[Home]AvoidConflict

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One way to deal with conflict is to avoid it. This can take several forms:

One practical approach to avoiding conflict is described on Wiki:LetHotPagesCool.

People naturally AvoidConflict, and thus a FlameWar will chase away newcomers and encourage others to exercise their RightToLeave.

Avoiding conflict in WikiSquatting? and PageSquatting? situations

Attempting to AvoidConflict has led to a problem I have no solution for: when a contributor has a strong attachment to a page and threatens conflict if the page is changed, it may be easier to AvoidConflict and leave the page alone. The potential benefit of a change is not worth the trouble such a change might cause. Yet if the contributor threatens enough of a stink, everyone may choose to leave the page alone. Hence the dilemma: engaging in conflict is painful for all, yet allowing "Wiki:WikiSquatting through intimidation" to succeed rewards the contributor's poor behavior.

(Note that whether the page is on topic isn't in question, nor is the quality of the page. WikiSquatting in this case refers to treating a wiki page as one's personal possession, not community property.)

Where does one find a balance between avoiding conflict entirely and fighting every battle? What guidelines help us find this balance?

Any solution boils down to either leaving the page, with its disadvantages, alone, or attempting to LimitDamage from the change.

Ways to LimitDamage include:

The latter suggestion is the typical suggestion; it requires the entire community to agree to DissuadeInteraction by waiting patiently. The drawback to this approach is when the troubling member starts welcoming newcomers (WelcomeNewcomer), which then draws newbies directly into a conflict. Since newcomers AvoidConflict more drastically than those already invested, it might be necessary to HardBan the troublemaker. Note that to involve newcomers is to ExpandScope. -- SunirShah


Is the squatter a newbie? Determine the motivations for why the squatter is so opposed to change. Is the topic of the page controversial? Does the squatter feel like a "lone defender of the truth"? Try to see the situation from the squatter's point of view and show him/her that you understand where s/he is coming from. Acknowledge the squatter's feelings about this page, and try to show that you don't mean to distort the page, just to help improve it (if that is indeed true; some pages may not fit this criterion -- say, a page claiming that the holocaust didn't happen).

This is less of a problem from folks new to a wiki than established contributors. When told that their behavior violates CommunityExpectations, most new folks either change their behavior or leave. The real problem arises when an established contributor refuses to treat a page as CommunityProperty?.

In two years of wikiing, I've seen this become a problem with three different contributors. One case was talked through in OpenDiscussion; another led to an EditWar which ended only after all participants were exhausted; a third contributor attacked modifications to a particular page so vociferously that others stopped trying to improve it. In the first case LimitDamage worked, but in the latter two cases, the subject of contention became a BrokenWindow?. It was no longer worth the trouble to fix.

In effect, we allowed one person to raise the cost of editing a page beyond others' willingness to pay. What we need is a way for the others to lower the cost.

Might a SurgeProtector help? Limiting the amount of edits in a given amount of time reduces editor burn out. See also Wiki:LetHotPagesCool.

A SurgeProtector helps to some degree, enforcing a TimeOut? for all parties. Ultimately, though, it only slows down contention, it doesn't eliminate it. A determined contributor can effectively freeze a page by persistently restoring it to a previous version.

Letting hot pages cool doesn't usually apply in this situation, because the person who most needs to heed the advice (the determined contributor) is the least likely to do so.

This problem is most challenging when the determined contributor has demonstrated their understanding of the wiki concept of CommunityProperty? and the wiki's CommunityExpectations, and who continue to improve the rest of the wiki while losing all perspective on one particular page (e.g., BackChannel? requests to play nice are rejected). CommunityExile or a HardBan would be overkill and divisive, but anything short of those is ineffective.

I'm in favour of HardBanning the person in question. -- SunirShah


Sometimes the tactic to AvoidConflict is highly appropriate in an extreme situation -- when a maladapted individual or group is unable or unwilling to engage in peaceable relationship at a given time.

Many times, the decision to AvoidConflict is a tactical one. The overly combative lose credibility, while those who never fight get stepped on. Some issues are not important enough to fight about, others issues are too important to stand quietly without a fight. Sometimes it is right to stand up now, other times it is right to wait and see if time will resolve the issue or foster non-violent relationships.

It's important to learn to pick battles. This is an aspect of wisdom. AdinaLevin


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