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I basically have three questions, all about edit disputes: How can I avoid edit wars, who has the final say over the content of an answer, and what do I do if an answer was locked?

Who has the final say over the content of an answer?

If there is an unresolvable dispute about the content of an answer, does the original author have final say, the community opinion (eg as expressed via comments), moderators, or someone else?

My reasoning would be that independent of good reasoning or valid sources, the original author of an answer should always have the final decision about the content of their answer, as it's their name associated with it. It also seems that giving others the final say would be hard to manage and that it could easily lead to edit wars.

If other users disagree with an answer and their edits where reverted by the original author, they are free to voice that disagreement in the comments, to downvote the answer, to create their own answer (if applicable), or to create a new question about the disputed topic (if applicable).

Handling repeated edits / avoiding edit wars

I'm also wondering what to do if a user repeatedly edits/reverts an answer against the expressed wishes of the original author (possibly without giving a reason for the edit and/or ignoring the reasons for the existing version)? Should these edits just be reverted each time, should a moderator be contacted (if so, how?), or should something else be done?

How to handle locked answers

When an answer is locked, the description reads:

This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved

This sounds like a temporary measure. But what if the dispute cannot be resolved? Will the answer be locked forever, making all future edits impossible? This doesn't seem ideal, especially if the lock is the result of an edit war, meaning that the lock will possibly be permanent.

The text also gives off the impression that the answer is wrong or highly disputed. But what if only one user repeatedly edits an answer (possibly without giving valid reasons)? In that case, the text seems misleading.

Is there a way to unlock an answer without reaching a consensus with a user that fundamentally disagrees with it?

Because I think that locking an answer in the case of one user repeatedly editing an answer against the wishes of the original author is not a good idea. I don't think that it meets the reasons for locking, and I think that it could easily be abused.

If I don't like - possibly well-sourced - content in an answer, I can just repeatedly remove it. Either the original author gives up after a while and keeps my edits, or the post gets locked after a while, giving the impression that the content was in fact wrong or disputed by more than that one person, and making votes, further edits, etc impossible. Either way, I have reached my goal.

To me, it seems that the correct solution would not be to lock an answer in such cases, but to contact the user editing the answer and telling them to stop.

This concrete answer brought the questions up for me, but it's mainly about how to handle these situations in general.

  • Removed comments that were re-hashing the actual edit war, rather than addressing the question. – Oddthinking Jan 19 '16 at 6:17
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Who has the final say over the content of an answer?

All our content is community edited. In this sense no one has the final say. Changes can't be normally prevented, unless we lock the question, and we only do that in exceptional cases.

Handling repeated edits / avoiding edit wars

and

How to handle locked answers

You are free to flag for moderator attention when you see something bad happening. Moderators are also automatically notified when many edits are made on the same post.

The official policy on what edits are valid and which are not is here: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/edit

Locking is one of the ways to avoid edit wars, but normally I would expect any edit wars to stop after a moderator steps in and comments. In other cases we can also be more drastic and suspend one or all the accounts involved to let people cool off. Finally, locking can be made permanent.


In general, I'd advise all parties not to get too hooked up on single terms. Chances are that there are perceived differences due to cultural bias and I think that assuming best intentions is always the safe choice of action.

One way you could improve your post is by inlining the evidence that supports the contentious statement. This is good because at the same time strengthens your argument and moves its focus from you to your evidence.

Example:

Original

Judith Wolter - a member of the right-wing extremist, racist, and nationalist Bürgerbewegung pro Köln and a member of the city council - did write an open letter which was published at the pro koeln website, in which she called the area around the train station at new years eve a no-go-area for women.

Improved

Judith Wolter did write an open letter which was published at the pro koeln website, in which she called the area around the train station at new years eve a no-go-area for women.

She is a member of the right-wing extremist, racist, and nationalist Bürgerbewegung pro Köln and a member of the city council:

Im Verfassungsschutzbericht des Landes NRW aus dem Jahre 1994 wurde die Partei als nationalistisch, rassistisch und völkisch-kollektivistisch eingestuft

(tr.)

In 1994, in Verfassungsschutzbericht of NRW, the party was classified as nationalistic, racist and nationalist-collectivist.

(source)

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    @Sklivvz I think the improved answer draws more attention to the context than necessary (background information is important, but I don't think that it should generally make up the majority of an answer). But I do see that it might have been a good solution in this case (possibly as a footnote in <sub> tags). – tim Jan 15 '16 at 22:34
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    @Dawn yes, it has; context is important. The question was if "the city council" did X. Saying that "a member of the city council" did X might imply that she speaks in the name of the city council or that the city council stands behind the comments. Because of this, it is important to include that she is a member of a fringe party. Apart from that, I'm not going to link to right-wing extremists without describing their - well documented - political positions in my answer. It gives off the impression that they are a normal part of the political landscape, and thus normalizes these positions. – tim Jan 15 '16 at 22:35
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    I don't think that the official policy on edits is all that helpful here. It only described "common edits" and neither "to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it" nor "to correct minor mistakes" really fits here (nothing was clarified, and no mistakes were corrected). Is there maybe a meta post going into details that I haven't found yet? – tim Jan 15 '16 at 23:03
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Who has the final say over the content of an answer?

I am not sure that there is a simple answer to that question. Wish there was. If might makes right, it is the moderators, because they can lock out other people, but I don't think that is how anyone wants disputes to be resolved.

My reasoning would be that independent of good reasoning or valid sources, the original author of an answer should always have the final decision about the content of their answer, as it's their name associated with it.

I disagree that the answer is irrevocably associated with the answer. It is indicated that the question has been edited, and the edit history reveals the authorship.

I'm also wondering what to do if a user repeatedly edits/reverts an answer against the expressed wishes of the original author (possibly without giving a reason for the edit and/or ignoring the reasons for the existing version)? Should these edits just be reverted each time, should a moderator be contacted (if so, how?), or should something else be done?

Reverting once is reasonable. After that, a flag seems appropriate.

Will the answer be locked forever, making all future edits impossible?

It is unfortunate that the interface doesn't reveal that locks can be time-bound. The initial lock was for just one week, to give people time to sort it out civilly. This seems to have been achieved early and the lock has been removed.

I think the rest of the questions are best answered with: flag for moderator attention, bring up a meta-question or discuss in chat. If you have a reasonable case, we can lock it with a different version, deal with the recalcitrant user or - ideal case - use rational argument to persuade each other and/or find a compromise text everyone is satisfied with.

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I think this site isn't quite like Wikipedia, but their advice about writing with a neutral point of view is helpful, especially their advice about using contentious labels.

When you must use a contentious label in order to address the question, I'd follow their suggestion to use in-text attribution. I think that helps push the responsibility for the contentious label to the reliable source and not you.

If the label is not material to establishing the answer to the question, I'd drop labels alltogether.

  • from wiki "unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject". I provided reliable sources, the person repeatedly editing my post against my wishes did not. Maybe the problem was that the person wasn't familiar with the german political landscape, but the labels "right wing extremist" and "racist" are widely accepted and used in this case; it's not like calling the GOP racist, it isn't even like calling Trump racist; it's more like calling the KKK racist (which wiki does).I still think that my post is written from a NPOV (btw, wiki also calls them racist and right wind extremists) – tim Jan 15 '16 at 9:15
  • The problem here is that how NPOV is applied is still somewhat subjective. Wikipedia has a discussion page where this can be talked about in-depth to reach a consensus. We here only have comments and the chat, which aren't a good alternative. That's why I think - and until now I thought this is how it was generally handled - that the author of a post has final say, even if their content is completely wrong (which I still don't think is the case here), in which case other users can downvote, comment, post their own answer, etc. – tim Jan 15 '16 at 9:16
  • I didn't want to put links under all the easily verifiable facts that are only provided as context, because that would result in quite a lot of links, making the answer harder to read; I also didn't provide a link for the fact that Wolter is a member of pro koeln,or that she is a member of the city council. And I still don't see how a widely accepted fact underlined by multiple references is contentious, but in-text attribution would maybe have been a good solution in this case (I'm definitely not removing important background information from an answer just because one user is offended by it) – tim Jan 15 '16 at 16:25
  • @tim You did not provide reliable sources for the racism or that she did not speak for the council. So I improved the answer to be accurate with what was provided. what value does the racism provide to the answer – Chad Jan 18 '16 at 16:44
  • @Chad I provided sources for "racist", you just didn't accept them because they were in german. And of course there are no sources that she didn't speak for the city council, it's just common sense. Her statement wasn't published at the official council website, but on the website of her party, meaning that she didn't speak in the name of the city council, but in the name of herself and her party. To underline this further, I included a - well sourced - description of her party which makes it clear that it is a fringe party with fringe views. Would you accept an answer as proposed by @Sklivvz? – tim Jan 18 '16 at 17:54
  • Which is why I changed it to say does not appear to speak for the council. Since there is no way to say for sure that she was not speaking for the council. Its not that I did not accept the source I could not read them adn they werent linked in the answer and when google translate does it the word racism is not there – Chad Jan 18 '16 at 18:04
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I agree with Dawn's post that Wikipedia's advice on this issue is completely applicable in this case.

As quoted from their manual (emphasis mine):

Value-laden labels—such as calling an organization a cult, an individual a racist, terrorist, or freedom fighter, or a sexual practice a perversion—may express contentious opinion and are best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject, in which case use in-text attribution

The usage was clearly value-laden. In that case, you should simply do as Wikipedia does, and cite the term "racist" from reliable sources.

If this is done to Wikipedia's standards, then I would argue that temp-banning the edit-war user would be a reasonable course of action, since it would be a large stretch to assume that they are acting in good faith.

  • This is exactly what I asked the OP to do... When it was refused I simply removed the labels which did not in any way change what the answer said. – Chad Jan 18 '16 at 16:41
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    @Chad if by "please include links" you meant "add them to the answer", I misunderstood. I thought that you did not accept the sources I already provided in the comments and were requesting additional sources (which I then provided, again in the comments, because I did not want to clutter up the answer with too many links). Would a proposal such as that from Sklivvz (or something similar which keeps the well-sourced description, but adds references in the answer itself) be ok for you then? – tim Jan 18 '16 at 18:04
  • @tim yes though seriously what does including racist to the label add to the answer that far right does not? – Chad Jan 18 '16 at 18:06
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    Wikipedia's suggestion for "in-text" attribution is a little more nuanced. It would have you say "X, described by ____ [1] as a racist, ...", rather than just "X is a racist [1]". In-text attribution is more explicit than just in-line citation. It avoids making an objective claim that X is a racist, and instead, only says that they have been described as a racist by some source. – user30557 Jan 18 '16 at 18:16
  • @Chad like I said, I think the parties political orientation is important for background information (and to further underline that she was indeed not speaking for the entire counsil), and right-wing extremist, racist, nationalist is just more precise than far-right. But like I said, I don't need racist to be in the answer. Something like right-wing extremist, anti-constitutional, and nationalist would be ok for me as well. – tim Jan 18 '16 at 18:18
  • @Dawn But if a claim is more or less universal, wikipedia also claims it as their own (see also the actual description of in-text attr). See for example pro köln, where wiki uses "rechtsextrem" (right wing extremist, which is comparable to racist) in the political orientation box (without saying X called them right wing extremist), or KKK, where it calls their ideology "terrorism" in the info box (again without "X said"), or NSDAP, where the ideology is called "Racism". – tim Jan 18 '16 at 18:27
  • @Dawn It even says "It is best not to clutter articles with information best left to the references." and "Neutrality issues apart, there are other ways in-text attribution can mislead. The sentence below suggests The New York Times has alone made this important discovery[...]" – tim Jan 18 '16 at 18:29
  • Then don't misuse it. Its not a big deal anyway. Just trying to help you out. Ignore my advice if you think it isn't useful. – user30557 Jan 18 '16 at 18:39
  • @tim the party is not racist, the people in the party are racist. If you can source anti constitutional in the answer then i think its a good descriptor of the party position rather than the people in the party. Also extremist... people in the party are(maybe) extremist the party is far right. including them in the answer makes it sound like you have an axe to grind with people in the party – Chad Jan 18 '16 at 23:06
  • @Chad Parties can be racist. If you want, I can rephrase it (eg "The party belongs to the right-wing extremist political spectrum. Its ideology consists of racism, nationalism, ..." or similar), I provided plenty of sources for this in the comments of my answer. Parties can be right wing extremists, see eg here. As to anti-constitutional, see eg wiki (verfassungsfeindlich means anti-constitutional). – tim Jan 18 '16 at 23:36
  • @Chad and again, most of the sources are in german, but if you do want an overview, please go read the english wikipedia article: The [NRW] domestic intelligence service [...] has observed the grouping [...] for the suspicion of right-wing extremist aspirations. [...] Since 2011 the intelligence service has stated that the indications for anti-constitutional aspirations went beyond the scope of mere suspicion. [...] the movement violates the human rights as specified in the German constitution – tim Jan 18 '16 at 23:40
  • @Chad here are the sources from my comments: "rechtsextremistisch" (meaning right-wing extremist), "die Inhalte sind geprägt von teils verklausuliertem, teils offenem Rassismus" (english: "The positions are characterized by partly coded, partly open racism"). Verfassungsschutz: "nationalistisch, rassistisch und völkisch-kollektivistisch" (english: "nationalist, racist and völkisch-collectivist"). – tim Jan 18 '16 at 23:47
  • @tim then source them in the answer and we will be good – Chad Jan 19 '16 at 3:05

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