Wiktionary:Assume good faith

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This guideline describes the assume good faith (AGF) principle in effect for the English Wiktionary.[1] Essentially, it asks everyone to give the benefit of the doubt regarding a contributor's intentions. Although this was originally derived from the English Wikipedia's “Assume good faith” principle and it may be interesting to compare the two, please note that many policies in effect here, including this one, are different from ones with which you may already be familiar.

As a public wiki, the English Wiktionary allows most anyone to edit. It follows that the community assumes that most people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it. If this were not true, a project like Wiktionary would be doomed from the beginning.

Editors should assume good faith as far as is reasonably possible. Assuming good faith is not a reason to tolerate vandalism or other disruptive edits. Nor is it a reason to disregard an editor's past behavior.

Advice to newcomers[edit]

New Wiktionarians are often surprised by the rigidity of our formatting guidelines. Other wikis are often much less structured and new Wiktionarians with experience editing Wikipedia may mistakenly assume that Wikipedia's policies apply at all wikis.

In all Wikimedia projects, including this one, “assume good faith” means, “give the benefit of the doubt regarding a contributor's intentions when it is reasonable to do so.” The phrase is often quoted in defense of newcomers who may not understand the English Wiktionary's norms, boundaries of appropriate behavior, or culture. Of course, this goes both ways; newcomers are expected to assume good faith by trusting that the community's norms, guidelines, and policies were established with good intentions. With that in mind, it is important to try to learn and practice the norms and to assume good faith of administrators who delete entries, of experienced users who edit entries, and of users who give instruction and advice about Wiktionary standards and formatting conventions.

Dealing with mistakes[edit]

Similar to the Wikipedian principle, Wiktionarians are encouraged to assume that errors are well-intentioned. When you disagree with someone, remember that they may be trying to help the project. Consider using user's talk page or the appropriate page in the Wiktionary:Community Portal to explain yourself, and give others the opportunity to do the same. Doing so can avoid misunderstandings and prevent problems from escalating.

Newcomers unfamiliar with the English Wiktionary's customs and guidelines may believe that an unfamiliar policy should be changed to match their experience elsewhere. Similarly, newcomers may have experience or expertise for which they expect respect. Behaviors arising from these perspectives can be harmful but are not necessarily malicious.

The English Wiktionary has fewer active administrators (sysops) than the English Wikipedia has, so experienced editors may make fewer attempts to correct behavior that seems harmful to Wiktionary before blocking the editor responsible. Newcomers should share equally with experienced contributors in the assumption of good faith, e.g. by following the written and unwritten norms (and to help identify the unwritten ones so they can be documented). It is reasonable to disagree and to recommend changes through the various public channels.

Of course, there is a difference between assuming good faith and ignoring bad actions. Well-meaning people make mistakes, and editors should correct mistakes without assuming that they are deliberate or malicious. Wiktionary countermeasures (e.g. reverting, blocking) can be performed on the basis of behavior rather than intent, so it is rarely helpful to scold or to attribute actions to bad faith, even when malice seems obvious.

When you encounter a mistaken edit, it is generally best to do the following:

  • Correct it (either by fixing or by reverting). Do not accuse the editor of malice or deception, because a casual correction or revert is easier to take in a good-natured fashion.
  • If it might not be obvious what the problem was, leave a message on the user's talk-page, identifying the edit in question and explaining what was mistaken about it (linking, if possible, to any policies or guidelines that might be relevant). If the user has not yet received the welcome message ({{welcome}}), include it.
  • If the mistake is a fairly serious one, check the user's contributions for other instances of this mistake that need to be fixed or reverted.

In the event that the mistake appears to be spam or vandalism, it might be advisable to notify an administrator, who may issue a temporary block (especially if the user has made multiple such mistakes). Such blocks can help make the user aware that Wiktionary is a serious enterprise that takes these behaviors seriously. If the block is accompanied by a talk-page message, it helps to ensure that the user does not make any further edits before seeing the message. If a user really is acting in bad faith, a block helps to protect Wiktionary against damage incurred maliciously; however, note that it is not necessary to assume bad faith in order to issue a block.

Limits and failure to assume good faith[edit]

Editors are people, and if you continually fail to demonstrate your good faith, they will eventually stop assuming it. Yelling "assume good faith" at fellow editors does not excuse you from explaining your actions, and if you find yourself doing it often, it's probably a sign that you're doing something seriously wrong: editors do not ordinarily need to be reminded to assume good faith. The "assume good faith" slogan should not be used to protect vandalism or other harmful edits.

If you assume bad faith, several things may happen:

  • Personal attacks: Once you've made a personal attack, the target will probably assume bad faith. The edit war will get even uglier. People, like elephants, rarely forget.
  • Losing sight of the NPOV (neutral point of view) policy. Consider figuring out why the other person felt the entry was biased. Then, if both points of view are valid, try to integrate them both in neutral terms.