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Be Bold and Be Polite

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Categories: WikiTree Help | Styles and Standards | Conflicts

If you're a Wiki Genealogist in good standing who has signed the Honor Code you can edit any Open profile. You don't need to request to join the Trusted List or otherwise contact the Profile Manager. However, in many cases you should make contact before editing. Here's a guide to help you know when you should make contact.


Be Bold and Be Polite

Our friends in the Wikipedia community recommend that contributors to the encyclopedia be bold. "In three words: Go for it," they say. Correct mistakes when you see them.

Changing what someone else has written often doesn't feel right. But it's what a wiki is all about. People are informed about changes through activity feeds and they can always change things back to the way they were if a mistake is made. These technological features of a wiki mean that changes don't need to be discussed in advance. The pace of collaboration can be faster than that. This is why, just like at Wikipedia, WikiTree encourages members to be bold. But, please remember existing Profiles on WikiTree are viewed on a more personal level than pages on Wikipedia and may require more diligence before making a change.

  • This is why we have point III in the Honor Code that all Wiki Genealogists sign: We know mistakes are inevitable. We don't want to be afraid to make them. We assume that mistakes are unintentional when others make them and ask for the same understanding. We ask however,to please not assume this is a blanket permission to make changes without the considerations stated below.
  • As said, WikiTree collaborations are generally more personal than on Wikipedia. Most of us care deeply about our family history and our ancestors' profiles. We know that we don't own the profiles we manage but we do care deeply about them.
  • The WikiTree community should be friendly and communicative. We are a place for genealogists to work together.
  • We recommend contacting a Profile Manager before making significant or numerous changes to profiles they manage. It's a matter of Practical Courtesy. You don't want to offend the person if you're trying to work with them.
  • You want to make clear that you respect them and appreciate what they have contributed.

Factors to Consider

Before the making your decision to be Bold or Be Polite, consider these primary factors.

The Program Managers Activity Level

  • First check the Profile Manager's contributions. If the member has been making contributions recently it's more likely that they would appreciate a message from you and will respond well to it.

How Detailed is the Profile you want to change?

  • Is the Profile well detailed with Biography Notes and multiple Sources or is it just a single Note or Source. Also if a single Source, is the Source of questionable quality?
  • Try to make a rough judgment about how much time went into creating what you're about to remove or change.
  • Be sensitive and put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if this were your work and a stranger made the change that you plan to make?

Your Confidence Level

  • If you're not completely confident about the validity of your source, about WikiTree style or policy, etc., you certainly want to use more caution. Talking it out with the other person could be really beneficial.

Prior Communication

  • Most of this page assumes that the Profile Manager is a stranger to you so take the first step to introduce yourself and your planned changes by contacting them. It takes two to collaborate.
  • Once you've exchanged some messages you may know the best way to work with them.


Here are some specific examples of when you should feel free to make changes on your own and when you should contact the Profile Manager first. Note that these guidelines do not uniformly apply to Project Protected Profiles where the character of the collaboration may depend on how the project members communicate with each other.

Be Bold: When to Act Now

These are some changes where it's normally not necessary to contact the Profile Manager in advance.

  • Correction of obvious misspellings, or grammatical or typographical errors. In your comment on the change say something like "Small typo fix."
  • Addition of new factual data that is supported by a valid source. Be sure to add the source!
  • Addition of a new source citation that supports existing factual data.
  • Replacement of a small amount of unsourced data (for example, a date or a place name) with different data that is supported by a valid source. It would be best to preserve the incorrect information, e.g. with a footnote that says "This date has been published as X. The source of this date is unknown." In your comment on the change say something like "Adding sourced date. Where did other date come from?"
  • Integration of any redundant content that may have resulted from an earlier merge (assuming no data is lost in your edit, just integrated).
  • Non-destructive editing of GEDCOM-created biographies, including deletion of redundant factual data or data that is not meaningful or useful to a casual reader.
  • If a Member who has not made contributions for years. They have probably left WikiTree and are not currently managing their profiles.
  • Any change to an orphaned profile (where there is no Profile Manager).

Be Polite: When to Make Contact First

When a profile has an active and responsive Profile Manager, here are some changes that should be discussed prior to editing.

  • Any change to family relationships, such as breaking a parent-child or a spousal relationship, or adding a child or a sibling or an additional spouse.
  • Removing a large amount of information.
  • Replacing a large amount of information, even when the new data is fully sourced. (You could try adding the new data to the narrative right away, but contacting the manager before removing the old data.)
  • Removing or replacing any bit of data (such as a date or a place name) for which there is a supporting source, even if the source appears questionable.
  • A series of edits to profiles managed by the same person.
  • Changing the Last Name at the Birth.
  • Any non-trivial change to any name field.

Of course, these are just guidelines. Every situation is unique.

Still not certain?

  • When in doubt about whether it is appropriate to contact the manager prior to editing a profile, we recommend erring on the side of courtesy and caution, at least until you know the person. It takes a little longer, but it avoids misunderstandings and hard feelings.
  • You never need to be alone in your decisions on WikiTree. We have a very friendly community in G2G. Come ask your question there, e.g. "Should you contact a Profile Manager when X?"

How Should You Contact Them?

There are three basic methods:

  1. Private message or e-mail.
  2. Comment on the profile.
  3. Ask a G2G question tagged with the profile ID.
(1) A private message is appropriate if anything is sensitive.
(2) A comment on the profile you plan to edit is usually the best. Profile Managers get an e-mail when a comment is posted on a profile that they manage. This is handy if a profile has multiple managers because you don't have to send multiple messages.
(3 )With both profile comments and with G2G, a notice of the message will appear in the activity feeds of everyone following the profile, including the manager. But it may take up to a week for them to see their feed. That's why profile comments are usually preferred. G2G comments are for when you want feedback from a wider audience, not just the profile manager and others on the Trusted List.

How long should you wait?

  • If you sent a Private Message or posted a comment on a profile that they manage but you haven't heard back within three days, you should probably go ahead.
  • Even less for a minor change. In some cases you might not wait at all. For example, you might post a comment on a profile that says: "Hi. I noticed this says X but my source says Y. I'm going to go ahead and make the change. Does it look right to you? Thanks!" Then make the change.
  • Remember, you're not waiting for permission. (Unless you're waiting on a merge proposal, Trusted List request, etc. For these cases see Unresponsive Profile Managers.) The Profile Manager doesn't own the profile. This is about respecting the other person and what they have contributed.
  • If any communication becomes heated, Don't WikiTree While Angry. Start at Problems with Members.

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)


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