Arbital: Do what works

WIP /​ Pro­posed policy

An im­por­tant prin­ci­ple on Ar­bital: When de­cid­ing what poli­cies and guidelines to cre­ate or fol­low, make sure you’re mov­ing to­wards at least one fun­da­men­tally valuable goal.

You don’t, in gen­eral, need to read poli­cies or guidelines on Ar­bital be­fore con­tribut­ing or par­ti­ci­pat­ing. Just keep the goals on this page in mind, and con­sider whether the thing you are do­ing fur­thers or hin­ders them. And, if you find a policy or guideline which seems to con­flict with an im­por­tant goal, bring it up.

How­ever, if some­one links you to a spe­cific page it’s a strong hint that you would benefit from read­ing it. And, if you’re re­ply­ing to and helping other ed­i­tors it’s a good idea to be aware of at least core poli­cies.


The core goal here is for Ar­bital to have con­tent which causes as many read­ers as pos­si­ble to learn ev­ery­thing they want to. The im­por­tance of all con­tent-re­lated guidelines flows through this (e.g. mak­ing pages en­gag­ing, en­courag­ing writ­ers to help each other out, writ­ing for mul­ti­ple au­di­ences), and ex­cep­tions should be made to any guideline where they gen­uinely hin­der more than help.

This is not an in­vi­ta­tion to ig­nore ad­vice from more ex­pe­rienced ed­i­tors. If some­one asks why you did not fol­low a guideline, you do need to ex­plain why you should get an ex­cep­tion. And since you don’t own pub­lic pages you cre­ate, you won’t au­to­mat­i­cally win.


Caus­ing the com­mu­nity to be ‘healthy’ noteAt­tributes of “healthy com­mu­nity” in­clude: Lots of pro­duc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion, learn­ing from each other, de­tect­ing and listen­ing to real ex­per­tise, norms which cause de­bates to con­verge on truth and good policy, be­ing open and invit­ing to new par­ti­ci­pants (es­pe­cially where they make Ar­bital more awe­some), be­ing fo­cused on valuable tasks rather than bu­reau­cratic sys­tems or poli­tics, and friendly re­la­tions be­tween differ­ent sub­groups (in­clud­ing staff). Min­i­mal de­struc­tive/​per­sonal con­flict, and rapid, effec­tive dis­pute re­s­olu­tion. is the aim here. Lots of gen­eral prin­ci­ples are im­por­tant, like as­sum­ing good faith, be­ing aware that oth­ers have differ­ent norms, and treat­ing dis­cus­sions as col­lab­o­ra­tive truth­seek­ing rather than con­flict. But, again, each of these is only valuable inas­much as they lead to a more healthy com­mu­nity, and that is worth keep­ing that in mind when de­cid­ing how to weigh up edge cases.

hope­fully we won’t need this part, but: This is not meant to open the door to var­i­ous kinds of in­ci­vil­ity. Com­mu­nity norms are usu­ally there for good rea­sons, and vi­o­lat­ing them is gen­er­ally harm­ful (not least be­cause it sets a bad ex­am­ple).

Gen­eral principles

  • All rules must come with jus­tifi­ca­tion, and may be ques­tioned and re­moved if that jus­tifi­ca­tion no longer ad­e­quately sup­ports them no­tee.g. be­cause a differ­ent rule or new fea­ture ren­ders it un­nec­es­sary, or some un­in­tended con­se­quence of the rule turns out to be worse than the origi­nal prob­lem..

  • Don’t fol­low guidelines for their own sake, fol­low them be­cause they make good things hap­pen (though, fol­low­ing them is a good de­fault, at least un­til you re­ally un­der­stand the rea­son­ing which caused their cre­ation).