Help:Discussion Rules

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Here are rules for comments on WikiTree profiles and G2G forum posts. Insofar as they are elaborations on our Honor Code and other policies they may also apply elsewhere.
  1. Stay On Topic
  2. Don't Criticize Anyone
  3. Don't Discuss Anyone's Personal Information
  4. Check Your Speed
  5. No Venting or Ranting

For information on applying the rules, see Application of Discussion Rules.

1. Stay On Topic

Avoid unnecessary controversy

WikiTree is for genealogy collaboration. Therefore, most conversations on WikiTree should be about genealogy, collaboration, or WikiTree itself. Comments on person profiles should be about the person, their family, research, etc.

Conversations can be wide-ranging in the G2G Tree House. Some "chat" posts are specifically intended for light conversations on almost any topic. All we ask here is that you avoid controversial topics that are unnecessary for genealogy collaboration. In particular, avoid contemporary politics and religion. This is not meant to preclude all mentions of church or state. We only want to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

If any topic unintentionally causes a controversy and it does not need to be discussed as part of our genealogy collaboration the message(s) should be edited, removed, or hidden.

Don't change someone else's topic

Please do not change the subject when replying to someone else's comment on a profile or in G2G. There is a risk of "derailing" or "hijacking" a conversation by taking it in a new direction.

If you want to say something that is tangentially related, post a new message and link to it from the initial conversation.

2. Don't Criticize Anyone

Do not insult, accuse, or criticize anyone in a public message.

Discuss the mistake, not who made it

Never criticize a person or group of people for a mistake. It is in our Honor Code to assume that all mistakes are unintentional.

Problems are usually resolved privately. When you have a problem, start at Help:Problems with Members.

If you need to refer to a problem or error in a public message, comment exclusively on how to resolve the issue or fix the content. Do not mention who caused the problem or made the mistake.

In some cases it is necessary to name a group of people on WikiTree, such as a project or the WikiTree team, in reference to an ongoing problem, especially when proposing a policy change. In these cases, use extreme care to be constructive and impersonal. Do not insult anyone or assign blame. Do not mention any individuals in the group, and strictly adhere to all other discussion rules. Review #5 in particular.

Use humor carefully

Criticizing a person's ideas is not the same as criticizing the person. However, ridiculing a person's ideas does amount to personal criticism. Phrasing like the following could be interpreted as ridicule:

  • "A little thought shows ..."
  • "It's ridiculous/preposterous/laughable/foolish/stupid ..."
  • "That's sad/silly ..."

Be careful whenever using humor. Humor can be a great way to avoid or defuse a conflict. Targeting yourself with self-deprecating humor is safe. Just don't target someone else or their ideas. Don't use humor as a conversational weapon.

Almost all sarcasm should be avoided here on WikiTree. Sarcasm can easily be misinterpreted as ridicule or condescension. Moreover, since we have members with all different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, your sarcasm might be interpreted literally.

Under no circumstances should you say something as a joke that could be interpreted as a personal insult or threat if interpreted literally.

3. Don't Discuss Anyone's Personal Information

WikiTree profiles of living people, except profiles for members and certain public figures, are kept strictly private (Unlisted). However, all G2G posts and profile comments, even comments on private profiles, are public. Therefore, do not discuss a living person's genealogy or other personal information in comments.

You can discuss yourself, and others can participate in a discussion about you that you initiated. These discussions should not reveal any information about your living family members unless they are WikiTree members and the information is already public on their profiles. Other living family members may be mentioned if you can do it without revealing their identity. Click here for details on the exceptions for public figures.

This does not mean that you cannot mention any living person anywhere. Our primary concern is the discussion of the genealogy of living people without their consent. Living people can be mentioned in other contexts, such as citing them as a source, discussing something they have written publicly, etc.

4. Check Your Speed

WikiTree's messaging systems are not designed for real-time chats or rapid back-and-forth conversations. Comments on profiles and in G2G are intended to be saved forever as part of our long-term mission. Comments are reported in activity feeds and announced with email alerts.

Please always:

  1. Read and consider what others have written.
  2. Carefully compose your message.
  3. Re-read your message at least once before posting.

Go especially slow when disagreeing or correcting mistakes

Most people become defensive when you disagree with them or point out their mistakes. They become much more likely to misinterpret the intention or tone of your messages.

Be careful not to make your message too brief. Some messages are misinterpreted as curt or unkind simply because they are short.

When you re-read your message before posting, take time to consider how it will be interpreted by the other person. Consider including a smiley face :-) or thanking or complimenting the person before criticizing their contributions. See Help:Courtesy for more tips.

If there is any chance that a discussion may become heated (even though you yourself do not feel emotional about it) slow things down with the three-message guideline: don't post more than three separate responses within one hour. This will give others a chance to think about what you have written in a more cool and considered way.

5. No Venting or Ranting

We want our genealogy collaboration to be productive and enjoyable. Disagreements need to be handled carefully. Unlike encouragement and support, disagreement cannot be expressed freely and frequently.

First, we ask that you never post a message when you are feeling negative emotions. "Stop, drop, and roll" the problem to someone else for help. Help is always available in our community.

Even when you are calm:

  1. Do not express displeasure without a purpose. This is not a place to be a contrarian, curmudgeon, or "devil's advocate" because you enjoy debate.
  2. Do not express the same disagreement repeatedly. Everyone in a community disagrees with some decisions. If you disagree with how decisions are made on WikiTree you can propose a change. However, do not repeatedly propose the same change.

When you have a problem, start at Help:Problems with Members.

We want all members to enjoy participating on WikiTree. Most members won't keep participating if they don't enjoy it or if they sense that others are unhappy here. If you're not enjoying it, see Help:Suspending Your Participation or Help:Closing an Account.

See Application of Discussion Rules if you spot a problematic message.

This page was last modified 11:59, 7 July 2022. This page has been accessed 8,925 times.