Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in edit wars
This is an essay on civility.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: When an edit war takes place, arguments should be productive and should be aimed at reaching an agreement, and not about acting superior, having it one's way, or otherwise discounting the other(s) involved.|
|Arguments to avoid in|
|Arguments to make|
"You have broken this rule by saying/doing that."
"That is a violation of [this] policy.
"If you add that to/remove this from this article, it is vandalism."
"You are trying to assert ownership of this article."
"This must be a sock puppet account."
"You obviously have a problem with [subject]."
Yes, there may be actual behaviorial policies and guidelines around. They can be interpreted however one may wish, and can be twisted to fit the beliefs of the one spouting their side of the argument. This is commonly known as Wikilawyering and is not congruous with the guidelines cited in gaming the system.
The act of throwing around such accusations is a lack of assumption of good faith. There is a more civil way of dealing with disputes if you are really concerned about a violation taking place. These concerns may be brought up on various boards, such as Dispute resolution. There are warning templates that can be placed on a user's talk page, but they should be used sparingly, and only when it appears that the user is unfamiliar with such a guideline, or is intentionally breaking it, despite all warning.
"I created this page."
"I have made most of the contributions to this article."
"I started this page; please run all proposed changes through me first."
"I am Wikipedia's top contributor in this field."
"I received a barnstar for this contribution."
"You're not even a member of the WikiProject with scope over this article."
"Those of us who worked hard to push this to Good Article get the final say about what's in it."
On Wikipedia, articles are not owned. Just because you created an article does not mean it is yours to decide how it should be written in the future. Once you save your initial edit, it is out there for anyone else to edit at will.
Being the creator, a major contributor, or a scope-asserting wikiproject in no way, shape, or form grants any special rights to dictate or otherwise decide its contents.
"Now, stay out of this matter."
"I'm right, you're wrong."
"My way or the highway."
Such arguments do not help reach an agreement in any way. They are only one person bullying the other. Wikipedia's mission is to provide readers with the best possible information to everyone. Wanting to have it your way all the time defeats that purpose.
There are no cooldown blocks for those involved in edit warring. The reason why editors can be blocked for edit warring is not as punishment for breaking some rule. Likewise, pages are not fully protected to punish the community or to say a page is so important it cannot be edited. These measures are taken in order to keep the situation under control and prevent further disruption.
Experience/standing on Wikipedia
"I've been around longer than you."
"I have made over 9,000 more contributions than you."
"I am a registered user; your edits were made by an IP."
"I am an autoconfirmed user; you are brand new."
"I have received numerous barnstars."
"I have written these guidelines myself."
"I am an administrator."
There are no vested contributors. No editor has more authority than any other, regardless of prior experience. Edit count and length of time that has passed since your first edit are only numbers. The editor who creates an article or plays a leading role in raising it to Featured article status does not "own" the article. As for titles, these grant only the ability to use certain types of features, not to have any say over which version is more correct.
Expertise in the field
"I am an expert on this topic."
"I have done some professional writing about that."
"I was the inventor/designer/producer of this."
"I have been to this place and seen it myself."
"I met that person and they told me that themself."
"This person is my cousin and I know this information to be untrue."
''I have a college degree. You are a high school dropout.''
You may have a Ph.D in the subject. You may be an internationally recognized expert on the topic. You may have worked in the field for decades. But your own personal knowledge cannot be included in Wikipedia unless it can be verified in reliable sources.
Wikipedia is supposed to be a collection of sourced material, not indiscriminate information. Unverified contribution of material in a subject of one's own so-called expertise may be original research. If one has direct involvement with a company, organization or individual that the article is about, this may violate conflict of interest guidelines.
"This page can no longer be edited; its final version has been published already."
"You do not qualify to edit this page."
"This page has special editing rules that must be followed."
"You must discuss before editing this page."
"Please discuss before making such drastic changes."
It is a big myth on Wikipedia that certain pages, such as some articles on high-profile subjects, Featured articles, templates, and project pages are fixed, and can only be edited by those in a position of authority, with a certain level of experience, with a prior discussion, or otherwise with special permission.
Nothing on Wikipedia is in stone. Not once. Ever. Every page is editable by at least someone, and most pages are editable by everyone. Editors are encouraged to be bold while at the same time wise and responsible in making edits. No pages in any namespace have any individualized guidelines for editing, and all is up to common sense.
Some pages may have some form of protection to prevent some people from editing them. But when this is the case, it is not an endorsement of the current version or an expression of ownership, and the purpose is not to prevent good-faith edits. Protection is here to protect pages only from vandalism and edit warring.
No one wants to face the consequences of edit warring though, so if reverting does occur, no matter what the page, it is better in that case to turn to discussion and come up with a resolution. If reverting once occurs, there are times when you may consider redoing your original edit and explaining your reason in the edit summary. If you are reverted a second time, surely that is a good time to begin discussion.
Generally, it is expected that on policy and guideline pages that a discussion be formed and consensus be assured before any edits (excluding minor ones) are made. In other words, in most cases, policies and guidelines should not unilaterally be changed, and any such changes are likely to be reverted.
"The law in [location] says it should be this way."
"This violates the policy of [company]."
"This is prohibited according to [religious book]."
Wikipedia is not a system of laws. While Wikipedia does respect the well-being of people, companies, organizations, civil laws, and religions, its policies are not dictated by other sets of rules.
"It has been discussed already."
"There is a longstanding consensus about how to treat this issue."
Yes, certain conclusions may have been reached some time back via a discussion. But consensus can change. The surrounding world constantly changes, thereby affecting the standing of material on Wikipedia. A prior agreement or decision may have worked back then. But things are different now. Nothing is ever in stone.
Discussions are never standing policy. They address immediate situations and do not make permanent decisions. Any discussions that have been held a significant amount of time ago may be out of date, based on changes that have taken place either on Wikipedia or in the outside world. The more time that has passed since that discussion, the less likely it is to be applicable.
Threats and intimidation
"If you do that again, I will report you."
"Don't do that or you will be blocked."
"Anyone changing this will be violating [this] policy."
"Do this and you will lose some privileges."
On Wikipedia, personal attacks are not tolerated. In particular, it is unacceptable to threaten another with some form of action that cannot or will not likely be taken. When editors make threats like these, and the environment becomes hostile, the victims, especially those who are new are scared away from Wikipedia altogether.
Three revert rule
"The three-plus reverts I made have been stretched beyond 24 hours."
"I waited some time before I reverted it."
The Three revert rule is a bright-line rule to draw the line somewhere. But making edits in a manner that just barely dodges this time frame does not make one immune from the consequences. An administrator still reserves the right to block an editor if it is obvious they are being disruptive with such constant reverts, and that no progress is being made toward a resolution. Unlike a guideline, Wikipedia enforces this rule.
If an editor were to make four reverts, say, three on January 26 at 9:45 AM, 1:35 PM, and 7:22 PM, and then one on January 27 at 9:46 AM, technically there have not been more than three reverts in a 24-hour period. But it is still a sign of edit warring.
"The hidden text says you shouldn't do that."
"I have already discussed/explained this in the edit summary."
Hidden text can be placed in the Wiki text of pages to help out others with editing the page or to indicate other changes that may come about in the future. But it is not to be used to express ownership of a page, or to instruct or discourage others not to make edits to disagree with one's point-of-view.
Edit summaries are here to let others know how the page was just edited, or to make others looking at the pages's or editor's history aware of the details of previous edits. They are not here to argue a point-of-view, and they are not a substitute for a discussion. In particular, they should not be used to argue back-and-forth during a multiple-revert edit war. Such discussions between two editors should be held on user talk pages or on the discussion page of the article in question. Besides, when the edit summary is used, each message is considered a revert toward the maximum three, while you can post an unlimited number of civil messages on a talk page.