PhysicsWiki:What "Ignore all rules" means

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What "Ignore all rules" means

By all means break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately and well. That is one of the ends for which they exist.
The code is more what you call "guidelines" than actual rules.
The rules are only barriers to keep children from falling.

You do not need to read any rules before contributing to Physicswiki. If you do what seems sensible, it will usually be right, and if it's not right, don't worry. Even the worst mistakes are easy to correct: older versions of a page remain in the revision history and can be restored. If we disagree with your changes, we'll talk about it thoughtfully and politely, and we'll figure out what to do. So don't worry. Be bold, and enjoy helping to build this free encyclopedia.

  • You are not required to learn the rules before contributing. Yes, we already said that, but it is worth repeating.
  • Don't follow written instructions mindlessly, but rather, consider how the encyclopedia is improved or damaged by each edit. (See also Use common sense, below.)
  • Rules derive their power to compel not from being written down on a page labeled "guideline" or "policy", but from being a reflection of the shared opinions and practices of many editors. (See also Physicswiki:Consensus.)
  • Most rules are ultimately descriptive, not prescriptive; they describe existing current practice. They sometimes lag behind the practices they describe. (See also Physicswiki:Product, process, policy.)
  • Wikilawyering doesn't work. Loopholes and technicalities do not exist on the Wiki. Physicswiki is not a bureaucracy; nor moot court, nor nomic, nor Mao.
  • The spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. The common purpose of building a free encyclopedia trumps both. If this common purpose is better served by ignoring the letter of a particular rule, then that rule should be ignored. (See also Physicswiki:The rules are principles.)
  • Following the rules is less important than using good judgment and being thoughtful and considerate, always bearing in mind that good judgment is not displayed only by those who agree with you. (See also Physicswiki:Civility.)

What "Ignore all rules" does not mean

Sometimes you need to draw the limit
Pedantry and mastery are opposite attitudes toward rules. To apply a rule to the letter, rigidly, unquestioningly, in cases where it fits and in cases where it does not fit, is pedantry... To apply a rule with natural ease, with judgment, noticing the cases where it fits, and without ever letting the words of the rule obscure the purpose of the action or the opportunities of the situation, is mastery.
Ignore all rules — including this one.

Despite its name, "Ignore all rules" does not sabotage the other rules. Its purpose is to keep them from sabotaging what we're doing here: building a free encyclopedia. Rules have zero importance compared with that goal. If they aid that goal, good. If they interfere with it, they are instantly negated.

  • "Ignore all rules" does not mean that every action is justifiable. It is neither a trump card nor a carte blanche. Rule ignorers must justify how their actions improve the encyclopedia if challenged. Actually, everyone should be able to do that at all times. In cases of conflict, what counts as an improvement is decided by consensus.
  • "Ignore all rules" does not stop you from pointing out a rule to someone who has broken it, but do consider that his or her judgment may have been correct, and that they almost certainly thought it was. (See also Physicswiki:Assume good faith.)
  • "Ignore all rules" is not in itself a valid answer if someone asks you why you broke a rule. Most of the rules are derived from a lot of thoughtful experience and exist for pretty good reasons; they should therefore only be broken for good reasons.
  • "Ignore all rules" is not an exemption from accountability. You're still responsible for reasonably foreseeable effects of your actions on the encyclopedia and on other editors.
  • "Ignore all rules" is not an invitation to use Physicswiki for purposes contrary to that of building a free encyclopedia. (See also Physicswiki:About and Physicswiki:What Physicswiki is not.)
  • "Ignore all rules" does not mean there is necessarily an exception to every rule. A typical copyright violation, for instance, does not make for a better free encyclopedia.
  • "Ignore all rules" does not mean that you can violate Physicswiki:Office actions without being blocked for disruption.

Use common sense

Physicswiki has many rules. Instead of following every rule, it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing. Being too wrapped up in rules can cause loss of perspective, so there are times when it is better to ignore a rule. Even if a contribution "violates" the precise wording of a rule, it might still be a good contribution. Similarly, just because something is not forbidden in a written document, or is even explicitly permitted, doesn't mean it's a good idea in the given situation. The principle of the rules is more important than the letter. Editors must use their best judgment.

Why isn't "use common sense" an official policy? It doesn't need to be; as a fundamental principle, it is above any policy.

There is no common sense

Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess.

When advancing a position or justifying an action, base your argument on existing agreements, community foundation issues and the interests of the encyclopedia, not your own common sense. Exhorting another editor to "just use common sense" is likely to be taken as insulting, for good reasons. If in a particular case you feel that literally following a rule harms the encyclopedia, or that doing something which the rules technically allow degrades it, then instead of telling someone who disagrees to use common sense, cite Physicswiki:Ignore all rules and explain why doing so will improve Physicswiki in that instance.

Be careful about citing this principle too aggressively. While it's quite acceptable to explain your own actions by saying, "it seemed like common sense to me," you should be careful not to imply that other editors are lacking in common sense, which may be seen as uncivil. Physicswikins come from diverse ethnic, religious, political, cultural and ideological backgrounds and have vastly different perceptions regarding everything from science to shoe shopping. Other editors are likely to ascribe very different meanings and values to words and concepts than you, so try to state your arguments as fully as possible. Citing concrete policies and guidelines is likely to be more effective than simply citing "common sense" and leaving it at that.

See also


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  2. Fictional character, in the 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
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