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This page discusses edit conflicts, and how to deal with them. To understand what an edit conflict is, consider the following situation:

  • Alice clicks "Edit this page" on a page.
  • Bob clicks "Edit this page" on the same page.
  • Alice finishes her edits and clicks "Save page". The page is saved with Alice's version.
  • Bob finished his edits and clicks "Save page". Bob gets an "edit conflict" page.


Contents

Layout of the edit conflict page

At the top is Alice's version of the page.

At the bottom is the text Bob was going to submit. This will be Bob's version of the page, if he edited the entire page, or Bob's version of the section he edited, if he was editing just one section.

In the middle is a diff of the two pieces of text. This is much less useful if Bob used section editing.

Resolving an edit conflict

If Bob only made small changes, and Alice made large changes, he may choose to work from Alice's version, and re-merge his changes in. Bob might choose to add some text like "via edit conflict" to warn Alice and others that he had to do this - Alice can then peer review his merging for accuracy.

If Bob made large changes, and Alice made small changes, he may choose to work from his version. One option is for Bob to copy the bottom text into the top text (or just copy over the one section of the top text, if Bob was section editing), with an appropriate edit summary (eg "via edit conflict, will remerge"). Then Bob can view the page history, determine Alice's changes, and re-apply them to his version, in a separate edit.

If both Alice and Bob made large changes, matters become complicated, and Alice and Bob just have to do the best they can. For example, if both Alice and Bob simultaneously add a large section of text on the same subject, then it may be best for Bob to submit his changes, and then for Alice and Bob to both have a look at the two versions and decide between themselves which version is better.

Bob should not just post his changes over the top of Alice's. It is a good idea to double-check merges by using the diff feature.

Logical edit conflicts

Some people edit by copying the source text into a text editor, making lots of changes (reorganising, adding new content, etc...), and then, when they're done, pasting the whole thing back onto Wikipedia as a single edit. If someone has made minor changes prior to their paste-back, sometimes these changes can get lost in the paste back. People who edit in this manner should check the diff on their edit to make sure they didn't inadvertently blast over the top of someone else's changes.

Reverting

When saving a previous version (i.e. when reverting) or a new version based on that (a modified reversion) the edit conflict warning and prevention system is not triggered and a possible new edit made in the meantime is unintentionally reverted also, see Reverting a page to an earlier version. To avoid this problem one can copy the text from the edit box of the old version into the edit box of the latest version. In some sense, this can cause hidden edit conflicts: you may overwrite someone else's changes without realising that you are doing so. It's always wise to check the diff after performing a revert, just as you would after posting via edit conflict. Preferably, one can simply try to avoid reversion wars.

Prevention

Because edit conflicts are irritating and time-consuming, you may choose to alter your editing habits to render them less frequent: aiming to make more edits to pages that have not been edited recently, such as those listed on ancient pages, for example.

Another means of avoiding edit conflicts is to make a single larger change, rather than frequent smaller changes: this makes it more likely that you will get an edit conflict, but less likely that you will cause others to get an edit conflict. Using the "Show preview" button helps here.

To reduce the chance of edit conflicts, Wikipedia has an "In Use" notice in its MediaWiki namespace that people may use when editing a page over a long period of time. Simply put {{inuse}} on an article before proceeding with a major edit, and remove the template when the editing is complete.

New since v.1.3 is CVS-style edit conflict merging, based on the diff3 utility. This feature will only trigger an edit conflict if users attempt to edit the same few lines. See also automatic merge.

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