Community Central
Community Central

Wikis improve through not only the hard work of more dedicated members, but also through the contributions of many curious newcomers. All of us were newcomers once, even those careful or lucky enough to have avoided common mistakes, and many of us consider ourselves newcomers even after months (or years) of contributing.

New contributors are prospective "members" and are therefore our most valuable resource. We must treat newcomers with kindness and patience — nothing scares potentially valuable contributors away faster than hostility or elitism. While many newcomers hit the ground running, some lack knowledge about the way we do things.

Don't bite the newcomers[]

  • Understand that newcomers are both needed by and of value to the community. By empowering newcomers, we improve the diversity of knowledge, opinions, and ideas, enhancing the wiki's value and preserving its neutrality and integrity as a resource.
  • Remember, the wiki may have a set of rules and standards and traditions, but they must not be applied in such a way as to thwart those newcomers who take that invitation at face value. It is entirely possible for a newcomer to this site to bring a wealth of experience from other venues, together with ideas and creative energy which, current rules and standards notwithstanding, may further improve the community and end product. It may be that the rules and standards need revising or expanding; some of what the newcomer seems to be doing "wrong" at first may prove to actually improve the wiki. Observe for a while and, if necessary, ask where the newcomer is coming from before defining what they're doing as "wrong" or "substandard".
  • If you do determine, or sincerely believe, a newcomer has made a mistake, such as forgetting to put titles in boldface, or failing to make useful links, try to correct the mistake yourself. Don't slam the newcomer; remember, this is a place where anyone can edit and, in a very real sense, it is therefore each person's responsibility to edit, not criticize or supervise others.
  • If you really feel that you must say anything at all to a newcomer about a mistake, do it in a spirit of being helpful. Begin by introducing yourself with a standard user greeting on their talk page to let them know that they are welcome here, and present your corrections calmly and as the contributor's peer, perhaps also pointing out things they've done correctly, which you like. If you can't do that, then it is better to say nothing.
  • Other newcomers may be hesitant to make changes, especially major ones, such as moving, due to fear of damaging the wiki (or of offending other users, or being flamed). Teach them to be bold, and do not be annoyed by their "timidity".
  • When giving advice to newcomers, tone down the rhetoric even a few notches from the usual mellow discourse that already (should) dominate the wiki. Make the newcomer feel genuinely welcome, not as though they must win your approval in order to be granted membership into an exclusive club. Any new domain of concentrated, special-purpose human activity has its own specialized strictures and structures, which take time to learn, and which may benefit from periodic re-examination and revision.
  • Assume good faith on the part of the newcomer. They most likely want to help out. Give them a chance!
  • Remember Hanlon's Razor. Behavior that appears malicious to experienced community members is more likely due to ignorance of our expectations and rules. Even if you're 100% sure that someone is an Internet troll, vandal, or worse, conduct yourself as if they're not. By being calm, interested, and respectful, your dignity is uplifted, and you further our project.
  • Remember that you were once a newcomer also. Treat others as (if possible, better than) you would want to be treated if you had just arrived.

How to avoid being a biter[]

In more general terms, one can also avoid being accused of being a "biter" by:

  1. Avoiding intensifiers in commentary;
  2. Modulating one's approach and wording on the wiki;
  3. Striving to respond in a measured manner;
  4. Accepting graciously one's actions or inactions in a given situation or context;
  5. Acknowledging differing principles and willingness to reach consensus;
  6. Opening one towards taking responsibility for resolution of conflicts;
  7. Avoid excessive jargon;
  8. Avoid using blocks or warnings as a first resort;
  9. Avoid deleting newly created articles, as inexperienced authors might still be working on them or trying to figure something out;
  10. Reciprocating where necessary; and
  11. Listening actively.

If you are feeling frustrated with a newcomer (or any community member, for that matter), take a step back to relax and come back to the issue later with a clearer and cooler mind.

Consciously choose the steadfast ground. Strive to be a responsible community member. By fostering goodwill, one will not provoke or be provoked easily, and will allow the community to devote their time and resources towards building an encyclopedia — part of what Fandom is all about!

If you've been bitten[]

If you feel you have been "bitten", there are a number of things to keep in mind, and alternatives to choose from:

  1. Choose to actively learn from the incident.
    Consider alternatives that could have been used by the "biter" to achieve a more desirable response for yourself, and if you encounter a similar situation in the future, consider acting in the latter manner if the situation warrants.
  2. Consider that negative "biting" incidents are transitory — one should not feel the need to pacify one's actions as a result of non-constructive commentary. Extract the wisdom that may have been unintentionally veiled, and choose to take that away as valuable experience.
  3. Choose to point out in a reasoned manner any offense taken, and learn to recognize when the message cannot be received. The recipient may be unable or unwilling to accept fault or otherwise, and it may be better to move on to other things than to dwell on the "bite".

If you've bitten[]

If you feel like you have "bitten" a newcomer, apologize to them, learn from and reflect on the incident and how to better approach that kind of situation in the future, and do not dwell on the issue.

See also[]