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The best way to resolve a dispute is to avoid it in the first place.
Be respectful to others and their points of view. This means primarily: Do not simply revert changes in a dispute. When someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit, rather than reverting it. Provide a good edit summary when making significant changes that other users might object to. The revision you would prefer will not be established by reverting, and repeated reverting is forbidden; discuss disputed changes on the talk page. If you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior, resist the temptation to respond unkindly, and do not make personal attacks.
Writing according to the "perfect article guidelines" and following the neutral point of view (NPOV) policy can help you write "defensively", and limit your own bias in your writing.
First step: Talk to the other parties involved
The first resort in resolving almost any conflict is to discuss the issue on a talk page. Either contact the other party on that user's talk page, or use the talk page associated with the article in question. Never carry on a dispute on the article page itself. When discussing an issue, stay cool and don't mount personal attacks. Take the other person's perspective into account and try to reach a compromise. Assume that the other person is acting in good faith unless you have clear evidence to the contrary. If you want assistance, request an advocate to help you in presenting your thoughts in the issue.
Both at this stage and throughout the dispute resolution process, talking to other parties is not simply a formality to be satisfied before moving on to the next forum. Failure to pursue discussion in good faith shows that you are trying to escalate the dispute instead of resolving it. This will make people less sympathetic to your position and may prevent you from effectively using later stages in dispute resolution. In contrast, sustained discussion and serious negotiation between the parties, even if not immediately successful, shows that you are interested in finding a solution that fits within BattleTechWiki policies.
Second step: Disengage for a while
A simple solution to a dispute is to stop having it — by leaving the article and/or bringing in an outside editor. This is particularly helpful when disputing with new users, as it gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with BattleTechWiki's policy and culture. Focus your contributions on another article where you can make constructive progress. Avoid going back to the page of dispute. Respond to questions about it on your user talk page and direct the questioner to take their issues to the article talk page to keep all relevant discussion in one place.
Take a long term view. In due course, you will probably be able to return and carry on editing it, when the previous problems no longer exist and the editor you were in dispute with might themselves move on. In the meantime the disputed article will evolve, other editors may become interested and they will have different perspectives if the issue comes up again.
Further dispute resolution
If talking to the other parties involved and taking a break fails, you should try one of the following methods to resolve the dispute. Which ones you choose and in what order will depend on the nature of the dispute, and the preferences of people involved.
If things are getting a bit tricky, it might be useful to ask some cool heads to look in and help out; this might turn out to be sufficient to do the trick. Post on the Mediation page and ask for informal mediation in regards to the issue. The mediator will come over, read the article and what has transpired on the talk page. In most cases, the compromise suggested by the mediator will be accepted by all parties.
Discuss with third parties
BattleTechWiki works by building consensus. To develop a consensus on a disputed topic, you may need to expose the issue to a larger audience. Options for doing this include:
- BattleTechWiki:Requests for comment, the main avenue for general disputes
- Asking at a subject-specific BattleTechWiki:BTWProject talk page.
If you have not suggested and/or agreed to a truce before this point, you should do so now. This allows others to consider the issue fairly without the confusion of ongoing edits, which are likely to aggravate the dispute. If an edit war persists and parties refuse to stop, you may request that the page be protected to allow the process to move forward. The point of this manuever is to force a cooling off period from edit wars and not to 'cement' any particular point of view (even if one particular POV is best represented at the time protection is set).
Conduct a survey
- If consensus is difficult to gauge from discussion alone, or if some users seem to be ignoring the consensus, consider conducting a survey of opinion in order to clarify the issues in the discussion. Note that a survey cannot generate consensus, but is helpful for understanding it. Understand now that the point in conducting a survey is to determine that a very strong majority (>80%, though that is not an official benchmark) already exists for one particular answer to the debate and that there is little merit in attempting to sway someone far outside the consensus. Having to conduct a survey to prove a point also indicates a failure to adequately conduct a reasonable discussion, and should be considered a failure at some level for all camps.
- Request formal (vice informal) mediation of the dispute. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral person works with the parties to a dispute. The mediator helps guide the parties into reaching an agreement that can be acceptable to everyone. When requesting formal mediation, be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute using the steps listed above, and that all parties to the dispute are in agreement to mediate. Mediation cannot take place if all parties are not willing to take part.
Last resort: Arbitration
If you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the dispute, request Arbitration. Be prepared to show that you tried to resolve the dispute by other means. Arbitration differs from Mediation in that the responding Arbitrator will investigate, possibly ask questions and then take a synopsis back to the Arbitration Committee. The Arbitration Committee is made up of a small group of volunteers that have demonstrated their impartiality to their peers on BattleTechWiki. If any member of the Arbitration Committee is involved in the dispute, or previously acted as a mediator (formal or informal), they will recuse themselves from the issue at hand. The Arbitration Committee will consider whether or not to decide upon the case (they may refer it back to the Mediators for a resolution) and whether or not it is appropriate for Nic, Sarna's founder to be called in. If they do decide to take the case, they will then 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.
Requesting an Advocate (at any time)
If you would like assistance with the process, the Advocates are available to help you to resolve your dispute or to understand the process of resolving disputes. You may request assistance from an advocate at any stage of the process of resolving disputes or even when the dispute has just begun. You may seek help directly from any of the members that are listed on the Advocates page (by contacting them on their talk pages individually) or through the Advocates page.
While you can request the assistance of an advocate at any stage, please seriously consider use of a member advocate in the later stages of dispute resolution. Typically, advocates advise and/or represent one party to a dispute. If you want the services of an advocate, you may contact any known advocate directly, or post a request for assistance. If you prefer, an Advocate will advise you, without representing you. This can be helpful if you are unsure of relevant policies, or if you just want impartial advice on how best to resolve a dispute. You may request the assistance of an advocate at any time.