Commons:Don't be bold

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On Wikipedia, one of the fundamental policies is to be bold. That means, Wikipedia has a basic philosophy that users should edit articles boldly, without an exaggerated respect of the existing contents. On Commons, however, for a number of reasons the basic philosophy is that users should be cautious (or, put another way, don't be bold). On Commons, being bold is rarely useful and more frequently disruptive.

  1. The stability of Commons images is relied on by websites within Wikimedia and outside. Changes to existing images may affect very many people.
  2. Multi-lingualism within Commons, and across related projects and other websites, makes effective communication more difficult, heightening misunderstanding in the presence of sudden changes.
  3. Much of Commons' content involves licensing and copyright issues, and changing anything in this area (such as the licensing of a file or the wording of a licensing template) may have legal implications.
  4. Much of Commons work involves creating and maintaining a working categorisation scheme, which is complicated by issues of multi-lingualism. Changes to categorisation may not be transparent to other users, and the reasons for the scheme structure are not always clear or well-documented.
  5. Many users active on other Wikimedia projects, who may be significantly affected by changes, log in on Commons only infrequently. Discussions about proposed changes need to take this into account.


See also: Commons:Overwriting existing files.

An image has only one version. No Wikipedia article shows two images, one edited and one unedited. Unlike an article, an image often has only one contributor. "Boldly" replacing someone else's image by uploading an image with that same name might produce a reversion war if the new version is not a clear improvement upon the old (such as a useful crop or lighting adjustment). In particular, don't upload a photo with the same name as that created by another contributor (thereby replacing it) just because you think your photo is better. Changes to existing images may affect very many people. Minor improvements may be welcomed by all, but substantial changes, or updates to images based on data (eg maps) should usually be uploaded as derivative works under a new file name, with links between old and new files.

Commons is not Wikipedia. There is no "best" content that excludes all "inferior" preceding content. It doesn't hurt to have 100 images of a flower, even if 20 of them are of lower quality. That's why Commons has galleries and categories. Put all images in the category, and put the best ones in the gallery.

You are free, and encouraged, to build upon an image to create a new image. But when you do, upload the new image with a new name (unless you intend to replace it with an obvious improvement). If you replace an existing image by uploading another in its place with the same name, it is courteous to inform the original creator, who, in a perfect world, will feel grateful to you. If not, and you find your contribution reverted, then upload your version with a new name to stand alongside the original.

Policies and guidelines[edit]

There are a few policies and guidelines on Commons. These include pages such as Commons:Licensing and Commons:Project scope. These pages are based on community stance and on juridical laws. Unless you know what you're doing, don't mess around with those pages. Nearly all changes to those pages require consensus. The talk pages are suitable places to ask questions, raise objections and make suggestions for changes. Substantial changes to policy often require modifications to secondary pages and templates in dozens of languages, unneeded churn wastes translator resources. Because of translation lag changes in policy sometimes take a while to become understood and effective in any case.


Of course, a good image should be added to a gallery page boldly. Gallery pages are rarely the source of disputes, so don't worry about it.


The categories is one side of Commons that is confusing to many. Some people have spent many hours thinking about a coherent category system. Please follow it if you can. It's no good to have 20 "motorways in [Country]" and two "highways in [Country]". If you want to change a particular order of category system, there is Commons:Category scheme Commons maintenance/en and Commons:Categories for discussion.

Admin actions[edit]

Admin actions aren't supposed to be bold, but that is how it works on Wikipedia too. Commons has a fabulous noticeboard for administrators where you can turn if you have any problems. Usually there is time to discuss and reach consensus on what to do. Sometimes, yes, there is an emergency and decisive action is needed, so use your best judgment and act, but even then, describe what was done after the fact, seek consensus, and don't be upset if your action is, after reflection, reversed. (Wikipedia calls this "Bold, Revert, Discuss"... here it often is "Bold, Discuss, Revert" :) )


If you need a template, feel free to create one. If you wish to modify someone else's template, you are quite free to do so, unless it is a template based on legal views. Before changing such a template, you should know what you are doing. Please use the talk page if you are unsure. Please understand that some templates affect thousands, even tens of thousands, of pages, so every change puts thousands of things on the job log. In those cases, discussing changes first, testing with copies, and so forth, is really a good idea. Such a template is usually protected, and noted on its talk page, but try running {what links here} if you're unsure.

Where can I be bold?[edit]

  • You can boldly translate material (templates, pages, image description page) to other languages.
  • You can boldly poke the developers to fix the Commons:Bugs.
  • You can boldly add relevant information to any deletion request.
  • You can boldly contribute information about legal situations in various countries to pages such as COM:FOP and Commons:Licensing.
  • You can boldly improve the language on various pages on the Commons. Many pages on Commons, including this essay, weren't written by native speakers.
  • You can boldly crop images if needed, even if you're not the original author of the image.
  • You can boldly help in categorizing media needing categories.


Respect the community. Be friendly first and foremost. Most people don't come here to prove themselves or push their favorite topic, and you don't have to prove yourself to them.