Categories: WikiTree Help | Conflicts

Courtesy is Required on WikiTree

Point IV in our community's Honor Code is about courtesy.

Conflicts are common on a collaborative website like WikiTree. They tend to increase over time as the size of the community grows and the depth and complexity of the collaboration increases.

To work together in a productive and enjoyable way we must all be courteous to one another.

This is an unfortunately common scenario: Member A is an experienced genealogist. They're good at research. They know how to cite sources and judge the validity of facts. But they have no patience for others and don't care if they sound rude or unkind. Member B is a beginner. They're making mistakes. But they mean well and are trying to follow the Honor Code. We really hate to lose the valuable contributions of Member A, but they must find a way to be kind to Member B. The success of our project depends on it.

Here are tips for avoiding and defusing conflicts:

  • Make an extra effort to sound polite and friendly. It's easy to misinterpret a person's tone or intentions when you're not talking face-to-face. "Emoticons" such as :-) may seem corny but they can help significantly.
  • When someone sounds rude, assume that they don't intend to be.
  • When someone makes mistakes, assume that they're unintentional.
  • Separate the person from the issue. Keep the focus on the issue/content. For example, “Here’s where I got my information—DAR application #123456. I attach a copy of the image. This supports the 1748 marriage between John Smith and Sarah Jones. What do you think?”
  • If it's a conflict about the facts, remember that you can present alternate theories in the text of a profile. For example, see disputed parentage. Present both sides fairly along with the evidence supporting or disputing each position.
  • Be the bigger person. Treat them as you would like to be treated, not as they are treating you. Even if a person is rude to you, don’t be rude back.
  • Do not be quick to take offense. WikiTree is a multinational website, and different cultures express their thoughts differently. What is rude to one culture is perfectly normal to another. We also have many members who aren't experienced on the Internet and don't appreciate Internet culture.
  • When giving constructive criticism, try to find a way to compliment or thank the other person. At the least, you can thank them for trying to make valuable contributions to our common project.
  • Get curious. People do not complain about things they don’t care about. Behind every complaint is something that is important to them. Get curious about that. For example, “You clearly feel very strongly about this. Please tell me more about what it is it you like about formatting the narrative this way?” Often times, a resolution can be discovered when you get under the initial reaction.
  • Apologize. It costs nothing to admit a mistake, to apologize if you made someone feel wrong, even if you didn’t intend it. For example, “I’m sorry you felt disrespected; that was not my intention. My goal is to achieve a readable, well-sourced profile. How can I make it up to you? What will it take for us to partner in order to improve this profile?”
  • Be patient. While you might participate daily on WikiTree, many people do not.

If someone is consistently unkind or impolite, point them to Honor Code <> and this page <>.

If you're having a serious disagreement with another member, see Problems with Members.

This page was last modified 14:28, 16 March 2015. This page has been accessed 2,436 times.