4. Conflict on Wikipedia

In Wikipedia, many of the disputes between editors are related to the process of “tagging” or deleting articles. These conflicts between editors can escalate into cases of harassment.

4.1 Notification templates (“tagging”)

Some Wikipedia editors focus on tagging articles that need improvement. These are also called “notification templates” or banners, and are displayed at the top of articles/sections. Tags are part of Wikipedia’s peer review process. 

How to proceed: 

  • Read the links within the message box, as they lead to policy pages that offer ideas for improvement.
  • Take time to understand what policies other editors were citing to determine that the article needed tagging. Sometimes articles ARE unfairly tagged because of systemic bias. And yet, deletions/tagging do not always occur because someone was insensitive to the subject matter. It’s often more about needing improved citation, reference, structure, or using less promotional language.
  • Notification templates will say whether they can either be removed, at any time, or if there is a process that needs to take place in order to have the banner removed.
  • The general best practice for tags that say ‘may be removed’ is to write on the article’s talk page the reasons why the tag is no longer relevant or why the article should be in good standing.
  • To get more information, you can message the editor who added the template directly on their talk page or ping them in the article’s talk page. 
  • You may edit/improve the tagged article at any time, and you may alert participants of the deletion discussion that changes have been made.

4.2 Deletion

According to the Deletion policy, there are three main types of deletion: 

  • Speedy Deletion, which means that a page is immediately deleted without prior discussion, because the content constitutes an obvious case of non-compliance with Wikipedia’s policies. 
  • Proposed Deletion, it allows any user who considers that a given article is obviously and uncontroversially not suited to Wikipedia to propose its deletion. If the tag hasn’t been removed in seven days, an admin could delete the article.
  • Deletion discussion, it means that the article is subject to an open community  discussion about its merits for a period of usually no less than seven days, in order to come to a public rough consensus about whether the article is unsuited to Wikipedia.

How to proceed: 

  • You and any editor who disagrees with a deletion is encouraged to fix the noted problem with the page, and also to engage in a dialogue with the Wikipedian that requested/carried out the deletion to resolve the issue (you can find their Username in the “View history” Tab). 
  • The article creator (or another editor) is able to object to a speedy deletion nomination with a rationale for the reviewing administrator to assess before deletion. This can be an opportunity to prevent deletion and to make a case for retention.
  • If you disagree with a Proposed Deletion, you can simply delete the tag. If the article has already been deleted, you can ask an Administrator to restore it as a Sandbox so you can see its content. Make sure the article complies with Wikipedia’s content policies. 
  • If a Deletion discussion is opened on an article you created, you are able to participate in that discussion. See the section below for more information. 
  • Recruiting other editors that you know personally to participate in a Deletion discussion is not permitted, but you can notify potentially interested parties about an ongoing discussion. 
  • Following seven days of Deletion discussion, an experienced Wikipedian, usually an administrator, will determine if a consensus was reached and will “close” the discussion accordingly, and comment on their reasoning or relevant editorial policies.
  • If you need help with understanding any aspect of the deletion process, contact the administrator that closed the Deletion discussion (on their talk page), or another administrator.
  • There is a further appeal process if you think that the closer did not follow Wikipedia’s policies.

How to participate in a deletion discussion:

  • Typically, an editor nominates an article for deletion and provides an explanation for why the article should be deleted. Sometimes these statements contain links, references, and abbreviations related to editorial policies and guidelines such as the General Notability Guideline (WP:GNG).
  • Other participants review this explanation and then can respond with questions, comments, or with a decision to keep or delete the article. 
    • Other actions can also include merge (where content from one article is integrated into another) or redirect (where the article serves as a direct link to an existing Wikipedia article).
  • Consensus is not determined by a number of votes for a particular decision, so it is important to make a strong case when participating in a deletion discussion. Some kinds of arguments are discounted or ignored by the reviewing administrator when determining consensus.
    • Some examples of low quality arguments include statements that
      • just say keep without any explanation,
      • assert the topic is important without supporting sources, or
      • point to a policy or guideline without further explanation.
      • (An essay titled Arguments to avoid in deletion discussions provides numerous other examples and further context.)
    • Some examples of high quality arguments include statements that
      • summarize improvements you or others have made to an article that address to the nominator’s rationale for deletion,
      • provide one or more sources that contain substantial coverage of the topic, where the sources have some process for peer-review or editorial oversight, or
      • Provide other editorial criteria that supports the inclusion of the article.

4.3 Useful templates when creating/editing an article 

There are some templates you can use to notify other users that you are making significant edits to an article and might help you to prevent controversies:

  • In creation: Its intended use is for editors who have made an article prematurely and will be adding content within a matter of minutes or hours. To use it, copy and paste this code at the top of the article {{Template:In creation}}.
  • In use: It’s intended to inform people that someone is currently actively undergoing a major edit on the article. You shouldn’t leave it in place for more than a few hours at most, as doing so may unnecessarily discourage others from contributing to the article.To use it, copy and paste this code at the top of the article {{Template:In use}}.
  • Under construction: You can use this template when you are about to engage in a very major editing or expansion of the article over a longer period of time. It encourages other people to edit during the time that you’re working on it as well. To use it, copy and paste this code at the top of the article {{Template:Under construction}}.

4.4 Policies around user interactions

The page Wikipedia:Etiquette lists a number of behavioral guidelines in Wikipedia. “Wikiquette” is based on common sense intuitions about working together. The most relevant guidelines are:

  • Assume that the other editors are working in good faith
  • Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
  • Be polite and civil.

4.5 What to do if you are in a dispute with an editor

If you find yourself in a dispute with another editor or group of editors because of disagreements about the content of an article or tagging/deletion processes, you can follow these recommendations: 

  • 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. It is important that there is a respectful and productive discussion when conflicts arise. Also, this is usually a prerequisite to effectively access higher stages of dispute resolution.
    • If the conflict is related to a single article, it is usually better to use the article talk page to resolve that conflict. If the conflict is related to multiple articles, it is recommended to use the editor’s user talk page.
  • Do not use personal attacks and use civil voice to best communicate your point of view and try to reach an agreement. 
  • Politely let the others know if you are not comfortable with their tone.
  • Avoid reverts whenever possible, and stay within the three-revert rule except where exemptions apply.
  • You shouldn’t put editorial policies above your own personal welfare and security. In this toolkit you’ll find information about how to proceed if you are subjected to wikihounding or other forms of harassment.

4.6 Dispute resolution instances 

If the discussion process through talk pages is not successful, there are higher stages for resolving an editing conflict: 

  • Third opinion: This process consists in requesting outside opinion in a dispute between only two editors about content or sourcing. Click here to list a dispute.
  • Dispute resolution notice board: A noticeboard dedicated to moderated discussion between participants involved in a general content dispute. We don’t recommend using this stage to report incidents of harassment as this may draw public attention to potentially compromising information about yourself. Click here to list a dispute.
  • Editor assistance: It’s an informal method of requesting one-to-one advice, feedback, and counseling from another editor who are more experienced about Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, and how they may apply to the issue or situation that you are experiencing. Find the list of assistant Wikipedians here. There is also a program titled Adopt-a-user though it is less frequently used on English Wikipedia.