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Mailing lists/Guidelines

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The Wikimedia Foundation hosts many mailing lists, public and private, for communicating internally and externally. Flame wars and incivility occasionally occur; participants should help one another to keep the lists friendly and productive. In cases where this is not possible, moderation may be necessary.



Guidelines for posting on mailing lists:

  1. Be civil.
  2. Assume good faith.
  3. Respect the privacy of others.
  4. Understand others as individuals.
  5. Keep quoting to a minimum.




  • Avoid outbursts – Discussions can get tense; but outbursts attacking others and their work are rarely helpful. Find constructive ways to criticize ideas, and ask for explanations, while remaining civil.
  • Be respectful – Even when others fail, try to respect all points of view. If you feel a friend crossed the line, let them know privately. If you feel someone you're arguing with crossed the line, let a neutral party know and ask them to step in.
  • Listen to objections – Avoid repeating behavior that others object to.
  • No personal attacksAd hominem attacks are not appropriate.

Good faith

  • Past events – Past events are offenses from months or years ago. They should not be constantly brought up; efforts to change should be recognized. But many mailing lists are archived – another reason to be civil, as it is hard to escape the past.
  • Minor events – Minor issues such as sarcasm or jokes that offend some people, should be taken in stride. It is not easy being the target of a joke, but if list members can accept this, it should not be a constant source of tension. This can more often than not lighten the mood. Accidental offenses should be apologized for and considered different from an intent to offend.
  • Avoid escalation – Heated debates happen; people get frustrated or leave. It matters how we, as a community handle it. If you are offended, assume good faith of others, and don't hit back.
  • Speak out – If you are offended, by how you or someone else is treated, acknowledge it: if not for yourself then for others. Be specific, and be aware that there may be a cultural misunderstanding.


  • Personal communication – Any personal information about an individual that the individual chooses not to release, should not be shared on a list. This is the same as on-wiki behavior, where personal information can be removed or the offender warned or blocked. Off-list references and messages with private information should generally not be forwarded to a list without the agreement of the sender. This should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Mailing list cost – Following mailing lists involves a certain amount of time. Some discussions benefit from being public, or from being held on-wiki. Finding the right forum for a discussion is important. As others will try to respect privacy, public conversations will be much more easily shared and translated.

Understand others

  • Cultural + language differences – The projects are something personal and important to every person who comments. English might not be the native language for a majority of them, and cultural norms for expressing frustration or sarcasm vary. Strong reactions may not be directed at anyone in particular. Contributors should get the benefit of the doubt when there is a language or cultural difference between participants in a discussion, but this should not be constant excuse. If you feel someone has gone over the limit, first let them know privately.
  • Persons are not organizations – Remember that staff, legal representatives or members are still individuals, not abstract entities; like all individuals, they also care passionately about the project and can get frustrated.
  • Community representatives – Similarly, even on lists where a few representative people from each community participate, remember that they are individuals, and treat them as such.
  • PLEASE DO NOT USE ALL CAPS, or lots of bold text: they signify someone shouting.

Quotes and other list mechanics

  • Make your message brief and to the point.
  • Quoting can be useful but only to the points you are raising. Remember all the list members already have the previous messages.
  • Send plain text only – if that is the norm for the list.... Many lists strip HTML before forwarding.
  • List messages are public and will be archived in numerous places.

Enforcing guidelines

  • Posting limits – These may be decided as a way to balance the voices heard on a list. While such a limit may not be strict, there should be an expectation to adhere to it. Limits should be decided on a case by case basis.

See also