Wikipedia:Responding to a failure to discuss

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As noted in the Dispute Resolution policy, all content dispute resolution procedures – Third Opinion, Dispute Resolution Noticeboard, and Request for Comments (though the requirement is very weak there[1]) – require thorough talk page discussion at the article talk page before a request for DR can be properly filed.[2] This is because Wikipedia is built around a model of collaboration through discussion and edit summaries are not intended to substitute for that discussion.[3]

What is an editor supposed to do when the other editor simply won't respond, or won't engage in the back-and-forth discussion that DR requires? There is no sure answer, but there are administrators who consider continuing to revert without discussing to be disruptive behavior and who will put pressure on the other editor to respond to you. This guide is intended to help editors put themselves in the best position to obtain such assistance.


To put yourself in that position:

  • Your hands must be clean.
  • The edit that you're asking for cannot be in violation of policy.
  • You must have asked the other editor to discuss the matter at least twice.
  • You must have given the editor plenty of time to respond.
  • The other editor must have reverted your edit without talk page discussion after you made those requests.

The process

Make sure your hands are clean.

Here's the recommended process:

  1. Make sure your hands are clean: You're looking for an administrator who wants to do justice, but to receive justice you must have been just. If you're involved in an edit war with the other user, or have been engaged in a conduct dispute with them, or have been uncivil, fix that first. If there's been an edit war, with or without three-revert-rule violations, stop editing that article for a while. What's awhile? At least a week, longer is better, and a month is about right. If you've been involved in a conduct dispute or have been uncivil, (a) stop it and (b) apologize and (c) if you can withdraw, strike out, or revert your actions without looking like you're trying to hide something, do it. Wikipedia responds very favorably to repentance and self-correction. But don't be fake about it: If you're still being rude and aggressive and an edit warrior on other articles or in other venues, just playing nice on this article probably is not going to be enough. Your hands must remain clean throughout this process.
  2. Make sure that the edit you're asking for isn't a violation of policy or guidelines: No admin is going to go to bat for you if you're clearly wrong in what you want to do.[4] If you are unsure about the relevant policies, feel free to ask a general question at the Teahouse. Do not mention the dispute itself or others' behavior. Frame your question like this, "I want to do X and I'm afraid that doing that might violate some policy. Will it?"
  3. Ask for discussion at the article talk page: Say what you want to do, why you want to do it, and give your sources. Do it at the article talk page, preferably in a new section entitled "Request for discussion", not at the other editor's user talk page.
    1. Avoid ad hominem arguments of any stripe: Instead, only discuss the edit and do not say a word about the other editor, at all. Not about their motives, their biases, their conflicts of interest, their skills, their habits, their competence, their point of view (POV), their insistence about that POV, nothing at all, period. Do not use profanity or insults. If you've already asked, but included any of that, see step 1 above, clean it up and apologize and ask again, nicely this time. Here at Wikipedia we discuss edits, not editors.
    2. Be brief: In discussing the edit be crystal-clear but brief. If you can't say what you want to do in a paragraph no longer than this one, then you should seriously consider breaking it down into smaller chunks if possible. If you want to include a draft of what you want to do, that's a great idea and it can be a little longer, but in no case create a wall-o-text. If there are a lot of little problems, such as a bunch of statements which you feel are not adequately sourced, feel free to list them all, but only attempt to discuss them one at a time. Avoid attempting to discuss broad topics such as "this whole article (or section) is NPOV"; discuss fixes not complaints.
  4. Immediately put a note on the other editor's user talk page asking them to come to the article to discuss the matter: It's best to use the talkback template for this, rather than using a custom-written note.[5] Put the following code in a new section entitled "Discussion invitation: [[Article name]]" on their user talk page:

    {{Talkback|Talk:Article name#Section title|ts=~~~~~}}~~~~

  5. Wait: Check daily to see if there has been a response at either the article talk page or at their user talk page. If there has not been a reply in a week,[6] it is probably safe to move to the next step.
  6. Ask again on the other editor's talk page and wait again:[7] Essentially repeat the last two steps, above, but this time (a) make the section header on the user's talk page "Reminder: Discussion invitation ([[Article name]])" and use the same talkback code again and (b) only wait 72 hours after your message.
  7. Supplement your request for discussion on the article talk page: Once that second wait has passed say this at the article talk page:

    {{Reply to|Other editor's username}} I've asked twice that you please discuss this matter. I'm going to go ahead and make the change I've described above. If you revert without responding here, then I'm going to have to file a complaint against you at [[Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents|ANI]] for [[WP:Disruptive editing|disruptive editing]] by reverting without discussing.— ~~~~.

    Do not make any other statements nor any threats.
  8. Immediately edit or revert with specific edit comment: Make your edit or reversion in the article. For the edit summary, say, "See request for discussion on talk page".
  9. If they revert without discussing: Do not revert their reversion. Instead, make a report at ANI or the Administrator's Edit-warring noticeboard. Read and exactly follow the instructions at either location, especially the parts about notifying the other editor. Don't be insulting, just state the facts. For example: "I tried to make an edit at [[page name]] on such and such date and was reverted by [[User:Other editors username|]]. I requested on the article talk page that they discuss the matter with me, [[link to talk page section where you made the request]], and left a talkback to that request on their user talk page [[link to the user talk page section where you placed the talkback]]. When I hadn't heard from them in X days, I left another talkback. When they still had not responded in X days, I tried the edit again and they reverted me again, still without discussing. The guidelines say that I can't get [[Wikipedia:Dispute resolution|dispute resolution]] without talk page discussion. What should I do? Isn't continuing to revert my edit without discussing it with me [[Wikipedia:Disruptive editing|disruptive editing]]?"

    If you make a report at a noticeboard be aware that your own conduct will also come under scrutiny (see the advice on "clean hands," above).

Good luck

There are too many variables and moving parts in this to be sure that this is always going to work, so good luck. If the other user does respond with anything other than, "I'm not going to discuss this with you", then let the discussion begin. You know all those "don'ts" in step 3, above? Keep them going, even if the other user does not. Incivility and trollishness only complicate matters. Stick to your content-only guns and you'll have the moral high ground going into dispute resolution if you have to go there.

See also

Notes, asides, and rabbit trails

  1. ^ Indeed, it is so weak at RFC that it may only be a pointed suggestion, not a requirement.
  2. ^ Most DR volunteers are pretty flexible about where the discussion occurs, so long as it is on a talk page.
  3. ^ To allow users to just edit and revert and then jump straight to DR without even making an effort to talk out the problem violates that principle and encourages trollishness and edit warring rather than collaboration.
  4. ^ And that's especially true if your problem seems to involve copyright, information about a living person, legal claims, anything about pedophilia, and a few other legal-related areas.
  5. ^ Why? Because a talkback discourages a response there, rather than at the article talk page. This is a close call. It looks better if you leave a nice, courteous very brief custom note, but you do not want to have the discussion occur there: their duty is to discuss at the article talk page and failing to do it there makes them look somewhat worse. Whichever way you choose to do it, do watch their talk page. If they respond there and not at the article talk page, try this: Copy their response, including their signature and timestamp, from their talk page to the article talk page, put your response there, and at their user talk page respond with, "I've copied your response to the article talk page and have responded there. I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to keep all discussion about this article on the article talk page."
  6. ^ "A week?" you cry? Yep. There is no extreme hurry. Some editors only edit infrequently and don't get around to everything when they do. You can go a little shorter if you want to check their contributions daily, but we don't suggest moving on to the next step in anything less than 72 hours after their first edit after you left the talkback on their user talk page. We strongly recommend waiting the full week so that you've given them every possible chance to respond.
  7. ^ This and the following steps presume, of course, that you've not obtained a response.