Disagreements on Wikipedia are normal; editors will frequently disagree with each other, particularly on content decisions. Editors are expected to engage in good faith to resolve their disputes, and must not personalise disputes. Many disputes can be resolved without external input, through gradual editing, discussion, and attempts to understand the legitimate objections of others.
If discussion stalemates, editors may seek outside input to help resolve the dispute. Disputes over content have multiple venues for outside help, and related discussions can also be advertised on the talk pages of relevant WikiProjects to receive participation from interested uninvolved editors. Processes for resolving content disputes with outside help include asking for a third opinion, seeking help from a mediator, making a request at an appropriate noticeboard, or opening a request for comment. Issues of conduct may be addressed at the incidents noticeboard, and may be taken to the arbitration committee for more complex disputes.
For issues that demand immediate attention, please see urgent situations.
Resolving content disputes
|This section in a nutshell: Resolve disputes as soon as they arise. When two editors disagree over what to do with an article, they must talk things through politely and rationally.
There are many methods on Wikipedia for resolving disputes. Most methods are not formal processes and do not involve third-party intervention. Respond to all disputes or grievances, in the first instance, by approaching the editor or editors concerned and explaining which of their edits you object to and why you object. Use the article talk page or their user talk page to do so; be civil, polite, and always assume good faith.
Follow the normal protocol
When you find a passage in an article that is biased, inaccurate, or unsourced the best practice is to improve it if you can rather than deleting salvageable text. For example, if an article appears biased, add balancing material or make the wording more neutral. Include citations for any material you add. If you do not know how to fix a problem, ask for help on the talk page.
To help other editors understand the reasoning behind your edits, always explain your changes in the edit summary. If an edit is too complex to explain in an edit summary, or the change is contentious, add a section to the talk page that explains your rationale. Be prepared to justify your changes to other editors on the talk page. If you are reverted, continue to explain yourself; do not start an edit war.
Discuss with the other party
Talking to other parties is not a mere formality, but an integral part of writing the encyclopedia. Discussing heatedly or poorly – or not at all – will make other editors less sympathetic to your position, and prevent you from effectively using later stages in dispute resolution. Sustained discussion between the parties, even if not immediately successful, demonstrates your good faith and shows you are trying to reach a consensus. Try negotiating a truce or proposing a compromise through negotiation.
Do not continue edit warring; once sustained discussion begins, productively participating in it is a priority. Uninvolved editors who are invited to join a dispute will likely be confused and alarmed if there are large numbers of reverts or edits made while discussion is ongoing.
Talk page discussion is a prerequisite to almost all of Wikipedia's venues of higher dispute resolution. If you wish at any time to request a third opinion (3O) or request for comment, use the Dispute Resolution Noticeboard (DRN), or open a request for arbitration, you will be expected to show there has been talk page discussion of the dispute. Actual discussion is needed; discussion conducted entirely through edit summaries is inadequate.
Focus on content
Focus on article content during discussions, not on editor conduct; comment on content, not the contributor. Wikipedia is written through collaboration, and assuming that the efforts of others are in good faith is therefore vital. Bringing up conduct during discussions about content creates a distraction to the discussion and may inflame the situation.
Focusing on content, and not bringing up conduct, can be difficult if it seems other editors are being uncivil or stubborn. Stay cool! It is never to your benefit to respond in kind. When it becomes too difficult or exhausting to maintain a civil discussion based on content, you should seriously consider going to an appropriate dispute resolution venue detailed below; but at no juncture should you lose your temper. Wikipedia is not like a lot of the Internet: we expect editors to be polite and reasonable at all times.
Most situations are not actually urgent; there are no deadlines on Wikipedia, and perfection is not required. At all stages during discussion, consider whether you should take a break from the dispute. Taking a deep breath and sleeping on it often helps. You can always return to the discussion later, but at least you will return without an inflamed temper. You may also want to consider leaving the discussion altogether as well.
Take a long-term view of the situation. You will probably be able to return and carry on editing an article when the previous problems no longer exist and the editor you were in dispute with might have moved on. The disputed article will continue to evolve, other editors may become interested, and they might have different perspectives if the issue comes up again. Even if your position on the article is not accepted, it might be in the future.
Disengaging is particularly helpful when in dispute with new users, as it gives them a chance to familiarise themselves with Wikipedia's policies and culture. There are currently 6,789,611 articles on Wikipedia. Consider focusing your contributions on another article, where you can more easily make constructive edits.
Requesting other editors' help for content disputes
If you cannot resolve the dispute through discussion with the other editor, you may request participation from interested editors uninvolved in the discussion, to build consensus for your changes. Several venues are available, listed below, to find editors who may be able to assist. But be mindful that after a couple of editors decline to provide input, you may want to consider going to the next step or disengage altogether. Because if you keep seeking input, it may look to others like disruptive editing or forum shopping.
Participation in dispute resolution is voluntary and no one is required to participate. However, discussion can still proceed and consensus may be reached without the non-participating editor's input. Administrators and the community may take into consideration the degree and nature of an editor's participation in dispute resolution when deciding if an editor's activities are productive.
Article talk page
Most content dispute discussions should start at the disputed article's talk page. This is a good place to talk to the other editor in the dispute, and also to get opinions from additional editors. Usually an article will be on other editors' watchlists, and other editors may see your conversation and join the discussion.
Related talk pages or WikiProjects
If your dispute is related to a certain content area, you can ask your question or publicize a related discussion on the talk page of relevant WikiProjects[a] or other pages. For example, a dispute at the article Battle of Stalingrad could be mentioned at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history. To keep discussion centralized at the original talk page, you may just want to leave a link to the original talk page and a brief invitation to join the discussion, rather than restarting the discussion on the new talk page.
Third opinion is an excellent venue for small disputes involving only two editors.
If your dispute is related to the application of a specific policy or guideline, you may wish to post in one of these noticeboards (below) to get input from uninvolved editors familiar with that topic.
- Biographies of living persons noticeboard – Generally for cases where editors are repeatedly adding defamatory or libelous material over an extended period, in violation of the biographies of living persons policy
- Conflict of interest noticeboard – to raise questions and alerts about possible conflicts of interest editing
- Neutral point of view noticeboard – to raise questions and alerts about the neutrality of an article
- Fringe theories noticeboard – for questions related to articles on fringe theories
- No original research noticeboard – to raise questions and alerts about material that might be original research or source synthesis
- Reliable sources noticeboard – for discussion of whether or not a source is reliable
- External links noticeboard – to raise questions and alerts about external links
Requested moves (RM) is a process to request community-wide input on the retitling of the article. RMs should be used when there is a dispute about what the title of an article should be, or when the user anticipates that a move would be contentious; while the RM is ongoing, the article should remain at its stable title. To solicit responses from a large number of editors, RMs can further be publicized via noticeboards or relevant WikiProject talk pages. RM discussions take place on a relevant article's talk page.
Requests for comment
Request for comment (RfC) is a process to request community-wide input on article content. RfCs can be used when there is a content-related dispute, or simply to get input from other editors before making a change. To solicit responses from a large number of editors, RfCs can be publicized via noticeboards or relevant WikiProject talk pages. An RfC bot will also automatically notify the feedback request service pool of editors. RfC discussions related to article content take place on article talk pages.
Dispute resolution noticeboard
The Dispute resolution noticeboard (DRN) is the place where editors involved in a content dispute can have a discussion facilitated by uninvolved volunteers, in an attempt to find compromise and resolution to disputes. The volunteers are experienced Wikipedia editors with knowledge in dispute resolution. Disputes are sometimes referred to a more appropriate venue (such as Requests for Comment).
Resolving user conduct disputes
The difference between a conduct and a content dispute is that, in a conduct dispute, the actions of a user (such as how an editor edits or the comments the editor makes about other users) is the overriding issue. If there would be no substantive dispute if the editor was not behaving in a disruptive or unprofessional way, then it is a conduct dispute; if the primary issue is that two editors cannot agree on what the content of an article should be, then it is a content dispute.
User talk page
If the issue is a conduct dispute (i.e., editor behavior) the first step is to talk with the other editor at their user talk page in a polite, simple, and direct way. Try to avoid discussing conduct issues on article talk pages. There are several templates you may use to warn editors of conduct issues,[b] or you may choose to use your own words to open a discussion on the editor's talk page. In all cases, and even in the face of serious misconduct, please try to act in a professional and polite manner. Turn the other cheek.
If discussion with the editor fails to resolve the issue, you may ask an administrator to evaluate the conduct of the user. You can ask for an administrator's attention at a noticeboard such as the administrators' noticeboard for incidents (ANI). Conduct complaints that fall into certain sub-categories of misconduct have their own administrators' noticeboard; for example, complaints about edit warring should be made at the edit warring noticeboard (AN3), and requests for enforcing an Arbitration Committee decision at the arbitration enforcement noticeboard (AE). Administrators and the community will look to see if you have tried to resolve the conflict before escalating, and they will look at your behavior as well as the behavior of the other editor or editors. Administrators have wide latitude to use their permissions to stop misconduct and damage to the encyclopedia; for example, an editor who is making personal attacks, and does not stop when you ask them, may be warned by an administrator and subsequently blocked.
Sockpuppet investigations is for evaluating concerns that two users may be sockpuppets (editors who are operating two accounts pretending to be different people, or blocked editors returning under a different account). Requests for comment on usernames and usernames for administrator attention (UAA) are the main methods of bringing attention to usernames which may be inappropriate.
Last resort: arbitration
If you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, and the dispute is not over the content of an article, you can request arbitration. Be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute by other means. Arbitration differs from other forms of dispute resolution in that the Arbitration Committee will consider the case and issue a decision, instead of merely assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. If the issue is decided by arbitration, you will be expected to abide by the result. If the case involves serious user misconduct, arbitration may result in a number of serious consequences up to totally banning someone from editing, as laid out in the arbitration policy.
Conduct disputes with administrators
If you have a dispute regarding the conduct of an administrator, Wikipedia:Administrators § Grievances by users ("administrator abuse") lists some additional options available to you. These may include posting to administrative action review or the administrators' noticeboard. If you are blocked, you may use the unblock template as directed at Wikipedia:Appealing a block § Direct appeal.
Sensitive issues and functionary actions
A small number of user conduct grievances involve sensitive or non-public information. These include issues where an arbitrator, checkuser, or oversighter has stated a privacy issue exists in the case, and disputes where there is a concern of a sensitive or private nature. For example:
- Non-public details: Grievances where the relevant information and evidence are not accessible to all participants or to the community as a whole. This can also happen due to copyright or privacy reasons, BLP, or when the material is on an unsuitable external link.
- "Outing" concerns: When discussion may in effect mean "outing", for example if there is a concern that a user is editing with a secret conflict of interest and the evidence would tend to identify them.
- Serious matters: The issue involves legal concerns, harassment, or allegations that are very serious or perhaps defamatory.
- Advice on divisive and sensitive issues: The issue may potentially be very divisive and advice is needed on how best to handle it (socking by an administrator is one example).
Disputes or issues of this kind should usually be referred to the functionaries mailing list or Arbitration Committee. In some cases it may be possible to seek advice from an uninvolved trusted administrator by IRC, email or other private means. Where an action is marked as CheckUser, Oversight, VRT (formerly OTRS), or Arbitration Committee, that action should not be reverted without checking beforehand. The presumption is that they have a good reason, and those aware of the reason may need time to recheck, consult, and respond. Sometimes the relevant talk page or other wiki pages will have more details and these are always a good first place to check.
Such actions, if disputed, should initially be raised (by email if necessary) with the agent or functionary concerned. Where a dispute about CheckUser and Oversighter actions cannot be resolved in this manner, it should be referred to the functionaries mailing list or the Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee/Audit where appropriate. Disputes about ArbCom actions should be referred to the Arbitration Committee.
For urgent situations
Some situations can be sufficiently urgent or serious that dispute resolution steps are not equipped to resolve the issue. Such situations can be forwarded to the appropriate venue.
|To request or report:
|Deletion of personal information from logs and page histories
|Wikipedia:Requests for oversight
|Unblocking (if you are blocked)
|See the Guide to appealing a block
|Vandalism of an article
|Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism
|Blatantly inappropriate usernames, such as usernames that are obscene or inflammatory
|Wikipedia:Usernames for administrator attention
|Urgent violations of Wikipedia's policies on Personal Attacks
|Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Edit warring
|Other urgent problems with a user's edits
The administrators' noticeboards (e.g. AN and ANI) are not the appropriate place to raise disputes relating to content. Reports that do not belong at these noticeboards will be closed, and discussions will need to be re-posted by you at an appropriate forum – such as the dispute resolution noticeboard (DRN).
Words of caution
Dispute resolution is sometimes used by editors to try to game the system. This generally backfires badly. Please remember that dispute resolution mechanisms are ultimately there to enable editors to collaboratively write an encyclopedia – not to win personal or political battles.
Under Wikipedia:Decisions not subject to consensus of editors, some disputes are resolved in different forums using those forums' methods.
From 2002 to 2007, disputes were discussed at Wikipedia:Conflicts between users. The process subsequently moved to Wikipedia:Requests for comment/User conduct until it was shut down in 2014 and replaced by this policy.
The Mediation Committee (MEDCOM) and the Association of Members' Advocates (AMA) assisted in disputes in the early days of Wikipedia. The MEDCOM was created by Jimbo at the same time that he kicked off ArbCom. The Mediation Cabal (MEDCAB) also existed for a number of years to assist in guerilla dispute resolution, and at one point eclipsed the original MEDCOM in popularity and efficacy.