There’s currently a request for comment on English Wikipedia that I feel is a good step toward addressing harassment. 1 The proposal is to, by default, prevent editors under a certain threshold (anonymous editors included) from being able to edit a individual’s “User:” page. 2 I have a few thoughts about the nature of the proposal and the comments that have arisen in the discussion.
Many folks have said, and I’m paraphrasing, “we have stuff to handle this” already. Everything we have is retroactive – after the fact. We can clean up horrendous stuff, but first we have to expose ourselves to it – particularly exposing new people and those that are underrepresented in our project and society in general. This request is proactive. A simple step of progress toward addressing harassment.
For the data seekers, how much harassment are you willing to tolerate? Is it the same for everyone? How do we know folks leave the project because of harassment – even that they merely witness? What number gives it justification to allow it?
Not addressing harassment, even in a small step like this proposal puts forth, is like saying Wikipedia has a litter problem, but we’re very proud that we are so good at cleaning it up.
We can prevent a big chunk of litter from ever touching the ground. There’s a strong indication that it might even make the place a little nicer to habitate.
We talk about new folks being impacted most, but as a small-potato contributor who works and volunteers in these spaces, I don’t want to deal with bullshit either.
We talk a lot about defending the wiki from vandalism, conflict of interest, neutral point of view, all things that are a threat to the project. Well, here’s a chance to protect it from another threat – assholes.
A request for comment (RfC) is a method by which a volunteer contributor presents and idea that will change a part of the project (frequently administrative) for feedback. Other editors leave notes of “Support”, “Oppose” or a myriad of comments about the topic. After a period of time, if consensus is formed, the proposal moves forward and becomes part of the project. If not, it disappears into an archive – to possibly be brought up again in the future.↩
A page on Wikipedia that editors use to share information about themselves and their interests. Sort of like a profile page.↩