Conflict management emcompasses all the activities involved in raising, discussing, and resolving both inter-user and content-centered conflicts. It includes the various on-wiki spaces for discussing conflicts, as well as the formal and informal roles played by community members (e.g. mediators, admins, Arbitration Committees).
- Unclear avenues for raising concerns, or reporting about conflicts or harassment. If there is no clear destination for filing complaints or for requesting community resolution of a conflict, contributors, and particularly new contributors, can become frustrated and come up with ways of their own to draw attention to their issue. For example, by disrupting the wiki on another page to make the point, or by complaining in an external blog post.
- Escalations: An original conflict is often escalated into a worse conflict by people connecting it to “baggage”, or previous grievances, disagreements, or past behaviors of the people involved. Escalation usually also broadens the field of disagreement, so multiple arguments begin to develop over different topics, and resolution becomes more difficult.
- Resolution that doesn't resolve: In many cases, resolution needs broad community support, which often implies that the resolution should have been the result of due process and in accordance with community norms and policies. Some actions meant to resolve conflicts, such an individual admin's decision to block a user, or putting something up to a vote outside policy (e.g. without adequate advanced notice, or without notification in appropriate community venues to ensure people had a chance to participate), may not meet community expectations and thus not resolve the conflict adequately or completely.
- Popularity contests: Some conflicts devolve into "popularity contests", with decisions being made (or votes being cast) based on the popularity of supporters on one side of the conflict, instead of being based on the merit of the arguments made.
- Accusations of sock puppetry, leading to lengthy and involved sockpuppet investigations, as well as ill will, demotivation, or departure amongst users accused of sock puppetry.
- An influx of new editors, who join specifically to push a specific viewpoint, or contribute to a high-profile discussion. These new editors lack the background understanding (of the projects, current policies, the movement), and thus lack critical context to contribute constructively. This creates a discussion that rapidly becomes hard for the community to moderate or facilitate.
- Feeding the trolls: Most communities have "trolls", people who deliberately seek to disrupt constructive work through content vandalism, POV-pushing, or through personal attacks and abusive behavior on talk pages. Trolls cause frustration, and if successful in triggering a reaction, can cause escalation and chaos.
- Compile general (non-wiki) resources on conflict management, mediation, psychology of conflict resolution, etc., and make them available in multiple languages.
- Compile wiki-specific resources on conflict management practices from other communities, and make them available in multiple languages.
- Plan and fund local-language workshops for interested community members on conflict management by local professionals. Topics could include "conflict resolution", "consensus building", "online and offline facilitation", etc.
Sketch of a possible capacity-building project
- Conflicts keep escalating; conflicts continue to be circular in nature / arguments
- Increase community capacity to manage conflicts
- Key steps
- Understand and baseline community interest in conflict management training
- Personal outreach to frequent participants in conflicts, to get them interested in training
- Hold in-person training with external expert
- 4-6 months
- Means and resources
- WMF assistance in finding or briefing expert
- WMF funding for travel for in-person meeting.
- Community survey before and after training, to assess: perceived level of conflict (as perceived by two groups: those participating in frequent conflicts, and those who rarely participate in conflicts), the frequency of certain topics of conflicts, the frequency of certain behaviors (e.g. off-topic abusive behavior).
Below is a list of resources that is not comprehensive. Please add any resources you have found useful or help curate this list!
Below is a sample of learning patterns on this topic. Search the Learning Pattern library for other learning patterns on the topic.
- ↑ If there's one thing the Internet teaches us, it's do not feed the trolls. However, that's easier said than done.
- The Wikimedia Foundation is interested in assisting interested communities in developing conflict management capacities, for instance through research, external conversation facilitation, and funding for training and face-to-face meetings.
- Sign up below if you are interested in implementing this in your local community: