User:Erin Silversmith/FAQ

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Imaginary question-and-answer session about policy, content and deletion on Commons.

The questions are based on various real questions and debates read on Commons. The answers are common sense dispensed by User:Erin Silversmith. To save time, when these questions or arguments are raised for the millionth time, User:Erin Silversmith will simply point to this page, where the answers are clearly expressed and all logical fallacies are pre-dealt-with.


Commons is fine. You're just whining. What's the problem with policy?

Commons has a serious problem regarding policy. The problem is a lack of clear policy, or any policy at all, in certain areas. When there is such a lack of policy, behaviour tends to be regulated by arbitrary opinions regarding consensus and precedent that are largely unwritten and hard to put one's finger on.

This results in a situation whereby a user can happily work on Commons, abiding by all policies, and suddenly find themself in the heart of a vitriolic dispute about procedure.

For example, I have deleted very many images at Commons:Deletion requests after seeing that the consensus was to delete (and vice versa). Some of the files kept/deleted were originally nominated for deletion by myself, and others were not. Then one day I find serious allegations of misconduct levelled against me on the basis that admins must not close debates opened by them. That is to say, on the basis of a non-existent policy.

It is rather as though I was accosted in the street by a policeman telling me not to "walk funny". I might explain the policeman that not walking funny could well be good advice, but that he has no basis in law for demanding it of me.

Note that I would have no problem abiding by policies about closing debates or laws about not walking funny, but I would very much appreciate such rules actually existing beforehand, and not being made up as people go along. Otherwise there is a situation of instability and fear whereby one can at any time be dropped in a crock of hot water with no warning.

This is just policy creep, instruction creep, etc. You are a Nazi and want more rules.

No. I have explained above why clarity is important.

Why do you say that people need to realise that they don't own the stuff on Commons any more? My stuff is mine! Mine, I tell you!

No, when you upload stuff to Commons under a free licence, it is not yours any more. You have given it to the community, and to the world. Congratulations, and thanks!

Under copyright law, the only significant way you can be said to still own it is in the fact that you can release it under additional licences. More example, if you have uploaded a file as GFDL, you can at any time decide to release it under a Creative Commons licence too, or to release it into the public domain.

However, apart from that, you have given up all your rights and to all intents and purposes, you no longer own the file (particularly with a public domain release).

No, I still own the file under copyright law!

You are not really contradicting me there. I have already recognised that you still have a couple of rights under copyright law. My point is that — in the sense that words like "own" have in ordinary, everyday English — you no longer "own" the file and it is not "yours". You can no longer decide who uses it. You can no longer prohibit people from copying, altering, improving, worsening, moving, deleting, ridiculing, or wiping their backside with your file. It isn't "yours" any more. Face it.

But it's mine in the sense that I am the creator, in the same way I can speak of "my" children without owning them

Of course, if you use terms like "my" purely in that sense, I won't bother commenting. But if I detect a note of possessiveness or a claim of ownership (for example, if you say "don't play with my image") then I will call you up on that, and rightly so.

Furthermore, if you make a possessive comment, and I point out that it not your file any more, then you say that it is your file insofar that you created it, then you are being extremely dishonest. You are trying to make it sound as though you have successfully contradicted me, when in reality you have used an entirely different sense of the word in question. This is the logical fallacy known as equivocation.

You have edited my file and uploaded a new version it over the top of the old. How dare you‽

It is not your file any more.

Anyway, how dare you‽

How dare I improve a file? It doesn't take much daring.

Have you ever edited Wikipedia? Have you ever noticed the warning at the bottom of the page every single time you hit the edit button? It says "If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly or redistributed by others, do not submit it."

It is impossible for the same not to apply here. You have to understand that your stuff is not yours any more, and that anyone can come along and improve it.

How dare you say you improved it? Who are you to say that?

An essential aspect of any wiki is that there is a large pool of contributors, and they can all be bold and make improvements to anything they see. Another essential aspect of a wiki is that everyone else is free to revert if it was not an improvement.

This system means that we don't have to make sure we have six PhDs in the topic of the article or file that we are editing. We can all just go ahead and make improvements, without fear. It is enough that I can coherently explain why my edit was good. I don't need to be a special person. So don't ask "who I am" to make a claim, or call me arrogant. If I have corrected the spelling on the labels to one of your diagrams, then I have improved your diagram. Just deal with that.

But my version is just as valid as yours. Why do you want to push your version on everyone? You Nazi. You should upload yours under a different filename

No, your misspelt version is not as valid as mine. It is a clear case of a new version correcting a problem in an old version.

When you have some software, and the developers realise that there was a bug in the code that makes the program crash, then they don't start again with a new name (e.g. Photoshop → Imageshop). No, instead they keep the old name and note that this is version instead of The buggy version is then buried in archives and the general public is either not allowed to download it any more or they are discouraged from doing so.

Anything else would be absurd.

The same goes for your misspelt diagram. My motive in correcting it was not to get "my" version out there, but to fix a problem.

Hahah, I have just taken my version and uploaded it under a different filename. I have foiled you!

I or another admin should speedily delete that as a duplicate.

If there is something wrong with my version (perhaps I too made a typing error), then we can discuss it rationally and collaborate in order to come up with the perfect version. But there should only be one filename. It helps no one to have one correctly-spelt diagram and one incorrect diagram out there, both being used in various places.

No, it's not a matter of a correct and incorrect version. They each have separate uses.

Perhaps we are now talking about two versions where one is a wide-angle photo, and the new version is the same photo but cropped to the subject.

That's fine. No one is suggesting for a minute that a file cannot fork, with two different versions finding different uses. I can image how one Wikipedia article could use the close-up, whilst another might want to wide-angle. Or perhaps we might want to keep the wide-angle shot for archiving reasons. Whatever. Nobody is suggesting any problem with this. Just as long as this is the real reason. All I am saying is that it is unacceptable for a file or an article to fork just to satify the ego of someone who wants their version to be out there.

You have requested the deletion of one of my files. How dare you?

If I have done so, I will have given a reason. Argue in terms of that rationale, instead of getting hot under the collar at the effrontery of someone wanting to delete your stuff.

You English-speaking colonial oppressor! The poor, underdog, local-language Wikipedias and other projects are being deprived of great images because high-handed Nazi you are deleting the files they want so desperately!

We are talking about superseded, ugly, misspelt or incorrect files here. I have never, ever, had someone from a local project say "please keep this image because we in particular need it for reason X". That just doesn't happen. If it did, I myself would vote to keep.

(It should also be noted that there is nothing at all stopping local projects uploading their own files. They don't have to have them on Commons.)

What does happen is that the creator of the file gets possessive and won't stop whining until his crappy file is kept. Then a few people who always on principle argue to keep any file if there is any controversy step in and demand it be kept. Result: a crappy, usually orphaned file is kept, and the average file quality on Commons is that much lower.

Local projects shouldn't have to upload their own images!

Why not? There are plenty of situations in which is makes sense for local projects to upload their own images. For example, if they want to tolerate fair-use images, they need to upload them locally. I also think it makes sense if they upload language-specific files locally. For example, the internationalised image Image:Schematic diagram of the human eye.svg is on Commons, whereas the English-specific en:Image:Schematic diagram of the human eye with English annotations.svg is on the English Wikipedia.

In any case, this is probably a straw man, because we are talking about crappy images that no one but the (possessive) uploader wants to keep. If any local project needed the file, I would not be suggesting its deletion in the first place.

Why have you suggested the deletion of this file? We're not running out of space, so why delete anything?

My floor isn't running out of space either. I could just drop all my books, letters, and personal effects right there. In fact, it would be far more convenient than having to sort through it every day and throw useless junk into the bin, whilst filing important stuff away in drawers and folders in a logical way. Being tidy is a drag. But I do it anyway.

Why? Firstly, if I didn't throw away the crap, all the important stuff (bills that need paying, etc.) would be lost in the pile. Pick up a random object from the floor and it would probably be something that should have been thrown away.

Secondly, anyone who came round to see me, would instantly classify me as a disorganised slob, and take me less seriously as a person from that point onwards.

It is exactly the same here. The more crap we have, the more likely it is that a file picked out at random (and we even provide Special:Random/Image so that people can do this) will be useless junk that we are too slobby and weak-willed to discard. Categories will be clogged with duplicates and low-quality material that we should be ashamed of.

And anyone stumbling across this from the real world will be horrified. Sometimes we, as computer geeks (don't deny it), forget what ordinary people are like. Ordinary people are used to quality. To them, an encyclopaedia means Britannica. To them, a dictionary means the OED. To them, an atlas, a compilation of art photos, a collection of scientific diagrams, etc all mean a publication you can trust. Something professional. Something serious. Something where the crap is cut. Not a place where identical or near-identical copies of the same thing can be found randomly spread about because nobody has had the gumption to tidy up.

The average person — accustomed to quality, professionalism, and in general, work carried out by people who can distinguish their arse from their elbow — thinks that Wikimedia projects are one big joke. And they are not entirely wrong. Jimbo Wales from the very beginning has had an attitude of "bigger, not better". It is as though he swung to one extreme with the ridiculously overly peer-reviewed Nupedia, and then swung to the other with the ridiculously amateurish and unreliable Wikipedia.

Wikimedia projects are now so huge that it is not feasible for anyone without a massive, pre-established workforce to copy the content and create a viable fork with greater vision and professionalism. Therefore, those of us who are in favour of organisation and quality must work in the existing system to reform it from within.

If you don't like it here, f*** off

No, I won't. I have explained above why it is not feasible to do this work elsewhere. I believe in the project's potential, and want to continue working on it. Take your own advice.

But what harm does junk do to the project?

In summary: it buries the good stuff, and it damages our reputation.

You don't respect me!

Respect must be earned. I give each person I meet that basic, automatic amount of respect that I give to all strangers, and then it is up or down from there according to merit. I expect the same from others.

If I have anything negative to you (e.g. "please stop that behaviour!") then it is almost certainly because it needed to be said. But like anyone, I am human and sometimes snap with frustration. For that reason, if you think anything negative I have ever said was uncalled for, then just explain why you think so, and I'll apologise.

Do not complain that I don't respect you though. Instead ask yourself why you have lost someone's respect.