Wikibooks:Please do not bite the newcomers

Newcomers are prospective members of the Wikibooks community and therefore a valuable resource. We must treat newcomers with kindness and patience—nothing scares potentially valuable contributors away faster than a hostile atmosphere. Newcomers, by definition, lack knowledge about the way we do things. We were all newcomers once, and most of us were enthusiastic, but lacked knowledge of how the project worked, and how to find that information. Many of us still consider ourselves newcomers after months (or years) of contributing.

Even if you never were a typical newcomer—perhaps you were just super careful to read up on everything before even making slight contributions—understand that we do encourage contributors (yes, also newcomers) to be bold and keep in mind the value of others in the community. Pride for your successful contributions to Wikibooks is hardly cause for looking down on enthusiastic newcomers.

Correcting mistakes

When newcomers make mistakes, try to correct them and politely point out some avenues for reading up on best common practices. Also consider leaving a welcome note on the newcomer's talk page to let them know that they are welcome here (there are some useful ones available on Wikibooks:Templates/User messages).

New contributors are often hesitant to make changes, especially major ones, such as NPOVing and moving. Rather than being annoyed by their timidness, kindly encourage them to be bold in updating pages. Avoid hostile comments about the newcomer's ignorance. Be very careful with the wording of your edit summaries as these cannot be reworded later.

When you give advice to new contributors, tone the rhetoric down even a few notches from the usual mellow discourse that dominates Wikibooks. Try to make the newcomer feel genuinely welcome, not as though they must win your approval in order to be granted membership into an exclusive club.

Stepping back and mentoring

If you find these frustrating, don't correct them and just let it pass. Newcomers that stick around are usually the most diligent in hunting down all their early mistakes once they get to know the project. The best way to stop that is to drive them away before they learn.

Remember that writing a book is hard to do right. There are going to be a number of experiments that go way beyond even just learning how to edit. Newcomers need a mentor far more than a critic. If you see common mistakes being made, instead of complaining about recurring issues, consider write or improving our documentation for future newcomers, help making it accessible and point newcomers to it.

Final thoughts

Stay on the safe side by always assuming that newcomers sincerely want to contribute positively (a fair assumption since most do). Just because they do not know much about our standard editing practices doesn't mean they aren't willing to learn. Give them a chance!


Last modified on 4 December 2010, at 23:09