The Wiki is a powerful tool and there are few strict rules, but over time the community has developed a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong.

If you are completely new to the Wiki, a light primer of common mistakes is located at Welcome to the Wiki.

Some loose guidelines

  • Respect the opinions of others. On the other hand, make it clear whether you are expressing a fact or an opinion.
  • Try not to destroy content. When updating out-of-date content, it may be valuable to keep some of the history.
  • If you don't agree with something, promote dialogue by including all sides of the argument.
  • Use the wiki for good and not evil.
  • Avoid Wiki Edit Wars by respecting others content in your edits. When your edits cause disagreement, it is best to discuss them either on the original page, the Wiki Community/General Discussion page, or by creating a new discussion page.
  • This is not a good place to have a casual conversation. Don't be afraid to summarize or re-organize past entries for the sake of readability.
    • 'Conversation' on a page can usually be turned into something when meaningfully structured.
    • Little streams of comments on the bottom of a page can usually be reworked into different areas of the page. Use comments left to improve the writeup by putting them in the proper spot.
  • Do not fear disagreement and debate. It is the most important part of the process.
  • Always be civil to all, and be especially nice to those who are new to our community.
  • There's a consensus that ["Users/FirstnameLastname"] pages are the property of that user. Edit them if you'd like, but respect the owner's wishes.
  • Use a single user-account, and refrain from creating sock-puppets, i.e. a user that mimics thoughts expressed by your primary account, but in no way reveals the two speakers to be one and the same.
  • The wiki is about the Philomath community. If you find yourself in a tangential debate or edit war, balance things by matchings every contribution you make on that page, with a positive contribution about Philomath on another page, even if it's just some minor gnoming.

It likely remains true that Wikis sort themselves out. Certainly in the case of Philomath Wiki, we are blessed with intelligent and respectful people. That is why any talk of ethics wouldn't be rules but mere guidelines that people might like to follow.

We would all hate to see the wiki turn into a great place to post porn and flame your professors, but this isn't likely to happen as long as we are all respectful and cooperative. Confrontational statements and material is typically ignored or removed.

Should anything be taboo? If so, what?

Possible ideas (add what you want, even if it's just a bud of an idea):

  • Threats of any kind. Threatening other users is totally inappropriate.
  • Libel
  • Creating pages that intentionally mislead users. This is not to say that dramatic or humorous wording is disallowed; just that it should be clear to an average reader when something is true versus when something is a joke or tongue in cheek.
  • Anything that might legally be construed as "Hate".
  • Confrontational speech is usually edited or removed. Controversial statements should be attributed to those who say them.
  • Derisive commentary motivated by gender, race, orientation or political beliefs (I've removed a number of really derisive comments about the campus conservatives lately - really I find it as offensive as any of the more "commonly recognized" forms of discrimination - there's no place for it here -KrisFricke)
  • Personal information regarding an individual without their permission. Some leeway might be acceptable for public figures. When in doubt, get permission.
  • Pornography

See also: Unethical Editing, Wiki Social Norms, and Welcome to the Wiki. Also, when it comes to flames, see Insults.


There are some topics that have never (and likely will never) have a satisfactory conclusion. That's because the people who make up the Wiki feel differently about them. You can discuss them in Wiki Community:Ethics Discussion, but it is unlikely that you can present an argument that will have everybody agreeing with your personal feelings on the issue.

Here's a list:

  • Profanity
  • Opinions stated as fact
  • Geographic comments ("This is far away from where I live")


Trying to sum up the Wiki philosophy in an artful phrase is difficult, but here are some attempts:

  • Back in 1994, the Web was a pretty wonderful place, with lots of people putting up stuff just because they thought someone else would find it interesting or useful. Wiki preserves that feeling in a place that has become too much of a shopping mall. It reminds people that sometimes to work together you have to trust each other more than you have any reason to. —Ward Cunningham
  • It's better to convince someone of something through argument than to delete.
  • Put a flier on the wall. Just don't put a flier over someone elses.
  • The Wiki is made to be altered.
  • Your house will be the next builder's brick.
  • "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours." — John of Salisbury (11th century monk)
  • In the real world, it's possible to randomly punch strangers in the stomach. What stops us from doing this? The fact that we're not assholes, that's what.

Note that these aren't really rules or subjects to discuss, just attempts at witty turns of phrase that convey a personal philosophy about the Wiki. Think beautiful words, not legal clauses. If you want to discuss Wiki Ethics, try the discussion area.

Helpful Websites For Wiki Ethics

  • — Cunningham & Cunningham, Inc.'s Wiki is an early Wiki, but certainly not the last word on Ethics - each Wiki builds its own set of beliefs and choices.


Do you have a question about ethics?