Willipedia:Policies

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This page contains an overview of the policies by which Willipedia is guided. These policies have evolved out of necessity, and are revised and administered by the Willipedia board, which also arose out of necessity.

Why there are Policies

Willipedia is a living encyclopedia that grows through the voluntary contributions of Williams College students, alumni, faculty, and staff. When it was first begun in May 2005 it had no content and no rules. Over time, as the site became more used, spammers, legal issues, concern for its healthy growth, and disputes between honest editors with different ideas about what should and should not be in an article required that someone take stewardship of the site and responsibility for its content.

The policies here represent the latest consensus of the Willipedia Board, a group of students and alumni who closely follow the development of Willipedia, and regularly discuss its issues. We offer these rules and guidelines as what we believe are the minimum restrictions necessary to help Willipedia become, be, and stay healthy.

Food for a Healthy Willipedia

Willipedia is a living encyclopedia and, like anything living, it needs to be fed. You feed Willipedia when you edit an article. Here is what is most nutritious to Willipedia.

Article Titles are a Promise . . .

. . . and the content of an article should fulfill that promise.

This is a central principle of Willipedia. While its pages can hold anything that Williams students dream of, they must stay organized to some degree so as to allow readers to search and learn from them, and to allow editors to find and work effectively on content that they have knowledge about.

Please keep the following in mind as you choose a title for a new article:

  • Seeing a title generates an expectation. When you see a link to Currier, you have specific expectations to hear about the building, its history, etc. A title like My Dad declares the fact that it is not an article about something classically Williams, and so its parodic content is alright where it is, whereas if it were under the title Morty Schapiro it would have to be moved (however amusing it would be).
  • More general titles should name more general content. Thus Students with Skills is a page that covers general skills, as well as pointing to categories of skills, such as automotive and body. Pranks is and should always be an article about many pranks, not just one recent event.
  • A title is the main idea of an article. Thus, an article simply titled Amherst should not go directly into a story about our rivalry, though it is likely to have a prominent section on it. If the rivalry topic became big enough, it could even become its own article, Rivalry with Amherst.
  • Willipedia has conventions for titling articles. Because it is so important to have a common system for choosing intuitive titles, Willipedia titles try to conform to a set of rules.

Content of Enduring Interest

Willipedia is, in many senses, a reflection of a Williams consciousness. It is best when it captures things that make Williams special, and does so in our own unique style. But unlike a consciousness, Willipedia is open to the world, and its pages endure longer than a fleeting thought does.

When you start or edit a page, aim for it to be something that others in the present and future will want to read and add to. Think about:

  • General interest. Inside jokes and self-glorifying pages don't invite participation or readership outside of the writer's small circle.
  • Lasting Interest. It's hard, but try to distinguish between minor events and thoughts that ought to be naturally forgotten, and those that ought to be preserved.
  • Honesty. Seek to tell the truth when you write. It is of greater enduring use to others than anything else we can provide.

Williams-Special Content

Imagine the world, and all there is to know about it. Some subset of all that is Williams-special: all there is to know about Williams, and all that is special to the Williams community. This subset is where Willipedia really thrives: it contains the topics we will write on best, the topics that an encyclopedia of Williams cries out to have (such as Trivia or Winter Study) and those that the readership that arrives here will be seeking.

Willipedia isn't really the place for an article on U.S. foreign policy, or similar topics that are of a general interest, but are not a general Williams interest. Perhaps one of us can write an excellent article on such a topic, but

  • Is there a reason it belongs on Williams' encyclopedia, Willipedia, and not the world's encyclopedia, Wikipedia?
  • Will Willipedia be the forum in which the editors best able to contribute to that article will find it?
  • Will it naturally receive links from other articles in Willipedia?

What makes Willipedia Sick

There are some paths that simply lead to no good for Willipedia. We've discovered them by stumbling a ways down them in the past; we hope to stay clear in the future. Below are prohibitions that the Willipedia board deems necessary to make for Willipedia's content. The board will take steps to guide articles away from this content, and occassionally we may delete it.

Advertising

Willipedia is not a billboard. We know how tempting it is to use space on the WSO mainpage for advertising and we know how important advertising is to life at Williams, but we have to keep it out of Willipedia. Advertising is a real and serious threat to the Willipedia project. Numerous times in WSO's past services created for other purposes have completely fallen to hoards of advertisements.

Do create and link to articles about the things you love -- teams, clubs, traditions -- and through that, spread awareness of them.

Do not generate an article with the intention of using its appearance on the WSO mainpage for publicity. Do not edit an article so that it acts as an ad, such as by adding at the top Next Meeting Tomorrow. Do not repeatedly edit an article just so it stays on the "Recently Edited" list. It is easy to identify articles intended solely for advertising; they are the ones that start with time-sensitive notices instead of the general information heading most good articles.

Criticism of Professors

This is a unique policy. Opinions on professors are very much of general interest, and is certainly a part of the Williams consciousnes. They would be fair game for Willipedia, but for a few reasons we make a special exception.

Factrak is a WSO service that is specially dedicated to researching and reviewing professors. It is older than Willipedia, and has gone through a history of revisions to be useful to students, fair to professors, and allowed by the administration. We must ask that you comment there on Williams professors, and not on Willipedia -- though you may certainly write here about departments and classes at Williams.

Naming Names

If you think that someone involved in the topic you're writing about would prefer to go unnamed, grant them that courtesy. Mindfulness of others' identities is necessary for Willipedia to have a strong base of contributors, and we must respect this both in how we write and in what we choose to write about.

The great majority of Willipedia topics are innocuous, and writers may cover these to the fullest extent of their knowledge. Other topics, that concern individuals of the Williams community who are likely not to want to be named in them (eg. some Pranks and Campus Controversies), must either be written without naming the names or left to media other than Willipedia.

If you, with permission, include another person's name in a way that other editors may find questionable, note that you had the person's permission in your edit summary or on the talk page.

Things That Will Get Us Sued or Shut Down

You might be surprised at the kind of attention that a humble site like Willipedia has managed to attract. Remember that all included on Willipedia is publicly accessible, included on web searches, and governed by applicable United States law. Willipedia articles, therefore, cannot include:

  • Libel
  • Copyrighted material
  • Incitements to break the law or campus policy

Enforcement

Enforcement of Willipedia policies is a challenge that the whole community of writers must tackle. The Wiki board could have a practice of deleting anything that seemed offensive, broke a rule, or skirted the line, but this itself would lead to Willipedia's death, or at least retard its growth. We hope to have thousands of the Williams community reading and contributing. We do not expect to control this flow of knowledge with a group of six people.

Anyone writing and editing in good faith, especially after you've read this document, will naturally bring Willipedia to a healthier, better state. Below are suggestions on how you can go forth and do good.

The Wiki Board will also take steps, when it deems them necessary, to bring content in line with these policies. The vast majority of the time, we will act as normal editors to get the job done. We hope you'll never notice us. Occassionally, however, we will use our superhuman powers to alter the wiki.

1. Redirecting a Young Article

The most common and best way to keep any article on the path to the Good is to notice it early, and add Good to it. Small tweaking is usually enough to help it fill up with interesting content, such as by:

  1. Culling truth from opinion. You'll find that most of the things that people take the time to write on Willipedia have at least some grains of usefulness in them. Seek these, preserve, and enhance them with your additions.
  2. Moving less pertinent content either lower on a page, into a subsection, or into another (perhaps new) page. This is very frequently needed, as people often start a page on, say, Mills out of the desire to write about their own suite. Such information may belong in the article, and should not be deleted, but it does not belong at the top.
  3. Deleting useless or offending content. This will come naturally and is often the best course, but remember to always look for the above alternatives first.
  4. Choosing a new title for an article. This is a major upset when it happens to a large article, but a great thing when it happens early. To do this, use the "Move this page" link at the bottom of the page. Before you do this, check out our naming conventions.

2. Discussing an Article

Every article has a Talk Page, accessible through the "Discuss this page" link at the bottom. Currently, these spaces are underutilized. They are meant for all "meta-discussions": discussions about controversial edits to the article, explanations to future editors of decisions, debates over content, and the like. On this page, you should sign your edits (by appending --~~~~ to your typing) and you may address other people.

More communication is usually better than less. Some examples of changes you might make to an article that should be explained on the talk page are:

  • Any controversial change, even if very small. See Talk:Queer Bash for an example of a one-word change that the editor thought merited an explanation.
  • When you remove a large block of text, consider placing it on the talk page with an explanation, so other editors may easily decide if some of it should be restored.
  • When you find yourself changing something back to something that was there before -- in other words, overruling another editor's decision. This is fine, but explain it so there can be debate and resolution, or an "edit war" may arise.
  • Any edit with explanation too long to be comfortably put in the "Edit Summary" box.

3. Protecting an Article (admins only)

Certain "metapages" -- pages that discuss or perform official functions on Willipedia itself -- are permanently locked from edit by non-admin users. This Policies page is one, because its content is meant to reflect Willipedia board consensus.

Though it has not been done yet, the board may protect any article, preventing edit for a length of time. This could be used if a page was receiving frequent editing abuse, such as Advertising for an upcoming event, for which a temporary protect until after the event date might solve the problem.

4. Deleting an Article (admins only)

Members of the Wiki Board are empowered to delete an article. This is distinct from simply deleting all of the text on a page, which still leaves behind a record (and is pretty much never the best way to make an edit). Only articles with no potential at all should be deleted, so it is a rare event.

If you believe an article should be deleted, contact the Wiki Board at <email>wiki@wso.williams.edu</email>.

5. Banning a User (admins only)

This option has been used almost exclusively for spammers -- IPs that used to delete content and flood articles with links to ad and porn sites. It, however, is a recourse available to be used against any repeatedly hostile editor. We cannot imagine any situation in which an editor making contributions in good faith would be banned.