|"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."|
|— Henry Ford|
Author's note: For the younger editors reading this, the title of this piece (and the quote above) is reference to a blog I wrote more than three years ago (some of which I have shamelessly plagiarised) when I was a new, baby-faced user. How times have changed.
I have a beard now and everything.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin.
There have been a number of instances in the past few weeks that have led to some intense discussions and interactions between users, interactions that have sometimes become unnecessarily hostile. In light of that, I wanted to write this blog with some tips coming from my own experience as a user here that I hope people can take on board, and maybe help alleviate some of this tension. I will preface this by saying that these are not intended to call out specific users, and are merely general points that I hope can be helpful.
- Disagreement does not mean disrespect
- This statement is a particular favourite of mine, so I thought it would be a good one to start with. Just because another user disagrees with your opinion does not mean they are showing disrespect. Disagreement is an inevitable part of a wiki with a strong emphasis on collaboration and community, but just because someone disagrees with what you wrote, it doesn't mean they are forcing their opinion onto you, or bullying you into submission. Disagreement of an opinion does not mean disrespect of the user.
- Consider how you come across
- This point is one that regularly comes up in conversations on internet discussion. In conversation, context and emphasis is everything. The same sentence said in different ways can have completely different meanings. The problem with the internet is that how something is being said doesn't always come across. The person on the other end only has what you have written and, without further context or prior knowledge, has to take that at face value. Maybe your intended meaning is not supposed to be hurtful, but taken at face value may seem that way. Remember therefore that your intended meaning and how it actually comes across won't always be the same.
- The War Room is there for a reason
- Too many times, I see users complain about aspects of the wiki they don't like or agree with (primarily policy or user rights), but then don't do anything about it. The War Room isn't there just to look pretty, it exists for people to propose changes. If you think something should be changed, write a proposal detailing why and the community will debate it. If you think someone should be demoted, propose as such saying why you think that is the case, and the community will debate it; no-one will stop you from doing that, and in fact the administrators will typically help you in making such a proposal. Community consensus is the basis for everything on this wiki, but things can only be changed if someone proposes to change them.
- The administrators are not the source of all evil
- The administrators are not the evil overlords of the wiki; they are experienced users who have been given additional rights by the community to allow them to maintain the wiki. They are often called upon for their input when there is a disagreement, in the hopes that they can mediate some sort of compromise or prevent further infractions. This sometimes means that they have to make decisions on blocking users, which can in turn draw further ire directed at them. Let me note that administrators don't like blocking people, and will only do so when it becomes necessary to prevent further problems. They would much rather users become part of the community and contribute towards making the wiki better, and like everyone else, will welcome users that wish to do that. Decisions they make should not be taken personally, since they are not intended to be personal. They will be more than willing to help answer questions, or explain why they felt such actions were required. And, as I noted above, if you feel an administrator has abused their position, they will be more than happy to help you in creating a forum to propose the removal of their rights. All in all, they're pretty great, and I thank them for the work they do for this wiki.
- Work together, not against
- It is far more productive for the wiki if, when a disagreement does happen, you see the other user as a partner rather than an opponent. Working together to come to an agreement or decide upon a compromise that is acceptable to both parties is far better than continually fighting against the other user trying to get your way. Not only does it reinforce the idea that wiki's are built on collaboration, it can also potentially lead to something better than either user could create on their own. Synergy, bro!
- If someone antagonises you, don't antagonise them back
- Whilst we would of course hope that every user would maintain respect in their interactions with other users, this doesn't always happen. If another user is antagonising you or acting disrespectful, the worst thing you can do is to respond in the same way. That old adage "two wrongs don't make a right" applies directly here; just because someone is breaking policy in their comments to you, does not give you free reign to do the same. Either way, it is still breaking policy. Best thing to do is either respond to them in a calm and respectful manner, or ignore them and leave a message on the admin noticeboard asking for the issue to be looked into.
- Don't take things personally
- Having an edit undone or a War Room proposal go against you can be disheartening, but remember that it isn't meant to be personal. There have been instances in the past where I've disagreed with the community consensus on a War Room issue, but ultimately I know that any disagreement with my views was not personal, merely a difference of opinion. There are some War Room decisions that I still don't agree with, and there are some for which I have come to realise that my initial position was wrong. If I'd taken it personally every time someone had disagreed, I probably wouldn't be here. Remember; disagreement does not mean disrespect.
- Don't make things personal
- Discussions on certain issues can sometimes become heated, particularly when two users are passionate about their point of view, but always remember to maintain respect in your comments and not become personal in your desire to argue your point. In my view, as soon as you unnecessarily call into question another user's integrity or intelligence, you have lost the argument. Debate and argue against the opinion, not the person.
- Status quo isn't a final decision
- When there is a continual back and forth of editing and undoing, known as an edit war, it is standard practice to revert the state of the article to how it was before the disagreement took place. If the disagreement is on whether something should be added, this will mean keeping the article without the addition; if it is over whether something should be removed, this will mean keeping it in. This does not mean that is how the article will stay. If after being discussed, the decision is to add it in, it will be added. The changing of the article to status quo is merely to be a fair way to leave an article whilst there is disagreement. And please, respect this while the discussion is ongoing. Do not just re-add the point several hours later, or in certain cases when the article is no longer protected. The edit will only be undone.
- Edit summaries are not just for show, they have a purpose
- The edit summary is how you let other users know your reason for making an edit. Sometimes it might be obvious (fixing a code error, correcting some spelling), and so only a few words are needed just to reaffirm the reasoning. But it is not always obvious why an edit is made, particularly when a large amount of content is being removed. In such cases, it becomes even more important to say why you are doing what you are doing. If you disagree with something being there, say why you disagree. If something is incorrect, say why it is incorrect. If you are changing something based on a more recent official source, provide the location of the new information. A case in particular is when a decision has been made regarding an article on the message walls, and you are editing the page to reflect this; not everyone will have been aware of the discussion, or notice this is why the article is being changed, so make sure to provide a link to the discussion.
- Be nice
- A simple statement to finish on, but one that I think encompasses much of the rest of this blog. In interacting with other users, try be nice and helpful rather than malicious and a hindrance. This place would suck if nobody helped one another, and frankly that isn't a place I would want to spend my time. When talking to other users, try to keep your messages positive, regardless of the content of the message itself. If someone made a mistake, don't just call them out on it or demean them for their error; if their edit was made in good faith, thank them for their contribution, and explain to them why their edit was undone, perhaps providing links to the corresponding policy page, which they might not be aware of. One of things that I like to do, particularly with new users, is to let them know that they can message me if they every have any problems or issues. Since we want their first experience on the wiki to be positive, letting them know they are free to ask questions, however stupid those questions may seem, helps do this.
There's quite a lot here, but I hope these points can be helpful in diffusing some of the tension between users when they have a disagreement. People come here to have fun, so that's the sort of atmosphere we want the wiki to have.
tl;dr - Be nice. Have fun. Always look before crossing the road.