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An essay about the meaning of Wikia's core policy "Assume good faith," by former Community Team member Catherine Munro.

Assume good faith is a fundamental principle and a core policy on every Wikia. As we allow anyone to edit, it follows that we assume that most people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it. If this weren't true, a wiki project would be doomed from the beginning.

What constitutes "good faith"? According to MeatBallWiki:

  • No intention of malice.
  • People trying their best to do their best.
  • People trying their best to do their best for the greater good of the community.
  • Friendliness, honesty, caring.

Assuming good faith is important in every aspect of wiki life, but especially in dealing with new users, and in disagreements between good editors.

New users

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When a reader makes that first leap to click the "edit" button, it's because they've gotten excited about something your community wrote. They may not understand the tools or codes you're used to, and they most likely have not read your wiki's rules and guidelines; new people make mistakes all the time. It's easy to get frustrated and impatient about this, but everyone needs a chance to learn.

So, when you can reasonably assume that something is a well-meaning error, correct it with a kind, explanatory edit summary. Don't just revert it without comment, or label it as vandalism. When you can, take a moment to explain the error on the user's talk page -- it not only helps them become a better editor; that "new messages" banner shows them that somebody is paying attention to their edits! That's a good feeling, one that gets people deeply involved in wikis they care about.

Well-meaning people can make mistakes, and you should correct them when they do. What you should not do is act as if their mistake was deliberate. Correct, but don't scold.

Disagreements

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People can have very different attitudes about what's best for a wiki project. When you disagree with someone, you might start to feel that they are a "bad editor", but that's almost never true if they care about the topic. Assuming good faith is about intentions, not actions. Even if the person is wrong, that doesn't mean they're trying to wreck your wiki.

Whenever an edit or a message irritates you, step back and assume the person is trying to help the wiki, not to damage it. This can help you to look past your frustration to see what they were trying to achieve, and act more kindly based on that understanding. Consider using talk pages to explain yourself, and invite others to do the same. This can avoid misunderstandings and prevent problems from escalating.

Well-meaning people can take actions the rest of the community feels are unwise, and you should discuss the actions calmly and seek compromises, if possible. What you should not do is accuse the person of vandalism or sabotage. Encourage consensus, but don't condemn.

A note for admins

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When you talk with editors, you should always be friendly and patient, and show them that you are assuming good faith about their actions, whether they are new or regular editors, and whether their edits are good, bad, or just confusing. This prevents or calms most conflicts, and helps the community build trust in you. It also sets an important example for other editors and admins, which can lead to a more welcoming and positive atmosphere on the wiki.

When a well-meaning person takes an action you disagree with, you should always start with a message on their user talk page. Never go straight to the admin tools such as blocking an account, or deleting or protecting a page -- and never use admin tools just to get your way in a disagreement! Remember that every action on a wiki can be undone, and letting an unwanted edit or page sit for a short time while you talk to the user and wait for an explanation isn't a terrible thing.

There are users who act in bad faith, and we trust our admins to use their judgment and their tools to deal with them properly. However, assuming good faith is a powerful tool -- even in cases of obvious vandalism you might be surprised how often a kind and personal warning can get people to stop, and even apologize! Some "vandals" are just bored web-surfers who don't think anyone is paying attention, or don't think that their obnoxiousness is affecting real people.

Remember that everyone you deal with has feelings (even the vandals!) and that everyone can help you to build the project that you love if they can be shown that their good work is noticed and valued. Always do your best to assume good faith, and your reward will be a thriving wiki community!

See also

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