Unethical Editing

There are many ways one can make a point. Some are more likely to cause misunderstanding, inspire resentment and lower the overall value of any work in which they appear. Here are some examples:

See also WikiNewspaperAnalogy, WhoStuffedWordsInMyMouth


The best advice I've gotten on issues of ethics is to avoid the appearance as well as the act of wrong doing. If it's possible that your change could be misconstrued then it's best not to do it.

See the Ethics section below.

It's hard work. It takes more than just not being lazy to do it. Too little is far, far better than too much in my opinion. For advice on what to do see RefactoringWikiPages and WikiPageLayout (particularly the advise about sections). In software good refactoring is riskless, easy and tedious. It's done in small steps and with great care. I would prefer that Wiki be treated in the same manner. If that makes it too hard to do then don't do it. But I'd like to suggest that if we focused more on doing WikiRefactoring the hard way we wouldn't have time for all of these endless meta-conversations. -- PhilGoodwin

Don't change what I say. Ask me about it and get me to change it if I care to. Don't sign my name to what I didn't sign, whether or not I wrote it. Don't remove my name from something I signed. If you do any of these things, I will hunt you down and eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. As I was saying, it looks a lot less risky not refactoring.

Misrepresenting moved material

What's a "factual representation"?

It's a summary that includes facts but excludes opinions. If there is a chance that it'll be misunderstood or that the original authors will be misrepresented then don't do it. You could split hairs over the meaning of "factual" I suppose. If you're unsure, you can try borrowing someone else's judgement - if you aren't sure that some other reasonable person with a point of view that is different from your own would agree that something is fact then just assume that it isn't. The more you feel like you want to say something even though someone else will disagree with it, the less likely it is to be a "fact".

Here's an example:

Before: (from the FacePaint page:)

FacePaint hides all of those ugly freckles. -- FreckleFree
Oh, I love my freckles. Maybe I could just paint around them. -- FreckleFace
Let me set you straight here...

After (non-factual):
(False statements about the attractiveness of freckles moved to: FrecklesAreUgly)

After (factual):
(Freckle conversation moved to: FreckleDiscussion)

-- PhilGoodwin very good example thanks

Yes, good example. Moving things is mostly OK. I'd advise care not to hide an idea an author might have thought important. -- RonJeffries


"The best advice I've gotten on issues of ethics is to avoid the appearance as well as the act of wrong doing. If it's possible that your change could be misconstrued then it's best not to do it."

If we're talking ethics, words like "laziness", "procrastination" and "bad manners" also come to mind. How is it that so much waste material has been left on Wiki for years? Good refactoring of good stuff mixed with less good is especially risky and difficult. Even if you only try to FixYourWiki it's often made very difficult by other people's responses, unless your totally ignore readability by doing a mini "wind wipe". I often feel almost that in the end the advice boils down to: "don't bother, it's too risky". Increasingly I don't blame people for not bothering. -- RichardDrake

Maybe this whole discussion ought to focus more on HowToWriteAndEditThreadMode contributions. I agree with you on several points here mostly revolving around the concept that junky ThreadMode shouldn't be produced. If nobody wrote undecipherable ThreadMode then we'd never have to argue about how to clean it up.

I think that we need to get good at making what's there navigable rather than resorting so much to straight re-writes and deletion. I think that once we have the first skill in place the second two will find more naturally fitting homes. -- PhilGoodwin


I find small changes hard to pick out in the QuickDiff/HistDiff modes, basically they're two large chunks of black-on-yellow and black-on-green with a small but possibly important change hidden somewhere inside. Sometimes it's possibly to spot where the word-wrap or line length changes. Additional highlighting (like emacs ediff mode) would help. Applying this to formatting changes may be harder, perhaps inserting symbols in the formatted version would work? MoinMoin and WikiMedia have [-had-] this feature [-for a long time-]. See WikiWikiSuggestionsMedium.

This is basically a feature suggestion. Opposing views?

Side-by-side diffs would help. -- EarleMartin


This wiki has pages and their history. To get outside the world of linking to the current version of a page, one must link to the HistDiff. The content of the link is not subject to further editing so this may make it easier to discuss the changes without further edits muddying the water.

Want to avoid the above?

Almost all of the problems and differences mentioned above can be addressed adequately by using one's own personal wiki space in a FederatedWiki such as the SmallestFederatedWiki, or the newer node-js "wiki" introduced since 2011 by this Wiki's Founder: WardCunningham.


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