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Policies and Guidelines
Research and referencing
OpenCongress is a wiki -- a collection of articles, configured so that any registered user can create an article, and anyone can edit any existing article. Edits by registered users are logged under their user name, but registration is optional.
Groups or individuals posting articles on themselves
Because OpenCongress has high standards for sourcing all information and does not require a "neutral point of view," individuals are free to edit the articles on themselves or people or groups they are affiliated with - it is our belief that the best way to judge contributions is by the quality of the content, not the person making the contribution. Additionally, it is possible to go to elaborate lengths to disguise one's identity in editing a wiki (even one requiring registration to edit), so we feel that hard and fast policies about who can edit articles are fallible and actually encourage people to disguise their identities.
There are, however, some guidelines for editing articles on groups or individuals you are affiliated with:
- Defer to others: You are likely not the best judge of whether a contribution conforms to the OpenCongress Wiki's standards, so yield to the judgment of other editors, especially the citizen sysops and staff editors, particularly if you have a disagreement rooted in a question of interpretation rather than fact.
- Disclose your relationship: You should disclose who you are on your user page. Simply click on your username at the top of the page (when logged in) and tell us who you are there. If you don't and get busted (which is likely), other editors may find that in itself noteworthy and may add the fact that you were secretly making the additions to the article itself.
- Don't delete relevant facts from the articles: If content is factually accurate, leave deleting it to other editors. If you like, make a request on the article's discussion page for something to be deleted.
Failure to follow these guidelines may result in your account being blocked and possibly a permanent ban from participating in OpenCongress.
Our "soft security" measures are as follows:
- Some registered OpenCongress users have been given the status of "sysop," which enables them to block contributions from registered users.
- Sysops can also "protect" individual articles. A "protected" article can only be edited by other sysops. The OpenCongress home page is protected. Other pages should only be protected if they are targets of recurring vandalism.
- Any user, sysop or not, can "rollback" recent editorial changes made to an article by any other user. To "rollback" an article means to return that article to the state it was in before the previous user began editing.
Security measures should be used sparingly. Blocking should be used: a) on the first offense if commercial spam is added to one or more articles; b) where the changes are of an editorial nature, only when a user has shown a pattern of inappropriate edits such as major unexplained edits. A single inappropriate edit may be simply a mistake or a learning experiment by a new user.
Most blocks should initially be for a period of 24 hours and stepped up if vandalism is repeated. (A block on an IP address has the potential to freeze out other innocent contributors from the same IP "catchment"). Longer IP blocks may be imposed when dealing with especially egregious cases of repeated abuse.
If spam or repeated vandalism is originating from a registered user a stricter response can be adopted without adversely affecting other contributors. Where a registered user is adding spam or has repeatedly vandalized a page they can be blocked for an indefinite period by setting the block period to "indefinite" (all lower case).
Role of PPF and Sunlight staff
OpenCongress is a joint project of the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) and the Sunlight Foundation, which set the policies under which OpenCongress operates. PPF and Sunlight staff members also contribute content to OpenCongress and are responsible for maintaining and configuring the MediaWiki software on which it runs. However, PPF and Sunlight staff do not review every article or contribution, and articles on OpenCongress do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PPF, Sunlight, or their staff.
Roles of volunteers
The OpenCongress wiki is a community built and driven site. Some users have been granted special permissions to help administrate the wiki:
Sysops: Have access to technical features not available to others, including:
- Protecting or un-protecting a page (usually done in response to frequent vandalism or high-risk pages (such as the wiki homepage).
- Blocking or unblocking users (a fairly extreme measure employed if an editor is engaged in deliberate vandalism or other types of malicious edits or refuses to abide by the ground rules).
- Editing protected pages (see above).
Bureaucrats: High-level privileges generally reserved for staff. Most notably has the ability to make other users sysops.
- More information about the user groups' different privileges is on Special:ListGroupRights.
- A list of the users in each group can be found at Special:ListUsers
Fixing errors and resolving disputes
Material posted on OpenCongress must conform to the ground rules. If you see content that does not, we encourage you to fix it yourself as OpenCongress relies on the contributions and vigilance of its Meta:Citizen editors to function. If you would really rather have the managing editors fix the error, you can contact them.
In fixing an error, you will need to "play nice" with the editor who originally made the contribution. Editorial disagreements between OpenCongress users should focus on facts and evidence pertaining to the article(s) being edited. OpenCongress talk pages should not be used to vent or to insult other users. Contributors who persist in a pattern of abusive or insulting behavior toward other contributors may be blocked. Contributors who repeatedly infringe copyrighted material will have their accounts terminated.
Users who violate OpenCongress policies
Users who violate any OpenCongress policies or guidelines should expect their contributions to be edited or deleted - either by other users, sysops, PPF staff or Sunlight staff - and security measures to be taken against them. This applies to policies and guidelines found on, but not limited to, the following pages:
- OpenCongress article guidelines
- Contributing guidelines
- OpenCongress policies
- Sourcing/referencing policies