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Wikipedia:Asshole John rule

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Related joke:

A pool player has a heart attack during a tournament and flops onto the table.

The referee rushes over and checks for a pulse. "Oh no, he's dead!"

The other player says, "Dead ... Hmm, isn't that a foul?!"

Wikipedia moral: If all you care about is winning on a technicality, you're being an AJ.

A local pool league had a nit-picky rule in its manual that seemed pointless to state, such that one might assume that someone would have to be dumb as rocks to need it spelled out for them. It was informally called "the Asshole John rule".

How it came about: Before this odd rule existed, the original wording of the simpler rules could, if willfully misinterpreted, result in an exploitable loophole under rare conditions. (Sound familiar?) A player, John, with a history of unsportsmanlike rulebook-thumping (especially to get a declared "victory" on a technicality), predictably exploited this. He was technically right, as a semantic matter, if one accepted his fallacy of equivocation about the wording. But he was clearly violating the spirit of the rules.

Rather than ever have this come up again, but without rewriting the original rule to simply be clearer, the league board just wedged in the strange, nit-picking codicil that virtually no one would think necessary, and this was nicknamed the "Asshole John rule". While the rulebook didn't call it that, players sure did. It likely irritated this John, but did have the effect of forestalling most later attempts (by anyone) at similar warping of the rules to try to mean what they were clearly not meant to. "Do you want another Asshole John rule?"

Unfortunately, this type of "institutional incivility" is only allowed and only works in something like a pool league. And adding "micro-rules" for edge cases generally doesn't work well anywhere at all.

AJ rules don't work here; they're pointless red tape[edit]

Wikipedia doesn't need more walking, talking "brown starfish", regardless of given name.

But we also don't need a trail of "rule feces" left in their wake.

Wikipedia has lots and lots of AJ rules – too many. Due to WP:Civility policy, we're not allowed to name them after our own AJs, so we just keep getting more of them. The corrective and prophylactic effects of public shaming are absent (this old attempt at a "pillory page" notwithstanding).

This is obviously an instruction creep problem, increasing the unnecessary bureaucracy level of Wikipedia. We all have a duty to not make it worse. In particular, do not propose new rules in policies and guidelines to address a particular narrow dispute that is obviously lame (see below for alternatives). That goes double when it comes to the Wikipedia:Manual of Style.

Every new Asshole John rule is a turd plopped on our lawn.

Don't be an AJ[edit]

An admonition against trying to twist a Wikipedia rule to mean something different than its intent can be found in WP:Policies and guidelines, WP:Consensus, WP:Gaming the system, WP:Wikilawyering, WP:Wikipedia is not about winning, and many other pages here.

If you're doing it, you are making a mistake. While process is important in a project of this scope, if you live for expanding and exploiting process here then you are really not here to write an encyclopedia but are trying to play some kind of political simulation game. The community will eventually tire of you and kick you out of our "league". That's what eventually happened to the original Asshole John.

Don't help create more pointless AJ rules[edit]

If you encounter wikilawyering, system-gaming, pettifoggery, and other Asshole John behavior, call it what it is: disruptive editing. Don't demand a new micro-nitpicky rule that no one really needs, just to address an AJ. The community won't actually put up with jackassery from someone indefinitely. We already have behavioral policies, and they are enough to deal with the matter.

Try to "keep the lawn clean": If something is being misinterpreted, in good faith or otherwise, try a slight wording change to prevent that, instead of adding a new rule or an explanation of an existing one.

See also[edit]