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Civility is a rule for the conduct of edits, comments, and talk page discussions on all Wikimedia projects. Whereas incivility is roughly defined as personally targeted behavior that causes an atmosphere of greater conflict and stress, our rule of civility states plainly that people must act with civility toward one another. A civility policy is a reasonable way to delimit acceptable conduct from the unacceptable.
Many people forget that criticizing an edit is easily conflated with insulting the person who made it — and so they are unnecessarily harsh on the giving end and unnecessarily sensitive on the receiving end. Textual communication on the Internet does not transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, so a small, facetious comment can be easily misinterpreted. What starts with one uncivil remark becomes an exchange of those same, during which people are no longer interested in improving articles and instead focus on "triumphing" over the "enemy". This is not what Wikiversity is about (see Wikiversity:What is Wikiversity?).
Petty examples that contribute to an uncivil environment:
- Judgmental tone in edit summaries ("fixed sloppy spelling," "snipped rambling crap")
- Belittling contributors because of their language skills or word choice
- Ill-considered accusations of impropriety of one kind or another
- Starting a comment with: "Not to make this personal, but..."
- Calling someone a liar, or accusing him/her of slander or libel. Even if true, such remarks tend to aggravate rather than resolve a dispute.
More serious examples include:
- Personal attacks
- Racial, ethnic, and religious slurs
- Profanity directed at another contributor
- Defacing user pages
- Giving users derogatory names via Pagemove Trolling
- Calling for unjustified bans or blocks
- Using straw men
Incivility happens, for example, when you are quietly creating a new page, and another user tells you, If you're going to write a pointless page, could you spell-check it?.
Escalation occurs when you reply, Mind your own business.
This style of interaction between editors drives away contributors, distracts others from more important matters, and weakens the entire community.
When and why does it happen?
- During an edit war, when people have different opinions, or when there is a conflict over sharing power.
- When the community grows larger. Each editor does not know all the others and may not perceive the importance of each individual to the project — so they don't worry about maintaining relationships that don't exist. Reputation does not count as much as in a smaller community.
- Sometimes, a particularly impolite user joins the project. This can also aggravate other editors into being impolite themselves.
- People's different point of views may lead up to a debate, the people involved in the debate may be rude.
Most of the time, insults are used in the heat of the moment during a longer conflict. They are essentially a way to end the discussion. Often the person who made the insult regrets having used such words afterwards. This in itself is a good reason to remove (or refactor) the offending words.
In other cases, the offender is doing it on purpose: either to distract the "opponent(s)" from the issue, or simply to drive them away from working on the article or even from the project, or to push them to commit an even greater breach in civility, which might result in ostracism or banning. In those cases, it is far less likely that the offender will have any regrets and apologize.
It should be noted that some editors deliberately push others to the point of breaching civility, without committing such a breach themselves.
Why is it bad?
- Because it makes people unhappy, resulting in discouragement and leaving Wikiversity.
- Because it makes people angry, resulting in non-constructive or even uncivil behavior themselves, further escalating the level of incivility
- Because it puts people on the defensive, closing their minds to other ideas and preventing a consensus from forming
- Because people lose good faith, resulting in even less ability to resolve the current conflict — or the next one
Preventing incivility within Wikiversity
- Prevent edit wars and conflict between individuals (constraints on editing are set by the project — essentially a community answer)
- Force delays between answers to give time to editors to calm down and recover and to avoid further escalation of a conflict (protecting pages, or temporary blocks of editors in case of conflict)
- Use positive feedback (praising those who do not respond to incivility with incivility)
- Apply peer pressure (voicing displeasure each time rudeness or incivility happens)
- Solve the root of the conflict between the offender and the other editor(s) or the community — or find a compromise.
- Use negative feedback (suggesting that an editor involved in conflict should leave a conflict or even temporarily avoid all controversial areas in Wikiversity). It may be worthwhile making such suggestions to both sides of the conflict.
- Block certain users from editing specific pages that often trigger incivility
- Create and enforce a new rule — based on use of certain words — that will allow temporary blocking or banning an editor using them more than a certain number of times.
- Filter emails by the offender, or filter mail based on certain keywords and reject emails to the Wikiversity mailing list with those words
- Accepting that incivility and rudeness can't be entirely avoided in such a project, and not responding in kind.
- Giving awards for good edits.
Reducing the impact
- Balance each uncivil comment by providing a soothing or constructive comment
- Do not answer offensive comments. Forget about them. Forgive the editor. Do not escalate the conflict. (an individual approach)
- Ignore incivility. Operate as if the offender does not exist. Set up a "wall" between the offender and the community.
- Revert edits with a veil of invisibility (&bot=1) to reduce the impact of the offensive words used in edit summaries (the comment box)
- Walk away. Just go edit somewhere else for a while and return when tempers have cooled.
- If you happen to offend someone, apologize. Remove the offense, if possible, and keep the apology. However, please do not expect or attempt to mandate that others act likewise.
Removing uncivil comments
- Strike offensive words or replace them with milder ones on talk pages (this is often seen as controversial, as is refactoring other people's words)
- Remove offensive comments on talk pages (since they remain in the page history, anyone can find them again or refer to them later on)
- Revert an edit with &bot=1, so that the edit made by the offender appears invisible in Recent Changes (do-able on ip contributions, requires technical help for logged-in user)
- Delete (entirely and permanently) an edit made by the offender (requires technical help)
- Permanently delete an offensive comment made on the mailing lists (requires technical help)
- Replace a comment made in an edit summary by another less offensive comment (requires technical help)
Some editors are badly shaken by uncivil words directed towards them, and can't focus on the source of the conflict itself. It may help to point out to them why unpleasant words were used, and acknowledge that while incivility is wrong, the ideas behind the comment may be valid.
The offended person may realize that the words were not always meant literally, and could decide to forgive and forget them.
It can be helpful to point out breaches of civility even when done on purpose to hurt, as it might help the disputant to refocus on the issue (controversial).
The apology is a form of ritual exchange between both parties, where words are said that allow reconciliation.
For some people, it may be crucial to receive an apology from those who have offended them. For this reason, a sincere apology is often the key to the resolution of a conflict: an apology is a symbol of forgiveness. An apology is very much recommended when one person's perceived incivility has offended another.
- Help:Resource attribution - an optional scheme for promoting civility and cooperation between educators when someone has an interest in a particular resource page and may need it for their classes.
- Wikiversity:Civility/Extension 0.2 - a draft for a proposed extension/change to the Civility policy
- Learning civility - a learning project about developing personal civility and facilitating it in others