PhysicsWiki:Dispute resolution

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For dispute resolution requests, see PhysicsWiki:Dispute resolution requests. For the dispute resolution noticeboard, see PhysicsWiki:Dispute resolution noticeboard. For dispute resolution involving the Open-source Ticket Request System ("OTRS"), see our volunteer response team.

This policy describes what to do when you have a dispute with another editor. Please remember that PhysicsWiki is not about winning. In our unique PhysicsWiki context, a dispute raises a couple of questions: "What is to be done next? What is to be learned from this?"

The "dispute resolution" sidebar (right) has direct links to filing requests for many of the dispute resolution levels, but requesting dispute resolution involves different guidelines and application processes for each level. Dispute resolution requests can help familiarize you with each of them.

Avoiding conflict

A variety of methods exist for helping to positively resolve disputes, before using formal processes or third-party intervention. Disputes or grievances should always be reacted to in the first instance by approaching, in good faith, the editor or editors concerned and explaining what you find objectionable and why you think so. This can be done on the talk page of the article or on the user page.

Follow the normal protocol

When you find a passage in an article that is biased or inaccurate, improve it if you can instead of just deleting it. For example, if an article appears biased, add balancing material or tweak the wording. Be sure to include citations for any material you add, or it may be removed. If you do not know how to fix a problem, post a note on the talk page asking for help.

To help other editors understand the reasoning behind your edits, always explain your changes in the edit summary. If an edit is too complex to explain in the edit summary, or if the change is potentially contentious, add a section to the talk page that explains your rationale. Be prepared to justify your changes to other editors on the talk page.

<span id="discuss"/><span id="Discuss"/>Discuss with the other party

Stay in the top three sections of this pyramid.

Talking to other parties is not a formality; it's imperative to the smooth running of any community. Not having a discussion, or discussing poorly, will make people less sympathetic to your position and will prevent you from effectively using later stages in dispute resolution. Sustained discussion between the parties, even if not immediately (or even remotely) successful, shows that you are trying to reach a consensus. Also consider negotiating a truce or compromise.

This is important if you intend to solicit outside opinions because it allows others to consider the issue fairly without the confusion of constant ongoing edits.

Talk page discussion as prerequisite: Third Opinion, Dispute Resolution Noticeboard, and Mediation require substantial talk page discussion as a prerequisite. Requests made at those forums without substantial talk page discussion will ordinarily be removed or declined. Actual talk page discussion is needed, and discussion in edit summaries will not satisfy those requirements. Requests for Comment generally require that at least an effort be made to discuss the matter in question before making the request.

Focus on content

Focus on article content, not on editor conduct. PhysicsWiki is built upon the principle of collaboration, and assuming that the efforts of others are in good faith is important to our community. Bringing up conduct often leads to painful digressions and misunderstandings.

It can be difficult to focus on content if other editors appear to be uncivil or stubborn. Stay cool! It is never to your benefit to respond in kind, which will only serve to derail the discussion. When it becomes too difficult or exhausting to maintain a civil discussion based on content, you should seriously consider going to an appropriate dispute resolution venue detailed below.


Most situations are not urgent. Give both yourself and the other party some time. Often it helps to just take a deep breath and sleep on it. Don't worry! Because there are no deadlines, you can always fix the problem later.

Take a long-term view. You will probably be able to return and carry on editing an article when the previous problems no longer exist and the editor you were in dispute with might themselves move on. The disputed article will continue to evolve, other editors may become interested and they will have different perspectives if the issue comes up again.

This is particularly helpful when you're in a dispute with new users as it gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with PhysicsWiki's policy and culture. Focus your contributions on another article where you can make constructive progress.

Receive outside help for content disputes

General advice

The Dispute resolution noticeboard is maintained by editors experienced in resolving disputes and is a good starting point among the other DR procedures. It can help defuse small content issues, and assist in pointing people to the best forum for resolving larger issues. It can also assist if the dispute needs raising at another venue.

Third opinion

Third opinions is an excellent venue for small disputes involving only two editors.

Request community input on article content

Request for comment (RfC) is a process to request community-wide input on article content. RfCs can be used when there is a content-related dispute, or simply to get input from other editors before making a change. To solicit responses from a large number of editors, RfCs can be publicized via noticeboards or relevant WikiMaintainence-area talk pages. An RfC bot will also automatically notify the feedback request service pool of editors. RfC discussions related to article content take place on article Talk pages.


If your dispute is related to one of the following topics, you may wish to post about it in one of the below locations, to get the opinions of other editors familiar with similar disputes. It can also be used for resolving simple disputes regarding content.

Subject-specific help

Ask at a subject-specific PhysicsWiki:WikiMaintainence-area talk page. Usually, such Maintainence-areas are listed on top of the article talk page.

Editor assistance

Editor assistance helps editors find someone experienced to provide one-on-one advice and feedback. While not a required part of dispute resolution, it is designed to help you understand how to clearly and civilly express your views and work toward consensus. You may request an assistant's help at any time, whether you're involved in dispute resolution or not. Assistants can also help you find the best way to resolve your dispute or issue.

Formal mediation

For more difficult disputes, you can request formal mediation from the Mediation Committee. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person works with the parties and helps them reach a settlement. The mediator helps guide the parties into reaching an agreement that can be acceptable to everyone, and will be an experienced, impartial member of the committee. When requesting formal mediation, be prepared to show that you have tried to discuss the issues but not reached a consensus. Mediation is only for disputes about article content; do not try to use formal mediation to settle grievances about what another user has said or did to you.

See PhysicsWiki:Requests for mediation#File if you wish to request formal mediation.

Resolving user conduct disputes

If the dispute has been identified as a dispute which involves user conduct, one of the following methods can be tried. Such disputes often involve complaints concerning the actions of a user (such as how an editor edits or the comments that editor makes during talk page discussions).

Request community input on conduct

Requests for comment on user conduct is the main avenue for disputes about user conduct. Requests for comment on user conduct have minimum requirements that need to be satisfied: at least two users must have tried (and failed) to resolve the problem with the user on the user's talk page.

Request community input on suspected sockpuppets

Sockpuppet investigations is for tracking down sockpuppets, editors who are operating two accounts pretending to be different people.

Request community input on usernames

Requests for comment on usernames is the main avenue for bringing attention to usernames which may be inappropriate.

Sensitive issues and functionary actions

A small number of disputes involve sensitive or non-public information. These include issues where an Arbitrator, Checkuser or Oversighter has stated a privacy issue exists in the case, and disputes where there is a concern of a sensitive or private nature. Examples:

  • Non-public details – Issues where details and evidence are not accessible to all participants or to the community as a whole. This can also happen due to copyright or privacy reasons, BLP, or when the material is on an unsuitable external link;
  • "Outing" concerns – When discussion may in effect mean "outing", for example if there is a concern that a user is editing with a secret conflict of interest and the evidence would tend to identify them;
  • Serious matters – The issue involves legal concerns, harassment, or allegations that are very serious or perhaps defamatory;
  • Advice on divisive and sensitive issues – The issue may potentially be very divisive and advice is needed on how best to handle it. (sock-puppetry by an administrator is one example)

Disputes or issues of this kind should usually be referred to the functionaries mailing list or Arbitration Committee. In some cases it may be possible to seek advice from an uninvolved trusted administrator by IRC, email or other private means.

Actions tagged as CheckUser, Oversight, OTRS or Arbitration Committee

Where an action is marked as CheckUser, Oversight, OTRS or Arbitration Committee, that action should not be reverted without checking beforehand. The presumption is that they have a good reason, and those aware of the reason may need time to recheck, consult, and respond. Sometimes the relevant talk page or other wiki pages will have more details and these are always a good first place to check.

Such actions, if disputed, should initially be raised (by email if necessary) with the agent or functionary concerned. Where a dispute about OTRS actions cannot be resolved in this manner, it should be referred to the OTRS administrators. Where a dispute about CheckUser and Oversighter actions cannot be resolved in this manner, it should be referred to the functionaries mailing list or the Audit Subcommittee where appropriate. Disputes about ArbCom actions should be referred to the Arbitration Committee.

Last resort: Arbitration

If you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, and the dispute is not over the content of an article, you can request arbitration. Be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute by other means. Arbitration differs from mediation in that the Arbitration Committee will consider the case and issue a decision, instead of merely assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. If the issue is decided by arbitration, you will be expected to abide by the result. If the case involves serious user misconduct, arbitration may result in a number of serious consequences up to totally banning someone from editing, as laid out in the arbitration policy. Note that arbitration is normally for disputes about user conduct, while mediation is normally for disputes about article content.

For urgent situations

Some situations can be sufficiently urgent or serious that dispute resolution steps are not equipped to resolve the issue. Such situations can be forwarded to the appropriate venue.

The Administrators' Noticeboards are not the place to raise disputes over content, or reports of abusive behaviour. Reports that do not belong at these noticeboards will be closed, and discussions will need to be re-posted at an appropriate forum, including the new dispute resolution noticeboard. Administrators are not referees, and have limited authority to deal with abusive editors.

Words of caution

Dispute resolution is sometimes used by editors to try to game the system. This generally backfires badly. Remember that dispute resolution mechanisms are ultimately there to enable editors to collaboratively write an encyclopedia – not to win personal or political battles.

See also