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Reverting is easy, but not always constructive. Being reverted can feel like a slap in the face and may cause edit wars where they could easily have been prevented.

In this blog post I will describe how to revert responsibly.

Terminology

To prevent confusion, I will define some of the terms I use throughout this post.

  • To undo is to click the "undo" button at the top of a diff page.
  • To rollback is to click the "rollback" button at the top of a diff page. The rollback and the edit that was rolled back will be hidden from the Recent Wiki Activity page. This option is only available to patrollers and up.
  • To revert is to remove the effects of one or more revisions. Reverting is not necessarily done by undoing or rolling back an edit, as manually removing the contents of one or more revisions also counts as reverting.
  • You are the person who intends to revert one or more revisions.
  • The editor is the person whose revision(s) you intend to revert.

Summary

Revert vandalism upon sight but revert an edit made in good faith only after careful consideration. It is usually preferable to make an edit that retains at least some elements of a prior edit than to revert the prior edit. Furthermore, your bias should be toward keeping the entire edit.— "Revert only when necessary" essay on Wikipedia

Together with the above quote, the following points form the core of this post:

  1. Prefer improving over removing, because almost all good faith edits contain a core of useful information.
  2. Explain your reasoning in edit summaries, to prevent simple misunderstandings.
  3. Prefer undo over rollback, because newcomers may think their edits are permanently lost otherwise.

Faith

The intentions of the editor play a major role in deciding how and whether to revert. Because you can never know the true intentions of an editor, you must assume their faith. You can either assume good faith or bad faith; the user conduct guideline recommends that you assume good faith.

  • Edits are made in good faith if they are made with the intent of improving Nukapedia, even if they don't actually reach that goal.
  • Edits are made in bad faith if they are made to deliberately disrupt Nukapedia. This includes vandalism, (some cases of) edit warring,[1] and otherwise disruptive editing. On the other hand, bad faith edits exclude edits containing honest mistakes, errors, misunderstandings, typos, or poor grammar. Informing someone of such mistakes neither requires nor equals assuming bad faith.

The plan

Flowchart

The flowchart below shows the key aspects of this essay, but is by no means a complete overview of all possibilities.

Revert plan
Bad faith
Good faith
Violates policy
Does not violate policy
Roll the edit back and inform an admin if necessary.
Undo the edit with a good edit summary.
Optional shortcut
Undo the edit with a good edit summary.
Rephrase or rewrite the edit.
Revert is reverted
Nothing happens
Revert is reverted
Nothing happens
Editor rephrases or rewrites their edit
Re-revert and urge an admin to intervene. Keep reverting.
Done!
Leave a message on the editor's talk page.
Done!
Repeat the entire process
Nothing happens
Leaves a message on your talk page
Revert is reverted
No timely response
Timely response
Done!
Talk it out.
Leave a message on the editor's talk page, then re-revert.
Urge the editor to reply, then (optionally) re-revert.
Talk it out.
No timely response
Timely response
Reverts revert
Done!
Talk it out.
Do not re-revert. Ask an admin to intervene.

Good faith plan

The best way to handle a good faith edit that you think needs to be reverted depends on whether your reason for reverting is objective or subjective.

Objective: Violates policy

If the contents of the edit violate policy, for example by adding speculation, similarities to real-world weapons, non-notable loot, plagiarised content, or simply incorrect information, the edit should be undone (but not rolled back) with an edit summary explaining the reasoning behind the undo (linking directly to the policy is always a good idea). Not including an edit summary may cause the editor to misjudge your motivations for reverting their edit, and make it especially difficult for the editor to assume good faith.

In most cases, nothing will happen after this step. Otherwise, if the editor approaches you by leaving a message on a talk page then you can talk it out there. If the editor decides to revert your revert, continue to assume good faith. Leave a message on the editor's talk page inviting them to discuss the issue there, and then re-revert their edit with an edit message urging them to respond on their talk page; do not continue the discussion in your edit summary because this encourages edit warring.

If the editor reverts your re-revert, performing another revert is counter-productive because it is almost certain that the editor will continue the edit war. Instead, inform an admin of the situation and ask them to lock the page. You can always revert the page to its initial state afterwards.

Subjective: Does not violate policy

If the contents of the edit do not violate policy but you still disagree with it, then start by reconsidering whether reverting is the right approach. It might be better to rephrase or even rewrite the edit, or to discuss the edit.

  • By rephrasing or rewriting an edit you signal your good faith in the editor's edit, which helps in preventing conflicts. The editor is likely to respond in one of three ways: by leaving a message on your talk page, by reverting your rewrite, or by further rewriting your rewrite. In the first two cases the best response is to discuss, while in the last case you should consider whether you want to further rewrite or start a discussion; reverting at this point is often not constructive. Alternatively, if the editor doesn't respond in any way you may assume that consensus has been reached.
  • When starting a conversation, you can add a {{verify}} to the edited page to signal to readers that some claims are contested. After leaving a message for the editor on their talk page, make sure to give the editor enough time to respond; say one or two days. If neither the editor nor anyone else engages you have reached silent consensus and you may revert the edit. If the editor instead decides to revert your edit (and does not leave an edit summary) the best approach is to leave another message on their talk page urging them to discuss the edit on the talk page (without reverting their revert). If they do not respond to this message within a reasonable amount of time either, find a mediator to resolve the conflict.
  • If you think that reverting is the best response to an edit, then revert the edit with an edit summary explaining your reasoning behind the revert. The editor is likely to either revert your revert or to add an alternative version of their original edit back in. In the former case you should try to initiate a discussion, while in the latter case you can either agree or choose one of the above two alternatives to reverting.

Bad faith plan

A bad faith edit is best dealt with by rolling back the edit. If the disruption caused by the edit is minor and it is the first time the user performed such an edit, it is not necessary to report the user because they are unlikely to do it again anyway.[2] Unlike good faith cases, it is OK to use warning templates.

However, if the behaviour continues, you should continue rolling back their edits and you should inform an admin of the situation, who will block the editor if appropriate. If the admin does not arrive in time and the editor reverts your revert, you cannot do much except re-reverting the edit and perhaps urging an admin to take a look. Refrain from insulting the editor: If it turns out your assumption of bad faith was wrong you look like an ass, and if your assumption was right you're probably doing exactly what they want you to do (i.e. you're feeding the troll).

See also

Footnotes

  1. Edit wars are bad faith only if they are waged in order to disrupt Nukapedia. An example of a "good faith edit war" is if someone continuously reverts your reverts and attempts to hold a discussion in the edit summaries. While such behaviour is against policy and the editor is likely to be reprimanded by admins, the editor's reverts should not be reverted only because they are edit warring.
  2. I have recently deliberately not reported vandals after rolling back their edit to see if they would continue their behaviour. Answer: Most often they don't.
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