CZ:Proposals/Change to reversion policy

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Complete explanation

Edit CZ:Professionalism#Reversion and deletion as unprofessional behaviors to emphasize that it is the lack of explanation which is the offence, not the mere act of reverting or deleting others' work. Raise the limit on removal from 50 words to about 100 words or 1kb.


Citizendium authors are not nearly so bold about existing articles as Wikipedia authors are; and I believe that the existing wording in the professionalism policy is partially responsible. I believe that if it were made clear that large edits, including those which wipe out significant parts of other people's work, are acceptable, provided they are discussed, that authors here will feel less inhibition about improving existing articles.

Wikipedia describes its process as "bold, revert, discuss". This leads to edit wars. Citizendium's process should be "bold, discuss." and "revert, discuss." People should not be discouraged from making large changes, unless they consistently make bad changes. Discussion should be encouraged, and required for larger changes.

Raising the word limit will make it easier for knowledgeable authors to replace low quality micro-stubs with more fleshed-out articles without having to worry about violating rules or having to present a detailed rationale when the work speaks for itself. (Of course, if the work doesn't speak for itself, it should be discussed anyway, but someone else can start that discussion.)


  1. Create and discuss detailed rewording of CZ:Professionalism#Reversion and deletion as unprofessional behaviors
  2. Adopt revised wording (requires Editorial Council?)
  3. Edit CZ:Professionalism#Reversion and deletion as unprofessional behaviors to reflect new policy

Proposed revision

Original text of the section is:

Reversion and deletion as unprofessional behaviors

To "revert" a page is simply to undo all the edits that someone else has made. Doing so without warning or explanation is unprofessional because it demonstrates contempt for the person whose work was undone. If I spend ten minutes working on a page, and you simply undo my changes, you render my time spent pointless--which is tantamount to the claim that I spend significant time doing pointless things, and that your judgment is so superior to mine that you need not offer an explanation. Therefore, if you're tempted simply to revert what someone else has done, discussion on the talk page is warranted. Indeed, sometimes the polite way is to let the other person undo his or her own work, once a mistake is pointed out.

Of course, vandalism and egregious abuse can be instantly reverted (without explanation) by anyone. Explanation is preferred even in such cases, however.

If you find yourself the "victim" of an unexplained reversion, the best way forward is not to revert back, but to e-mail let the constables do it. This will not only solve the problem, it will help ensure that the offending behavior is not repeated.

Wikipedians note: the Wikipedia "three revert rule" is not in effect here.

Similarly, deletion of others' work without explanation is clearly unprofessional, and deletion of more than 50 words can result in a warning, followed by a ban. Again, for you to delete, without a careful explanation, a paragraph--or article--that I have carefully crafted is essentially to assert that my work was wholly worthless, and that your judgment is so much more refined than mine that I am not owed an explanation. Your aggressive act places me into a defensive and hurt posture.

That just isn't professional behavior--something you don't have to be a professional to recognize.

Proposed new text:

Reversion and deletion as unprofessional behaviors

Professionals collaborating on a project don't undo each others' work without explaining what they are doing. Accordingly, any reversion or significant deletion of someone else's work on Citizendium must be explained.

  • In cases of vandalism, egregious abuse, or obvious mistake, a simple statement to that effect in the edit summary is sufficient.
  • In any other case, please leave a polite note on the article talk page explaining what you've done, and why.

Deletion of more than 50 consecutive words, or more than 1kb of material, without an explanation, can result in a warning, followed by a ban. Wikipedians used to Wikipedia's "three-revert rule" should understand that this functions like a one-revert rule, or a zero-revert rule, if you don't explain your actions. We don't tolerate edit-warring here.

If your work has been removed or deleted, your options depend on the circumstances. First, make an honest and objective evaluation - do you think the change is an improvement to the article? Try not to be too invested in what you contributed, but think of the overall good of the project. If you think something important has been lost, look at the talk page. If there's an explanation, engage the person who made the change. Explain why you think the material removed was important, or where it could best be restored. Come to a consensus before restoring the work, however. If there is an explanation, but only in an edit summary, and you disagree or don't understand, start the discussion on the article's talk page. Do not leave an angry, resentful attack on the editing author's usertalk page.

If there is no explanation for the removal of your work, e-mail the Constabulary at -- an unexplained deletion or reversion will be undone by the constables, as will any reversion of the initial deletion or reversion, explained or not, unless the issue has been resolved on the article's discussion page. This will not only solve the problem, it will help ensure that the offending behavior is not repeated.


Excellent use of the system, Anthony, thanks. Personally, I think this is almost a trivial change, but it's worth discussing.

Since this concerns CZ:Professionalism, the decisionmaking group is the Constabulary. I think that they'll simply take whatever the community recommends on this. Go ahead and draft the new language, Anthony, and send it off to the constables. --Larry Sanger 14:58, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I presume, Larry, that when you say "almost a trivial change" you actually mean that it seems so self-evident that it should not require a proposal? I support this proposal, Anthony. However, for the record, I'd like to say that I do not believe this is the most significant reason for the apparent lack of "boldness" exhibited by CZ authors. I think our lack of anonymity (which I strongly support, before anyone starts) and the potential for public ridicule and public conflict caused by the transparent nature of wiki editing, would have more of an inhibiting impact. Aleta Curry 15:57, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Aleta - I think that you may be right, but like you, I don't want to change the lack of anonymity, as it has too many valuable benefits. I'm not even sure this is the most significant reason that can be fixed without breaking Citizendium for the lack of boldness, but I do think it is a reason. (Actually, I think that the lack of coherence in policy pages is a significant reason; however, that's being addressed elsewhere.) Anthony Argyriou 17:18, 13 February 2008 (CST)

I've added my proposed revision belowabove. Anthony Argyriou 17:18, 13 February 2008 (CST)

My best guess at why people on CZ are sometimes not as bold as they are on Wikipedia is that people on CZ tend to take their cues from editors, who are much more likely than the average Wikipedian to ask permission first and generally to be unBold. In other words, they're older and more professional, and such people often don't have the foolish self-confidence of youth.  :-) They also don't have quite so much experience, many of them, with wikis. If this is right, perhaps we'll become bolder with time. In the meantime, we can go pretty far by simply reminding people, at the right moments, to be bold... --Larry Sanger 20:31, 13 February 2008 (CST)

You forgot to say "older, more professional, and more distinguished-looking". See below for substantive comment. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:40, 16 May 2008 (CDT)

Hi Anthony. I like this very much. I have made a couple of suggestions directly into the text, so they can clearly be seen (and easily removed if necessary).
One thing that got lost in translation: I liked the "folksy" feel of the original narrative, to wit, "you do this to me and I feel defensive and hurt by it because". That manner of writing is very direct and resonates with people at a primal level. Is there a way this can be added in--maybe as a note or explanation below so as not to ruin the flow of your new text?
Aleta Curry 19:01, 13 February 2008 (CST)
I've adopted your changes, and added some more based on what Larry suggested. I'm not a huge fan of the more folksy style, and thus, I don't write that way. If you think you can change the above to feel more folksy, go ahead. In particular, some explanation of "deleting my work is saying my work is valueless", might be useful to add, probably at the very beginning. Anthony Argyriou 13:35, 14 February 2008 (CST)

An explanation in the edit summary should suffice. Stephen Ewen 20:20, 13 February 2008 (CST)

In which cases? Anthony Argyriou 13:35, 14 February 2008 (CST)
There are several problems with relying on the edit summary. Most fundamental is that if person A makes a deletion, and person B, immediately thereafter, corrects a typo, only the edit summary from B will show in the watchlist. I was utterly baffled by some deletions until I realized this and went to check the article history.
Second, if the reversion is for a difference of opinion on content, the edit summary simply doesn't have enough space to give a full reason "Smith experimentally demonstrated, in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, 30 February 2003, page -37.5, that the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine is false. He strapped a buttered piece of bread, buttered side up, on the back of a cat, and then dropped the cat upside down." If this were in an edit summary, where could the reverted author explain "that was rejected by the Journal editors, since Smith failed to respond to editorial correspondence because the spinning cat shredded him."
Third, the ideal is that the issues are discussed in a back-and-forth, on the talk page, so when the changes are made, there will be consensus. In that case, there are no changes to have change summaries. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:40, 16 May 2008 (CDT)

I notice that the rejection of the three revert rule has been removed. I think it should be retained, because otherwise, many Wikipedians will not understand the dynamic. Otherwise, this looks fine to me. Aleta--to answer a question above--yes, this just seemed obvious enough to me to not require a proposal. But that's OK, others might disagree, and it was in a correct form that would allow us to test out the proposal system. --Larry Sanger 20:35, 13 February 2008 (CST)

Regarding 3RR, we perhaps should say that this is the equivalent of 1RR, or 0RR if you don't explain yourself. That way, Wikipedians new to Citizendium will get it. I've made such a proposed change above, along with a couple of others. Anthony Argyriou 13:35, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Although this should work well with most articles, I have some reservations about highly controversial areas. It is perfectly possible for people to revert and explain, back and forth, but this is not the same as reaching a consensus. By encouraging "boldness", and discouraging reversion without consensus, the policy is changed in a not insignficant way. I think some urging of caution in really contentious topics would be in order, even if the boldness is also encouraged. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:30, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Why not "bold, discuss" and "discuss, revert"? I don't think encouraging revision and then discussion of it is such a hot idea. --Robert W King 14:32, 14 February 2008 (CST)
Martin - in the event that a consensus cannot be reached in the article talk page, an editor may resolve the dispute by fiat, though hopefully some explanation of the resolution will also be made. I don't propose to change that policy. Perhaps it should be made clear that further action - restoration of deleted material, redeleting, etc., should not be made until either a consensus is reached or an editor makes a decision. Anthony Argyriou 16:34, 14 February 2008 (CST)
Yes, that sounds a little better to me. I agree that people are being a bit too cautious, but we don't want it to go the other way! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:26, 14 February 2008 (CST)

Sorry to jump in here late, but I am just figuring out this system and I think I am going to like it! Concerning reversion and the purpose for this change. Can we make a distinction between deleting or rewriting text and reversion? It's one thing to change words around and 'rewrite and add to and overwrite' someone elses words versus reverting by reverting to the version before that changes everything back to the way it was.

Also, reverting when nobody cares is different than reverting when you know there is someone else involved that cares. Right now, the onus appears to be on the person who got reverted to convince the one who reverted (or an editor) to change it back. Should we not consider reverting the text back to the version that was there first and then making the person who reverted explain themselves. Do I make sense? D. Matt Innis 15:39, 15 February 2008 (CST)

I'm not quite sure what you're asking in your second paragraph, though I think this proposal addresses it - the proposal is that any change which wipes out a lot of someone's work (fsvo of "a lot") must be explained at the time the edit is made. To prevent edit-warring, if the change is at all controversial, it must be discussed. So if Author A writes something nonsensical or incorrect, then Author B reverts it, saying "remove factually incorrect material", the next step is to discuss, not to restore A's version. If the consensus (or editor fiat) is that B was wrong and A's edit was useful, then the revert is undone. If the consensus is that some but not all of what A wrote should be retained, then, once the consensus is established, the required edits are made.
I don't disagree that reversion is different than deleting or rewriting text. The existing policy doesn't make much distinction, however, and I don't see that much need to distinguish, at the level of this policy. If you do see such a need, please elaborate; I might even agree with you! Anthony Argyriou 15:59, 15 February 2008 (CST)
Okay, I see what you mean. By the way, I have no idea how much 1kb of material is so all I see is the 50 words :-):
  • Deletion of more than 50 consecutive words, or more than 1kb of material, without an explanation, can result in a warning, followed by a ban.
Also, any problem with letting Author A revert "an edit over 50 words made without explanation" instead of calling a constable to do it:
  • If there is no explanation for the removal of your work, e-mail the Constabulary at -- and let the constables handle it. This will not only solve the problem, it will help ensure that the offending behavior is not repeated.
Is this the place to decide what a constable is supposed to do when called for this? --D. Matt Innis 21:35, 15 February 2008 (CST)
any problem with letting Author A revert "an edit over 50 words made without explanation" instead of calling a constable to do it Actually, yes. The existing text of this rule, and a few other rules around here, are designed to nip edit wars in the bud - we have a 0/1RR compared to WP's 3RR. Not everyone will have good judgement about removal of their text; calling a constable gives a hopefully independent review of the change. If the change is obviously bad - vandalism, obvious or notorious pseudoscience, etc., then the constable should revert it. Otherwise, the constable should encourage discussion of the change on the article's talk page. Anthony Argyriou 12:46, 20 February 2008 (CST)
A constable can only act on behavior, not content. A reversion would require making a content decision which is the purview of editors - unless you give me specific instructions of which version you want me to revert to regardless of content. Otherwise I can't help you with reversion decisions. I have to call an editor or the Editor in Chief. That is why I am asking you want you want me to do when I get there. If it is nothing, then leave it like it is and I will just try to calm the situation down as you suggest. Sometimes I think it would be nice if I could protect a page (and have once) until an editor or Editor in Chief got there, then I could back out. I was hoping this process could help clarify that for all of us as well. --D. Matt Innis 19:49, 20 February 2008 (CST)
Ah - now I see the problem. So I think we'd need to say something like "an unexplained deletion or reversion will be undone by the constables, as will any reversion, explained or not, of the initial deletion or reversion, unless the issue has been resolved on the artcle's discussion page." (That can include an editor making an editorial decision, as that has to be announced on the discussion page.) Other than the content decision, I think warnings, blocks, and other actions should be at the discretion of the constables generally; if that proves a problem, then more detailed guidance can be developed.
There is a point where content becomes behavior - someone who deletes a paragraph of text and replaces it with an obscenity is acting out, not editing content. Even if there is an edit summary. In cases like that, I think the constables ought to just correct behavior and not worry about the content issue. However, it rapidly gets complicated from there, and except in cases of obviously libellous material, the constables ought to be conservative about judging an edit to be a behavior problem rather than a content dispute. Anthony Argyriou 15:31, 25 February 2008 (CST)
"an unexplained deletion or reversion will be undone by the constables, as will any reversion of the initial deletion or reversion, explained or not, unless the issue has been resolved on the article's discussion page." I like it. I rearranged it some, but I think it works. D. Matt Innis 20:40, 26 February 2008 (CST)

I support that text as part of CZ policy: we need some policeable rules about reversion.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 00:11, 27 February 2008 (CST)

Sunshine provision

I'm all for experimenting, and there are pluses and minuses with this; so perhaps a sunshine provision might be added to this policy, where it must be reevaluated after x period time and either reaffirmed or revisited. Stephen Ewen 20:35, 20 February 2008 (CST)

Next steps?

Anthony, are you satisfied with this? Everyone else? If so, the next step needs to be specified; it would need to be sent to the Constabulary (see CZ:Proposals/Policy). Please do keep this moving along. --Larry Sanger 12:12, 27 February 2008 (CST)

I've incorporated Matt's suggestion into the text of the proposed revision. I'll be emailing User:Ruth Ifcher momentarily, with the text of the proposed revision and a link to the discussion. Anthony Argyriou 11:47, 3 March 2008 (CST)
Do we need Ruth's okay for this to proceed? --D. Matt Innis 10:07, 31 March 2008 (CDT)
The Constabulary needs to decide whether to accept this proposal. I don't know how you guys make decisions; that's a black box for me. I expect that somehow a message will be put out, saying whether you accepted the proposal, and then we can continue.
Perhaps you don't know how you are supposed to make decisions? I can't help you there, that's up to yourselves. You can have Ruth decide, after sounding out the rest; you can vote and decide by majority; or whatever. But somehow you have to reach a decision, and if you don't know how, this is a good time to figure this out. -- Jitse Niesen 10:49, 31 March 2008 (CDT)
Thanks Jitse, I will bring this to the mailing list and see if I can get anything going. --D. Matt Innis 11:18, 31 March 2008 (CDT)