Grants:IdeaLab/Require Apologies

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Require Apologies
To create a more civil environment, require participants to take responsibility for their behavior. Rather than sanction violators from participating in certain topic, ask them to apologize for their behavior.
idea creator
project manager
community organizer
this project needs...
project manager
community organizer
created on17:31, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

The percentage of female Wikipedia editors is low. Women want to feel safe. They don’t want to be verbally attacked. They want civil conversations. According to the UNU-MERIT 2010 Wikipedia Survey Reasons for Non-Contribution, 25% of female non-contributors said they would be more likely to contribute if "I was confident my contributions would be valued and kept" and 15% said "I knew that other contributors would be welcoming and encouraging." These responses reflect a knowledge of Wikipedia's difficult culture, of which I'm guessing many non-contributors are unaware. I suspect the percentages would be higher among those with full information. Currently, offenders get banned or sanctioned, but they come back to offend again because the punishment does not require them to take responsibility for their actions. (Do data exist on repeat offense rates on wikipedia? My sense is that it’s frequent.)

What is your solution?[edit]

I want to be part of a community of people who take responsibility for their actions. In such a community, I will feel safe, and other women will as well. To instill the culture of apology into wikipedia, we will:
1. Promote apology before a disagreement gets to dispute resolution

  • Improve the Apology section of the Wikipedia Civility Pillar
  • Create easy system for sending virtual flowers of appreciation and apology
  • Develop a prevention education module on civility for wiki users

2. Change the culture by changing the punishment. As part of a ban, block, or sanction, require offenders to apologize to those they offended (if applicable and possible) and the community at large before being allowed to edit again. People who violate the rules need to accept responsibility for their actions. Banning them temporarily from a contested area doesn’t require them to take responsibility. People need to be willing to accept and abide by the community rules and governance. For reasonable people, apologizing isn’t a big deal. In fact, they’ll welcome the opportunity to make amends. Reasonable people will admit to mistakes and apologize: “What I did was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you and/or the community.” The third step of an apology: “What can I do to make it better?” can be met in this context with a commitment not to offend again. Bullies and trolls may not apologize, and they will leave. Some offenders might submit to a sanction but if they were required to apologize, wouldn’t, because they don’t think they made a mistake. In this situation, the sanction is not an effective punishment. If the he offender does not agree with the punishment, he or she can appeal or leave. I think it makes more sense for offenders to leave than for victims to leave, which is what is happening currently.

I do not know how to implement this suggestion within the wikipedia organizational structure. If someone knows what the steps would be, please share.


This simple requirement would significantly change the culture of wikipedia. It would create an environment in which all editors would take responsibility for their actions. Those who are unwilling to do so would no longer be able to participate. People would know that there would be an ultimate recourse for bad behavior: people who are disrespectful would be required to apologize before returning. As a result, people would feel safe contributing. Women in particular appreciate a civil culture.

Get Involved[edit]


  • Community organizer I'd be happy to volunteer or be community organizer. Who else is onboard? :) Supaiku (talk) 20:23, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Project manager I would love to see apology incorporated into the Wikipedia process Beauxlieux (talk) 02:43, 1 April 2015 (UTC)


Apologies cost nothing but loss of face by the ego, which is arguably the originator of uncivil behavior.

Thus, the apology may stand as not only an instrument by which increased civility and accountability are promoted, but also as a litmus test of an editor's ability to maintain the NPOV upon which civil consensus is founded. Brickbeard (talk) 04:39, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

  • I endourse the idea and made some comments on the talkpage.--Abiyoyo (talk) 00:00, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Good idea. Just an example: The way I am lately treated by an at least 30 years younger male sysop (with the Dutch term "ach gossie", a term which I cannot translate, but its a text one could use for consoling a crying child) should lead to his apologies, and to removal of his insulting text. There are many more examples of the big male ego's getting away with insulting other persons (not only women!). If you say to such a person you have been insulted or hurt by them, you are only getting back large explanations, saying its is "your own problem if you are insulted", or "its my freedom of speach" in stead of a simple sorry. Suggestion: a comittee of female editors could look into the individual situation and force the person into an apology; or block him. Ellywa (talk) 09:40, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Too many of Wikipedia's male contributors (who often seem to be youngish and permanently welded to their computer chairs) are fiercely possessive of "their" pages and prone to extreme but casual rudeness and misogyny. It's intimidating and tedious. I've cut back drastically on my own editing efforts because I just don't need all that hostility in my life. RossweisseSTL (talk) 22:34, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Gotta stand behind my own idea! Beauxlieux (talk) 03:33, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Editors hate to be compelled to do anything, but blocked editors must meet higher behavioral requirements to return. I don't see why a simple apology wouldn't be appropriate. This is worthy of an experiment... interesting Ocaasi (talk) 00:36, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • This policy exists informally and needs to be made more formal and admins have to enforce it. So far it has been unevenly enforced, and enforced more strictly on women and "less powerful" editors than powerful ones. For example a female/less powerful editor who asked a poorly worded conflict of interest question on the talk page of an editor who harassed her. She got a two month ban and only was allowed back after community outcry and an abject apology. Another time a powerful male editor made a pretty clear death threat against another editor and was blocked indefinitely. His friends objected, the block was lifted after less than 24 hours, with no request he apologize. He only did so later after much pressure, but it was not a condition of his being allowed back. Of course, there also has to be pressure on admins to fairly administer this new rule. Carolmooredc (talk) 15:39, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
  • In reviewing the ideas to correct the lack of female contributors, for me this one gets to the heart of it. Stop driving contributors away by being hostile. I don't know if an apology will work but I like the core idea of being accountable for one's own behavior. I think peer pressure helps to keep the few from spoiling it for everyone, but not when it turns into a mob. I also think it should be made extremely easy to report bad behavior. All told, let's try the apology idea and see if it helps. Benutzer41 (talk) 16:38, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
  • This seems like a good way to engender better relationships and polite discourse on the projects. We should try to make disagreeing parties face one another civilly before doling out bans. La salonniere (talk) 00:19, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Endorse. It's always great to see another Wikier apologize spontaneously without coercion. They should be role models for the acid-tongued and muscle-flexing. Perhaps a simple system of sending virtual flowers of apology would engender appreciation (or any benevolent token that would demonstrate contrition). People can do that now, but they have to search Wikimedia Commons for a good image to use and paste it into a conversation without appropriate font support. A simple system to enhance the process would be nice. Thank you for the idea, Wordreader (talk) 09:57, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Communication is always good Messerjokke79 (talk) 11:45, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this is a good practice and reasonable requirement. Supaiku (talk) 20:22, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • As a long-time supporter of community accountability. I think it's a grat idea to ask people to apologize and take responsibility for the harm they put into the world, intentionally or not. Vrsides (talk) 21:42, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I like this idea a lot. Finding ways to give people step-by-step habits for trying to make amends after they've been uncivil should help make it easier form him to do so in other domains of life. As part of the process, I'd love to see more preventative education given to users to definie what civil and uncivil comments look like, and how to determine whether they're going to risk some consequence by crossing the lines they know are there. DrMel (talk) 23:33, 31 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Builds a fair and equitable community Phyllisfoxworth (talk) 01:32, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment I saw a woman blocked recently for emailing an arbitrator. Should she have to promise never to email an arbitrator again before she is allowed to edit? I've made extended remarks on the talk page. —Neotarf (talk) 23:26, 1 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Good idea, would be great to see it becoming part of our practice. I am not sure that this should apply only for conflicts between male and female users, as it would be nice to introduce such practice also to conflicts between male and between female users (although it would be weird for male users to send flowers to each other). Otherwise it would be a good practice — NickK (talk) 00:00, 3 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Sounds like it might help. I think the apology should appear on the offender's user or talk page. Frederika Eilers (talk) 23:47, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Expand your idea[edit]

Do you want to submit your idea for funding from the Wikimedia Foundation?

Expand your idea into a grant proposal