'Consensus' refers to the primary way in which decisions are made on Wikipedia, and is accepted as the best method to achieve the goals of the project, including neutrality and verifiability. "Consensus" on Wikipedia does not mean that decisions must be unanimous (which, although an ideal result, is not always achievable); it means that the decision-making process involves an active effort to incorporate all legitimate concerns instead of relying on numerical voting.

Editors usually reach consensus as a natural product of editing. After someone makes a change or addition to a page, others who read it can choose either to leave the page as it is or to change it. When editors do not reach agreement by editing, discussion on the associated talk pages continues the process toward consensus.


What consensus is

Decision by consensus takes account of all the legitimate concerns raised. All editors are expected to make a good-faith effort to reach a consensus that is aligned with Wikipedia's principles.

Consensus, on Wikipedia, is not necessarily unanimity. Ideally, it arrives with an absence of objections, but often we must settle for as wide an agreement as can be reached. When there is no widespread agreement, consensus-building involves adapting the proposal to bring in dissentients without losing those who accept the proposal.

When no widespread agreement is possible, we call that no consensus. Often this results in no change or in silence on the disputed issue.

Reaching consensus through editing

A simplified diagram of how consensus is reached. When an edit is made, other editors may either accept it, change it, or revert it. "Seek a compromise" means attempt to find a generally acceptable solution, either through continued editing or through discussion.

Consensus is a normal and usually implicit and invisible process across Wikipedia. Any edit that is not disputed or reverted by another editor can be assumed to have consensus. Should that edit later be revised by another editor without dispute, it can be assumed that a new consensus has been reached. In this way the encyclopedia is gradually added to and improved over time without any needless procedures – editors do not need to seek permission before making changes. Even if there is a difference of opinion, often all that is required is a simple rewording that will satisfy all editors' concerns. Clear communication in edit summaries can make this process easier.

Editors are entitled to make changes without prior discussion (to "be bold", in Wikipedia parlance). Sometimes you might believe that a recent change is not an improvement; if so, you may decide to revert (undo) the change. When reverting an edit you disagree with, it helps to state (in your edit summary or on the talk page) the actual reason for your disagreement, rather than just citing "no consensus" or "not discussed". This helps indicate what issues need to be addressed in subsequent efforts to reach a consensus on the matter. However, Wikipedians frown upon continual or repeated reversions, either to the old or the new version; see WP:Edit warring. It is preferable to discuss the issue, or to try different wording; you never can tell when one editor will see a great improvement in what another sees as a minor tweak.

Reaching consensus through discussion

When agreement cannot be reached through editing alone, the consensus-forming process becomes more explicit: editors open a section on the talk page and try to work out the dispute through discussion. Here editors try to persuade others, using reasons based in policy, sources, and common sense; they can also suggest alternative solutions or compromises that may satisfy all concerned. The result might be an agreement which does not satisfy anyone completely, but which all recognize as a reasonable solution. It is useful to remember that consensus is an ongoing process on Wikipedia. It is often better to accept a less-than-perfect compromise – with the understanding that the page is gradually improving – than to try to fight to implement a particular 'perfect' version immediately. The quality of articles with combative editors is, as a rule, far lower than that of articles where editors take a longer view.

When editors have a particularly difficult time reaching a consensus, there are a number of processes available for consensus-building (Third opinions, requests for comment, informal mediation at the Mediation Cabal), and even some more extreme processes that will take authoritative steps to end the dispute (administrator intervention, formal mediation, and arbitration). Keep in mind, however, that administrators are primarily concerned with policy and editor behavior and will not decide content issues authoritatively. They may block editors for behaviors that interfere with the consensus process (such as edit warring, socking, or a lack of civility). They may also make decisions about whether edits are or are not allowable under policy, but will not usually go beyond such actions.

Level of consensus

Policy shortcuts:

Consensus among a limited group of editors, at one place and time, cannot override community consensus on a wider scale. For instance, unless they can convince the broader community that such action is right, participants in a WikiProject cannot decide that some generally accepted policy or guideline does not apply to articles within its scope.

Wikipedia has a higher standard of participation and consensus for changes to Policies and guidelines than to other types of articles. This is because they reflect established consensus, and their stability and consistency are important to the community. As a result, the best practice is to propose substantive changes on the talk page first and then allow sufficient time for thorough discussion before implementing the change. Minor changes may be made without prior discussion, but they are also subject to a higher level of scrutiny. The community is more likely to accept edits to policy if they are made slowly and conservatively, with active efforts to seek out input and agreement from others.

Consensus can change

Policy shortcuts:

Some articles go through extensive editing and discussion to achieve a neutral and a readable product. Similarly, other articles are periodically challenged and/or revised. This is a normal function of the ongoing process of consensus. It is useful to examine the article's talk page archives and read through past discussions before re-raising an issue in talk – there is no sense in forcing everyone to rehash old discussions without need.

However, consensus is not immutable. Past decisions are open to challenge and are not binding. Moreover, such changes are often reasonable. Thus, "according to consensus" and "violates consensus" are not valid rationales for accepting or rejecting proposals or actions. While past "extensive discussions" can guide editors on what influenced a past consensus, editors need to re-examine each proposal on its own merits, and determine afresh whether consensus either has or has not changed.

Wikipedia remains flexible because new people may bring fresh ideas, growing may evolve new needs, people may change their minds over time when new things come up, and we may find a better way to do things.

A representative group might make a decision on behalf of the community as a whole. More often, people document changes to existing procedures at some arbitrary time after the fact. But in all these cases, nothing is permanently fixed. The world changes, and Wikipedia must change with it. It is reasonable and indeed often desirable to make further changes to things at a later date, even if the last change was years ago.


Policy shortcut:

Some exceptions supersede consensus decisions on a page.

  • Declarations from the Wikimedia Foundation Board, or the Developers, particularly for copyright, legal issues, or server load, have policy status.
  • Office actions are outside the policies of the English Wikipedia.
  • Some actions, such as removal of copyright violations and certain types of material about living persons, do not normally require debate or consensus, primarily because of the risk of real harm inherent in them.
  • A decision of the Arbitration Committee may introduce a process which results in temporary binding consensus. For example, Ireland article names.


Editors who maintain a neutral, detached and civil attitude can usually reach consensus on an article through the process described above. However, editors occasionally find themselves at an impasse, either because they cannot find rational grounds to settle a dispute or because they become emotionally or ideologically invested in 'winning' an argument. What follows are suggestions for resolving intractable disputes, along with descriptions of several formal and informal processes that may help.

Consensus-building in talk pages

Policy shortcut:

Be bold, but not foolish. In most cases, the first thing to try is an edit to the article, and sometimes making such an edit will resolve a dispute. Use clear edit summaries that explain the purpose of the edit. If the edit is reverted, try making a compromise edit that addresses the other editors' concerns. Edit summaries are useful, but do not try to discuss disputes across multiple edit summaries—that is generally viewed as edit warring and may incur sanctions. If an edit is reverted and further edits seem likely to meet the same fate, create a new section on the article's talk page to discuss the issue.

In determining consensus, consider the quality of the arguments, the history of how they came about, the objections of those who disagree, and existing documentation in the project namespace. The quality of an argument is more important than whether it represents a minority or a majority view. The argument "I just don't like it", and its counterpart "I just like it", usually carry no weight whatsoever.

Limit talk page discussions to discussion of sources, article focus, and policy. The obligation on talk pages is to explain why an addition/change/removal improves the article, and hence the encyclopedia. Other considerations are secondary. This obligation applies to all editors: consensus can be assumed if editors stop responding to talk page discussions, and editors who ignore talk page discussions yet continue to edit in or revert disputed material may be guilty of disruptive editing and incur sanctions.

Your goal in a consensus-building discussion is to persuade other people to voluntarily agree with the change you want to make. People who employ good social skills and good negotiation skills are more likely to be successful than people who are unfriendly, rude, unable to see the other person's perspective, or unwilling to compromise.

Consensus-building by soliciting outside opinions

When talk page discussions fail—generally because two editors (or two groups of editors) simply cannot see eye to eye on an issue—Wikipedia has several established processes to attract outside editors to offer opinions. This is often useful to break simple, good-faith deadlocks, because uninvolved editors can bring in fresh perspectives, and can help involved editors see middle ground that they cannot see for themselves. The main resources for this are as follows:

Third Opinions
3O is reserved for cases where exactly two editors are in dispute. A neutral third party will give an opinion about how the dispute should be resolved. Third Opinions are nonbinding, but help the parties reconsider the issues from a neutral point of view.
Most policy and guideline pages, and many Wikipedia projects, have noticeboards for interested editors. If a dispute is in a particular topic area or concerns the application of a particular policy or guideline, posting a request to the noticeboard may attract people with some experience in that area.
Dispute Resolution Noticeboard
Similar to Third Opinion but not limited to two parties, mediator/clerks help the parties come to consensus by suggesting analysis, critiques, compromises, or mediation.
Requests for Comment
A formal system for inviting other editors to comment on a particular dispute, thus allowing for greater participation and a broader basis for consensus.
Informal Mediation by the (purported) Cabal
A place to seek help if prior efforts at dispute resolution have failed. This is a voluntary process that creates a structured, moderated discussion—no different than an article talk page discussion, except that the mediator helps keep the conversation on focus and moving forward, and prevents it from degenerating into the type of heated conflicts that can occur of unmoderated pages.
Village pump
For disputes that have far-reaching implications—mostly ones centered on policy or guideline changes—placing a notification at the pump can bring in a large number of interested editors. This ensures broad consensus across the project.

Many of these broader discussions will involve polls of one sort or another, but polls should always be regarded as structured discussions rather than voting. Consensus is ultimately determined by the quality of the arguments given for and against an issue, as viewed through the lens of Wikipedia policy, not by a simple counted majority. Responding YES/NO/AGREE/DISAGREE is not useful except for moral support. responding (DIS)AGREE per user X's argument is better, presenting a novel explanation of your own for your opinion is best. The goal is to generate a convincing reason for making one choice or another, not to decide on the mere weight of public expressions of support.

Administrative or community intervention

Policy shortcut:

In some cases, disputes are personal or ideological rather than mere disagreements about content, and these may require the intervention of administrators or the community as a whole. Sysops will not rule on content, but may intervene to enforce policy (such as WP:BLP) or to impose sanctions on editors who are disrupting the consensus process inappropriately. Sometimes merely asking for an administrator's attention on a talk page will suffice—as a rule, sysops have large numbers of pages watchlisted, and there is a likelihood that someone will see it and respond. However, there are established resources for working with intransigent editors, as follows:

Wikiquette alerts
Wikiquette is a voluntary, informal discussion forum that can be used to help an editor recognize that they have misunderstood some aspect of Wikipedia standards. Rudeness, inappropriate reasoning, POV-pushing, collusion, or any other mild irregularity that interferes with the smooth operating of the consensus process are appropriate reasons for turning to Wikiquette. The process can be double-edged—expect Wikiquette respondents to be painfully objective about the nature of the problem—but can serve to clear up personal disputes.
As noted above, policy pages generally have noticeboards, and many administrators watch them.
Administrator's intervention noticeboard and Administrator's noticeboard
These are noticeboards for administrators—they are high-volume noticeboards and should be used sparingly. Use AN for for issues that need eyes but may not need immediate action; use ANI for more pressing issues. Do not use either except at need.
Requests for comment on users
A more formal system designed to critique a long-term failure of an editor to live up to community standards.
Requests for arbitration
The final terminus of intractable disputes. Arbiters make rulings designed to eliminate behavior that is disrupting the progression of the article, up to and including banning or restricting editors.

Consensus-building pitfalls and errors

The following are common mistakes made by editors when trying to build consensus:

  • Too many cooks. Try not to attract too many editors into a discussion. Fruitful discussions usually contain less than ten active participants; more than that strains the limits of effective communication on an online forum of this sort. Where large-scale consensus is needed then it should be sought out, otherwise the input of one or two independent editors will give far better results.
  • Off-wiki discussions. Discussions on other websites, web forums, IRC, by email, or otherwise off the project are generally discouraged. They are not taken into account when determining consensus "on-wiki", and may generate suspicion and mistrust if they are discovered. While there is an occasional need for privacy on some issues, most Wikipedia-related discussions should be held on Wikipedia where they can be viewed by all participants.
  • Canvassing, Sock puppetry, and Meatpuppetry. Any effort to gather participants to a community discussion that has the effect of biasing that discussion is unacceptable. While it is perfectly fine—even encouraged—to invite people into a discussion to obtain new insights and arguments, it is not acceptable to invite only people favorable to a particular point of view, or to invite people in a way that will prejudice their opinions on the matter, and it is surely objectionable to pretend to gather people by simply using other accounts on your own. Neutral, informative messages to Wikipedia noticeboards, WikiProjects, or editors are permitted, but actions that could reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to "stuff the ballot box" or otherwise compromise the consensus building process would be considered disruptive editing.
  • Tendentious editing. The continuous, aggressive pursuit of an editorial goal is considered disruptive, and should be avoided. The consensus process works when editors listen, respond, and cooperate to build a better article. Editors who refuse to allow any consensus except the one they have decided on, and are willing to filibuster indefinitely to attain that goal, destroy the consensus process. Issues that are settled by stubbornness never last, because someone more pigheaded will eventually arrive; only pages that have the support of the community survive in the long run.
  • Forum shopping, admin shopping, and spin-doctoring. Raising the same issue repeatedly on different pages, to different admins, or with different wording is confusing and disruptive. It doesn't help to seek out a forum where you get the answer you want, or to play with the wording to try and trick different editors into agreeing with you, since sooner or later someone will notice all of the different threads. This is also known as "asking the other parent". Obviously, you can draw attention to the issue on noticeboards or other talk pages if you are careful to add links to keep all the ongoing discussions together, but best practice is to choose one appropriate forum for the consensus discussion, and give (as much as possible) a single neutral, clear, and objective statement of the issue. See also Wikipedia:Policy shopping.

When there is no consensus

Some discussions result in no consensus. "No consensus" means that there is no consensus either way: it means that there is no consensus to take an action, but it also and equally means that there is no consensus not to take the action. What the community does next depends on the context.

  • In deletion discussions, no consensus normally results in the article, image, or other page being kept.
  • When actions by administrators are contested and the discussion results in no consensus either for the action or for reverting the action, the action is normally reverted.
  • In article title discussions, no consensus has two defaults: If an article title has been stable for a long time, then the long-standing article title is kept. If it has never been stable, or unstable for a long time, then it is moved to the title used by the first major contributor after the article ceased to be a stub.

See also

Wikipedia essays and information pages concerning consensus:

  • Wikipedia:What is consensus?
  • Wikipedia:How to contribute to Wikipedia guidance
  • Wikipedia:Don't revert due to "no consensus"
  • Wikipedia:IPs are human too
  • Wikipedia:No consensus
  • Wikipedia:Silence and consensus; cf. Wikipedia:Silence means nothing
  • Wikipedia:Staying cool when the editing gets hot
  • Wikipedia:Method for consensus building
  • Wikipedia:Closing discussions
  • Wikipedia:Compromise
  • Wikipedia:Consensus doesn't have to change

Articles concerning consensus:

External links

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