But I see no point continuing this discussion if you are going to be aggressive, hostile and uncivil. Gandalf61 (talk) 11:01, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Look again, I said the part you're calling "later" in the same paragraph, same post, as the part you're calling "originally said" - but before - the order was reversed. I don't know why you are having confusion about my meaning but i'm happy to clarify if you ask questions. I'm sorry if I seem hostile or aggressive, it is certainly not how I feel! It can be difficult to discern another's moods from text, I know. Please let me know where I have been uncivil, thanks! KillerChihuahua?!? 11:21, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
KillerChihuahua - your rhetorical question "Are you even reading what I write?" is hostile and uncivil. Your edit summary "am I not speaking English?" is hostile and uncivil. And my question to you is: if an existing but undocumented practice (so not a spin-off from an existing policy or a guideline being promoted to policy) does not go through the proposal-discussion-amendment-consensus process then how else do you suggest it should become a documented and agreed policy ? Gandalf61 (talk) 11:46, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Try reading it again, with a plaintive wail of misery at trying very hard to be understood and missing each time. I assure you, my intent and meaning is not hostile at all, and I still fail to see the incivility but that is very likely due to differing paradigms. Your question reinforces that I have failed utterly to convey my meaning to you. KillerChihuahua?!? 12:05, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
KillerChihuahua - you continue to insist that I have misunderstood you and you say "I'm happy to clarify if you ask questions", yet your only answer to my question is "Try reading it again". You are making no effort whatsoever to clarify your position. This makes me suspect that you have little interest in helping others to understand what you mean and even less interest in working towards a consensus. I am out of here. Gandalf61 (talk) 13:18, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
KC, you're being aggressive about this and I can't see why. People follow the policies in part because they make sense, and in part because they see them as prescriptive (including ArbCom and Foundation). And as I said, BLP did begin as a proposal. Most of the policies did. To say they began as an idea is obviously true, but trivially so. All that means is that the person who proposed them had a mind. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 11:07, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Really, I don't feel agressive and it is not my feelings or intent. I am attempting to clarify my view, which you seem to have completely misunderstood (my lack of clarity I am sure! ) and we are therefore speaking at cross purposes. I'm not happy about your hostile phrasing of "nonsense" and "forcing" as though I were an idiot with a battle plan, and I have so informed you. You don't seem too concerned that you've stomped on my toes, ok fine, but that I informed you how that verbiage came across to me hardly makes me hostile. KillerChihuahua?!? 11:21, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

@SV: You make a number of claims (and have been for some time), but (if memory serves) you have not been able to provide proof or reasoning for those claims in the past. Conversely, there's quite some number work in the archives from the other side of the story. Of course, there's always the possibility something has changed this time around. Can you please put forward your evidence? We can then take a look at it together. --Kim Bruning (talk) 14:32, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

There's definitely numbers work on Wikipedia_talk:How_to_contribute_to_Wikipedia_guidance around 2007, which is related to this discussion. At the time, people were definitely advocating a counter-productive approach at that page. Some time later the page was improved considerably. I don't know the current quality of the page, however. (I would have to read it very carefully and check against known facts) --Kim Bruning (talk) 17:56, 29 June 2009 (UTC)


I apparently have been unclear. That's ok; I know sometimes a person can mean one thing, but it read like another thing to others. But I feel also that right now I'm trying to clarify that; and every time I try to say "that's not what I meant" I'm being accused of being defensive or hostile and aggressive. I say A; you say Why the heck are you saying B???? you're so wrong, its not B at all! and when I say, No, I didn't say A I'm suddenly being attacked. I do not get the impression anyone is trying to work with me to understand what I'm saying before telling me how wrong I am. If you don't know what I'm saying, how can you say I am wrong? and if I tell you there has been a mis-communication, how can you continue asking questions which are based upon your misunderstandings? This is getting nowhere. I'm taking a break from this badgering and accusations of hostility I don't feel and maligning me with aggressive intent I don't have. KillerChihuahua?!? 12:17, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

Fun challenge

I do agree that a small number of highly visible policy pages were (initially!) made in a prescriptive fashion. I think they were so visible due to the method used to create them. At the same time, a lot of policy pages have just quietly been accepted without much ado, and these pages were created using other means.

Obviously, because the latter pages caused a lot less heat, people don't remember them that well, causing a well known form of memory-bias. I've had some training to be a scientist, so I know not to rely on just my own flawed human brain alone. ;-)

Once in a while I run the actual numbers for people, often together with a friend. Each time those numbers come out roughly the same, and those numbers tend to tell a rather surprising story. (at least, surprising to some! ;-)

Somewhere deep in the archives of this page and its diverse deep links you will find extensive number work regarding what means are most effective for forming policy.

However, doing the numbers for yourself tends to be more convincing than having them done for you, so this time around, I'd like to encourage people to do the maths for themselves.

So here's my challenge:

If you don't care for wikidrama or powergames (which I'm sure you don't!), and instead you are interested in how to most effectively make use of volunteer time, I suggest you run the numbers for yourself.

First form a hypothesis. Then:

  • how many Policy/guideline/essay pages used a propose-advertise-discuss-poll process?
  • How many process pages (like AFD or PROD) did so too?
  • How many did not?
  • What percentages are that?

You will likely find some very interesting (not to mention strongly significant) results. :-)

Have fun!

--Kim Bruning (talk) 12:34, 29 June 2009 (UTC) (Handy note: don't look at just {{proposed}} tags alone, tags can be misleading early during the process of creating a page. Check the actual process used. It can go either way!)

ps. it might also be interesting to compare with previous results as well, to see if and by how much things have really changed over time. :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 12:44, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

No further response?

With 2 people leaving the discussion, 1 person not responding to my challenge to their position, and 1 person basically agreeing (and the latter claiming to be an actual subject matter expert at that), I'll be re-inserting KC's changes within the next 24 hours, provided I hear nothing further.

I'm not really happy with how the dicussion turned out, but I guess one takes what one can get :-/

--Kim Bruning (talk) 11:15, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

I still disagree strongly with KC's assertion that "Proposals are not a very strong method for obtaining consensus for a change". I left the discussion because I became tired of his sarcastic rhetoric and his refusal to clarify his position, not because I changed my mind. Gandalf61 (talk) 11:38, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

(insert) I didn't add that. It was not my assertion, hence I could not clarify it beyond a guess at what the editor who did add it meant. And I have made no sarcastic edits to this talk page. KillerChihuahua?!?Advice 01:25, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

As you know, tone doesn't carry very well in writing. I don't know that KC was being sarcastic. To me, his tone sounded more pleading than anything else.
I understand that you believe that proposals may be a good method for obtaining change. However, the last time I did statistical analysis, I found that the propose-discuss-poll method did not have a stellar performance at all, especially not compared to other methods.
Of course, perhaps things have changed since I last did those statistics, or perhaps my analysis was flawed. Unfortunately, in the mean time, no one else appears to have repeated my analysis to check it, so the only data and analysis available are my own. :-(
I would very much like for someone to do an independent analysis so that we may compare.
--Kim Bruning (talk) 15:54, 1 July 2009 (UTC) see above sections for analysis links
I have not advocated "propose-discuss-poll" so that is a straw man. I do say that asserting "Proposals are not a very strong method for obtaining consensus for a change" in a section about the proposal stage for new policies and guidelines gives the impression that the proposal stage is unnecessary and indeed harmful - which is a very confusing and negative message for new readers. Since the majority of recent new policies have been through a proposal stage, it is also factually dubious. If you and KC mean something else by this statement - if there is some subtle nuance of wording or meaning that I have missed - then I think you need to reword your addition for greater clarity. Gandalf61 (talk) 16:40, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
Fair deal. Rewording for greater clarity is never a bad idea. We could put it that historically the first making a proposal path has not been successful. Would that cover your concerns for a large part?
For the current day state of the wiki: assuming you are correct, I'd be very interested to see the success rate for current proposal-stage policies, guidelines or essays. Another interesting statistic would be to see the duration of the discussion for such policies, guidelines or essays. Do you have these statistics on hand? If not, that's fine too, but in that case: on what data do you base your statement?
--Kim Bruning (talk) 18:20, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
A spot check of the newer policy documents (those started in the last 4 years, say) shows that most of them have gone through a proposal stage. Therefore, at the moment, the de facto process for developing a new policy document includes a proposal stage. The Policies and guidelines policy, like all policies, should aim to be descriptive, not prescriptive. Therefore any statement that implies that the proposal stage is unnecessary, harmful or denigrated should not be included, because it is at odds with current practice.
New policy proposals may indeed have a low success rate, and the discussion required to reach consensus may indeed be lengthy. These are both good features of the process. They mean that only the very best proposals achieve consensus and become policy. They protect Wikipedia from instruction creep. Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, and reaching agreement on new policies should be difficult. Better ten good proposals fail than one bad proposal becomes policy.
My objection to ""Proposals are not a very strong method for obtaining consensus for a change" is that, in the context in which it was placed, it implies that there is currently a better method somewhere in Wikipedia for achieiving consensus on new policy documents, one that bypasses the proposal stage. That is simply not correct. If the assertion is not meant to carry this implication then it needs to be reworded. Gandalf61 (talk) 08:29, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
If you had said "last 1 or 2 years" for your spot check -well, I don't have data for that time period- so I would have conceded the point for now without question. However, your 4 year period overlaps my own previous research in 2007. Let's see what's up. Could you please point out which pages you looked at in your spot check?
As a partial answer to your last point: there are 3 methods to maintain policy listed on this page. The other two methods were rather more effective, IIRC. --Kim Bruning (talk) 01:14, 3 July 2009 (UTC) This is a partial answer, I will answer more of your points later
I agree that "Documenting actual good practices and seeking consensus that the documentation truly reflects them" is the most effective method. But where the documentation requires starting a new policy document, then this new policy document usually starts out as a proposal or goes through a proposal stage early in its lifecycle. "Proposal" does not necessarily mean "proposal of a change in practice". Let's continue discussion in the new thread that you started below. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:42, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
Historically, people have tended to stick a {{proposal}} on policy-like pages, whether the page was a proposal of change in practice or not. This practice has always seemed to be a bit of a silly reflex to me. I always removed such tags where possible. I'll continue below too. I think we're reaching common ground. :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 14:37, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

changing a policy

When you obtain policy through source #1 (document existing practice), you first *act* , and once your way of acting is widely supported in the community (eg, has consensus), you modify policy to meet the way you acted. So for the method 1, my description is correct.

For source #2 (make a proposal), you must indeed first make a proposal and gain consensus through discussion.

These two methods are fundamentally different approaches. We're still discussing whether source 2 even works all that well, above. (some people seem to think it does these days, so I'd better at least listen to 'em ;-)). I do know that source 1 works, and you can often see many minor changes to policies accumulating over time through that method. :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 01:42, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

I think there is some confusion here between "documenting actual good practice by writing a new policy proposal" and "proposing a change in practice and seeking consensus for implementation of that change". I agree that the second method seldom works. I maintain, however, that writing a new policy proposal is the de facto standard method of starting a new policy document to record actual practice. Recent policies that went through a proposal stage include WP:BLP, WP:PROXY, WP:GB, WP:LIBEL and WP:PROD. My objection to the assertion "Proposals are not a very strong method for obtaining consensus for a change" is that it implies to me that proposals are not the usual method of starting new policy documents, which is not correct. If "change" here actually means "change in Wikipedia practice", not "change in policy documentation" then that needs to be clarified by amending the wording of the statement. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:35, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
Documenting good practice by writing a policy proposal is a contradictio in terminis, or at best redundant. Either the practice is de facto policy, or it is not. There is no proposal to be made.
If you try to ask permission before doing something "propose a change in practice", 90% of the time, it ain't gonna happen, no matter how good the idea.
Looking at the policies you list:
  • WP:PROD, was more involved than you might think (see eg. : WP:XD)
  • WP:GB has rather obvious and large WP:CONEXCEPT components.
  • WP:PROXY links to wikien-l (originally a canonical source of policy, though less so today), dated 2004, and is outside your stated 4-year window besides.
  • WP:LIBEL does appear to have had a proposed tag on it, but documented what we decided to do as a reaction to the siegenthaler affair, if memory serves. The involvement of Jimmy Wales (consensus exceptions again) and links to wikien-l once again take this out of the realm of what I would call the proposed-policy process.
wait... that was all of them <blinks><looks puzzeled>
Okay, so to me the links you provide above do not represent policies that came about via what I understand to be the "policy proposal process". But you still list them. This suggests to me that we are talking about two very different concepts of what a proposal process actually is.
Now that is very interesting.
Could you explain your thoughts on your definition of the "policy proposal process", please? --Kim Bruning (talk) 10:59, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
A policy proposal is a proposed text for a new policy document that is tagged with Template:Proposed. The policy proposal process is described in the documentation of the template. All of the policy documents I mentioned were tagged with this template at an early stage in their lifecycle. What you fail to grasp is that a proposed policy document may be documenting actual current practice - it is still not an actual policy document until it has gained consensus. I am emphasising policy document here because you also seem to mixing up policy as practiced and policy as documented; policy as documented lags behind policy as practiced.
And if you want to continue a sensible adult discussion about this, then I suggest you drop the "wait... that was all of them" sarcasm and the juvenile "<blinks><looks puzzeled>" stuff - forget the rhetoric and just say what you mean in a straightforward way. Gandalf61 (talk) 12:19, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
So anything is a proposed policy, simply by the power of the {{proposed}}? As a thought experiment: What would happen if I alter that tag at WP:NPOV (and get reverted in under 1 second). Would that mean that NPOV has now followed the proposal process? I suppose that that can't be true. So where do you draw the line?
I'd like to understand what you mean by "policy as documented must gain consensus"; do you mean it must gain consensus anew? And by what mechanism?
I'm beginning to think there might be some measure of agreement between us, but that we are using different vocabularies to express ourselves.--Kim Bruning (talk) 14:34, 3 July 2009 (UTC) Note that sarcasm does not carry over the internet, which is why I try not use it, nor any other ambiguous form of expression. Instead I try to directly express that what I am trying to say, as unambiguously as possible, although I do try to retain a human voice. If there is still ambiguity, then I have not been entirely successful. In that case, please assume good faith and read what I wrote in the most positive possible interpretation (That's why it's policy). If this is not possible, please request clarification or rewording
I kinda agree here, Kim. Using "<tags>" and afterthoughts comes across as lacking seriousness in the context of this (or any such) discussion. I know it's your style and not intended in any kind of sarcastic or snide way, but it doesn't always serve its purpose. Eusebeus (talk) 19:36, 3 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, I've learned that if you take yourself or others too seriously, you're basically not going to be very effective in life. If this is going to be an institution where people can't laugh and play, I don't want to be part of it :-P
Note that the operative word is too seriously. Just because we're having fun, doesn't mean that we don't have a duty to do a good job, of course.
So if I don't get to use creative speech anymore... what else is still fun around here? And how will that fun help to either build an encyclopedia or document its workings? --Kim Bruning (talk) 21:54, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

Enforcement policy -> Conduct policy

Please see WT:LOP#Quick thought. - Dank (push to talk) 20:29, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

Global policy?

Copying from Wikipedia:VPP#Global_policy.3F (where I haven't gotten any response, but it's only been 1.5 days):

I'm now covering Category:Wikipedia conduct policies and Category:Wikipedia legal policies at WP:Update, which covers every subcat of CAT:POL except for one, Category:Wikipedia global policy. There are 52 pages in CAT:POL and 40 pages of global policy, almost all of them overlapping. Is there something that makes global policy pages special or ties them together? Could we do without the category? It would be nice to cover all the policy subcats at WP:LOP and WP:Update, but I'm just not seeing the point.

Any thoughts? I guess the next step if I don't hear anything here is WP:CfD. While I'm here: please see the discussion at WT:LOP about Category:Wikipedia legal policies. Conceivably, that's another one headed for WP:CfD. - Dank (push to talk) 15:32, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

Or maybe we'll remove it as a subcat of Category:Wikipedia official policy when we (I predict) get rid of Category:Wikipedia global policy. - Dank (push to talk) 15:59, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
I certainly think that Category:Wikipedia policies, Category:Wikipedia official policy and Category:Wikipedia global policy are going to be fairly redundant, and I would favor the deletion of the latter two in favor of the first. Leave a note here if/when you nominate them for CFD (if I don't do it first).--Aervanath (talk) 17:24, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
Category:Wikipedia policies is empty. I'm thinking 2 more days before I nominate that and global at CfD (unless someone objects, or beats me to it). - Dank (push to talk) 18:25, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
Oh, I just saw on another page you're in favor of moving all the policy pages into Category:Wikipedia policies; that would be fine, too. - Dank (push to talk) 18:28, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done See Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2009_July_5#Category:Wikipedia_policies.--Aervanath (talk) 18:58, 5 July 2009 (UTC)


With the removal of Category:Wikipedia global policy (looks like it's passing easily), there are a number of long-standing policy pages that won't be in any subcats of the policy cat. WP:Administrators, WP:Bot policy and WP:IP block exemption could all arguably fit in Category:Wikipedia enforcement policies, and WP:Harassment looks like it belongs in Category:Wikipedia conduct policies to me. There's been some discussion on WT:LOP about a new "legal and copyright" category, and some of the policy pages might fit into that ... Aervanath and Moonriddengirl have expressed some preferences. Thoughts? - Dank (push to talk) 03:12, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

As far as I know, this doesn't make any difference, except as a help to people trying to browse policy. - Dank (push to talk) 03:20, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Another one: there's been some argument over the past year about the policy status of WP:Wikipedia is not a dictionary (on the theory that WP:NOT covers that policy), but it's been marked as policy more often than not, and it is marked as policy now. If it's policy, the logical subcat would be the same one that WP:NOT is in, Category:Wikipedia content policies. Also, I'd recommend changing WP:LOP to be called a "supplement" to policy (see the banner at WP:Update) rather than policy, because that's what it is. Also, there are some pages on functionaries; at least one of them was only marked as policy recently, and without apparent discussion. I'm agnostic, but I probably won't cover pages at WP:Update that get promoted without consensus. - Dank (push to talk) 03:35, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Okay no replies yet ... I left pointers on all of these pages. Feel free to revert ... I'm adding all the policy pages into WP:Update now, and for the sake of putting things where I expect people are most likely to look for them, I'll make the subcat changes I suggested above (but I won't demote WP:LOP, adding or subtracting from the policy cat needs more discussion than this). - Dank (push to talk) 00:12, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Footnote: after I said I was adding those 4 pages to WP:Update "now", I decided to wait a little longer for comments ... there weren't any, and I just added those 4 pages and did the updates for June. As a general rule, before adding a page to the monthly updates, I want to make sure that my action isn't "tipping the balance" in the direction of wider acceptance of a policy page or policy subcat. The "legal" subcat doesn't currently have much going on ... when it does, and when it's been that way for a few months and it's a frequently referenced subcat, then I'll add it to the updates. Likewise, WP:Wikipedia is not a dictionary gives the impression that it's not visited often and I never see it linked. This is all open for discussion of course. - Dank (push to talk) 15:07, 19 July 2009 (UTC)


I've done some work to clean up this page, please have a look at the individual diffs to see the specific changes. I'm pretty sure that most of it has been stylistic. I looked through the history and saw that an older version of the lead was much clearer, so I reinstated it, with some improvements (linking, and so on). I've left out two semi-substantive changes that as far as I can tell have slipped by. The first is the escalation of guidelines as having seemingly equal community consensus and applying to all editors. The second is the inclusion of "While neither label confers an inherent importance over the other two, if process, guideline or policy pages appear to conflict, then policies should generally, but not always, be followed before guidelines, and guidelines before processes.", which isn't too substantive, and seems a bit drawn out compared to the straightforward "though to varying degrees".   M   08:48, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Historically, it's the policies that escalated. There's still no real magical difference between the different pages, other than the labels. :-P It is usually a good idea to adhere to guidelines and essays as well, until and unless you know what you are doing. --Kim Bruning (talk) 03:18, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Clearly there is, otherwise we'd be 'sidegrading' policies to guidelines, rather than upgrading guidelines to policies. If only the policy were clearer, so that we would not have to rely on our own interpretations ;)   M   08:52, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Clear outline

There is some fluff and contradiction in the current policy, which makes it a) difficult for new editors to understand, and b) difficult for editors to clean up. To make things a lot clearer, I've listed below the substantive points of this policy, as I understand them. Note that I've left out several points that either confused me, or were redundant or overly procedural. A couple of other points (such as the implication that the goal is to create a free and neutral encyclopedia that anyone can edit) are 'new', but seem uncontentious.

Substantive points:

  1. The purpose of Wikipedia policies and guidelines is to establish best-practices, clarify intent, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goal of creating a free and neutral encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
  2. There are four classes of Wikipedia project-space page:
    1. Policies concretely specify enforceable community standards.
    2. Guidelines advise on how to prevent and recognize problems, and advise on how to apply and execute policy under specific circumstances.
    3. Essays are the opinion or advice of an editor or a group of editors. These include WikiProject subpages, proposals, historical pages, Department of Fun humor pages, and help and how-to pages.
    4. Community pages are a place to raise and discuss issues, make suggestions and proposals, and draw attention to discussions taking place elsewhere. These include the village pumps, the help and reference desks, logs, and noticeboards.
  3. Policies and guidelines are widely and formally recognized and supported by the community of Wikipedia editors; essays and community pages do not have this feature.
  4. Policies have precedence over guidelines.
  5. Policies and guidelines are typically classified as behavioral (interacting with other editors), editing (how editing should be done), and content (what articles should contain).
  6. Editors who act against the spirit of a policy may be reprimanded, even if no rule has technically been violated.
  7. Support for policies, guidelines, and their wording is arrived at through consensus. In particular:
    1. Pages are promoted to and demoted from policy or guideline via an RfC, as described in Wikipedia:Requests for comment, using the {{rfctag|policy}} template, with consideration for the usual warnings described in WP:VOTE and WP:CONSENSUS. Any Potentially interested groups should be notified. Proposed policy pages should be marked with either {{Proposed}} or {{Promote}}.
    2. Talk page discussion typically, but not necessarily, precedes substantive changes to policy. Changes may be made if there are no objections, or if discussion shows that there is consensus for the change. Bold editors of policy and guideline pages are strongly encouraged to follow WP:1RR or WP:0RR standards. Minor edits to improve formatting, grammar, and clarity may be made at any time.

The categorization into 4 areas (policy, guideline, essay, community) seems to be the most sensible (that is, minimal). There are some specific definitions of policy and guidelines in there - instead of saying "they're more advisory", I've specified exactly what they advise on. So, to be clear and to prevent accidental substantive changes: can the above be improved, and is anything important missing?   M   00:55, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

I appreciate what you're trying to do. :-) However, some of the proposed clarifications are actually common misconceptions instead.

On 2.

  1. policies are essays that document community consensus, and provide best practices that you should usually follow. Some people think policies are important. People are sometimes sanctioned for failing to follow policies. Sometimes people fight over policies.
  2. guidelines are essays that document community consensus, and provide best practices that you should usually follow. Some people think guidelines are important. People are sometimes sanctioned for failing to follow guidelines. Sometimes people fight over guidelines.
  3. essays are miscellaneous essays that document community consensus, and provide best practices that you should usually follow. Some people think essays are important. People are sometimes sanctioned for failing to follow essays. Sometimes people fight over essays.

People keep trying to make things up. "Policies" are just important essays, "Guidelines" are slightly less important essays, and "Essays" are other essays which no one may have bothered to evaluate.

Some other points in general:

  • Pages are not promoted to policy or guideline via RFC. Pages become a policy or guideline by having the appropriate tag added or removed. How that particular edit is made to succeed is ultimately determined by WP:SILENCE, WP:BRD, WP:CCC. Hold RFCs all year long if you like, but you may still fail to change the underlying consensus, and you may end up with a failed local consensus.
  • Essays are widely promoted in the community and apply widely. make no mistake. You WILL get into trouble if you ignore essays.
  • WP:VOTE probably says the opposite of what you think it says.
  • Do not immediately go off willy nilly to inform all possible interested groups. That is the WRONG WAY to do it, your proposal will be TOAST. (The consensus system will fail to operate if you exceed the local value for Dunbar's_number)
  • While talk page discussion precedes changes to policy pages, this is NOT always a best practice. (in the same sense that a lot of people vandalise wikipedia, but we don't recommend that either)
  • following a 1RR or 0RR is recommended best practice for the entire wiki, and is not particular to policy pages.
  • policies DO NOT have precedence over guidelines. You WILL get into trouble if you try to think that way.
  • People who fail to follow policies, guidelines, essays -or in fact do anything else contrary to consensus of their peers- may be reprimanded.
  • "Support for policies, guidelines, and their wording is arrived at through consensus".
    • The content of Policy/guideline/essay page is arrived at through the basic wiki-process for editing as stated in founding principles. The actual best-practice described on the page is typically previously arrived at by consensus-in-practice (aka people are already doing it).

Some of this is apparently still hotly contested and political in nature, hence some of the less-than-rock-solid wording.

My take is that we want to be careful and ensure that wikipedia does not become a bureaucracy.

Wikipedia is an internet site run by an online community. The internet is extremely flexible, and prone to change at a moments notice. We need to be careful and evaluate our system of "rules", to ensure that it too remains flexible and open to change at a moments notice.

--Kim Bruning (talk) 04:02, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for your feedback! Looks like we're on our way to clearing things up. I should clarify that those statements say exactly what they say, and nothing more - this is part of the attempt to be clear.
  • The titles policy/guideline/essay/community page don't need to conform to their dictionary definitions. They're simply context-specific names for certain groups of pages.
  • Your interpretation of policy/guideline/essay seems to be weaker than what this policy states. Guidelines are advisory, I simply stated what they advise. Often, behavioral guidelines are explicitly preventative. Many other policy pages state that guidelines advise on how policies should be applied. Essays lack formal (ie, through a successful RfC) recognition. What part of that definition is actually not true?
  • Pages don't become policy when a tag is added - it is arrived at through consensus (which is stated), via (by way of) RfC. The word 'via' does not imply that having an RfC causes a promotion/demotion. Perhaps there's a better wording, though?
  • We can't say that you will get in trouble for not following essays. I worry that saying something like this would amount to dropping a nuke of instruction creep.
  • Why does it seem that WP:VOTE doesn't belong as an example?
  • "Any" and "all" mean different things, so that's not what it suggests - would removing "any" make it better? I'm not sure about the Dunbar's number, and not informing interested parties might be taken as an endorsement of gamey/sneaky behaviour, no we shouldn't say that.
  • It effectively states that it is best practice to typically discuss on the talk page,
  • The above doesn't say that 0RR isn't best practice. It would be a mistake to say it is in this policy, though, because it's not policy. (This is precisely because 0RR is not an "enforceable community standard", but rather "advice on how to prevent problems".)
  • That's based on what this policy page states (and I agree): "...then the policy should in most cases take precedence over the guideline"
  • The above doesn't say they won't be reprimanded, but this claim is either trivial (consensus is a policy, that's why they'd get reprimanded) or wrong (you don't get formal/official action taken against you for 'acting out against consensus').
Making rules clear and specific does not cause scope creep, it reduces it, nor does clarity make rules harder to change. If you still disagree, pick one of the points and we'll take them one at a time, and hopefully get some feedback from others as well.   M   08:16, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Your interpretation of when something is policy is somewhat novel, would you care to explain it to Stevertigo, Radiant, and Netoholic? ;-) [[4]]. But let's see where we end up.

Specifically, for now, could you point out the RFC's for adoption of NPOV; the ability for anyone to edit articles without registration; the wiki process (usually understood to mean consensus); use of free licensing; and the original role of Jimbo Wales?

Next to that, I'd like to assert as a premise that policy ∈ consensus, but consensus ∉ policy (with the exception of the page describing consensus at Wikipedia:Consensus). Would you agree on that point?

--Kim Bruning (talk) 21:13, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

While I respect the judgment of the three you mention, I'm going based on what the actual policy page says. In particular, (1) the part that explicitly claims precedence, and (2) the part that explicitly implies it through the term "promotion". I'm not sure what the element-of symbol means in this context.   M   23:32, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Not a tangent

"Indeed consensus is itself a core policy and philosophy. Wikipedia strives to create a welcoming environment for those who take a neutral point of view, are civil to and assume good faith in others, act by and seek consensus in editing and discussions alike, and work towards the goal of creating an increasingly better-written and more comprehensive encyclopedia. "


This was removed as tangential, and does not help a newbie to understand policy.

I think that's backwards. The most important thing to understand is Consensus Consensus Consensus. All else follows from that. Failure to understand consensus is what gets you into trouble. --Kim Bruning (talk) 04:50, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

That may be true, but it belongs at WP:CONSENSUS. Readers really don't need to see Consensus Consensus Consensus whenever they try to learn about a specific policy. It sounds like someone mentioned the word "consensus", and then someone else essentially jumped in, saying "ah, yes, consensus. Our dear friend, consensus. Indeed, consensus is itself both a core policy here at Wikipedia - but what's more - it's a philosophy. etc." People need to stop looking for opportunities to either link or talk about their favorite policies (and guidelines, and essays) from within other policies. It's inappropriate and often obscures the targeted policy.   M   08:45, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
In biology texts, you will see frequent references to evolution, in physics you'll often see mention of the theory of relativity or to quantum theory, and so forth for other fields.
Like these fields, wikipedia also has a core theory, which allows us to understand how the disparate parts make a whole. We use our knowlege of consensus to tie together the disparate policies, guidelines and essays, and make some sense of them.
The task of Policies, guidelines and essays is to document current consensus, so you might see why mentioning it from time to time might be slightly important. ;-)
--Kim Bruning (talk) 20:54, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Documenting the consensus relevant to P&G is acceptable, but it is not the same thing as 'repeatedly documenting the current consensus policy within unrelated policies'. "Policies are based on consensus" is the sort of 'tie in' you're describing. Understanding consensus is important in understanding policy, but the removed content offers no extra help in understanding this policy.   M   23:16, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Removal of summary/restatement of pillars 4 and 5 (WP:5P)

Those who edit in good faith, are civil, seek consensus, and work towards the goal of creating a great encyclopedia will not find themselves in violation of policy. [6]

The person who removed this stated that the line was FALSE. Could they please explain? --Kim Bruning (talk) 04:15, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Kim, please don't refer to me as "the person." :) I removed it for the reasons stated in the edit summary. It doesn't mean a lot, and is often false. For example, a group of editors can quite easily obtain consensus on a talk page to violate NOR, in the best of faith, without realizing it. It happens a lot. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:22, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Hehe, I think saying "the person doing <insert action here>" is a nice way to stress the action, rather than the personalities involved. (an application of blame the process)
I think your NOR example is not very strong, because I think NOR is not a very strong or well thought-out policy. While I'm certainly willing to debate this particular example, would you care to pick a different one? ;-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 04:50, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
NOR is a strongly supported policy. The exact example doesn't matter, but for the sake of argument a number of editors could easily decide to include contentious material in a BLP that was available only in primary sources. That would violate policy, but it might be done (and indeed has been done) in perfectly good faith and with consensus on talk. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:15, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
So what happens the moment that this BLP issue is noticed by someone who checks for that kind of thing? --Kim Bruning (talk) 20:48, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with the removal, and didn't like leaving it in there myself. It previously said "...will find a welcoming environment"; I modified it to say "...will not find themselves in violation" to make it relevant to this policy. The problem is that this is a (slightly blatant) lie. I can imagine a number of scenarios where well-meaning editors violate policy, and I'm sure that more real examples exist than my imagined scenarios.   M   07:18, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Case in point: someone removes a long standing statement of policy from a policy page in good faith, and an old wikipedian patrolling for that kind of issues happens by and makes a comment about it... ;-)
Per definition, if your actions have consensus, you are not violating consensus. Policy, guidelines and essays document consensus, so by direct logic, you are not violating policy, guidelines and essays if you adhere to consensus. What *can* happen is that your knowledge of the current consensus may change over time (for instance, you do something that a policy page says is wrong, and one of your peers notices and corrects you, by explaining the right way to do things) . What can also happen (more rarely these days, but quite possible) is that the documentation is wrong; eg. recent example. --Kim Bruning (talk) 20:48, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I think you're missing the point: a wise and kind new editor often ends up violating some policy or other. We are, notoriously, jerks to new editors. If you mean that IAR means that they didn't 'technically' violate policy, despite a kick in the pants and a block, then I can only say that this is the sort of lawyerish discussion that I think that clearer policies will avoid.   M   23:46, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

No evidence?

In practice, the first option [to document existing practice] is the most effective. Proposals for new processes rarely succeed. [7]

Was removed with edit summary "removed claim with no evidence". Which is most disingenuous, because I'm fairly sure the remover has had her nose pressed in the evidence several times. :-P

I'm quite willing to do run the numbers again and again every year, but it would be nice if someone actually at least were to acknowledge that we DO provide evidence... once in a while... even if they don't agree with it. ;-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 04:20, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Trim irrelevant info

Surely most of the sections under "policy page types" should be shunted off to WP:Wikipedia namespace, and just summarized here? They're not policies or guideline pages, so shouldn't be described in detail here (except perhaps essays, since they are often confused with policies/guidelines).--Kotniski (talk) 09:21, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree entirely - this is not the place to go into detail explaining wikiprojects, and bugzilla. I'll trim them down and move them out.   M   17:26, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I've organized/cleaned it up a bit. It needs to be properly formatted into perhaps 4 paragraphs. I still think that there is a fair bit of excess description there, but I don't want to go too far on my own.   M   17:49, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, based on your excellent work, I've gone a bit further and moved some info to WP:Project namespace (a page which itself needs bringing into line with reality a bit).--Kotniski (talk) 08:23, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks! Encouragement and help makes things a lot easier and less stressful. I'll carry on, I think that the process part can be a lot more terse without being less helpful. I've also added a general 'content' section that describes what policies should contain and avoid doing ('provide purpose and scope', 'avoid redundancy', 'avoid overlinking', etc.) along with brief explanations. They're mostly based on the changes/cleanups that have been done in this article.   M   22:26, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
You've done some excellent work here, M, thank you. The page is actually more helpful with tighter writing because it's more readable. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:33, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks!   M   05:13, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Great recent edits. It's always great so see things become even shorter/clearer. I think we've managed to substantially reduce the length of this policy, without removing anything substantive. I think it's an improvement (though I worry that I might be biased). The whole 'here's how you nominate and what you do' process seems both huge and not fun to follow. I'd really prefer to kick it out into wp:consensus or perhaps an essay, and just say "call an RfC if you want a new policy or guideline. They need strong consensus. Check with the proposals pump to get some initial feedback." instead. Thoughts?   M   08:01, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes, that could certainly be shortened. But still making the principle clear that you can't just change the status of a page to/from a policy/guideline on a whim (as some people try to do). --Kotniski (talk) 08:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
M, I actually meant "in interpreting and applying those standards," hence "them." [8] It seems to me to read better, and it fits with what we then say about spirit. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:40, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I too meant both policies and guidelines, and I see how there's ambiguity. Calling policies and guidelines 'them' seems a bit strange, and I dislike it/them/those/that/he in general. But this is a personal stylistic thing. Feel free to revert stylistic quibbles at will, they're just a friendly suggestion.   M   08:57, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Okay, thanks. I'll read it over for flow tomorrow, as you could be right. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 09:06, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps [9] solves it?   M   17:29, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Slrubenstein criticizes the number of policies here (and gives thanks to editors for their recent edits). Should we mention something like "many editors feel that policy is overwhelming", or can we make the content section cover this?   M   20:11, 31 July 2009 (UTC)


Using an h1 heading for clarity, else I need to change all the headers in the copied text below . ;-) My comments are in italic.

There are a great number of issues with the current text, that need to be addressed. I note that the main source of policy (to wit, documenting existing consensus) has somehow accidentally fallen out of the description of how we write policy. This should probably be rectified.

Some other methods of generating policy are listed, but there is some controversy as to whether these are effective at all. This may need to be discussed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kim Bruning (talkcontribs)

Wikipedia policies and guidelines are developed by the community to establish best practice, clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goal of creating a free and neutral encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

No, they merely document, they are not "developed"

This policy page specifies the community standards related to the composition, structure, organization, life cycle, and maintenance of policies & guidelines and related pages. It can never specify, only document. Did you gain consensus for specifying how others should work?


Policies and guidelines express standards that the community has approved by consensus.

This is wrong or at least misleading. They are not necessarily the standards themselves (as the documentation might fall behind reality) , and they have not been approved by consensus, they merely document the consensus at the time they were written.

Editors are expected to use their common sense in interpreting and applying these rules, and the spirit of the rules is at least as important as the letter.

Editors are expected to use their common sense at all times, WP:IAR is policy!

Editors violating the spirit may be reprimanded even if no rule has technically been broken. They are actually reprimanded for failing to adhere to consensus. "the spirit of the rules" technically may mean the same, but is vague and non-specific

When editing policy and guideline pages, ensure that any changes made have consensus - especially in policies, which must be more stable.

the part about "especially in policies" is completely made up, and has no relation to reality :-/. How do you specify or measure such stability?

Listings can be found at the List of policies, List of guidelines, and Category:Wikipedia essays.

This line is factual

Policies have wide acceptance among editors and are standards that all users should follow. They are often closely related to the five pillars of Wikipedia. Where a guideline appears to conflict with a policy, the policy takes precedence.

Actually, the 5 pillars are a summary of policy.

Guidelines are more advisory than policies. Guidelines advise on how to prevent and recognize problems, and on how to apply and execute policy under specific circumstances. Exceptions to guidelines are more likely to occur.[1]

you're making this up, guidelines and policies are both essays that document common practice, a guideline may have precedence over a policy, depending on situation, but precedence is something you'd artificially tack on after-the-fact, no precedence was ever intended.

Essays are the opinion or advice of an editor or a group of editors. No formal attempt to gauge their widespread consensus has been made. Essays do not speak for the entire community and may be created and written without approval. Personal essays belong in the User namespace.

The other forms of essay (policy and guideline) also may not have had formal attempts to gauge consensus either. In fact, no formal method of reaching a binding consensus is formally recognized (see WP:CCC). Making this statement is dangerous and misleading

Community process pages are in place that facilitate application of the policies and guidelines.

Processes may actually also generate policies,guidelines and essays over time, or have nothing to do with policies, guidelines and essays at all. So this may be unnescesary


Policies and guidelines should be clear, terse, and direct. Policies and guidelines should:

I'm not sure what this section is doing. Does it overlap with another page?

  • be clear and terse. Avoid esoteric legal terms and verbose dumbed-down language. Be both plain and concise. Clarity and tersity are not in opposition: direct and brief writing is more clear. Footnotes may be used for further clarification.
  • emphasize the spirit of the rule. Verbosity is not a defense against misinterpretation. Excess clauses breed ambiguity. Be unambiguous and specific: avoid platitudes and generalities. Don't theorize. Avoid provisos and qualifiers,[2] and omit needless words, especially adjectives. If the spirit of the rule is clear, say no more.
  • provide purpose and scope. Both must be clearly stated in lead, and not merely as an aside.[3]
  • maintain scope. To prevent scope creep, two polices should not cover the same topics. Content should be within the scope of its policy.[4]
  • avoid redundancy. Policies should not be redundant with other policies, or within themselves. The same redundant statement may change in one place and not in another, and though this is often not a problem in articles, with policy it lead to confusion, contradiction, and verbosity.
  • defer with caution. Links to other policies, guidelines, or essays may inadvertently or intentionally defer authority to them. Make it clear when links defer, and when they do not.
  • avoid overlinking. Links should be used only when clarification or context is needed. It is inappropriate to link another policy, guideline, or essay simply because it is opportune, especially one you wish to promote or had a part in creating.[5]
  • don't dilute. Elaboration & examples and justification & background are sometimes needed. These should be both brief and necessary; if they are not brief they belong in a footnote. Footnotes must only clarify, and not add substantive claims. Policy should be imperative or exhortative, where possible. Avoid sarcasm and implication. Policies say exactly what they say and nothing more, so policy should be complete and contain nothing extra.

Policy life cycle

Many of the most well-established policies and guidelines developed as clarifications and elaborations of Wikipedia's founding principles;

pretty much not.

others developed as solutions to common problems and disruptive editing.

Give an example where this happened in this way?

Policy is seldom established without precedent,[6] and always requires strong community support. 

OFFICE is not permitted to set policy

Policies may be established through new policy proposals, promotion of essays or guidelines, and reorganization of existing policy through splitting and merging.

None of these methods are particularly good ways to establish policy. New policy proposals fail >90% of the time, "promotion of essays and guidelines" pretty much doesnt happen. Reorganising may be said to count as refactoring and not as a way to establish new policy pages

Current policy proposals can be found in Category:Wikipedia proposals, and rejected proposals can be found in Category:Wikipedia rejected proposals.

this is true.


New proposals require discussion and a high level of consensus from the broad community for promotion to guideline or policy. no. One must establish practice first.

Adding the {{policy}} template to a page without the required consensus does not mean that the page is policy, even if the page only summarizes or copies policy. Formal consensus is required. The Request for comments process is typically used to determine consensus for a new policy, via the {{rfctag|policy}} tag.

this is false

[7] A proposal RfC should be left open for one week. Policy proposals can receive early-stage feedback at Wikipedia's policy village pump. If a proposal fails, the failed tag should not be removed. It is typically more productive to rewrite a failed proposal from scratch to address problems than to re-nominate a proposal.

A proposal RFC should be left open for a week? Do you think it is possible to build consensus in that period of time? Does it still work when one invites 100+ people early on?


An accepted policy or guideline may become obsolete because of changes in editorial practice or community standards, may become redundant because of improvements to other pages, or may represent unwarranted instruction creep. In such situations editors may propose that a policy or guideline be demoted to guideline, essay, or historical page.[8]

This is a REALLY bad approach, how do you define an appropriate time for comments, what's with this "close" thing. We have 100 years to get this right. Let's get it right!

The {{disputedtag}} template is typically used instead of {{underdiscussion}} for claims that a page was recently assigned guideline or policy status without proper or sufficient consensus being established.

Many historical essays can still be found within Meta's essay category. The Wikimedia Foundation's Meta-wiki was envisioned as the original place for editors to comment on and discuss Wikipedia, although the "Wikipedia" project space has since taken over most of that role.

But you would be extremely extremely stupid to ignore meta.

Content changes

Talk page discussion typically, but not necessarily, precedes substantive changes to policy. Changes may be made if there are no objections, or if discussion shows that there is consensus for the change. Bold editors of policy and guideline pages are strongly encouraged to follow WP:1RR or WP:0RR standards. Minor edits to improve formatting, grammar, and clarity may be made at any time. [9]

In short, Wikipedia:Consensus applies. But then people somehow think it applies *differently*, while such is not the case.

If the result of discussions is unclear, then it should be evaluated by an administrator or other independent editor, as in the proposal process. Appeal to authority situation here

Major changes should also be publicized to the community in general; announcements similar to the proposal process may be appropriate. dunbar/scope issues again

Editing a policy to support your own argument in an active discussion may be seen as gaming the system, especially if you do not disclose your involvement in the argument when making the edits. But the more important reason to edit policy while in an argument is not mentioned; to wit: you are in a consensus forming process, and editing the policy to document consensus is the primary source of policy.

Enforcement and application

Individual editors (including you) enforce and apply policies and guidelines. Though no one editor is more important than any other, editors who act according to policies and guidelines by definition have more community support than those who violate them. Actually, this is not true. Editors who act according to community *CONSENSUS* have community support by definition. Policy and guidelines document this consensus, so sure, you're more likely to have community consensus, but the distinction is important. As a fact of life, policy and guideline pages -like all wiki pages- might fall behind reality, be in transition, be under editing, or just plain wrong.

In cases where it is clear that a user is acting against policy, especially if they are doing so intentionally and persistently, that user may be temporarily or indefinitely blocked from editing by an administrator. They actually are permitted to act completely against policy, even at a whim: WP:IAR. However, if they act where there is a clear and stated consensus against their actions, and they have been so informed, only then may they be blocked.

In cases where the general dispute resolution procedure has been ineffective, the Arbitration Committee has the power to deal with highly disruptive or sensitive situations. true

In discussions and edit summaries, policy and guideline pages are often referred to using shortcuts, such as WP:NOR or WP:MOSNUM. However, similar shortcuts are also created for other types of project page, including essays. The use of a shortcut does not necessarily imply that the page linked to has policy or guideline status. The use of shortcuts is not a best practice, it's just that we're all lazy. We use shortcuts, and in fact entire policy, guideline and essay pages to save us typing out our positions within the community consensus every time. ;-) Strictly speaking, you should take the time to explain current consensus every time, however, that takes a lot of time and may not be practical. You should certainly be prepared to do so, however. If someone doesn't understand your abbreviations, or the pages you link to, it is *your* responsibility and duty to ensure that this person does understand, either by explaining, by tidying the pages you linked to, or whatever else it takes. This is one way in which consensus is formed, and how policy becomes written.

I left a message at your talk page but I think you're currently away, so I fixed the headings and collapsed the above. This is only for the sake of making this talk page readable; I think that your objections are very important. I do think, though, that this talk page isn't the appropriate place for the above point-by-point, and that it should be moved to user space. We should take things one point at a time instead, to avoid serious confusion and verbosity.
Many of your points above object to the current policy page based on content that was actually there in the previous page[10]. These are separate issues - bringing them up as if they were recently added might be misleading. In particular, your objection to "They[policies] are often closely related to the five pillars of Wikipedia." is an objection to something that's been in policy for over a year[11]. I actually think it's a bit goofy and doesn't belong there, but I avoided changing it because it might have been a substantial change.
Would you mind stating your most important point (I'm having trouble determining it from the above) so we could start there?   M   17:21, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps your clarification highlighted all the weaknesses in the current page. As it stands, I don't think it's policy (anymore). Thank you for doing that!
I think we may need to rewrite the page entirely, since as it stands, it is lacking in historic context, and consensus context.
My two biggest issues right now are that the page does not point out that policy is neither binding nor formal, and it doesn't mention at all the fact that policy, guidelines and essays exist only at the behest of, and in service of Consensus, and FOR NO OTHER REASON.
It's a question of who or what is in charge:
  • Managers or Generals? It's a hierarchy
  • 3 constitutionally divided powers? It's a complex system: a constitutional republic
  • Policies, guidelines, rules? It's a bureaucracy
  • a consensus of peers? It's a consensus system.
Now, Wikipedia is defined as a consensus system (The relevant founding principle calls this "the wiki process", for historical reasons.). However, I think the current wording of the page essentially implies that wikipedia is a bureaucracy instead.
Let's sanity check the above statement.
For instance:
  • documents describing a republic might explain how each aspect of the republic, its laws, and its institutions are tied into the constitution. "The constition gives right X to Y, who uses it as a check on Z"
  • Documents describing a hierarchy, such as an army, might explain who gave what orders when, and why. Or it might state who holds what responsibility in each portion of the hierarchy. "X must do Y, by order of Z"
  • Documents describing a bureaucracy might explain what policies apply to whom, and how to tie policies to other policies. "You should do X, by way of policies Y,Z"
  • Documents describing a consensus might explain (to some extent) what kinds of opinions people hold, what the (best) practices are that these people have discovered, and why those practices are followed, and by whom. "A lot of people do X, because Y. This is evolving over time to become Z, as more people realize facts A, B, C"
Which of these best describes the current page?
--Kim Bruning (talk) 22:04, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Can you give us a scenario where, for example, NPOV or BLP should not be regarded as binding, and should instead be ignored? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 22:09, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Pretty much anytime there is a dispute, for starters. An inflexible approach typically fails to solve real-world problems. Even (or especially) on-line. Wikipedia relies on a soft approach to security and guidelines. That's why IAR has a policy tag, among other reasons. --Kim Bruning (talk) 23:24, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
IAR has a policy tag to prevent rules from preventing clear and obvious improvement; it's not a condemnation of our policies. I think your response has clarity or exhortation very confused with inflexibility. Policies specify (as in "clear and specific") standards that the community considers binding, and they certainly are binding: that is, they establish as compulsory ("apply to all editors") an adherence to certain widely-approved (with approval verified through a consensus decision) standards. Let's be very clear and specific about what we mean.   M   01:05, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't believe the system works like that. While several of the things you are saying are partially true or close to true by inference, they do not describe the underlying system. Normally, that's ok, but part of the purpose of this page is to describe the underlying system. --Kim Bruning (talk) 11:32, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Great, that means we're close to agreement. What is the most fundamentally important omission, and why?   M   17:42, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I wish that were true, and you are certainly going about things the right way. "Missing the entire underlying system" is a bit of an issue though. :-P I guess it's my turn to start writing or so, though. --Kim Bruning (talk) 19:29, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
The policy, as it was before the changes, did not state a) that policy is not binding, nor b) that policy exists at the behest of consensus. At least, certainly not in that wording. A lot of work has been done to make this policy clearer. I don't want it scrapped on account of the sorry state of the patient dragged from underneath the rubble. Before we go on we need to ensure that no substantive changes have been made. You're claiming that they have. Could you provide the specific substantive phrase(s) which has been removed, or added? Saying that "it gave me this impression before, and now it doesn't" is insufficient.   M   22:53, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Dang. I could have sworn the patient had 10 fingers and 2 eyes at *some* point in the past.
I suppose we could just bring the patient back up to spec now, right? --Kim Bruning (talk) 23:21, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
An extensive cleanup of non-substantive parts of policy does not imply an opportunity to "clean up" the substantive parts of policy that you disagree with. Would you mind specifying which specs, such that were met by the version from before the changes, are no longer met? Or can I assume that though you disagree with the policy, you don't think the cleanup did any damage?   M   01:05, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
The distinction is not important to me. The document is currently flawed. Policy may be improved at any time. Let's play the ball where it lies. :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 11:26, 1 August 2009 (UTC) Though I reserve the option of coming up with 'specs that are no longer met' at a later date, should folks prove to be recalcitrant. ;-)
I don't want to play this game. Others and I worked hard to prevent this policy from slipping. I'm concerned that something was removed, or that something added does not represent strong consensus. Out of courtesy at this point, I'm refraining from further improving this and other policies, and instead working on other things while waiting for you to reply. If you just want to have a back-and-forth debate on the finer points of policy interpretation, this is a much lower priority for me.   M   17:42, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
It's not a game, you're talking to the wrong person for games. This is a major issue for me. This page currently does not represent consensus at any level. As it stands, this is not policy.
I'm cheerful and polite about this, because you are :-), but we have some very very fundamental differences of opinion about how policy works.
This is not me slowing you down. This is a fundamental difference of opinion we are going to have to work through, step by step. I'm just as frustrated as you are, if not more so, but I'm willing to be patient if you are too, (and even if you're not). Fair enough?
--Kim Bruning (talk) 18:35, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely. It would make it much easier for me, if when you said "you've re-written it so that it is no longer policy", that you said exactly where. There are at least 3 other editors who think the cleanup was good. I don't care at the moment about our differences. I only care that a) nothing substantial was removed; and b) nothing that counters consensus was added. Also, please be much more careful in how you present my position.   M   20:11, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Didn't Kim point out exactly where the issues were, almost line-by-line above in italic? Your post about the lack of detail (... "said exactly where".) implies otherwise. --MZMcBride (talk) 20:23, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

(edit conflict) See above, starting at "Many of your points above object to the current policy page based on content that was actually there in the previous page." Many other of the points don't relate to her claim that something substantive changed. I'm not sure which one she means specifically. Here's the old revision. The first 3 points:
  1. "No, they merely document, they are not 'developed'" The old policy? "Wikipedia has developed a body of..."
  2. currently: "This policy page specifies the community standards related to [...] and maintenance of policies & guidelines and related pages." objection: "It can never specify, only document. Did you gain consensus for specifying how others should work?" Huh? The word 'specify' means to state in clear detail. This is not substantive.
  3. currently "Policies and guidelines express standards that the community has approved by consensus." "This is wrong or at least misleading [...]", old policy: " describe standards that have community consensus and apply to all editors" The current version doesn't say that they are the standards, it says policies express (convey, communicate, represent, make known) the standards.
I would be happy to provide a response to any one of the objections. Each point takes me a lot of time, though. If what I did hasn't really changed anything, then Kim should stop leveling objections to the old policy against the work that I, specifically, have done, as if I'm the one responsible for what the policy page has been saying for a few years now.   M   21:06, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

(ec, also unindent) I think we agreed that the rewrite has made the text clearer. I feel that what we are left with is clearly not representative of policy. I've made a nearly line-by-line analysis at the start of this section (the part of the text that you collapsed); practically nothing in the document is entirely in line with known best practice right now. I'm not sure what more you want from me here. I guess it can't be more detail. Are you looking for some way to proceed in a direction? Hmm, you mention refutation of central point

Okay, right now, I guess a good place to start is that the page abuses the word "consensus". It is not being used in the sense of Wikipedia:Consensus. Just to get going: Among other things, it does not correctly state the relationship between policy and consensus. To wit: our body of policy is a subset of the consensus of all wikipedians.

That's a start, but it's still a heck of a lot of ground to cover. Are you up for it? :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 20:29, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Of course. A discussion between just you and I, though, has little hope of changing anything which is both substantive and controversial. But, if something substantive was lost in the cleanup, then I would be relieved to have it reinstated. I don't want these potential 'losses' to be saved for later as ammo, since things might get a lot more confusing. Do you agree that nothing substantive was removed?   M   21:06, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I would like to Just Move Forward and deal with the current list of issues that have been found. That will be enough work as it stands, I should think. --Kim Bruning (talk) 21:27, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Saying that there were no substantive changes during the cleanup doesn't mean that you commit to all parts being accurate, or added with proper consensus, etc. etc. All it means is that you have done what you could to help find things that got messed up, and are satisfied, and don't consider this to be a complete rewrite or some sort of attack on consensus. Look at it this way: if you say "hey, you stole the apple tree", and I say "did not, here, look in my yard", then I expect you either a) bring me back an apple (and not a barrel of fruit that might have an apple in it), or b) stop saying that I stole the apple tree. Saying "uh, yeah, well... I didn't like the apple tree anyway... but I can lie and say I don't think you really stole it" is, you know, a bit sub-par.   M   21:31, 1 August 2009 (UTC) (Er, above reply was to a message that seems to have been removed.)   M   21:36, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
Ok, I'd Love That Too :) Start a new section, and pick some wording that you would like to change, insert, or remove? (just to keep it grounded, and so we have something specific to talk about.)   M   21:36, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think I accused you of stealing the apple tree. I assume you did your best work tending the yard. My apologies if I gave a different impression.
It's just that now that you've gone and cut all the weeds down, it's suddenly obvious that the dang tree has gone missing (as well as several other trees and bushes, now that I look).
I've got better things to do than to go hither and yon looking for the thieves. I would prefer to just plant some new trees.
AKA: I'm sure you did a good job, I'm not going to check you, I just want to get on with fixing the page to represent consensus again. Fair enough? :-) --Kim Bruning (talk) 22:00, 1 August 2009 (UTC) And yeah, I replaced my previous reply with a more appropriate answer, before you got around to answering it, sorry about that. :-)
Great :)   M   22:06, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
And in reply to new answer: Yeah, I already started a section on the things I want to change and why, of course. ;-)
There's two ways to go about this. We can either walk through each issue, starting at the top, and we'll end up where we started, with yet another muddled page, OR
We set up a plan of action, and do something like a complete rewrite, where we build out each statement working from basic principles. It wouldn't quite be the writing of a cited article (what can we cite? :-/) , but the next best thing, perhaps.
If done right, it would be very hard for people to object to the page not following consensus, since we would have Shown Our Work on every line.
now to find some time to go and do that ^^;; --Kim Bruning (talk) 22:11, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
We could, and should, cite previous discussions that confirmed consensus. I don't know how well a wholesale replacement will work, but give it a shot if you think it's best.   M   22:36, 1 August 2009 (UTC)


"Four was far too many, but we usually list one word-based shortcut and one initialism/acronym-based shortcut.)"

Why? Multiple shortcuts fragment a memorable standard way to refer to a policy. We don't need to list multiple (uselessly) redundant shortcuts just because other pages do it. People comparatively seldom use PG, perhaps because sounds like a movie rating. It's not even clear from its wording what it means. I can't think of a case where you need to know multiple shortcuts: it's not like one is better for some situations, and the other better for others.   M   03:49, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

I had not intended to start an editing war over shortcuts but see that Wikipedia:Shortcut#Link boxes says "The point of these template boxes is not to list every single redirect for any given page." Template:Shortcut/doc says the same and also limits people to five shortcuts which would be a hard upper limit. Both pages are silent on if one of the listed shortcuts should be a TLA and others be more human friendly. Thus, there seems to be no stated policy or guideline on the shortcut boxes other than they are limited to five.
It's an essay rather than policy or a guideline but the WP:GIBBERISH article asks that people avoid unnecessary jargon. With that in mind I'd like to strike WP:PG as one of the suggested shortcuts.
At present there are 28 single word redirects to this article that could be shortcuts. I know the decision making should be on consensus rather than number of votes but I thought it would be instructive to look at the what-links-here counts. In descending order of use they are WP:POLICY 2439, WP:POL 1456, WP:Policy 913, WP:RULES 818, WP:PG 380, WP:Guidelines 160, WP:Policies 157, WP:GUIDE 123, WP:GUIDELINE 113, WP:Guideline 85, WP:Essay 70, WP:PAG 70, WP:ESSAYS 61, WP:Essays 46, WP:P&G 36, WP:POLICIES 27, WP:Rules 27, WP:Guide 10, WP:PROPOSAL 6, WP:RULE 6, WP:HISTORICAL 4, WP:Constitution 2, WP:PGE 1, WP:POlICY 1, WP:PVG 1, WP:Gideline 0, WP:MAZE 0, and WP:WikiEssay 0.
WP:RULES was a surprise dark horse. People clearly bring up policy and rules to add weight to their arguments rather than guidelines. :-)
All that said - I'd argue for the following as the suggested shortcuts for this article: WP:POLICY, WP:GUIDELINE, and WP:RULES. I put GUIDELINE before RULES to balance things out between the two main subjects of this article and rules is the catch-all for both of them. --Marc Kupper|talk 01:04, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think anyone's properly reverted anyone else yet, though I plan to drop the shortcut-count back down to 1 in a day or so :) This policy also (cough) now states that multiple terminology should be avoided (I added this while cleaning up WP:PROD (uh, wp:prop?), but it seems to apply here too). Thanks for bringing these stats together! The ones that aren't all-capitals are simple redirects, I think. Anything under 70, and definitely all of the ones under 10 should be deleted, some even speedied.
As for having two shortcuts, I don't really see a point unless one links into the middle of some important section. I guess a lot of people do use WP:RULES, but I think the implication there is way too 'authoritative' for the page to encourage using.   M   01:25, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
One benefit of multiple shortcuts is that one of the redundant combinations may be meaningful to an editor in some way while others are not. I'm very tempted by the eliminating redundancy argument though. One thing about including a particular shortcut in the box is that besides advertising that it exists is that it's essentially a "permission to use" thing. I agree that no matter what, that WP:RULES should not be included. It's one less hammer in the contentious conversation box. It looking at the edit history for this article, the box started with RULES in 2004 and has grown and shrunk a couple of times and is likely to continue doing so unless anti-redundancy becomes the norm. --Marc Kupper|talk 07:34, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Defining policies and guidelines

Concerning this revert, what exactly makes this wording muddled, and are all aspects of the change muddled, as the full-revert suggests?   M   08:03, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

It's not clear what it means:
"Policies and guidelines are standards that the community has approved by consensus. These standards are specified in policy and guideline pages, listings of which can be found at the List of policies and List of guidelines. Though these pages are not themselves the community standards, they are the closest thing that Wikipedia has to a correct description of them, and should be treated as if they were the standards until a broad consensus process shows otherwise."
Policies are the standards. Policy pages are not themselves the standards, but the standards are specified there. They are the closest things etc. Not clear what's being said. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:10, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
There's a difference between policy, and the pages which specify them. This is actually the justification for keeping the somewhat strange "This page documents a policy" (rather than "This is a policy, a..."). Perhaps it should read
"Policies and guidelines are standards [of conduct and content?]. These standards are specified in policy and guideline pages [that the community has approved by consensus], listings of which can be fo..."
Does that clear things up?   M   08:17, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
I think you're at risk of reintroducing the lack of clarity you've done such a great job of removing. We don't need to make metaphysical distinctions between policy and the page policy is written on, and standards versus the policy that comes close to expressing it etc. People just need to be told what's expected of them, as succinctly as possible so that they'll actually read it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:27, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps we can start by replacing the goofy "This page documents an" with "This is an" over at the template ;) I don't actually like this wording and distinction (see the "Don't theorize" point in the content section), but a lot of people feel very strongly that policy pages may not represent that ethereal 'consensus'. This issue is half the point of IAR (the other half, reassuring worried editors, was mostly lost when the original wording changed). We can satisfy both sides by saying "yes, the page might not actually reflect the true floating and binding consensus policy" and "but it's the closest thing we have, so mind your IARing".   M   08:41, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec: reply to M) Do lots of editors feel that policy pages don't represent consensus? I doubt that, because otherwise the policies would change. And what is the "true floating and binding consensus policy?" We're wandering into Popper's world three here. It would make an interesting essay, but it's too partial a view for this page. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 08:47, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Misunderstanding, I think: it's not that the pages don't, it's that they may not. The policies can become outdated, and sometimes they're even wrong. Hence the support for IAR. We have no damn clue what that magical floating consensus is - hence much of the opposition to IAR. We should note, though, that the policies are the closest thing we have to consensus, not the say-so of some editor or group of them. It's not an essay, the distinction is sound and widely noted. The only issue here is whether it should be included.   M   08:56, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
(ec: reply to Slim) I'm not sure I agree. The distinction between "policy" and "policy page" is quite important, in my opinion, particularly since I quite often see arguments getting muddled through a failure to make that distinction. Policy doesn't change just because a policy page is changed. Or at least, the best practices/standards don't change. (Personally I would do it this way: discuss and adopt best practices in one place, document them in another. Since we have two namespaces available, I would make Wikipedia: the place for discussion and decision-making, and Help: the place to look to find out how to do things, including documentation of the practices decided on through discussion in WP space.)--Kotniski (talk) 08:45, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Indeed, I've encountered many misunderstandings along those lines, and this appears to have become less common since the "documents" wording (which seems clear and straightforward to me) was introduced. —David Levy 10:29, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Slim, I appreciate your concerns, but could you please reply to this section before making any further changes, especially reverts?   M   19:07, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Avoid summaries

Are there any objections to adding the following to the redundancy point in the content section:

  • Do not summarize (other) policy, or parts of the same policy, and avoid needless reminders.

I've seen several policies (try to) 'sum up' other policies. WP:ADMIN "sums up" WP:WHEEL, and ends up effectively duplicating it (I've suggested a merge at WT:WHEEL). Other policies (and non-policy pages) 'sum up' things that are clearly outside of their scope, and often get things wrong (e.g. this). I've seen this used a couple of times to get wording inserted into the policy corpus that would have had no chance had it been inserted into the right policy (where editors were familiar with the problems it might cause). As for summing up other parts and needless reminders, I present this as painful evidence.   M   04:16, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

How about:
  • avoid redundancy. Do not summarize, copy, or extract text. Avoid needless reminders.
It's trimmed in the spirit of avoiding redundancy :-). As the section lead is "Policies and guidelines should:" it's also redundant to mention them again in the bullets. I added "copy or extract" as I ran into exactly this yesterday where a page had a literal extract of a full call-out box from a WP policy article and the extract was 1.5 years out of date. --Marc Kupper|talk 05:51, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
Awesome! My only concern is that this would enable someone (me) to go around deleting hatchet-job summaries. Some of these have been written to "emphasize" some policy-position or other, so I suspect there might be some opposition.   M   07:55, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
How about "Refrain from summarizing, coping, or extracting text?" That way someone's not given carte blanche to go through and do a mass deletion of existing text and the battle can be about what's meant by "avoid", "refrain", "unnecessary", etc. My personal thinking about avoid redundancy are that 1) sometimes the text gets out of sync as the source or copy may be modified. 2) A summary may unintentionally modify policy. 3) An extract or summary may be out of context. 4) Two different policies that overlap an area can cause confusion as to what may be the correct intent. --Marc Kupper|talk 19:32, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
That does sound better - though, to some extent, I would like a carte blanche. Summaries of other policies are the devil. Out of the two things that pointlessly bulk up policy (the other being uncontestable redundancy and verbosity), summaries are the hardest to extract (see my attempt to remove G9 at WT:CSD), the most painfully redundant (see my proposal to merge WP:WHEEL), and the most policy-pov-pushingly out of sync. Often, when a page is cleaned up, you don't need to put things into context. For example, CIV copies 50% of the substantial content of AGF directly in. Should it do this? No. It should either properly take in AGF (which it cannot, since AGF is unenforcable), rather than qualifyingly summarize it, or it should, perhaps even in the lead, list AGF as one of the policy-endorsed guidelines, and define it by copying the defining or core sentence of AGF. So, yeah, sorry about the rant. One other problem with this might be "be consistent" - what makes refrain clearly distinct from avoid? can we make this clear in the language?   M   19:43, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Prior to your addition of the Content section the page had
  • Is the proposed guideline or policy, or parts of it, redundant with existing guidelines and policies? If so, it is better to link to the appropriate part of existing pages, or (if a link with a very brief description is not appropriate) to transclude common text into all pages.
My interpretation of this is that 1) guideline or policy should not overlap, 2) It's better to link rather than summarizing or extracting. With the current revision we have lost two elements 1) We lost the general purpose "avoid redundancy". The words are still there but the footnote shifts the meaning to don't summarize/extract. 2) We lost the suggestion to transclude. While it's redundant I believe it's important as something stated in policy is also giving permission to do that thing. There's also 3) in that we shifted from a positive "these are the things you can do" to the negative "don't do these things." I tried various ways to capture the essence of the prior wording but ran out of time. The original wording was close to carte blanche and so I don't think there's a problem with that aspect. --Marc Kupper|talk 00:18, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
You're right, I didn't even notice this. Such a section should probably say "does it conform to the content guideline stated above?" There might be a problem with "well, that applies only when they're being nominated, not when they (crappy) wording has been established for 3 years", but this seems silly. I'll think of a good way to put it back in when I have spare time (I hope you beat me to it :)   M   01:38, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Purpose of this page

Something to remember about this page is that it doesn't get read much compared to the key policies. See, for example, 16,237 readers of this page in June 2009, compared with 105,227 readers for Wikipedia:Verifiability.

This is primarily because people want to read the policies they care about, and also I think because this page was written in quite a confusing way. It was for that reason that I supported the recent copy editing, because it tightened things. However, we now seem to be going in reverse, with key points being removed and confusing language being suggested again.

It's worth bearing in mind that nothing this page says will change how people view the policies. The established policies are very well-established, and the less established ones won't be propped up by anything on this page. We should therefore stick to describing here what actually occurs, how the policies are actually viewed, rather than what some people might wish were the case. And the clearer and more meaningful the writing, the more likely people are to read it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:20, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

The reason for those stats is that this page is aimed primarily at caretakers of policy, while the content policies are aimed at caretakers of the encyclopedia at large. (Also, I personally removed several pages (thousands of characters) during the cleanup, I'd like to think that it's going to take a lot more than a frank discussion of what policies and guidelines are to reverse that). Now, you may disagree with the "confusing" language, but in that case you should a) point out to the other people here where they're going astray, and b) suggest something clearer. This isn't something where you can just say "policies are standards that are usually sometimes not though but usually we follow them, while guidelines are sort of more advisory". That's confusing. The intent, of course, is to accurately describe the crucial parts of the general community's feelings on policies and guidelines. If there's no way to do that, we should likely remove the definition section entirely. I am, however, optimistic.   M   18:53, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I disagree that this page was aimed at caretakers of policy; we don't really have any, and I don't think it was aimed at anyone, which was part of the problem. Policies aren't usually regarded as standards we should follow, but always. Can you name a policy people tend to ignore? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:18, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Everybody is a caretaker of policy. What I mean is that it essentially describes (and has described since the very start) what policy is, what it should contain, how it's enforced, and how it gets changed. I'm not against the wording in that direction - I think that it's well-established that both policies and guidelines are standards that all editors should follow. What I don't like is the "well, sorta" and "sometimes" and other qualifiers implicit in the current wording. We don't need to qualify. If the spirit of the definition is clear, we don't need to say more.   M   21:24, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
But the qualifiers are implicit in practice as well. Remember that our first and must fundamental policy is that anyone can ignore any policy if following it would prevent them from improving the encyclopedia. — Carl (CBM · talk) 23:28, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, I think the NPOV, GFDL, Consensus/wiki process, and perhaps even Verifyability are both earlier and more fundamental, and more important than IAR (good luck ignoring GFDL), but this is beside the point. The removal of qualifiers is in the service of IAR. To add qualifiers for every little thing is to ignore IAR and Common sense. Especially vague qualifiers. It's ok to have a 'backup case' for some niche decision (like some stuff in Naming conflicts), what we don't need to do is go around adding 'usually' and 'might be' and 'though sometimes there are exceptions' to every little thing. It's confusing! That's what IAR and Common sense are there to handle.   M   04:25, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Consensus definitions

This is surely a can of worms, but I know a lot of us disagree on this one, and we should probably resolve how we want to define and describe policies and guidelines. I propose the following wording as a start towards building consensus on this:

  • (1) Policies and guidelines are standards of conduct and content widely upheld within the community. (2) These standards are specified [described?] in policy and guideline pages that the community has approved must approve through consensus, listings of which can be found at the List of policies and List of guidelines. (3) Though the letter of these pages is not itself the standard, it is the closest thing to a correct description of our standards, and should be treated as if it was the standard until a broad consensus process shows otherwise. (4) Avoid making substantive changes when editing policy and guideline pages. (5) Editors are expected to use their common sense; those who violate the spirit of the rule may be reprimanded even if no rule has technically been broken.
  • (6) Policies are standards that all users should follow. (7) [Many?] Policies are [should be] enforceable [i.e. binding] [or NOT?] through a number of processes. (8) They may be written in a prescriptive tone, when appropriate.
  • (9) Guidelines [should] advise on how to prevent and recognize problems, and on how to apply and execute policy under specific circumstances. (10) Where a guideline appears to conflict with a policy, the policy takes precedence.

I think some of this is a compromise, but as it stands I would endorse it as a correct description, so I'd like to know if something needs to change for you to think the same. I'd like to avoid "some editors think x, others think y", but that may be a solution too. We should concretely address some of the more controversial words (prescriptive, specify, describe, enforceable). Which of these 10 do you agree or disagree with, is anything missing, and what should their wording be instead if you disagree? Keep in mind that we're trying to find ways to correctly and adequately represent all major views; our goal is not to have some view "win" an argument, unless we all support it.   M   08:12, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I think I agree with most of that (at least as to how things are, not necessarily how they optimally should be). I think "policy and guideline pages that the community has approved" should read "...should have approved", to avoid stating as fact something that is sometimes false. And the thing about common sense should cut both ways: (a) behaviour within the letter of the rule can still be disapproved of (that's what you say); but we should also say (b) violating the letter of the rule is not necessarily a bad thing (with a link to IAR).--Kotniski (talk) 08:23, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, good points. I added the first one, though not in past tense. This does lose some of the meaning. I think we need a way to get rigorous consensus on this sort of thing (which is what this will turn into after we cover our bases) but again, how things are, not how they should be. I'm not sure how to phrase the last one. Do you have a suggestion?   M   09:51, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I object to losing the phrase "guidelines are more advisory in nature." It is the only phrase that currently tells people clearly what the difference is between guideline and policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:00, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I know what you mean, though I thought that this was covered by defining the two in different ways: Policies are standards, blah blah enforcable; Guidelines advise, guide in using policy. What would a better wording be? There are other points too, like 'guidelines are more often subject to being overturned', but these aren't as clear, I think. Also, is the phrase "Policies are less advisory in nature" accurate? It seems a bit weird, but it's what the other phrase implies.   M   10:10, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I also think the writing is poor in the above. "Polices are enforceable through a number of processes." Not true for all of them, and not well written. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:01, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
How would you rewrite it? Is there some specific process that you have in mind that is not enforceable?  M   10:10, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
There is no way to enforce the content policies (NPOV, V, NOR), for example. The most we can do is keep on asking for more eyes via RfCs and the like, but when it comes to actual enforcement, there's nothing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 10:21, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Aren't these the processes through which we enforce the policies? The idea here is that when you call an RfC for a policy, all you have to do is prove that the policy is being violated, and if the policy says 'use this wording' or 'block for this', then that's all you need. On the other hand, an RfC for a guideline usually involves discussion of whether it's appropriate and all that - is this indeed good advice for this situation?   M   18:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

About the "common sense" point, maybe: "Editors are expected to use their common sense. It is usually more important to adhere to the spirit of the rule rather than the letter, and exceptions can be made if the encyclopedia will benefit thereby. --Kotniski (talk) 11:00, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I think it's always more important to adhere to the spirit (noting of course that the letter of the rule is our best guide). The last part sounds good, but I'm a bit hesitant on the characterization of IAR as an exception-granter. It doesn't grant exceptions for special cases (i.e. certain special content disputes), it excuses people from our rules when they are clearly getting in the way (which excludes nearly all cases where people are objecting to you in good faith).   M   18:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

It isn't correct that guidelines are merely advisory. For example, in Docu's recent RFC, there was a great deal of support for the notion that one can be blocked for violating the WP:SIG "guideline". On the other hand, it isn't true that policies are literally "enforceable" (in order to block someone, you have to argue not only that they violated policy, but that what they did actually warrants a block). The true distinction between guidelines and policies is very muddy, but this distinction is not one of advisory/enforceable. — Carl (CBM · talk) 11:45, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I say from time to time (unfortunately it hasn't happened yet) that we should abandon this distinction between policies and guidelines, since it only confuses people and causes arguments. I would have one page called "Wikipedia policy", where we list our key principles, and make everything else into guidelines (better: "best practices"). For example, "no original research" is a fundamental principle, but most of what is written on the page WP:NOR is not - it's just people's attempt to flesh out that principle into practical advice - and therefore that page is not really any different from a guideline.--Kotniski (talk) 12:27, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, I think the difference between the two isn't just that one has more consensus than another, so I've been trying to figure this out. I think the key thing is that guidelines are usually preventative - so, assume good faith and don't disrupt to prove a point, vs civility. The guidelines seek to prevent problems (and you can also see that in the nutshell of wp:point, someone has tried to make it clear that it's not necessarily enforceable, that you may get blocked (presumably if you step over into a policy's territory)), while the policies, when they do "lay down the law", really do lay it down. Now, this isn't always accurate. For example, civ should not state AGF as if you're supposed to follow it (and it avoids doing so by adding the qualifier "as much as possible"), but this is actually an issue of "avoid scope creep" (see the scope point in our current content section), where CIV doesn't really need to repeat in two paragraphs what AGF, an approved guideline, already covers. I've added some extra words (not, should) to the above. How does that look?   M   18:35, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
It seems that whenever the question is raised about what the difference is between policy and guidelines, we get a new answer. This implies to me that, even among the most experienced editors, there is no common understanding about what that difference is. To avoid misleading people, therefore, we should just admit on this page that there is no categorical difference. (And perhaps have an RFC on abolishing the distinction, but that's unlikely to succeed since everyone thinks they know what the difference is.)--Kotniski (talk) 07:27, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
I tried, when the system had just been put in place. But even then, I was too late :-/ --Kim Bruning (talk) 20:29, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

undent. I don't think an inability to articulate what something is (air, gravity, hate, consensus) implies that there really isn't such a thing. And it may be that everyone is right, but using different words. I think a problem is that over time a lack of definition has caused blurring, which might cause further lack of definition as we try to describe this blurring, and so on. Things are not so bad, there are clear distinctions. Screw up 3RR, get blocked. Argue that the information you're including is explicitly non-verifiable, get flatly ignored, and then blocked. Act admittedly against civility, get an immediate block. Admittedly assume bad faith in a civil way, nobody will do anything. Clear distinctions exist. Another strategy may be to create two very solid definitions that everyone can agree on, and promote/demote the existing policies and guidelines to fit.   M   10:02, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Or cut them up and rearrange them, since there is no reason to suppose that all the guidance on one existing page will fit into one or other of the classes, however defined. (I don't agree that the probability of getting blocked for a breach is either accepted or useful as a criterion for distinguishing types of page - there are too many shades of difference between pages and even within pages.) --Kotniski (talk) 11:59, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

(Sorry to all for the length.) Well, you only get blocked for disruption. The point is that some things are pretty much uncontestable. WP:CONS seems to back this up: "it is certainly possible to question them[policies and guidelines], but any such questioning should be a matter of discussion aimed at amending or changing that consensus." Some things have higher levels of uncertainty - is the person really being uncivil? The test is to suppose that they admit to breaking the rule and are persistent - what then? Well, for policy, this 'marks you as disruptive'. For guidelines, it doesn't. Actually though, this (point 7) might be more appropriate for the enforcement section. I just spent a fair bit of time going through the above, making sure that we actually have a established starting-point. By established, I mean "is clearly supported by the broad consensus of existing policy". Point 8 is also gone (belongs in content). So, here they are:

Rules (replace with "Policies and guidelines")

  1. ...are standards of content and conduct. [simply noting content and behavioural distinction, not essential but helpful]
  2. ...apply to all editors in all areas. ['in all areas' is simply a corollary]
  3. ...have widespread community support. [as per 'widely upheld']
  4. ...are described in rule pages. [implicit distinction, widely accepted]
  5. Whether a rule page accurately describes a rule is determined through broad consensus.
  6. Rule pages are taken to be accurate until a broad consensus process shows otherwise. [see wording in CONS]
  7. Editors should take care not to avoid making substantive changes, but are encouraged to boldly make policies clearer.
  8. Editors are expected to use their common sense; those who violate the spirit of the rule may be reprimanded even if no rule has technically been broken.

Policies are primarily decisive.

  1. They represent firm positions[npov, nor, blp, this wp:policy page, civility]
  2. often on common disagreements[naming],
  3. and endorse processes and actions [IAR, admin, deletion, office, blp-blanking]

Guidelines are primarily advisory.

  1. They advise on how to prevent or avoid causing problems [AGF, Ettiquite, Biting, Hoaxes, Edit summaries],
  2. and on how to apply and execute policy under specific circumstances [namecon guidelines, COI elaborates NPOV].
  3. Guidelines are supported by policies.
  4. Where a guideline appears to conflict with a policy, the policy takes precedence.

There is still some lack of consensus about how to define policies vs guidelines, so I've taken the previous wordings and made them firmer (are more advisory -> are primarily advisory; are standards -> represent firm positions), and then provided a number of examples that fit for that wording, but do not quite fit under the other - so AGF, biting, hoaxes, ConfInterest are not really described as "decisive", while npov, nor, blp, IAR, Office aren't 'merely' advisory. These are of course less-established, so I've provided some clear examples and an argument. I'm going to put this onto the page shortly - the stuff about rules is pretty firmly established as widespread consensus (see above).   M   21:19, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

I've removed notable/substantive clauses:

  • the spirit of the rules is at least as important as the letter. -- nicely worded but redundant, a
  • especially in policies, which must be more stable. -- this is actually rather substantive, implying that policies must change more slowly than usual.

These would require more discussion. I've also added that policies endorse guidelines, which is a corollary of "guidelines are supported by policies".   M   21:44, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Comment I would hope you're going to get more than three or four users to "discuss" this before you do anything too radical! Food for thought? Hamster Sandwich (talk) 16:25, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
    • I'm being surprisingly conservative, I think :) Most of the 'changed' or 'novel' points come either from this page, or from other pages. I've cited most of these. If I'm incorrect, though, please let me know!   M   23:59, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Looking at the original points

  1. Policies and guidelines are standards of conduct and content widely upheld within the community.
    Policy, guideline and essay pages (attempt to) document current consensus, that your peers generally would like you to follow. (WP:CONSENSUS, mostly, though I could probably improve that page too)
  2. These standards are specified [described?] in policy and guideline pages that the community has approved must approve through consensus, listings of which can be found at the List of policies and List of guidelines.
    <now redundant with above>
  3. Though the letter of these pages is not itself the standard, it is the closest thing to a correct description of our standards, and should be treated as if it was the standard until a broad consensus process shows otherwise.
    Like all wiki-pages, these pages are being constantly maintained and edited to match our current best insights into community consensus and best practices. Approach their content with the same care and skepticism that you approach any other wiki-page with. Please help by correcting errors and updating old procedures where you find them. (m:founding principles: wiki process)
  4. Avoid making substantive changes when editing policy and guideline pages.
    Be WP:BOLD in making changes that improve, correct, and update pages. Note that just as encyclopedia pages describe the real world, and you shouldn't simply put in random things you just made up; policies, guidelines and essays describe current consensus, so you shouldn't simply put in random things you made up there either.("Ensure that your edits reflect consensus") And remember, just because 10 people vote that 1+1=3, doesn't make it true.
  5. Editors are expected to use their common sense; those who violate the spirit of the rule may be reprimanded even if no rule has technically been broken.
    Editors are expected to use their common sense and understanding of consensus. Over time, try to get a general feel for how consensus will go for different kinds of situations. But sometimes even consensus gets things wrong at first. At the end of the day it comes down to you. You have to use your own brain and your own common sense to do what is best for the encyclopedia, and then you will need to explain why you did it. If you mess up, you will not be excused if you happened to be following policy. We have bots that can do that for us, after all! (WP:BOLD, WP:BRD, WP:COMMON, WP:WIARM, WP:IAR, WP:SHUARI, WP:CONSENSUS, WP:ENC, WP:NOT, WP:BOT and a dash of Nuremberg Defense)
  6. Policies are standards that all users should follow.
    Policy pages document elements of consensus that practically everyone agrees on.
  7. [Many?] Policies are [should be] enforceable [i.e. binding] [or NOT?] through a number of processes.
    Like all consensus, if you do not play nice with your peers (this needs boringization) , they can pressure you to adhere to the consensus system; over time resorting to more forceful means by way of administrators and stewards. In the case of consensus documented in policy pages, they are likely to do so fairly rapidly. You'll need to do some pretty fast talking to get away with not adhering to the consensus documented on policy pages, though this is not impossible, if you somehow happen to know something that many years of collective wisdom hasn't discovered yet (or if someone made a typo ;-) ).
  8. They may be written in a prescriptive tone, when appropriate.
    They are occasionally written in a prescriptive tone (I personally think this is a major mistake, but it happens, so denial would be silly) but you are still permitted to ignore them, if they get in your way. Just beware of your peers ;-) how to say that more boringly? <scratches head>
  9. Guidelines [should] advise on how to prevent and recognize problems, and on how to apply and execute policy under specific circumstances.
    Guidelines document elements of consensus that most people agree on. Expect to encounter more exceptions.
  10. Where a guideline appears to conflict with a policy, the policy takes precedence.
    No. You will need to figure out how to reconcile both. Ask for help where needed. (follows from above. Many people will agree with the policy, many people agree with the guideline, so you would be foolish indeed to anger either group! )
  11. <new>pages marked "Essay" document elements of consensus that some portion of the community is known to agree on. While you should always use your good judgement, it is especially important to use your judgement in the case of essays, as you may well encounter people who are actually opposed to them. On the other hand, simply ignoring them might also be a bad idea, because murphys law says that you will then encounter people who support the essay. You are more likely to need to negotiate.
  12. <new> Some pages may be uncategorized. Use your best judgement.
(I didn't manage to cross-reference everywhere (yet) --Kim Bruning (talk) 21:00, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks! My points below correspond to your points:

  1. We should talk here about documenting community policies, not documenting consensus. Consensus can be ambiguous, some people (me included) think. The idea that policies are not policy pages, but instead reside within the community, should be emphasized.
  2. It's missing the part about a consensus (process) involved in changing. In the actual page, it's now "Whether such a page is an accurate description is determined by the general community through consensus." -- note 'determined by' vs 'requires'. The idea here is 'if a dispute about accuracy comes up, it is resolved through consensus'.
  3. I moved it a bit in this direction with "Such pages are taken to be accurate until a consensus process involving the general community shows otherwise." -- I don't actually agree with this, but I want to emphasize that when two people disagree, it goes in favor of the person with widespread consensus on their side. This prevents a group of editors from storming in and making short-sighted or biased changes when there's only 'one guard on duty'. It could be changed to soften it up though - adding 'or, you prove there never was consensus in the first place' - but this might belong in 'change'...
  4. Yeah, you're right. It currently says "Editors should take care not to avoid making substantive changesshould not be reckless, but are encouraged to boldly make policies clearer [encouraged to boldly correct and clarify policies?].", with my now-proposed changes.
  5. This is good, but I think that it's more advisory (openly-written, personal). The idea here is to flatly instruct people to use common sense, and then decide the issue of wikilawyering - some editor says "hey, I didn't technically...", and to avoid a long stupid pedantic discussion, this is pointed out.

I read the rest of the points, but I won't comment directly - I did change some important bits. As for point 7, it's a very lucid and accurate description of enforcement, so I've added it to the 'enforcement' section, boringization be damned.   M   23:59, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

[This revert] seems to be a brute insertion of old and refactored text. Clearly this was pasted in from one of the old revisions, since it duplicates the "take priority" point that was moved to the other definition. There is an ongoing discussion here on this very issue that the reverter seems to have missed. I've changed it back, since hopefully this will encourage them to comment here, and help us work to establish a good wording.   M   02:23, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm a bit late to this party and it will be hard to catch up, but I think it's generally a bad idea to re-insert text to policy once you've been reverted due to ongoing discussion. If the discussion is ongoing, then discussion should usually continue until it reaches its logical conclusion. We can't skip to the end, as it were. :P That being said, I definitely don't like the "decisive" language, and I look forward to working with you on finding something we can all be happy with. causa sui× 11:57, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Only if the reverter is participating. Otherwise, you just keep saying "hey, talk page discussion, come join in", and the other editor reverts you instead - no attempt to discuss or reach consensus or anything. I'll add both wordings, so that both sides are unhappy ;) What don't you like about 'decisive'? That's what they do, it seems: settle disputes.   M   19:40, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Err, and I guess it would have to be that wording: the "They are often closely related to the five pillars of Wikipedia. " was removed with justification and I don't think any objection (see above, perhaps the last archive too). The wide acceptance bit is just a copy of the very top of that section.   M   19:47, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
It's hard to keep track of all the changes that are being made, these recent changes are subject to WP:CON and if reverted then consensus needs to be found for those changes. I'm in full agreement with causa sui, I don't like the "decisive" language either. The original wording was fine, but I don't object to some of the added wording around firm positions, disagreements and endorsing processes and actions. I think it needs to be explicitly stated that policies "have wide acceptance among editors and are standards that all users should follow.", the wording may be slightly redundant with how the section begins, and I don't think that's a problem, but would be interested in any potential rewording that makes it less redundant in the eyes of other editors here. Dreadstar 20:09, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
If we state that under policies, we need to state it under guidelines. They both have wide acceptance etc. Which would be triply redundant. The part about the five pillars should be removed. Can you think of a policy that isn't primarily decisive, or a guideline that primarily is? That is, which is not intended to help decide on matters of content and behavior? Same for the rest - I want to keep idontlikeit apart from the actual objections - so in which cases are the various parts actually inaccurate?   M   20:41, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, now I'm here to participate in the discussion. :-) I'd like to reiterate that it's good manners to stick with the existing version during a discussion, but I'm not willing to participate in edit warring over the policy. I will say that it would be a show of good faith to leave it the way it is for now, but I'll leave it up to you to decide what to do with that and start the discussion over the "decisive"ness of policy below. causa sui× 21:24, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Yep. BRD and all that. It might help to have the new wording in along with the old (each marked contested), just to urge more discussion - not now, though.   M   01:20, 10 August 2009 (UTC)


As I understand it, M (talk · contribs) wants to add this text, or something like it, on the grounds that (as he sees it) the role of policy is to settle disputes over content and conduct.

Policies are primarily decisive. They represent firm positions, often on common disagreements, and endorse processes, actions, and guidelines.

I believe that this is a novel interpretation of policy, and I don't want to see policy interpretation moving in this direction. This is a top-down approach to policy that is inconsistent with broader Wikipedia philosophy and our approach to user conduct. I expect that M (talk · contribs) does want to see policy interpretation move in that direction and that we're unlikely to budge each other on that, so I'm not sure how to move forward. causa sui× 21:24, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

Most interpretations of policy are novel - if you read the archives from a couple days ago, you'll see many of us disagreeing on what policy really is. And so what if they are? Maybe they're more accurate. No, I don't want to see it move to a 'top-down' direction. I'm tearful and inconsolable that you would think this of me! (I'm joking), since you're sure to have seen another discussion where I'm arguing ardently against wording that I believe cautions people against boldly improving and questioning policy pages. I'm not pushing anything except an accurate and neutral presentation of policy. I've sided with and against most editors here, and I've switched sides when good arguments have been presented (most recently, I'm seriously entertaining the idea that there is no hierarchy of essay/guideline/policy - but to say "there's none" may be going too far, I think there is a bit of one). I've also abandoned several of my proposed wordings (which reflected the old/current policy page), but which I saw as likely to be against consensus. Now, I'm not worried about you not assuming good faith (though I certainly don't want more discussion of my motives), I'm just stressing here that I'm here to describe, mediate, and urge discussion.
Some groundwork: a policy page is not policy proper; policy is some abstraction of rather firm community attitudes. I want to focus on policy, not policy pages. Another thing to consider is that there's some blending between each category - so I use the word "primarily". On Wikipedia, policy is decisive. They are there to resolve common disagreements. Sometimes, the same argument comes up over and over, often based on the same misunderstanding. We can't have 100 editors swoop down and say "oh, this again. Anything new? No? Let's go with option A, as usual..." every time a new editor, or an old one, brings up a common topic. I also don't want idontlikeit reasoning (which I think includes "I don't want to see it move in this direction" - remember, description, not prescription. We're here to compose policy pages that describe what our policies prescribe/exhort/obligate). My suggestion is that we brainstorm and then test our hypothesis of what policy and guideline is, instead of tossing a bunch of "no, no that's not it" around.
My submission is "policies are primarily decisive", so my challenge to others is to find a policy page that primarily isn't, or a guideline that primarily is, or to propose wording that better expresses the spirit of what I'm getting at.   M   01:20, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I think you're on the right track when you say that policy pages are abstractions of the actual policy, which (I think) exists somewhere more amorphously "out there" in what people actually think and do. In that sense, policy pages are our best summaries and approximations of policy and we have to keep them up to date with the policy as it is. I'm glad that you made that distinction, because it is useful to illustrate my general attitude toward policy interpretation. I think that policy pages don't always -- and in fact, never can -- describe the policy perfectly. That means that what's on the policy page, and what it means about what we should be doing, is always subject to critical consideration in the context of the situation we're in and our own rational common sense about what will improve the encyclopedia and what won't. Most of the time the policy page is basically right, but it's never more right than the policy and the critical thinking that produced it in the field.
Put that way, it's easier for me to accept that policy is "decisive" in the sense that I think you mean: the broader policy that exists independent of the policy pages is a process of broad decision making about what kind of behavior is conducive to building an encyclopedia and what isn't. You and I are engaged in that consensus building process every time we use our admin tools or hit the edit button on a page. (Incidentally, this may be another basis for understanding what WP:IAR really means.)
That's all well and good, and seems to me to be actually true in practice. However, it becomes a problem when you simply start out with saying "Policy is decisive" without having established all the background necessary to understanding what exactly you mean by that. I gravely worry that people will mistakenly read, as I did, "Policy" in this context to mean "The content of policy pages" and will think that means they are supposed to think the text that is written on a policy page is what determines their behavior, rather than thinking they need to do things like engage their good-faith critical thinking or listen to people who are telling them to stop doing what they are doing (even if they think that the text of the policy page entitles them to). The content of policy pages should be written to model or approximate what is actually being done and regarded as acceptable or salutary in the field, and it is that process -- that everyone has an equal share in -- that is decisive, and I want the text of the policy pages to be clear about that.
We can work on alternatives, but it's hard for me to motivate myself to propose solutions, since I think the original text was good enough. If you want to get something into the policy that explicated the distinction between policy and the content of policy pages in the way I'm describing, of course I would be ecstatic to have that clearly laid out somehow, and I'd love to work on that. causa sui× 20:01, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
If we replace "policy in the community" with "consensus in the community" (I'm assuming (s)he means ~the same thing?) , I think I share the perspective of causa sui. --Kim Bruning (talk) 21:00, 11 August 2009 (UTC) And M has a good approach in general, though I might disagree on points. I did mention that already, didn't I?
He, and yes, I think we mean the same thing. I liked M (talk · contribs)'s decision to call that widespread consensus "policy" since I like the idea that the real policy exists "out there" in the social economy of Wikipedia editors rather than as code law delineated on bureaucratic policy pages. (I was previously User:Ryan Delaney btw). causa sui× 21:44, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that renaming Consensus to policy is enlightening. ;-) But (hopefully) that's more of a choice-of-terminology debate, rather than a philosophical difference in opinion. --Kim Bruning (talk) 22:27, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, for that abstract thing, both names might be sub-par. The thing with consensus is the process and state seem to get confused, often leading to CCC issues. "Current snapshot off widespread agreement on an issue" is probably a better wording than both...   M   23:04, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I think you did mention that, Kim, thank you :) I think the motto "policy exists [in the ether]" is a good one, since many conflicts are about where policy comes from, or what it represents, and whether it applies.
We might have a look at the IAR controversies under this light: the wording of the original IAR emphasized a welcomingness to people who were afraid - crucially - not of pages of rules, but of violating the norms (ether-policies) of this big community. You weren't just contributing an opinion to usenet. No, you might actually end up screwing up an encyclopedia! Now, the emphasis is more on ignoring potentially inaccurate policy pages. There's also a hint of 'do what you think is best for wp, even when you suspect others will lynch you'. Three interpretations - call them timidity, inaccuracy, courage.
That second one seems to be a problem, and something we might disagree with. I think that as a rule, policy pages should be taken as being more accurate than you or your group's own understanding of wikipedia. If a policy page is indeed inaccurate, you have a duty to go change it, rather than just ignoring it. Some people think that if a policy page says something, it's stuck there, and can be used to 'decide' (shut down) valid disagreement. I don't think this. But I do think that policy pages should 'block/stall' serious disagreements until the policy page can correctly state what the ether says. If the policy page can't resolve (decide) the disagreement on an issue it directly addresses ("no OR, period" vs "weeelll, maybe in some cases OR is applicable... but one of you may be right, maybe here's an exception - go have a chat"), then it's not a policy. Why would we note common disagreements/questions/issues for which there is no widely accepted solution as policy?
To sum things up, I think my position here is that policy pages should be a) as binding as we take policy to be (I think that the timidity and courage IAR variants are part of our policy), and b) extremely welcoming to even reckless changes, since these will prompt discussions, clarifications, and necessary changes.   M   23:04, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

I prefer the wording as it is in the article as I write this. I am also very much against scrapping the difference between polices and guidelines. It is relatively easy to keep the few policies in sync, and covering different areas. But see the problems that occur with WP:Editing policy when it contradicts other policies. Or the problems that existed over WP:V and WP:RS. If the difference between guidelines and polices was scrapped, then there is a danger that it would lead to the balkanisation of with different project groups guarding "their guidelines" which could contradict others. We already see that to a limited extent with the naming conventions, and it helps having one central policy page with associated guidelines, to help keep basic concepts of how we name articles consistent. --PBS (talk) 01:02, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

rm contradiction of multiple policies/ redundant

Copied from WT:Editing policy

(copied back, pending some sort of agreement on where this should be discussed.)   M   20:07, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Changing text without consensus

The recently changed text does not have consensus, and is being added without talk page discussion, which was asked for. It's particularly frustrating that the editor is arguing

  1. that edits to a page should be discussed at the relevant policy page
  2. that substantial edits to a page should have consensus

on another page at this time. It's very difficult to see why these positions should matter when it comes to one page, but not another.   M   20:43, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

M, you're doing the forest fire thing again. People can't be expected to devote all their time to preventing these changes to policy and discussing them in multiple forums. It is just wrong that BOLD is encouraged in editing policy. Experienced editors don't do it with substantive changes. It is not best practice, and hasn't been for years. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:53, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
I disagree with you, but refuse to discuss this until you stop trying to make this personal.
(October 3rd, 2008) Updates to a policy or guideline page are typically discussed on the associated talk page, but it is acceptable to edit them directly
  M   21:04, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
Slimvirgin: With due respect, and in good faith: You say you are opposed to forcing people to discuss things in multiple forums. If you check what I did today, you'll see that my action and proposal was to combine all the discussions to one location. However, you acted deliberately to force us all to hold multiple discussions at multiple locations. I'm a bit confused now. Could you please explain what your actual intent is? --Kim Bruning (talk) 03:25, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
Whatever the intent is, the result is that rather substantive policy wording is being inserted in numerous locations, without consensus, and with clear opposition.   M   03:57, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
I've stepped the wording back to July 17, hopefully this addresses concerns about undiscussed changes being made to policy.   M   05:06, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Content changes

As has been more fully discussed at WT:Consensus, there has been a shift in how the community views the process of changing the content of policy/guideline pages. Increasingly, the Wikipedia community strongly frowns on making substantive Policy/Guideline pages without disussion. This page needs to reflect that shift in consensus. I think this can be achieved by a minor shift of emphysis in the first line of the Content changes section... from:

  • Talk page discussion typically, but not necessarily, precedes substantive changes to policy


  • It is expected that talk page discussion precede substantive changes to policy.

Any comments on this? Blueboar (talk) 14:24, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

See my comments on that talk page, especially where I mention merging the Wheel War policy page into WP:ADMIN. It is absolutely not expected. I can point to dozens of places where this sort of sentiment is being used to keep policies the way they are, even when they contradict each other, or have other serious problems.   M   22:13, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
Question... how is this being "used to keep policies the way they are, even when they contradict each other, or have other serious problems"? Can you give some examples? I would think that if policies contradict each other, that needs to be fixed. The best way to achieve that is to notify people that there is a contradiction, and hold a discussion on how to fix it. Editors may disagree as to which policy needs to be worked on to fix the contradiction, but that is the point of discussion... to hammer out such disagreements. Blueboar (talk) 22:53, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
I just started an ANI issue where an editor was canvassing, and reverting a guideline on the basis of 'it's consensus to keep it this way, it's been here a long time', despite a whole slew of uninvolved editors opposing this. Pick pretty much any place where a policy-watcher is refusing changes on the basis of "it not being discussed first" - and then when asked, they can't provide any reason why it should stay. I undid these reverts, the editor called in meatpuppets, and there was a brief stream of changes that managed to remove some senseless junk from that page. After WEEKS of tractionless discussion on the talk page, the guideline is finally starting to get fixed. You fix policies and guidelines by fixing them. And again, I point to the Wheel war case, which worked out perfectly.   M   23:55, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
That's a bad example to cite. That guideline is now being changed because it conflicts with another policy, Wikipedia:Naming conventions. You argued here against making clear that policy takes precedence over guidelines. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:58, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
Hmm, I don't follow. Where did I argue that?   M   02:35, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
M, it sounds to me like there was a discussion and a consensus was reached... so an edit should be made. I do agree that we should not let one editor who is resisting discussed consensus keep discussed edits from being made. Or am I missing something? Blueboar (talk) 02:55, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
There is no consensus for this, and ongoing discussion. So no. I'm sorry if I'm being short here, I get annoyed when an involved editor says "well, there's clearly consensus for my position" without pointing out a) where this discussion was, who was involved, and how many were involved, and b) not addressing the points brought up directly above - if consensus was reached, you should at the very least have a response to them.   M   03:53, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
A lot of this stems from a fundamental misconception of "consensus", really. No offense is intended by any of this, since I'm familiar with everyone here and I know that y'all know how to comprehend what you read, but "consensus" can be a nasty concept to really accept, especially when you become even slightly agitated about an issue. The primary thing is, it's really impossible to decree consensus. Even when you seem to have achieved some measure of consensus within a "local group", that doesn't preclude anyone else from coming along later on and continuing the dispute. Such incidents are easily seen as annoying, but that doesn't make them wrong. The central idea behind consensus is simply to get people to discuss the least objectionable method to resolve the dispute for everyone willing to fight over it. There's some natural contention actually built into the system, since it requires people to actually speak out about their feelings. Ultimately, just getting people to come together and start and continue a discussion is the main goal, with getting them to actually stop and listen to each other the other major component.
Anyway, in terms specific to this whole discussion: The guidance on procedures to change policy pages should be here. I honestly don't care if what is written here does actually say "you must talk before changing", since there's really no means to (consistently) enforce that, and most people will not pay attention to it regardless. If the goal here is to just "get those people to listen to me!" then nothing that is done to any policy page is going to help regardless. I guess that the logical end result of what I'm saying here is that nothing really needs to be written in policy about discussing changes first or whatever, but what goes along with that is the simple point that it just doesn't matter too much to me. I'll personally speak out against it, but I'm not about to actually edit war over the issue, or anything like that.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 05:23, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
Agree pretty much entirely with the first part. As for the second, I do care that this is accurate. It's easy to say 'well, people will do what they like', but a policy really does influence how people behave. Editors need to provide reasons and objections when they revert, otherwise it's just WP:IDONTLIKEIT.   M   02:58, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree that policy influences (especially newer) editors, but that misses what I was actually saying. The principles and ideas provide real influence, the actual wording is just less meaningful. It's not irrelevant, but it's just not that important. Regardless of what these actual documents say, once people read them the manner in which they are interpreted is simply beyond the scope of... well, anything or anyone, really. People come to these pages with sometimes vastly different world views, and that's the sort of thing that really needs to be worked out. Consensus, primarily achieved through discussion and compromise will always be required (unless we crown a King, or something).
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 03:53, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Recent edits

These edits, which accuse me of removing material, seem to be a complete rewrite, rather than a "tightening". It is entirely unclear what has changed, or what version has been reverted to. The version before this apparent revert, which I've restored, is not merely "my" work, but the work of a number of editors trying to reach consensus.   M   02:52, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

I have restored material from an earlier version. I've left you a note on your talk page asking you to stop making changes to policies, and I'm sorry, but I can't have conversations in multiple places about this again. Lots of people are asking you to stop, and I very much hope you start listening to them. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:00, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Hmm. Sorry Slim, I think that you're trying to game the system by associating entirely unrelated disputes with what you're trying to force here. Which older version did you restore this to? The wording that you removed has been more or less stable since the beginning of August. You're presenting your edits as if they restore a policy that I personally have disrupted, when in fact you've undone careful work that heavily involved a number of editors at this talk page, which you often refused to participate in.   M   03:14, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
The problem is that you've been posting to the point where most people have left the discussion, and those who remain are likely having difficulty following which parts of the policy have been changed. This is not how consensus is formed. I therefore restored an earlier version while trying to retain most of your copy editing. If these problems continue, you risk having someone revert to a version before you started editing it. Please take seriously that people are objecting to your approach on multiple pages. I'd prefer that this continued on your talk page, because it's not just about this policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, are you threatening to undo all my work here because...? This page has been stable, and you are exploiting other issues to force your favored version of this page through. I can see nobody who is agreeing with you on this. Which version did you revert to, please.   M   03:26, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This page hasn't been "stable" at all M, your proposed changes have been disputed by several editors, including myself. I suggest you find WP:CON for your proposed changes. Dreadstar 03:36, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
The page has managed to survive for a while now, and is being reverted at this time because of unrelated disputes. The version you and Slim have been pushing has been disputed by a number of editors as well. If we have to start this from scratch, ok, but I very much doubt we need to.   M   03:54, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't call four days a "while", M. You are the one that has been pushing changes and you need to show that you have consensus for your proposed and disputed changes. You haven't done so. Dreadstar 04:17, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
 ? That's not what Slim reverted. Do you actually object to that change? I thought it was redundant with what is stated at the top of that section. Is it not redundant?   M   04:45, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
It doesn't matter what Slim reverted, the main point is that you claimed that this page was "stable for a while", when it clearly hasn't been - and you do not have consensus for your changes. Dreadstar 05:42, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
It looks to me that everyone involved here has gone through the B and R steps, so now is the time to discuss and find a compromise. Everyone needs to quit focusing on process (reversions) and start explaining their positions.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 03:55, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

M, if you get reverted then seek consensus, it is that simple. Slim has done nothing wrong to you. If you want to edit policy and guidelines you need consensus. Chillum 04:01, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Where did I get reverted? SlimVirgin made the change, and was reverted by me.   M   04:46, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Your changes were reverted by SlimVirgin, then you reverted back. Don't try to play games, find consensus instead. Dreadstar 05:42, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Everyone here really needs to quit talking about each other and actually start discussing the issues themselves. This isn't helping generate consensus, at all. Honestly, with this back and forth, I'd be happy if the lot of you all just disappeared at this point.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 04:24, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it would be easier if all people who were frustrated with each other's actions stopped contributing. Here's a diff of the changes since the 5th of August. Unfortunately, the edits made by SlimVirgin make it difficult to see what was removed, and I'm still not sure exactly what the objections are. One of my objections is that the distinction between policy and policy page "Policies and guidelines are standards of content and conduct that have widespread community support and apply to all editors. Policies and guidelines are described in policy and guideline pages," has been removed. SlimVirgin has objected to this before, though other editors have stated that this is an important distinction to make.   M   04:45, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Naturally, Slim's edits "make it difficult to see", while your own massive changes to this and many other policies are to be instantly understood and accepted by all. Dreadstar 05:42, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This "he did that, and you did this" stuff isn't getting anyone anywhere. What is the actual problem, here? The quoted sentence above sounds fine to me. Is there a better alternative?
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 05:48, 31 August 2009 (UTC)


There are two issues here and unless the first is taken care of the second will be difficult. Policy and guideline pages affect the whole Wikipedia community and all of its numerous kinds of articles including contentious articles on the fringe of human knowledge where a small change in the wording of a policy can have a big impact on an article . For this reason policy and guideline pages must be edited with broader community input than other articles so that the implications of a word or phrase is scrutinized from many angles as can only happen with many editors involved . Any editor experienced enough to know this would be irresponsible to not establish a stable editing environment where many editors can have input. Not all editors are on Wikipedia everyday so part of creating stability is giving numerous editors time time to input. Changes should be made slowly.
I know it can be incredibly frustrating to have one's work disappear. I've been in that situation myself , but its common practice to revert to a stable pre edited version of an article then to work from there. Your work is appreciated M, and I'm sure you will have valuable input. It just has to be done with many instead of a few involved and slowly enough to allow lots of input.
Once all editors are on the same page with how policy guideline pages are edited then the second issue, content and changes can be dealt with more successfully.(olive (talk) 15:20, 31 August 2009 (UTC))
I agree with Littleolive. Maybe BRD isn't the best way to edit policy after all. I just got my internet set back up and from looking at the recent history, it seems that M (talk · contribs) has some good ideas (though I still think the language is too authoritarian) but this is not a good way to go about getting them implemented. causa sui× 17:38, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Process 1

(reply to olive) You assume that most policy pages are well-written, and that statements that have been around for a long time are there because editors agree with them, not because people are afraid to take them out since nobody knows what the heck they mean. I'm not so much concerned with my 'changes disappearing' as with the nature of the revert. Slim has been perfectly aware of these changes since they were made, and has voiced objecetions but has chosen to revert them a whole month later. The changes that (presumably) I made have been poked and prodded by a large number of editors. Most of them are the result of what was some very good discussion. Scroll to the top of this page, there's a section where SlimVirgin objects to some of the changes, receives perfectly adequate responses, and then is presumably convinced. A number of editors then make various points, the last of which begins:
PBS: "I prefer the wording as it is in the article as I write this. I am also very much against scrapping the difference between polices and guidelines. [...]" wording: [12]
The only people forcefully objecting throughout this process (ie through reverts) are Slim and Dreadstar, who apparently have issues with BRD-related wording.   M   20:43, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
In fact, M, I'm not assuming anything nor should you. Policy pages must be edited with wide community input. Its that simple. No one or two editors should take on themselves the weight of making changes that will affect the entire community. From what I can see a revert was made to bring the article to a stable editing position. Now changes that are contentious can be discussed. if you want discussion and agreement on your changes ask for discussion and consensus . If you get that consensus make the change, if not move on to the next change. Simple. Both Dreadstar and SlimVirgin are following a standard process-related move to make sure changes are community approved. (olive (talk) 21:17, 31 August 2009 (UTC))
I agree with most of what you say, but I don't think that you're familiar with what's going on here. Have you looked at the changes? Surely you aren't advocating that every change to policy should receive widespread consensus - just the substantive ones, right? Should we start an RfC to include the text "there's a difference between policy/consensus and what's written in policy pages"? Could you point out which substantive policy statement was removed or added inappropriately?   M   21:32, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Actually I said, "changes that are contentious".. Unfortunately in a revert to a stable editing position non contentious edits can get caught in the revert. M, the point is not what has been removed or added inappropriately. Inappropriate is a value judgement. The way you are going to know what is inappropriate for this policy page is to find out from all of the editors here what they think that is .... to get a consensus. My opinion of what is inappropriate is worth zip unless its part of a consensus. This is still the point. No one can make unilateral decisions on a policy page .... just ask for consensus on your changes. And hey. No one is going to agree with every edit you make. Sucks rocks, but there it is. Don't be attached. Its a collaborative community project and its about group process.(olive (talk) 22:05, 31 August 2009 (UTC))
That's... exactly what I said. You and I agree, but I don't think you have all the facts yet. We've been discussing this policy for a while now, and working towards consensus. SlimVirgin reverted this, claiming that it was my personal position. You're still asserting that there were contentious edits that Slim reverted, rather than introduced. Could you point out which substantive policy statement was removed or added inappropriately?   M   22:16, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This is the deal as I see it. You added substantial changes to the policy as it was. These are your additions and there was a lot of text added in a short time. SV and Dreadstar were not making additions. They were hitting the reset button. These are different editing practices . One is creating change, the other is resetting to an earlier stable version of the policy so change can be created but this time more slowly so there can be more input.(olive (talk) 22:57, 31 August 2009 (UTC))
I wanted to clarify that I 'm not speaking for anybody else, SlimVirgin, Dreadstar or anybody else. This is how I saw what was going on, my opinions. (olive (talk) 19:20, 2 September 2009 (UTC))
Regarding the 'role' section, what exactly do you assert was added?   M   22:16, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Process 2

This is exactly what we've been talking over at WT:CON, and it illustrates perfectly the problem with the expressed preference to simply revert changes. This style of squatting on the "current" policy page is dismissive and creates controversy over nothing but the process itself rather then what someone is attempting to say. Edits are communication, which is why simply reverting them with something dismissive such as "not discussed" is seen as being so hostile. None of you are talking about what is being changed, you're simply saying that it shouldn't be changed. You should expect considerable resistance to such an attitude... as a matter of fact, people have been admonished and even banned from taking up that attitude in the mainspace.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 05:21, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
I understand your point, but I don't see what is lost if we use the talk page to discuss proposed revisions instead of the policy page itself. causa sui× 18:14, 2 September 2009 (UTC)
Changing something like a policy without first discussing it has also gotten people "admonished and even banned", so please remember and consider that too when getting in a huff about people reverting edits that werent discussed first. Consensus rules the day in Wikipedia, it is the one thing that is greater than all the policies and guidelines put together, it puts the wiki in wikipedia. If you edit without first talking, and someone reverts it saying it wasnt discussed first, obviously that means the edit is controversial and should have been discussed first and now needs to be discussed. Causa sui is right, nothing is lost if someone brings their proposals first here or to the village pump instead of being too bold. I think change is good and reverting for the sake of keeping what already is established and for no other reason is wrong, but explaining your reasoning first on the talk page is better. An edit summary, while it may technically be "communication" is not a legitimate alternative to a discussion. Communication does not equal discussion. Two-way street is needed. Be considerate of others that a change that is obvious to yourself may not be obvious to others, they may need it explained.Camelbinky (talk) 18:36, 2 September 2009 (UTC)
Right, there's a balance here. Nothing is lost by using the talk pages, but not every change requires a huge discussion first. Not every revert requires a huge discussion, either. On the other hand, sometimes using the talk page really is required, and sometimes it's just nice to do. It all depends on the changes involved and the actors in the change process. Expecting all changes to be discussed is just as bad as coming in and suddenly changing the fundamental meaning of one of these documents.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 01:29, 3 September 2009 (UTC)


Holy crap, people, I may go blind. I see a lot of assertions that BRD always/never works, implications that policy is meant to be always/never prescriptive, etc. Good luck with that. What we're trying to do over at the (long!) discussions at WT:CON feels a little more respectful of different viewpoints; feel free to join in. For this month's WP:Update for this page, I think I just have to throw up my hands on this page and say there were "substantial changes". - Dank (push to talk) 20:26, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

"Section X reverted to version dated Y" will work, once SlimVirgin informs us of Y.   M   20:43, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I diffed against 4, 6, 8 and 10 weeks ago, each one is a sea of red. For many readers, it will be easier just to read the old version (which I link at Update) and the new version. - Dank (push to talk) 21:35, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Agreed, with both of you. To add, it seems to me that people need to take a breath here. There's too much stress building up around all of this.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 05:15, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

One step at a time

I am going to add the following:

Policies and guidelines are standards of content and conduct that have widespread community support and apply to all editors. Policies and guidelines are described in policy and guideline pages, listings of which can be found at the List of policies and List of guidelines. Whether such a page is an accurate description is determined by the general community through consensus. Major updates to a policy or guideline page are typically discussed on the associated talk page, especially for controversial or 'core' policies, but it is acceptable to edit them directly.

to the top of the Role section. Are there any substantive objections to this wording?   M   22:19, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Prima facie I have a couple.
  1. I don't like the boldface around "all editors". It seems a bit intimidating to me, and I don't think that's how we should be trying to win compliance.
  2. I'm not sure what is being communicated in the last sentence. What alternative are you ruling out when you say that it's acceptable to edit policy pages directly? As written this seems a bit too obvious and I suspect that something more is being implied here, though I'm not sure exactly what.
--causa sui× 23:08, 2 September 2009 (UTC)
Re: point #2, see the discussions occurring on Wikipedia talk:Consensus.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 01:20, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. Before I look at that, I want to stress something that I don't expect to be controversial, but we have to keep in plain view at all times: the text of the policy should be clear to people who haven't taken place in the discussions that inform it. causa sui× 02:25, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
It should avoid restating other policy, however. That's what links are for. In terms of this topic, it is my position that the discussions occurring at Wikipedia talk:Consensus ought to be occurring here instead. My point to start this statement is something that I have been attempting to get across there for several days now.
V = I * R (talk to Ω) 02:56, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
I definitely don't want to spend a lot of time in policy pages restating what's in other policies, so we are on the same page there. That said, I would like to see some clarifications of M's proposed wording. causa sui× 04:57, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I don’t like the “summary” style of that opening because it doesn’t differentiate between policy and guidelines, it adds redundant material unless the rest of the section is stripped down..and what will it be stripped down to be? This “half-measure” proposal is insufficient, and I think the current wording is fine. I don’t see anything superior in M’s proposal over the current wording . Dreadstar 03:34, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
    First off, I think it's probably a bad idea to turn this into a poll, since I think M (talk · contribs) is open to discussion; we ought to assume that we can work toward consensus if we work at it enough. That said, I'm unfortunately inclined to agree right now that this proposal doesn't look like an improvement to the existing text. Hopefully we can work toward something we're all happy with. causa sui× 05:04, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Opposed to certain aspects of both the proposed and current tone at CONSENSUS, here at POLICY, and in the {{policy}} nutshell. My thoughts are at Wikipedia_talk:CON#Problem (and I don't see any way around keeping up with conversations both places, both pages are central to all this). - Dank (push to talk) 13:07, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
I added a short infobox at the top of POLICY and CONSENSUS saying that the discussion is ongoing; I'm hoping that will get across the idea that this discussion won't be closed prematurely, and there's no need to get an edit in quickly for it to "count". If someone feels a more formal "disputed" template is necessary to get the idea across that we're not done here, we could do that, but I'm not a fan of using that template on policy pages. - Dank (push to talk) 17:35, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Yes, the rest of the section would be stripped down, if it is redundant with what is above. I'm trying to figure out the best way to start that section.

Policies and guidelines are standards [of content and conduct] that have widespread community support and apply to all editors. Policies and guidelines are described in policy and guideline pages,

I think that it is a good idea to start the section by distinguishing between policies as standards and norms, and the pages that describe them. Is this wording ok, or is there some way to improve it?   M   22:01, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

I totally agree with your points today at WT:CON#Problem. "applies to all editors" is okay but isn't my first choice ... my first choice would be something that is so obvious that people can't argue with it. Most of the text on many policy pages is pretty stable, but still, there are constant changes ... how can two conflicting versions both have widespread support and both apply to all editors? And if you say "They don't, only the right version does" ... which version is that? Also, many editors never keep up with changes to policy pages, and do okay for the most part, so statements along the lines of "you have to pay attention" are going to create instability ... "no we don't, yes we do, no we don't". There's also the WP:COI point I brought up at WT:CON#Problem ... we should avoid a tone that suggests that we have a vested interest. OTOH, we can easily say that any policy page with a long history and overall stability is better than and supercedes any other page that claims to cover the same material, and that's worth a lot. I don't have any suggested language, though. - Dank (push to talk) 22:41, 6 September 2009 (UTC)

Although I'd prefer something more nuanced than "standards that all users should follow", I'm happy that the page seems to be stable, and I'll assume for purposes of the Update that no major edits are coming in the near future unless someone says otherwise. If anyone wants to import any of my suggestions from WT:CON#Today's edits, feel free, but I'll leave it alone until the discussion re-emerges, and I'll remove the "active discussion" template I added. - Dank (push to talk) 03:50, 26 September 2009 (UTC)

  1. ^ Guidelines include naming conventions and Manual of Style entries.
  2. ^ "in most cases", "as with any", "might", "truly" are often culprits
  3. ^ The wording need not be formal: 'exists to', 'were made to', 'the purpose is' are all acceptable.
  4. ^ Suppose that some of the content from a dispute resolution page was copied into WP:CONSENSUS as a great example of consensus building. Though it may be a great example, it is not a general community standard - yet several clarifying edits later, it may seem as if it were being presented as such. Or perhaps an edit is made to WP:NOTABILITY to clarify how it should be applied within a notability guideline on music. Perhaps WP:VERIFIABILITY is 'summarized' and reworded (non-substantively, of course!) in a guideline, so that editors don't have to check the longer (official, carefully-worded, more-rigorously maintained) version. All of this is scope creep. Keep policies to themselves.
  5. ^ For example, in "...are developed by the Wikipedia community to establish...", neither link is necessary. The links imply that the target pages might be important in understanding the sentence, yet the meaning is clear. The two pages provide more in-depth explanations of Wikipedia and the community, but this level of explanation is not necessary. In "Guidelines are [...]", the link implies that what follows is a summary of the linked page, which itself describes Guidelines in detail. Yet the link is just a list of guidelines.
  6. ^ Office declarations may establish unprecidented policies to avoid copyright, legal, or technical problems, though such declarations are rare.
  7. ^ An RfC can be initiated by starting a new section at the relevant talk page, and including the {{rfctag|policy}} tag along with the reasons to make the proposal a policy or guideline. Amendments to a proposal should be discussed on its talk page (not on a new page) but it is generally acceptable to edit a proposal to improve it. The {{proposed}} (for newly-written proposals) or {{promote}} (for promotion of essays or guidelines) should be placed at the top of the policy page, and potentially interested groups should be notified. This approach almost guarantees that dunbar's number will be exceeded, at which point any outcome is meaningless in practice. This is why this procedure has a very high failure rate. The few listed successes are likely false positives. It may be helpful to list in the discussion which groups were informed of the proposal. not useful If your proposal affects a specific content area, then related WikiProjects can be found at the Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Directory. For example, proposed style guidelines should be announced to Wikipedia:WikiProject Manual of Style. If your proposal relates to an existing policy or guideline, leave a note on the talk page of the related policy or guideline. For example, proposed style guidelines should be announced at Wikipedia:Manual of Style. You may Announce your proposal at Wikipedia:Village pump (policy). Try to identify the subcategory of guideline or policy (see {{subcat guideline}}). scope/dunbar issues Editors should respond to proposals in a way that helps build consensus. Explain your thoughts, ask questions, and raise concerns; all views are welcome. Many editors begin their response with bold-font 'vote' of support or opposition to make evaluation easier. Editors should remember to sign their response. This is not best practice, as it tends to preclude the forming of consensus. Ending a discussion requires careful evaluation of the responses to determine the consensus. Ending a discussion is actually contrary to (the spirit of) policy: WP:CCC This does not require the intervention of an administrator, but may be done by any sufficiently experienced independent editor (an impartial editor not involved in the discussion) who is familiar with all of the policies and guidelines that relate to the proposal. If you are proposing a new policy, what is the importance of other policy? The following points are important in evaluating consensus:
    • Consensus for guidelines and policies should be reasonably strong, though unanimity is not required.
    define "strong". Either it is there or it is not there. Else you call it consensus-1 or consensus-2 or etc. No mention is made here about negotiating for compromise, which is part of the consensus process.
    • There must be exposure to the community much beyond just the authors of the proposal.
    People will read the page over time, and improve it, so this is not really necessary. This is called a "wiki". If you go and expand the scope too fast too soon, your discussion will last longer and be more muddied I'll skip the rest of these, since I don't think they make much of a difference in reality
    • Consider the strength of the proposed page:
    • Have major concerns raised during the community discussion been addressed?
    • Does the proposal contradict any existing guidelines or policies?
    • Can the new proposed guideline or policy could be merged into an existing one?
    • Is the proposed guideline or policy, or some part of it, redundant with an existing guideline or policy?
    • A proposal's status is not determined by counting votes. Polling is not a substitute for discussion, nor is a poll's numerical outcome tantamount to consensus.
    • If consensus for broad community support has not developed after a reasonable time period, the proposal is considered failed. If consensus is neutral or unclear on the issue and unlikely to improve, the proposal has likewise failed.
    Discussion may be closed as either Promote, No consensus, or Failed. Please leave a short note about the conclusion that you came to. Update the proposal to reflect the consensus. Remove the {{Proposed}} template and replace it with another appropriate template, such as {{Subcat guideline}}, {{Policy}}, {{Essay}}, {{How-to}}, or {{Failed}}.
  8. ^ The process for demotion is similar to promotion. A talk page discussion is typically started, the {{underdiscussion|status|Discussion Title}} template is added to the top of the project page, and community input is solicited. After a reasonable amount of time for comments, an independent editor should close the discussion and evaluate the consensus.
  9. ^ If wider input on a proposed change is desired, it may be useful to mark the section with the tag {{underdiscussion|section|talk=Discussion Title}}. (If the proposal relates to a single statement, use {{underdiscussion-inline|Discussion Title}} immediately after it.)