Wikipedia:Dispute resolution volunteer survey

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As part of an effort to improve dispute resolution on the English Wikipedia, a survey on editors who had participated in dispute resolution was undertaken in April 2012, and from those results, various changes have been made to the Dispute Resolution Noticeboard, and the Mediation Committee, and two dispute resolution forums have been made historical in favour of a more streamlined approach. A universal wizard to help new users file disputes at the correct forum is under development, and further research on the effectiveness of dispute resolution forums is underway.

Even with all this change, the underlying problem remained - a shortage of volunteers. While existing volunteers have shown themselves to be hardworking, unless a growing pool of volunteers is created, volunteer burnout is inevitable.

To try and counteract this, a second survey was launched. It was offered to 63 existing dispute resolution volunteers (from the dispute resolution noticeboard, Mediation Committee and Arbitration Committee), and asked them about their experiences in dispute resolution, the techniques they use to resolve disputes, what ideas they have to improve dispute resolution, and most of all, what made them start resolving disputes in the first place. A summary of the results are below, along with recommendations I have from the survey results.


63 volunteers were offered the survey, and received 33 total responses (52.4%), however 15 of these were incomplete and thus not able to produce useful data. This left 18 responses which data was taken from.


Out of the 18 respondents:

  • 77% (14) were male, 11% (2) were female and the remainder (2) opted not to say
  • 39% were over 40, with the remainder of participants broken up relatively evenly over the 18-39 age bracket.
  • Most participants were longtime editors, with 77% having been an editor for more than four years
Dispute resolution experiences

When the respondents were asked:

What made you decide to participate in resolving disputes? Common responses were:

  • 5 saw a call to action or noticed a shortage of volunteers;
  • 4 had real life skills in dispute resolution and thought they would translate well onto Wikipedia;
  • 3 wanted to repay for past assistance received from a dispute resolution volunteer; one of these mentioned the satisaction they gained from resolving a dispute successfully as motivation to continue
  • 3 saw an interest in dispute resolution in general;
  • 2 thought it'd be a useful way to contribute to the project

In what nature did you first volunteer at dispute resolution?

  • Five responded to a third opinion, four left comments on a noticeboard, three on a talk page, and three mediated a dispute in a more formal fashion. Two offered their opinion at a requests for comment.

What made you choose this nature of dispute resolution for your first time?

  • Reasons varied greatly depending on the forum that was used, but responses included the inviting nature of the selected forum, simplicity of the processes, noticing a backlog at their selected forum, receiving a call to action to volunteer or wanting to help people as a result of receiving past assistance.
Participation in resolving disputes
  • 12 (67%) participate in resolving disputes at least once a week, and overall, 5 do so on a daily basis. However, 4 participate less than once a month.
  • 14 out of 18 participate in resolving disputes either at the same level, or more than when they first started. This was due to an increased knowledge of how the processes work, seeing the need for more volunteers and more free time. However, the participation of 4 decreased, due to a lack of time or the perception that dispute resolution in general is ineffective.
  • The time it takes to resolve compared to the past showed no definitive results - 5 thought it took less time than in the past, 6 thought it took more time, and 7 saw no change.
  • When asked if there were enough volunteers to resolve disputes, 55% thought that more were required, but 45% thought that the current amount was adequate.
Experiences and general comments about dispute resolution

In your average dispute, what techniques do you use to resolve it?

  • Respondents offered a broad range of techniques they use. Summarised, most participants will start by reading over the dispute in question as well as any background material, put themselves in the shoes of the participants, put a stop to any edit warring or personal attacks, and then while keeping the discussion civilised and calm, encourage the parties to find a common ground and come to a compromise on the dispute, ensuring that policy is adhered to.

What would make you participate more in resolving disputes?

  • Having more free time to resolve disputes, more visible call to actions (like the feedback request service), binding content resolution, creating some formality to the role of a dispute resolution volunteer, creating an improved robot that supports the volunteers more, and the creation of private mediation were all comments made by respondents.

What would make you participate less in resolving disputes?

  • Respondents said that having less free time, disruptive volunteers or participants, lack of recognition and being obligated to resolve disputes are all motivations that would turn them away.

Do you have any ideas on how we can recruit and retain more volunteers to help resolve disputes?

  • Providing more support and training to volunteers- both on how to resolve disputes, done by improving the volunteer guide, but also to explain the complexities of policy was suggested. Additionally, making dispute resolution in general more mainstream by involving wikiprojects and the wiki in large, and having more obvious calls to action was mentioned as an effective way to recruit new volunteers. Reducing the amount of dispute resolution forums would consolidate existing volunteers, and providing volunteers with feedback on their progress would help them improve, while providing them some sense of recognition would make them feel valued, all helping to reduce the attrition rate.

What ideas do you have to make dispute resolution overall more effective and efficient?

  • Make it easier for someone to file a dispute without needing to select a specific forum, hold a community discussion on how best to deal with "vested contributors". Create improved help documentation. Enforcement of policy and existing rules and processes such as civility, reliable sources, and verifiability. Streamline and consolidate the number of dispute resolution forums. Discuss the creation of some form of binding content dispute resolution.


From the results of the survey, it looks like while progress has been made, a lot still needs to be done. The action that we could take to address the issues in the survey are:

  • Set up a central page where all volunteers and potential volunteers can put their name down. This could be used to send them automated invitiations to comment on a dispute (like the Feedback Request Service does now).
  • Further improve the dispute resolution volunteer guide based on discussions with dispute resolution volunteers to identify areas of improvement.
  • Improve the function of the bot after consulting with volunteers to identify areas of improvement.
  • Complete rollout of universal dispute resolution wizard
  • Continue recognition of volunteers through barnstars, discuss alternate options with dispute resolution community
  • Rediscuss options for a community-run binding content resolution method
  • Continue to assess the effectiveness of existing dispute resolution forums and merge with others if/when suitable
  • Have new volunteers complete an entry questionaire, to determine a) Why they decided to do dispute resolution and b) How did they get to the page they are on (In the hopes that we can get more people to that point)
  • Have new volunteers mentor with existing volunteers to learn the ropes.