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Wikipedia:Don't shoot yourself in the foot

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Petards were early gunpowder bombs. A careless engineer might find himself "hoist with his own petard".

On Wikipedia, it is possible, indeed common, to find people shooting themselves in the foot or being hit by a boomerang after complaining about someone else.


When you're at the end of your WP:ROPE then provoke a WP:BOOMERANG, you've scored a WP:BUNGEE!

Wikipedia is free for anyone to edit. Of course, if you've spent any time on the Internet, you'll know this means that people will disagree and argue about stuff. We like everyone to get along and reach a consensus, but sometimes life just doesn't run that smoothly, and people start edit warring, tearing each other's heads off, threatening to call their lawyer, or any number of escalating problems. If people can't work it out amongst themselves, sooner or later, somebody's going to complain.

Various noticeboards, especially the incident noticeboard, often receive reports posted by editors who are truly at fault themselves for the problem they're reporting. In other cases, a person might complain about another editor's behavior in an incident, yet during the events of that incident they've committed far worse infractions themselves. In both cases, such editors will usually find sanctions brought against themselves rather than the people they've sought to report.

This is called "shooting yourself in the foot". The behavior of a returning boomerang is similar: if thrown incautiously, it can come back to injure the thrower.

There is no "immunity" for reporters[edit]

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

Seriously. You better be without sin.

A common statement on noticeboards is "this isn't about me, it's about them", as if discussion is restricted to the original complaint, so that discussing the behavior of the original reporter would be "changing the subject". But that isn't the case: any party to a discussion or dispute might find their behavior under scrutiny. A reporter whose behavior is or becomes out of line may find themselves be bludgeoned with their own boomerang.

There's also no "immunity" for commenters[edit]

A special kind of boomerang, known as a vexbysterang ("vexatious bystander boomerang"), homes in on people who, though not initially involved in a situation, make pests of themselves in the course of the discussion.[1]

How to avoid shooting yourself in the foot[edit]

Good WiFi here perhaps, but a bad place from which to file an ANI report

A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself.

Proverbs 18:7

If you are involved in a dispute with someone, try to discuss matters with the other person via their talk page. If they won't cooperate, seek dispute resolution. Try to avoid reporting someone for administrator intervention when you are angry; wait until you are calm and then think about whether the report is appropriate. If you do report someone, be sure you are at the correct noticeboard and read the rules of the board before making your report. Be up front concerning any of your behavior that might have contributed to the problem. Finally, consider the possibility that you are not entirely blameless yourself.

Responders: Investigate fully[edit]

When you encounter a reporter who wasn't blameless in the incident, or who posts a report in the heat of the moment, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the reporter is the sole problem without looking at the context. Don't ignore Bob's bad behavior while rushing to be the first to tell Alice that her angry response to Bob's provocation is going to boomerang on her.


  1. ^ JG66 (October 19, 2021). "Origin of vexbysterang". Wikipedia.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

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