Wikimedia Cloud Services team/Team Social Norms

We call them soft skills but they are hard to pull off.

Kelsey Hightower, (Kubecon 2017 Austin, TX Keynote)

Our team social norms help aim to guide our behavior in the workplace and improve our collective civility. These norms are unique to the Cloud Services team, but should be seen as extensions of other WMF and community initiatives such as the Code of Conduct, the Friendly Space Policy, and the Technology department's Communication Guidelines. For situations that require it, please refer to these policies.

This is not a how-to guide on embodying the idea of a perfect teammate, we all have different backgrounds or stories that might not follow these norms, but we can get there together. There are too many intangibles not included for these guidelines to be the ending to any discussion, but these are specific touchstones that can make up the beginning of one. Humility, generosity, kindness, respect, and integrity are all implicit within the norms.

Having explicit norms help us to increase our awareness that these practices are important and require attention and intention from each of us. Recognizing our humanity, we understand these are norms that we aspire to. These norms represent the team and people we desire to be. We aren't perfect and will fail at times. It’s important to help and support each other in our efforts to practice these norms, including accountability for when we falter. It's everyone's collective responsibility to try and make our workplace a safe environment for all.

Social norms[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation’s values and guiding principles are a starting point for all of us, and should always be reflected in our norms and consequent behaviors. Please give these issues, behaviors, and expectations serious thought and consideration.

As members of the Cloud Services team we should expect the following from us and our teammates:


Respect other people and their experiences[edit]

Refer to:  We welcome and cherish our differences.

We want everyone in our team and community to feel safe. We are a respectful workplace and we recognize the diversity of talents, skills, experiences and culture that people in our team bring to the table. Each person and their life and work experiences are welcomed and valuable.

Of course, there is more to us than what is on the surface, and we all have good and bad days. If there is a situation with someone that you’d like to address, make sure to ask for clarification first and build up from there.

This can look like:

  • Listening to other people’s opinions with an open and curious mindset.
  • Incorporating other people's viewpoints in decision-making.
  • Having empathy while someone is out sick and can’t work instead of minimizing what they’re going through.
  • Learning from those who disagree with you on a decision

Propose a different path if you oppose one.[edit]

Refer to: We are in this mission together / We are inspired

Begin with the good faith assumption that everyone is doing necessary work. If you have concerns about a proposal, then engage and help to craft an alternative approach.

This can look like:

  • Help reframe the original problem.
  • Agree to share knowledge and catch everyone up in the conversation.
  • Volunteering to work with another person to bounce ideas that can help come up with an alternative.
  • Propose to the people involved a creative session to come up with new solutions.

Apologize for and acknowledge behavior we seek to avoid - and learn from it.[edit]

Refer to: We engage in civil discourse

A team of humans supporting a 24/7 environment will experience being tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Mutual respect is the only currency we have to navigate these challenges long-term. Demonstrating that respect means acknowledging its value.

We know that acknowledging our behaviors can take time, and this may bring up some feelings that need to be settled in before deciding to apologize. Take your time to think things through, being human is tough.

This can look like:

  • Saying you are sorry. This is a very grown up and mature thing to do.
  • Asking for advice on how to handle a situation in the future.


Refer to: We engage in civil discourse

Forgiveness is a conscious, intentional, and deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment. We encourage you to keep in mind that everyone deserves a second chance.

The process of forgiveness can be complex and unique for each individual, so do not feel rushed or be in a hurry to leave your emotions behind and accept everything that comes your way. Reach out whenever you feel ready.

This can look like:

  • Having a conversation with the other person about what happened, acknowledging each other’s feelings and behaviors, and coming up with a solution if needed.
  • Saying “it’s okay”.

Learn, mentor and share knowledge[edit]

Refer to: We are in this mission together / We strive for excellence

Demonstrate and share lines of code, adhoc commands, and general understanding. The team efforts will be limited by the point of the most constraint, and for us that will most often be cognitive constraint. Collaboration rather than competition.

This can look like:

  • Planning, building, discarding, rebuilding, and specially failing. We make mistakes and it’s okay, we can move forward from them and keep learning. If you fail it means that you tried.
  • Offering to help one of your teammates through a one-on-one session if they’re feeling stuck in their work.
  • Answering your teammate’s questions in any channel.
  • Reviewing and asking for code reviews, both for things you do know and things you do not.
  • Communicate often and actively offer information about your work, your learnings, and your struggles.
  • Encouraging other people to use Open Source and guiding them if they don’t know where to start.
  • Being open and welcoming to new and contrary ideas that may be different than your own or historical norms.
  • Shared knowledge is better than public, public knowledge is better than private. Whenever possible, actively share your knowledge and situation with others, fallback to just making it public for others to find, and try keep at a minimum private information and communications.
  • I seem to be the only one working on this area, let's share that in the next team meeting and find someone else to work with.

Support other people & our work[edit]

Refer to: We are in this mission together

Demonstrate care for your teammate's struggles and offer help whenever you can. We collectively share the responsibility of all our services. We also need to be able to share responsibilities on different processes so others can step away calmly when needed. WMCS is one part of the greater movement and we should consider the needs of other teams, volunteers and the wider movement.

This can look like:

  • Prioritizing shared responsibilities (improving alerts, alert documentation, taking care of project requests when on clinic duty).
  • Contribute to process documentation to make it easier for people to get involved.
  • Prioritizing people’s physical and mental health ahead of a deadline.
  • Asking for help when you need it, and offering help when you think someone will benefit from it.
  • If something is broken, even outside your comfort zone, fix it.
  • Someone shared that they are working on something by themselves and want someone to jump in, I'll give a hand, as somebody else is helping me now with this other project.


No belittling[edit]

You belittle someone when you speak or act in a way that demeans, trivializes, or undermines a person's worth. “Belittling” is never simply an evaluation or even a negative criticism. It is usually shrouded in the latter, but with the additional intention or effect of hurting or demeaning the other person. In this regard, the medium is the only message delivered, and any possibility of developing psychological safety disappears. This often arises when respect is offered or withheld based on your opinion of a colleague's work rather than based on their inherent worth as a person.

No feigning surprise[edit]

This means you shouldn't act surprised when people say they don't know something. This applies to both technical things ("What?! I can't believe you don't know what the stack is!") and non-technical things ("You don't know who RMS is?!"). Feigning surprise has absolutely no social or educational benefit: When people feign surprise, it's usually to make them feel better about themselves and others feel worse. And even when that's not the intention, it's almost always the effect. As you've probably already guessed, this rule is tightly coupled to our belief in the importance of people feeling comfortable saying "I don't know" and "I don't understand." See also xkcd 1053.

No well-actually's[edit]

A well-actually happens when someone says something that's almost - but not entirely - correct, and you say, "well, actually…" and then give a minor correction. This is especially annoying when the correction has no bearing on the actual conversation. This doesn't mean that we don't care about being precise, but in our experience almost all well-actually's are about grandstanding, not truth-seeking.

No back-seat driving[edit]

If you overhear people working through a problem, you shouldn't intermittently lob advice across the room. This also applies to IRC discussions. This can lead to the "too many cooks" problem, but more important, it can be rude and disruptive to half-participate in a conversation. This isn't to say you shouldn't help, offer advice, or join conversations. On the contrary, we encourage all those things. Rather, it just means that when you want to help out or work with others, you should fully engage and not just butt in sporadically.

No subtle -isms[edit]

A ban on subtle racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other kinds of bias. This one is different from the rest, because it covers a class of behaviors instead of one very specific pattern.

Subtle -isms are small things that make others feel unwelcome, things that we all sometimes do by mistake. For example, saying "It's so easy my grandmother could do it" is a subtle -ism. Like the other social norms, this one is often accidentally broken. Like the other three, it's not a big deal to mess up – you just apologize and move on.

If you see a subtle -ism, you can point it out to the relevant person, either publicly or privately, or you can ask your managers to say something. After this, we ask that all further discussion move off of public channels. If you are a third party, and you don't see what could be biased about the comment that was made, feel free to talk to a manager or admin. Please don't say, "Comment X wasn't homophobic!" Similarly, please don't pile on to someone who made a mistake. The "subtle" in "subtle -isms" means that it's probably not obvious to everyone right away what was wrong with the comment.

We want this team and surrounding work spaces to have as little bigotry as possible. Therefore, if you see sexism, racism, etc. outside of our spaces, please don't bring it in. So, for example, please don't start a discussion of the latest offensive comment from Random Tech Person Y. For many people, especially those who may have spent time in unpleasant environments, these conversations can be very distracting.

Our commitments[edit]

As members of the Cloud Services team we commit to:

  • Not jumping into conclusions without communicating respectfully with each other first.
  • Hold each other accountable for our behaviors and approach any situation with care, compassion, and purpose.
  • Provide respectful and meaningful feedback to the norms and propose changes if we deem necessary.
  • Reviewing these norms regularly as a normal part of team retrospectives


These norms were originally created and accepted by the Wikimedia Cloud Services team, primarily for themselves, but also as a demonstration of value to other teams. They were subsequently adopted by the Developer Advocacy team soon after its formation in 2018 and thus became the norms shared by the entire Wikimedia Technical Engagement team. Both the Developer Advocacy team and the Wikimedia Technical Engagement team ceased to exist in July 2023, and these norms are currently maintained by the Wikimedia Cloud Services team.

After internal discussion and feedback provided from team members (see the Talk page), the norms were updated in 2023.


Most of the content from the "No" avoidance section is borrowed from

Some content in the "Do" section and the notion of "team" is inspired by Google's re:Work book (only japanese version available, internet archive version here)

Further reading[edit]

Extended content