Wikimedia Ethics/Ethical Code for Wikipedians
What is a useful ethical code for Wikipedians?
Allow different points of view
"Good editing" and "bad editing" can be defined in terms of the Wikipedia goal of making an encyclopedia with articles that aim for the "neutral point of view". Secondarily, "good editing" and "bad editing" at Wikipedia can also be guided by the Wikimedia goal of freely sharing knowledge. A useful ethical code for Wikipedians can guide editing towards styles of practice that best support the Wikipedia mission.
A code of ethical conduct should reflect what Wikipedians value and include details derived from what we have learned during the existence of the project. Wikipedians value editors who can take a step away from their personal biases and agendas while putting the mission of the Wikipedia project foremost in their thoughts. A willingness to learn while editing, the ability to examine topics from multiple points of view and a commitment to good-natured collaboration are some of the traits that are valued in Wikipedia editors.
Many Wikipedians are from cultures where individualism and active pursuit of self-interest are valued. Wikipedians may have personal codes of conduct that clash with the Wikipedia culture of collaborative editing. In general, when such conflicts between personal interests and community interests exist, a Wikipedian needs to be able to subordinate their personal desires to the mission and goals of the Wikipedia project.
No personal agendas
Wikipedia faces the danger of editors who will edit so as to facilitate their personal agendas even when their editing disrupts the Wikipedia community and its mission. While everyone can edit Wikipedia, you can only keep editing Wikipedia if you do not disrupt the community. If you cannot adjust your editing to this reality, the community will react so as to exclude you, thus eliminating a source of disruption. Good editing requires that you recognize this reality and adapt your behavior to Wikipedia.
If you have a conflict of interest that leads you to put some other interest ahead of the interests of the Wikipedia community then your editing is in danger of causing disruption and you risk being seen as a "bad editor" by your peers. In such situations, you can limit yourself to only discussing changes to articles or entirely avoid those articles where your conflict of interest is likely to come into play. Sometimes a break from Wikipedia editing can allow you to regain perspective and escape the feeling that you must put your personal agenda ahead of the goal of the Wikipedia project.
Even when we try to subordinate personal interests to the goals of the Wikipedia community as a whole, there are many choices that can be made with respect to editing style. A constant danger is that the Mediawiki user interface can produce barriers between editors. A conscious devotion to civility can help prevent us from forgetting that there are thinking and caring people behind the flickering usernames on our computer screens. Mis-communications are all too common. Sometimes we get tired and rush to reach an editing goal and we can become frustrated and impatient. Sometimes we see others use bad behavior and we are tempted to try it ourselves as a means to an end. Good editing means not taking short cuts. Stay civil. When you cannot see a good way past a conflict, take a break, bring in more editors, take a deep breath and try to find new creative ways to assume good faith.
With so many people trying to assume good faith it can be tempting to take advantage of those assumptions. A good editor adopts a personal commitment to honesty. Willful distortion of the facts is a disruptive short cut to selfish goals. We must all trust that the community can collaborate so as to find a balanced account of each topic. Good editing means exploring the evidence and helping to construct a fair narrative.
Four practical rules
While proper philosophical approach is important in 'good editing.' many conflicts and potential problems can be avoided by following four guidelines
- (DON'T DOMINATE) an unstated assumption that your thoughts are not the best; and thus you listen to the group as a whole for insight you do not currently understand.
- (WRITE TO NOONE) You write as best as you can, to everyone and to no one. It is better to write to someone semiprivately (the user_talk page) or privately. "I agree" kind of posts, as open questions "Good idea! but what about X?" are clear exceptions.
- (NOTHING PERSONAL)You Take nothing personal. You've had nearly the unimpeded forum to say what you feel; they must too. This is a harder deal. with the ability to feel emotions of appreciate and friendship comes the ability to feel humiliated, betrayed, and persecuted. But we must get beyond it. With an open internet forum like this, it is never so much about being friends and generating huge respect, or even having great influence. It is to participate in the primary purpose of the WV. Which is to teach and to learn. I am very interested in both and don't intend to get caught up in anything that detracts.
- (ETHICS POLICY) Clear conformance to the ethics policy; which should be SIMPLE. If it is cryptic enough you don't understand it, ask.