Stargate Wiki:Civility

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(Redirected from SG:CIVIL)

Civility is a rule for the conduct of edits, comments, and talk page discussions on Semantic Stargate Wiki. 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.

Our Semantic Stargate Wiki community has by experience developed an informal hierarchy of core principles—the most important being that articles be written with a neutral point of view. After that we request a reasonable degree of civility towards others. "Civility" is the only principle that we can apply to online conduct, and it's the only reasonable way to delimit acceptable conduct from the unacceptable. We cannot always expect people to love, honor, obey, or even respect one another. But we have every right to demand civility.

The issue

Visitors are invited to improve the text in Semantic Stargate Wiki. But often there are differences of opinion on whether a change in text is an "improvement." When editors weigh the pros and cons of whether a change is an improvement, it may be difficult to criticize text without being objective about the situation. Editors, in trying to be clear, can be unnecessarily harsh on the giving end. Conversely, on the receiving end, editors can be oversensitive when they see what they wrote replaced by something that claims to be "better," despite it being the opposite of what they wrote.

Silent and faceless words on Talk pages and Edit summaries do not transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, leading to small, facetious comments being misinterpreted. One uncivil remark can easily escalate into a heated discussion which may not be focused objectively on the problem at hand. It is during these exchanges that community members may become uninterested in improving articles and instead focus on "triumphing" over the "enemy".


Petty examples that contribute to an uncivil environment:

  • Rudeness
  • 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, sexual, and religious slurs
    • Profanity directed at another contributor
  • Lies
  • Defacing user pages
  • Giving users derogatory names via Pagemove Trolling
  • Calling for bans or blocks
  • Indecent suggestions

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 Stargate Wikians 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.

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 departure
  • 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

General suggestions

Preventing incivility within Semantic Stargate Wiki

  • 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 Semantic Stargate Wiki). 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 Semantic Stargate Wiki 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. Semantic Stargate Wiki 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. Treat your fellow editor as a respected and admired colleague, who is working in collaboration with you on an important project.
  • You don't have to like an editor as a person, to appreciate that they're also working for the good of the project. If you don't like a fellow editor, try not to hold that fact against them.

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)

Management of incivility during the mediation process

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 incivility

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' comments

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 the Semantic Stargate Wiki" 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 process

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 apologizing

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 acknowledgment 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.

See also

This page uses some contents from Battlestar Wiki. The original article has been written in Battlestar_Wiki:Civility. The revision history can be seen in the Revision history page. Battlestar Wiki text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0). If you want to reuse it you have to distribute it under the same license.