This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
When restrictions against an editor are not done with appropriate consideration this can result in disruptive sanctions that impede Wikipedia's core mission of creating encyclopedic content. Restricting an editor's ability to contribute to the encyclopedia is inherently a measure of last resort and such sanctions are not punitive measures, but preventative measures that are intended to allow for constructive work on content. The community and administrators should consider the effect a sanction will have on the improvement of content before pursuing such restrictions against another member of the community. Sanctions that do not address all conduct issues or that restrict an editor beyond what is necessary to address those conduct issues can stifle productive consensus-building, impede editors who are improving content, or drive away members of the community who become disenchanted with the process.
The idiom that Wikipedia is not about fairness, does not respect the central importance of ethical treatment in creating a vibrant and productive editing community. Fairness is important when discussing how to restrict an editor's ability to edit Wikipedia as an unfair decision can cause irreversible damage to the goal of Wikipedia. An important consideration when seeking to restrict an editor's ability to contribute is to ask if the measure can reasonably encourage productive editing without creating an unnecessary or unjustified impediment to such editing. Sanctions that fail this test should be modified or lifted as soon as possible.
Nature of disruption
Blocks, bans, and other restrictions imposed by administrators or the community are supposed to be aimed at preventing an editor or group of editors from inhibiting efforts to improve content, the central purpose of Wikipedia. Editors who are deemed to be acting in a manner disruptive to this end are restricted in order to allow for the improvement of content. Creating controversy by raising reasonable concerns about content or making bold edits that comply with policy may fit the dictionary definition of disruption by having a tumultuous effect on editors and content, but are only disruptive to improving content if they come with other problematic acts such as a refusal to pursue consensus when editors object to changes. Bold editing and detailed discussion of any concerns about an article are strongly encouraged, even when it is contentious.
When sanctions are pursued against an editor, care must be taken to ensure that an editor's actions are actually having the effect of disrupting active efforts to improve content. Editors in a discussion may become frustrated when faced with spirited disagreement, rapid altering of an article, or rejection of their edits and react by accusing other editors of misconduct. Being a cause of annoyance to other editors is not itself disruptive and sanctions should not be implemented without indication that an editor's contributions are having the effect of preventing improvement of an article.
Even where an editor's conduct has been disruptive there may be mitigating circumstances or positive attributes to that editor's contributions that may make sanctions more harmful to the goal of improving content. Carefully-considered sanctions are expected to create a demonstrative improvement in the editing environment on Wikipedia with any detrimental results being minimal. When a sanction impedes productive content work in a manner more significant than whatever benefit the sanction has on the same, it becomes disruptive to the goal of improving content.
Responsibility of administrators
Administrators are given significant tools that demand thoughtful consideration. The capability to restrict other members of the community has a significant impact on the creation and improvement of content. Due to this capability administrators are expected to act in a manner consistent with the responsibility accorded to their position. Current and aspiring admins should consider the ideal of noblesse oblige, which appeals to the principle that whoever claims to be noble must conduct one's self nobly. Admins should demonstrate a greater level of patience and objectivity than the wider community and, where they are potentially lacking in such traits, should recuse themselves from acting in an administrative capacity.
If the community should raise serious concerns about a particular administrator's use of the tools on a matter that admin should cease acting as an admin in the dispute that has caused the aggrievement. When questioned about the reasons for an action, administrators should be able to point to specific instances of misconduct and explain how they formed their decision. This not only can assure an editor as to the reasons for the action but also provide them an idea of how to improve their conduct. It is preferable that such explanations be provided without prompting and before or when taking administrative action. An admin who repeatedly fails to provide a clear defense for administrative actions may be denied use of the tools. This should not be construed as demanding a response to repeated queries, but as providing a clear and understandable justification for restricting the ability of an editor to contribute.
Assuming good faith
It is important that administrators judge an editor's contributions under the belief that the editor is not actively seeking to do harm to the project. When an editor's prior bad conduct is raised in a discussion, consideration should be given to whether the current conduct issues are a de-escalation from the prior conduct and not regard the mere act of repetition as escalation. Improving one's conduct is a sign that an editor is responding in good faith to the concerns of the community and tougher sanctions for lesser misconduct only discourage that editor from improving further.
The circumstances of misconduct are another important consideration when examining the prospect of sanctions. An editor or group of editors may aggressively pursue another editor out of frustration over a content dispute, prompting that editor to lash out, or there may be miscommunication on an important point that leads to a misunderstanding. If an administrator is not aware of mitigating details and takes action based on appearances alone it can lead to disruptive sanctions against an editor, who will be confused as to the reasons for sanction and become less inclined to respect administrative decisions. Central to assuming good faith about misconduct is to understand that the community consists of imperfect human beings who may not always act in a manner consistent with policy for reasons that may not be immediately clear in an initial reading of a dispute.
A necessary stipulation is that questioning an editor's statements is not the same as assuming bad faith. Editors seeking sanctions are less likely to present a neutral and accurate detailing of events as the misconduct often concerns the editor seeking sanctions in some manner or the editor may have been mislead by another editor's statements. Administrators must also be open to the possibility that an editor is seeking sanctions in bad faith or due to a vendetta, but should only assert this when there is compelling evidence to support such a conclusion. There should not be an expectation that this evidence be provided, with administrators expected to examine relevant issues that may not have been mentioned.
Consequences of administrative misconduct
If administrators fail to adhere to the standards expected of them when restricting editors, the results will often be disruptive. It can perpetuate feelings of mistreatment and abuse by an elite that Wikipedia is ostensibly aimed at assuaging by allowing any able-bodied person to contribute to the creation and dissemination of educational content, which was previously reserved to a select few.[clarification needed] This prevents editors from feeling like their contributions are valued because of their status and thus discourages them from editing.
Administrator misconduct is not the only thing that can lead to disruptive sanctions. Community discussions aimed at passing sanctions can often become plagued by bias where argumentation from editors with personal biases against a specific editor or group of editors, possibly due to previous interactions or perceptions about that editor's views on a dispute, can lead uninvolved editors to support their arguments due to a perception that multiple editors raising the same concerns is ipso facto evidence of misconduct. Editors can be railroaded by community discussions about conduct and given excessive or unnecessary restrictions that have an even more damaging effect on an editor's willingness to contribute than administrative misconduct as there is often a feeling of futility and persecution.
Impact on content disputes
Sometimes particular edits or editors are seen through a biased spectrum that leads to their conduct being treated more seriously than the same conduct from other editors. In these instances there may be a tendency for editors representing a more popular view within the editing community, a segment thereof, or society at large, to receive lighter sanctions than would be given to editors that represent less popular views. This can often mean that editors representing those less popular views are kept from contributing due to more restrictive sanctions or the greater perceived threat of sanctions. In exceptional cases, sanctions are pursued against both sides, but on an unprecedented and comprehensive scale.
When an article becomes dominated by one side of a dispute content may become skewed towards that view and set in a bias towards the skewed version of the article that can create a feedback loop of increasingly biased changes that harm Wikipedia's goal of creating content that conforms to a neutral point of view. Sanctioning both sides of a dispute can have the effect of halting all positive contributions to articles and this is sometimes also seen when one side becomes dominant as there are no longer editors interested in significantly improving an article beyond its present state.
Commonly disruptive sanctions
- One-way interaction bans allow situations where an editor is not able to interact with another editor, while the other editor can force interactions that prompt the sanctioned party to violate the ban. An interaction ban is intended to address misconduct specific to disputes with a particular editor where one or both parties are otherwise productive. Such bans should be aimed at preventing editors from engaging in disputes with one another where their interaction impedes productive editing and only preventing one party from such interactions will likely not aid in this objective.
- Blocks for incivility may prove necessary to allow editors time to cool off from a heated dispute, but should be used cautiously. Absent severe or frequent violations in a short period, the effect of a civility block can be far more disruptive than incivility itself, especially when an editor is making meaningful contributions to articles. Editors making uncivil comments should first be encouraged to redact or remove their comments before sanctions are pursued. Sanctioning or seeking sanction against an editor for a comment that has already been redacted should be strongly discouraged. The community and administrators should be sensitive to the frustrations and difficulties that come with contributing to Wikipedia. Except for severe personal attacks where there would be no reasonable dispute as to the seriousness of a comment, administrators should avoid taking action against incivility that is personally directed at them.