User:Shlomif/Guidelines Encouraging Participation in Wikis

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This page aims to give a set of guidelines and general strategy for encouraging contributions to Wikimedia projects (and similar collaborative efforts). It is based on this sub-thread in the Gender-gap mailing list. The motivation behind these guidelines is to encourage a long term psychological gain and feeling of mutual respect, rather than a short-term increase of “quality”, while in the long term driving away many contributors, and making people resentful.


1. Make sure to phrase the issues you have using constructive criticism, telling what should be done instead of what is wrong.[edit]

People can take offence pretty easily and as a result feel helpless, and resentful. If you convey that as a call for improvement and encourage them to contribute, they will be better.

  • Bad: "This page lacks citation to reliable sources. Unverifiable content may be challenged and removed."
  • Good: "You can help this page by finding citations to reliable sources. See this page for more information on how to help."

2. Leave comments on the user page.[edit]

Even contact using E-mail if necessary.

3. Tell editors that have not followed this to have to know better and come to the defense of people who are trying to contribute.[edit]

4. Thanks contributors of worthy changes (even small ones) for their changes on their talk pages.[edit]

Also see the wikilove feature.

5. Enlighten people whose changes have been considered bad, as to the correct way.[edit]

6. Don't be terse and avoid mentioning too many acronyms and weird jargon in your comments, and instead explain in plain English.[edit]

Try not to use a template for the comment: write it from scratch while phrasing something new on your own.

Learning from Saladin[edit]

Many people believe that The Art of War is the definitive resource on strategy, but they forget all about Saladin (Latinised simplification of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb) who was a noble conqueror and a great strategist who liberated Palestine/Israel from its occupation by the vicious Christian crusaders, and inspired centuries of Muslim and European literature. The Art of War covers short term and vengeful strategy. On the other hand, Saladin used compassion, chivalry, trust, respect and forgiveness to make sure that his army won the long term and more important psychological war, which despite common misconception is not "won" by making sure your enemy fears you and resents you, but by having him respect you, care about you, and having the mere thought of fighting you seem out of the question (and possibly even love you).

Saladin practised his teaching through his deeds. When one of the bastions of the crusaders in the Galilee was surrendered after a long fight, Saladin was so impressed from the fighting of the knights there, that he disarmed them and allowed them to walk to the nearest Christian holdover where they would be safe. When the horse of Richard I of England (a.k.a “Richard the Lion Heart”) died, Saladin sent him two new horses. When Richard I got sick, Saladin gave him the care of his personal physician.

But perhaps the most amazing story I heard about Saladin is that of his treatment of Balian of Ibelin. He defended Jerusalem against Saladin, lost, and Saladin had him swear he won't return to fight him. However, after Balian told the Roman Catholic Pope about it, the Pope told him that he did not have to respect the oaths given to infidels, and as a result Balian returned to fight Saladin again. What was Saladin response? Not only was he not angry, but he respected Balian's choice given his beliefs and had no hard feelings towards Balian. And Saladin won again (as expected).

How does it apply here?[edit]

It is easy to dismiss contributing to collaborative Internet projects as not as important or close-to-the-real-world as conquests, but Ecclesiastes notes that "Do not say that the first days were better than these for you did not speak in wisdom". (And that is believed to be written in approximately 300 BC, roughly 2,300 years ago as of 2013.) We can use the stories about Saladin as inspiration for converting our wikipedia enemies into our friends, and having mutual respect, admiration, and even friendship. Like Saladin, you should try to avoid short-term "gains" by being laconic and cryptic and offensive, and try to be more compassionate, use constructive criticism, be patient, and forgive people for their mistakes. Don't be trigger happy, and instead try to be the bigger man (or the bigger woman, naturally).

The general assumption is that people mean well, even if it seems like they only edit what they are interested in (which is expected and acceptable given something that is mostly voluntary). Don't try to read the thoughts of people and think they have some "nefarious" intentions.

Together we can win the battle of gaining more and more wikipedia contributors, and not by force and power mania.