This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
At some point in your Wiki-experience, you may have to go to the Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents (ANI) to complain about a particular user or topic area. You can also use this advice if you want to open a thread or if a thread has been opened about you.
General advice about opening a dispute
- Don't. Just... don't. Taking a dispute to ANI is like going to war. War has no victors, only survivors.
- If you ignore #1 and still want to go to ANI, then please understand a few things:
- First, ANI will review your actions as well as your dispute and you run the risk of being sanctioned yourself. If your behavior isn't exemplary, don't accuse others.
- Second, most disputes can be solved elsewhere and finding the appropriate location will help you get the right audience as well as showing some level of understanding of Wiki-processes
- Third, ANI is not a victim-advocate office. You'll not be treated gently, you'll not be coddled, and you won't be given any special treatment. You and the other editor are on equal footing until consensus has developed. You have the best chance of having a desirable outcome if you can take a little heat.
- Do make sure you're at the right board. ANI is for administrative action. ANI is not the complaints department. If a user needs to be blocked, then ANI is the right place. Topic bans, interaction bans, etc should be proposed at WP:AN.
- Don't complain about content issues. If you're upset because another user disagrees with you and you can't come to a compromise, ANI isn't going to help you.
- Do gather all of the appropriate diffs. You should evaluate your diffs for substance and not multiplicity.
- Do keep it brief. If you want your complaint taken seriously, then stick to the facts and don't add your narrative and subjective opinion. The administrators' noticeboards are not the fairness noticeboards; action can and may be taken without any attention given to your book.
- Don't badger the uninvolved editors who try to help you. If you offered the relevant diffs, they will take up your cause for you. If you haven't, then badgering is not going to change the course of the discussion by arguing with everyone who doesn't share your viewpoint on the dispute. You have one shot when making your complaint. Make it count. Badgering will also scare away disinterested editors who don't need your drama.
- Don't start ban discussions on threads you've opened. If you've convinced anyone that your complaint is valid, someone who is objective and disconnected will devise an appropriate sanction and put it forward. If one doesn't start, trying to push the discussion in that direction will make you seem pushy and will automatically sway folks against your position.
- Do be specific in your topic ban requests. You may be entirely justified in asking for a topic ban, but if the scope of your request is too broad, folks will oppose outright instead of offering alternatives. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to succeed.
- Do keep your calm and watch the thread unfold naturally from a distance. Only offer additional information when asked for or if some new significant information is available that directly relates to the issue.
- Don't get upset when someone asks you a question. Answer respectfully and honestly.
- Don't expect Administrators to act quickly on your issue. Administrators are generally cautious about their tool use and will only act when they feel they are comfortable accepting responsibility for the outcome. They aren't your user rights, so don't demand that someone else use them.
- Don't assume that everyone who comments or gets involved with the matter is an administrator. Anyone can comment at this board. You can use Special:ListUsers to verify a user's current rights.
- Do try your best to find a solution that suits both you and the other party. Your efforts to find compromise will reflect well on you and will further the argument that everything that can be done has been done.
- Do stick to the facts of your current dispute. A user's past is relevant only if the current behavior is the same as the behavior a user received a recent (within one to two years depending on the severity) sanction for.
- Do speak moderately. The more you speak on your own behalf, the bigger chance you have to say something stupid. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
- Do expect the other party to disagree with you. That's why you're here after all; you're in a dispute. Offering a rebuttal to their rebuttal and restating what you've already said is going to create more unnecessary reading for administrators. We know how to scroll up, we don't need you to repeat everything you've already said. Just be patient and let us do our job.
- Don't make frivolous accusations of abuse. Some don't consider verbal and psychological abuse by a stranger on the Internet to be a WP:SERIOUS matter. Someone hindering your ability to edit Wikipedia however you want to is not abuse. The response to these accusations by uninvolved editors is to determine if there really is some type of abuse occurring and the reaction is not very helpful to your concern if no abuse is found. Completely legitimate complaints, if phrased differently, could be entirely ignored if you exaggerated your treatment.
- Don't make unsubstantiated accusations of bullying. Constructive criticism is not bullying. If you've been drawn to the internet because you cannot take criticism from the real world, Wikipedia is not for you. The goal of this project is the encyclopedia, not your feelings. You will be criticized if your editing is harmful. It is not bullying to correct your behavior if it is harmful. If there is genuine cyber-bullying, or any harassment that isn't connected to your edits, of course feel free to bring someone's attention to it.
- Similarly, don't make accusations of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, or any other discriminatory behavior without diffs of the behavior. We take discrimination very seriously on Wikipedia. As a global free knowledge encyclopedia, it's very important that we are inclusive of all cultures, people, and scholarly viewpoints. Discrimination is directly counter to our goals on this project. These accusations are going to draw immediate attention and serious discussion. If it actually is happening, then please be sure to provide clear evidence of the behavior so it can be properly addressed.
- Don't make comparatives to Hitler or Nazis. See Godwin's law. Just stop before you start.
- Don't just wiki-link a bunch of policies. Sometimes a policy doesn't say what you'd think it says just by reading the title. Quote what you mean. This is especially true of the WP:BLP policy. If it doesn't say it, it doesn't mean it. The "spirit" of policy argument only goes so far as that the policy actually alludes to it in writing and not in title alone. Just because you think a policy should say something doesn't mean it does 'in spirit'. Routinely misapplying policies like WP:BLP will only create battlegrounds.
- Do admit when you are wrong. Learn from your mistakes. The inability to acknowledge your contribution to a dispute will inevitably lead administrators to determine that you were the bigger problem. Editors who can learn from their mistakes will have fewer problems in the long run despite the scale of the dispute in the short term. Those who cannot learn may have a smaller contribution to the dispute in the short term, but will have many more contributions and be the bigger problem in the long run.
What is a desirable outcome at an administrator's noticeboard? The plain definition of a desirable outcome is one that:
- Is advantageous and beneficial to the encyclopedia, and
- serves our readers, by
- offering a neutral point of view, that
- is backed up by reliable sources, given
- appropriate weight in reliable sources, that serves to
- build a consensus of editors and stability to the article, given
- the least amount of drama and sanctions necessary to achieve that goal.
Anything that fits that definition is going to be considered desirable by administrators and editors at these noticeboards and your complaint and recommended actions should further that goal by promoting an outcome that meets it. These goals are generally listed in order of priority. When offering suggestions for outcomes, if you keep these goals in mind then you're going to be most likely to succeed. If you have ulterior goals in mind, particularly personal ones, then you are giving yourself the most risk of being disappointed by the eventual outcome. Do not allow your personal goals to interfere with the encyclopedia in a dispute.
- WP:ASPERSIONS – Arbcom Finding (Principles) about making accusations without evidence