Wikipedia:Civility

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Civility is part of Wikipedia's code of conduct and one of its five pillars. Stated simply, editors should always treat each other with consideration and respect. They should focus on improving the encyclopedia while maintaining a pleasant editing environment by behaving politely, calmly and reasonably, even during heated debates.

Wikipedia's civility expectations apply to all editors during all interactions on Wikipedia, including discussions at user and article talk pages, in edit summaries, and in any other discussion with or about fellow Wikipedians.

Cooperation and civility

Civil, respectful interactions are important.

Differences of opinion are inevitable in a collaborative project. When discussing these differences, some editors can seem unnecessarily harsh, while simply trying to be forthright. Other editors may seem oversensitive when their views are challenged. Faceless written words on talk pages and in edit summaries do not fully transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, sometimes leading to misinterpretation of an editor's comments. An uncivil remark can escalate spirited discussion into a personal argument that no longer focuses objectively on the problem at hand. Such exchanges waste our efforts and undermine a positive, productive working environment. Resolve differences of opinion through civil discussion; disagree without being disagreeable. Discussion of other editors should be limited to polite discourse about their actions.

Editors are expected to be reasonably cooperative, to refrain from making personal attacks, to work within the scope of policies, and to be responsive to good-faith questions. Try to treat your fellow editors as respected colleagues with whom you are working on an important project. Be especially welcoming and patient towards new users who contribute constructively, but politely discourage non-constructive newcomers.

Assume good faith

The assume good faith guideline states that unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, editors should assume that others are trying to help, not hurt the project.

The guideline does not require that editors continue to assume good faith in the presence of obvious evidence of intentional wrongdoing. However, do not assume there is more misconduct than evidence supports. Given equally plausible interpretations of the evidence, choose the most positive one.

Apologising: It's OK to say sorry

Disputes, and even misunderstandings, can lead to situations in which one party feels injured by the other. There's no loss of face in apologising. We all make mistakes, we all say the odd hurtful thing, we all have bad days and bad moments. If you have a sneaky feeling you owe someone an apology, offer the apology. Apologising does not hurt you.

Remember, though, that you cannot demand an apology from anyone else. It will only get their back up and make it either less likely to happen, or to be totally insincere if you do get an apology. Never be too proud to make the first move when it comes to saying sorry. That kind of "pride" is destructive. An apology provides the opportunity for a fresh start, and can clear the air when one person's perceived incivility has offended another.

Different places, different atmospheres

Article talk pages should be, on the whole, considered to be professional workspaces. They are places to collaborate on how to improve the article, and to discuss the article (though it's OK for conversations to wander into related areas, or go more into depth than the article does, as that helps with research and gives ideas on improvement).

While an

civility policy still applies everywhere, including there. Note that, in general, the editor may remove comments
there at their discretion.

Edit summary dos and don'ts

Review your edit summaries before saving your edits. Remember you cannot go back and change them.

Here is a list of tips about edit summaries:

  • Be clear about what you did, so that other editors can assess your changes accurately.
  • Use neutral language.
  • Remain calm.
  • Don't make snide comments.
  • Don't make personal remarks about editors.
  • Don't be aggressive.

No personal attacks or harassment

Editors are expected to not personally attack or harass other editors. This applies equally to all: it is as unacceptable to attack an editor who has a history of foolish or boorish behaviour, or even one who has been subject to disciplinary action by the Arbitration Committee, as it is to attack any other. Wikipedia encourages a positive online community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks and harassment are contrary to this spirit,

being blocked
.

Incivility

Civility is to human nature what warmth is to wax.

Arthur Schopenhauer[1]

Incivility consists of personal attacks, rudeness and disrespectful comments. Especially when done in an aggressive manner, these often alienate editors and disrupt the project through unproductive stressors and conflict. While a few minor incidents of incivility that no one complains about are not necessarily a concern, a continuing pattern of incivility is unacceptable. In cases of repeated harassment or egregious personal attacks, then the offender may be blocked. Even a single act of severe incivility could result in a block, such as a single episode of extreme verbal abuse or profanity directed at another contributor, or a threat against another person.

In general, be understanding and non-retaliatory in dealing with incivility. If others are uncivil, do not respond the same way. Consider ignoring isolated examples of incivility, and simply moving forward with the content issue. If necessary, point out gently that you think the comment might be considered uncivil and make it clear that you want to move on and focus on the content issue. Bear in mind that the editor may not have thought they were being uncivil; Wikipedia is edited by people from many different backgrounds, and standards vary. Take things to dispute resolution (see below) only if there is an ongoing problem that you cannot resolve.

This policy is not a weapon to use against other contributors. To insist that an editor be sanctioned for an isolated, minor incident, to repeatedly bring up past incivility after an individual has changed their approach, or to treat constructive criticism as an attack, is in itself potentially disruptive, and may result in warnings or even blocks if repeated.

Identifying incivility

It is sometimes difficult to make a hard-and-fast judgement of what is uncivil and what is not. Editors should take into account factors such as (i) the intensity and context of the language/behaviour; (ii) whether the behaviour has occurred on a single occasion, or is occasional or regular; (iii) whether a request has already been made to stop the behaviour, and whether that request is recent; (iv) whether the behaviour has been provoked; and (v) the extent to which the behaviour of others need to be treated at the same time.

The following behaviours can contribute to an uncivil environment:

  1. Direct rudeness
    1. rudeness, insults, name-calling, gross profanity or indecent suggestions
    2. personal attacks, including racial, ethnic, sexual, disability-related, gender-related and religious slurs, and derogatory references to groups such as social classes or nationalities
    3.  
      WP:ICA
       
      ill-considered accusations of impropriety
    4. belittling a fellow editor, including the use of judgemental edit summaries or talk-page posts (e.g. "that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen", "snipped crap")
  2. Other uncivil behaviours
    1. taunting or baiting: deliberately pushing others to the point of breaching civility even if not seeming to commit such a breach themselves. All editors are responsible for their own actions in cases of baiting; a user who is baited is not excused by that if they attack in response, and a user who baits is not excused from their actions by the fact that the bait may be taken.
    2. posting of personal information
      , repeated email or user space postings
    3. sexual harassment
    4. lying
    5. quoting another editor out of context to give the impression they meant something they did not.

In addition, lack of care when applying other policies can lead to conflict and stress. For instance, referring to a user's good-faith edits as vandalism may lead to them feeling unfairly attacked. Use your best judgement, and be ready to apologize if you turn out to be wrong.

Avoiding incivility

Incivility – or the appearance of incivility – typically arises from heated content disputes.

Being right is not enough

Incivility is not excused on the grounds that the editor who violated those expectations has the "correct" position on an underlying substantive dispute or the interpretation of policies and guidelines within those disputes. Civility is expected of all editors; incivility is harmful to the functioning of the project irrespective of the merits of an underlying dispute.[2]

Dealing with incivility

  1. First of all, consider whether you and the other editor may simply have misunderstood each other. Clarify, and ask for clarification.
  2. Consider the possibility that something you said or did wrongly provoked a defensive, irritated or fed-up response. Be prepared to apologise for anything which you could/should have done better. (If an awful lot of people seem to be getting frustrated with you, the problem may be with you.)
    • However, this does not excuse incivility.
  3. Even if you're offended, be as calm and reasonable as possible in your response. Until there is clear evidence to the contrary, assume that the offense was unintended.
  4. Explain, clearly but kindly, exactly what you felt was uncivil. Sometimes it helps to let the other editor know how their edit made you feel. Editors are not mind-readers. ("That made me feel..." is much less likely to incite more anger or resentment than "Your post was...")
  5. Ask them to
    strike through
    an uncivil comment, or to re-word it calmly and neutrally.
  6. No matter how much you're being provoked, resist the temptation to snap back. It never works; it just makes things worse. Strive to become the editor who can't be baited.
  7. If none of this is working, and the other person is not damaging the project or being uncivil or unkind to other editors, either walk away or request
    dispute resolution
    from uninvolved editors.
  8. When the other editor needs to be stopped in their tracks to avoid causing serious disruption or needs a fast and strong wake-up call, file a report at the administrators' "Incidents" noticeboard. Bear in mind the risk of being hoist by your own petard if you yourself are guilty of policy violations. Please also read the ANI advice first.

Removing uncivil comments

Where the uncivil comment is yours, any of these options will help reduce the impact:

  • Where someone is unintentionally offended at your comment, calmly explain what you meant.
  • Strike it
    out (using <s>HTML strikeout tags</s>), to show, publicly, that you withdraw the comment.
  • Quietly remove it, or rewrite the comment to be more civil – Usually only a good idea if you think better of it before anyone objected to it. If someone has already reacted, you should acknowledge the change in a quick comment after the changed text, for instance, Comment removed by author.
  • Simply apologise. This option never hurts, and can be combined well with any of the others. Even if you feel the thrust of your words is true, or that they are misunderstanding what you meant, you can still apologise.

In the event of rudeness or incivility on the part of another editor, it may be appropriate to discuss the offending words with that editor, and to request that editor to change that specific wording. Some care is necessary, however, so as not to further inflame the situation. It is not normally appropriate to edit or remove another editor's comment. Exceptions include to remove obvious trolling or vandalism, or if the comment is on your own user talk page. Derogatory comments about another contributor may be removed by any editor.

Dispute resolution

In a case of ongoing incivility, first decide if anything needs to be done. Confronting someone over a minor incident – particularly if it turns out that you misinterpreted what they meant – may produce more stress and drama than the incident itself. Consider your own behaviour, and, if you find you have been uncivil, apologise to them instead.

In escalating order of seriousness, here are the venues you may use for dispute resolution if the relevant page's talk page is insufficient:

  1. User talk page. If some action is necessary, first consider discussing it on that user's talk page. Be careful not to escalate the situation, and politely explain your objection. You may also wish to include a diff of the specific uncivil statement. If you are in active dispute with the user, consider offering an olive branch to them instead.
  2. WP:Third opinion. The forum itself is in general rather used to request input from an uninvolved editor regarding content disputes. For conduct disputes, you may try advertising the issue with the relevant link in its talk page but without discussing it there.
  3. Dispute resolution noticeboard talk page
    (DRN). Similar to Third Opinion, it deals only with content disputes but in a highly moderated format. For conduct disputes, you may try advertising the issue with the relevant link in its talk page but without discussing it there.
  4. Administrator. If discussions with the editor fail to resolve the issue, you may ask an administrator to evaluate the conduct of the user, specially if the conduct damages Wikipedia unduly, is against policy and affects you or others very much. But be aware that your conduct will also be scrutinized.
  5. Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. The Administrators' noticeboard is intended to report and discuss severe incidents of misconduct that require intervention by administrators and experienced editors.
  6. The last step—only when other avenues have been tried and failed—is the Arbitration Committee. It is the final binding decision-maker primarily for serious conduct disputes the community has been unable to resolve. It scrutinises all sides involved in the dispute and creates binding resolutions. But it may accept or decline any matter at its sole discretion.

Blocking for incivility

Blocking for incivility is possible when incivility causes serious disruption. However, the civility policy is not intended to be used as a weapon and blocking should not be the first option in most cases.

  1. Be sure to take into account all the relevant history. Avoid snap judgments without acquainting yourself with the background to any situation.
  2. Think very hard of the possible merits of all other avenues of approach before you take action. Sanctions for civility violations should only happen when nothing else would do. Poorly considered civility blocks have at times worsened disputes and increased disruption. Remember that sanctions may be more applicable under another heading (disruption, personal attack, tendentious editing, or harassment)
  3. Civility blocks should be for obvious and uncontentious reasons, because an editor has stepped over the line in a manner nearly all editors can see. In cases where you believe that taking admin action against someone who was uncivil might be contentious, it is expected that discussion will be opened on the matter, via
    WP:ANI, before any admin action is taken. Benefits derived from long or controversial civility blocks should be weighed against the potential for disruption caused by block reviews, and unblock requests.[3]
  4. Users should be clearly warned, in most circumstances, before being blocked for incivility, and should be allowed sufficient time to retract, reword or explain uncivil comments. Even experienced contributors should not be blocked without warning. Exceptions to this may include users who make egregious violations or threats, or who have received multiple warnings or blocks.

Immediate blocking is generally reserved for cases of major incivility, where incivility rises to the level of clear disruption, personal attacks, harassment or

Emergency situations

Hateful speech, legal threats, and other urgent incidents should be reported at the Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents page.

A special case is

Wikipedia:Outing
has full information.

WP:EMERGENCY
.

See also

Civility barnstar

Notes

  1. ^ Grayling, A.C. (2001). The Meaning of Things. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 13.
  2. ^ Originally formulated by the Arbitration Committee in Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/SmallCat dispute#Being right isn't enough.
  3. ^ Administrators should try to follow The Principle of Least Drama: when given a choice between several ways of dealing with a problem, pick the one that generates the least drama.
  4. ^ "[The] law and its fulfilment, namely punishment, are essentially directed to the future, not to the past. This distinguishes punishment from revenge; for the motives which instigate the latter are solely concerned with what has happened, and thus with the past as such. All requital of wrong by the infliction of pain, without any aim for the future, is revenge, and can have no other end than consolation for the suffering one has borne by the sight of the suffering one has inflicted upon another. This is wickedness and cruelty, and cannot be morally justified." —Arthur Schopenhauer (1883). The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 62.

Further reading