[WikiEN-l] Userboxes: A rational proposal

Ben Lowe ben.lowe at gmail.com
Thu Feb 23 19:01:42 UTC 2006

> > Agree.  We should start out with statements of what the community
> > wants - "please don't create or use ideological userboxes, they upset
> > people".
> The evidence that the community wants that is somewhat patchy

I agree with Geni.  I think if we really want to start with what we can
agree the community wants, we start with "please don't create userboxes that
upset people."  That userboxes shouldn't be used for landmine-style trolling
("I'll just take a peek at this user page and... oh gods, that's
nauseating") is something everybody is onboard with.  But where to draw that
line, and whether it can be drawn around entire categories of expression,
that's really up for debate.  (Especially the odd notion, now being
discussed at [[WP:UBP]], that expression of one's ideologies, beliefs, pet
peeves, love/hatred of pancakes, etc., is acceptable *unless it's in a tiny
box.*  Perhaps opinions and points of view overheat and explode when so
tightly contained?)

I don't really understand the controversy over people stating their
affiliations and beliefs, so long as they're not attacking other people.  (I
have no problem with banning visible affiliation with groups where such
affiliation is an inherent attack on others, such as the Klan, or the Nazi
party.)  I've worked on several political campaigns, and I'm not offended
when I see people with userboxen for the "other" side, let alone when I see
boxes supporting, say, the "European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party".
(Actually, in full disclosure, I think learning about political parties in
other countries is fascinating.)  The same goes for religions: unless you're
part of the Church of Burning in Effigy the Symbols of Other Religions, it's
an interesting showing of Wikipedia's diversity, not an assault on my faith.

I don't think that userboxes that say "This user doesn't like it when admins
urinate on Wikiprocess" should be on Wikipedia's user pages, either, but
instead of forbidding them and going around stripping them from pages, we
really should see those as an opportunity for dialogue.  Instead of removing
something from the user page, *add* something to the *talk* page.  Find out
why these users are upset, see if you can engage them in dialogue.  Show
them that administrators are not part of Wikipedia to strike fear and awe
into mortal users by mightily wielding roll-back and blocking powers, but
that they're part of the system to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Maybe this seems rather Esperanzian of me, but if users are willing to
self-identify as being frustrated with part of the process, maybe it's a
chance to get people engaged.


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