Wikipedia:Don't template anyone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 never give such a template to another Wikipedian.

These templates are gaudy and generic. Full of icons and obscure language, they have the appearance of an automated message from a bot. When novice editors breach policies, they will get a number of these and proceed to ignore them, the same way that they ignore any number of automatic messages that their computers spit out when doing other things that they don't understand. It doesn't occur to them that not answering these may result in bad things happening to them.

The purpose of providing a warning to someone is to get them to realize that what they are doing is incorrect and to get them to change their behavior. A personalized message, that introduces yourself, explains what they did wrong, and tells them how to correct the problem will be much more effective than the icon-filled, jargon-heavy templates that exist and that people are inclined to use. Be direct and stern, if you need to be, especially if someone is actively vandalizing or otherwise making trouble, but personally written notes are always better. Say something like "Hey, I looked at your edit to such-and-such, and I had to undo it. It was a problem because ....". Write something that makes sense to someone that won't possibly understand phrases like "NPOV-violating coatrack". If you can't do that, then just revert them without notice: it's better than using the template.

Some people are under the false assumption that the templates are a necessary part of "due process" before blocks are issued. That's far from the truth. All Wikipedia policy requires is that someone is warned, and the actual blocking policy itself notes that individualized notes (rather than templated warnings) are preferred. All that warning someone requires is a note that explains what they are doing is wrong, and to stop doing it. It doesn't require any specific templates, and certainly doesn't require that an entire series of templates be used in a certain order before admins will act. Besides, if a well crafted, polite note gets someone to stop making trouble, and thus blocks can be avoided, everyone wins. It may be that the templates themselves are ignored, for reasons noted above, and thus actually cause more people to be blocked than otherwise would if people would take the time out to just write their own warnings.