User:Guy Macon/One against many

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The Problem[edit]

Sometimes on Wikipedia you find yourself in a "one-against-many" disagreement about the content of an article. You know that you are right (everybody always knows that they are right), but there are several other editors who just don't see it that way. What do you do? This page attempts to give some practical advice for dealing with this situation.


When you know that the consensus is against you[edit]

In a "one-against-many" dispute, the most common case* is that the consensus really is against you and will remain against you, no matter how many editors you ask. This can be hard to accept, but all is not lost. Consensus can change. Perhaps you didn't communicate very well. Perhaps you can find another line of argument that will convince the others. Your chance of success goes down every time you repeat an argument that you have posted before. Your chance of success goes way down if you have been aggressive or rude.

A common error in this sort of situation is to keep arguing the same points that have already failed to convince anyone. You may be sure that your argument is without flaw, and that everyone else simply has to agree, but the fact remains that you have to convince the other editors.


When you think the consensus is local[edit]

In a "one-against-many" dispute, it is a somewhat common occurrence* that the editors who are working on a page come to a good-faith consensus that the larger community would not agree with. If you really think that this is the case, you can post a request for comment (RfC) and invite outside editors to comment. Be aware that an RfC settles the question of what the consensus is. You might not like the result if you post an RfC that settles the dispute against you. Posting an RfC that is certain to go against you doesn't just waste everybody's time; it makes it far less likely that you will ever get your way. So, how do you know whether an RfC has a good chance of going your way? In general, whichever side has the most reliable sources and follows those sources the closest prevails.


When you think there is a policy violation[edit]

In a "one-against-many" dispute, you (as the one) might be upholding a Wikipedia policy or guideline against a majority that isn't following policy. If this is the case, the one prevails over the many.

The problem is that for every case where the one is upholding policy, there are at least a hundred cases* where he only thinks he is. The newer you are, the more likely it is that you are wrong about this. Having more than one or two editors who all misunderstand Wikipedia policy doesn't happen very often, and having some uninvolved third party look at the page and make the same error almost never happens.

If you are absolutely sure that there is a Wikipedia policy being broken by multiple editors on a page, and you can quote the exact wording of the policy being violated, get another opinion. Dispute resolution is a good place to start. If as a result of dispute resolution a previously uninvolved third party says that no policy has been broken, it is probably time to face the fact that the policy doesn't say what you think it says.


When you think that the page has been hijacked by a group that is pushing a particular point of view[edit]

In a "one-against-many" dispute, it can happen that the many all have the same politics, religion, or maybe even work in the same place. They may even be colluding in secret. The problem is that for every "one-against-many" case where there is a group bias, there are at least a thousand* cases where the one only thinks there is. And you can't just go around accusing people of this on a mere suspicion; you need good, solid evidence.

If you think you have solid evidence of this, take it to the neutral point of view noticeboard and then to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents, in that order. Before you do, read Wikipedia:Don't shoot yourself in the foot.


When all else has failed[edit]

If everything else has failed in a "one-against-many" dispute, you need to drop the stick and back slowly away from the horse carcass, then bide your time, occasionally searching the web for some new evidence that will turn the situation around for you. Always remember that consensus can change.

There are a wide variety of highly disruptive strategies that different editors have tried in order to get their way after failing (and in many cases not even trying) to convince a single person that they are right. While they often succeed at being disruptive and annoying, they seldom succeed at getting their way. It is better to simply accept the fact that you are not going to get your way.


Advice for the many[edit]

This is for those on the other side. You and several other editors have been working on a page, making sure that everything is sourced and has a neutral point of view, but there is one lone holdout that does not agree, and it really looks like nothing you say will change their mind. There are really three classes of editors who behave this way, and each type requires a different response. They are:

  • The new editor: Put yourself in their shoes. Wikipedia has a bunch of weird rules, and you feel like everyone is unfairly ganging up on you. Try to be tolerant – within limits – of any behavior that is driven by frustration. Keep patiently explaining why Wikipedia is the way it is and why you are opposing their edits. Try to help them to get past this and grow into a productive editor. Remember the mistakes you made when you were new.
  • The experienced editor: This editor has been around a long time, has made many edits, has no recent blocks, and generally gets along with everyone. In this case you should seriously reexamine your own position, especially if you are a fairly new editor. Work with the lone holdout and try to figure out why you are – or think you are – in a situation that almost never happens. Figure out what is going on. Ask a third party to look into it if needed.
  • The fighter: This editor has been around a while, and has participated in many wiki-battles. Don't let this become another one of their battles. Go to Dispute resolution and follow Wikipedia's dispute resolution process. Seek advice from more experienced editors, and make sure that your own behavior is beyond reproach.

By the way, if you are the one who is going up against the many yet you find yourself ignoring the advice that was created for you and instead find yourself studying this section so you can play "gotcha" against the many, you need to rethink your life choices.


* This is what is known as an "educated guess". If you are reading this page and nitpicking the details about how common something is instead of paying attention to the actual advice, you are doing it wrong.