Wikivoyage:How to handle unwanted edits

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This page deals with how we, as Wikivoyagers, deal with unwanted edits.

What is an unwanted edit?[edit]

Unwanted edits are changes made to Wikivoyage that don't jibe with our policies and guidelines and manual of style. Such edits don't help us get towards our goal of making a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. Some examples of unwanted edits are listed below, along with our strategy with dealing with them.

One may ask why unwanted edits are, in fact, unwanted. Sure, they may not get us towards our goals, but why not just leave them on Wikivoyage anyways? The answer is that unwanted contributions clutter the guides, making it harder for travellers to find the information they're looking for. In addition, they make it harder for contributors to find where to share their knowledge, or may give them the wrong idea about our project and what kind of knowledge we want.

One thing to note is that we talk about unwanted edits, and not unwanted editors. Wikivoyage is open to anyone who has knowledge to share, wants to help us reach our goals, and is willing to work with other contributors to get there (see the Wikimedia Foundation Terms of Use for more information). The lifeblood of any Wiki Web site is the ability of any reader to add, edit, and delete information on the Web site. For Wikivoyage in particular, we absolutely depend on a large pool of casual readers to share their knowledge about places around the world.

Executive summary[edit]

For the impatient, here's the basic idea: the basis of Wikivoyage's editorial integrity is that a large community of editors with their head on straight can revert and correct unwanted edits made through ignorance or malice by individuals. In other words, if someone makes an unwanted edit, someone else reverts it. In case it's needed, that someone else informs the first someone what was wrong, and maybe tries to help them do it better next time.

It's a community solution to the problem of unwanted edits. It's based on the idea that there are more people interested in fixing and correcting unwanted edits than there are people making them. So far, it's worked. It works for a lot of wikis. It's a pretty darn good system.

Simple cases[edit]

These are some simple cases of unwanted edits.

Graffiti[edit]

Graffiti is when a user puts graffiti-like off-topic messages into Wikivoyage pages. Examples: "BOB IS GAY", "asdfasdfasdfasdf", "Does this really work?" Most graffiti is simply a test that the Wiki principles we espouse are actually in use. The editor is in effect asking, "Can anyone write anything on any page?" The answer, of course, is yes, indeed, they can. Another common bit of graffiti is selecting the entire contents of a page, deleting it, and saving the now blank page. This, also, works.

Graffiti can be a first step to becoming a real contributor. For this reason, it's best to treat graffiti as experimentation, and simply revert the edited page to its previous version without graffiti. A message to the person who made the graffiti edit, letting them know that it was noticed, and that they're welcome to make more valuable contributions to the guide would also be a good idea. It can also help to point them to the Graffiti wall, where they can practice their Wiki markup skills without scribbling on regular pages.

Vandalism[edit]

Vandalism is when a user deliberately replaces page content in a way that damages or destroys an article. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between vandalism and graffiti. However, vandals will tend to ignore pleas to stop their activities. Persistent and non-obvious vandalism activity should be posted on Project:Vandalism in progress so everyone can help repair the damage. Slow reverts, that is, waiting a while to remove the vandal's changes, can be very effective in discouraging vandals by boring them.

What you should not do It is best to never acknowledge an act of vandalism - neither by posting a message on the vandal's user page nor by commenting about the act in the edit summary. Vandals (trolls) love to be acknowledged and any comment ("nice try," "why are you doing this," "you can't win," etc.) will only encourage the vandal. It can be boring to repeatedly make edits without a reaction and the focus should be on making it as boring as possible for vandals.

Spambots[edit]

Spambots are users (or automated scripts posing as a user) that post lots of irrelevant links on pages in any namespace (most frequently mainspace or userspace). Their reason for doing this is to improve their website's page ranking in a Google search. They may not even care if their edits are reverted or the pages are deleted, as once their links are posted they sit in the page history, where the Googlebot and other search engines can find them. Disallowing search engines from history pages defeats the spambots' intentions. Wikivoyage's spam filter may also be a useful tool for blocking automated spambots.

Spambots should be blocked with no talk page access to prevent spamming on the user's talk page. Following this, if the spambot has made edits on multiple wikis then it should be reported to m:SRG so that a steward can lock the account, preventing login on all wikis. Even if an account has already been locked, it can be advantageous to locally block an account, as locking an account does not trigger an autoblock of the underlying IP. Stewards can also use the CheckUser tool on the English Wikivoyage to find the relevant IP address or IP ranges and globally block the IP address or ranges for an extended period of time.

Mistakes[edit]

Everyone makes mistakes -- spelling errors, typos, punctuation gaffes, factual errors, bad article names or page formatting that doesn't conform to the manual of style. The easiest way to deal with mistakes is to correct them. If a contributor continues to make mistakes, it can be helpful to send them a message letting them know what they're doing wrong, and perhaps pointing them to the page on the manual of style that describes the correct way to do what they're doing.

It's important to be friendly when telling people about mistakes. Almost all mistakes happen due to ignorance and not stupidity or outright malice. Let them know that their input is valuable, but that it makes it easier for other editors if they do it right the first time.

Defiance of policy[edit]

Sometimes contributors who make mistakes just won't agree that what they're doing is wrong, no matter what the policy says. Such a refusal is a defiance of policy. While stubbornly plowing ahead in defiance of established policy is not the most effective or polite way to challenge a policy, it is nonetheless a potential opportunity for our community to review the policy in question. Is our policy really the right way to serve travelers and make a good travel guide? If so, is it stated well, or does the explanation need to be clarified to make the policy more explicit? Do we explain why the policy is the way it is -- even if it's just an arbitrary decision one way or another?

Challenges to policy can help improve our community. They give us incentive to make our policies clearer, fairer, and more effective towards reaching our goals. In addition, having policies based on input from lots of people makes our policies fairer and lets all contributors feel "ownership" towards the project.

If you tell a contributor about a mistake, and they challenge the policy that defines that mistake, point out the page that explains that policy, and suggest that they explain on the talk page why they disagree with the policy. If the policy hasn't been fully stated or elaborated, feel free to update the policy page to state it more clearly, or give the reasons why it's policy. If there's no page for the policy at all, but just "general ideas", suggest that the contributor bring up the issue on the travellers' pub.

If the only way to make the case for a change in policy is by letting the contributor continue his or her edits and see how the article develops, then you may agree with the contributor to defer discussion of the issue till it is clear how the article will turn out. But make it clear to the contributor that if the challenge fails to gain consensus, the edits will have to be reverted.

One thing to avoid is to tell people, "That's just the way it is." Contributors need to feel that they're part of the community and have a say in the decision-making process. It's up to the contributor to decide whether they can live with the policy or not; they're always welcome to work on another project. It is fair, however, to insist that they challenge the policy on the appropriate policy talk page, rather than simply continue making edits in defiance of the existing policy.

Touts[edit]

While business owners are welcome to contribute to Wikivoyage, and lively edits are encouraged from all users, edits that are clearly advertising for a business or service are not appropriate. Wikivoyage:Don't tout provides details for identifying touting as well as guidelines related to promotional editing. When an edit is identified as touting it should either be edited to remove promotional phrasing, or it can simply be reverted. In either case, a message should then be placed on the user's talk page letting them know why their edit was inappropriate. Template:Tout is a useful template that can be placed on user talk pages to notify touts about problem edits.

Copyright violations[edit]

Copyright violations are contributions of text or images that the contributor didn't create themselves, and didn't get the original author's permission to license under our copyleft policy. This kind of contribution is occasionally made by overzealous editors who think it's more important to have lots of information in Wikivoyage, forgetting our goal that the information has to be free, too.

If a text edit is a copyright violation, simply revert the edit, and add a note on the Talk: page explaining where the text came from and why it was removed. It can sometimes be helpful to send a message to the user who posted the text, pointing out our copyleft. As usual, a gentle approach, without recrimination, is the best way to make sure that a contributor continues to help with our guide.

If an image is a copyright violation, list the image on the votes for deletion page. Again, a polite note to the uploader explaining our copyleft can be helpful. (A Google image search for the file name or the name of the subject is often a quick way to find if an image has been copied from another Web site.) If in doubt about an image's copyright status (e.g. it's on another web site, but maybe it's the uploader's site) tag it with {{copyvio|http://thatwebsite.com}} and ask the uploader to clarify.

Harder cases[edit]

These are some harder cases to deal with.

Excess baggage[edit]

One specific type of mistake, probably worth pointing out here, is when contributors bring excess baggage to Wikivoyage. Everyone in the world has opinions, ideas, beliefs and causes, and it'd be kind of weird if anyone contributing to Wikivoyage held our goals and not their own. But when a contributor doesn't respect our goals at all, and merely wants to use our Website as a soapbox to broadcast their opinion, well... we have a problem.

Our official content policy is to use the traveler's point of view for articles. This means that we don't espouse any particular ideas about culture, religion, nations, politics, or other non-travel topics. We also don't espouse any particular philosophies of travel, but try instead to provide information for as wide a range of travelers as possible. In addition, we don't endorse or advertise any particular travel businesses, services, or venues, but try to give them fair and honest reviews.

The easiest way to deal with edits that espouse a particular point of view is to correct the edit. Remove advocacy, and if the issue could have any importance to travelers in particular, explain the issue in an objective way. Generalize advertisements for businesses or services into suggestions for the activity or destination, and perhaps a review of the business or service. If necessary, add a note to the Talk: page for the article as to why you changed the content, and if you want send a message to the person who made the edit.

Trolling[edit]

The basis for a lot of humor in the English-speaking world is tweaking the tail of authority figures, zealots, and the self-righteous. The Internet example of this is trolling -- a practice of disrupting an on-line community for amusement. People who troll -- themselves often called "trolls" -- enjoy seeing someone get all red in the face over an issue they themselves don't actually care about in the least. The more people that get in the argument, the more successful the troll.

(Note that sometimes the term "troll" is generalized to mean what this document calls "excess baggage", and even to mean what this document calls "challenges to policy". Because the word is emotionally charged, it's probably not a good idea to mix those (at least sincere) concepts with deliberate disruption.)

There are any number of trolling techniques, but most involve starting an argument through feigned ignorance or advocacy, then fanning the flames with outrageous assertions or personal attacks. In general, a troll works to instigate conflicts by focusing attention away from the project's goals and instead towards individuals or policies. Note that in the case of trolls it is always best to err on the side of being overly tolerant as it is far worse to alienate a new (but possibly confused) contributor by treating that user as unwanted.

The best way to protect yourself and Wikivoyage against trolling is to keep an open mind and not take yourself or the site too seriously. Keep a level head during editorial conflicts and edit wars, remember to be fair and objective as often as possible, and try to keep focused on issues rather than on personalities. Most of all, avoid being pompous, authoritative, or pushy. One of the best ways to let yourself be trolled is to accuse someone of being a troll.

Repeat offenses[edit]

It can happen that, even after having been notified with polite but firm requests, a contributor continues to make deliberate unwanted edits. The response, as usual, is to revert them. Again, and again, and again, as long as is necessary.

Our community and professional attitude are stronger than any particular person's commitment to mess up the guide. It may seem kind of annoying and distracting, but it actually strengthens the project when we deal with problems like this. It only takes a very little time to correct unwanted edits, fix mistakes, and keep the guide in good shape.

If you get tired of following around a particular person making unwanted edits, let it slide. Someone else will jump in. If you have to, ask for help from other Wikivoyagers. Continue to try to make contact, look for ways to come to a solution that pleases all sides. Always concentrate on the edits themselves, and not getting drawn into personal issues.

Last resorts[edit]

These are some last resort options for dealing with really, really problematic situations.

Escalating user blocks[edit]

This procedure is an alternative to going straight to a user ban using the Wikivoyage:User ban nominations process (for which, see the following "User ban" section). It may be used, for example, in the case of editors who, on the one hand, make positive contributions, and on the other hand, repeatedly make problematic contributions or behave in a disruptive way. It consists of a series of steps: educating and counseling the user; documenting unwanted edits and giving a formal warning; blocking the user for increasingly longer periods; finally, applying a user ban (indefinite block).

The first step in dealing with editors who make a mix of positive and negative contributions is to give them positive feedback on their constructive edits, to educate them about the community's policies and norms, and try to persuade them to edit constructively and cooperatively within those norms. If they continue to make problematic edits, the second step is to point out the specific edits (with links to the edits if they are not obvious), and to describe why they are problematic.

Types of unwanted edits include:

If the editor continues with unwanted edits, the third step is to give a warning on their user Talk page. It is recommended to use Template:Unwanted edits for the warning.

If the editor continues with unwanted edits after the warning was given, an administrator can block their account or IP address from editing, initially for up to three days. If the unwanted editing resumes after the block ends, a second administrator may apply a longer block. This process can continue with increasingly long blocks as follows. Blocks should not be placed by an admin who is in a content dispute with the editor.

  1. Three day block. The aim is to turn a problem editor into a non-problem editor. For a very active problem editor, a three day block might be all it takes for them to realise the community is serious and to change their ways.
  2. Two week block. We are still hoping the editor will reform.
  3. Three month block. Redemption is not looking likely, and we need a real break from the disruption and distraction. But redemption is not impossible. For IP addresses (rather than user accounts) consider a shorter block since addresses may be re-assigned or have different users.
  4. Indefinite block for user accounts. IP addresses should almost never be blocked indefinitely.

In the sequence of blocks, no one administrator should make consecutive blocks. In general, a user should not be blocked from editing their own user Talk page. They should only be blocked from editing it if they use it for unwanted edits of an egregious nature.

IP addresses should be blocked only for as long as they are likely to remain assigned to the same person. We don't want to block other people trying to use the address. Block periods should be shorter than above if there is a real risk that other people will be blocked. It is better to block an IP address for a shorter period and then reimpose another shorter block without notice if problem editing resumes after the earlier block expires. Difficulties around blocking IP addresses are generic to wikis and Wikipedia has useful information on its Blocking IP addresses page.

User ban[edit]

It may occur that a contributor lets us know that they're not interested in our goals, and/or not interested in compromising or working with other Wikivoyagers to achieve those goals. If they insist on continuing to edit articles against the Terms of Use we may resort to using a MediaWiki feature that bans that person's username or IP address from editing Wikivoyage.

User bans are a last resort that should be used in only the most extreme cases. Before even considering a user ban, exercise patience and professionalism to try to work with the user who is making unwanted edits; doing otherwise might make an enemy out of a potential friend.

If there is a need for a user ban, someone needs to nominate the user or IP address for banning on the Project:user ban nominations page and also place a notice on the nominated User's Talk page. If the proposed ban is supported by two administrators, and there is a broad consensus for the block, after 3 days the ban will go into effect.

Bans made without a vote and without an understanding of the gravity of this action (and not covered by one of the exceptions listed below) are considered abuse by the administrator. In other words, a user ban is a really, really big deal.

Exceptions to the user ban nomination process include:

  • Blocks of one day or less when used as a discretionary tool for administrators. These blocks are sometimes used in slowing high-volume unwanted edits or in getting the attention of a user who is editing in unwanted ways. In general such blocks should be applied for very short periods (two hours or less) and only increased in length if the unwanted edits persist.
  • Blocks of obvious vandals. An obvious vandal is someone who is clearly here to edit maliciously, such as those who add racial slurs to articles, individuals who add obscenities to multiple articles, or individuals with clearly malicious user names such as "User:I AM GOING TO VANDALIZE!!!!!" or "User X is a NAZI!!!!!!". Registered accounts of malicious editors may be blocked indefinitely, while IP addresses should be blocked for shorter periods, which can be successively increased if the malicious editing re-occurs.
  • Blocks of users or IP addresses that are blocked for vandalism or other malicious editing on other Wikimedia projects. If a user or IP address has been blocked on another Wikimedia project and makes a similar malicious edit on Wikivoyage, the same block settings that have been used on the other project may be applied here.
  • Blocks of automated spambot scripts. Automated scripts that add spam to Wikivoyage are typically blocked for a period of three months. Note that if the IP address being used for spam has also been used to make legitimate edits then a shorter block should be applied since some IP addresses are shared by large pools of users.
  • Blocks of Doppelgangers, which are user accounts meant to mimic another account for the purposes of causing confusion. For example, "Joel" and "JoeI" look the same, but the second version uses a capital "i" instead of a lowercase "L". Doppleganger accounts may be permanently blocked without any need for a ban nomination.
  • Blocks of user accounts created by spambots. Some of the more advanced spambots are actually capable of creating user accounts. These accounts should be permanently blocked as soon as they are identified as being spambot accounts.

If there is any doubt as to whether a nomination is needed before blocking a user, admins should err on the side of caution and add a nomination to the Project:user ban nominations page.

Scripts[edit]

A slightly less dramatic reason to employ a user ban is for unauthorized or erroneous scripts. As mentioned above, our editorial integrity depends on the community of editors checking and correcting each other's mistakes. But it can be hard, if not impossible, to correct the mistakes of a buggy or malicious automated editing script.

We have a script policy that outlines how to write scripts that edit Wikivoyage pages in a safe and sane way. There are a couple of ways of stopping a well-behaved script without employing a user ban; see the script policy page for details.

However, if a script is badly-behaved -- due to programming error or malicious intent -- an administrator can and should put a user ban on the IP address and/or user account the script is using. Again, the administrator should note the ban on the user ban nominations page, and the same procedure applies as for other bans.

Range blocks[edit]

Range blocks are generally used only to stop users from evading blocks by rapidly changing the IP address from which they edit. The only other plausible case for using a range block is to block a formally registered organization from editing from their own range of IP addresses.

Range blocks are an exceedingly powerful and potentially dangerous tool, because they can accidentally block users other than the target. Details of their usage can be found at [1]. While this is a tool that hopefully will not need to be used much, the following guidelines are in place should such a block be required:

  1. Unless you are well-versed in the proper usage of these blocks, do not use them.
  2. A range block is a last resort. Do not implement a range block unless blocking individual IP addresses becomes impractical.
  3. A range block should be implemented for the shortest time period possible to stop any vandalism. In general, the larger the range of addresses being blocked, the shorter the block should be. Like most short-term blocks, a block of 1-2 hours is generally a good start, with increasing time periods allowable for repeat offenders.
  4. Any block of more than one day requires a ban nomination.
  5. Range blocks should always be made for the smallest possible range of IP addresses.

Project fork[edit]

It may occur that some editor or group of editors challenges one or another policy for Wikivoyage, and we can't come to terms with a compromise that works for everyone. If that person or persons just can't live with the policy, but wants to try something else, it's possible that we have a project fork.

A project fork means that the editors take the content of Wikivoyage and create a new wiki -- or conceivably, another kind of collaborative Web site -- and continue developing the content there. This is, of course, entirely compatible with our copyleft.

If possible, it would be nice to make forks "friendly" -- understanding that people may see things in different ways, or may want to get to our goals by different paths. It's better for our project to have Fellow Travellers than rivals.

See also[edit]