Wikipedia:Third opinion/User FAQ

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These Frequently Asked Questions are maintained by contributors of the WP:Third opinion dispute resolution process. It is intended to help users and potential users quickly identify if this is the right process for them, what to do if things are not working out and what to do once the opinion has been given. You do not need to read through this FAQ before raising a third opinion request but you may find a question you have about how the process works addressed here.

In this article User or Requester is the person (usually you) who raised the third opinion request and Respondent or Third party is the person (usually a third opinion contributor) providing the third opinion.

What makes a successful third opinion request?[edit]

  • Discussion in advance: Discuss the dispute on the talk page as the first step in the process before making a request. A frequently successful technique is to summarise the disagreement on the talk page, fairly stating the case on both sides. If you cannot agree on a fair statement of the dispute, then perhaps other forms of dispute resolution are appropriate.
  • Description of the dispute: the description should be neutral (if it is not, a WP:3O volunteer may re-word the listing for compliance).
  • Keep it simple: specify the main issue to be resolved. A lengthy or complex request is unlikely to be resolved quickly, unlikely to be agreed between the parties and few volunteers will want to take it on.
  • Be clear: for example, "dispute on including Twitter feed links to live train timetable alerts in the External links section" is preferable to "dispute about South West Trains, see the talk page."
  • No other active dispute resolution process: If there is another dispute resolution process (such as RFC) in progress for the dispute, it should be completed before requesting a third opinion.

How long does it take?[edit]

Third opinions can take several days to get a reply depending on how many volunteers are active. If your request is short, neutral and expressed as a clear question then it is more likely to be picked up quickly. If your request was highly contentious or complex then it may be the case that few volunteers feel they can take it on and provide a successful opinion.

If a respondent has taken your request off the list and you are still waiting for a reply more than 24 hours later (and have not received a note asking you to wait a bit longer) then ask the potential respondent on their talk page if they need help in reviewing or finding the information to support their reply.

If you resolve the issue through local discussion before getting a reply, please do not forget to remove your request.

What if my dispute has two viewpoints but multiple editors?[edit]

This may be suitable for a third party request but should be negotiated on the talk page by summarizing the two viewpoints clearly in advance and agreeing that the parties prefer a third opinion as a light-weight process to use. A third party may recommend an alternative process (such as the dispute resolution noticeboard or a RFC) unless the issue is unambiguous and specific.

This process may also be suitable if there are two principal editors involved in the dispute and other editors have contributed only a few technical clarifications.

What if my request is complex?[edit]

Consider what the root cause is. If the root cause were to be resolved then the other issues are likely to be more easily resolved through normal discussion or alternative dispute resolution such as the dispute resolution noticeboard. If your issue is technically or legally complex then it may be better to look for a technical or legal WikiProject to ask for further help rather than this more general process. Many article talk pages have WikiProject banners identifying and linking related projects which may help resolve disputes.

What does "informal" mean?[edit]

The third opinion process is informal in that the process is:

  • Flexible, in that the process to be followed is not overly restrictive and can be adapted if agreed by all involved parties.
  • Light-weight, in that there is no system of proposals and counter proposals or statements.
  • Quick, once the request is picked up the respondent is not expected to do days of research but is asked to quickly review the material and come to a reasonably justified opinion if possible. The issue may be re-listed, or other forms of dispute resolution sought in cases where the respondent chooses to put forth no opinion on the dispute.
  • Not a commitment to action; having received a third opinion the parties are not obliged to follow it. However it is a record of discussion that may be used in support of a later dispute resolution process (such as RfC).
  • Friendly, in that the language used by the respondent and the parties should be assumed to be in good faith and a friendly tone is desirable as it encourages working together. Civility is always expected.
  • Without authority, in that the respondent has no special powers or authority, they are only a fresh pair of eyes looking at the issue. The respondent may have some user access levels but these should not cause the respondent's comments to be viewed as carrying absolute weight. The option to move to an RFC, or more formal dispute resolution is never shameful and carries no prejudice.

What if the respondent is not independent?[edit]

If you realize that the respondent has some previous association with those involved or has previously edited the page under discussion, this may be an oversight by the respondent. Write a note on their talk page to point out what you believe to be their possible involvement or bias (preferably using diffs as evidence). If they have made a mistake then the third party request should be re-listed and any opinions struck out or removed from the talk page.

If the respondent has edited a similar article or family of articles they may still be suitable to deliver a third opinion as their experience may be seen as a benefit. The third party should declare this up front and their suitability agreed by the parties involved.

What happens next?[edit]

  • If the opinion misses the point
Explain why you think they have missed the point and give the respondent a reasonable time to justify or revise their opinion. The third party is unlikely to be an expert on the topic and may unintentionally overlook a detail.
  • If the opinion needs clarification
The reply should be in Plain English but may include references to Wikipedia guidelines and policies. If the response is confusing or you can not see which part of the referenced material applies, then ask for a further clarification. Please remember to remain civil.
  • If the opinion is not accepted
If the opinion given is firmly rejected, it probably is not worth while going over the same ground again. Ask the non-accepting party to clarify their viewpoint and summarize the current situation. Remember to stay cool and give reasonable time for contributions from other editors who may act as local mediators.
Your next step is probably to consider one of the other dispute resolution options. The most common of these at this stage are:
  1. Moving on to a moderated form of dispute resolution such as the Dispute Resolution Noticeboard or Formal Mediation, noting that those processes require willing participation by the parties to the dispute.
  2. A request for comment, a good solution for obtaining the consensus of the community on all or part of the dispute. The current parties to the dispute need not participate in order for a RFC to go forward, but most RFC's take thirty days or more to complete.
  3. Requesting advice on a Wikipedia noticeboard. For example Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard is particularly helpful in those cases where the inclusion of problematic biographical material for a living person is under debate.
  4. Requesting advice on a Wikiproject talk page. Nearly all articles fall within the jurisdiction of a Wikiproject, and the members of that project can be helpful in further bringing about consensus on that page.
  • If the opinion worked and resolved the dispute
Don't forget to express thanks to everyone involved. Positive feedback is encouraged as it shows that their contributions are appreciated which will help to ensure the future of the third opinion project. If the third opinion was especially sage or particularly helpful, you might consider awarding a Third Opinion Award on the talk page of the Wikipedian who gave the opinion.