Aired January 13, 2012
This webinar provides a advice how to handle conflict on your wiki. Whenever a group of people work together, there is bound to be some disagreements. This webinar will provide tips on how to handle these types of situations and where to find help.
Slides & Transcript
Welcome to our community webinar – Keeping The Peace: Best practices for handling conflict on your wiki. I am Sarah Manley a community manager here at Wikia. I want to start by thanking you for joining us. We will be recording this session – so you can watch it again at a later date on Community Central. You will also see there is a place to submit questions in the gotowebinar software. Please feel free to submit questions throughout the session. We will do our best to answer all of them at the end of the the presentation.
According to Wikipedia, community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and has social cohesion.
With this definition, can a wiki be considered a community? I would say Yes – since on a wiki individuals work together to build content on topics they love. In doing this, they develop common practices and values.
Wiki software was developed with the community in mind. Here at Wikia many of our products are focused on aiding and surfacing the community that lives on a wiki. But as with any community of people – there are times when not everyone agrees and a conflict may emerge. Each situation is different, but there are some general tips that can help everyone get through these types of difficulties.
So we are lucky today to have with us Director of Community Support here at Wikia, Sannse Carter. Sannse will give us tips on how to best handle conflict on a wiki. She will walk us through best practices from her years of experience as well as answer your specific questions.
Hello – Today I am going to cover ways to deal with spam and vandalism, misunderstandings and arguments. Vandalism is any edit on a wiki that is meant to cause harm. This could be blanking a page, deliberately making bad edits or uploading an inappropriate photo. It might be done by a vandal to cause problems, or could be by a spammer who is looking to promote their own product. Lets start by reviewing what to do with spam.
Spammers tend to post fairly obvious material. They often post links out to their own sites with some sort of promotional sounding content such as “Check out these deals” or “Get cheap tickets”. The content is often automatically added by bots so formatting may look off and content can get repeated. Spammers will also add stock phrases with odd spellings in order to boost their own site’s search rankings
If you find spam or vandalism, start by deleting or reverting the content. Remember any edit can be undone or reverted on a wiki. Next, if you aren’t an admin let your local admin know. They'll be able to block the spammer or vandal and prevent them adding more bad content to the wiki.
If your wiki is subject a spam or vandalism attack, you can also contact our volunteer spam task force, also known as the vstf, at vstf.wikia.com. They have special advanced tools to help combat this. Lastly, you can always contact staff using the contact form and we will be happy to help.
Now let’s look at more general disputes on wikis. In my work with communities I have noticed that arguments generally result from one of three reasons. A person feels
- “They aren't letting me do what I want to do” or
- "They aren't doing what I want them to do” or
- "What I want is an argument"
Someone who just wants an argument, is often called a troll. A troll is someone who is trying to disrupt the wiki or cause drama for their own enjoyment.
You might wonder, why would anyone want to do this? Well their aim is often get attention, cause a conflict or to see people get worked up. They are usually out to get a laugh at someone else’s expense.
Trolls feed off attention – so the best way to deal with them is to not give them what they want. By not reacting to them, you’re preventing them from getting enjoyment from their games, and then they are more likely to move on.
So what SHOULD you do? The basic advice is to "Revert, Block & Ignore." For blocking – depending on the severity and extent of the trolling, we recommend starting with a two week block or less, and then longer for very disruptive behavior. If problems increase, you may want to set up some community guidelines to help admins when they have to block trolls.
For an IP or a logged out user, we recommend the same block time of 2 weeks, but no longer than 3 months. IP address can be used by multiple users, for example people who log into Wikia at a school or library, so be careful when blocking them. IP addresses can also change, so 3 months is the longest block we recommend.
Now lets discuss cases where the disagreement is genuine. As you have probably experienced in life– misunderstandings happen. Someone says one thing, and you take it as another. On wikis this can easily happen since you can’t hear the other person’s tone or read their facial expressions.
The basis of most arguments is fundamentally a difference in opinion, but this is not always completely clear when you are in the middle of an intense discussion. So the first step is to make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
It's important that you always assume good faith. This is a principle that has been a basic tenant of wikis since I started on them nearly 10 years ago. Although we talked about trolls already, and how to deal with them, it's also important to take care not to assume someone is trolling when they may be genuinely disagreeing. When you’re in the midst of a disagreement, it's easy to think the other person is being malicious or is trying to do harm. Usually though, they're genuinely trying to do what's right but have a different opinion on exactly what that means. Knowing that they mean well can help us talk to each other in a way that helps solve the problem.
For example, if someone comes to a wiki and blanks a page it could mean a number of things – not just that they're trying to disrupt the project. It could be they think the page is wrong or harmful and don't know that blanking isn't the right way to get it deleted. Or maybe they're testing, and don't know how to return the page to its previous state after an accidental save. I've seen all of these cases, and many similar, happen across Wikia.
So, you are keeping in mind to assume good faith, and checking for misunderstandings... what next? You can begin by leaving them a friendly message on their talk page. If they created an error, explain the issue to them and how to properly use the wiki. You can then point them to help or local policy pages that provide further explanation. If they are new to Wikia and need further help – encourage them to visit community central.
The next important thing to remember is to keep calm. When an argument breaks out – try not to jump to conclusions, become angry or over react.
Remember behind every post and every username is a real person. Someone just like you – with real emotions, motivations and at times faults.
Once you are sure you understand the situation, ask yourself, is this important and worth further discussion? Is it worth potentially fighting over – or is it a small issue that may have been blown a bit out of proportion?
If you feel confident that the problem needs to be addressed a couple of recommendations for your discussion:
- Stay polite - Being polite has two advantages: it helps keep focus on your message rather than personal differences, and it helps keep both sides willing to talk.
- Don't make it personal - Keep it about what you disagree on, and not who you disagree with. Remember that people may take what you say personally, even if that's not intended. "That's stupid" can often be heard as "you are stupid."
- Remember the audience - On a wiki, you aren't just talking to one person, you're talking to everyone reading the page. Write in a way that helps other viewers understand what's going on, and that maintains your reputation as fair and even-natured.
- Write it... then write it again - Sometimes it's useful to write what you want to say, get out your anger or frustration, then delete it and rewrite it with care and politeness. This is a technique I often use when I feel strongly about what I'm saying
So lets say for example a new person joined your wiki and added a photo to a page that didn’t follow your standard for page layout. A bad way to contact them can be seen here. In this quote, the author immediately attacks the user without trying to ask what might have happened or if they need help.
This message in contrast is much friendlier and offers a clear explanation of what they did that didn’t fit and how to avoid it in the future. It also offers to help them with their future edits. Messages like this will lead to a better wiki since the new user is both learning and feeling welcomed. They are then more likely to become an active and helpful contributor in future.
Once you have started the conversation, a couple of tips to move it forward in the right direction:
- Be flexible and find middle ground - It's important to consider what options there are for a compromise. For example if you are talking about templates, is it really important that a template is on a specific page? Is there an alternative you can both agree on?
- Talk to others - It's always good to get a second opinion. Someone else might have a different insight or point of view. It isn't a good tactic to simply get your friends to take your side, especially if they aren't regulars on that wiki, but it can be good to hear from others and get another opinion.
- Consider talking live - Wikia Chat is a great tool for getting together to talk something over in real-time. It can make a conversation that would usually happen over days happen in minutes — with a lot less misunderstandings!
The most important thing to remember during conflicts is why you are on the wiki – you are here to have fun! Wikis should be a hobby you enjoy participating in - one you want to visit everyday. Don't let conflicts ever get in the way of that.
Thank you Sannse for your presentation. Now a couple of top questions from the community:
- I think this user has multiple accounts – what do I do?
- Having more than one account doesn’t violate Wikia’s TOU. Some users use multiple accounts on a role-play wiki, or have 1 account for fanon & 1 for canon wikis - or have other reasons to use multiple accounts. But If you think someone is using two accounts to avoid a block or vote multiple times – please contact staff. We can check their account and may be able to confirm your suspicions.
- A new wiki started and is trolling our wiki – what do I do?
- Usually no response is the best response - just as for any other trolling. It can also be good to let them have the new wiki to themselves so that they no longer disrupt yours. If there are serious problems, contact staff - we won't always get involved, but are we are more likely to with cross-wiki problems than on single wikis where admins can deal with issues themselves.
- What if an admin is the one causing the conflict?
- This is always a difficult situation. We give admins a lot of leeway in dealing with their wikis, and don't usually get involved - even if we disagree with the admin's actions So the best thing to do is try to discuss problems with them or contact other admins. Admins can make or break a wiki, so choose admins wisely.
Before we finish, if you are ever looking for help or advice, be sure to stop by our community wiki at community.wikia.com. Here you will find our staff blog, support forum as well as a recording of this session. I want to give a big thank you to Sannse for her presentation and to Trella for helping with questions. Thanks for joining us today and happy editing to all!
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