A shouting match is when a small, disagreeing group of people (often only two) reply to each other in quick succession.
How to get off one?
Please don't post at all when you find yourself doing a quick reply on the same topic for the second time.
- Back off.
- Let the matter rest for an hour or longer.
Then consider and re-evaluate:
- Is what I am writing really new?
- Is it really expressing my views better than before?
Assume the following: that even though the person you are discussing with may not have understood your point then and there, others have (and you'll be repetitive to them), and the people you want to argue with might be able to understand later and be more ready to when you haven't been insisting too hard. (And you'll look less stupid if it's been you who was wrong.)
- Use Preview to reread and rethink your argument.
Strike content that serves mostly to express your present feelings. Can you state your factual points more clearly and succinctly?
- Are you writing in the right place?
If you have chosen to address another editor's discussion style or other editing traits, an ongoing discussion is a bad place because it gets encumbered with that. Try and separate the matter under discussion and the editor you are having trouble with, and post on that editor's talkpage. That way, you are helping the original discussion stay calm.
- Give others time to participate.
This is a wiki. It is not you and the other person. If you wait, others will have a chance to butt in and support you. Or they may be able to explain things to you in a way that the other person couldn't.
- There is nothing urgent on the wiki.
Everything can be undone later. The one thing we can't undo is a huge shouting match that has exploded on the page. Descriptions, article changes, administrative actions can all be undone if we become convinced that they weren't good. We can afford the time to consider. Things are not as urgent as they feel.
- If you feel you have to win an argument, you're doing it wrong.
We're working together, not against each other.
- Vent on chat.
It's ok to be (more) emotional there, and users there are often able to counsel you on drafts of your posts before you "finalize" them on the wiki.
- If all else fails, contact your "opponent" off-wiki.
Use the "Email this user" link in the sidebar of their userpage, if possible (leave a note on their talkpage for them to check their mail). Maybe you can use chat.
- Use a moderator.
Choose a person you trust to act as moderator and make your point to them (off-wiki) and ask them to pass it on. (The moderator should restate the point and not just copy/paste blindly, so that the discussion can focus on content; in effect, his role is to filter the emotions.)
What to do when you are blocked
You are probably feeling anger at the block: you had something urgent to say, and now you can't say it. This is, however, not entirely true: you can still use email or chat. The problem that this block attempts to solve for you is that people weren't listening to you: they were reacting to your emotions more than your actual arguments (and possibly vice versa). So even if you still had the chance to post, it likely wouldn't change much.
You can try a change of strategy at this point: you could rethink your argument, collect the counterarguments, describe your emotions, then make your actual argument as unemotionally as possible. The more time you spend on getting this right, the more likely it is that the responses you're going to get will eventually lead to a solution that is acceptable for everyone, including you. Using your block time for this means using it wisely.
It is most useful to us when others post unemotionally; and it is most easy for ourselves to post emotionally. This means that if we are most "selfish", we are most useless to each other! So how to improve?
When we write for the wiki, most of the time we are really writing for ourselves. In fact, that's why wikis work so well for game facts: the facts we write down for ourselves are the same facts that others would write down for themselves, and that saves everybody effort and makes for a great collection of information.
We are each writing alone (look around you, whom do you see?), and as such, we are externalizing some inner monologue. Look up Weizenbaum's work on Eliza (I'll dig up a link for you if you can't find it) and realize that what you are writing to the wiki is part of that inner monologue in that its purpose is in part to feed your own thinking back to you. (I hope this becomes clearer later. ;-) This is the more so, the more you are using a "stream of consciousness" editing style.
This means that you are taking your inner issues out on the wiki. Now, generally that is not necessarily bad, but it becomes that when other editors get involved in them that don't want to be. This reaction is partially because the wiki is in their personal "headspace" for them as well. So to protect the wiki as a community institution, personal issues of editors are best confined to their own user pages.
Use the guidelines set out above to achieve this; if you find other ways that work better for you, feel free to add them here.
I want to avoid the impression that this is targetted at "wiki disruptors" alone, because of course it's not: we all are to some degree emotional on the wiki (I explained why, above), and it helps to be aware of that, and to be better editors means to not let ourselves and our fellow editors be surprised by our emotions. Find them, deal with them (on the wiki or off), don't just let them run wild. Thank you.