Learning patterns/Disengaging from Wikipedia warfare
What problem does this solve?
The Wikimedia projects may be amazing in many respects; all too often however we forget that community members are only human and thus we are taken aback when we find our work is the object of dispute and unfair attacks. Even if our edits were made with the noblest of intentions and carry multiple levels of added value, this is not evident to everyone. And so the warfare begins: it usually starts out with edit wars on main pages, and soon enough the heat spreads to discussion pages, deletion pages, user pages, the village pump (and the list goes on). You keep saying to yourself "I will not stoop to the level of the discussion, that's it, I'm outta here" only to find yourself retorting time after time. Soon you realize that once again you have wasted valuable time and resources doing something that is leading absolutely nowhere.
What is the solution?
Relax and take it easy on yourself. It's only natural to feel guilt and remorse for engaging in the warfare in the first place; remember, you too are only human! Here's a list of things to do that will help you disengage and avoid getting involved again in the future.
Things to consider
When you're already in the middle of an edit war: JUST STOP
- It's hard to walk away from the conflict when you're being bullied into believing you have done something terribly wrong. Don't believe it! If indeed you HAVE done something wrong, it will most likely be communicated to you at a later time in a decent manner by a good-natured Wikipedian or WMF staff member. The longer you persist in the conflict, the harder you will be attacked. If however you leave early, the community will see that it is the troll - and not you - who is gaining satisfaction from the conflict.
- Ask your Wikimedian friends for their assistance. You will be surprised at how useful their input can be!
- Try to avoid involving WMF staff in moderating the dispute. Quite often WMF employees have little background to local Wikipedias and too much work to do: you may be disappointed even further if an active Wikipedian they happen to trust is involved in the conflict and they prefer not to take sides.
- Do something else until the heat dies off. Go for a walk; take some pictures; visit the library and start a new project; check out a museum or other site of interest for inspiration for a new article. You'll feel refreshed and content that there's always a way to do something productive on the Wikimedia projects without wasting precious time on disputes.
The war is over and you're back on track: DON'T LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN!
- Use your sandbox. When in doubt about an article you have created, the sandbox is a good place to work while you add links, citations etc. Let the article ferment and when you feel sure enough, move it to the main space. This way it is less likely to be challenged.
- Remember Wikipedia is a reflection of society. We deal with unpleasant situations all the time in our real lives and yet somehow we expect our virtual lives to be free from such challenges. Picture the troll as your annoying real-life neighbour and it will be much easier to ignore him!
- Why not consider working on the minor WM projects - i.e. Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikisource, or Wikipedia in another language? Most of these projects have a less hostile environment, owing to the fact that there are fewer users (which statistics-wise means fewer trolls, and project-wise means eagerness to accept new editors!)
When to use
It's pretty evident that this learning pattern was developed as a productive outcome of none other than an edit war:)
Case study: the context
My Wikitherapy participants may be tagged as a sensitive user group: they all have a social or mental disorder to a higher or lesser degree. Notwithstanding, they have responded very well to the project and have made strides in editing Greek Wiktionary, Wikiquote and Commons. I had warned them that Greek Wikipedia was not exactly a friendly environment for new users and that they should be extremely careful when venturing out to edit over there. One of my participants was happy making minor improvements to existing articles - I stressed the importance of checking the m button at each edit and advised him against trying to start an article of his own until we had talked about it: the last thing these people need is more stress in their lives.
How it started
Having employed the techniques in the other pattern I have developed for the IEG, I discovered that a participant who had seemed bored and uninterested after three sessions, lit up when the conversation went to sports and in particular, his favorite football team. There's not much to do with a football fan on Wiktionary or Wikiquote, so I suggested he wrote something related to Olympiacos F.C. on Greek Wikipedia. I asked what his favorite sports newspaper was and we looked it up: "Gavros" daily national sports paper was then a red link on the disambiguation page. Then we checked out the other existing articles on Greek Wikipedia and observed that most had a "references needed" banner, which was fair enough. We checked English Wikipedia and saw that there was a whole list of red links for Greek sports newspapers: Gavros was not included but many similar papers were there, including one that had been developed into a stub (I later added Gavros to the list). All the above indicated that it was quite safe to start the article on Greek Wikipedia.
Minutes after we had created the stub, with one reference and a photo - our sessions entail tailored training to a crowd of at least three participants at once and there is hardly any time to develop a full article - a user had tagged the article as lacking notability. I removed the "notability" banner, put the "references" banner in its place and then started a discussion in the Village Pump, asking for input. The article was further attacked and soon enough it was additionally tagged for speedy deletion. Needless to say, I was very upset and yes, I did enter into the exchange of bitter remarks.
With a little help from our friends, the article was soon well-referenced enough to establish notability and have the banner removed. Lesson learned: if we had used the sandbox in the first place we would have avoided the conflict. Next time we will be more careful to use the content-building tools that protect us from unnecessary frustration...:)