Wikipedia:Behavior that disrupts dispute resolution

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Wikipedia has multiple dispute resolution mechanisms intended to enable editors to collaboratively write an encyclopedia. These include platforms for settling content disputes as well as behavior of editors, and range from informal, nonbinding boards such as Wikiquette Alerts to boards like the Administrators' Noticeboard/Incidents that can levy sanctions and blocks. At most of these levels, the input of uninvolved editors, both administrators and regular users, is encouraged to give a fresh, unbiased perspective on the dispute at hand. This process can be disrupted, however, by the incautious behavior of editors, both involved and uninvolved. This essay seeks to identify common behaviors which are counterproductive to dispute resolution and should be avoided.

Long Initial Reporting Posts[edit]

Most boards, like Wikiquette Alerts, instruct users to "avoid an extensive discussion of the problem or issue on this page." The user making the report should state the problem simply, and then rely on diffs for substantiation. Wikipedia dispute resolution forums are not courtrooms, and the purpose of the report is not to argue a case, but rather to bring a situation to the attention of the community, and then allow the community to reach consensus on the situation based on the facts, not the merits of arguments. Also, long reporting statement can actually discourage active involvement by uninvolved editors.

Failing to Notify Reported Editor[edit]

Wikiquette Alerts and all noticeboards require users originating a report on another user or users to notify them on their User Talk page. Failure to do so, whether deliberate or inadvertent, can lead to the reported user feeling he is being judged without being given a chance to defend himself.

Debate[edit]

As has been stated above, the purpose of dispute resolution is to bring a situation to the attention of the community so that the community can reach consensus based on the facts of the situation, not the merits of one editor's arguments over the other. Dispute resolution is not a debate competition. As the dispute resoluton policy states: "Remember that dispute resolution mechanisms are ultimately there to enable editors to collaboratively write an encyclopedia – not to win personal or political battles." Every editor, whether involved or uninvolved, has a responsibility to remember that the purpose of dispute resolution is to resolve a dispute, not win a debate. Failure to keep this in mind often results in disruption of the dispute resolution process.

Reporting Editor[edit]

As mentioned before, reporting editors should be concise in reporting, rely on diffs, and avoid making an argument as much as possible. Bring the situation to the attention of the community, and then let them decide. Reporting editors who are too eager to make an argument may actually defeat that objective by diminishing their appearance of neutrality.

It's also best if reporting editors step back from overly active involvement in the discussion after presenting the situation. If an error in fact is stated, by all means point it out, but it is not necessary to provide a rebuttal to every uninvolved editor who disagrees with you, and is in fact counterproductive to your "case" to do so, as well as increasing the contentiousness of the discussion.

Reported Editor[edit]

Reported editors should similarly be careful not to be too active in the discussion. One concise answer to the reporting editor's comments is usually sufficient. Though errors of fact should be corrected, it is best to avoid replying to the opinions offered by uninvolved editors, both those that are favorable and those that are unfavorable to you. Attempting to refute the unfavorable ones may give the impression of defensiveness, while replying to the favorable ones may give the impression of pandering; they are agreeing with you, so let them speak for themselves.

Uninvolved Editors[edit]

Once uninvolved editors have given their opinions, there is no need for them to post rebuttals to the opinions of other uninvolved editors they disagree with. As long as the facts are correct, let the preponderence of opinion speak for itself. Everyone's opinion is obvious from their first post, you don't "win" by "refuting" other people's opinions, you certainly aren't going to change them that way, and it's simply unconstructive to the point of being disruptive. Trying to refute others' opinions as can also make the discussion so daunting, both in thickness of text and combativeness that it discourages more uninvolved editors from posting their opinions.

This debating also creates a new conflict which shifts the attention away from the conflict and behavior of the involved parties. It can embolden disruptive editors who think they have found a "champion" in one uninvolved editor that has taken their "side". You may believe that a particular involved editor needs defending against an unfair charge, but remember that the next time around it may be that someone else is vigorously defending someone you thought was out of line, and that championing will embolden them against your valid concerns. Remember, too, that the purpose of a discussion is not to side with a particular editor, but to help BOTH editors edit more constructively. This is especially important to remember in informal forums like Wikiquette Alerts where no formal sanctions are administered.

Uninvolved editors may certainly address the comments of either the reporting editor or the reported editor, but it is important to recognize when the discussion is futile. If you have stated your opinion twice and the person keeps arguing with you and you feel he/she just doesn't "get it", it is best to simply withdraw, rather than continue arguing. This is not conceding the point, as your position is still there for anyone to read.

Editorializing in Closing Remarks[edit]

Administrators have the final word in determining the outcome of a discussion when they close it. As such, it is imperative that they, above all other participants, appear neutral and unbiased. Remember that many editors have a negative perception of administrators and are very sensitive to any indications that an administrator may be "abusing" his or her power. Judgemental tone, sarcasm, etc. should be avoided. A "just the facts, ma'am" tone with summary of the consensus, or a statement that no consensus has been achieved and suggestions of the next step to take should be strived for.

Summary[edit]

The proof of the pudding is in the eating; behavior which increases conflict between editors is unproductive and should be avoided, even if that behavior is not explicitly prohibited by Wikipedia policy.

See also[edit]