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Wikipedia:Remove personal attacks did not pass a vote, but has been cited numerous times by the arbitration committee as a directive, typically when they are putting a user under personal attack probation.

The community didn't gather consensus for "remove personal attacks" as a general principle to be broadly applied, nor did it gather consensus for forbidding the removal of personal attacks. However, I believe there is consensus support for its use in specific cases, particularly following a judgement by a body like the arbitration committee, and it was for that reason that I cited it in arbitration decisions. Martin 15:10, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Remove the Jimbo comment - I discussed the matter with Jimbo and the page was revised to remove the offending statement several months ago.

Yet the page has seen no substantial revisions between the comment made last September, that this line will probably be coming out as soon as they're corrected, and yesterday. So how could these offending statements (and what were they?) have been removed several months ago? —Charles P. (Mirv) 14:43, 12 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I thought I'd actually fixed them in September. Strange. In any case, they were issues with the specific phrasing of things in the list of things that are semi-policy. Since that list is now gone entirely, the complaint is definitely dealt with now. In fact, I just double-checked Jimbo's e-mail to me explaining his statement to make sure. Snowspinner 14:47, May 12, 2005 (UTC)

Semi-policy shouldn't exist.[edit]

For several months now people have been putting "semi-policy" tags on assorted proposals, without a consensus for such a concept ever being established. The concept itself is redundant, plus the way it is used now, it's a weasel term for "a failed proposal that got a simple majority" (see WP:POINT, Wikipedia:What is a troll). Since Wikipedia is ruled by consensus, the views of a simple majority must have no more weight than the views of a significant minority. So if a significant minority opposes the creation of a new rule, the rule isn't created and the policy stays unchanged.

The above examples were written as proposals for policy. They were put up on vote and failed. As such, they should be simply filed away as failed proposals. They are not half-policy as the name implies and they are not guidelines as the template claims. The second of the above is really just an attempt to codify the meaning of a word. How can that be a policy or a guideline, beats me. The best place for it would probably be meta, where things like that have been traditionally kept.

The only rational argument I've heard for existence of semi-policy says that since it's hard to get consensus for new rules, there are many grey areas which must be filled somehow, so we should stick to proposals endorsed by the simple majority and be lenient in applying them.

But that's both a violation of consensus rule and a recipe for disaster, as well as completely unnecessary. What we need are flexible rules, not flexible procedures for establishing rules. Stability is very important for the project, that's why we have high standards for creation of new policy. So if policy is not flexible enough, that's because noone has written a good enough proposal to achieve consensus yet.

As for the supposed grey areas that leaves: long-established policy already gives a good deal of discression to admins and the ArbCom, thus allowing them to act flexibly without violating rules. If they want to base their actions on principles that haven't been ratified as policy yet, they should state so in their own right, not base their decisions on a policy proposal that failed at the vote. Notice that the ArbCom already has a page for just such things, Wikipedia:Arbitration policy/Precedents, so semi-policy pages are apparently not needed by the ArbCom.

So I call for the template to be deleted and all "semi-policy pages" to be either filed away as failed proposals or, if there's useful information to salvage, converted into guidelines (by removing or qualifying the things that a significant minority is opposed to, as well as clearly marking them as guidelines) . Zocky 18:47, 12 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

In many cases I see "semi-policy" as another term for "guideline". They have a very relevant place in Wikipedia. WP:TS, for example, is probably best as a guideline instead of a hard rule. violet/riga (t) 19:51, 12 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Then they should simply be called that, as Guidelines have a long tradition on Wikipedia. There is no need to increase confusion by inventing new names for things, especially not potentially misleading names. Zocky 22:07, 12 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Semi-policy is an oxymoron. Guideline is much better. Let's do it. Pcb21| Pete 12:09, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I don't believe that "semi-policy" is the same as "guideline." Most of the "semi-policy" dates from an era when voting was not used as a means of adopting policy. In some cases the page itself dates from that era and in others the page reflects an effort to write down unwritten rules. In plain English, a guideline is a non-binding rule. Much semi-policy is indeed widely considered to be binding, though there may be disagreements about the exact wording or applicability of the policy.

I applaud the increased interest in classification of the various policy pages and the discussion it has evoked. I believe that there should be far greater community involvement in setting policy. I don't believe that the AC should be legislating policy through its "precendents" page, rather, policy should come from the community.

The Uninvited Co., Inc. 14:38, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Policy should preferably not be created by voting in the first place, but rather by acclamation. The old policies you mention aren't really semi-policy, they're full blown policy - we've had consensus on them for years. Probably because they're good policy.
Same goes for workflow policies we have - they don't really need to be voted in and normally aren't - they're just a description of how things work. Breaking them is actionable because it's a disruption, with a point or otherwise.
If any of these are marked as semi-policy, they should be marked as policy or guidelines, as appropriate.
But we're talking here about policy proposals that are actively opposed by a substantial minority - i.e. failed proposals. In most cases, the discussion showed there was no consensus before the vote was called, in some cases the vote preceeded discussion. Whichever way votes started, they demonstrated that there was no consensus for the proposed policy, making the proposals void, not half-valid. Zocky 14:54, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
As for AC's power to "legislate" policy - they don't have it. OTOH, there's no harm in letting them declare additional principles which they will follow (as long as these are not contrary to the policy set by the community). Zocky 15:00, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedia:How to create policy doesn't have an tag of any sort. Meltdown! Pcb21| Pete 15:16, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
I do remember happier times when nothing had any tags on it and proposals were simply called proposals. Zocky 15:32, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Heh, yes. It is funny how that when I first joined Wikipedia (in Jan '03) I felt very much in the mainstream of Wikipedian thought. Nowadays I feel like way out on the liberal bank away from the mainstream. I am pretty certain my thinking hasn't changed, but that mainstream has diverted as the projected has "matured". I wonder if those who were here in '01 were thinking in '03 like I think now (i.e. marginalized). Pcb21| Pete 18:29, 13 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Classification of this page[edit]

This page itself admits that "There is no consensus about the level of respect that semi-policy deserves" and that no attempt to make this page binding has been or will be made. Seems like a clear enough reason to tag it as Notpolicy. -- Netoholic @ 17:04, 2005 May 13 (UTC)

  • Not quite... I think a semi-policy is the same as a guideline, except that the latter sounds better. So imho we should tag semi-policies as guidelines, as in "many people think it's a good idea in many situations". Radiant_* 17:26, May 13, 2005 (UTC)

Striking my above comment, I now believe none of the tags are necessary. I've placed it in Category:Wikipedia essay which I think is sufficient. It's not "historical" since it's been edited very recently. I don't think it fits at all in the policy scheme, but I don't see any reason to "shelve" it prematurely.

I would suggest changing the name of this page, since "semi-policy" is an easily confused term. Most people assume it means "almost policy", but the concept on this page is more about common sense. -- Netoholic @ 00:20, 2005 May 18 (UTC)


I would like to reclassify all semi-policies as guidelines, and deprecate the term, and nominate the related template and category for deletion. Are there any objections to that? Radiant_* 00:25, May 15, 2005 (UTC)

A very mild one - I think there's one or two things that aren't well described as guidelines. Blocking for personal attacks most obviously. Also, I think the term is useful in stressing the lack of black and white distinction within Wikipedia policy. But I won't cry if it changes. Snowspinner 00:29, May 15, 2005 (UTC)
If there's no established policy for blocking for personal attacks, and you feel that you need to have some sort of semi-policy written down, you can easily put it into your user namespace and direct people there. If there's a group of people who want to share a semi-policy, they could probably do it in wikipedia namespace (although meta seems more appropriate), but that group of people should clearly identify themselves, ie. by the list of signatures of people who use that as their policy.
The whole point is: if there are grey areas where you have to act without consensus, do it, but do it in your own name. Don't claim that it's what Wikipedia community wants. Zocky 01:35, 15 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
I don't. In fact, what I claim is that there is no coherent desire on the part of the Wikipedia community as a monolithic entity, and that ultimately 99% of policy was either dictated by Jimbo or was so old that the Wikipedia community was still small enough to coherently want. Snowspinner 03:27, May 15, 2005 (UTC)
I dissagree and could point to many places on Wikipedia where consensus by debate works and where overwhelming votes are respected, but let's agree to differ on that. The point remains that if something is somebody's personal or group opinion or policy, which remains rationally contested by other people, they should sign it with their own name(s), not claim widespread support. Zocky 04:19, 15 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Which at best polls a limited aspect of Wikipedia. There may be coherent desire on the part of the people who edit articles on fish - and that will make the fish articles stable and possibly quite good - but that doesn't mean there's coherent desire on Wikipedia. Snowspinner 12:57, May 16, 2005 (UTC)
Right. It's so much better if editors that only work on fish articles declare that their work standards are policy and demand that all other users just accept it. Even when a poll seems to indicate the opposite community opinion, those fish editors can just tell us we don't know what we're talking about. -- Netoholic @ 15:28, 2005 May 16 (UTC)
People who edit articles have this useful tool, called Wikiprojects for addressing such matters. Indeed, the people whoe edit articles on fish express their desires, coordinate their work, and decide their policy in an open and transparent manner. They don't go around claiming that their policy fully or partially applies to other pages of Wikipedia. Zocky 17:12, 16 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Well, I object, for the reasons I gave earlier, and because it's unclear to me that there is a consensus on the overall structure of the policy pages and whatnot. This matter raises issues beyond the tags themselves. It is a question of how the community will govern itself. I think this merits discussion with a wider audience before making changes. The Uninvited Co., Inc. 01:41, 15 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
I think the gate is already open. When you created the various initial tags, you didn't seem to gather any community input. As a result, many of are trying to resolve some of the distinctions. I think we are largely on the right track. -- Netoholic @ 03:22, 2005 May 15 (UTC)

General cleanup needed[edit]

I would support reclassifying all "semi-policy" pages as "guideline" pages, and adjusting all navigational elements to use the simplified vocabulary. Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines should probably be updated to reflect the current contents of Category:Wikipedia policies and guidelines and vice versa. Category:Wikipedia guidelines, following Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines, should be divided up into behavior guidelines, content guidelines, and style guidelines. Wikipedia how-to and Wikipedia style guidelines are currently mixed in Category:Wikipedia style and how-to, and it would be nice if in this sorting-out process, each got its own category. I will post to WP:CFD. -- Beland 06:32, 16 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

A new name?[edit]

A do not agree with completely abolishing the semi-policy category, but I do believe that it needs a new name. It is pretty clear in most cases what is Wikipedia policy—they are either edicts from Jimbo Wales, articles that have had an overwhelming support in surveys, or articles that have had a long tradition on the Wikipedia with very strong support among Wikipedia participants and little opposition. What are guidelines is a little less clear, but in general I would still say that they are articles that have strong support and little opposition. I think that there is room for something in between Guidelines, and Proposals and Notpolicy. These would include Wikipedia namespace articles where there is generally a majority support for the idea, although there may also be some strong minority opposition. For lack of a better name, I propose calling them Suggestions. BlankVerse 07:49, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

There is also room for quarter-policy, three-quarter-policy and what not. I suggest that in the interest of not making murky waters any murkier we abandon the search for more names. Just write the policy so it's flexible. Zocky 08:06, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • It has a new name, and that is guideline. Radiant_* 12:32, May 18, 2005 (UTC)
  • As long as failed proposals are weeded out. Zocky 12:37, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
    • Yes. I believe anything proposal-like should be proposed, guideline, official policy, rejected or historical. I've asked on WP:AN if some other experienced users could double-check the cats and see if anything is misplaced. Feel free to help. Radiant_* 12:47, May 18, 2005 (UTC)
Guideline does not describe everything that is semi-policy. Snowspinner 14:00, May 18, 2005 (UTC)
Describe what fits in "semi-policy" and not in "guideline" and we'll come up with a better name. "Semi-policy" isn't even a word. Pcb21| Pete 14:16, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
It is a word because we use it; and I doubt that Wikipedia was the first to use it. The biggest problem is, knowing what I know about words, I'd expect semi-policy to fit into a continuum between policy and guidelines, but apparently that is not the meaning which has been used here. It's broken, for that reason alone. Get rid of it entirely, or come up with a better name. Gene Nygaard 04:04, May 29, 2005 (UTC)
  • I think that having these 5 categories would be very helpful and it should be more than just a categorization as the people that this is most likely to help - new users probably will not understand the significance of a small box at the bottom of the page - it should be more prominent near the top. This will help us communicate better to new users and allow them to be acclimated to the wikiway much faster. Trödel|talk 14:25, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedia:Google test is one article that I don't think should be described as a Guideline. A semi-useful tool that is abused too often, but it shouldn't be classified as a Guideline. On the other hand, Radiant! has already cleaned out Category:Wikipedia semi-policy (and has it listed for deletion at WP:CFD), with most of the articles presumably "upgraded" to Guidelines, and this particular page has been disconnected from the rest of the Wikipedia. With this Fait accompli it would appear that this discussing is moot. BlankVerse 14:31, 18 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • Ironically, I feel that 'guideline' actually sounds weaker than 'semi-policy'. Even if the latter isn't a word. Radiant_* 15:01, May 18, 2005 (UTC)
I think Template:Ambiguous would work well for the Google test, and I've added it there. Snowspinner 14:57, May 18, 2005 (UTC)

I agree with comments on Wikipedia:Village pump (policy) that Template:Ambiguous is a bad idea. If there's a dispute, punt the page back to the policy thinktank, call for votes, and give an explanation at the top of the page until the dispute is resolved. I will list it on WP:TFD. Since Wikipedia:Google test is disputed, I will follow this procedure for that page.

I don't think the change from "semi-policy" to "guideline" is an "upgrade", either. But any confusion can be resolved as long as the category page and the template explain exactly what readers should think about the status of the page, or clearly link to such an explanation. -- Beland 02:06, 19 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

To me a "Guideline" has always been something that has strong support (75-80% consensus) from the Wikipedia participants and which all editors should follow (whereas Policy was something editors must follow). A "Semi-policy" was something more wishy-washy—that is, it was something that had super-majority support (>60%), but also might have a strong minority opposition. Still, semi-policy was something that editors should try to follow unless they had a good reason not to. For me, a page like Wikipedia:Remove personal attacks (currently marked as a guideline, although the poll on the Talk page only shows support that is lukewarm and barely a majority) would be a good example of Semi-policy. BlankVerse 07:03, 19 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
  • I think that setting percentage levels is too bureaucratic. Also, votes are not the way to decide policy (or guideline). If something is widely in use and lots of people agree on it, then it is a de facto guideline even if it was never voted on. I don't think it has been stated anywhere what percentage of support would be required for anything, and your inferral is unlikely to be shared in that exact form by many other people. Radiant_* 07:32, May 19, 2005 (UTC)
Guidelines should describe the "normal" way of doing things on Wikipedia. So I fully agree that they should have high support. In fact, they should be so written that they reflect how things are done and that no voting on them is really needed. That said, I still don't see any need for semi-policy:
Wikipedia:Google test isn't really that bad. It tells you that it's not a good tool for a lot of things. If you think that it's not explicit enough in that, it can be easily updated. Wikipedia:Remove personal attacks is a different thing. It has been rejected, but is an important document, so it gets to stay in Wikipedia namespace, I should think. It should probably be marked as both rejected and historical. I'll go do that now. Maybe we need to write a new guideline, something like Wikipedia:Handling personal attacks? Zocky 07:24, 19 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Disposition of page contents[edit]

Should this page be marked as "historical", with a text description that it has been abandoned in favor of Category:Wikipedia guidelines, and to please read Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines? Or should it be redirected to one or the other? There was a debate on "unwritten" policies on Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines, and the corresponding project page was updated. I don't feel there's anything here worth merging there, but if you disagree, maybe the best thing to do would be to suggest wording on Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines. -- Beland 03:20, 19 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

  • I would support merging in content from WP:Pol&Gui, as well as the relevant category, and I agree that 'historical' would be appropriate here. Radiant_* 07:00, May 19, 2005 (UTC)