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Beware the Wikipedia, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Administrator and shun the fruminous Bureaucrat!

People tend to do silly things online. They open spam and click on the .EXE attachment, they visit that nice mybank-x.cx website like the email said to and validate their bank account. All sorts of fun things.

This isn't much of an essay, really, just some things to remember before you start editing on Wikipedia for those who don't want life to be an open book for the generations to come.

Facts to keep in mind[edit]

  • Wiki Never Forgets
Regardless of what Wikimedia project you edit, your edits stay in the database forever, along with your username and quite possibly the IP you posted your edit from.
Caveat: Many people will tell you, "The system stores your information for only a few months". That's true now, but do you know this for a fact? Are you willing to risk your identity being exposed later due to a developer deciding to increase the retention time?
Edits can be deleted (but they're recoverable by any admin) and oversighted (recoverable only by a developer), but when push comes to shove, they're still there.
  • Wikimedia Privacy Policy
Read the policy and understand it. Understand what it does guarantee, and more importantly, what it does not guarantee.
INFORMATION RELEASED BY YOU ON THE WIKI IS NOT COVERED BY THE PRIVACY POLICY. Please make sure you read and understand that. If you post, "My name is John Smith" on some obscure page, someone will remember it, keep a diff, and bring it up at the most inopportune time years later. We don't have to do anything to remove that information. Seriously. If you don't get this point, read it again. It's that important.
Caveat: Your fellow Wikimedians may well happily try to oblige you if you make a mistake. Please see the first point, however. Also, everyone else you interact with is also a volunteer here. Nobody has to do your bidding.
  • Wiki Is Mirrored
So, you've managed to get an admin to delete "My kitty's name is Snuffles and lives with me at 410 West Pennsylvania in Omaha, Nebraska" off your user page history. Guess what? I bet one of our mirror sites still shows it like that. I imagine Google's caches can be used to find it. The complete history dumps of Wikipedia are available to anyone who wants them: Don't leave anything in them you don't want someone to see.
This goes for things such as arguments and personal attacks also. They're forever and spread all over the 'net. Is that how you want to be known if someone Googles for your name?
  • Wiki Is Volunteer
Nyah-nyah, you're not the boss of me! ... well, actually, you're not. Everyone here, from the latest anonymous contributor through our administrators to OTRS staff and Bureaucrats, even the Stewards and the Board of Directors... we're all volunteers. Technically, if we wanted to, we could all take the day off tomorrow, get absolutely jack done, and you really can't complain. We're doing this because we want to.
This doesn't mean that some of your fellow volunteers don't have authority, they just can't tell you what you have to do, they can, however, tell you to not do something: Don't harass other users. ArbCom tells you to not interact with User:Joe Blow. If you interact with him, you'll get blocked.
People don't have to put up with your shit. Everyone is welcome on Wikipedia. Initially. If you make an ass out of yourself, you'll be removed. Don't gripe that "Wikipedia:The Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit" is false because you chose to get yourself banned. Every community has the right to protect itself, even ours.
  • Special:Contributions is Forever
Years later, people can look at your history and see the very first edit you ever made. Try to not have it be ERIC IS A FAG in the middle of the Butterfly article. Really.
If you ever decide to run for a position in the community such as admin, bureaucrat, steward, arbcom, or similar, people will dig up your past edits, search for your mistakes, and flaunt them. I can't say don't make mistakes, but ... try to not do them on purpose.
Ask if what you're doing is going to make the project you're working on better. If it's not, don't do it.
  • You Own Nothing
Everything on Wikipedia, from the articles to "your" user and talk pages, are for the benefit of the community. While it's called "your" user page, it belongs to the Foundation. Everything on your userpage is covered by the GNU Free Document License, so anything you post...yes, even on your user page...can be taken, modified, and used for commercial purposes. Even the picture of your dog Trixie wearing the cute little outfit on Halloween. They just have to attribute the original version to you. That's it.
  • The GFDL is not revocable
"That's it, I'm leaving and taking my contributions with me!" ... sorry, better read the license again. By editing here, you're giving the public the unlimited, irrevocable right to reuse your contributions any way they want, as long as you get attribution. Again, Wikipedia is mirrored, so everything you post is almost immediately commercially exploited and made into derivative works. That's why we chose this license.

Suggestions for maximizing your privacy[edit]

  • Register an account, never, ever edit when you're not signed in. Really.
  • If someone sends you an email via special:emailuser and you don't want them to have your email address, DO NOT REPLY. I'd also suggest turning off the ability of your mail reader to display images hosted on external websites.
  • If you go somewhere not on Wikipedia, all bets are off. If someone suckers you into visiting their personal website, they've got your IP and can very easily find your anonymous edits.
  • Don't reveal information you don't want others to have. Now, you don't have to lie for this to work, you can just avoid telling anything about yourself.
  • If you use IRC, all bets are off. Even if you're terribly careful and use a hostcloak, someone will find a way to get your IP address from you or your client.
  • If you're editing from your main account, make sure you keep the "Remember me on this computer" button turned on at home and bookmark the secure login page for the wiki you're trying to edit, that way you go directly there and can ensure a fresh login.
  • Don't edit from stale logins: If you have a plugin such as SessionSaver, click the "Go" button before resuming your session. If the server logs you out and you don't know it, that apparently logged-in session you're in is going to show up as an IP edit.
  • Don't use the same nick/login everywhere. Do you want people Googling for your Wikipedia username and discovering you post on a heavily politically charged board and using that against you later?