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).