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This page offers some principles of etiquette, or "Wikiquette", on how to work with others on wikis.

Our contributors come from many different countries and cultures. We have many different views, perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds, sometimes varying widely. Treating others with respect is key to collaborating effectively in building an international wiki.


Principles of Wikiquette

  • Assume good faith and comply with etiquette ethics.
  • Remember the Golden Rule: "treat others as you would want to be treated" -- even if they are new. We were all new once.
  • Be polite.
    • Keep in mind that raw text may be ambiguous and often seems ruder than the same words coming from a person standing in front of you. Irony is not always obvious when written—text comes without facial expressions, vocal inflection, or body language. Be careful in choosing the words you write: what you mean might not be what others understand. Be careful of how you interpret what you read: what you understand might not be what the writer means.
  • Work towards agreement.
  • Argue facts and not personalities.
  • Do not ignore questions.
    • If another disagrees with your edit, provide good reasons why you think that it is appropriate.
  • Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste.
  • Be civil.
    • Although it is understandably difficult in an intense argument, if other editors are not as civil as you would like them to be, be more civil than they are, not less. That way at least you are not moving towards open conflict and name-calling; by your own action you are actively doing something about it: take a hit and refrain from hitting back—everybody appreciates that (or at least they should).
    • However, do not hesitate to let the other person know that you are not comfortable with their tone in a neutral way—otherwise they might think that you are too dense to understand their "subtlety", and you will involuntarily encourage them (e.g., "I know that you have been sarcastic above, but I do not think that is helping us resolve the issue. However, I do not think that your argument stands because ...").
  • Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we had not. Say so.
  • Forgive and forget.
  • Recognize your own bias, and keep it in check.
  • Give praise when due. Everybody likes to feel appreciated, especially in an environment that often requires compromise.
  • Remove or summarize resolved disputes that you initiated.
  • Help mediate disagreements between others.
  • If you are arguing, take a break. If you are mediating, recommend a break.
  • Remind yourself that these are people with whom you are dealing. They have feelings, and probably have other people in the world who love them. Try to treat others with dignity. The world is a big place, with different cultures and conventions. Do not use jargon that others might not understand. Use acronyms carefully and clarify if there is the possibility of any doubt.
  • When reverting other people's edits, give a rationale for the revert (on the talk/discussion page, if necessary), and be prepared to enter into an extended discussion over the edits in question. Calmly explaining your thinking to others can often result in their agreeing with you; being dogmatic or uncommunicative evokes the same behavior in others, and gets you embroiled in an edit war.

Avoid indirect criticism

Avoid use of unexplained scare quotes and other means of implying criticism or making indirect criticism when you are writing in edit comments and talk pages. Out of respect for other editors, criticism of another's edit, of phrasing and choice of terminology, or any criticism of or critical response to talk page commentary and participation ought to be made clearly, directly, and explicitly in a manner that may be easily understood and replied to.

Keep in mind that sarcasm cannot easily be conveyed in writing and may be misinterpreted. Hence insinuation, double entendre, and excessive or unwarranted subtlety of writing should be avoided when expressing criticism—particularly negative criticism. This point of etiquette also helps the editor receiving criticism to correctly understand you and respond to your concerns, and may particularly aid editors for whom English is a second language or who experience difficulty understanding written English.

When this style of communication is necessary in the interest of being concise or illustrative it is best to explain the intended meaning of your use of scare quotes or other indirection immediately afterward.

How to avoid abuse of talk pages

  • Most people take pride in their work and in their point of view. Egos can easily get hurt in editing, but talk pages are not a place for striking back. They are a good place to comfort or undo damage to egos, but most of all they are for forging agreements that are best for the pages to which they are attached. If someone disagrees with you, try to understand why, and in your discussion on the talk pages take the time to provide good reasons why you think that your way is better.
  • Do not label or personally attack people or their edits.
    • Terms like "racist", "sexist", or even "poorly written" make people defensive. This makes it hard to discuss constructs and other pages productively. If you must criticize, do it politely and constructively.
  • Always make clear what point you are addressing, especially in replies.
    • In responding, quoting a post is acceptable, but paraphrasing it or stating how you interpreted it is often better. Qualify your interpretation by writing, "As you seem to be saying" or "as I understand you" to acknowledge that you made an interpretation. Before going on to say that someone is wrong, concede you might have misinterpreted him or her.
    • Interweaving rebuttals into the middle of another person's comments disrupts the flow of the discussion and breaks the attribution of comments. It may be intelligible to some, but it is virtually impossible for the rest of the community to follow.
  • Editing another editor's signed talk page comments is generally frowned upon, even if the edit merely corrects spelling or grammar.

A few things to bear in mind

  • Talk (discussion) pages are not a place to debate value judgments about which of those views are right or wrong or better. If you want to do that, there are venues such as Usenet, public weblogs, and other wikis. Use the talk/discussion pages to discuss the accuracy/inaccuracy, POV bias, or other problems in the page, not as a soapbox for advocacy.
  • If someone disagrees with you, this does not necessarily mean that the person hates you, that the person thinks that you are stupid, that the person is stupid, or that the person is mean. When people post opinions without practical implications for the page, it is best to just leave them alone. What you think is not necessarily right or necessarily wrong—a common example of this is religion. Before you think about insulting someone's views, think about what would happen if they insulted yours. Remember that anything written on CFIR Wiki is kept permanently, even if it is not visible.
  • You can always take a discussion to e-mail if it is not essential to the page content.
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