wikiHow is frequently vandalized. It's important to remain calm and communicate in a friendly, non-confrontational manner. With grace and tact, vandals and trolls may be converted into avid, worthy contributors.

Vandalism is well understood. Others are simply having fun, a minor rebellion or moment of vanity. It's best not to enhance their pleasure, excitement or quest for recognition. Returning a stern, unfriendly or aggressive message may increase the damage.

However, there are those that are merely experimenting or practicing how to edit. Proper direction may be all that is needed. A stern message may easily discourage them from making more productive contributions. Thus, it's extremely important to remain exceedingly friendly and kind at all times.

EditThe Effects of Warning

wikiHow editors will frequently find themselves communicating with people who have vandalized or done other harmful things to wikiHow. While it is human nature to want to strike out and tell these vandals off, doing so may actually increase the damage wikiHow receives.

The vast majority of vandals, trolls, and bad faith editors are simply having a little fun / minor rebellion / vanity moment at our expense. They already know that what they are doing is bad. They don't need us to tell them that. By leaving these people a stern, unfriendly warning, we only enhance the pleasure they get from messing with us. Stern rebukes from RC patrollers deliver them the excitement and quest for recognition they want in the first place.

On the other hand, there are some people we mistakenly identify as "vandals" who don't really know if this wiki thing works. They are just experimenting. Maybe they blank a page to see if they can. Maybe they write a swear word to see if we will publish it. Whatever. They just want to see how a wiki works. So they blank their page, or write "poop" or whatever. If we leave these people a stern warning, they think "wow, I was just trying to test this. Those folks at wikiHow are jerks. I'll never try to edit there again." On the other hand, if we are exceedingly friendly with these people, they might decide to actually become good editors here.

So to sum up, when we leave a brightly colored, sternly worded, "you are a bad person / You will get blocked / Don't ever come here again" sort of message for people, we only reward the attention seeking behavior that vandals crave. On the other hand, if we are exceedingly kind and gracefully point people in the direction of productive contribution, we convert some very, very small percent of people to respecting us, our mission, and our process.

EditBest Practice

  • Take a second to assume good faith. It's not uncommon for people who are unfamiliar with wikis to experiment and "see what happens". Even vandals sometimes end up becoming valuable contributors, with the right guidance. Simply ask a question, like: "Hello! I was wondering why you removed the Related wikiHows from Install a New Toilet Seat? Was there something wrong with them?" or use one of the standard warning templates:
    • {{test}} For people making test edits, page blanking, etc. This is probably the single best template to use as it assumes good faith in the editor.
    • {{warning}} For clear bad faith editors or those who ignored {{test}}
    • {{exlinks}} - For editors violating our external links policies
    • {{commercial}} - For editors who need some help understanding about how to write about commercial topics without getting deleted for spamming.
  • If the editor continues to damage wikiHow after your communication, consider requesting that they get blocked by posting on the wikiHow:Administrator Notice Board or blocking them yourself if you are an admin.
  • Avoid making or using personal warning templates. The standard warning templates were built to be as non-confrontational as possible. Please use them instead.

Article Info

Categories: WikiHow Essays | Patrolling