Wikipedia:Silence does not imply consent when drafting new policies

Silence does not imply consent when drafting new policies. To lessen the chance of instruction creep, a policy or a guideline proposal must be exposed to, and discussed by, a broad community of editors.

Standards for new guidelines and policiesEdit

No new policies or guidelines should be implemented unless they are shown to be necessary by a community that is broader than the group of that proposal's editors. There must be broad input from people not previously familiar with the proposal.

"Silence implies consensus" is an old standby on Wikipedia. However, with regard to new policies and guidelines, this cannot apply, and silence should instead imply either indifference or a lack of proper exposure. If a proposal produces indifference in the community, it is not necessary. If a proposal has not been adequately exposed to the community, there is no just cause for implementing it as policy.

Although WP:CONSENSUS states that "Any edit that is not disputed or reverted by another editor can be assumed to have consensus", exposure cannot be measured or proven without participation, so silence is not enough. Only when a proposal has been discussed by a significant number of editors can it be said to have had the proper community attention.

Policy and guideline demotionEdit

As with proposals for new policies and guidelines, the demotion of established policies and guidelines should require similar standards.


WP:Consensus states: "In the case of policies and guidelines, Wikipedia expects a higher standard of participation and consensus than on other pages." WP:Policies and guidelines mentions several places where proposals and demotions should be discussed.

Silence is not enough. Furthermore, participation only by those editors regularly involved in policy editing is similarly insufficient. Consensus and attention must be proven, through positive participation from the community at large, in order to impose any new policy, or to demote (deactivate) an old one.

Past examplesEdit

  • 2009-02-04, 200+ editors[1] contributed to the WP:Editing_policy, a handful tried to demote it claiming local "consensus".[2]
  • 2009-02-01, Wikipedia:Advocacy tagged as a guideline after contributions from 8 editors.[3]
  • 2006-04-11 Wikipedia:Colors tagged a guideline, after only 13 edits, and being edited by 6 editors, no conversation about whether it should be tagged a guideline.[4]
  • 2005-05-19, Wikipedia:Notability tagged as a guideline 3 minutes after transferring the essay from userspace.[5]

Creating a policy and improving one are distinct processesEdit

Policies, guidelines, and procedures ("policy" in the broad sense) generally come about through a process of documenting existing best practices. In this context, it's not always immediately obvious how many people have already been working with a particular concept over time.

Rather than instituting a huge and slow bureaucracy to churn through each change, it is quite possible to add and remove best practice information from pages as our insights into how the wiki works best improve over time.

In this way, pages are subject to a process of refinement and updating, where they continuously reflect ongoing consensus on the wiki. In short, it's an application of the wiki-concept to our best practices documentation; eating our own dog food, as it were.

However, the way a policy, guideline, or procedure grows and is refined is quite different from introduction of a whole new one. Tweaks to existing ones are usually made by discussions (such as an RfC) on the affected talk page or at WP:Village pump (policy), or even sometimes by bold edits. There's a distinction between adding, removing, or clarifying a rule, and adding whole new rulebook.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • Page editing statistics tool [6]. Shows the number of unique editors that contributed to the page.