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Possible Reframe of Discussion Rules

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Why These Principles?

WikiTree has a well-earned reputation as one of the friendliest genealogy communities anywhere. More fundamentally, we want to further our mission to grow an accurate single family tree that's free forever. Productive and enjoyable genealogy collaboration requires adherence to strong principles of communication.

The principles on this page are intended to cover comments on profiles and G2G forum posts. They are grounded in WikiTree's overall principles as covered by our Honor Code and other policies and may also apply elsewhere.

  • If you see a post that appears to violate one of these principles, politely reply to it with a link to this page [LINK TO RECOMMENDED WORDING] and/or flag it [LINK TO DEFINITION] for a moderators' attention.
  • If you accidentally communicate in conflict with these principles, edit your post and/or apologize for it.
  • If you are uncertain about how to apply a principle to your situation, contact a mentor.
  • If you do not agree with a principle, you can propose a change. Unless or until the principle is changed adhere to the current principle.

Principle One: Focus on Genealogy

WikiTree is for genealogy collaboration. Questions and comments should therefore focus on genealogy, collaboration, or WikiTree.

Profile comments should promote positive and productive conversation about the profiled person, their family, or related research. Keep in mind that profile comments are permanently stored with the profile, tracked with multiple activity feeds, and announced via email.

With the exception of some chat posts [LINK TO DEFINITION] in G2G that are designed for light conversation, keep the focus of G2G posts (new topics, comments and answers) on genealogy collaboration.

Pay attention to the intent and focus of the opening question or topic; comments and answers should remain focused on that intent. If the topic raises a different issue for you, start a separate thread. If your new message is tangentially related, link to it from the initial conversation.

Topics such as politics, religion, or any other potentially controversial topic should only be discussed when directly related to genealogy on WikiTree.

Resist the temptation to get into back-and-forth banter or playing "devil's advocate" that does not advance the intent of the original post.

Principle Two: Respectful Disagreement / Constructive Criticism

This principle is tightly linked to our Honor Code about assuming mistakes are unintentional. It is also associated with the near-universal principle of treating others as you would like to be treated, or even with grandmother's admonition, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

All conversations should aim to be productive and enjoyable. Constructive disagreement is necessary for genealogy collaboration but it needs to be done very carefully.

We don't always agree with someone's opinion or action. It is possible to express public disagreement with another person's opinion or action in a respectful way.

Could your comment be misinterpreted as personal criticism?

If you are disagreeing with a person or pointing out a mistake they made, word your message with care. Two simple tips:

  • Use smiley faces. :-)
  • Avoid use of ALL CAPS, lots of bold text, or excessive exclamation points.
  • For tips on avoiding misunderstandings, see Communication Before Editing and Courtesy.

See Courtesy and Resolving a Disagreement for more tips. Ask for help from a third party if you have reason to suspect that your message may be misinterpreted.

If you disagree with how decisions are made on WikiTree, you can propose a change. However, do not repeatedly propose the same change.

Principle Three: Respect Diversity

WikiTree seeks to serve an international audience. That means different languages and different social and cultural norms. Anything said in a message could be interpreted literally. Therefore, consider the following:

  • Limit or avoid entirely the use of sarcasm. Use of humor may be similarly misinterpreted.
  • If you are communicating with someone who is not a native speaker of your own language, consider using Google Translate to translate your comment into their language, even if imperfectly.
  • What else?

Principle Four: Respect Privacy

All WikiTree profiles of living people, except account profiles for members, are kept strictly private (Unlisted). This includes the Personal Memories section that is also private. However, all G2G posts and profile comments, even comments on private profiles, are public. Therefore, comments on profiles and G2G should exclude discussion of living people. Due to WikiTree's implementation of GDPR [link], this even includes living notables.

  1. You can discuss yourself, and others can participate a discussion about you that you initiated. These discussions should not include any details about your living family members.
  2. You can discuss the WikiTree contributions of another member. However, see "Principle Two" above.

Principle Five: WikiTree Should be Enjoyable

Like most activities in life, time spent on WikiTree should be enjoyable, but sometimes becomes less so. Focus on a piece of your genealogy that brings you pleasure. Take breaks. Step away and do something entirely different for awhile.

If participating on WikiTree makes you unhappy more often than not, consider suspending your participation or even saying good -bye and closing your account.

Guidelines for G2G Moderators

Moderators can hide any message that violates one of these principles unless it is edited or apologized for. The member posting the message should be directed here for a full explanation.

It can be difficult to determine if a message violates a principle. Moderators should account for context and prior patterns of communication. If there is any question about whether a message violates a principle it should be discussed in the private moderators group.

Violations should be recorded. File a Mentor Intervention Request (MIR) on the third violation. Escalate to mediation on the third MIR.

Mentors and mediators can recommend that a member take time away from posting public messages or participating in certain types of conversations as a voluntary alternative to account closure.

  • 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.)

Comments: 1

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Somewhere in here-- either through an existing principle or a new one -- incorporate bringing a spirit of curiosity, especially if you find yourself defensive or having a quick disagreeing response.
posted by Jillaine Smith