Last modified on 6 October 2009, at 21:13

Wiktionary:Civility

Accessories-text-editor.svg This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. This is a draft proposal. It is unofficial, and it is unknown whether it is widely accepted by Wiktionary editors.
Policies: CFI - ELE - BLOCK - REDIR - BOTS - QUOTE - DELETE - NPOV - AXX


This page in a nutshell:
Participate in a respectful and civil way. Do not ignore the positions and conclusions of others. Try to discourage others from being uncivil, and be careful to avoid offending people unintentionally.

Civility is a code for the conduct of edits, comments, and talk page discussions on all Wikimedia Sister Projects. Whereas incivility may be roughly defined as personally targeted behavior that causes an atmosphere of greater conflict and stress, our code of civility states plainly that people must act with civility toward one another.

The Wiktionary community has some core principles —the most important being that pages be written with a neutral point of view. After that we request a reasonable degree of civility towards others. "Civility" is a principle that we can apply to online conduct, and it's a reasonable way to delimit acceptable conduct from the unacceptable.

The problemEdit

Wiktionary invites people to improve its pages, but sometimes there are differences of opinion. When editors weigh the pros and cons of some change, it may be difficult to comment in a constructive and civil manner. Words on talk pages and edit summaries do not transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, which may lead to small, facetious comments being misinterpreted. Uncivil remarks could escalate into a heated discussion which may not focus objectively on the problem at hand.

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 Wiktionarians drives away contributors, distracts others from more important matters, and weakens the entire community.

When and why does incivility happen?Edit

  • 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.

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 incivility bad?Edit

  • Because it makes people unhappy, resulting in discouragement and departure
  • Because it makes people angry, resulting in non-constructive or even uncivil behavior themselves, further escalating the level of incivility
  • Because people lose good faith, resulting in even less ability to resolve the current conflict -- or the next one

General suggestionsEdit

Preventing incivility within WiktionaryEdit

  • 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)
  • 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 wiktionary). 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 Wiktionary mailing list with those words

Reducing the impactEdit

  • 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)
  • Alternatively, respond to perceived incivility with greater civility and respect. Many editors will rise to the occasion and moderate their tone to match yours.
  • 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. Wiktionary is a very big place. Just go edit somewhere else for a while and return when tempers have cooled.
  • Please. Thank you. I'm sorry. You're welcome. You're a good person and I know we'll work this out. Treat your fellow editor as a respected and admired colleague, who is working in collaboration with you on an important project.

Removing uncivil commentsEdit

  • 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)

Management of incivility during the mediation processEdit

Parties sometimes attempt to negotiate an agreement while one party is not ready to negotiate. For example, if the source of the conflict is a specific point in an article, dispute resolution may be impaired if discussion is still clouded by an uncivil exchange between both parties. It is best to clear up that issue as soon as possible, so disputants can regain their balance and clarity when editing.

Explain incivilityEdit

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).

Rephrasing disputants' commentsEdit

During the mediation process, a third neutral party is in contact with both disputants, ensuring communication between them. The role of the mediator is to promote reasonable discussion between the two disputants. Therefore it is helpful to remove incivility voiced by User A, in rephrasing comments to User B.

For example, if User A and User B are flaming each other by e-mail through a mediator, it might be best if the intermediary turns "I refuse to allow Neo-Nazi apologetics to infest Wiktionary" to "User A is concerned that you may be giving too much prominence to a certain view."

Rephrasing flames publicly exchanged before or during the mediation processEdit

At the end of the mediation process, the mediator may suggest that the disputants agree to remove uncivil comments that have remained on user and article talk pages. The editors might agree to delete pages created specifically to abuse or flame one another, and/or to remove all flaming content not relevant to the article discussion, and/or to refactor a discussion. This may allow disputants to forgive and forget offenses more quickly.

Similarly, the disputants might agree to apologize to each other.

Suggest apologizingEdit

Mediation regularly involves disputes in which one party feels injured by the other. The apology is an act that is neither about problem-solving and negotiation, nor is it about arbitration. Rather, it is a form of ritual exchange between both parties, where words are said that allow reconciliation. In transformative mediation, the apology represents an opportunity for acknowledgement that may transform relations.

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.

External linksEdit