User:Uncle G/On fundamental principles

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There are several fundamental priciples that underpin all wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. A few of these are actually mandated by the law governing the Foundation and by its Bylaws that govern its incorporation. Others are not, but are considered so fundamental by the community that they are considered non-negotiable: either one accepts them in order to participate, or one finds some other, non-Wikimedia Foundation, projects to participate in.

Mandatory principles derived from the Wikimedia Foundation itself[edit]

United States Internal Revenue Service documents on activities that will cause loss of 501(c)(3) status:

Neutral Point of View
This is a fundamental principle that is derived from the actual law of the land governing the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. As such, it is legally prohibited under United States federal law from performing certain political activities, lest it lose its 501(c)(3) status as an educational charity and find itself subject to taxes on its activities.

The Foundation takes this slightly further, and espouses adherence to the Neutral Point of View.

Free content
This is the one fundamental principle that is explicitly articulated in the Wikimedia Foundation bylaws.

Article II of those Bylaws says that the purpose of the Foundation's projects is for people "to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain". All content must be free content or in the public domain.

In practice, the copyright licences employed are the GFDL and the subset of Creative Commons licenses that are free, CC-BY-SA and CC-BY. (Not all Creative Commons licences are compatible with the principles underpinning free content, note.)

Principles that the community considers non-negotiable[edit]

Openness
This is most often formulated as "anyone can edit without registration".

All projects are open, and the bar to participation is intentionally low. There is no "Pull the ladder up, Jack, I'm on board!".

Jimbo Wales, in his Statement of Principles articulates this as two principles: "Newcomers are always to be welcomed. There must be no cabal, there must be no elites, there must be no hierarchy or structure which gets in the way of this openness to newcomers." and "'You can edit this page right now' is a core guiding check on everything that we do. We must respect this principle as sacred.".

Transparency
This is most often formulated as "the 'wiki process' as the final decision-making mechanism for all content".

All decisions on content are taken transparently. People can see discussions as they begin and proceed.

Projects not to be abused for personal ends and non-project-related goals
Although this has never actually been stated at Meta's Foundation issues page, this is a principle that the individual projects state explicitly in their "what this project is/is not for" official policies. It is commonly formulated in two parts: "This project is not a soapbox, or a vehicle for propaganda, advertising, or self-promotion, or a place for conducting a business." and "This project is not a free wiki host or webspace provider.".

The Foundation's Biographies of living people Resolution addresses the advertising and promotion part of this, too: "Many people create articles that are overly promotional in tone: about themselves, people they admire, or those they are paid to represent. These are not neutral, and have no place in our projects."

Principles that are not actually fundamental[edit]

Note that most projects have additional basic principles. These are specific to those individual projects. They aren't common to all Foundation projects. Indeed, they may well intentionally differ from project to project.

For example, whilst Wikipedia prohibits original research, Wikisource excludes original writings, and Wikibooks excludes original works of fiction/literature and primary research, Wikinews not only permits but encourages original reporting with firsthand interviews and reporting from direct experience, and Wiktionary is happy to include previously undocumented words as long as they are properly attested.

Similarly, the ultimate decider of disputes on some projects, particularly non-English language ones, is not and has never been Jimbo Wales.