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Wikipedia:Don't template the regulars

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Wikipedia offers many user talk templates to warn users about possible violations of vandalism ({{uw-vandalism}}), the three-revert rule ({{uw-3rr}}), and other policies and guidelines. You should use these templates carefully.

These templates explain the various policies to new editors. When novice editors breach policies, it is quite possible (if we assume good faith, which we must) that they are unaware of them, and educating them is helpful. On the other hand, most editors who have been around for a while are aware of these policies. If you believe that they have broken (or are about to breach) one, it may be the result of some disagreement over the interpretation of the policy, or temporarily heated tempers. In such situations, the "did you know we had a policy here" approach can be counterproductive in resolving the issue, as it can be construed as being patronising and uncivil. (Whether new editors also find having policies explained to them by template message to be patronising and unhelpful is an open question.)

A very small number of templates, such as the Arbitration Committee's {{Alert}} template, are mandatory and must be "placed unmodified" for an alert to be valid. As a result, these templates are not covered by this essay.

The problem with templated messages


Template warnings are very generic, and sometimes out of date. Sometimes a template says never to do something which is nevertheless allowed in certain circumstances. Theoretically speaking, all things are allowed in some conceivable circumstance under Ignore All Rules. Sometimes Wikipedia has multiple policies which are contradictory. If a policy violation is not clear-cut, an amicable resolution to the problem is going to require a human explanation, not an automated template. However, using a pre-existing template as a guide, re-wording it or adding a personal message to it, is an option.

It should be noted that some regulars will not actually read a warning based on a template as they theoretically hold a better understanding of those rules and policies than a new editor. A personal message tends to work better in these situations. If you have a question, why not ask the experienced user your question? You may begin a dialogue that will prove much more effective than a template. This is especially true when you find the urge to place multiple copies of the same template on a user's talk page. Doing so without an explanation is almost never a good idea. Instead, why not combine the multiple warnings into a single personalized note?

Also, those who template regulars might post templates with no relevance to what actually happened. For example, they might post a template about articles in response to an edit to a talk page. In addition, the template may be inapplicable to the user's experience level; sending a template that prefaces its message with "Welcome to Wikipedia" to a user who has been editing Wikipedia for 10+ years will likely be received poorly, or at worst, taken as an insult.

Note, however, that templating at all – to regulars or newcomers – may be taken as rude by being impersonal (biting the newbies). No one likes to feel they are being bureaucratically processed. Templates cannot help but inherently convey that feeling. That is why writing what the template says in your own words, with reference to the particular situation, is more likely to communicate well (if the editor is amenable to reason).



It can be a particularly bad idea to start the deletion process with templating regulars (In the case of speedy deletions the page may be gone before they see your message). Often they will be happy to nominate the page under consideration for a speedy G7 themselves. In other cases they may provide a compelling reason for not deleting that will change your mind.

If neither are the case then the normal procedure can be followed without being impaired.

Recipients should still assume good faith


Having said this, those who receive a template message should still assume good faith regarding the user of said template. The editor using the template may not be aware how familiar the user is with policy, or may not themselves consider the template use rude. They may also simply be trying to save time by avoiding writing out a lengthy message that basically says the same thing as the template, which is, after all, the purpose of a template. Alternatively, the editor using the template may have never read this essay, or they may disagree with it.

Recipients should also put themselves in the shoes of the user of the template. How were they to know you are a regular? Were you acting like an experienced user? No one is perfect, you or the editor that used the template. Take the template as a reminder and/or constructive criticism and just move on.

See also