An edit war is when two or more contributors to an article continuously and persistently edit and re-edit a page to aggressively convey their points of view.
A good example of an edit war scenario goes something like this:
"Contributor A" has done their research and knows for a fact that a certain police agency uses a specific radio frequency for dispatching and writes: Warrensburg Police Dept uses 155.1225 for dispatch.
"Contributor B", on the other hand, hasn't done their research, but assumes the same police department uses a different frequency, and changes the article wording to: Warrensburg Police Dept uses 159.150 for dispatch.
"Contributor A" notices this, gets pissed off, and changes the frequency back to what it was before.
"Contributor B" comes back later and changes the frequency back to 159.150. And so on, and so on, and so on.
Its basically the wiki equivalent of two 6-year olds shouting at each other "Am not!", "Are too!", "Am not!", "Are too!"
Edit wars are usually a very bad thing! They cause unnecessary conflict and distract the attention away from the task(s) at hand. Occasionally, though, such conflicts are needed; sometimes we need to figure out who really does have the correct information, and the edit war triggers that much needed discussion in order to get a problem resolved.
What to do
If you find yourself getting caught up in an edit war, here's what you should do:
- Step back for a while and take a break. Grab a beer, cup of coffee, soda...or whatever. Chances are no one is going to die because two people can't agree on who uses a particular radio frequency. Bookmark the page, do some more research, verify your information, then revisit the article after you've had a chance to cool off.
- Use the article's discussion page and come to a consensus. That's what the discussion pages are meant for. Explain your position, and elaborate as to why you made the changes you did. If you have factual information to back everything up, cite the source, shut the other person down, and squash the edit war once and for all!
- Consider a neutral compromise. For the above scenario, do we really need to argue, piss, and whine over a goddamn radio frequency? Why not leave the issue be until the information can be verified?
- Let the crybaby have their way. Its not your job in life to teach the other party to an edit war that they can't get away with their "horrible" behavior. Take the high road and simply walk away! If you don't think there's a serious problem with their version, just let it go. Trust that someone else will side with you and fix it themselves later.
Out of control edit wars
We believe that on open wiki project truly works. An open policy is the best policy. Anytime two or more people can't work out their differences in public forum such as the article discussion pages (or amongst themselves), we have failed. An important part of what makes our project so powerful is that we believe in working things out directly without drama and pissing matches.
That said, if an edit war escalates to the point to where things get out of hand, talks on the discussion pages aren't getting anywhere, and the importance of the issue is worth undermining our principles of openness, then the wiki administrators or moderators can declare a cooling-off period, temporarily protect (lock) the page in question so no further edits can take place, and require that the involved parties reach a consensus via one of the discussion pages (or via personal chat/e-mail).
We have very few protected article pages within this project, and that's a point or pride. When article page protection occurs due to people's childish behavior, it will make the next time more likely, and the third time after that. Inevitably, it will lead to a situation where people expect the wiki administrators/moderators to become the "big boss", come in, and play referee. We don't want that type of atmosphere, so let's avoid it by working together civilly.
You are free to contact a wiki moderator if things get really heated and ugly, and request that they protect a page, but there's no guarantee that the request will be automatically granted. Make sure all other problem solving methods have been exhausted , and that a sufficient amount of time has passed that shows the issue won't be resolved without moderator intervention. Keep in mind that nobody likes dealing with a tattle-tale, so you need to make damn sure that your problem is worth a cooling off period before making the decision to get the moderation staff involved.
During a cooling-off period, all parties involved in an edit war should work out a new consensus version of a disputed article via the discussion page. Once a consensus has been reached, a moderator will re-open (or unlock) the page.