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Wikipedia: The Missing Manual (Discuss)

Wikipedia's core is its articles' content. With so many editors collaborating on Wikipedia, disagreements over content are inevitable. Most of the time, editors resolve these matters on their own, after a reasonable discussion. If you find yourself involved in a content dispute, follow the guidelines in this chapter to engage the other editor in a helpful discussion. If push comes to shove, this chapter also shows you how to use Wikipedia's formal processes for important disagreements that are not resolved informally.

Why editors disagree[edit]

If it's true that there's strength in diversity, then Wikipedia has the strongest volunteer corps possible. More than a billion people worldwide have Internet access, and a very large percentage of those speak English as a primary or additional language. They're all potential editors of the English Wikipedia. The diversity of editors is one reason why editors disagree about article content. Another is a lack of knowledge of Wikipedia's rules, which aren't all intuitively obvious.

Diversity of backgrounds[edit]

Only about half the editors of the English Wikipedia live in the United States (population 300 million). The rest come from an incredibly wide range of countries, cultures, and continents. English is the primary language of most inhabitants of the United Kingdom (60 million people), Canada (33 million), Australia (21 million), Ireland (6 million), New Zealand (4 million), and numerous Caribbean islands like Jamaica (population 3 million). English is also spoken as an additional language by hundreds of millions of adults in Europe, India, the Philippines, and other countries. United primarily by a common language, differences of opinion are inevitable when people work collaboratively on an encyclopedia that intends to offer definitive information to the world.

Wikipedia has no age requirement for editors; there are certainly many pre-teenagers and teenagers who contribute constructively, as well as a number of adults who do not. Nor are there requirements for expertise (in anything, let alone in what's being edited), a point on which Wikipedia has been criticized by many people. (People often overlook the fact that the lack of such barriers made Wikipedia what it is today.)

Finally, people's beliefs differ. This goes beyond whether Elvis is alive or not; Wikipedia's articles cover politics, religion, sexuality, culture, geography, and numerous other areas where people know they are right and others are wrong. Wikipedia's rules emphasize that facts and sources matter, and that personal beliefs and opinions don't, but that's not the norm on the Internet, at places like discussion boards and blogs. Wikipedia's rules are thus often a major shock to newcomers.

Differing motivations[edit]

Other editors may not only come from a different background, but may also have different reasons for editing at Wikipedia. Those reasons can make a big difference in how determined they are to defend their edits.

A number of studies have looked at why people edit at Wikipedia. From the perspective of content disagreements, the level of emotional engagement an editor has with an article they're editing is important. Not surprisingly, emotional engagement runs the gamut: negative concern (a vandal), just passing by (a casual reader), relatively disinterested (not the same as uninterested), personally involved (a conflict of interest problem), expert (a plus, but not an unmitigated one), passionate (a plus if the passion can be kept in check), fanatic (a big problem), and kook (someone usually shut down pretty quickly).

Not knowing Wikipedia policies[edit]

As discussed in Part 1, Wikipedia has three core content policies: neutral point of view, no original research, and verifiability. These three policies are at the heart of a majority of content mistakes, so checking for their violation should be the first step in examining an article's edits (see the section about reviewing content). Editors also frequently violate two other policies, simply because they're not familiar with them:

  • Wikipedia:Ownership of articles (shortcut: WP:OWN) states that no editor owns the content of an article. It doesn't matter if they created it, or if they have been the main contributor to it for the past year, or if they are acknowledged the world's best expert in the subject; they don't have the right to revert other editors' edits simply because they don't like them.
The only way that an editor can properly prevent their words from being changed is not to put them in a Wikipedia article in the first place. And no editor has any special power or authority over any other editor when articles are edited.
  • What Wikipedia is not (shortcut: WP:NOT) makes it clear that certain types of information aren't in accordance with Wikipedia's purposes. Content that doesn't belong in Wikipedia includes: usage guides or slang and idiom guides; presentation of original thought; routine news coverage, including first-hand news reports on breaking stories; advocacy, recruitment, opinion pieces, self-promotion, or advertising; directories of external links; collections of public domain or other source materials; tributes to departed friends and relatives; instruction manuals, and how-to instructions; FAQs; articles that consist solely of plot summaries or song lyrics; and other matters lacking encyclopedic substance, such as announcements, sports, and gossip.
In short, if the text in question is not the sort that you'd find in the Encyclopædia Britannica, then there's a pretty good chance that Wikipedia doesn't want that text either. Wikipedia is, like EB, an encyclopedia.

Avoiding content disputes[edit]

You can avoid a lot of content disputes by doing just a bit of checking before you make major changes to articles, by doing as few reverts as possible (and not getting into edit wars), and, above all, by focusing on content rather than commenting on editors. Wikipedia:Dispute resolution (shortcut: WP:DR) includes the following tip: "The best way to resolve a dispute is to avoid it in the first place."

Don't charge in blindly[edit]

If you're adding just a little well-sourced information to a page, or if you're doing minor copyediting of a section of a page, then go ahead and do the edit; only rarely will someone object. But if you're planning to add a lot of information, change a lot of wording, or reorganize an article, you can minimize content disputes if you do just a little bit of checking first: Read the article's talk (discussion) page. If you see a gnarled mass of recent arguments, you stand a significant chance of getting caught up in an edit war. Even if you aren't interested in joining whatever argument's going on, other editors may interpret what you did as supporting one side or the other.

Chapter 18: Better articles: A systematic approach discusses making major changes to an article when you can reasonably expect some opposition.

Secondly, you should routinely do a quick check in the article history tab. If you see a lot of recent edits, make sure you're not updating a vandalized version.

Explain your edits[edit]

Provide a good edit summary when making significant changes to which other users might object. If you can cite a relevant policy or guideline, do so. Wikilinks in edit summaries do work, as in this example:

Removing information that appears to be added from personal knowledge (see [[WP:NOR]]) and copyediting.

If you can't fit your explanation into an edit summary, then put a brief summary and conclude it with See talk/discussion page. Explain further on the article talk page. (Chapter 8: Communicating with your fellow editors covers the use of article talk pages—see the section about article talk pages.)

Minimize your reverts[edit]

Reverts (Chapter 5: Who did what: Page histories and reverting) are powerful things. Use them only when there are clear policy violations. Good-faith editors often consider being reverted an insult. (Consider how you'd feel if an edit you did that you thought improved an article was entirely removed.) In particular, if you revert an edit by an experienced editor, you'd better be justified.

It's much better if you can salvage part of the content from an edit that you disagree with. And don't use the rv expression or standard (software-supplied) undo text (see the section about undo) in an edit summary unless you're absolutely sure that you're right. To quote directly from WP:DR: "When someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit if you can, rather than reverting it, or if you do not see it as improvable, discuss it on the talk page." (For more details on dealing with content added by others, see "Reviewing content changes: A general plan of action" below.)

Wikipedia forbids edit wars—two or more editors reverting each other continuously. (For details, see Wikipedia:Edit war, shortcut WP:EW.) To prevent edit wars, the Wikipedia:Three-revert rule (shortcut: WP:3RR) states that editors who revert a page in whole or in part more than three times in 24 hours, except in certain special circumstances, are likely to be blocked from editing. Those exceptions include simple and obvious vandalism, copyright violations, spam, copyrighted images that lack a free content license, and unsourced or poorly sourced controversial material about living persons, particularly negative information, which could be libelous.

If you run into an editor who's unaware of this policy, warn them after they have made two or three reverts within a day to the same article, on the same content. You can find the standard warning at the page Template:uw-3rr. Simply post this warning text on the user talk page of the editor who's approaching the 3RR limit (or has even gone over, but not yet been warned). If you want to use your own words, make sure to provide a wikilink to the policy Wikipedia:Three-revert rule, because you can't expect new editors to find the policy without such a link.

If you see a valid 3RR warning (one linking to the policy) on the user talk page, don't post another one. Some editors regard that as harassment. Similarly, if the user's been blocked one or more times for a 3RR violation, there's no need to post a new warning. You can assume they're quite familiar with the policy.

Once you've posted the warning, don't worry if the editor deletes it from their talk page. If an editor deletes the warning, that means they've read it. The warning remains in the history of their user talk page. (Users have every right to delete postings from their own user talk page. Don't make the mistake of taking it as an insult.)

The 3RR rule does not convey an entitlement to revert thrice each day, nor is it intended to encourage reverting as an editing technique. Rather, the rule acts as a sort of electric fence that gives a little leeway to revert but prevents an intense edit war. An administrator may still block an editor if their pattern of ongoing reverts is found to be disruptive, even if they're following the 24-hour rule. The policy aims to get editors to work together; administrators consider it a violation when editors treat the rule like a challenge.

An academic study of Wikipedia found that double-reverts—when one revert is immediately followed by another—dropped by half due to the 3RR rule, comparing the periods before and after the implementation of the rule in November 2004. The number of double-reverts then stayed roughly the same for the next year, the ending point of the study.

Discuss edits, not editors[edit]

When disagreement about content spills over into incivility and personal attacks, it gets much harder to resolve the content dispute. Chapter 11: Handling incivility and personal attacks shows you how to deal with incivility and personal attacks directed against you, and also has advice on what to do if you get irritated (or worse) with another editor, or if you've posted something that you realize you shouldn't have (see the section about if you've posted something you shouldn't). If you're involved in a disagreement over content that's becoming uncivil, take a look at Chapter 11: Handling incivility and personal attacks: If you can get the focus back to content, the chances are much better that you and other editors can find an acceptable compromise.

One of the best ways to keep matters focused on edits is to provide links to specific sections of specific guidelines and policies. Wikipedia has a large number of policies and guidelines related to content, so there's a good chance that one of them pertains to your situation. Often a disagreement evaporates when everyone has a chance to review the rules. (If you're unsure where to start looking, one good place is the Editor's index, WP:EIW.)

It's a good idea, every now and then, to review the guideline at Wikipedia:Assume good faith (shortcut: WP:AGF). If you start out with the attitude that a particular editor is a problem, there's a good chance that they will be one. On the other hand, if you assume that the editor is well-intentioned, but perhaps uninformed, and does have something to contribute, then you're following the "assume good faith" guideline. You may be incorrect, but you won't make the problem any worse.

Finally, it's important to use article talk pages correctly. As discussed previously (see the section about what not to post on article talk pages), keep discussions about editor behavior off the article talk page. Discussions about editors belong on user talk pages, not article talk pages. If someone else starts something on an article talk page, don't take the bait.

The Bold, revert, discuss (WP:BRD) approach is the one exception to using article talk pages to discuss differences. Said to be a cross between the Harmonious Editing Club and an "Ignore all rules" policy, it's appropriate only in very limited circumstances, and best left to experienced editors. (See WP:BRD for details.)

Reviewing content changes: A general plan of action[edit]

If you're an experienced Wikipedia editor, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you shouldn't do when editing, and you can identify problems in others' edits without going through a step-by-step review. While you're still gaining experience, however, a systematic approach is a good way to figure out what not to do yourself, what you should revert and what you shouldn't, and how to handle edits by others that aren't bad enough to revert but aren't good enough to stay as is.

The approach laid out in the following sections will help you improve articles and reduce the number of content disputes you're in. For example, policy violations come first, since they're easy to define and no one disputes the need to revert them. Then you'll turn to more subtle points like sourcing and wording.

Policy violations[edit]

If you see any of the following, revert them (see the section about reverting), and cite the applicable policy in your edit summary:

Proper weight and balance[edit]

Most editors probably think of the policy Wikipedia:Neutral point of view (shortcut: WP:NPOV) as being about wording. For example, the following text wouldn't pass the POV test, since it's hopelessly biased (as well as unverifiable, and quite possibly a copyright violation):

The committee has become a significant force in enhancing relations between Somewheristan and Nowhereistan. With an in-depth understanding of both countries, the committee deepens the ties of friendship and addresses the concerns of all who are interested in the wellbeing of both countries.

But Wikipedia also defines "neutral point of view" to include the amount of text about different aspects of a topic. An article that goes into detail about extreme fringe views on a topic is violating the NPOV policy, as is an article that lists all the good legislation that an elected official has voted for. (The latter also is a violation of WP:NOT, since it's a collection of indiscriminate information.) So while a chunk of text may have a neutral point of view, inserting it into an article could well unbalance the article, and unbalanced articles aren't neutral.

To apply the "weight and balance" part of the NPOV policy, evaluate the importance of added information to a particular aspect of a topic. When a particular aspect or view is getting way too much coverage (usually because it includes a level of detail that isn't appropriate for the entire article), the proper action is to remove the excess, leaving an appropriate amount of text, plus cited sources that readers can pursue if they're interested in more information.

On the other hand, if an article is short, the addition of a lot of information about a particular aspect of the topic may seem to make the article unbalanced, particularly where that text is negative (say, about the problems of a politician, businessperson, or company). In fact, the article is not unbalanced—it's simply too short. The real problem is the lack of information about other aspects of the topic, not the new addition. Someone who adds information to a short article isn't required to simultaneously expand all parts of the article. The solution is for other editors to expand the rest of the article, not to remove valuable information.

Proper sourcing[edit]

If editors provided sources for everything they added to Wikipedia, the number of content disputes would drop sharply. When content is controversial, editors have an extra responsibility to cite a source, in accordance with the core policies of verifiability (WP:V) and no original research (WP:NOR). If you follow the guidance in the section about documenting sources and add information to Wikipedia only when you have the source in hand (or onscreen), other editors are much less likely to find problems with what you add to articles. Unfortunately, not everyone has read this book or understands the importance of sourcing as well as you do. You're going to have to deal with editors who don't provide sources, or who provide inappropriate ones. This section describes what to do in such cases.

When no source is given[edit]

Unsourced content falls into several types. How you handle unsourced information depends what kind of information it is:

  • Non-controversial and plausible. Leave as is. It's not absolutely against the rules to mark such statements as needing a source, but if every unsourced statement and section in Wikipedia articles were marked as such, it would make articles far less readable. It definitely won't bring a rush of editors to fix things. Editors know when information is unsourced; you don't need to mark it just to identify that you know this too.
  • Controversial or contentious, but not negative. Any controversial statement needs a source. You can request one by placing a {{citation needed}} template immediately after the unsourced sentence or paragraph, which tags the text with "[citation needed]". If the problem is with an entire section, use {{Unreferenced section}} immediately after the section heading.
If you doubt that a reliable source will turn up (perhaps the wording has an obvious point of view), move the information to the article talk (discussion) page, noting in your edit summary that you're doing so, and comment on the talk page about your doubts.
For biographical information, see the Biographies of living persons policy (WP:BLP). This says that contentious material about a living person that is unsourced or poorly sourced should be removed immediately. This applies both to negative and positive information about a person. Check the policy before you remove any information, and cite the policy when you do.
  • Implausible. If you have the time and interest, consider using a search engine to see if you can find a source. If you don't find a source, or don't have time, remove the information, but don't mention vandalism in the edit summary. Instead, say that the editor is free to add back the information if a source is provided.
  • Controversial and negative. Generally, you can remove information like this on sight. It's potentially libelous, and a clear violation of WP:BLP if it concerns a living person. In the edit summary, note that the editor's free to add it back if a source is provided.

Ideally, whenever you decide not to revert an edit that added unsourced material to an article, letting some or all of the material stay in the article (because it's not a serious problem), you should take a moment to post a note regarding the problem on the user talk page of the editor who added the material. The Needsource template makes it easy. Add a new section to the talk page with the heading [[Articlename]] and the text: {{subst:Needsource|Articlename}} ~~~~.

Many editors don't know about Wikipedia's requirements for providing a source. It's a chicken and egg problem—so much information is unsourced that it's not obvious that adding more is wrong. If more editors posted Needsource notes, then the problem of unsourced information would start to shrink.

When the source isn't reliable[edit]

A reliable source is a published work regarded as trustworthy or authoritative in relation to the subject at hand. Self-published works, particularly personal Internet blogs, discussion forums, and personal and social Web pages are almost always considered unreliable. Wikipedia:Reliable sources (shortcut: WP:RS) goes into more detail about the requirements of Wikipedia's policy on verifiability (WP:V).

An exception to the general rule about self-published information is if it's published by an established expert on the topic. An expert is someone whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications. These self-published sources are acceptable, but Wikipedia still discourages their use in favor of more standard sources. If nothing else, that policy eliminates arguments about whether a specific person is an acknowledged expert and whether the self-published information is relevant to their expertise.

You can often determine that a source is unreliable just by the URL, or by the citation information. If it's not obvious, and the source is online, follow the link and make a determination.

If you find information that's supported by an unreliable source, do the following:

  • If the cited source is online, be sure to follow the link. Sometimes an unreliable source, like a blog, has a link to a newspaper story or other source that is reliable. If you find a reliable source, edit the article to change the source.
  • If you can't find a reliable source as a substitute (using a search engine is another option, if you have time), then evaluate the information as if it were unsourced (as described in the previous section), and take appropriate action.
  • If you decide to remove unreliably sourced information based on the previous section (treating it as if it had no source), make sure your edit summary includes an explanation, like source provided was not [[WP:RS|reliable]].
  • If you decide to leave the added information in the article, even though it's essentially unsourced, edit the article to delete the unreliable source and put {{citation needed}} in its place. That action, and, ideally, a note on the editor's user talk page, alerts the editor who added the information that it needs a reliable source.

Correct wording[edit]

If you've made it this far in the process, and have taken care of any policy and sourcing issues, it's time to shift your focus to the wording of the information added to an article. In "Proper weight and balance" above, you saw how to evaluate information added to an article for neutrality and balance. Now you need to see whether these issues exist in the wording itself.

Even when information is taken verbatim from a reliable source, it can be problematical. Omitting key phrases like "Some critics in the opposition party have charged that" can shift an article's point of view to one side of an arguments or the other. Also, as mentioned above, the added text may include excessive detail on certain points.

Verbatim copying not only isn't a solution to the issue of weight and balance, it also raises copyright issues, particularly where a large percentage of the text in a source has been copied into a Wikipedia article. Don't copy text except for direct quotes from a person, or when the source supports a controversial point (as in, for example, "The Washington Post reported that Fernandes ‘would like to see the institution become more inclusive of people who might not have grown up using sign language.'")

Editing a Wikipedia article to get exactly the right wording is an art, not a science. It's impossible to come up with a comprehensive checklist, because the English language is so diffuse and flexible. Fortunately, you're not required to get the wording perfect, just to try to improve it when you see problems. If you do that, and other editors do the same, then the wording will improve with every edit.

Here are two pages to consult when wording is at issue. Each has a lot of good examples:

Resolving content disputes informally[edit]

The first part of this chapter focused on ways to decrease the probability of getting into a content dispute. But if you're editing articles, such disputes are almost inevitable, unless no one else cares enough to edit the same articles. This section shows you what to do if someone disputes one of your edits, or disagrees with how you responded to one of their edits. When you're in a content dispute, your goal should be to resolve the matter informally. You usually try to reach an informal resolution by discussing the matter on the article talk page, as discussed in the section about article talk pages.

With any luck, both you and the other editors who get involved in the discussion about content are reasonable, respectful of the other editors (who are also unpaid volunteers), and focused solely on what's best for Wikipedia. Taking that approach improves the chances of a successful outcome. If you find yourself disagreeing with another editor about content, start with the following suggestions. You'll be much less likely to need to use more formal methods to resolve matters.

Avoid incivility and personal attacks[edit]

"Discuss edits, not editors" above stressed the importance of avoiding incivility, and assuming good faith. Those objectives hold even more true once a dispute is underway. Don't make disagreements a personal matter if you want to easily resolve content disagreements.

Look for compromises[edit]

Remember that your goal is to improve an article, not to win an argument. As the guideline Wikipedia:Etiquette (shortcut: WP:EQ) puts it, "Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste." Ski instructors tell new students, "If you're not falling, you're not learning." In Wikipedia, when you edit articles, you should consider your errors (when pointed out) as an indication that you're learning. There's absolutely nothing wrong if your changes to an article weren't perfect. What's absolutely wrong is defending something because you did it and another editor didn't like it, and you think that somehow you have to defend the edit simply because it's yours.

An example of a compromise, where information posted by another editor seems plausible and there's no problem with wording, is to put a "citation needed" template (like {{citation needed|date=June 2024}} into the article, rather than removing the information for lack of a source.

If your goal, even for controversial content, is to get everything that you think belongs in an article into that article, and to have the wording exactly as you want it, then you're just asking for more arguments. You're not going to reach those goals without a grinding battle that consumes time much better spent editing (or doing just about anything else). Here are three goals that are far more achievable than getting exactly what you want:

  • Get enough information into an article so that readers have at least a basic sense of why a topic is interesting and important, and what that topic is.
  • Keep incorrect information out of an article, so that readers aren't misled.
  • Keep good links and sources in an article, so that interested readers can follow the links and read the sources for more information.

Remember also that a bitter, protracted battle over content can play a large part in a decision by an editor to quit Wikipedia. (If you're not enjoying editing, why do it?) When you know that the other editors involved in a discussion are valuable contributors to Wikipedia, be especially certain that discussion about content is a constructive, pleasant one. By contrast, if you battle over every point and refuse to concede anything, you hurt Wikipedia in many ways.

Pick your fights

Some things are worth trying to get right in a Wikipedia article; for example, the facts about a group that some consider a cult. Other things aren't worth battling over; for example, the absolutely correct phrase to describe the underlying concept engine of a role-playing computer game. (In the latter case, just use the wording in the best available source, even if it's slightly wrong. Good enough is good enough.)

When you edit at Wikipedia, you'll eventually run into an editor who cares way more about an article than you do. If you get into a disagreement with someone like that, balance the amount of time you'd have to struggle with that editor over content with the time you could spend working on other things at Wikipedia instead. And you also have to consider the satisfaction and enjoyment factor. There's no point burning yourself out fighting a battle, and then quitting Wikipedia altogether.

On the other hand, you don't have to abandon an article at the first sign of a dispute. Just keep the following points in mind:

  • Wikipedia has lots of editors. You're not personally responsible for any particular article.
  • If you're disputing with only one or two other editors, that's a sign that the article may not be that important.
  • If you're making progress in a discussion, stick with it. If you're not, get others involved as soon as you can (see "Resolving disputes with assistance" below).
  • When you make your points on an article talk page, you leave valuable information for other editors, in the future, to restart the discussion. So if you leave the article, your efforts have still been useful. (That's one reason why succinct arguments, with links to relevant policies and guidelines, are so important.)

Disengage for a while[edit]

A very experienced editor once said that the most effective tactic he knew was to post, on a user talk page, the message, "It's getting late, let's continue this tomorrow or the day after that." Waiting a day or two gives everyone's inner caveman (who always wants to fight back) a chance to settle down. Then you can look at the discussion with better perspective.

In WP:DR, disengagement is the second step in the dispute resolution process. The policy says that the simplest way to resolve a dispute is to simply stop having it. You can just stop editing the article or you can ask another editor to join in, and defer to that editor's suggestions. Work on other articles instead. By the time you return to the disputed article, it'll have evolved, other editors will have worked on the problem, and the disagreement may no longer exist.

Disengagement is also good because it gives you a chance to do a reality check. The following two essays may help get you into an effective frame of mind:

Resolving disputes with assistance[edit]

It may be clear, after some discussion, that you and other editors involved in a content dispute aren't making much progress in resolving a dispute. Sometimes no one's aware of a particularly relevant policy or guideline; sometimes one side or the other can't state clearly what they object to or why; and sometimes editors have different opinions about what's acceptable at Wikipedia. Regardless of the reason, some informal discussions just aren't particularly productive.

Wikipedia has a number of ways editors in a dispute can get assistance. Don't hesitate to use them when progress slows or stops. These resources exist because editors do need help, even when everyone's being reasonable. (And, unfortunately, sometimes editors aren't reasonable, so getting help is even more important.)

As mentioned earlier, Wikipedia:Dispute resolution (shortcut: WP:DR) lays out the recommended process for resolving content disputes. Which processes you use, and in what order, depends on the nature of the dispute. But in general, try following the order listed in this section, starting with editor assistance. And take it slow: The Wikipedia community doesn't like what it calls forum shopping, where the same question is posted on multiple pages without waiting to see if the first posting gets satisfactory answers.

With the exception of the first of these six options—editor assistance—any time there's a content discussion somewhere other than the article talk page, someone should add a note to the article talk page that links to that outside discussion.

Editor assistance[edit]

Wikipedia:Editor assistance (shortcut: WP:EA) is an informal way of getting one-to-one advice, feedback, and counseling from another, more experienced editor. You can get this advice in two ways: You can post something on the Requests page, or you can contact one of the editors listed on the primary page.

If you ask at the editor assistance page, it should be about processes and policy, not to get a tie-breaking vote regarding content. Or, put differently, you should be looking for a way to restart or improve the informal discussion, if possible, not trying to get someone else to join in the discussion among you and other editors. (If you want to get other editors to join an existing discussion, you can ask at a WikiProject or use the RfC process, below.)

If you decide to go the route of asking an editor directly for advice, be sure to check the User Contributions page of the editor you're thinking of asking. You want to pick someone who has edited in the last day or so, not someone who has largely stopped editing but has forgotten to remove their name from the list.

Subject specific pages[edit]

If the matter involves some specialized knowledge, like terminology for Canadian football, then a good place to ask for comments is at a WikiProject (Chapter 9: WikiProjects and other group efforts). For example, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Canadian football. You can find the directory of WikiProjects—over a thousand exist—at Wikipedia:WikiProject Council/Directory (shortcut: WP:PROJDIR).

If the matter concerns the interpretation of a policy or guideline, try posting a question at the talk page of the policy or guideline. For example, suppose editors disagree on whether combining statistics from a report is a synthesis of information that's not allowed by the "no original research" policy. In that case, posting at the page Wikipedia talk:No original research might get a good answer from an editor who is particularly interested in how the policy has been interpreted in the past, or should be interpreted. (If you don't get much of a response in 3 or 4 days, try another approach.)

It's courteous to discuss, with the other editors involved in a content dispute, the wording of a query before you post it. In fact, the process of agreeing on wording may clarify matters. Don't try to bias the wording to favor your side of the argument, and if you get some proposed wording from the other side that seems biased, don't comment about the perceived bias, just propose a change. User talk pages are good places to discuss such wording, since it's about process, not about content changes to the article.

Third opinions[edit]

Wikipedia:Third opinion (shortcut: WP:3O) is a place to request a third-party mediator to review the arguments presented and offer an opinion. Only two editors can be involved; if there are more, you have to use another alternative. After you post the request, a mediator (from a group of editors who have volunteered to help) will read the discussion and post their opinion. Hopefully that editor's opinion will help resolve things. (The chances are better that it will if the other editor has agreed to the WP:3O process, though agreement's not mandatory.)

Informal mediation[edit]

The Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard (shortcut: WP:DRN) provides informal mediation for disputes on Wikipedia.

This informal mediation is only as good as the mediators who handle each case, who are other editors (unscreened volunteers) with limited time. If your mediator vanishes, don't be shy about posting a request for a new one. And don't expect an instant response, since the service may have a backlog. Some mediators here are very good, but they can only make progress if both sides are willing to try for an acceptable compromise. If the mediator proposes something that you can live with, but isn't perfect, give strong consideration to accepting that proposal. (Good wording is, "That's okay with me if it's okay with the others.")

Requests for comments[edit]

On Wikipedia:Requests for comment (shortcut: WP:RFC), you'll find a link at the top of the page to the section "Request comment through talk pages". Article RfCs are split out by general topic; pick whichever area seems appropriate.

RfCs aim to get a number of other editors to join in a discussion, thereby (hopefully) getting something approaching (rough) consensus. Splitting RfCs into a number of general topics is intended to encourage editors to pick an area and comment on a number of RfCs in that area.

Although RfCs are the first step in the Wikipedia's formal dispute resolution process, an RfC does not result in a formal decision or in any enforcement action by administrators. Rather, the intent is that the involved editors, in view of comments by others that are posted via the RfC, change their minds sufficiently to be able to reach an agreement on changes to the article.