FamilySearch Wiki:Etiquette Guidelines
This page offers some principles of etiquette or "Wikiquette", on how to work with others on FamilySearch Wiki. You can read about more basic conventions at the policies and guidelines page.
FamilySearch Wiki's 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 online encyclopedia.
Principles of FamilySearch Wiki etiquette
- Assume good faith. Comply with etiquette ethics. FamilySearch Wiki has worked remarkably well so far based on a policy of nearly complete freedom to edit. People come here to collaborate and write good articles.
- Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you – even if they are new. We were all new once.
- Be polite, please.
- 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.
- Sign and date your posts to talk pages (not articles!), unless you have some excellent reasons not to do so.
- Work towards agreement.
- Argue facts, 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 biases and keep them in check.
- Give praise when due. Everybody likes to feel appreciated, especially in an environment that often requires compromise. Drop a friendly note on users' talk pages.
- 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.
- Take it slowly. If you are angry, spend time away from FamilySearch Wiki instead of posting or editing. Come back in a day or a week. You may find that someone else made the desired change or comment for you. If you think mediation is needed, enlist someone.
- Walk away or find another FamilySearch Wiki article to distract yourself – there are 85,021 articles in English on FamilySearch Wiki! Take up a Wikiproject or WikiReader, or lend your much-needed services at pages needing attention and Cleanup. Or write a new article.
- Remember what FamilySearch Wiki is not.
- Review the list of faux pas.
- Avoid reverts whenever possible, and stay within the three-revert rule except in cases of clear vandalism. Explain reversions in the edit summary box.
- Amend, edit, discuss.
- 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 article's talk 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.
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.
Of course criticism communicated in any manner and concerning any subject must be civil, should assume good faith as described in the relevant guideline, should not constitute biting of newcomers, and should comply with other FamilySearch Wiki policies and guidelines. If directed generally towards an editor's behavior or other aspects of talk page commentary, criticism must not constitute a personal attack as described in the Policy:No personal attacks policy. See also Policy:Attack pages.
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 articles 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.
- Like science, the improvement process employed by FamilySearch Wiki is iterative and the critical analysis of prior work is a necessary part of that process. If you are not prepared to have your work thoroughly scrutinized, analyzed and criticized, or if your ego is easily damaged, then FamilySearch Wiki is probably not the place for you.
- 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 articles 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.
Working towards a neutral point of view
When dealing with suspected violations of Policy:Neutral Point of View:
- Inquire politely on the article's talk page about aspects of the article you consider non-NPOV (unless they are really egregious), and suggest replacements.
- If no reply comes, make the substitutions. (Use your watchlist to keep track of what you want to do.)
- If a reply comes, try to agree about the wording to be used. That way, when an agreement is reached, an edit war is very unlikely. This has the disadvantage that the article stays in an unsatisfying state for a longer period, but an article that changes frequently does not create a good impression with other FamilySearch Wikins or of the project as a whole.
A few things to bear in mind
- FamilySearch Wiki articles are supposed to represent all views (more at NPOV), instead of supporting one over another, even if you believe something strongly. 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 article talk pages to discuss the accuracy/inaccuracy, POV bias, or other problems in the article, 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 article, 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 FamilySearch Wiki is kept permanently, even if it is not visible.
- FamilySearch Wiki invites you to be bold, though it is wise to remember that it is possible to be too bold. Before initiating discussion, ask yourself: is this necessary to discuss? Could I provide a summary with my edit and wait for others to express opinions if they like? Might my actions have consequences that I have not considered?
- You can always take a discussion to e-mail or to your user page if it is not essential to the article.
- If you know you do not get along with someone, do not interact with him or her more than you need to do. Unnecessary conflict distracts everyone from the task of making a good encyclopedia, and is unpleasant. Following someone you dislike around FamilySearch Wiki is sometimes stalking, and can be disruptive. If you do not get along with someone, try to become friendlier. If that does not help the situation then it is probably best to avoid them.
- Though editing articles is acceptable and encouraged, editing the signed words of another editor on a talk page or other discussion page is generally not acceptable, as it can alter the meaning of the original comment and misrepresent the original editor's thoughts. Avoid editing another editor's comments unless necessary.
Other words of advice
Parting words of advice from Larry Sanger:
- Be open and warmly welcoming, not insular,
- Be focused single-mindedly on writing an encyclopedia, not on Usenet-style debate,
- Recognize and praise the best work: work that is detailed, factual, well-informed, and well-referenced,
- Work to understand what neutrality requires and why it is so essential to and good for this project,
- Treat your fellow productive, well-meaning members of FamilySearch Wiki with respect and good will,
- Attract and honor good people who know a lot and can write about it well, and
- Show the door to trolls, vandals, and wiki-anarchists, who, if permitted, would waste your time and create a poisonous atmosphere here.
A troll's helpful hint for newcomers: Before interpreting Sanger's parting advice as permission from the current community of participants to engage in personal attacks, harassment or stalking after labeling people with whom you disagree, read and understand the policy or guideline regarding personal attacks and the ad hominem fallacy identified by ancient Greek philosophers.
An outline for a Wikicovenant from Kingturtle:
- Make others feel welcome (even longtime participants; even those you dislike),
- Create and continue a friendly environment,
- Turn the other cheek (which includes walking away from potential edit wars),
- Give praise, especially to those you do not know (most people like to know they are wanted and appreciated), and