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Approve/formulate a consensus policy
What is consensus?
In order for an item to migrate from a Manual of Style discussion to a Manual of Style guideline, it needs to have reached consensus with the community. But what is consensus? Wikipedians say it is not unanimity. But what is it? A 60-40 vote? a 70-30 vote? 80-20? What kind of majority does an issue need to show in order to have reached consensus? Possibly, as Jbparker said, we don't have to worry so much about getting a huge majority on an issue because what we're making with the Manual of Style isn't policies, but guidelines. They're like strong recommendations. If someone doesn't want to follow them, they aren't compelled to do so. So community, what is consensus? Ritcheymt 21:23, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
- I saw "proposed consensus" used in some documentation on Wikipedia. Perhaps there is a proposed consensus written up and a period of time to allow for approval.. I think the opinion box that was added to the History/Local History discussion was a good way to get to a consensus.--Fran 21:58, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
- I agree with Fran on the use of the "opinion box" and the use of the terminology "proposed consensus." It seems to me that the person to write up the latter should be the person who sees a need in having consensus on a subject. Then all the contributors and users can weigh in on that subject. Jbparker 16:55, 8 June 2009 (UTC)
There are several things needed in a process to establish consensus. I suggest we establish a procedure/policy for reaching and documenting consensus. It sounds simple, but such a policy or procedure would need to address the following questions/issues:
- Where should the discussion, question, or statement of guideline needed be posted? (just manual of style, just discussion page somewhere, both, or ?
- Some sort of vote or consensus reaching on whether a guideline is really needed. If not, it never becomes a guideline, but the discussion of the need is preserved in an archive/linked inactive page.
- How long the discussion should be open before the guideline is drafted (perhaps this is variable and the length should be part of the raising of the issue, with certain lower and upper limits for time length)
- Once a deadline is reached, who will summarize the decision and write the proposed guideline as modified by the discussion comments?
- How long the proposed guideline is posted before becoming an accepted guideline.
- If someone contests that consensus was actually reached, what is the process for voting or establishing that consensus is indeed reached on the content of the final guideline.
- How the discussion leading to establishment of consensus should be preserved & linked.
- A policy for proposing changes to or deletion of guidelines.
- Sorry, no solutions proposed, just more problems stated.Alan 22:44, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
These are great points, Alan. Here are some comments:
- I disagree with number 2. Having to reach consensus to agree on whether a guideline is even needed seems like having a meeting to plan a meeting. Seems overly bureaucratic. Instead, I think the litmus test for whether a guideline is needed is A) whether anyone joins in the discussion and B) whether some join in by saying "It's silly that we're talking about making rules about this issue."
- Regarding number 3 and 5, I believe in Wikipedia there is no end of a congressional session, as it were. In other words, I don't think there is a time limit between when a user opens discussion on an issue and when it must be voted on. In fact, Wikipedia lets users put their own time limits on issues, ostensibly so that if a user is concerned enough about an issue to raise it, that usually means he is relying on a timely decision so he can go forward with a project.
- Regarding number 4, I think the original proposer will have the vested interest to post the consensus decision on the appropriate page.
- Number 8 feels litigious. If we want a policy changed or deleted, why not just add an argument to the discussion page?
Ritcheymt 22:01, 9 June 2009 (UTC)
Governing body needed
The consensus issue seems to me to be critical to the whole Wiki concept. If the Wiki community approach is correct, who is going to "police" what consensus is and when it is reached? It seems to me that this goes back to having to have a governing board to make basic policy decisions. Jbparker 22:56, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
- I've thought more about this matter of a governing body, and it has raised some questions which will, no doubt, expose my ignorance. But I'm going to ask them anyway. As the Wiki expands, how many "Sysops" will there be? Who has the ultimate decision-making power for the Wiki right now? How is the responsibility for policies/guidelines/user guide/content/etc. divided up now? It would seem to me that if a "governing body" is needed to answer some of Alan's questions above, the Sysops and Moderators should be involved, in some mix. Jbparker 16:55, 8 June 2009 (UTC)
- Governance on the wiki is complex, but we're leaning more and more to a place where functionality and style are driven by the community. I'd say the community presently has a lot more control over style than functionality right now, as evidenced by the ratio of user-driven to HQ-driven style discussions/changes being made now vs. the ratio of user-driven vs. HQ-driven engineering discussions/changes currently in the pipe. User:JensenFA and I are working to establish a more democratic approach to usability change procedure. HQ has placed an awfully high priority on engineering changes that will let us integrate this wiki with FamilySearch.org -- and this focus has negatively affected our ability to fix usability concerns raised by the community.
- Style, though, is another issue. We've learned to be democratic with that. I think we're even learning to post and invite the community to stylistic discussions suggested by this or that user long ago -- often in Community Meeting. And we've made it easy for users to champion their own stylistic causes in the Manual of Style talk pages.
- When I hear of a need for a "governing board" on the wiki, it gives me pause. I thought that's what discussion pages were for -- and that the governing body would be anyone who wants to participate in those discussions. I don't like oligarchies or star chambers. I know that's not what you're suggesting, but I guess I need a better understanding of what you are suggesting. And all this may sound disingenuous coming from a founder of this site that has a lot of influence, but I seriously lean toward true democracy rather than representative democracy or oligarchy. I guess I just saw too many abuses of power while spending the first 24 years of my life on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. In the last month alone, I've probably said 20 times to my colleagues or prominent wiki users "Hey, we should be having this discussion on the wiki" -- meaning we were having some policy, usability, or style discussion in a board room or via e-mail or phone which would be a lot more idea-rich, democratized, consensus-driving, and actionable if we had it on a wiki discussion page instead of in a small, closed group. The idea of a "governing board" gives a feeling of closed-ness from which I think we should be moving away. Ritcheymt 04:04, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
- OK, I guess I need to redefine what I mean by governing board. And perhaps it goes back to what you, Michael, are calling "engineering" decisions. I have no problem with discussing what should go into the Wiki, or even how it looks, or how many illustrations, or what the topics should be on a page, or what those topics should be. But if someone wants to make changes or decisions that would impact how the system works, then that seems to me to go beyond the community concept and into having someone having to ssy, "That change will affect the system's operation in this way." Who has that responsibility now, and who should have it in the future?
- I have no problem having an open discussion on the discussion page to try to reach agreement on what goes on the page, or how it is presented. But what happens if concensus cannot be reached? I think I know the answer, but I'd like to hear your ideas on that, for this discussion page's sake.
- I'm also not suggesting that we shouldn't push back, even against our engineers or techies that say something can't be done, in terms of how the system works or how it looks. I have found that if enough people want something bad enough, a way can usually be found to do it.
- I'm not sure this is making any sense tonight. Maybe I needed to wait until a new day, but these are at least some initial thoughts.Jbparker 05:35, 15 June 2009 (UTC)
As Wikipedia says: "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." I think it is that way in our wiki as well.Dawne 19:38, 22 July 2011 (UTC)