Wikibooks:Resolving disputes

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Avoidance

The best way to resolve a dispute is to avoid it in the first place. Be respectful to others and their points of view. This means primarily: Do not simply revert changes in a dispute.

When someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit rather than reverting it. Provide a good edit summary when making significant changes that other users might object to. The revision you would prefer will not be established by reverting. Discuss disputed changes on the talk page. If you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior, resist the temptation to respond unkindly, and remain civil.

Following the neutral point of view policy can help you write "defensively" and limit your own bias in your writing.

Step One: Discuss

The first step in resolving a conflict is to discuss the issue. Use the talk page associated with the module in question or contact the other party on that user's talk page. Never carry on a dispute on the module page itself. When discussing an issue, stay cool and do not mount personal attacks. Remember, "No personal attacks" includes saying to another editor "this needs a professional opinion from someone who knows what they are talking about". Take the other person's perspective into account and try to reach a compromise. Find specific areas where there is agreement, and build on those areas rather than focusing on areas of disagreement. Assume that the other person is acting in good faith unless you have clear evidence to the contrary.

Both at this stage and throughout the dispute resolution process, talking to other parties is not simply a formality to be satisfied before moving on to the next stage. Sustained discussion, respectful consideration, and serious negotiation, even if not immediately successful, shows that you are interested in finding a good solution. Failure to pursue discussion in good faith shows that you are trying to escalate the dispute instead of resolving it. Take a long-term view. The wiki process is designed to be self-healing. The disputed section will continue to evolve and other editors may become interested and bring in different perspectives.

Often the most important thing is to stay calm. If the situation is making you angry, your immediate comments and reactions might not be something you'll be proud of later, and making the person you're having a dispute with angry isn't going to help. A few things that might be helpful at this stage include:

  • Writing replies (even angry ones) but not saving them until you've had time to cool your temper.
  • Taking a break from the conflict for a few days.
  • Asking a friend to have a look (either another Wikibookian, a fellow contributor from other wikis, "real life" friends, web forum friends, etc.)

It's also not always a bad idea to make a formal request for comments (see Step Three, below) before it becomes a heated argument, if you think it might be headed that way. Also remember that our policy on Wikibooks is that we should all be civil in our dealings with one another: rather than responding in kind, please notify the administrators if the person you are having a conflict is not following this policy.

Compromise

Compromise, don't stifle other editors simply because you are certain that you are right.

Textbooks are not leading edge publications and can contain consensus content that is out of date - students are given the best marks for "textbook" answers rather than right answers and, in a good institution, the very best marks for entering both. The latest discoveries may need to be identified as such and entered alongside accepted wisdom.

In the case of content disputes there can sometimes be minority views in a particular field. A textbook may contain such views in a separate section provided they are clearly labelled as such. However, it would be sensible to provide at least one peer reviewed reference for such a view to be included.

In some cases it may become apparent that a book's scope is too large, and different approaches or focuses are interfering with one another. In such cases there may genuinely be a need for two books (see Wikibooks:Forking policy).

In the case of intractable disputes about presentation it may be useful for all parties to agree to engage the services of the Editorial Board for a binding decision.

Step Two: Mediation

If things are getting a bit tricky, it might be useful to ask some cool heads to look in and help out; this might be sufficient to do the trick. Contact an experienced Wikibooks user or even an administrator to help mediate the situation. Experienced editors are often well-versed in Wikibooks policies and editing styles. Bringing a mentor or leader into a book's discussion will often resolve any disputes as well as improve overall book quality and direction.

In the case of content disputes, it is possible to ask the Wikibooks:Editorial board to act as a mediator, or to make a comment on the issue. The editorial board may decline such a request, however, at the discretion of the board members. Disputants may agree between themselves that the mediation by the Editorial Board should be binding, this could be a good way of clearing an impasse so that the book can be completed.

Step Three: Request for Comments

If mediation fails to produce an acceptable result, the issue may be raised to the entire community via a post in the reading room. The community will come to consensus on the matter, and the decision of the community is considered binding and final.