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This is a page for the generation and discussion of ideas to improve Wikipedia or solve specific problems. Please contribute to one of the brainstorming sections below, or start your own using the template provided. Once enough people here believe they have a good proposal, either propose a change to an existing policy, on that policy's talk page, or propose a new policy and publicize your proposal widely.

  2. "A description of the problem" should be the product of consensus i.e. anyone can edit, and unsigned; in the other sections please sign your contribution.
  3. The purpose of any discussion of structural or persistent problems at Wikipedia ought to be the development of policies or processes to address the problem, or improvements to existing policies and processes. Nevertheless, this is not a policy proposal page. If participants in a discussion feel that they have reached the point where they can make specific proposals, they should either go to an existing policy, or create a new policy proposal page.
  4. If any editor feels that there is a structural or persistent problem that is not listed on this page, he or she should add the area using the basic template.
  5. In brainstorming possible solutions to a problem, allow a certain amount of time for the generation of ideas before moving on to the critical evaluation of ideas. Withholding criticism until there is a good number of ideas (at least 5–10 separate proposals) encourages contribution and helps the creative process.[1]
  6. If after a reasonable amount of time it is clear that an insufficient number of editors care about a particular area of concern, and there is insuficient discussion to serve as a basis for practical proposals, editors should archive the discussion using this {{hat|This topic has been archived due to insufficient concern}} {{hab}} method.
  7. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia where any editor may edit any page at any time – this page included.


Name of the area of concernEdit

Description of the problemEdit

Analysis of the problemEdit

Possible solutionsEdit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

SEC Fillings are sometimes tagged as 'unreliable' and 'insufficient for a Wikipedia Article'Edit

Description of the problemEdit

Publically-traded companies (in the US) are required to file a 10-K form (commonly called the "annual report"), disclosing details on the nature of their business to the SEC. The SEC requires companies to submit 10-K forms so that the general public and potential investors have relevant information they need to understand the company. They are written by the companies themselves, so people tend to suspect they are just corporate promotional material (and, they are often preceded by an "annual report to shareholders" which is just corporate promotional material). However, the SEC fillings (10-K, 10-Q, etc) are legally binding documents that must present factual information – often of topics companies might not otherwise disclose: executive compensation, subsidiaries, audited financial statements, core-business risk factors, and pending legal cases.

Furthermore, these are often the only sources for such information, and they have been used extensively very well-done articles about companies, even in feature articles such as BAE Systems.

Analysis of the problemEdit

Certainly, more secondary sources would be preferable, but since SEC fillings are audited, they will be objective. And since they are legally binding, they will have a much higher level of reliability than other types of corporate communication (product ads, recruiting ads, investor presentations, etc). It's up to the Wikipedia editors to use the information appropriately and make sure the Wikipedia article is neutral and unbiased.

Possible solutionsEdit

Make a statement in the Wikipedia:Verifiability and Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources pages explicitly noting that SEC filings are acceptable sources when used appropriately.

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Strongly Agree- Absolutely! At least, from my perspective, Wikipedia's greatest issue prohibiting further refinement and expansion is the fact that as an attempt to compensate for perceived inaccuracies in Wikipedia, editors are 'deletionistic', and are overly restrictive. This policy will help expand the amount of high-quality knowledge available on the site!

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Lack of scholarship in certain types of articlesEdit

Description of the problemEdit

In several areas, Reality Show articles, articles on go-cart facilities, some television shows, some music groups, there is a notable lack of scholarship that is otherwise present in the rest of the encyclopedia.

Analysis of the problemEdit

These shows tend to be entered by editors whose editing skills are sometimes wanting and whose scholarship education is often missing. There is no analysis; an attempt to "look below the surface" to determine what is going on. So there is no examination of material critical or analytical of the article (please note that I am not suggesting WP:OR here). There is no display of any grasp of capitalist elements involved in (for example) producing a show. How much time/money was invested? What was the return? (and therefore likelihood of a repetition) How did the principals get involved? Were they recruited? How and why? What were the problems surmounted? This is really too much to expect of these editors. People with scholarly credentials are busy editing concept articles, physics, philosophy, medical, geography, and other mundane, humdrum items that make up actual civilization. These people would probably not be interested in directing their editing efforts at (for example) television shows and go-carting venues.

Just as important, these articles attract new editors whose scholastic credentials are similarly lacking, who go on to (eventually) create yet more genres at the bottom of the scholarship spectrum. In short, it is a downward spiral. It may raise the question, "Is Wikipedia a serious encyclopedia or a junk collection?"

Possible solutionsEdit

Subdivide Wikipedia into two domains, the current section which deals with scholarly material in a scholarly, encyclopedic manner and a "sister project" named for convenience here "WikiEntertainment" for articles that will never have scholarly analysis but merely accurate superficial presentation.

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Typography is not irrelevant! Wikipedia needs to be more readable!Edit

Description of the problemEdit

This is something I've noticed for years now: Web design seldom uses good typography, and reader attention and comprehension suffer hugely as a result. I understand that, as one friend told me back in 1998 or so when he was studying web design, that this new breed of designers have prided themselves on "breaking the rules." This is fine WHEN you understand the rules you are breaking and know your reasons for breaking them. This is not the case with typography choices that are consistently made throughout the worldwide web.

Typography has been studied intensively for over 100 years. We KNOW what font and layout choices allow people to read at optimal speed AND understand what they read. As just one example, a study found that just using the right line spacing increased comprehension from 77% to 98%? Yes, line spacing affects comprehension! When you're telling someone something face to face, it's not enough to just talk rapid-fire in a monotone; your message is far better absorbed when there are a lot of nonverbal cues -- tone of voice, pauses, etc. By the same token, when putting information into print, it's not enough to just dump it onto the page. You choose legible fonts, pick the right sizes and styles, "chunk" the information visually, use white space judiciously, etc. You help readers move through your text like sharks through water.

In my opinion, it's time to look up from the rule-breaking and see if anything valuable has been thrown out with the bath water. Typography definitely has. Wikipedia should lead the way in fixing this. Given the enormous reach of the site, this would have a huge effect on web design everywhere.

Analysis of the problemEdit

Have a look at Wikipedia's own page on typography:

The text on this page lacks readibility on several counts:

1. The font is too small (12 point would read optimally)
2. The font is a single-weight sans serif (Two-weight fonts -- with thick and thin strokes -- read faster and more accurately, as do serfis over sans serifs. The eye recognizes the words more quickly)
3. The lines of type are 2 to 3 times longer than they should be (10-12 words per line is optimal. After 15 words, the eye starts to lose track of the line.)
4. While kerning and tracking are pretty good, leading (line spacing) could probably be improved

Fixing just these four issues would significantly increase both reading speed and comprehension for all Wikipedia readers. We should consider making these and other fixes to the site.

BTW, here are some quickie resources on typography for anyone who's interested in learning a little more:

Possible solutionsEdit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

I'm not conversant with web design, but assume it's not hard to edit the page style to bring it up to industry typographical standards. For example, here's a site I found that seems to deal with exactly that:

Apparently Microsoft had both a serif and a sans serif font designed specifically for the web. They are really good. You can see what they're like, and read the rationales for them, here:

I would prefer to read Wikipedia in a serif font, personally, but Microsoft's latest fonts Calibri (sans serif) and Cambria (serif) are both very good for web and print:

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Shortage of reviewers at WP:FACEdit

Description of the problemEdit

The WP:FAC page is backed up; there are not enough reviewers to process the nominations, and not enough substantive reviews for the FA director/delegates to make timely decisions whether to promote or not. Also see Wikipedia_talk:Featured_article_candidates#Pleeeeeease.

Analysis of the problemEdit

My initial sense is that procedures for determining and judging articles for FA status are cumbersome and involved. But I've never participated in a FA process so I don't know which are the most important criteria, or how they may be lessened to make the review process faster, more streamlined, more accurate. My sense is the apparent tediousness of the process turns people off; I don't see how my contributions, assessing articles, would be much fun (but maybe that's me). And I still think that a HUGE way to help bring new opinions to our articles is to involve readers, similar to Amazon's feedback of reader-reviews, which ask: "Was this review helpful?" With a click of a "yes" or "no", and checks to make sure the same person doesn't keep going back to click on the "yes" button to manipulate the helpfulness criteria. Wikipedia has MILLIONS of readers -- if there's a way to get them involved, in some way, in the process of helping us determine which are the best articles, I think that such efforts should be explored.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 19:49, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

The FA criteria are at WP:WIAFA. What I find enjoyable about reviewing is that you are reading some of the best articles this project generates, which is often interesting in itself, and that promoting an article is a team effort; if it works out, it is a good thing to have been part of. You also learn a lot about article writing in the process because you're examining other editors' writing more closely than you would otherwise do. JN466 22:10, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your reasons. But I had a counter-experience with the whole GA/FA world: I spent perhaps a week revamping Dana Delany. I had great references (+100), interesting information. She is a lesser-known actress with terrific acting talent who doesn't pursue "stardom" as such; she's a highly competent professional. When I finished with my revamp, including a highly accurate so-called "filmography", the article was about as good as I and others could make it, in my view. But then it went up for "GA" review, and failed. It was my sense at the time that the specific criteria used to evaluate the article weren't that important; like, the criteria to determine GA and FA are a checklist of sorts that may or may not apply to each article. I liked the article. It was solid, respectable, well-referenced. But what I concluded from my experience was: article reviews were a waste of time. It brings a kind of English-teacher sensibility to writing, grading by rubrics. Writing is highly subjective, and depends on the purpose and subject, some of which have particular problems to surmount and can't be judged by a checklist. I like how I write -- not great, not flowery, but straight. Since then, other contributors have whittled down the article, trying to get it in a position to qualify for GA status, and in my mind, they're detracting from the article's quality in pursuit of some nebulous objective. I've sent them messages, saying: don't bother -- GA and FA is a waste of time; Dana Delany will probably never make GA/FA status. The GA/FA rules are tilted by subject, so a subject like Angelina Jolie has more opportunities to test well with artificial rubrics. I suppose I support the effort, overall, as a way to try to bring some kind of quality to Wikipedia, but I still feel it needs to be simpler, more streamlined, and of all Wikipedia's problems, I think this is way down the list. Bigger problems -- recruiting & retaining editors; anonymity (=bad thing in my view); administrators abusing powers (I've run into a few already -- a real turnoff.)--Tomwsulcer (talk) 23:31, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
When climbing any mountain, they tend to get steeper the closer you get to the top. Is it worth it? That all depends on you. It's true, that writing is subjective, just as music is, but there are still certain rules one would have to follow to write, say, a classical opera. Similarly, there are certain rules that do not constrain the writing, but actually enhance it. Encyclopedias typically use a journalistic style of writing.
Yes, I agree rules can in some circumstances be helpful.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 00:53, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
As for anonymity, while I think it causes some problems for sure, the benefits overwhelm them. I have had the opportunity here to work with famous professors, authors, and scientists, (with some of them I can tell who they are just by their writing style, but I'll never tell). I probably would never have created an account had I been required to use my real name, and would bet good money that many other excellent editors would say the same thing. Zaereth (talk) 00:06, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
Why? Why did they want to be anonymous? Why did YOU want to be anonymous? Are you afraid that somebody would identify your writings and, based on what you wrote, cause you harm? Or, are you saying that you want to tell the truth -- but the truth is so politically difficult that saying the truth would cause negative repercussions to you? You're saying the "benefits of anonymity" outweigh the drawbacks of anonymity which are considerable: sockpuppetry, vandalism, unaccountability. If a supposedly "famous" professor insisted on contributing anonymously, I would suspect hanky-panky, perhaps he or she is negatively commenting on the work of a competing colleague. Why would he or she want their writings anonymous? Would they be lying? I bet there are paid lobbyists, advertising people, PR types, who contribute to Wikipedia all the time, and we can't determine who they are because they've cloaked their identity behind Wikipedia's "anonymity". I think: IF you believe in what you're writing, say so. Stand up for who you are. Reveal yourself. Don't hide behind smoke and "handles". Be accountable. Write accountable opinions. The truth will set us free.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 00:53, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
First off, because I simply do not want to. I simply do not want to be involved with anything that might be a hassle, as this is just a hobby for me. As soon as it's no longer is fun for me, I'll lose all interest. Second, any opinions I write on main space are accountable to reliable sources. I try to avoid those altogether, though, doing most of my edits on technical articles. I have no doubt that there are all types of people on Wikipedia, and the fact that we, ideally, are all equals here is one of the best things about this place. But, really, the best way to judge the quality of any editor is not by the name, but by the quality of their contributions.
I helped promote Hebron glass to GA quality, and really, it wasn't that hard. just a little simple copyediting. I have no interest in recognition and fame, but am simply trying to help others to understand subjects I had to struggle hard to learn. Of course, this is just my opinion so there's no point in refuting it. I respect your opinion and admire your push for quality. I would love to hear insight from others on this. Zaereth (talk) 01:52, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
There are many who have a big interest in recognition and fame, so that makes it difficult for those of us who are not to participate freely. Those who are want fame and recognition, want that main page recognition, expect those of us who are not to do much of the copy editing and reviewing. But because of the "awards" system, those who do not get the awards are of lesser stature. In my opinion, there is an inherent conflict between the "encyclopedia that anyone can edit" and the article ownership encouraged, or at least condoned, by FAC. —mattisse (Talk) 02:37, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
I add that the FACs seem increasingly boring and specialized, obviously (in my view) the interests of a chosen few are being over represented. There is no mechanism for reader input. We have no idea of what readers think. FAC reflects the interests of those few FAC editors only, not any kind of wider public. There is no evidence that the millions who consult Wikipedia even know or care about FAs. It is time for Wikipedia to question whether the excessive energy going into this endeavor benefits the encyclopedia. Where is the evidence. Does it increase page views? —mattisse (Talk) 03:41, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

(outdent) I'm in agreement with Matisse that article readership is an important measure of article usefulness; and I would love to get readers somehow involved with some kind of measure -- perhaps their perception of usefulness or quality? Articles that are heavily read should get more attention from us -- more concern about POV, more fact-checking. And Wikipedia should try to orient its limited incentives (barnstars etc) to articles with extensive readership.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:19, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Agree. An article like Arthropod gets thousands of hits per day.[1] But it is not an FA. Meanwhile, small readership articles are frequently FAs, and all the energy is put into parochial interests. This is not to say those articles are bad, but they are not taking the general readership into account. It is a question of priorities. Are we here so some privileged editors can get their FA featured on the main page. Or should are priorities be that of serving the interests of the readership who have no voice. —mattisse (Talk) 02:43, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps there should be some kind of section or link on the main page to "most read articles" in each area or something like that. Not the same ones all the time but a rotation. It could apply to, for example, articles that get over 30,000 hits a month or some cut off point. Fainites barleyscribs 11:57, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
Fainites, you are to be complimented on achieving an FA that does have wide readership: Attachment theory[2]. —mattisse (Talk) 16:23, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
Thank you very much Mattisse. I had a lot of help though. Fainites barleyscribs 16:45, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

And about the anonymity -- I'm not clear about how being anonymous equates with "having fun" on Wikipedia. I'm somewhat more clear about how identified contributions equates with "recognition and fame", although I don't think the main purpose of identified contributors is for fame or recognition. Rather, my whole concern is about accountability -- that anonymity makes it possible for murky people and murky governments and murky religions and murky businesses with murky agendas to pose as if they're real people and legitimate contributors but to push their POV here and disguise it. There are articles like United States and state terrorism which are highly biased, but continue to exist in Wikipedia because a cadre of editors, most likely sockpuppets, keep it alive. My thinking is that when people sign up to contribute to Wikipedia, there should be a choice -- do they want to contribute anonymously? Or would they identify themselves? And they should be encouraged to identify themselves, who they are, what affiliations they have to which organizations, religions, governments. And editors who more clearly identify themselves and their purpose, with a real name and address, should be given greater authority here in Wikipedia (in article content disputes, to have their view prevail; greater privileges; but they'd be subject to Wikipedia's rules just like everybody else), since their authenticity is more easily checked, and their purpose much more visible. My thinking is that prominent academics and scientists and authorities don't like contributing to Wikipedia because their expensive, thoughtful contributions can be undone with the click of a mouse-button from some spooky nobody with a hidden agenda; so, as a result, Wikipedia doesn't get much help from authorities and experts.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:19, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

Actually, it's not just a FAC problem, but it is something that is occurring Wiki-wide, at all content review processes and noticeboards as well. Part of the current problem at FAC (and other pages as well, probably) is the number of new noms due to WP:WIKICUP (almost a third of current nominations), at a time when several key reviewers were missing. Proposed solutions to the backlog are underway via an RFC, and it has received ample input, showing that FAC is alive and kicking. The "awards" culture is a problem, as Mattisse mentions, across all content review processes, but I dispute her "ownership at FAC" charges. And clearly there is proof that FAs are important to our readership; they go on the mainpage :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:33, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
This is the first I have learned about WP:WIKICUP. I'm still learning about it and haven't made up my mind. But I perused the list of competitors and noticed something. One competitor User:Sasata was way out front with 600+ points. But looking over the articles contributed by Sasata, there are many articles about fungi. What I found extremely puzzling, when looking at the page view statistics for some of these statistics, was that they would be mostly unread, with perhaps a few hits per day -- but then one day there would be 4000+ viewers. What's going on? Still, my general sense is: these articles are good in themselves, and help Wikipedia, but that they weren't topics that really help most people. My sense is the readership of articles about fungi is very low. That is, persons interested in fungi are probably a small sliver of the Wikipedia readership. So, if the Wikicup goes to Sasata, it will reward a contributor who is doing great articles but which nobody reads. What I'm saying is this whole dimension of readership is valuable. And prizes should reflect people who not only contribute good articles, but who achieve high readership -- or who contribute unreverted parts of articles which are important, useful (ie highly read).--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:10, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
That massive spike of views was probably down to the article appearing on the front page in the DYK section (although I can't be certain without knowing what article it was). Nev1 (talk) 19:46, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
Wikicup is a whole 'nother subject, that could derail this thread, but worth examining. In terms of the readership concern, the last Wikicup winner contributed featured images, which has little to do with readership, but does add value to the Project. At any rate, it appears that Wikicup may be flooding content review processes, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (different editors have different motivations, and we can't force editors to contribute in ways that most value "readership"), but that may be a big part of the current FAC backlog. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:14, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
My point is not about forcing contributors, which obviously nobody can do. We all contribute voluntarily. But what I'm saying is that a prize such as WP:WIKICUP should reward usefulness (measured, in my view, in terms of readership), not just "contributions" on obscure subjects. Right now Wikicup is rewarding articles about fungi, and to the extent that it rewards quality contributions on obscure subjects, I see Wikicup as mostly nonsense -- like Hollywood stars going around giving themselves "awards". My complaint with Wikicup applies to "FA" and "GA" reviews as well -- since readership as a criterion to assess article quality is omitted, they encourage quality articles which few people ever actually read.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:29, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but editors do what interests them, and we can't force that to change or force editors to work in areas that impact core readership. Maybe start a new thread here about how to encourage more participation in WP:VITAL, separate from the FAC concern. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:33, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
You brought up WP:WIKICUP, and I think it's relevant to the whole FA/GA and rewards system. If you wish to start a new thread, be my guest. My point is when our best contributors such as User:Sasata spend great energy devoted to fungi, more important topics on Wikipedia get neglected.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:38, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
No, because Sasata's work in fungi doesn't mean that if he weren't working on fungi he would be working elsewhere; readers contribute according to their interest. So, at least Wiki has excellent coverage of fungi! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:54, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
I'm a bit puzzled by this "awards" idea. What awards? Wikicup looks like a bit of fun to me and people do like a bit of competition and something to aim for but I wasn't even aware of it's existance until recently. DYK gives out "medals" but FAC and GA don't. As for barnstars, I had always assumed barnstars and the like were personal messages of appreciation between editors and many of them are quite jokey. Some editors go in for them more than others. If not these - what "awards" are we talking about?Fainites barleyscribs 01:52, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
WikiCup is actually a full-fledged "competition", with a winner and everything; similar to the "awards" culture also at DYK. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:27, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Regarding "spike" in hits per day for a mostly unread article, this is probably the result of appearing on the main page appearance as "Today's featured article", restricted to FAs. FAs are determined by a relatively few number of editors through the Featured article candidates process. Once FA status is gained by an editor for an article, editors may request that their FA to appear on the main page through Today's featured article requests where a few editors "vote". However, the ultimate decision is made by Raul654 who is the sole decision maker of what articles are given this honor. He constructs Featured article queue. Thus FAs are created and passed by a relatively few number of editors on the topic of their choice. It has nothing to do with what the readership is interested in. These editors, by obtaining a FA status for their article, make their article eligible for the main page where it will appear for 24 hours (accounting for the spike in hits). The Wikipedia readership has no say in determining FA or in their appearance on the main page, being unaware of the whole FA process. They are just more likely to click on it if it is on the main page, which pleases the FA article editors. —mattisse (Talk) 17:49, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
No, the mainpage is not restricted to FAs; there are many sections on the mainpage (ITN, DYK, etc.) Spikes could also be to DYK or other mainpage hits. I dispute the "relatively few number" charge; FAC is a vibrant community process. Wiki readership has no say in determining anything; Wiki editors do. I hope you're not proposing we highlight random articles in Today's Featured Article on the mainpage; we have a well-functioning process to make sure we highlight Wiki's best work. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:58, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
Please read what I said: "main page appearance as "Today's featured article", restricted to FAs" . Is it not true that main page appearance as "Today's featured article" is restricted to FAs? Is it not regarded privilege for an editor to have his or her article "featured" on the main page as "Today's featured article"? —mattisse (Talk) 18:03, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Question if "FAC is a vibrant community process". In the RFC opened above for shortage of reviewers at WP:FAC, open less than 24 hours, one motion has already passed with 12 supports and 0 opposes. Is that representative of the wikipedia community? Should not more editors be involved in a process that results in an editor to have his or her article "featured" on the main page as "Today's featured article"? This RFC has nothing to do with Wikipedia readership needs or preferences. —mattisse (Talk) 18:10, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  • That's a strawman that misrepresents the level of participation in the RFC. The motion passed with 12 supports was added on very late, hence got less feedback, and is a completely trivial item (switching one tool in use at FAC for another, that does essentially the same thing but is easier to read-- completely non-controversial). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 18:22, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Glad to see that you reversed course and opened up the closed motions to allow for further discussion.[3][4] Issues shouldn't be decided with the speed of lightening. —mattisse (Talk) 19:55, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  • *I* didn't reverse course because I didn't close those discussions, and subsequent feedback on the page indicated they should be re-opened (including new data on WikiCup), demonstrating the vibracy of that RFC and the number of editors who wish to opine (not decisions being made by a select group of editors).[5] [6] Please remember your Plan, Mattisse, wrt FAC; your recent posts do little to advance this discussion, and you might want to consult your advisers before continuing this line of discussion. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:49, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Possible solutionsEdit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

  1. An RFC is underway at WT:FAC, has received wide input, and proposed solutions to the backlog are being examined. It also may be a temporary problem, due to a flooding of new nominations from WP:WIKICUP. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:07, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  2. New reviewers are encouraged to jump in: reading this Dispatch may give you ideas of ways in which you can help! SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:07, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or processEdit

  1. Make an article's readership a key component to judge article quality in contests such as WP:WIKICUP and DYK. Give awards based on (1) quality (2) readership to encourage contributors to add articles which readers find useful.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 13:55, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    WP:DYK is drawn from a pool of cited hooks from new articles (less than 5 days old by definition or to a five-fold expansion in less than 10 days of an existing article). It is meant to encourage new article creation and significant expansion of articles with new material. Therefore, it is not possible to determine readership for a DYK prior to its appearance on the main page. There are eight new DYK's every six hours or 32 DYK's a day on the main page; much of the hit rate of a DYK depends on the time zone it happens to land in for its six hours, as well as where it is in the DYK queue (e.g. the top DYK with picture gets more attention often; an American DYK likely will get less of a hit rate if it appears in the early morning hours in America.) However, Wikipedia:Today's featured article is up for 24 hours over all time zones and has bigger play on the main page. Since they are old articles, their readership is possible to determine.
    DYK is not a contest in the sense that WP:WIKICUP is. WIKICUP winners get no main page exposure as a result of winning the cup and no particular recognition from Wikipedia, as far as I know. It is a contest for the pleasure of the participants, and the winners and runner-ups get whatever prestige there is garnered from that accomplishment. —mattisse (Talk) 14:31, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Agreed. I'm learning more about the GA/FA world, Wikicup, DYK hooks; thank you for your comments. In general Matisse I agree that article readership should be emphasized more since it brings the vast perspective of Wikipedia's readers to help us improve the encyclopedia. I agree about not emphasizing parochial interests, as you put it earlier. So, my revised proposal is: In FA decisions, please include article readership as a criterion. That is, a way to encourage more attention towards more highly read (ie more useful) articles. Or, how about this: FA's should be have at least X average views/day. And X could be 50, or 100 perhaps, or maybe more?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:08, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    DYK does encourage the nominator to at least look at page hits: "You are welcome to check how many hits your article got while on the front page (here's how, quick check ) and add it to DYKSTATS if it got over 5,000. If you know of another interesting fact from a recently created article, then please suggest it on the Did you know? talk page."
    FAC does not give any consideration to readership and there is no attempt to assess it. I recommend that you read the RFC mentioned above at Proposed changes to FAC nomination process to get a feel for the concerns of the FA editors. —mattisse (Talk) 16:15, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Towmsulcer - I don't see how readership numbers can be a criteria for quality. Quality is quality whether anyone reads it or not. Making it a criteria for main page exposure is a very different issue. On the other hand, some may argue that the obvious topics will be read anyway so the mainpage can encourage people to look at things they would otherwise not find or be aware of. Like Wife selling or Fairy wrens.Fainites barleyscribs 17:43, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    • The trouble with Wife selling is that is it really an {{orphan}} article, linked to only two other articles in the entire encyclopedia. The question is whether such articles are fulfilling an encyclopedic need to know. Or are they merely catering to parochial interests of their editors. —mattisse (Talk) 18:27, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    • Interesting point Matisse. The initial problem posed here was a backlog at WP:FAC. And when the Wikipedia community says that X article is a featured article the community as a whole is putting its stamp on a particular article, giving it attention, and saying "here's our best work". This attention, indirectly, is a kind of reward system, motivating contributors to submit certain types of articles, and to focus on getting a badge of honor -- the tiny star indicating "Featured Article" status. And I think article quality by itself isn't enough here. It's important. But readership, in my view, should be an important criteria too for "FA" status, since I think highly read articles are more useful to the community. Ideally we should motivate contributors not to work hard on obscure or parochial subjects which only a few people read, but to do quality work on well-read articles. So, one way to lessen the "FAC backlog" is to require, perhaps, that candidates for FA status meet a certain minimum readership level, consistent over time. Otherwise Wikipedia will flourish with excellent articles about obscure fungi, or weird birds in Australia.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:47, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Well it's one of those tidbits that people have heard of but don't really know anything about but which grabs your interest. I bet it would get loads of hits if it was TFA. More than Attachment theory which is worthy but lacks human interest in the same way.Fainites barleyscribs 18:36, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    That's the whole point though. Only an FA is eligible to be featured on the main page where it will get lots of hits regardless of its subject matter, but if it is not integrated into the knowledge base of the encyclopedia, is it really worth the time and energy of the community to hone such articles to perfection when articles on important subjects of interest to many on a daily basis, such as school children around the world, do not get such attention? Is that where our priorities should lie, in an article that is a fascinating tidbit to relatively few, and that does not fulfill our goal to {{globalize}}? —mattisse (Talk) 18:58, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Agree exactly with Matisse. It's a question of priorities.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 19:03, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    The trouble is - there's an awful lot of work in an FA and I suspect most people do FA's in subjects which ring their bell. You wouldn't keep going otherwise. For example, all those media articles leave me cold but I assume they grip somebody enough to write them. Perhaps the issue of readership is better considered in relation to WP:TFA rather than FA. There are many FA's which are never TFA. Fainites barleyscribs 20:53, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Good point! But it doesn't address the problem which is "Shortage of reviewers at WP:FAC". Also, I don't know if it is possible to change how WP:TFA is determined, as that is the power of Raul alone. (Maybe the "shortage of reviewers" issue has died down for now.) —mattisse (Talk) 21:27, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Another FA article that got my attention Stanley Green links to few articles and has very vew page views.[7] I wonder if this is the norm? —mattisse (Talk) 23:36, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Here's one that has had just a few page views so far this year: John Vanbrugh.[8] This despite the fact it is linked to many articles. Perhaps this is a lonely interest of someone to create these articles? —mattisse (Talk) 00:24, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    Mind you - not all TFAs get the same readership by any means. Attachment theory got a mere 43K whereas Gropecunt Lane got over 200K though the former gets far, far more on a daily basis. Probably you wouldn't put the latter into search unless you knew about it already. TFA therefore encourages the discovery of otherwise unknown topics. Now Major depressive disorder gets an impressive 90K a month but only 61K on TFA. Fainites barleyscribs 19:39, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    • Anything that has to do with sex or has words like "cunt" in it is going to get a huge hit rate. —mattisse (Talk) 19:42, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    Well that's probably true - I picked a bad example. I still think there's a strong argument though for a project that encourages improvement of high traffic articles. I noticed from my experience that Attachment theory was high traffic even when it was full of attachment therapy nonsense from sock puppets. Similarly Child development has about the same traffic now as it did when it was formless weird stuff some time ago. Fainites barleyscribs 19:50, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    People are going to read articles on topics they are interested in, whether the article is well written and accurate or filled with trash. All the more reason Wikipedia should concentrate on those articles that have high page views. Obscure topics may be fun to write about, but is this where the Wikipedia's energy should go? Of the 1000 most popular articles last month there are no FAs. TFA can get a spike for an article, but if it is not on a topic with enduring interest, and especially if it is not integrated into the encyclopedia by being linked to other articles, it seems to me it has little value to the overall encyclopedia. Its a question of priorities. —mattisse (Talk) 20:05, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
  2. Establish a new process for highly-read articles to assess their quality status, and, more importantly, to review edits to them to ensure the quality does not deline due to tabloidification of an article, or bickering over what editors "know" about a topic (especially any article relating to social, economic, political or religious topics). See my effort at WP:Josh Billings to indicate my opinion of what editors "know." There is an easy way to find such articles - if the article talk page goes over 100K, with many walls of text, someone is asserting he "knows" the answers. This is appreaciably different from the current noticeboard procedures as it would specifically ask people who admit they do not "know" the topic to keep a continuing eye on the page. The page may never get Featured status, but at least we can generate an improvement of quality on the "most-read" articles. Collect (talk) 17:17, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    These were the most viewed articles in 12/2009mattisse (Talk) 18:11, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    I separated out biographies as best I could at User:Collect/Popular Bios Collect (talk) 21:31, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Thank you! Thats an interesting list. —mattisse (Talk) 22:18, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Great stuff. Why is Pear so darned popular? It's a highly read article with minimal references, definitely needing attention.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 23:42, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
    Good question. This page views thing should be given more weight. In looking at many FAs, I find they tend to be low, with exceptions like Major depressive disorder. But harding any FAs are on Psychology\Psychiatry. They tend to be on obscure topics. I found one (above) that has had very few page views this year, even though it has many links to other pages. —mattisse (Talk) 01:46, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    Stanley Green illustrates my point though. Encyclopaedia Britannica would never have an article on him but what a great article! Everybody who's ever been to Oxford Street, which will be about a third of the adult population of the UK and a pretty substantial number of tourists from all countries, will remember the passion man. This kind of article is one of wikipedia's strengths. I agree that it would be a good thing for important, frequently read articles to be in good shape, but the more off-beat idiosyncratic subjects are one of Wikipedia's joys. Perhaps there needs to be a well publicised project to improve frequently read articles. How about the Frequently Read Article Project, or WP:FRAP ? Fainites barleyscribs 09:34, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    Even though no one reads the article?[9]mattisse (Talk) 23:07, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
    Well that's 847 people whose life is a little richer this month.Fainites barleyscribs 00:42, 2 February 2010 (UTC)
  3. Propose a new project to improve the quality of frequently read articles - preferably up to FAC level - as these are Wikipedia's showcase as much as the Main Page. Alink to a directory of frequently read articles could then appear on the main page.Fainites barleyscribs 09:45, 1 February 2010 (UTC)
  4. Prose that part of the FAC criteria to include an effort to reduce {{orphan}} articles. It would be a way of increasing the low page view statistics of some FAs; links to other articles would integrate isolated FAs into the encyclopedia. —mattisse (Talk) 22:53, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Copyright problemsEdit

Description of the problem (copyright problems)Edit

There is a perpetual backlog in the various fora related to copyright problems on Wikipedia (especially Wikipedia:Contributor copyright investigations, Wikipedia:Suspected copyright violations and Wikipedia:Possibly unfree files).

Analysis of the problem (copyright problems)Edit

  • Cleaning up copyright problems is time-consuming and sometimes daunting work. While we have process boards in place for handling these, they are chronically undermanned. We need to find a way to attract more admins to help at WP:PUF, while admins and experienced contributors alike could help reduce the chronic and massive backlogs at WP:SCV and WP:CCI. Launching the project WP:COPYCLEAN has been helpful, but has not attracted enough contributors to keep on top of the problem, as a result of which literally thousands of articles and images that need review are allowed to languish even though we know there are likely to be copyright issues with them. I suspect the idea of copyright cleanup is intimidating to many, but I have no idea how to best address this. Is there some way to streamline resolution of these issues that reduces the daunting amount of manhours required? Is there some way to attract more contributors? (Wiki ad doesn't seem to have helped.) Is it possible to construct better tools to verify infringement in suspected articles? (I seriously abuse [10], but it has flaws for checking copyright violations in articles, including that it cannot exclude mirrors and that the chunks of text it analyzes are random and relatively large, so it often fails to catch infringement. It will, for example include footnote numbers in the search string, which eliminates everything but the Wikipedia article itself; addressing this is time consuming. As a result, I frequently have to double-check articles even after running them through the tool.) Additional analysis of the problem and ideas to resolve it would be most welcome. (The only policy modifications that I can imagine being helpful here would be giving existing policies more teeth, but even though this has happened somewhat at Wikipedia:Copyright violations, where for some time now it has been sanctioned to proactively delete contributions by known multiple point infringers, implementation remains an issue.) --Moonriddengirl (talk) 14:35, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (copyright problems)Edit

One possibility is to add a hidden category for articles which have had specific copyvios in the past in order to cut down searching time? Would that help at all? I know that automated comparison misses a lot of copyvios as people will change a word here and there to avoid detection. Collect (talk) 15:12, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

I don't know if it would help or not, because I'm not the most technical-minded admin (by a long shot) and am not sure how it would be utilized. :) --Moonriddengirl (talk) 17:21, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

One of the problems with PUF is that entries older than 14 days are not always clear candidates for deletion as they have been challenged in some way and the decision to delete is not always clear cut. Can I suggest that if the PUF entry gets to 14 days and has been challenged it should be moved to FFD which has many more contributers and more likely to attract debate. MilborneOne (talk) 18:56, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

I think that's a stellar idea, although I do worry that in practice it may cause some admins to refuse to take responsibility for more difficult cases. It's better than having material languish there for three months. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 17:21, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

I've often encountered users here who have no idea what copyright entails. I admit, I don't know much about the laws myself, but I get awfully disturbed when I run into someone who has no idea what plagiarism means, or that copying another's work is bad. I've even seen cases where text was copied directly from one article to another. (In writing, self-plagiarism is just as distaseful.) I think we could do a little better on educating new users about copyright. The first place where we see it mentioned is in the five pillars, but all we get is a little sentence that says, "respect copyright laws." If you don't click on the little link, you may not find much about it from then on, but might run across issue confusing essays like ignore all rules. I'm not sure how to better educate new users, but think it would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps something could be added to the five pillars, such as, "All writing except quotes must be original." Zaereth (talk) 20:39, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Prioritizing is key. Like Zaereth, I don't know much about copyright issues from a legal perspective, but I understand the general concept, and I understand some of the basics of Wikipedia. I'm thinking there are probably many instances in which there are copyright problems when it really isn't such a big deal, and doesn't need our fast involvement right away. One example is articles that are seldom, if ever, read. Further, I bet there are many instances in which the persons or institutions being copied don't care one iota, in which the material copied has little or no commercial value. Further, I bet there are instances in which the persons being copied LIKE being copied since it furthers their agenda or cause or business. So I think Wikipedia should focus more on copyright issues when there's a (1) complaint by the person being copied -- these deserve FAST attention and good scrutiny, and removal of offending material quickly (2) heavily read articles (100+ views per day) should get much more attention since the damage will be greater, quicker (3) subject areas more prone to copyright violations should get more attention (4) use computer checking software programs to automatically hunt for suspicious texts -- this should be possible with powerful search engines like Google -- and these tools can assist Wikipedia volunteers to spot problems. (5) identifying contributors who have caused copyvio problems in the past, and watching them more closely. Here's the tool to measure Wikipedia traffic statistics Wikipedia traffic statistics. I think traffic statistics -- how many eyeballs are looking at a given Wikipedia page per day -- are intensely useful for all of us, including readers as well as writers, not only for the feedback dimension, but helps us see where to focus our efforts. I'd like a "traffic statistics" number on the top of each article--Tomwsulcer (talk) 13:44, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Thank you both for contributing your ideas. :) Strengthening the five pillars seems like a good idea. Copyright is mentioned at the bottom of every edit screen, but I'm convinced that nobody ever reads that. :) ("Content that violates any copyrights will be deleted."; "All text that you did not write yourself, except brief excerpts, must be available under terms consistent with Wikipedia's Terms of Use before you submit it.") Better computer software would be a plus. Coensearchbot searches new articles, but we could use something for older material that could be tweaked to exclude known wikimirrors. Hmm. That wouldn't be a bot. Any ideas where one might go to request something like that? (You probably know, Tom, that you can access traffic statistics for each article under the "history" tab, though it's not published. The revision history search there is a huge help in copyright work!) It would be great to more eyes on known problem areas, but we don't have them. :) Fortunately, we already do respond quickly to complaints by copyright owners, since these are sent to OTRS. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 12:25, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Actually what you're looking for is a variant of CSB II, and it is indeed a bot :) Nothing except the fear of mounting backlogs prevents, technically, to have a CSB variant scanning live articles. CSB II is meant to do that for articles patrolled in conjunction with WP:FPPR, but to scan the live article base as a whole is no more difficult than new articles. The real challenge is building the whitelist to exclude the mirrors and then to check all the false positives for non-complying forks. MLauba (talk) 11:53, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
Not that tough [11] provides a list of websites with phrases from the text - and instead of the infinite "whitelist" problem, blacklist anything from a book or newspaper site. The list of net false positives should then be manageable. (The site does require a human to check further, of course.) Collect (talk) 13:03, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Publicize real-life consequences of copyright infringement in WP articles, for example via the Signpost. Editors will be little motivated to help with copyright clean-up until someone tells them how and in what way copyright violations threaten the project. --JN466 14:46, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Most complaints don't reach the point of legal action, fortunately, given Wikipedia's policy of removing copyright violations on request by anyone, and not only on formal notice from copyright holders. Due diligence is our best defense. The best examples I can give of the way copyright violations threaten the project are those cases where on complaint by a copyright holder of a violation that took place several years ago, hundreds of subsequent improvements had to be deleted because they constituted an unauthorized derivative work. Signpost seems like a very good idea in general, though. After Christmas, maybe I'll see if they want to talk about copyright cleanup on Wikipedia. :) --Moonriddengirl (talk) 12:25, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Think of ways to make copyright policing more "cool". I know we have a copyright clean-up barnstar, but perhaps more of that sort of thing is needed. The underlying problem is that while a lot of young editors get a thrill out of vandal fighting, fighting copyright infringers somehow ain't as cool as blocking people who keep inserting "fuck" in an article. Everybody hates it when their favourite video is pulled off of youtube because of "copyright", and the moment you say the word at least some people will look at you as though you're in league with the devil. --JN466 14:46, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Yes, I can see that. Somehow people need to understand that the purpose of copyright cleanup on Wikipedia is to protect Wikipedia. Currently, Wikipedia claims protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as an online service provider, and our right to do so has not yet been successfully challenged. However, there have been arguments put forth that we are not a service publisher, but a publisher, and that accordingly we cannot take safe harbor when our contributors infringe. (See [12] for the perspective of the University of Texas on their own liability in some cases; I think it's very well put). --Moonriddengirl (talk) 12:25, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • See Wikipedia:Unsuccessful adminship candidacies (Chronological) and my suggestion below. There have been some 223 failed requests for adminship so far this year. If, say, the top third were given limited tools and asked to prove themselves by addressing high priority backlog issues like copyright and BLP, it could make a big dent in our backlog.--agr (talk) 13:01, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • It could, but I have a feeling that getting something like that implemented would be way beyond me (both in the time I have and patience for doggedly persisting in the face of the mountains of text I think it would probably generate). Certainly, I'd be happy to have a horde of fresh-minted copyvio admins chipping away at this backlog, whether they have limited adminship or full adminship. :) --Moonriddengirl (talk) 13:06, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • I do understand how hard it is to change anything at Wikipedia, but without some new pool of talent, I doubt there will be progress. One approach might be to follow the principle of least drama and use the precedent in allowing some non-admins rollback privileges. By citing a clear need it might be possible to give a few volunteers who wanted to work in high priority cleanup activities deletion privileges under specific guidelines for a limited time (say 6 months), subject to renewal. This would be somewhat self policing as people whose work was deleted improperly would be sure to complain. Any admin would be authorized to undo such a deletion. There'd be no mention of a new category of junior admins or anything like that.--agr (talk) 15:00, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Sounds like a good idea.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:42, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Create a user category for members of the WikiProject Copyright Cleanup.
  • Find other ways of increasing the project's visibility.
  • Be generous with copyright clean-up barnstars.
  • Incorporate a link or reference to the Copyright Cleanup WikiProject's "How to" page in the barnstar design. --JN466 14:11, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
  • Editors who want to help Moonriddengirl get more support can insert {{wikipedia ads|1|178}} at the top of their user page. This will show an ad for WikiProject Copyright Cleanup. --JN466 05:28, 26 December 2009 (UTC)
  • We could probe if a consensus could be reached to display the WikiProject Copyright Cleanup ad at the top of all the copyright-related policy talk pages, and/or in their WP:Editnotice. I would support that if called upon. --JN466 05:46, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or process (copyright problems)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (copyright problems)Edit

I'd like to suggest Wikipedia:Limited administrators, an earlier proposal that went nowhere. I recently participated in an RfA that failed. The candidate had only been on Wikipedia for a year and had "only" a few thousand edits. Most everyone agreed the candidate had been playing a quiet, constructive role with little drama, but was turned down, mostly for inexperience and for being too eager, and told to reapply in 6 months. I think there are a large number of editors who want to prove themselves who would accept limited tools for a period of, say, 6 months or a year. If the tools granted to these apprentice admins were tailored to critical areas of backlog, like copyvio, and it was made clear that they were expected to devote effort in those areas, I think we would have significant new talent and energy working the backlog problems. The dismissal of this idea at Wikipedia:PEREN says "... if we can't trust people to use their tools sensibly, they don't become admins period. A 'partial admin' process would at least double the already considerable frictional effort expended at WP:RFA, as users debate who gets full sysop powers versus who gets only partial abilities." I disagree. Limited admin for a fixed time would be much to grant and simpler to manage. When the limited admin came up for consideration for full status, there should be a substantial record on which to judge their suitability. That can only improve the process. --agr (talk) 21:08, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

  • Get reader feedback about possible copyright violations. I'm a big fan of Amazon's "reader feedback" buttons -- with a mere click of a mouse, readers say whether they thought a book review was "helpful or unhelpful". This is easy for readers to do. It costs people nothing. And it's fairly easy to set up in terms of computer programming. And it helps everybody, including book reviewers, as well as others trying to guess whether a given opinion is in the mainstream or not. Wikipedia could use something similar. While Wikipedia has a cadre of contributors, readers outnumber contributors by a factor of perhaps several hundred. Why not have on each article page a reader feedback button asking "Helpful or unhelpful?" with a brief space to say why (if they choose to expand but they don't have to). Around the reader-response box, it might ask readers to mention ANY problems -- bad language, inappropriate content AS WELL AS copyright problems. Then a bot or human could take it from there. Further, a summary of reader feedback (ie %helpful) should be displayed prominently on the TOP of the article page so everybody can see it (editors as well as readers) in addition to the "traffic statistics". --Tomwsulcer (talk) 13:29, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
    • One possible problem is that articles are "moving targets" - a complaint one day may be invalid the next. Another is that editors in a content dispute might abuse the "problem" button. And of course the fact that some would use "alternate personas" to inflate figures. What might work is for WP to institue a random (how do you feel about this article?) popup (say for every 100 page views) directed at IP users only -- thus making it really hard for editors to act in concert on any given article. Collect (talk) 13:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
      • These are possible problems, but not insurmountable in my view. It's possible to time-stamp the information so a given copyright problem can be understood in context with a particular version of the article; and contributors seeing this could disregard old notices. Or there may be other ways of handling it; your random popup idea is one, but there may be other ways around it. And I don't think the issue of editors deliberately trying to fake out the article's statistics would be that much of a problem, since there are ways to handle it -- Amazon does this behind the scenes, by preventing the same user from repeat-clicking a button to try to artificially inflate a "helpful" score. If Amazon can do it, so can Wikipedia. And I think reader input is a goldmine of information out there which can help all of us, including editors looking for copyvio problems.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:47, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
        • We already have seen, many times, editors pretending to be different people in order to make a false consensus. And anyone who knows how cookies work can pretty well defeat the "only one vote" systems out there. Does this mean I do not AGF for voters in such a scenario? Yep - the only way to avoid it is to make it too dang hard to vote for any given individual (1 in 100 would still yield lots of input over a week for any active articles). Collect (talk) 18:16, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Topic: This Areas for Reform page looks lifeless, unused, unheededEdit

Description of the problemEdit

I and many others have posted concerns on this page, including our ideas about reform, problems, discussions of possible solutions and such. My concern is that nothing is happening here. Are any of the suggestions being implemented? It seems discussion on this "Areas for Reform" page has petered off, without result. Why? That's my question.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 21:48, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Analysis of the problemEdit

The nature of attempts at reform of Wikipedia has been all too uniform. Absent any "official recognition" of the attempt, some wait it out, figuring that those with the best input will finally give up (see recent Peanuts strip with Linus practicing how he will talk to Lucy). This one has lasted longer than most -- I was on break for a while, else I would have made sure something was posted, to be sure. I suspect a great many office holders favor inertia, making WP a prime example of it. Collect (talk) 21:53, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

I kind of figured it was like being back in high school; all the cool kids ran off, leaving me in the room, alone. But I always figured there were intelligent people reading through these suggestions, possibly considering what we wrote; now, it seems like it's an empty room, and nothing seems to have happened as a result of our suggestions.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 22:19, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
Possibly too accurate an assessment -- but here it is the kids who run away from experienced opinions (almost three decades at this online stuff -- first online in 1982, first used computers in 1964). Every person I have run into on WP, I have run into a similar one ten times over by now. The fact is, I have no intention of leaving until the fat lady sings, and I trust you are of the same mind. Collect (talk) 22:35, 11 November 2009 (UTC)
I admire your attitude. Wondering how we cause things to improve? That is, what else can we do besides write into an unread space? Any ideas about that? Do you know any Wikipedians who have real clout to move things, who can take good ideas and implement change?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 02:29, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

The problem is that of the people who have posted here. Wikipedia is run by its editors, it is that simple. If you want to change things, change things. To be specific: if one of the discussions here led to the identification of a problem and a solution, it is up to you to implement a solution. How? There are two obvious ways: first, change an existing policy. How do you do it? you go to the policy page, and make the change. Or start a discussion on the talk page to convince people there that it is a necessary or good change. If you put any time at all into it here, you should have honed your arguments. And hopefully there are a few other people who agree with you, so you go to the policy page with a strong argument to change the policy, and others who share your views. Second, propose a new policy. How do you do this? You write up a new policy, put the correct template on it saying it is a proposed policy, and then spread notices all over the place inviting people to discuss the proposal. After a fixed term, you have a poll. If there is a consensus that the proposed policy is good, we have a new policy. This is how virtually all policies here got written in the first place, or evolved. Editors do it. You do it. You think things have stalled? Why haven't you gone to a policy page to propose something people have figured out here?

There is no cabal of editors watching this page and deciding on what ideas have merit and what ideas do not. The only people paying any attention to this page are those editors discussing reforms. Do you have a reform ready, a change to make? Well, Go and make it! Be Bold The only purpose of this page was to set up a process to help a group of people collectively develop good ideas, ideas others will support, but it is up to you to sell them to the community. Where? At whatever policy page is relevant. By whom? YOU Slrubenstein | Talk 12:00, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Me?--Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:49, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
Actually the way WP works, the "higher up on the totem pole" the person making the change, the more likely it is to stick. It is quite amazing how little some folks read before making up their minds on issues regardless of the facts on WP. Collect (talk) 17:08, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm not high on any totem pole; probably never will be. But, considering Slrubenstein's call to action, I was thinking about some grass roots Wikipedia activism like this: with permission from the contributors themselves, adding the handle-names of prominent contributors on a kind of byline at the bottom of highly-trafficked articles. The idea is consonant with my earlier (unheeded) ideas about recognizing contributors for their volunteer help as well as promoting identified editors. In short, honor contributors, thank them with a mention on the article page itself not merely behind-the-scenes. I'm probably going to go ahead and do this, since Slrubenstein asked me to be bold as per WP:BOLD, since I don't want to endure months of boring discussions about this before it happens. And I'm fully prepared for a finger-wagging from people reading this.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:55, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
OK, User:Slrubenstein, guess what, I'm being bold, as per your request. Check out Talk:United States near the bottom where the title says "Areas for reform". I'm proposing a listing at the bottom of United States which mentions the contributions of significant editors to this article.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:33, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
If I may give my own opinion, I think your idea of recognition for the work of others is excellent. But, personally, I have no desire to see my name listed on the articles I've worked on. To me, it's much, much more gratifying to get a little note on my talk page, saying, "Hey, nice work." or something. It's by far more gratifying to watch articles to see how people tweak something I've written, especially when an expert comes along and makes only superficial changes. That's acceptance that goes beyond words. But the general public couldn't care less who we are, and never will. They come looking for specific information, and expect it to be delivered without a sense of grandeur, (which is what we often mean by "encyclopedic"). But that's just my own two cents. Zaereth (talk) 19:38, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

Opinion noted. But there are a slew of reasons in favor of identifying contributors which I'll be proposing on a proposal page somewhere (when I learn how to do this.) Thanks for your thoughts.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 19:43, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

If people reject you, do not take it personally or think it is a sign of your status. With respect, I think Collect is wrong. The point, Wikipedia is not run by "senior" people who may or may not be reading this page to take action. The instructions at the top of the page are simple: once you have worked out a proposal you think will be popular, propose it. "Reform" will not occur through a proposal at a particular article. That is not how Wikipedia works. Article-writing is guided by policy. So you must either propose an edit to an existing policy, or propose a new policy. If the appropriate thing is to propose a change to an existing policy, GO TO THAT POLICY AND MAKE THE PROPOSAL ON THE TALK PAGE. If no existing policy is relevant, PROPOSE A NEW POLICY. Note: once - when I was already an established editor by the way - I proposed a new policy. I went all over Wikipedia (other policy pages, the village pump, AN, wikiprojects) and posted notes with links to my proposal. There was considerable debate and eventually it was voted down. Not because I was a newbie or did not have enough experience or prestige, but becase too many people were unpersuaded by my arguments. If you want to see it, go to my user page, scroll down, and you should be able to figure out the links relevant. But get this straight: NO ONE is watching this page. I am not watching this page. It is a community space to generate proposals to change policies or create new ones, but once a proposal emerges it is up to YOU to take the next step. That is how things work at Wikipedia. Slrubenstein | Talk 15:15, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. And noted.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:28, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
One thing i do have to emphasize: as Wikipedia grows, it will be harder to get a lot of people to agree with your ideas; I think this is just a matter of the odds. But if you have a good idea, and with th input of several people here make it a better idea; well, if you have an idea with many supporters and no opponents, go out and make a change. Try it! Slrubenstein | Talk 02:27, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Possible solutionsEdit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Instruction creepEdit

Description of the problem (instruction creep)Edit

The number of policies, guidelines, essays and so forth has grown enormously in the last few years. In particular fragmentation and special cases related to WikiProjects has occurred, leading to conflict with general MoS, guidelines and the community. Nonetheless there is value in these entities, as long as they are seen in a Wiki way - to be used to develop the project not as a stick to beat wiki-cubs, or other wikipedians.

Analysis of the problem (instruction creep)Edit

If policies are descriptive and not prescriptive; if part of being bold means ignore all rules, then the proliferation of policies is not a problem. Alas, I fear that we need to take a different view. The issue of governance came up many times at the recent RfC. Many agree that there is some kind of crisis of governance now. Some have called for more hierarchy and centralization, but I believe they are in the minority (one of the sections of this project page is, "does Wikipedia need more committees" and so far no one has taken up that issue). It seems to me that: IF we do not move towards more centralized authority, then we need stronger policies. In fact I believe that most of the time people treat NPOV, NOR, and DE as binding (after all, what else could it mean when it says NPOV is non-negotiable?). But it is true, there are too many policies. There are so many policies I think very few people can know them all. This is a dangerous situation.Slrubenstein | Talk 17:24, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

In addition it seems that some policies and guidelines never saw much public discussion before being put into effect. WP:NOTPLOT]] seems t ogenerate a dram a month, some parties claiming that it is consensu and sacrosanct, while others claim that it never obtained the consensus of any group its creators and therefore never had the right to be a policy. Similarly my own researches suggest that WP:DASH never had to seek the approval of the community as a whole,and it is still as far as I can see the most disliked part of WP:MOS. I'd happily see the history of all policies and guidelines examined, and any that fail to show that they have obtained consensus outside the relevant groups of enthusiasts should be suspended until a revised version gains true consensus. -Philcha (talk) 16:14, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

This is very dangerous. I once proposed a policy (Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/BCE-CE Debate/Votes - discussion went on for weeks and in the end 193 people voted (at a time when the community was considerably smaller - I hve no doubt everyone knew about the proposal). There was a lengthy and contentious debate around the proposed WP:Attribution policy, which was also rejected. I believe that any proposed policy should have the wide hearing and vote that these policy proposals went through. Philcha brings up some policies I never heard of. This creates a basis for some action, see below. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:27, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree that WP policy tends to be too much and do too little. There is often no clear distinction between what is policy and what is guideline. Many of the basic writing techniques which I've mentioned on the talk page could be used to help to clarify many policies. For instance, the entire policy should be spelled out clearly and succinctly in the lede. All following sections should only expand upon the lede, but not contradict it, merely explaining why the policy exists. Many new users are only going to read the first paragraph or two anyway, so the entire policy needs to be defined there. This would also help to avoid arguments like:
Sure, but let's be clear: "should not" is meant in the sense of discouraging rather than forbidding. WP:ELNO, a subsection of WP:EL, provides guidance on the kind of "[l]inks [that are] normally to be avoided" (emphasis added). This advisory rather than mandatory status is underscored by another subsection of WP:EL, WP:ELNEVER. The latter tells us what should never be linked; logically, therefore, WP:ELNO must express a more relaxed standard, otherwise it would simply be a part of WP:ELNEVER. As a subset of WP:EL, moreover, WP:ELNO "does not apply to inline citations," WP:ELPOINTS (emphasis and link in original). Reliance on ... twitter feed for points made in the article text is accordingly within the purview of WP:PRIMARY rather than WP:ELNO.
I've heard the governance of WP mentioned here a few times, and find it somewhat amusing that WP is often claimed to be a democratic society. Actually, a democracy is a government where everyone gets a vote, and the majority rules. This is the farthest thing from Wikipedia as it could get. Wikipedia is actually probably the world's first test of a true communist government, (government by the community, where there really is no government and concensus rules). The problems WP is facing is a perfect example of why such a system will not work, (WP:NOTUTOPIA), and the problems many express here concerning admin authoritarianism show the inevitible slip of such a government into a socialist republic. I may be a bit biased when recommending something more along the lines of the U.S. form of government, (a democratic-republic), where a committee would be formed to oversee the writing and maintaining policy, a committee to oversee the execution of policy, and a judicial committee to oversee the application of policy. Each one would be accountable to the others, and to the users themselves. (I know it need a lot of work, but just a thought.) Zaereth (talk) 22:04, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
More evidence is a kind of involution at policies, some people feel the need that everything they explain the policy to a newbie on a talk page, their explanation should become part of the policy. Consider WP:NPOV which I believe has become overwrought, filled with self-contradicting and unnecessary material. I just cut one such section and two or three editors are doing anything they can to put it pack in - the discussion is here and I hope concerned editors here will check it out and comment. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:43, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (instruction creep)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.


I propose that Richard Farbrough and Philch, and of course others, begin listing obscure policies or policies that you believe were not created with adequate community support. We need to document how and when they became policies. If they spon off of old policies, that is one thing. But any new policy must have been widely anounced, discussed and voted on. Any that did not go through such a process I believe require RfC's. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:37, 2 August 2009 (UTC)


Rather than investing more power in some committee i.e. a select group of editors, I think we should invest more power in policies - policies that are created and revised by the community. Instead of a hierarchy of people, some with more power than others, I think all editors should be equal - but I propose that we need a hierarchy of policies, Right now we basically have a two-tiered system, guidelines, which are not binding, and policies with de facto are binding. I propose that we need more tiers. I do not know how many - three? four? But we need some way of prioritizing all these policies. The number of policies at the top-most tier should be small enough that any newbie can read through them in a reasonable amount of time, and any registered user can comfortably say he or she knows these policies. The rest of our policies should be second or third tier. What might be these other tiers? I honestly do not know, but I can throw out some ideas:

  1. binding
  2. binding, unless a consensus of editors working on a particular article deem it inappropriate in their case
  3. non-binding, but expresses a principle that editors should strive to apply
  4. non-binding, but may be helpful in guiding the development of an article

Just some ideas. The bottom line is I think we need some policies that are binding, but they have to be a reasonable number. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:33, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

See WP:POL. A few editors have recently done a fair bit of cleanup (blame for mistakes goes to me). There are a few principles outlined there intended to address scope creep.   M   05:13, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

That is a good page - everyone who worked on it deserves the community's thanks. But it still sticks to the two teir system of policies and guidelines. ANd it does not address just how many policies there are, and whether they are overwhelming. If most people do not feel we have an overwhelming number of policies, then I guess this is a dead issue. But I have heard others complain ... Slrubenstein | Talk 10:34, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

I think the impression of nearly every editor is that policies need to be cut down. This isn't so much a "we love anarchy" thing as an "our policies are poorly written" thing. I think that the central feature of policies is that they are binding as in #1. These are things that you can't override with local consensus. If a bunch of people get together and make a consensus against BLP, or POL, or CIVILITY, or V, "it's clearly appropriate this one time", and some minority disagrees with their "common sense exception", then policies save us from either a wasteful community wide discussion, or the success of some local pov-pushing. The central feature of guidelines is that they are advisory and preventative. You get into trouble for repeatedly violating CIV, but you can't really be blamed for violating AGF - that is, you don't get into trouble for failing to prevent disputes. Guidelines are 2 and 3, essays are #4. As for reducing policies, WP:POL does (now, anyway) require that policies be short and sweet, and non-intersecting, etc. This hopefully lends support to other efforts to cut our policies down to size (and then, merge them).   M   18:56, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Do we need to have a period of public discussion and a vote i.e. an RfC on any policy that one proposes to downgrade to a guideline? I think this is necessary as we are dealing with policies not articles. My only concern with Richards' proposals is that he does not propose a mechanism or process for ensuring adequate community involvement, I sugst an RFC would do the trick. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:43, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

I once set out to read every Wiki-policy that I could find. With apologies to Robert Frost (and yes, I know the words don't fit the meter - but they do add a sense of chaos), my reaction was:
Some say the Wiki will end in mire,
Some favor chaos.
I've witnessed tedious bureaucracy, dire
So hold with those who favor mire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I've seen enough of late
To say that to expire, chaos
Is also great
And will suffice.
We might consider a "Sunset" policy for policies. Every policy section should expire and be deleted unless it receives more than 30 favorable votes and 90% support overall. And yes, I see that there is a fine irony in suggesting yet another policy on policies.
Cheers - Williamborg (Bill) 22:26, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

Systematically benchmark and improve processesEdit

Ideally, any process on the wiki should be easily followed. I define easily followed as:

  • The process is initiated with a single menu action or edit.
  • The process is self documenting. Instructions are clearly visible through the entire process.
  • No article maintenance process should require more knowledge of wikisyntax than is available from the standard edit interface's toolbar. This means no complex formatting and no templates can be required, unless those templates are transparently hidden from view through form submissions.
  • No more than a single edit, menu action, or form submission are required on the part of an initiator. The rest must happen automatically, be maintained by a clerk, or be left out of the process.
  • A minimum of steps are required at the conclusion of a process. Ideally, no more than a single edit, with the rest left out of the process, maintained by a clerk, or automated.
  • Extensive template knowledge should never be required of anyone except clerks or automated systems, this should include concluding any process.

I propose that where we fall short of this, we actively work to fix it, and that we have an overriding rule that if a process exceeds a standard of complexity, it is reverted, or reworked to be reasonable, otherwise that process loses the force of policy. AFD is one of the most egregious examples of process creep going too far - the fact that special tools are needed to navigate filing and closing AFDs is an example of a broken process:

  • 12 steps are currently specified prior to filing the afd discussion, including checking talk pages, considering alternate processes, and article tagging, among others.
  • 3 edits are required to actually file an afd discussion.
    The first edit has 5 steps which add the afd header to the page to be discussed for deletion, including proper use of a template, and an exacting requirement for a specific wording in the edit summary.
    The second edit has 11 or 12 steps, again making use of a template.
  • The third edit has 4 steps, repeated for each semi-required notification to interested parties, again with exact requirements for use of templates and edit summaries.
  • If optional steps weren't followed, someone has to sort the AFD, and if notifications were skipped, someone has to do those on behalf of the submitter

All in all, for one deletion, without using special tools, you can easily have more than 30 steps before a discussion even starts. How exactly did we let instruction creep get that out of hand? Triona (talk) 10:06, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

  1. Zero based review. All policies that can't justify being policies get downgraded to guidelines. Guidelines to essays.
  2. All project based guidance gets reviewed in light of more general guidance. Where possible it is dropped, or upmerged.
  3. Detail - a device for digging into detail (such as the show/hide) meaning even complex guidelines can be presented simply.

Discussion of the proposed solutions (instruction creep)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Do we need a new Guideline, to provide a common framework for administrators to police themselves and prevent or stop abuse of administrative powers?Edit

Description of the problemEdit

Administrators have tools, and should use these tools only when a Wikipedia Policy makes it clear that the use of tools is necessary and justified, or when a consensus among editors emerges on a talk page or AN/I, making it clear that the use of tools is necesary and justified. When an admin uses tools without the sanction of policy or the community, she is either making a good faith error, or abusing her power. When this occurs, it must be other administrators, who have the same powers, who sould step in, reverse the mistake or abuse of power, and provide the administrator with an explanation. But it appears that many administrators are afraid of doing this. A guideline that makes clear under what circumstances one admin must reverse the action of another admin, and that can serve as a common point of reference, may provide the needed support for administrators o police themselves.

Analysis of the problemEdit

I believe that Wikipedia ent seriously off-course when WP:WHEEL was written. In article, editors "police" one another, often chaotically, reveting one another. We realized that we needed some breaks on the system and created WP:3RR to provide a cooling-off peiod and WP:DE to identify people who were basically rogue editors. But aside from these controls, ediors are encouraged to be bold and are constantly rewriting other editor's work.

I think we should have the same system with administrators. Just as editors in effect police themselves (I am referring nly to editorial actions i.e. in relation to writing encyclopedia articles!!) administrators should police themselves. Sure, this can get out of hand just as editing gests out of hand, and 3RR should apply to administrators just as it applies to editors. And if an administrator consistingly abuses his or her tools, s/he should be blocked. But I see no reason not to apply the same basic standards for editors to administrators.

WP:WHEEL however creates a serious impediment to administrators policing themselves. There are two problems with WP:WHEEL. The first is, before setting up a code for how administrators should police one another, it jumps ahead and says we need to police those admins who seek to police the actions or other dmins! According to WHEEL, the problem is not administrators abusing their powers; the problem is administrators who are trying to stop the abuse of administrative powers! It seems to me that the main effect of this is to protect admins who regularly abuse their powers.

Moreover, it seems to me that the main purpose of WHEEL, a provision that discourages administrators from policing themselves, is to push more power into the hands of ArbCom, because if administrators cannot police themseves, the only people left are in ArbCom. WP:WHEEL places unrealistic and unfair restrictions on administrators' right and responsibility to police themselves.

Instead of WP:WHEEL, which should be abolished, we need clearer guidelines to help admns understand when thy have to police themselves. Slrubenstein | Talk 15:33, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree that WP:WHEEL is problematic. It encourages the wrong kind of solidarity among admins, namely the kind of solidarity that leads to covering up mistakes and power abuse to the detriment of the project. Instead a set of guidelines and processes should be created to allow administrators to check up on eachothers administrative actions and make sure they live up to the highest administrative standard at all times - without leading to infighting and mutual distrust among the admins.•Maunus•ƛ 15:46, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
WP:WHEEL should only apply to a short-term block (perhaps one day or less) of an established editor and to any block of a new editor. (A new editor is a fairly new account with not many edits, everyone else is an established editor.) 3RR or 2RR should apply to a longer-term block (perhaps in excess of one day) of an established editor (the 24 hour rule of WP:3RR would not apply). An editor should not be blocked by the same administrator more than a set number of times (maybe 2 or 3) within the period of a year. Additionally, an established editor should never be indefinitely blocked or blocked for a period to exceed one year by an administrator unless the administrator first has community consensus. There should be ethical guidelines established to help administrators decide when it is and is not appropriate to block an editor (including other administrators) and when they should and should not reverse an administrative action by another administrator. --Atomic blunder (talk) 14:23, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
3RR is always for 24 hours, so it can't apply to a longer term block ... also, administrators should find some way to sort out their conflict before it gets to a fourth revert. What I woul propose is simply getting rid of WHEEL and replace it with a 2RR policy. If it gets to a second revert, it's time for a serious concersation. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:42, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
The section WP:WHEEL can be modified to discuss 2RR or 3RR for administrative actions, so the 24 hour rule of WP:3RR would not necessarily apply; it all depends on what the consensus is for the new wording of WP:WHEEL. I refer to established editors, which for example could be an account that has existed over 3 months and has made over x number of edits; everyone else is a new editor. The new editor accounts could be disruptive or created for vandalism purposes so that is why I am proposing different rules for those accounts.
Short-term blocks are not as big of a deal as longer-term blocks and that is why I believe WP:WHEEL as written could apply to short-term blocks of established editors. Even if an administrator is wrong in making a short-term block of an established editor, the editor will be unblocked automatically anyway in a relatively short period of time. Using 2RR or 3RR in such cases could unnecessarily increase the burden on administrators. Think cost-benefit. There are always going to be editors who are tight with an administrator and that administrator is going to try to unblock their wiki-friend if they can get away with it, even if they should not. It happens. I think there would be more success with seeking a compromise on changes to WP:WHEEL rather than just abolishing it outright. --Atomic blunder (talk) 13:48, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
I updated my proposal above. --Atomic blunder (talk) 20:23, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
You appear to have almost no experience of Wikipedia, although some of your first edits were about restricting Administrators. What am I missing? Dougweller (talk) 17:16, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Please comment on the proposals and not those posting comments. Also, see the talk page.[13] --Atomic blunder (talk) 17:42, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Blunder, Doug is right - you need to provide some kind of evidence to support your analysis of the problem and to support your proposal. It is unrealistic of you to promote a change in policy and expect anyone to take you in good faith when you refuse to act in good faith by responding to such reasonable requests. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:34, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutionsEdit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

  • One solution might be to establish a process through which any editor (or to prevent abuse any three editors) can request a second opinion from an administrator if they think an administrative action has been carried out wrong. A second, uninvolved admin will then review the administrative action and if he comes to another conclusion than the first - the reviewing admin automatically files an RFC type report on that action - a decision on whether to uphold or reverse the action is then taken through discussion and argumentation by a larger group of editors (not only admins). It would be important to make the system work in a way that does not reflect negatively on an admin that has his decision reversed - having a action reversed should not stigmatize the admin who made the original decision. •Maunus•ƛ 15:53, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, there could be improvements made to the current block appeal process. The editor appealing a block is almost always often rebuffed, regardless of the circumstances. --Atomic blunder (talk) 12:10, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Almost always? Regardless of the circumstances? Do you have figures and details? Dougweller (talk) 17:13, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
If you disagree, feel free to state why. --Atomic blunder (talk) 17:26, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
You are making a claim that action needs to be taken because of a certain state of affairs, it's up to you to demonstrate that the state of affairs actually exists. Dougweller (talk) 18:17, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
I have stated my opinion on the matter. --Atomic blunder (talk) 18:37, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
So, no evidence, just opinion. It's my experience that you're wrong. Dougweller (talk) 07:57, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Block appeal requests can be seen here: Category:Requests for unblock. --Atomic blunder (talk) 18:57, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
  • There should be ethical principles established to help administrators decide when it is and is not appropriate to block an editor (including other administrators) and when they should and should not reverse or shorten a block by another administrator. --Atomic blunder (talk) 18:14, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
I have started a new subpage: Wikipedia:Areas for Reform/Ethical principles. --Atomic blunder (talk) 14:11, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
I have started a new subpage: Wikipedia:Areas for Reform/Ethical principles for administrators. --Atomic blunder (talk) 20:08, 25 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Create guidelines to guide administrators in policing other admins and preventing abuses of power per Slrubenstein's suggestion on the talk page. For example, guidelines on when an admin can act immediately and unilaterally to undo another admin. --Atomic blunder (talk) 16:57, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Require administrators to have any blocks, bans, or restrictions which are for one month or more or which are "indefinite", and which are not directly pursuant to an ArbCom decision allowing such, to be reviewed by a group of totally unrelated administrators. Any threat of imposition of such a block, ban or restriction should also be so vetted first. No block, ban or restriction shall in any event be imposed for acts in an article which has been edited to any extent whatever by the administrator, nor may any such involved administrator ask for another administrator to do so. Collect (talk) 19:23, 11 November 2009 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or processEdit

Propose a new policy or processEdit

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Poorly written policiesEdit

Description of the problem (Poorly written policies)Edit

The vast majority of administrative resources are being used up by the bickering of established editors. This is caused by bad, hard-to-read, convoluted, redundant, contradictory policies. New editors have no idea what any of them mean, and I can only assume that it's not their fault. Here, look:

Policies and guidelines describe standards that have community consensus and apply to all editors. Indeed consensus is itself a core policy and philosophy. Wikipedia strives to create a welcoming environment for those who take a neutral point of view, are civil to and assume good faith in others, act by and seek consensus in editing and discussions alike, and work towards the goal of creating an increasingly better-written and more comprehensive encyclopedia.

Beautiful. Can you pick out the policy statement? It's the first line, better phrased as "Policies and guidelines apply to all editors". A bit fluffy, but ok. The rest is useless and has nothing to do with WP:POL. It reads like a help page, not a policy. The nicest policy that I've had a good look at is WP:CSD. Its utility aside, that's what a policy should look like - a clear, point-form list. It has serious problems (the lead, the redundant template tables, mixing justification with explanation with examples with policy), but overall it's doing pretty good. Look at its talk page. A good rule of thumb might be:

If wording changes do not require deep discussion, it's not policy, and should just be deleted.

There is a damn good reason why legal codes look the way they do: it makes them easy to understand. I tried to do something like this in Wikipedia:Nutshell, but I think that it might be best to just reduce the policy pages until they are that size, and merge them (as 3RR was recently merged into edit warring). I'd rather have wikilawers wave clear and concise policy around than the sort of junk we have now.

Analysis of the problem (Poorly written policies)Edit

  • New editors have such a hard time primarily because our policies seem so extensive and arbitrary. In reality they all stem from a few basic principles, but CREEP has made them into these labyrinthine epics for no real reason. For example, notability is non-trivial coverage in multiple independent reliable sources. That's the basic rule, but we've developed WP:FILMNOT, WP:MUSIC, all these other policies for subject specific areas, with massive bulleted lists allegedly to indicate cases where sources are likely to exist. Articles are then nominated for deletion because they "don't satisfy WP:MUSIC". This is completely backwards in my mind, and gives the wrong idea to new users. Sources are key for everything, and the existence of sources should be the single criterion that everyone focuses on. Otherwise it implies that notability is "importance" rather than the specific thing we've declared it to be. The CSD have the same problem. We have A7 saying "does not indicate importance", even when we've established that notability is not importance and in fact a notable article does not have to be on something important. We need to establish notability as a single rule, eliminate all the crazy roundabout ways of expressing what might be notable, and suddenly everything will become much simpler and new users will have a much easier idea of understanding where we're coming from. Policies should be simplified, directed toward the basic principles of Wikipedia, and merged whenever possible. —Noisalt (talk) 03:49, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
  • The last major attempt (that I know of) to condense policy, Wikipedia:Attribution, failed miserably. The result is that none of the proposals at Wikipedia:Overlapping policies and guidelines ever got any traction afterwards. Nifboy (talk) 17:03, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I'm guessing that this is because there was a lot of talk (like on this page) but little action. People need to go out and remove the redundancy, so that the articles are fit to be merged. 3RR was recently merged into edit warring, so I'm hopeful. What do we think is stopping people from cleaning up the policy pages? Do they need cleaning?   M   20:30, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
      • I disagree. I think some policies are hard to understand because they address issues new editors have never thought about and have no experience in (the rules of baseball would make no sense to someone who has never watched a few games). I do not think that the concept of "cleanup" should be applied to policies because policies are different from articles. Articles are meant to be understood by any reader. Policies are meant to address how thousands of strangers with passionately held and often contradictory views can work together to write those articles, which is actually much more complicated. If you do not understand what a policy says, ask someone on the talk page and most can explain it. Can the writing ever be improved? Yes!!! But don't do it unilaterally, make a proposal and do it collaboratively, because others may know more than you and understand why the change you propose is substantive and not stylistic. I think the bottom line here is, do you wish to collaborate with others? That means trusting strangers, to a degree (and policies often set out the degree!). But "collaboration" is what makes wikipedia different from all other encyclopedias! Slrubenstein | Talk 20:38, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
        • Huh? You think that paper encyclopedias don't involve collaboration? Of course they do, and much better collaboration than we have here. What makes this encyclopedia different is that everyone can edit it. Policies are not meant to explain things. Make a help page for that. Policies are meant to shortcut common conflicts and situations by providing a set path, and set responses. Someone properly invoking policy has the assurance that they are acting according to the norms of the community, and that they won't have to waste time going through the same tired arguments. The idea that policies don't need to be cleaned up because they are not articles is ridiculous. I've made a large number of uncontested 'cleanup' edits to policies, and have had no objections. It's usually very easy to pick out where this can be done, precisely because of my rule of thumb above.   M   21:47, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
      • I know how encyclopedia articles are written elsewhere and it is not through the kind of collaboration we have here and thus do not need the same policies. You say policies are not meant to explain things - your evidence? Also, I wrote that when it is possible to improv the language of a policy it should be improved, but usually it is best to consult with people on the talk page - what is wrong with that? Where is your rule of thumb? Slrubenstein | Talk 21:55, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
        • Evidence: "A policy is typically described as a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s). However, the term may also be used to denote what is actually done, even though it is unplanned." Rule: "If wording changes do not require deep discussion, it's not policy, and should just be deleted." You shouldn't say that 'collaboration' is the key issue that we need to address when what you really mean is 'a type of collaboration very specific to an encyclopedia that anyone can edit'. And I'm still not sure that even that sort of collaboration is the issue - I think the issue is fluffy, useless policies that new editors have no hope of understanding, adhering to, or appealing to.   M   07:53, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
          • More evidence: I think WP:NPOV has become overwrought, filled with self-contradicting and unnecessary material. I just cut one such section and two or three editors are doing anything they can to put it pack in - the discussion is here and I hope concerned editors here will check it out and comment. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:42, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Poorly written policies)Edit

  1. Pick a policy page, and remove everything except policy. Or, edit the page to be slightly shorter. Do it now! Help me out with WP:CSD or WP:POL. Get rid of as many pages in wiki space as possible so that it's visibly finite to new editors. Have very few policies that always apply, and have the rest invokable using warnings and notifications. Make more policies point-form like the CSD, for easier reading and comprehension. Enforce them, they are absolutely useless when local consensus overrides them because our most ill-advised policy, WP:IAR, is so often invoked. Instead of our 100 noticeboards, let editors use categories and templates to summon others to them. "{help} someone reverted me, what should I do?" should get a quick response from the sort of editors who are currently essentially wasting time with stupid meta-policy arms races like the ACPD, and this (sorry).   M   03:18, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. Perhaps we could have a 'competition' to express all of wikipedia (behavioral) policy, from the pillars to usernames to arbcom, in under N characters.   M   05:47, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    Wikipedia is an endeavour to provide a comprehensive factual encyclopedia by use of volunteer editors editing articles on notable things, people, events and places. Articles shall be even-handed in nature, showing no bias or opinion. Each editor may edit articles freely in a collegial manner. Edit conflicts should be resolved by consensus where the result would not conflict with specific WP policies, such as on biographies of living people etc. Violation of behavioural policies, including matters of conflict of interest, personal attacks, use of multiple accounts, vandalism and excessive edits in conflict with other editors, may be punished by blocks or bans as a form of pillory, and should thereafter not be thrown in any editor's face (OK - I admit this last part is my addition). Disputes are handled through several forms of dispute resolution, with the Arbitration Committee being the elected committee with oversight over disputes. All content is covered by license and is freely distributed. seems to me to sum the "5 pillars" -- where am I amiss? Collect (talk) 12:04, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    The first sentence isn't policy; editors aren't used, notability is an inclusion criteria, not a what-editors-focus-on criteria. Even-handed is ambiguous. Bias and opinion [define?] should be removed from all articles. The specific wp policies, such as bios of living people etc can be replaced with policies. It's fluffy, and there's a mix of both content and behavioral policy. By fluffy, I think I mean non-specific. What do you mean conflict of interest? It's a mistake to assume that we can throw out a few adjectives 'neutral, verifiable, excessive' and assume that their meaning will come out clear. What do you, and others, think that the 1-3 most important behavioral policies are, or should be? Something like "a novel attempt at resolution, in the edit summary or at talk, must accompany every revert".   M   20:44, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    The aim was to express the substance of the five pillars in a concise manner. As for defining "conflict of interest" it is even on its policies pages rather ill-defined. <g> Might you state a belief that the five pillars is fluff-less? Collect (talk) 22:03, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    The five pillars are already only 28 words in 5 short sentences. Gigs (talk) 03:27, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    Though there's only one properly behavioral pillar, I think that what you say is true. Chopping fluff out of existing policy is probably more productive. I'd like to note that since I extended a plea for someone to help with either WP:CSD or WP:POL, this page has grown from 71,528 to 106,568 bytes - that's 35kb. At the same time, no editor has helped me improve those two policies. There seems to be extra spacing at the bottom of this section, but even this hasn't been touched.   M   08:16, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. As a few of you are already aware, I started a discussion directly related to this topic at Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/Archive 51#Policy and Guideline improvement drive. Just now, I'v emore or less dragooned the "reboot" of WP:PROJPOL. There's more about this on both the Village pump and on the project page, but I wanted to mention what is occurring here. I also wanted to take this opportunity to state that I see this "Areas for Reform" effort and a "Policy and Guidelines improvement drive" as being complementary efforts, and I look forward to helping all parties out in whatever way I can.
    Ω (talk) 09:46, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or process (Poorly written policies)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Poorly written policies)Edit

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Poorly written policies)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Are blocks punitive or remedial?Edit

Description of the problem (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

I have seen a trend where indefinite blocks have become more common, and short blocks (12 hrs, 2 days) have become less common. I think this is linked to a change in the popular view of blocks. When I first came hee they were seen as a way of imposing a "cooling off" period or providing a supposedly good faith but disruptive editor time to study the policies; in neither case was it supposed to be considered punitive as such. Now i think many people view blocks as punitive. In short, i think that there is a connection to the way bans are imposed the decline in short term blocks. I think encouraging people to think of short term blocks as useful parts of dispute resolution rather than punishment should be part of the solution to this problem.

Analysis of the problem (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

An indefinite block can be shorter than a fixed term block. It gives, as you suggest, a disruptive editor whatever time they need to study our policies and guidelines, and at least for most of those I give, all they need to do to get the block lifted is indicate that they understand them and will comply with them. If used this way I don't see a problem with them. That's why they are called indefinite and not permanent, I presume. If an editor comes back in an hour and seem to have understood the reason for the block and agrees to comply, it can be lifted that quickly. Dougweller (talk) 15:29, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

That implies that a blocked editor agrees with the policy under which (s)he's been putatively blocked, that (s)he agrees that (s)he breached it, and that (s)he is prepared to make an empty apology simply to be allowed to continue working here for nothing. Seem to be a lot of assumptions there. --Malleus Fatuorum 16:06, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes, you exemplify the kind of editor - I think now in the majority - that views a block as punitive. Where in what I wrote did I say anything about apologies? Slrubenstein | Talk 17:01, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Dougweller mentioned that "If an editor comes back in an hour and seem to have understood the reason for the block and agrees to comply" which implies that at least a recognition of having done something wrong, if not an outight apology, is required for a block to be lifted. BUT this is all very much besides the point - the question here is the banning policy. A ban differs from a block in that it represents a final decision by the community that a particular editor is unwanted as a contributor. This makes it much more important to have a transparent policy for implementing bans.•Maunus•ƛ 17:14, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that it's different at all. Certainly I know that I and a significant number of other editors would never demean ourselves by requesting an unblock if that demanded an apology for something we don't agree we did wrong, or even at all, particularly if the block was imposed by the civility police for their usual silly reasons. So an indef block would effectively be a ban. I've never requested an unblock, and I never intend to. --Malleus Fatuorum 17:23, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
It is different because a block is made by one single administrator and is not meant to be definitive - a ban is made by the community and is meant to be the definitive decision. This is very different in my opinion.•Maunus•ƛ 17:31, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I understand the theory, I just don't agree that it matches actual practice. --Malleus Fatuorum 17:35, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I was responding to Dougweller's comment: "If an editor comes back in an hour and seem to have understood the reason for the block and agrees to comply". --Malleus Fatuorum 17:14, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

The important word here is "understand." I believe that there is a difference between having made a mistake (even a big one) and having wronged someone. I think there is a big difference between expecting someone to come out of a block saying "I understand" versus "I am sorry." I agree that policies have to be clear, but how policies are applied are always much a matter of art, since our policies get applied in so many situations. A block should occur when there is strong reason to think someone has crossed that threshold between reasonable disagreement and simply not understanding or caring about a policy. This threshold may not always be clear which is why it is a very good idea to let someone appeal a block, on their talk page. It is also a good reason for administrators to be as willing to make a mistake as anyone else. I think this is one problem: a belief that administrators should act and be treated as if they were infallible. I have often undone a fixed-term block (by the way, thank you for making that important correction about indef. blocks,Doug) - and I was slammed by others for challenging the decision of another administrator. I think we need a more flexible system all around when it comes to blocks. An admin blocks for a week. I unblock after three hours and say: I think you make a good point. But the administrator who blocked you acted in good faith. Consider this a learning experience, and be more careful about this policy." I think admins have to act as checks and balances against one another when it comes to blocks. But the person blocked should understand that the purpose of the block is to give them time to figure out why/how they made a mistake and how they could have handled it differently. When the block termiinates, I think editors should be able to return to an article saying "I understand, now" and the proof of course is that they will be able to return to collaborative editing with less friction.
A ban is different in that it represents a community decision that someone willfully refuses to comply with policies. I wouldn't expect such a person to apologize. I would expect them to go to some other part of the internet where they are comfortable with the policies. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:39, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
That implies to me that all policies are equally important, which I think is blatant nonsense. I am of the firm conviction that civility blocks need to be outlawed and the NPA policy made more explicit and more consistently enforced before any real progress can be made on the absurd blocks we see all too frequently here over minor tantrums. --Malleus Fatuorum 17:47, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I think this is an extremely important point and issue. But perhaps it should be discussed here. I hope others will join in as I think many people find this specific issue to be a serious problem. Slrubenstein | Talk 02:43, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree with Malleus. Although I personally would prefer that calling editors obscene names not be tolerated, and therefore may differ with Malleus on the details of NPA or "civility", it is very important that the policy be explicit (very clear to everyone and not open to interpretation) and consistently enforced on all levels of editors and admins. To accomplish this would be a huge step. —Mattisse (Talk) 18:04, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I think we differ only on the details Mattisse. I've been blocked for using the phrase "sycophantic wannabee"—not directed at any particular editor—which I think demonstrated a gross misjudgement, and even smacked of a vindictive witch hunt. Compared to that, telling another editor on your own talk page to "fuck off" ought to warant a public execution, but that editor received the same punishment as I did. Sure, it would be better if we were all able to keep our cool all of the time, but we're just human beings, with normal human frailties that we ought not to be punished for. --Malleus Fatuorum 18:12, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Just to put some flesh on those bones, I see a huge difference between calling another editor a "cocksucking wanker" and telling them on your own talk page to "fuck off". Until others do as well though the situation here will become increasingly hopeless, and the only editors left will be the sanctified administrative elite, who by definition are never uncivil. --Malleus Fatuorum 18:20, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Blocks can only be remedial according to the current blocking policy, and that is also the only way it makes sense in my opinion. The only good reason to block someone frmo editing is if not blocking them harms the project. That is it is never justified to block someone who has acknowledged undesirable behaviour on his own part and has pledged to stop it. If blocks were to be used as punishment it would have to administered in a completely different way and would require a new way of looking at admins. It would be a dangerous partition from our ideals of the open, democratic community to have one class of editors being both in charge of sentencing and punishing other editors, especially if the rules are even slightly open to interpretation (as they are now). It would in effect make wikipedia an adminocracy. It seems much better to have admins being responsible of the good of the project of wikipedia and only making blocks when they deem that it is necessary to prevent harm to the project - note that responsible here also means responsible for their decisions. •Maunus•ƛ 18:18, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I find the quaint notion that blocks are not punitive, and are not commonly used punitively, to be risibly ridiculous. Just look at the current Jimbo vs Bishonen spat, for instance. What did that block prevent? --Malleus Fatuorum 18:24, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I think there should always be a warning first, except in the most extreme case perhaps. This should be a rule that is followed, as blocking without warning causes extreme ill will. —Mattisse (Talk) 19:07, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
The fact that they are used punitively doesn't mean that it is right.•Maunus•ƛ 19:10, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
No it doesn't. It means that those too many administrators who do use blocks punitively need to be reined in. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:15, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
We agree completely. That is why I wrote that the policy does not provide grounds for punitive blocks.•Maunus•ƛ 02:05, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
If administrators actually took the trouble to read and understand wikipedia's inconsistent policies that would at least be a step in the right direction. The problem is though that very few have the balls to reverse obviously bad blocks, because of all the colaterall fire that would inevitably result. Wikipedia has the corrupt and corrupting governance that it deserves. --Malleus Fatuorum 04:05, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with much of what you have said. But let's get practical. First, would you propose modifying the policy on blocks? Right now you are right, they are used punitively. My point is that this was not always the case. Perhaps you can look at the policy on blocking and point out specific places where you would have the policy altered to make this clear? Slrubenstein | Talk 09:33, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Secondly, I think you are right about admins. There was a time when one admin would revert a block or other such action by another admin pretty casually. Today if an admin does that s/he is chastized because admins have to support one another or as a group they will lose prestige. As if being an admin were about prestige! But that is how people see it. Would you rewrite parts of the policies relating to Admins, or propose a new policy? I see people at Wikipedia who see admins as a club, when I think each individual admin is meant to provide a check and balance against other admins. Are there other ways of preventing abuse of power? Malleus, maybe you could start discussion at top #8? Slrubenstein | Talk 09:33, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
What would be the point? The knee-jerk supporters of this present "best of all possible worlds" would simply jerrymander any such proposal out of sight. I have given up on expecting anything here to change for anything other than the worse. --Malleus Fatuorum 21:10, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Blocks for WP:SOCK are given way too freely - without confirming that the use of multiple accounts (or of an IP address and an account) is actually against policy. To take one example, a new user (DHawker) did 3 reverts on 1 page, got warned about WP:3RR, and did a revert anonymously. He got a 24 hour block (legitimately - for 3RR), and subsequently an indef for sockpuppetry. After the 24 hours were up, he made a request for unblock since he didn't mean to log out before that 4th edit (the situation where a user is suddenly logged out in the middle of a session has happened to me a few times). I believe that this indef block was completely inappropriate; Athaenara agreed with me; and EdJohnston, the admin who gave the 24h block, also appeared to be of similar opinion (see here. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 06:39, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
    I think this was handled correctly. The administrator giving the WP:SOCK blocked took it for what it clearly appeared to be - that the editor saw they were blocked and tried editing anonymously to continue the same action they were blocked for. This is a case where WP:AGF has rightfully been eroded, and where what looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck is presumed to be a duck until proven otherwise. So long as the blocks were ultimately overturned when that duck turned out to be a goose, then it was handled correctly - if we didn't take things like that at face value, we'd be giving real sockpuppet abusers too much license to abuse. I agree the situation's unfortunate, but I think it was the right call to block, just as it was the right call to unblock when the block was found to be based on incomplete information. Triona (talk) 19:37, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

Clarify that administrators' ability to block exists solely to protect the project from damage. This is not a limit on the number or length of blocks that should be applied; rather, it is a rule for how we should reason about blocks, and how we should evaluate whether a block is a good one or a bad one, and whether it is serving a useful purpose or is itself disruptive.

I've read that punishment can serve four purposes: revenge (hurting you in return for wrongs you've done), restitution (paying your debt to society), rehabilitation (making you a better person), and prevention (locking you away from the good people). Which of these purposes are valid here?

Administrators are editors, and no editor has any business carrying out revenge here, or demanding that someone pay a perceived debt to society. So revenge and restitution are excluded. Likewise, administrators are not morally superior; they are not in a position to make anyone a better person, so rehabilitation is excluded. Revenge, restitution, and rehabilitation are all unacceptable motives for any action on Wikipedia, by any editor.

This leaves prevention. It's everyone's job to prevent damage to the project: to refrain from doing damage; to try to defuse edit wars or incivility; to assume good faith; and all that jazz. So administrators don't have a different job than everyone else; they just have a few more tools than everyone else.

Prevention is distinct from the three R's in that the three R's are "ad hominem" -- they are addressed to the person being punished. Prevention is addressed to that person's actions. Administrators are not charged with judging who is a good person or a bad person; who needs to be punished or rewarded; or what moral lessons someone must learn. But they are charged with preventing and limiting the damage caused by bad actions. Block accordingly. --FOo (talk) 06:01, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

You missed deterrence. Rich Farmbrough, 18:46, 29 July 2009 (UTC).
I agree with Rich Farmbrough - I think that the main purpose of blocks is deterence. If a user knows that (s)he will be blocked if (s)he reverts a page excessively (edit warring, WP:3RR), that will limit the amount of reverts the user will do. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 11:56, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
  • How about the following policy change: A vandalism-only aount doesn't get an indef block the first time. This way they have a bult-in second chance after they see that we actually mean that we can and will block them. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 11:54, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Blocks, punitive or remedial)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Could we prevent drama after bannings by making our Banning policy clearer?Edit

Description of the problem (Banning policy)Edit

Banning of editors who are also contributors always raise questions. Banning is a last recourse when nothing else works and it should be a last recourse because it robs wikipedia of a potential contributor - something that we are always in need of. Often the banning of an established editor causes uproar and cries about whether it was just or not, whether there was sufficient consensus etc. Some editors including myself have identified weaknesses in the current banning policy which seems to cause such problems. The problems include the fact that the policy includes two kinds of bannings arrived at by completely different means and with different implications for the banned. One is the possibility of a community banning arrived at through consensus in a public forum such as ANI. The other is when a blocked user requests to be unblocked but no admin is willing to unblock him - this then becomes a defacto ban - but there is no way for the editor to know whether he is indef blocked or defacto banned untill ALL admins have inclined his request for unblocking. That is there is no particular moment in time when his indef block becomes a de facto ban - since there may always come a new admin who is willing to unblock. This situation seems suboptimal. Another concern is the lack of a standard for executing community bans - where the discussions should be made, how long they should be open, and how consensus should be weighed. Particlarly the question of the degree of involvement in the dispute by the consensus forming editors is interesting. Obviously uninvolved editors have no basis to form an opinion about whether to ban an editor - but at the same time an over weight of highly involved editors might create mob bannings where a greoup of disgruntled editors gang up on another one and has him banned. This also seems less than optimal. The problem then is specifically that there are factors in the banning policy that contribute to a sense of "unfairness" by the banned editors and their supporters. While it is probably not possible to eliminate this feeling entirely having a clearer policy might alleviate the problem.•Maunus•ƛ 14:02, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Points to discuss include the following:

  • Guidelines for proposing a community ban and for determining consensus. Specifically:
    • In which forum such a proposal should be made? Is ANI good enough? Should banning discussions be restricted to being a possible outcome of an RfC where arguments and the any opposing sides present their viewpoints (as suggested by Abd).?
    • Which arguments should count most in favour of banning?
    • Possibly the need for establishing objective criteria for when a users disruption has reached a point where initiating a banning discussion is the best option. (I don't think "has exhausted the community's patience" is a sufficiently objective criteria) ***Establishing criteria for which venues of remedy should have been tried before proposing a banning.
  • The degree to which a consensus for a ban should be composed of "uninvolved" editors. Specifically:
    • What it means to be involved vs. uninvolved.
    • The weight that should be given to involved editors opinions (from full to less to none).
  • Guidelines for how an admin should weigh arguments vs. numbers of editors "votes" when closing the discussion.
    • The way in which arguments in favour of banning should relate to the banning policy.
  • The distinction between community ban and an indefinite block. Specifically:
    • Whether an indef block does in fact become a ban at any point (and if yes how to determine that point) - or whether the two are distinct.
  • Should there be a "record" of which users are banned so that a banning is made official only by being adduced to that record? (suggested by GoRight)

Analysis of the problem (Banning policy)Edit

(Some discussion of this problem has already taken place here)

Do you mean Wikipedia talk:Banning policy? Esowteric+Talk 15:56, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
yes, thanks. :| •Maunus•ƛ 16:00, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Banning policy)Edit

Modify an existing policy or process (Banning policy)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Banning policy)Edit

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Banning policy)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.


Description of the problem (Civility)Edit

In many cases a superficial concern for civility - generally identified with the use of negative words - is given more importance than content policies like WP:NPOV or WP:NOR. Civility should be one means to a greater end, great encyclopedia articles. Instead, it is often seen as an end in itself, and the quality of the actual article is ignored.

Analysis of the problem (Civility)Edit

1) The concern about civility is not superficial (see Wikipedia:Civility/Poll ... 2) The concern about civility is not just about negative words... 3) Civility (or the lack of it) happens at the talk pages, not the article pages. Other than wasted time, there is little effect to the article pages.--Buster7 (talk) 14:23, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Civility)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Civility)Edit

  • Scrap WP:CIV:
    • There are cultural differences in expression. For example it appears that UK editors have a more robust attitude to discussion with oponets, and even more robust in discussion with friends.
    • I've seen WP:CIV used in baiting, sometimes in personal feuds and sometimes in Wikipedia:Civil POV pushing.
    • It's far too broadbrush. Some items, such as hate speech, should be incorporated into other policies, or become part of new policies. Others are simply silly, for example:
      • "Ridiculing comments from other editors, rather than making serious criticism of them" - sometimes a comment is so ill-informed that "Go and read some decent books on the subject before your next comment" is the only reasonable answer. And if you think a comment is trolling, you need to say so rather than play into the troll's hands by entering an extended debate.
      • "Lies, including deliberately asserting false information on a discussion page to mislead one or more editors" - this is dishonesty, not incivility. The answer to putative dishonesty is facts and logic - without these, any accusation itself would be uncivil; and an accusation of dishonesty might prove unfounded.
      • "Feigned incomprehension" - how do you know it's feigned?
    • It has a strong bias towards political correctness, a distortion of the English language which causes confusion to editors and readers, and is beneficial only to those who like bossing others around.
    • On the other hand WP:NPA should be enforced. There's a huge difference between e.g. "That comment was crap" (no big deal) and "You're a bastard" (personal attack, rightly forbidden).

Propose a new policy or process (Civility)Edit

  • Create a Civility Czar/Civility Administrator/Safety Representative/Ombudsman or whatever he/she will be called. Put the whole ball of wax into one basket in one place. Uniformity of response and clarity of discretions. Less randomness and administrative unpredictability.

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Civility)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.


Description of the problem (Incivility)Edit

There is a perceived lack of general civility, especially where a conflict over article content arises and one or more editors engage in escalating lack of civility towards others. In extreme cases, this escalates into dispute resolution issues which ought not have been needed.

Analysis of the problem (Incivility)Edit

If Wikipedians acted in the workplace the way they do here in Wikipedia, they would be fired. All Wikipedians whose account is more than 1 or 2 months old should be required to act like they are a professional. To prevent account creation as an excuse for incivility, editors' opinions would carry less weight until they reach the 1 or 2 month threshold. Incivility and stalking are so bad that some users are forced to vanish and create a new username. Gasp2009 (talk) 05:25, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

  • For me the issue of civility is of prime importance, because it is at the core of enabling a comunity to colaborate. I find that many editors even the most established ones have an understanding of being civil that amounts to "no swear words" - But the real problem is with "polite incivilty" consisting of using arrogant language without four-letter words, being uncooperative, dismissive, ridiculing or humiliating other editors, assuming bad faith, not being willing to admit errors, not being willing to apologize for what others perceive as hurtful or confrontational. For example a lot of persons attitude when confronted with someone asking them to be more civil is "that is not uncivil" or "that is not a personal attack". If the other part finds it to be a personal attack - then the appropriate response is always "ok, sorry i didn't mean it to be an attack". I also see that veteran editors (and particularly admins) get a much longer leash on civilty issues than other users - this is a problem. •Maunus•ƛ 18:53, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I just had one like that this week: I am a registered user and i contribute to WP as an IP to experience in full the degrading humiliations offered to IP writers, so i can reflect back to the community how bad this place really is for IP contributors and newbie writers. This week, writing as an IP, i got my usual "warning" from an article "owner" who turned out to also be an admin. I responded on the admin's page, stating that what i was accused of ("refactoring" and being "misleading" on a talk page) was the same thing that she, while in conversation with another contributor on her own talk page, described having done and which she called "tweaking" the talk page subhead line. I asked for civility and for fairness; stating that if an admin could "tweak" a talk page subhead line for clarity, so could any other editor who changed no language in the posts and rewrote topic section subheads to better reflect content. The response was: "Your refactoring of the page was misleading." In short, a warning followed by an arrogant re-assertion of the warning charge, with absolutely no acknowledgement that she had described doing the same thing and called it "tweaking" the subhead line, or that i was a human being who was asking for fair treatent. And that was just this week's example. Admin arrogance toward IP posters knows no bounds. (talk) 02:10, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
    • I thought that all users are equal. Yet it seesm that many editors are more equal then others when it comes to issues of incivility. this is fine, untill other editors start to think that the excused behavure is seen as acceptable. They (and I bleive I have witnesed this) start to ape it. Moreover why should a new user be expected to obey a higher standerd of civility then an experianced user?, especialy if they are apiing the actions of an established user.Slatersteven (talk) 15:50, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Gasp's point is very true, but probably not in the way that (s)he intended it. In the real world if you discipline someone without going through all the proper procedures first you will find yourself in court, facing hefty penalties. What penalties do administrators face for ignoring the rules? Curious that Gasp chooses to ignore the "professional" obligations that administrators have, and focuses instead on what (s)he demands of the serfs. --Malleus Fatuorum 23:29, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
WP:BUREAUCRACY. Wikipedia is not a courtroom. Fences&Windows 14:17, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
There can be no WP editing without people. And when people gather there follows some sort or form of association for the purpose of maintaining order amongst those people. It is a given that WP is vulnerable to incivil behavior. The question becomes what to do once the behavior and the perpetrator have been identified. WP should be bound by an ironclad commitment to a safe and comfortable working environment for ALL employees. (I say employees knowing we are all unpaid. But, except for that minor detail we are "at work".) We should be assured of a professional workspace. --Buster7 (talk) 13:40, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree, but what do you propose? An omnbudsman? A policy against harassment of Wikipedians? BADSITES? Slrubenstein | Talk 15:13, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
an Ombudsman.--Buster7 (talk) 15:47, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
And having an Ombudsman goes back to the issue of why medcab, wikiquette, ani, arbcom, rfc, et al are just time-wasting, wikilawyering, do-nothing, admin-backpatting behavioual sinks. A real Ombudsman, HIRED by the WP Foundation, that THAT i might support. But the way it is now is nothing but croneyism. (talk) 02:16, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Incivility)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

  • Admins should be required to engage in discussion with an editor before blocking. No more hasty, rude, and disruptive fly-by blocks. Much of the incivility derives from the authoritarian arrogance and policy violating incompetence of our admins as well as the lack of checks and balances on their activities. ChildofMidnight (talk) 22:50, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I would agree with the first part, blocks should not be put in placce without trying to resolve the issue. But I do not agree that incivility stems from over use of blocks (after all a blocked user can no longer edit) I believe it stems from too much lee way given to expericanced users. But there is one caveat, how long should such a discusion take place?Slatersteven (talk) 13:50, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Create a Civility Czar/Civility Administrator/Safety Representative/Ombudsman or whatever he/she will be called. Put the whole ball of wax into one basket in one place. Uniformity of response and clarity of discretions. Less randomness and administrative unpredictability.--Buster7 (talk) 13:53, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
An omnbudsman is a good idea, although the foundation may have already considered it. if you really want to fix things, I suggest crafting a serious proposal. Would the Omnbudsman be volunteer or paid? How recruited or selected? By whom, through what process? Accountable to whom? Any powers? These things need to be hashed out. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:48, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
And what sanctions if they prove to be one of these over zelous admins. All this could (and I have to admit I suspect will) do is add a new layer of potential abuse. Perhaps it might be easier just to have a review system for admins at regular intervalls, say re-election every 12 months.Slatersteven (talk) 12:45, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Granted, there is the remote possibility of too fervent an Ombudsman. But I dont fear abuse. Im sure many will be unhappy with decisions that occur. But I dont fear abuse. I assume the good faith of whomever is chosen. I would trust the selection process (whatever is decided) to find an individual that fills the need. See User:Buster7/Incivility for more on the subject.--Buster7 (talk) 12:59, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
The same people who select admins in the current (apparently) broken sytem? Moreover it we have only one Ombudsman how much work (and how big a back log) will he have, certain areas of the project are clogging up, and that is with more then one volunteer. I feel this is a bad idea.Slatersteven (talk) 13:10, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I propse that admins face automatic re-election every 12 months. I also propose that scatikons for admins who abuse thier position are toughned,Slatersteven (talk) 14:17, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

(unindent)..Without attempting to silence criticism of an idea I would ask you to consider The Lead to this Project: 4) In brainstorming possible solutions to a problem, allow a certain amount of time for the generation of ideas before moving on to the critical evaluation of ideas. Withholding criticism until there is a good number of ideas (at least 5–10 separate proposals) encourages contribution and helps the creative process.[1] Early criticism just stops the flow of ideas. Re:time and work load concerns:You think there will be a backlog. Maybe early on. But, I dont think it will last long. There will be no 6 hour or 6 day discussions. Much less wasted time by everyone concerned.--Buster7 (talk) 13:53, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Fair enough.Slatersteven (talk) 14:17, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
  • One item to consider is education. For example, saying "that was a stupid move" is not the same as saying "you are stupid for making that move" -- one can have a constructive conversation starting with the first statement, but not necessarily with the second. And people get this distinction muddled, accusing others of personal attacks when none is meant. (Even very intelligent people make stupid moves occasionally. Nobody is perfect.) Education allows people acting in good faith to respond constructively, & limit the times this confusion is made to those acting in bad faith -- trying to game the system -- as much as possible. -- llywrch (talk) 22:18, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or process (Incivility)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Incivility)Edit

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Incivility)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Should elected officials be held accountable to the community in new ways?Edit

Description of the problem (Elected official accountability)Edit

The primary elected officials of WP are ArbCom. The only process for holding such officials accountable to the community are currently adversarial innature.

Analysis of the problem (Elected official accountability)Edit

Possible solutions (Elected official accountability)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Elected official accountability)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Elected official accountability)Edit

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Elected official accountability)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Should formal committees and offices operate more transparently?Edit

Description of the problem (Committee transparency)Edit

ArbCom is the only major formal committee on WP. Actions of ArbCom are primarily transparent currently. There are questions, moreover, whether administrators are "officials" of WP, and whether their actions or deliberations should also be made transparent.

Analysis of the problem (Committee transparency)Edit

Possible solutions (Committee transparency)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Committee transparency)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Committee transparency)Edit

(please copy and paste this template, before adding a new area of concern.)

Discussion of the proposed solutionsEdit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Do we need new committees?Edit

Description of the problem (New committees)Edit

WP currently has few committees other than ArbCom. Most large organizations have multiple non-overlapping committees to deal with current problems and future plans.

Analysis of the problem (New committees)Edit

Possible solutions (New committees)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (New committees)Edit

  1. The current final dispute resolution mechanisms are no longer adapted. They need to be more targeted for increased efficiency and reducing the unwanted consequences of continuing disputes. User:Cenarium/DR for a proposal to reorganize the final steps in dispute resolution in a court, a revisited arbitration committee (back to its original mandate to arbirate major disputes), an audit committee to supervize advanced permissions and an appeal committee to finally appeal user sanctions not directly taken by ArbCom or AudCom. Cenarium (talk) 06:18, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (New committees)Edit

  1. As well as changes in the arbitration process, the first proposal above involves creating two new processes, a court and an Appeal Committee, and one relatively new process, the Audit Committee. Cenarium (talk) 06:18, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (New committees)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Can we more effectively manage content disputes?Edit

Description of the problem (Content disputes)Edit

This is the problem as I see it: many conflicts have to do with arguments over how properly to apply content policies like NPOV, V, and NOR, or involve conflicts with people who disregard these policies (e.g. POV pushers). Since ArbCom only arbitrates conflicts involving violations of personal behavior guidelines, these content disputes usually escalate until people start calling each other nazis, at which point it becomes a matter for ArbCom concern. The problem is, ArbCom is only going to deal with who started calling names first, not with who is really improving the article vs. who is really sabotaging the quality of the article?

Do we need a way to mediate problems, where mediation (or arbitration) requires someone to judge who really is improving the quality of the article?

Or can we have an "ArbCom" specifically for content policies (NPOV, V, NOR)?

Or is there another way to police content disputes before they sink to the level of personal attacks and incivility?

Analysis of the problem (Content disputes)Edit

(NOTE: Some of these Category:User essays on dispute resolution may be worth consulting) I think we should have committees or judges that would settle disputes concerning NPOV, NOR and BLP. Disputes around these three policies are most important or difficult to solve. Wikipedia has official polices but in many cases it lacks an adequate system to implement them. Solutions currently in place in a form of notice boards and dispute resolution process are just not effective enough. -- Vision Thing -- 21:52, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Having multiple committees is probably going to become an inevitable side-effect of the scale issue; the bigger we get, the less able one committe will be to respond in a timely and effective fashion to all the disputes that crop up. One potential issue that would need to be addressed is the likelihood that different committees ruling on similar problems would issue differing "judgements" (rulings, opinions, whatever), thus leading to either forum shopping or demoralizing levels of inconsistency (which some percieve is already a problem). Doc Tropics 22:09, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
  • The problem itself seems to lie in the ever thinning line between fact and opinion. A fact can not be disputed, except by offering sources that thoroughly contradict it. The only other argument that can be used is notability. (Is it worthy knowledge, textbook or instruction manual info, or just trivia?) Opinion, speculation, and rumor, on the other hand, can be found printed in almost every form of media, and from these come NPOV, NOR, synthesis, and such arguments. While speculation and opinion from experts in the field are vital, (articles such as Gravity wouldn't exist without them), these should be used with the utmost care, be labled clearly as opinion/speculation, and attributed to the speaker, (ie: Dr. E.B. Strauss surmised, "..., The U.S. Military advised, "..., or the general relativity theory of gravity). This is good, but often leads to the insertion of more and more, each trying to out contradict the other, and then the inevitible reversion wars ensue. I think that by using only the most concise contradictary opinions, and making sure that the RS attributes it to a notable expert, (and not some random blog, which happens more and more), would help to quell many disputes. Zaereth (talk) 23:21, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Would having the encyclopedia articles be more thoroughly based on facts and not including opinions, no matter how sourced, leaving it up to the reader to find the opinions on a topic be one way to go? In other words, has WP:V now become obsolete in its acceptance of opinions as long as they are cited? Collect (talk) 11:45, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I think viewing this in terms of "facts" veers dangerously towards viewing it in terms of "truth" and we all know that Wikipedia is about verifiability, not truth. I have a more incisive description of the problem I am posting.Slrubenstein | Talk 09:22, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
No, Collect, I do not advocate the exclusion of opinion, I merely think we need to be selective about what opinion is proffered. Einstein's opinion on gravity is just as important as Newton's, and both belong in the gravity article, but not the opinion of Joe-Blow-Blogger, some writer for Popular Science, or even that guy who hosts Nova. We do not always have facts to present, so speculation by experts is the best we can do sometimes. Zaereth (talk) 18:27, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
There is a far cry from fact to truth. Stating that gravity is a force that causes weight is a fact. Claiming that weight is caused by the curving of spacetime is opinion, (truth to some, but no factual evidence exists to make this theory a law). The same goes for the theory that weight is caused by the accelerating expansion/inflation of the universe. The difference between truth and fact is that one is subjective and the other is objective. Zaereth (talk) 18:27, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
I am not sure that Einstein viewed gravity as a force. Didn't he describe it as our experience of an effect of the topography of space-time? Slrubenstein | Talk 22:26, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
No, he did not, and Newton was uncomfortable with the idea as well. (Their views, but an extremely notable.) While on somewhat of two dimensional aspect the curved spacetime idea seems to make sense, but has fundemnetal flaws that no one has yet been able to explain. My own view is that the inflation hypothesis, involving accellerating expansion and the compression of spacetime, answers these questions but have yet to become actual scientific theory and so do not belong in any article. The accepted evidence is that gravity complies with the definition of a force, (ie: it can change the motion or cause stress to a free body). Zaereth (talk) 23:16, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

I think the main problem relates to tenacious POV-pushing. In my experience, WP is very good at dealing with vandalism, 3RR violations and egregious abuse on talk pages. However there is no easy method of dealing with the polite tenacious POV-pusher and that may be a reason that good editors give up. (See WP:FLAT for a humorous but unfortunately accurate description of this problem.) Tactics employed include: deletion of sourced material, often claiming it does not meet WP:RS standards, inclusion of material that clearly does not meet WP:RS standards, inclusion of material not supported by sources, alteration of material so that it no longer is supported by sources, providing short quotes taken out of context as sources, distortion of previous discussions and RfCs, setting up endless RfCs, and misrepresentation of WP policy. In some cases editors will present countless sources for inserted text, none of which support the text, but require good faith editors to spend time investigating. There should be a procedure, similar to 3RR for dealing with clear violations of WP policy to prevent POV-pushing. The Four Deuces (talk) 14:47, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree with your description, but what could such a procedure look like? Note that there is now a Wikipedia:Content noticeboard, which no-one's mentioned here. Might help a little for low-traffic pages - something between Third Opinion and RFC for more input. Rd232 talk 15:22, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

It is in cases like these when I wonder if our model of "notability", "NPOV", & "original research" no longer work. We are writing an encyclopedia here, which is an issue we often lose sight of. (Okay, maybe I'm the only one who does, but I often encounter clues that I'm not alone in forgetting this.) And what is an "encyclopedia"? I believe it is a reference work organized in a specific manner; that is, a genre of non-fiction intended to remind or confirm the user of information she/he already knows, or to provide a comprehensive introduction to a new subject. Far too often, we get hung up on supplying "just the facts" & forget to include a survey of significant opinions on the subject. "No original research" is invoked when someone accidentally organizes the material in a certain way, when it was originally intended as a tool to exclude opinions or points of view which no one else cares to know about. (And sometimes it is invoked to exclude poorly documented information which people arguably do care about.) -- llywrch (talk) 16:57, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm of the opinion that content should be required to meet notability requirements as well. See the talk page, under Possible Suggestions #4, for more. Zaereth (talk) 22:58, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
I think our NPOV, NOR, and V policies hold up pretty well. I do not think the problem is with the policies. I theink a major problem is that Wikipedia has grown very fast and many newcomers do not understand our policies or how properly to use them. Llywrch'sproblem would be easily solved if people just read the policy pages with an ounce of common sense. Thus frequent conflicts between policies and BOLD. I can see two solutions: first, we need a proposal to square BOLD with our policies, and this is what it ought to be: when no one on the talk page objects to an edit, we have no use of wikilawyering (i.e, be bold) - policies are there to help guide editors in resolving arguments against them. I think I have just described the most common pracice and to me it is common sense but i do think there are people around who get obsessed with policies when there is no need. If everyone working on an article agrees that the esit is positive, I see no nead to start new arguments. Seond, perhaps we need an arbcom shose sole function it is to mediate conflicts involving NPOV, NOR and V. I admit i am not thrilled about this. Among other things before creating a new arbcom we need to experiment with other forms of mediating conflict disputes. My mediating conflict disputes is a matter of process. The problems are not our policies. Slrubenstein | Talk 00:53, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Doc Tropics' comment about scale: the bigger we get, the less able one committee will be to respond in a timely and effective fashion to all the disputes that crop up. I think that this is already a problem. I also agree with The Four Deuces comment that the main problem relates to POV-pushing. I'd further add that POV-pushers are often more dedicated and prolific than a neutral editor who may not care about the subject as much as the POV-pusher. To make matters worse, some POV-pushers are experts at Wikilawyering and neutral editors can end up spending inordinate amounts of time countering every argument the POV-push comes up with. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 03:18, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Content disputes)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Content disputes)Edit

  1. sometimes the arbcom initiates a consensus-forming discussion to resolve (for example) ethnic naming disputes. This works well, and should happen more often without arbcom having to prompt it. (talk) 01:37, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    I had the same thought. This is not anything novel in principle. A discussion leading to a decision based on consensus is how the wiki is supposed to work. One or more experienced and uninvolved editors helping direct and oversee broad discussion appears to be an effective approach. In general, some assistance from mediators and/or uninvolved administrators in directing discussion and keeping it focused is usually helpful. This increases the signal-to-noise ratio of the discussions, which improves the productivity of the discussions and highlights/isolates disruptive editors. Both of these factors make it much easier for outside editors to decipher a situation and decide what needs to be done. --Vassyana (talk) 04:45, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (Content disputes)Edit

Take a liberal stance on content: Be bigger than just another traditional/boring "We got the facts Jack" encyclopedia of 10th grade homework absconding. Is the section contentious? Subject to multiple interpretations? Fine. Give space, make space. Let's hear both sides. Let the argument begin, right here on Wikipedia. Let the contestants label their point of view, gird up their evidence and have at it. Roy Sheehan

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Content disputes)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

In addition to arbitrating disputes, should ArbCom have other responsibilities?Edit

Description of the problem (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

ArbCom's original purview was to handle arbitrations. With the growth of WP, some have asserted that there is a need that the original purview is too restrictive for the only elected board on WP. Some have objected to widening their powers, as the discussion at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Advisory Council on Project Development shows.

Analysis of the problem (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

Adequately doing the nominal assigned work of resolving disputes submitted to the Arbitration Committee is a full time job in itself. The is not enough time or energy to be branching out to numerous other areas of responsibility. It can only occur at the expense of adequately performing its assigned task. Fred Talk 16:10, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Not to mention the question of whether it's appropriate for an independent, quasi-judicial, neutral body to undertake more blatantly political/partisan activities. --Cybercobra (talk) 08:36, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Ought ArbCom determine editorial policy for WP? Collect (talk) 12:48, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

Possible solutions (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

  1. ArbCom should view itself possibly in line with actual courts, wherein subsets hear cases which may, or may not, be referred to the full ArbCom. For example, one group of three might be tasked with hearing all BLP disoputes, which would allow them to address the issues which have repeatedly arisen, and to lay down specific examples of how policies are to be applied. In turn, this would require that ArbCom then have some measure of control over any revisions which would overturn their decisions in whole or in part. Another subgroup might have initial jurisdiction over (say) personal attacks, and to make specific rulings thereon, which would also be a strong guide for admins in the future. With a strong group of rulings which will be general in applicability, the ArbCom could then address more complex issues, rather than the current system of boilerplate dicta being used to determine systems for ArbCom punishments. Ideally ArbCom would not be the highest punishment-imposing body, but a reviewer of actions taken by administrators in accord with prior ArbCom rulings. Collect (talk) 15:08, 1 August 2009 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (ArbCom responsibilities)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Is the Mediation Committee effective?Edit

Description of the problem (Mediation Committee)Edit

Whether or not the Mediation Committee is successful is unclear.

Analysis of the problem (Mediation Committee)Edit

(NOTE: Some of these Category:User essays on dispute resolution may be worth consulting)

  • Where has the committee failed? Indeed, at what point do we consider it as having "succeeded" (for I don't ever recall seeing any goals set)? AGK 18:04, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
    • Good questions. Let me remind you that if you do not agre with the description of the problem, you can rewrite it - this is a collaborative project. However, you could take this into account, Slrubenstein | Talk 18:39, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I was one of the original members of the Mediation committee, & resigned after a year because of dissatisfaction over my own inability to mediate conflicts. Based on that, I'd say that there have been failures. (On the other hand, if you honestly think that you've done some good AGK, then you've been far more effective than I ever was.) -- llywrch (talk) 06:13, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  • What Llywrch says above is a big reason why myself and many others don't bother with the MedCom. Can someone, anyone, please show us a case it has successfully mediated without the need for later arbitration? Exactly what does the MedCom actually do, again?--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) (talk) 18:24, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    • What changes to the way MedCom works, do you think would make it more effective? How can we resolve disputes before they go to ArbCom/ What do you suggest? Slrubenstein | Talk 20:40, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
  • It is necessary to separate the experience of individual mediators from an overall assessment of the success of the Mediation Committee. But, to respond to RDH, a scan of the most recent archives, shows an increasing number of successful mediations that have not proceeded to arbitration. However, even mediations coded as "unsuccessful" often succeed in getting the disputants to stop, or retire. Online mediation can be tough. You often get folks a who are dug in—with deeply entrenched positions scorched by flame wars. Mediators lack some of the advantages (such as the social control) of face-to-face interaction that exist in real-world mediation. Over time we learn what works and what doesn't. I believe that the mediation committee is evolving and getting better at resolving disputes. But that is purely anecdotal. As AGK has observed, to make a proper assessment, we need a goal, and, I would add, some agreed-upon indicators. Sunray (talk) 21:52, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Judging by the cursory and recent evidence from the MedCom itself, it appears that it can resolve, at least temporarily, some minor and low-intensity conflicts. A more in-depth survey from outside, however, is needed to better determine its effectiveness or lack thereof. But efficacy questions aside, the MedCom remains a small, self-selecting and unelected group. Perhaps the community would take a greater interest in it, if they were allowed greater participation.--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) (talk) 17:37, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
  • [This was first posted elsewhere, but applies here] There needs to be some recognition of the fundamental differences in process between arbitration and mediation. It often seems that arbitration is better-suited to online disputes—what is there in print is evidence, after all. It is cut and dried. Moreover, online mediation is in its infancy—I do believe that Wikipedia is pioneering some aspects of mediation in virtual dispute resolution. The resort to arbitration is often desired by parties in dispute. Disputants can simply state their case and let some neutral decision-maker decide. In practice, as we know, it is often a great deal messier than that. Mediation takes effort on the part of the disputants, and thus tends to only work if the parties are ready for that. Often cases will go back and forth between mediation and arbitration until the parties get it sorted. I think both processes have their place, but just as there has been evolution in the Arbitration Committee, so is there evolution in WP mediation. Sunray (talk) 16:25, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
    But the RFC process can pretty much accomplish the same goals and serve the same functions, yes? And it does not create a flaccid, self-selecting bureaucracy, no?--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) (talk) 17:37, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

I do not think it is a question of low vs. high intensity conflicts. I think we need to distinguish between two kinds of situations. In the first situation, you have people with different points of view who basically do not understand our policies. In this case, I think all parties might agree formally to mediation, but this requirement already "bureaucratizes" the process and as RDH points out, bureaucracy is the problem. I have informally mediated some conflicts (most recently the Sarah Palin article, back during the campaigns). I do not think I pretended to be neutral (I think other editors could infer what I believed) but what I insisted was that all editors focus on what NPOV requires and what NOR forbids. This process took time and energy - watching the talk page all day, for weeks, and making lots of edits. But once I was able to prove that two people who were on opposite sides could actually come up with wording both agreed to, things started to move more smoothly. There were times I could have blocked someone, but instead I took time to mentor them on our policies. I want to emphasize that this takes a lot of work and we need mediators who really know the core policies and have almost infinite patience. But as long as all editors assume good faith, in my experience policies+patience=success. The other situation is where you have an honest-to-goodness POV warrior. This person will not agree to mediation or to being mentored. In these cases, I think we are fortunate that WP:DE has been strengthened and is being relied on - what we still lack, but what would solve this problem, is more activist but also more consistent blocking of POV pushers. This leads us to the other areas for reform, our block and ban policies. There is a real danger of abuse and I believe administrators have to act as checks and balances on one another, more freely unblocking someone if there is not sufficient evidence of DE/POV warrioring+absense of good faith (the ellusive but key ingredient in everything). I agree with RDH that we need to find ways to lighten the burden on ArbCom by resolving more conflicts before they get to ArbCom. I think i have outlined the two most effective ways. I think the problem is recruiting patient policy-focused mediators in the first instance, and coming up with an adequate process for administrator blocks that is unbureaucratic but less prone to abuse. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:10, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Mediation Committee)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (Mediation Committee)Edit

  • The Mediation Committee Policy is due for an upgrade. Suggestions from the previous section include the need for a specified goal and indicators. Also, we might separate parts of the current policy that are instructive (e.g., "What is mediation?") from the parts that are more purely policy. This might be done by creating a guideline, which could be a procedural manual—a "how to" guide to mediation—and making the policy more related to the goals, scope and limitations of mediation. Sunray (talk) 05:59, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (Mediation Committee)Edit

  1. The Mediation Committee ought to establish a manual of practice for mediation, with the intent of giving teeth to certain protocols and procedures. Mediators possibly should operate in teams of three, with decisions made by all three mediators being adopted unless overturned by arbitration, thus making mediation a genuine precursor to arbitration as is apparently intended by the current arbitration rules requiring mediation first. Decisions made in mediation must be made enforceable for some time certain in order to prevent articles repeating the process. Collect (talk) 14:06, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
  1. The Mediation Committee is a complete waste of time. The WP Foundation ought to kick down the bucks to hire and pay an actual Ombudsman. (talk) 02:19, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
  1. First, the mediation committee needs to become either directly elected, or appointed by a body that is. Second, it needs to be given some degree of binding authority:
    Mediation should not be optional for editors in a protracted conflict, and the mediation committee should have the option to enforce this through blocks and interim topic bans when it is necessary to get the parties to the table or keep them there. A process should exist to allow the parties to request a referral to arbitration if the mediation process deadlocks.
    Mediation should strive to reach a compromise that is acceptable to the parties and to Wikipedia policies. This compromise should become binding on the involved parties, and advisory on others.
    Mediation committee as a whole should have the power to designate articles as moderated due to content disputes, even for long periods of time, and to set practices to gauge consensus and implement discussed changes. This form of moderation should be used sparingly, but might be appropriate for large scale conflicts such as those that occur on ethnically sensitive topics. (Might be an appropriate application for level 2 pending changes protection)
    Mediation committee should have a primary focus of ending conflict by brokering a compromise between the parties, and of aggressively reducing the cases that reach ArbCom.
    Mediation committee should have authority to gauge consensus (that is, to determine if a given discussion has in fact reached consensus) when it is the basis or significant point of order of a case, and should provide rationale when doing so.
    Mediation committee should have authority to propose solutions to a conflict, lead discussion towards resolving a conflict, and bind a compromise agreement between the involved parties that is consistent with Wikipedia policies and principles. Binding the parties in their decision requires their agreement, and essentially states that the parties are required to follow the terms of that agreement until it expires, is overturned by policy, is overturned by ArbCom, or is renegotiated, and that uninvolved administrators may enforce the agreement.
    Mediation committee should not have any specific decisionmaking or rulemaking authority beyond what's specified, but the authority given here should be enough to make ArbCom mostly unnecessary, except for the cases of long term misconduct that required
    In conclusion, I believe these changes would give MedCom a fresh lease on life as a "lower court" and I think the added power to throw a cold blanket on serious long term disputes would help with reducing conflict - and give MedCom a unique role in doing so. Triona (talk) 18:34, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Mediation Committee)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Can our deletion policy be clearer, and the process more efficient?Edit

Description of the problem (Deletions)Edit

Deletions are too often seen as arbitrary and uneven in practice.

Analysis of the problem (Deletions)Edit

The process of deletion, such as AFD, only works if as many editors as possible are encouraged to participate, and that means giving each one them a vote. Some of the arguments put forward at AFD discussions may be based on Wikipedia's content policies, some on insider/expert knoweledge of a topic, but quite a lot are based on a lack of understanding.
Overall, some arguments hold more weight than others, but which ones do, and the outcome of the resulting deletion discussions, is a matter of consensus and is not proscribed in any policy. The result is that deletion is not a consistent process, but then it is hard to imagine how it could be since the administrators who run it cannot override consensus. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 10:53, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Esowteric raised the issue in a way in the discussion on getting new editors. Can the system be adopted to indicate that "consensus" is not a means of overturning "reasonableness"? IIRC, several !votes have been heavily weighted with "related editors" which surely adds to the problem of inconsistency. Collect (talk) 11:42, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

I believe that the arbitrariness has much to do with the notability requirement, which if I understand it correctly often is beyound WP:s scope; I mean it is mostly some other instance that is relied on to decide if a person or other is notable or not. WikiPBia (talk) 13:22, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

I feel as though the process has generated progressively less and less drama as we've slowly, collectively worked out what is and is not appropriate for Wikipedia. The way to make deletion policy clear is to make our content policies clear. Nifboy (talk) 00:31, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

Many new users will create articles that represent original thought, e.g., fascist cooking, which is not currently an article. In the hypothetical article they will explain their views and other writers will add details so that the result will be a fully sourced article but with no central definition so that it becomes pure WP:SYN and WP:OR. However if anyone applies to delete the article, there is a hardcore that follows WP:AfD who will provide no end of argument why the article should be kept. A Google search for fascist cooking returns 215 hits.[14] What about the Soup Nazi? We now have a large number of articles about subjects for which there is no clear meaning in the academic world, although often used as neologisms in academic books. The Four Deuces (talk) 21:21, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
I fully agree that content and style policies are not clear enough in stating what an encyclopedic structure should look like, (see my comments on talk). First and foremost, the content of an article should be directly aimed at telling the reader what the title is about. Listing every movie that used a blender in the blender article doesn't tell me about blenders. (It might be good for the movie article, but unless it's important to the plot I doubt it.) Neither does listing that so-and-so politician eats oatmeal for breakfast. While these are made up examples, I've seen more and more of this throughout Wikipedia. I've never seen any clear policy about relevance or notability of content. We have WP:NOT TEXTBOOK for information that is too technical, but not much for trivia and information that tells nothing about the subject. Zaereth (talk) 22:26, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Deletions)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

I am new here and have not read all the policies on deletion (why are there such a number?) but it seems to me Deletion can be appropriate for two (or three, read on) reasons and they should be clearly distinguished in any proposal for an article to be deleted: (1) the title is not one that deserves an article (e.g. a non-notable person/band/song/book/episode) or (2) the current content is unacceptable (but in principle there should be such an article). There is a third kind, (3) the article should exist, but under a different title, or already exists under that other title, which is a request for redirection or merging, but the issues are so similar that it would make more sense for them to be treated under the same procedure.

I was struck by two RFC asking for uninvolved people to comment: Islamofascism and Communist genocide and a comment on one of those talk pages directed me referring to the Fascist cooking class of term. This category is what I have called a neologism (or just a term) which only exists to promote a point of view. Perhaps all these titles should be disallowed under POV, or Synthesis, or Original Research, but at present there seems to be no policy that can be pointed to that says: "These articles are allowed but should describe the term not the phenomena described (by some) using the term." Or if there is, it is not being put to use here. Sussexonian (talk) 15:39, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

Modify an existing policy or process (Deletions)Edit

Propose a new policy or process (Deletions)Edit

  1. CSD patrollers to be reviewed occasionally.
    They're all admins, no? Keeping an eye on admins is fine, but how? There is a page recording some overturned speedies, btw: Wikipedia:Criteria for speedy deletion/Overturned speedy deletions Fences&Windows 14:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
  2. CSDs to require more than one approval.
    WP:CREEP & WP:BUREAUCRACY apply. There's already Wikipedia:Deletion review. Fences&Windows 14:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
  3. Patrolling of Prod's.
    Wikipedia:WikiProject proposed deletion patrolling already exists. Fences&Windows 14:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
  4. AfD - closer of deleting AfD required to summarise argument for deletion.
    Support. This will help avoid closers treating AfDs as simple votes. Fences&Windows 14:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
    Support. And extend to keep result. --KrebMarkt 21:53, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  5. AfD - permit standard strike through of common "reasons for deletion" that are established as invalid - e.g. "page not long enough" "poorly sourced" "should be a redirect".
    Oppose. Refactoring another editor's comment that is not vandalism is disruptive and uncivil, and WP:ATA is not policy. Fences&Windows 14:12, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
    Support - if we can get the community to agree that certain reasons are never a good reason to delete. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 12:12, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Support some of this. first The current means of reviewing admins deletions is restricted by the politeness we tend to exercise--I see many bad speedies from my colleagues, but I will only challenge those where either I have a special interest in the subject, or i think it's totally outrageous. Given the lack of formal controls on admin behavior short of deadmin, it's the only way to avoid a pervasively hostile environment. We need to establish a different ethos. (the current practice at Deletion Review of sustaining speedy deletions regardless of their invalidity, even gross invalidity, if the view is that the article would probably be deleted at AfD, is a deliberate refusal to enforce standards by the available means and in effect permits admins to interpret the narrow CSD criteria as "anything I think should be deleted". second CSD's should indeed never be done single handed except for vandalism, BLP and clear copyvio. This has been blocked from becoming policy by the few admins who insist that they want to continue doing it. And I agree that a closing of a disputed AfD must explain the logic.
On the other hand, prod patrolling works pretty well. Though only a few of us do it, we do it sufficiently to remove the unfounded ones & get the doubtful ones into AfD. The main problem with prod is that it is used too rarely. DGG (talk) 20:30, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

6. In AfD's where the issue is notability/lack of sources, I'm shocked by how often contributors seem to be unfamiliar with the sources in the article. Is there a simple way to transclude the References section from the article into the AfD?

7. Abstract concepts - in the case of abstract concepts, e.g., fascist cooking, editors must be able to provide a clear definition of the concept in an academic source that clearly shows that the concept has entered academic discourse. (There is a possible exception for new concepts, like Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories, but these should be clearly sourced to respected news organizations.) The Four Deuces (talk) 15:13, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Deletions)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Is BLP adequately enforced?Edit

Description of the problem (BLP enforcement)Edit

There is a backlog at the BLP noticeboard. The project doesn't have the resources to monitor or maintain all of the biographies of living people. This not only serves as a potentially huge legal risk for the Foundation, but we also have a moral obligation to protect the living subjects of our articles.

Analysis of the problem (BLP enforcement)Edit

Far too many articles violate WP policy. Only a minority ever make it to the BLP noticeboard. Even then, there is a perceived backlog. Collect (talk) 14:44, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

The recent arbom case highlighted potential problems with the BLPs of Scientologists and called upon the community to check through these to ensure they are and remain compliant with BLP. I don't think much has been done on that count. Another BLP that has had problems is that of John_Yoo. The highest risk is obviously with articles on people who are widely disliked, or intensely disliked by some without having a balancing fan base, resulting in a dearth of editors motivated to make edits in the subject's favour. JN466 20:45, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

  • Question Does anyone know how many BLPs WP actually has? If we are thinking about instituting something like BLP patrol, along the lines of recent changes patrol, it would be good to have an idea of the size of the task. JN466 12:36, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Category:Living people says "The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 393,225 total." Any use? Esowteric+Talk 13:05, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • Yes, thanks. JN466 17:49, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I was told, a few months ago, by one of the contributors behind the project to supply a "listas" field to every biography's talk page, that there were close to 700,000 biographies on the wikipedia. They supplied an exact figure, which I don't recall. So, either half our biographies are on dead people, or some living people aren't listed in Category:Living people. Geo Swan (talk) 13:55, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
      • I note that over the past five months, the total number of articles in Category:Living people has grown from 393,225 to 421,882, an increase of 7.3%. --JN466 15:04, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
  • To avoid anyone reinventing the wheel, Wikipedia:WikiProject Living people already exists to keep an eye on BLPs. User:Jennavecia aka Lara is the most vocal editor I know of in this area. Fences&Windows 17:08, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. Wikipedia:Alleviate_negative_unsourced_statements JN466 18:57, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
The list of BLPs in Category:Living people is incomplete. There is an unknown number of uncategorized BLPs, but approximately 5,000 potentially uncategorized BLPs listed here to be checked and categorized. Lara 20:03, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
I've only worked on one BLP, but a very contentious one. One thing I've noticed is that these attract a serious amount of vandalism from mostly IP addresses. False information, racial, religious, and sexist slurs can be very damaging to a person, even if only allowed to remain in an article for a few seconds. I think that anyone who edits a BLP should have some sort of accountability, and there is no way to apply this to an IP. With no offense to all of the good IP users out there, I think the only way to control this problem is to limit BLP edits to registered users only, (with the exception of the talk page). Another benefit of this may be that it may entice some of the better IPs to join instead of remaining anonymous. Zaereth (talk) 00:06, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Another problem I see facing BLPs is the tendency to go into private details about the subject's family, often in an attempt to dig up dirt in a guilt-by-association sort of way. Most disturbingly, I have have seen this done in ways that could harm the subject's children for life. I think some sort of policy should be in place to protect the innocent bystanders and family, but especially children. Zaereth (talk) 00:06, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Flagged revisions are supposed to be rolling out on BLPs next month. Lara 16:46, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
No, this is a misunderstanding. For this two-month trial, we will enable a passive form of flagged revisions, patrolled revisions, for all articles. Of course, we will focus on patrolling BLPs, but we can patrol all articles. The active part, flagged protection, will give an other option to protect articles, besides classic protection that selectively disallows editing, but its use would be governed by the protection policy. So you won't have active flagging for all BLPs, only for those meeting the semi-protection criteria, which is subject to a limited admin discretion. Cenarium (talk) 17:12, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
I've seen the "sighted version" system that the German Wikipedia uses; what system will he have over here? I understand it's different from the German one. Could you point me to a page that explains how the English version will work? JN466 17:18, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Possible solutions (BLP enforcement)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

Modify an existing policy or process (BLP enforcement)Edit

  1. Enforce the current policy better, in the sense that BLP enforcement is considered an exemption from 3RR and other conduct rules. Encourage and defend people that enforce BLP. More stringently enforce edit warring (and other conduct violations) on BLP articles. No new processes or rules are really necessary for this to take place and would result in drastically better BLP enforcement. Vassyana (talk) 06:02, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    I've already been doing that. For me, IAR applies in most BLP situations. Lara 20:05, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    I'm aware that you and (sadly only) a few others are doing just that; in most cases quite effectively. Sincerely, thank you. If you would talk it to the talk page or bring it over to my user talk, I'd like to talk more about it. I'm especially curious about how much WikiProjects have been helpful or hindering, and how they might be better used to organize BLP management. --Vassyana (talk) 04:30, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
  1. Raise the bar for notability much higher. This would reduce the number of poorly-watched BLPs. As a corollary to this, all proposed deletions for BLPs should be accepted by default, with arguments for "keep" required to state a strong and convincing case. ("No consensus" closures would thus become deletes.) Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 04:47, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
    I'm not sure about "raising the bar". I would far rather see a rich and varied set of BLPs than some kind of "top twenty" (the Amazon or Waterstones business model, say, rather than that of W.H. Smith). Content is what we are about here primarily; not system. The system (such as article watching) should be made to fit what content is on offer; the content should not be pruned to its detriment to suit some system. Cheers, Esowteric+Talk 10:08, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
    Also see M's proposal for a recent changes page for unwatched articles. Esowteric+Talk 10:29, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Completely agree with Esowteric. Our content needs to be better, not less. --Cyclopia - talk 15:41, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (BLP enforcement)Edit

  1. We could think about setting up a volunteer project with guidelines on how to patrol the BLPs that are at risk, with a corresponding article watchlist. --JN466 20:45, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
    Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard/Watchlist. Lara 20:06, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    Thanks so much! JN466 20:38, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. Establish an elected BLP committee with content jurisdiction on BLPs, to enforce BLP policy, with the authority to rule on content, lock articles, and topic-ban consistent offenders. This group to have access to legal advice, and training in the legal issues involved. JN466 12:10, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
    Where's the legal advice coming from and who is going to do the training? Lara 20:07, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    If this idea were pursued, the advice would have to come from Foundation lawyers/legal advisors. As a related idea, I think certain core principles of WP:BLP for example should be in the hands of the Foundation, rather than those of the volunteer community. The right to establish rules that protect the site from getting sued should rest with those who will get sued if the worst comes to the worst; I believe this is the Foundation, rather than the (possibly anonymous and unidentifiable) editor who added the offending material. JN466 20:45, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    The Foundation currently enjoys protection from such lawsuits under Section 230. Unless they lose that protection, I doubt the legal team is going to bother to care much. I mean, do they seem to care now? Clearly not. Lara 16:48, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
    Good point. I mentioned the other day that was shut down twice by German courts due to BLP issues, but accept that laws in the US may make that a more unlikely event to happen to en:WP. Although it has happened to wikileaks in the US, for example. But thanks for the pointer to section 230; I was evidently clueless. Explains a lot. Do you know anything about the liability of editors? JN466 17:15, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. Establish rigourous equality among articles with regard to enforcement of BLP policies, and not allow "consensus" to bend the rules. Unless and until all BLPs are treated equally (whether or not editors "like" the person), all of WP is endangered. This means establishing a group of editors sworn to treating every BLP equally, and who have no intrinsic biases at all with regard to such issues. The BLPs of a saint or a satan should be made as nearly as possible to conform to the precise same standards and practices. Yes, this means "consensus" may have to be thrown out, but it clear that inconsistent applications of the rules are a great deal of the problem. Collect (talk) 12:44, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
all policies need to be interpreted. If we were to say "never" the question will still arise if an exception should be made. There have been times where the literal enforcement of BLP policy has worked against the interest of the party supposedly being protect by it. There will always be conflicts between different policies. There is no way to legislate that will or should stop the use of intelligence. DGG ( talk ) 07:38, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
I agree with DGG. I agree we should strive for equality and fair treatment but we're human, we interpret things, we disagree, we don't know everything, we have biases. And rules are subject to interpretation. But I'm wondering whether there's a way for troubled BLPs (which don't conform to guidelines) to get more attention -- some kind of process so that editors/writers looking for stuff to work on will look at the troubled BLPs first (and have a brief exposure to the particular rule which needs application) -- like, editors who feel a TBLP (troubled BLP) can put it in a queue which is looked at first. Or, there's some kind of tag which is easy for other editors to spot. Or maybe this exists already (I'm a nooB)?Tomwsulcer (talk) 12:06, 5 September 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Something like this does exist, here: Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons/Noticeboard/Watchlist and here: Special:RecentChangesLinked/Wikipedia:Biographies_of_living_persons/Noticeboard/Watchlist --JN466 20:44, 8 September 2009 (UTC)
  1. In the case of BLPs in general, as opposed to those deemed at most risk, many are not even tagged and most don't make it to the BLP noticeboard, but all should be checked through at intervals (or at least once, some time after article creation), and in some organized rather than random, uneven fashion. Set up a list which shows BLPs which have not been patrolled in (say) the last year. When an editor has checked through an article (and preferably made changes if necessary rather than simply tagging), tick a box to make the article disappear from the list for a period of time. Perhaps tick other boxes if there are issues with the page so that the article reappears in other patrolled lists requiring action? Or is this simply too large, daunting or unmanageable? Just an idea, Esowteric+Talk 09:21, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    Well, I guesstimate somewhere around 450,000 BLPs. A little less than 400,000 categorized, about 5,000 potentially uncategorized listed to be checked, and another ~50,000 estimated to have not been picked up by queries yet. Lara 20:24, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. If a volunteer can fix by editing, then fix as much as possible; then consider tagging the remainder (and document on the talk page). Don't just tag and move on, making work for others. Esowteric+Talk 09:31, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    Well, one thing about tagging and moving on is that is categorizes the issues and gives us numbers. We still don't really know just how big the BLP problem is... we just know it's really big. Better to tag and move on than do nothing at all. Lara 20:30, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. Can we have an indication of how many active users are watching articles, or some other means of organizing watches, so that coverage is less uneven? Can we encourage active users to watch more articles (say 50+, 100+, 200+)? There is possibly a lot of redundant effort which could be better utilized elsewhere. Esowteric+Talk 10:11, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    The flagging approach might be more accepted if it were applied only to BLP's that are watched by no or few users, perhaps with some lightweight way to remove flagging when activity increases. It's the vast number of obscure, inactive bios that worry me most.--agr (talk) 21:55, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (BLP enforcement)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.

Do we have a problem recruiting new, or retaining current, editors?Edit

Description of the problem (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

Jose Felipe Ortega, aka User:GlimmerPhoenix, created the WikiXRay statistical analysis program. He then used it to analyze raw XML dump files from Wikipedia right thru its history, from 2001 up to early 2008. His findings are published in his PhD dissertation. He found that the arrival of new editor talent peaked out in 2007, and is now dropping slowly. Same goes for meaningful article edits.

Interesting PhD thesis -- one of his conclusions was "there exists a severe risk in the top-ten language versions of Wikipedia, about maintaining their current activity level". And I agree this problem is real.Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:58, 6 September 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Just an anecdotal comment: I used to actively recruit friends and fellow-writers for WP. I ran into considerable anti-religious hostility from scientistic cabalists. I found racism rampant, both by direct vandalism and by the slightly more subtle method of insisting that any mention of published, well-sourced racism be excised from the bios of non-living people. I found admins socking as editors and then supporting "their" editor during disputes. I coined a whole new term, "hostile cite-tagging," to describe a previously unnoted method by which an editor can incrementally destroy the content of an infrequently-edited article on a topic he or she desires to "own" -- and i then applied this principle experimenally to a few articles selected at random and found that, had i wished to pursue it, i could have completely wiped out the good but uncited content in the toy train portion of the encyclopedia. (It was just a test, folks; i didn't do it.) Most of all, i found an almost unending stream of admin rudeness.
As i discovered these flaws in the WP model, i stopped recruiting. I didn't want my friends and colleagues to experience unbearable hostility. As the edit wars escalated around me, i found myself writing for WP only when i was procrastinating from another writing task, and i tended to not tell friends, family, or colleagues that i was doing so for fear of seeming obsessed with volunteerism. When i identified obsessive volunteerism as my own problem, i began editing under my IP address. This produced some weird results. Suddenly i was being talked down to, warned, and treated as an idiot.
Now, if a writer who is notable enough to be a "notable Wikipedian" is trashed simply because he or she is writing as an IP, the entire premise of WP is flawed. As a test i began deliberately editing more often as an IP. Would i be treated rudely as an IP person and politely as a known, named, and also notable user? Being a contrarian, i actually spent several months only editing as an IP and i changed my IP address as often as feasible, uploading my writing from a variety of towns while visiting friends, and leaving only one IP address connected to my user name. The result was clear -- IP writing drew fewer elaborate edit wars, but the IP address did attract more contemptuous and condescending undos and a multiplicity of warnings (for no reason other than being from an IP, is all i can figure). I recognize that this admission of my method of testing the limits of the system for rudeness may get me banned. In a way, i would welcome that, as it would put an end to my obsessive helpfulness and volunteerism.
Has anything good come out of my sad experiences here? Well, i have learned to love the mediawiki database format and the responsive quickness of wiki coding when compared to html, and so i now run my own wiki on a specialized topic elsewhere -- which i have limited to three writers.
Note: i said "writers." I do not denigrate my colleagues by calling them "editors." If, instiututionally speaking, WP does not respect writers, WP will not be able to recruit writers.
Ol' 64 (talk) 19:19, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree Catheryne. :)•Maunus•ƛ 19:36, 28 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree Catheryne too. I'm a nooB but quickly getting disillusioned. About the words "writing" and "editing" -- I'm not sure which term to use to describe what we do here on WP. We're writing, obviously, but the word "edit" more closely describes rewriting, rephrasing, changing the order of words. But writers edit, and editors write; I think it doesn't matter which we use.Tomwsulcer (talk) 12:13, 5 September 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer

Yes, we do have a big problem in this area, and some of it, in some areas, is related to WP:BITE (thinking of Venezuela-Chavez articles). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:22, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Analysis of the problem (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

I believe that a major part of the problem is creating a more diverse working environment. Slrubenstein | Talk 13:39, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Another possibility is that WP is now a "mature community." A large percentage of the folks who are apt to want to work on WP have already been here. Many communities in the past have seen similar patterns, with large numbers of people becoming active for about a year, and then moving onto other areas. If this is the case, then it is a problem for which there is no solution. As a comparison, look at Usenet's usage. WP is actually doing fairly well at this point. Collect (talk) 14:37, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Collect, on its face you make a reasonable point and I do think what you say explains a certain "plateauing." But it doesn't explain the loss of good editors. Here is one of the earliest "manifesto's" explaining why a superb Wikipedia left the project: [[15]]. JHK had a PhD. in history but she never used her credentials to bludgeon another editor or even to justify an edit. She simply did high quality research. But endless arguments with other editors, who were both POV pushers and poor researchers, wore her out. Slrubenstein | Talk 16:11, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

It seems to me that the barrier to entry for editing Wikipedia has risen, in four regards: content, technology, rules, and taboos.
Regarding content, Wikipedia is much more complete than it was in 2007; there are fewer obvious omissions -- but also, new contributions are scrutinized much more warily. Regarding technology, try hitting the edit button on any large article: you're confronted not with a box of English prose, but with a swath of opaque markup for infoboxes and other metadata. (We really should have separated article text from the layout of images and infoboxes into the page a long time ago.)
Regarding rules, the set of policies that editors are expected to keep in mind has grown (instruction creep), and the established community expects everyone to already know them before editing. Finally, regarding taboos, there are entire swaths of articles under effective ownership, or ArbCom enforcement, which from the point of view of a noob are the same: you show up and act like a noob, and you get Zerg rushed by a dozen editors spouting incomprehensible, offended lawyerish noises. --FOo (talk) 15:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Even if the barrier of entry has risen, I worry that the "stickyness" of Wikipedia remains much the same: people might be arriving in fewer numbers, but they are leaving about the same rate. And this rate is amazingly high -- based on my impression, the average length of a term on Wikipedia is somewhere under two years. For example, I'm having trouble identifying anyone still actively editting Wikipedia who has been here longer than me beyond Slrubenstein. Another example is that there is practically a complete turnover in the regulars on either WP:AN & WP:AN/I. We are losing our institutional memory almost as fast as we are creating it. -- llywrch (talk) 06:29, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  • As a lot of articles on major subjects have matured, there's now a higher hurdle to successfully making a useful contribution – used to be easy to come across an article, think it was blatant rubbish or incoherent, get a book out of the library and make dramatic improvements. With the introduction of inline citations and increasingly high standards, it's become that much harder. There are still plenty of opportunities on less high profile or little known subjects, but new users are that much less likely to find easy areas to improve. When they want to improve a well established article, they often have to be armed with reliable sources to overturn the existing consensus, and are likely to be fended off, especially if they're tring to introduce content that has already been discussed and rejected. . . dave souza, talk 17:49, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I agree that one reason for wikipedia now receiving less new contributions is the raised quality bar. When I started I could add a lot of good content in a short time because of the standards of verifiability were much lower. Now I find myself more often reverting new editors' contributions that are not exactly bad but doesn't live up to the higher standards. Another thing is that many areas attract the same kind of non-optimal contributions over and over, and a lot of time is spent having the same arguments with new contributors. And as Dave Souza mentions often also the opposite happpens - I try to contribute to existing articles but am fended off by the established contributors in that area. Personally I have also reached point where creating article content is not as gratifying as it once was - this causes me to often cruise around on different articles making minor corrections and criticising others work instead - I have also begun spending more of my time reviewing GAs and participating in wikipoliotics for the same reasons. I think for me and probably also for others creating some kind of encouragement to adding content would be an effective way of not letting the expansion of wikipedias content stall.•Maunus•ƛ 18:26, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I agree that the high level of analysis required may turn off some, but to others, like myself, this provides sort of a challenge that can be quite fun. I've only been editing Wikipedia for about a year now. I started off as an IP, leaving talk page comments which I thought would be helpful, and got quite excited when an established editor and expert in the field told me to make go ahead and make the change. But after joining, and cutting my teeth on one of the most contentious articles out there, I nearly left in a huff over the wikilawyering, edit warring, repetitive arguments that never end, and mostly over what I felt to be a substandard measure for the inclusion of false and even potentially liabelous material, (eg: Someone printed it, so it must go in). My outburst in that article can attest to my feelings at the time. Fortunately, instead of leaving, I decided to move on to some less disputed and more technical articles until I could get a better assessment of Wikipedia Policy. Zaereth (talk) 19:07, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
Regarding Zaereth's excellent point, I have had two wikilawyering episodes which caused me seriously to think about quitting (and still may do). My thinking is that somehow the structure of Wikipedia causes this, and I'm not sure it's altogether bad -- the competitive, combative aspects may be tough for individuals, but I think truth seems to emerge -- the articles I got frustrated with other editors about haven't deteriorated like I had suspected, but still are rather good. But working on them sure played havoc on my emotions. The structure encourages us to become mini-wikilawyers, since being able to cite the rules is a key to winning many disputes. Wikipedia is like hockey, not like football or soccer or basketball, in that so many fights keep breaking out. Why? I'm not sure. But I think Wikipedia, like hockey, can have powerful adversaries appear out of nowhere, seemingly unexpected, with major risk to one's editing efforts; and while we're focusing on the puck (editing articles) the adversaries seem to be focusing on us. Do you know what I mean? This can be nerve-wracking but it can also be exciting at the same time. Again, I suspect anonymity is a big part of the problem. I saw two articles with flags on them -- "facts needed" or "needs neutral tone", and I thought the articles were abandoned and needed my neutral non-biased help (I believe nobody is truly unbiased.) It aroused my do-gooder impulse. But in retrospect, the flags were really signs of an edit war in progress, of battling. So I got sucked into edit wars. I'm thinking that perhaps part of the problem is when new editors/writers consider working on an article, that there should be more information about who the players are, and some indication of whether an edit war is already in progress --so that other editors don't appear out of "nowhere" like looming hockey players about to mow us down. Like, a user contemplating working on a fresh article should be able to determine, quickly, without hunting through the history -- how many other editors have article X on their watchlist? And how many of these editor/writers are active? And which of these have made substantial contributions to article X in the past (important to know lest a new contributor step on toes of past contributors). Information like this might be helpful to preventing edit warring perhaps.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 12:31, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
  • As data. the enWikipedia statistics through 2008 have just been compiled by Erik Zachte (Infodesiac): [16]. They contain the explanatory note
"my [former] method of counting new wikipedians may have had something to do with an overestimation of the decline in newcomers to the projects. So beginning with today’s report for the English Wikipedia I changed this method.
From the beginning a user has always been considered a wikipedian after 10 edits. However up till now a user that met this criterium was counted from the moment of registration. From now on the user is counted from the month that the 10th edit had been made. This seemed a minor difference in early days, most users either left after one or two edits, satisfied that yes they could edit if only they wanted to. Other newcomers, who liked the wiki concept, often exceeded those 10 edits in the first hour or so.
But then the law of large numbers (or call it the long tail) kicked in. It turned out that many of those that left early came back later when Wikipedia gained notoriety, and were not counted maybe a month early but one or two years, hence skewing the chart. Call it a design bug, incremental insight, a different perspective, you choose.
It was done deliberately and openly, but over time I learned that the former approach was counter intuitive for many, and like I said no longer a simplification with negligible effect. There was a good technical reason to do it that way though: today’s new approach implies comparison of up to 10 timestamps on each of 200 million revisions on the English Wikipedia only

quoted by DGG (talk) 19:17, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Agree with DGG above. From personal experience, there's a second factor here as well; I used to edit as an IP, and only used my logged-on account for edits on the very rare occasion where my IP was caught in a range block. In late 2006, post-Siegenthaler, editing as an IP became more difficult as far more articles were semi-protected, so I started using the logged-on account full time (you can see the sudden jump from 1 logged-on edit every couple of months to 1 logged-on edit every few minutes in my history). I'm sure this wasn't unusual in this period. – iridescent 19:25, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Jose Felipe Ortega also found, by analysing articles, including FAs, that article quality increased as the number of editors contributing to the article increased. He also pointed out there was an increasing separation between hard-core editors and the new or casual editor, and that this was ominous for Wikipedia's future. The way Wikipedia is now, the editor "star" system of FAs in encouraged. "I have x number of FAs" and "my FA articles" etc. It also explicitly sets out an editorial hierarchy that only the most fanatical new or casual editor can hope to join. And many articles have "guards" that discourage the input of new and casual editors. Given the high barriers that already exist (massive number of rules/policies-both explicit and unwritten/MoS mandates/high wiki software learning curve) for the new and casual editor, more efforts to encourage and foster contributions of these editors would help. Discouraging the method of rating editor worth by article ownership and foster more constructive ways of rewarding the self esteem of editors, i.e. those ways that serve to increase the pleasure of editing would help the encyclopedia. Harsh attacks on me by article owners and friends nearly drove me away forever. If editing is not rewarding for these editors, new and casual editors will not increase. —Mattisse (Talk) 00:51, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Back to Collect's first points, specifically Wikipedia is now a mature community." and "A large percentage of the folks who are apt to want to work on WP have already been here." We'd better hope that this is wrong: the project will soon be in big trouble if the pool of editors and the number of active admins continue to shrink. What I think is true is that a large percentage of folks who are apt, willing and understand how they can contribute are already here. An overwhelming majority of active editors are, for one, reasonably familiar and comfortable with computers, user-generated content, on-line communities and a whole bunch of things that many of us take for granted. Your grandma can probably read Wikipedia but she'll faint if she ever clicks on the edit button or tries to parse a watchlist. On average, older people are less likely to be comfortable with the whole Wikipedia environment. It's not only about the interface, it's also about on-line culture, basic understanding of rendering or other technical issues (say templates). This partly explains the low average age of editors but it's very problematic because further improvements to the article on Christian eschatology will not come from a teenager. If we want to get more expert theologians on board, we can't just sit still and lament, we have to go out and bring them here. Outreach programs are part of the answer. It also means making such editors comfortable by curbing the "consensus trumps experts" culture. And getting help does not necessarily mean getting new active editors. It would often make sense to ask an expert to read an article and send his comments through email. Pascal.Tesson (talk) 22:17, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
The "football field" for editors to work in is now greatly reduced in size - there is nothing for WP to be ashamed of in being a "mature community." WP has one of its premises being that "experts" are actively discouraged from editing. To change that (and to change the "consensus trumps everything" system) would require a fundamental revision of WP - would you propose such a revision? Collect (talk) 11:32, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
The football field is still gigantic but you need better players for the game. I'm not saying that WP should be ashamed of being a mature community, I'm saying it can't afford to believe that it is mature. By "mature" I suppose you don't mean "behaves like a rational adult" (since we can all agree that it's as dysfunctional as it ever was). But even if you mean that the community is mature as in "has completed its growth" then we're going to hit a wall. There is nothing in the premise of WP that actively discourages expert input (thank God). Consensus trumps everything is great for small-scale discussions but it's also the refuge for nitwits, as many ArbCom cases have shown. And the current culture gives all the power to the vested contributor who can cite all the guidelines, spend 2 hours getting support on irc, sift through the noticeboards and so on, whereas the newbie expert will be told to shut up and read WP:CITE, WP:NPOV, WP:OR. At that point the expert will leave and never return but, hey, we're a mature community so who needs him... Pascal.Tesson (talk) 16:07, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I think that one of the most important points about WP being a "mature community" is that there are far fewer opportunities now to create new articles, since so many have already been covered. Esowteric+Talk 16:51, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
But that's precisely why we need experts and quality editors. Anyone can write a stub but unless we want all our featured articles to be about The Simpsons, we need competent people to get complex articles to another level. In some areas Wikipedia has successfully attracted and kept a productive mix of people who really know what they're talking about but have a limited amount of time and people who don't know quite as much but have more time and are serious about what they do. WikiProjects like Tropical Cyclones and Architecture come to mind. But they're currently exceptions: it's not that there are no experts on WP but there are too few and they tend to leave. Pascal.Tesson (talk) 23:35, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree completely. I have been working on an article where I really need the help of a couple of experts. I need the help of someone expert on the work of Jacques Rousseau and Emile Durkheim, and trust me, if there were as many sociologists or French historians here as there are experts on Linnux, I'd be ighting them off. And I could use some linguists. No suggestions please: I have been around a while and did eveything possible to draw the attention of someone qualified and interested. Nada, zero, sip, zilch. Wikipedia needs to have a elatively constantly expanding universe of editors until there are enough editors of every major area of specialization such that no single editor has to be relied on for articles on that topic. We all know the root problem: when it comes to academic topics, we have good articles only under one of two conditions: one expert, or two or three tops, writes a good article and watches over vandalism, trivia, inanities, popular misunderstandings, or just plain bad writing, and watches over, and watches over, for years. Or, an expert writes an article that is on a topic so ew people study in hih school or their first year of college, or think they are experts on, so no one reads it, and thus no one ever screws with it even years after the author has left. Neither of these situations is good! Slrubenstein | Talk 23:05, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
For some experts, it is not worth it under any curcumstance (Noam Chomsky is not going to start writing stubbs on linguistics). For others, they will never get used to the idea that editing is collaborative and no one owns an article ... there is one solution to this problem: more editors who do not know much but do know how to do research, especially by going to libraries and reading books and articles (alas, most come and just crib from some other online encyclopedia that is using an older version of Wikipedia article?!?). The other propblem is, experts come, write, and then people who never have done first rate research just start tearing down the article with inane poorly written but certainly good faith edits. After a while, this drives great editors away. Slrubenstein | Talk 23:10, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Good point. No doubt Randy in Boise has done more damage than vandals ever could. Question: How should the community deal with Randy? Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 23:52, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
You should take individual cases to AN/I. Please stick to general matters here. Slrubenstein | Talk 07:50, 3 August 2009 (UTC)
I think Slrubenstein's comment is exactly right. I love the philosophy of Spinoza, but I'm a lightweight non-expert when it comes to this stuff, and I've been trying to get the help of a Spinoza scholar I've been corresponding with, to rewrite the Spinoza article. And my experience mirrors Slrubenstein's -- no interest. For him, editing a Spinoza article means much work with huge risk that the contribution would be speedily undone by inane minds, or require never-ending policing to make sure the article stayed reputable. So, why would an expert contribute? And I've been thinking about this whole issue -- how to get experts to contribute?Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:14, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
And I think generally a big problem underlying much of Wikipedia's troubles, like a shaky foundation for a house, is anonymity -- anonymous handles, untraceability of editors to real people, sock puppetry. Anonymity brings a freedom to say what we really think without fear of reprisals, which is a good thing, but anonymity also permits serious problems such as vandalism, unaccountability, possibilities for mischief. I think a world in which editors are identified as REAL PEOPLE, responsible, traceable is much preferred to this Halloween-like wikiworld in which masked editors are free to egg houses, throw toilet paper in trees and revert articles for fun. In an identified world, mischief-makers would know they'd be exposed, and knowing this, wouldn't cause mischief -- and in such an environment, experts on Spinoza would be more willing to risk contributing since their contributions would be safer or, if maligned, more easily protected by the larger community. An identified world would encourage sharp editors to work hard with less downside risk. And, further, I think it's wise for the Wikipedia community to identify experts as experts, and value them; at present, experts are dumbed down to the same democratic level as the lowest prankster. Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:14, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
I recommend Wikipedia move away from anonymity towards being an identified community. But please realize Wikipedia's problems are bound up with America's problems. I think Wikipedia's latching on to anonymity is thoroughly consistent with American cultural thinking about anonymity being a good thing. Americans see anonymity as helping them stay free; since nobody knows what they're doing or where they're going, Americans think they're "free" to do what they want, and therefore see anonymity as good, and identification as "Big Brother", and don't think much more beyond that. But I think these views are mistaken. Anonymity has little to do with freedom. (I wrote a book elaborating my views which is free to editors who e-mail me -- but, sorry, I can't post my email address here because Wikipedia likes anonymity, and I can't post my book's title here since Wikipedia frowns on advertising -- reminders that Wikipedia's worship of anonymity is quite extensive.) Freedom is built on rights, on reason, on understanding, not Halloween masks. Wikipedia is chronically infested with vandalism, sock puppetry, mischief, and other mayhem because of its being an anonymous world, and on a larger scale, America is similarly anonymous and, as a result, America can not solve its more serious problem of terrorism. For example, Boston Police in 1987 shut major highways down for hours after finding unexplained objects hanging on lamp posts -- these turned out to be cartoon promotions -- but Boston police worried it was terrorism. It wasn't. Cartoons shutting down a city -- I'm not making this stuff up. I believe serious terrorism is coming, and anonymity is like oxygen which terrorists breathe just like Wikivandals breathe. On a smaller scale, Wikipedia endures the same kind of vandalism which bedevils the Wikicommunity. If Wikipedia tried to switch from an anonymous world to an identified world, then it would soon bump into serious conflicts with America. For example, America is lawsuit-happy; so anybody who writes truthfully but negatively about a person (particularly regarding BLP articles) risks being sued; since anonymity makes it harder to pinpoint who is writing what, anonymity protects truth-telling editors. So, these problems are bound with one another. America needs to reform it's lawsuit-happy world with restrictions on frivolous suits, as well as reform many other areas (government, citizenship, foreign policy, etc, etc, etc) and so Wikipedia will continue to suffer to the extent that America remains unable to reform itself.Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:14, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Still, I think Wikipedia can improve by understanding how anonymity reeks, by embracing identification, by encouraging editors to identify themselves, by making it easier for editors to show their faces as well as real names, by discouraging handles, by letting editors "own" their own user pages, by enabling communication between editors with improved inter-Wikipedia messaging, by giving editors who use their real names and faces more weight in disputes and more credibility in arguments, by identifying experts as experts, and in small ways such as these, Wikipedia can improve and attract top talent, and motivate everybody, while realizing that reform efforts within Wikipedia are unfortunately bound up with serious problems in the larger world.Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:14, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Responding to Pascal.Tesson above: Speaking as an "older Wikipedian", the problem with attracting more of us isn't in the interface (given a useful enough manual or help system, any interface can be learned & used advantageously), it's in the time required to make useful contributions. Something that I had forcefully brought to my attention is that when one gets older, there are more demands on one's time: not only work, but chores, family, etc. (Doing anything with a child around takes 2x or 3x more time than without one.) It used to be that I could find all sorts of things to do on Wikipedia with the old half hour or hour of free time: now I can burn off that much time simply on the research to do an edit or two. And this reduced amount of time means that I am always running into the problem of having too many balls in the air, which means I worry about taking on more duties here -- which is discouraging, which results with me doing less. I don't know what the solution is, but it's one factor why people 40+ who would otherwise contribute don't. -- llywrch (talk) 16:34, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm not sure if my take on this will be of any value, but I'll give it a go anyway. From 2004 up until a little over a year ago I was a fairly active editor, particularly in the area of World War II; eventually though, the POV-pushing, edit-warring and personal attacks made editing much more of a stressful chore then an enjoyable hobby and I decided to take a leave of absence.

From what I've seen, in general, new users want to be able to make immediate, visible, contributions while established editors seek to maintain/improve quality. These two goals are often diametric and I believe they are among the root causes of frustration from both sides of the fence: new users face constant reversions and a veritable mountain of wiki-rules and guidelines, while established users have to constantly maintain against a torrent of edits which threaten an articles adherence to WP's Policies and guidelines, the Manual of Style, and any established consensus. In short, as a new user it's frustrating to not be able to make a change without encountering layers of bureaucracy, and as an established editor it's frustrating to have your carefully crafted work changed by someone who simply bypassed that same bureaucracy. As an example, I can recall more then one occasion where the discussion of a sensitive item would take days, or even weeks, to hammer out and then following implementation would be subject to constant modification by new users who had, understandably, not read through the massive catalogue of archived discussions to learn why it was phrased in such a way.

The inherent problem, I think, is that the current Wikipedia is nothing like the old Wikipedia though we persist the same mentality. Back when the project first stated, the main issue was getting people to actually contribute, a problem of quantity; now that the project has matured, the issue is about ensuring that only the best content actually gets in, a problem of quality. In a nutshell, assuming each edit carried the same amount of content, in the early days 10 low quality edits were better then 1 high quality edit whereas now 1 high quality edit > 1000 low quality edits (which are, judging by the reversion histories, actually detrimental).

I've posted my suggestions to these issues below. --Oberiko (talk) 20:39, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

You know, I'm glad I read this, for it is exactly along my same line of thinking. I have taken a good year to evaluate Wikipedia, and have come to much the same conclusion. I am seriously considering leaving Wikipedia, for I believe the emphasis is on quantity at the expense of quality. I have found Wikipedia policy to be contradictory and quite long just to make a simple point. One main problem, I believe, is that the core of WP policy is flawed, stating that WP is not about the truth. This implies that WP is about lies. I have recently been told that there are no such things as facts, and that all facts are merely opinion, (view, point of view, these are all synonyms). If WP is not factual then it is fiction. Personally, I came to work in a non-fiction environment, and I believe that is why so many good editors, focusing on quality, have left.
I'm going to take a good long break from Wikipedia, perhaps permanently. POV is about opinion, and verifiability is about fact. Considering that significant opinions can be verified to exist in reliable sources is a fact, and that significant undeniable evidence can also be verified in reliable sources is a fact, it goes that Wikipedia should be about reporting those facts. In some cases a fact may be wrong, in which case it is good to verify it against multiple reliable sources, but WP policy discourages this, instead saying that both facts must go in, the wrong one and the right one. This idea is unthinkable to me.
Also unthinkable is not attributing the POV/opinion that we do report. Scientific theory should never be portrayed as if the conclusions are fact. Scientific law should never be portrayed as is the conclusion is theory. A point of view must come from somewhere, and I can't imagine not supplying that information.
These are the main problems I see with Wikipedia, and are the main reasons I'm considering leaving it behind. I would bet a good many others who have left feel similar, but that's my guess/POV/opinion/view. In hopes that it will help Wikipedia, I will leave you all with these observations. Zaereth (talk) 20:58, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I've felt similarly. I'm a new editor, minimally active eight months, very active last month, making new articles, expanding existing ones tenfold such as Dana Delany and BMC Software and Statistics New Zealand. I learned the rules (references, sources). Sometimes I probably put too much stuff in. But I see myself as a good editor. But to get to your issue about keeping editors -- I asked myself -- why am I doing this? Why do I love Wikipedia? And I think that's what we should really get to the heart of -- what motivates us? So, let me be blunt -- I get a KICK out of having my articles out there for the world to see. I'm no longer a nobody but somebody advancing human knowledge, making a contribution (my delusion). I'm helping. And, in a way, when we follow Wikipedia policy, obey the rules, we make a difference, and so far I have been loving this, although I've hit my first edit war on the Gerald Celente battlefield and it's wearying and frustrating. I know Wikipedia has a WP:OWN policy against editors feeling they "own" an article, but I feel attachment to my creations, an attachment which is natural, human, good. I care. I write good stuff. It's well researched. I work hard. My articles, my babies, are on my watchlist. If somebody were to come along and delete chunks of my babies, I'll probably get defensive (it hasn't happened yet, probably will, and when it does I'll get over it and laugh about it, because I understand WP policy intellectually and will follow it, but when it does, I'll probably be somewhat turned off to contributing more to Wikipedia.) Now I know Wikipedia policy and know I don't own any article -- please don't chide me -- but I'm talking about deep-seated feelings and motivations. I think these motivations are the key to keeping and motivating good editors. Be honest -- haven't you (fellow caring excellent editor, reading this now) felt similarly? Be honest. Now, I've given freely of my time and done excellent work without pay -- perhaps my contributions may have cost several thousand dollars if a private firm hired me to write and revamp those articles. But I gave freely with heart and mind. Wikipedia got a freebie. My volunteer editing satisfies my deep need to contribute, to help, to share knowledge, to be important, to have respect. So here's my complaint: why, after my contributions, am I still a nobody? Wikipedia insists we're anonymous. I'm a handle tomwsulcer, not my real name. On articles I've edited, readers will never know my contributions. Wikipedia doesn't celebrate my helpfulness. Instead, I'm an anonymous back-office grunt, unpaid, uncelebrated, unthanked, invisible, unappreciated. So, while I know the reasoning behind the anonymity policy is complex (many factors at work, including legal ones I suspect -- I'm not clueless), I think part of the solution to motivating editors would be to offer contributors -- who are good editors, working hard and fairly -- a chance to be less anonymous. Let editors have a choice to become less anonymous, perhaps listing their real names and pictures, and when they do, celebrate it. Like, why not have the names/pictures of the ten best contributors to article X appear somewhere around the article so readers can see it? Make editors heroes. Why keep them in the background? Why treat editors as grunts? Amazon's "customer reviews" has it right -- a reviewer can choose to use his or her real name -- the "real name" moniker, in my view, gives a review more respect, since there's a person out there who is willing to put their own name on what they say in a review (unlike Wikipedia's editors who can be thought of as ghosts, in a way). Reward helpful editors with a page on which to put their soap box opinions (in contrast, Wikipedia ominously threatens editors about putting too much personal stuff on their user pages -- it's NOT your user page, says policy). Why not give users who contribute (with regular and impartial and helpful work which conforms to policy) -- show them respect with with more user page privileges? Let them have their soapbox (make sure personal opinions aren't identified as official Wikipedia policy of course). I know the whole idea of anonymity is deeply ingrained in Wikipedia policy, and may never be changed, but what I'm saying is that the anonymity policy defeats motivation, undercuts performance, and, in my view, permits a whole host of other problems (vandalism, pranks, mischief) which don't make up for the few benefits of anonymity (freedom to say whatever you think). Tomwsulcer (talk) 05:44, 16 August 2009 (UTC)tomwsulcer
I think that the main thing we need, in order to be able to recruit new editors, is the ability to have a non-Wikipedian (without an account) make an edit on the first article (s)he wants, and feel welcome to make a second edit. I think that once the user gets past this hurtle, (s)he is likely to create an account, look for potential improvements, etc. I know I started this way, and Tiptoety has recently made a similar statement. Currently, getting to that stage is difficult, because:
  1. Many of our articles (especially articles about currently active BLPs and recent events) are protected (or even semi-protected - for an anon, this is the same)
  2. Many public IP addresses, and dynamic ISP ranges, are blocked (justly - due to repeated sockpuppetry or vandalism, but this doesn't change the experience of this potential user - whjo is likely to come from such an IP address)
  3. Many articles have edit notices which say something which can frequently be interpreted as "Please read Policy X before editing this page". (All BLPs have such a notice) Even if it's correct, it still means the person is likely to want to contribute.
  4. Any false positive from the edit filter, set to warn or disallow, also makes such users less likely to join us.
  5. Edits by anons are more likely to be reverted than equivalent edits by established users.
In short, over time we have become very good at catching and preventing disruption, at the expence of discouraging new users from joining us. עוד מישהו Od Mishehu 09:14, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I agree with Tomwsulcer than anonymity is one of the factors killing Wikipdia. As i noted above, in my experiments, i have found that anonymity here -- as in usenet -- is degrading to discourse. When i write as an IP, which i do almost all the time now, as an act of discipline, i am treated like scum. When i edit as a named user, i rarely if ever get warned. The other points i made above, and will reiterate: Calling writers "editors" is insulting. OWNing, Wikilawyering, "instruction creep," and admins socking as editors never get dealt with. Admins refuse to support factual and well-sourced statements describing the racism of "OWNed" dead bio subjects, citing POV as the reason for removing any mention of racism. Anti-religious, scientisic cabalists have destroyed many articles about religious, mystical, magical, and diviination topics (including historical, biographical, folkloric, and cultural anthropology articles) by hostilely cite-tagging them with statements that amount to "prove God / divination / paranormality exists or lose this page!" The social drama of accusations and counter-accusations of wiki-stalking, socking, disruptive editing, edit-warring, and the resultant daily grind of participants getting dragged into Medcab, Arbcom, Ani, and a host of other acronymic behavioural sinks is unpleasant and it also takes time away from writing. (Oh, excuse me, from "editing.") I wrote something about what is driving contributors away a while ago. It's called What is Wikipedia. After reading it, check my talk page for some comments on it as well. Finally, just speaking for myself, in 3 1/2 years i have gone from being a happy, cooperative, 3-hour-a-day writer who stayed up late nights after my regular job, just to contribute on half a hundred topics, to a drive-by IP "editor" who mostly checks in when some current event scandal or true crime story looks amateurish, sticks around it for a day or two to help formulate it and to vote down the inevitable deletionist afd, and then leaves in disgust when the inevitable someone posts a "warning" message on my IP talk page. catherine yronwode, logged in as (talk) 06:20, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
although I do not agree with Catherineyronwode that the difficulties are primarily the result of the particular bias she describes, I agree that editors ought not be anonymous, and that anonymity perpetuates the usenet mentality as it degenerated. As this is one of the things really unlikely to change, we will need to work around it. And I'm not sure how much help using real names would actually give --Citizendium, where real names are required, is not free of bias, the fighting can be just as bitter, and the apparatus is even more obtrusive. DGG ( talk ) 16:05, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • The problem is more the quality of editors than their number. As several people have mentioned above, we need editors prepared to do serious work on substantial topics. There are many fields where we have very few such people--besides the traditional humanities, there is also the general spheres of business, and of engineering for anything other than computers. But I do not think things were ever better--the earlier work in areas like those is generally of very low quality, and always was. But the earlier work not just here but in general is of quite low quality, being a mixture of unsourced essays and undigested compilations of data--except for specific topics where individual individual editors have a particular interest, or for popular topics where a large number of people are interested. We need not just more editors, but better ones--a problem that requires both attracting competent people, and improving the competence of people once they come here. DGG ( talk ) 16:05, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • I agree with DGG about the emphasis should be on recruiting quality editors/writers. That's exactly right. Further, I think the dynamic is that having lots of unskilled less knowledgeable do-gooder types who want to help can deter talented experts since they have to fuss with mindless junk. Discussion gets dumbed down to the common level. A Pavarotti-level singer wouldn't want to write articles on singing or opera if it meant constantly having to undo the edits of middle school choral instructors. Is there some way to give acknowledged experts more authority and say and power regarding articles which clearly demand expertise? There's a Spinoza expert (philosophy professor) I'd love to have work on the Spinoza article, but I don't see why he'd ever want to contribute to Wikipedia when precious work can easily be undone by unqualified people.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 21:13, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • And, I noticed something from my own experience that perhaps might be helpful regarding recruiting experts. I love writing about New Zealand and hate writing about BMC Software -- why? There is an excellent knowledgeable Wikipedia-savvy open-minded and tolerant editor named Gadfium who watches over the New Zealand pages and protects them from obvious vandalism, reviews the contributions, and cuts out obvious junk. So I feel confident that my constructive suggestions will get some kind of protection from vandalism, from bullies, from mindlessness. So, I'm wondering whether it's possible to recruit experts to Wikipedia but have Wikipedia-savvy people protecting their work, backing them up, siding with them in disputes? Like, an article guardian. Or, if we can identify experts who contribute on a range of subjects, it would be great to have skilled Wikipedians (rules-savvy, technically adept, open-minded) watching over their contributions and shielding them from general mindlessness, like a blocker clearing the way for the fullback.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 21:13, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Another problem with Wikipedia is that it's a perfect place for bullies. A mean-spirited type under the cloak of anonymity who learns a few rules and catch-phrases and who can mouth civil-sounding phrases can have a field day pushing around quality newbie writers who lack the political skill. It takes hours to build a beautiful sandcastle but only takes a few good kicks to knock it down. It only takes a mouse click to undo ten hours of editing. And a person with a sadistic streak who enjoys making life miserable for other writers can use the cover of "editing Wikipedia" to become a huge nuisance to annoy the hell out of everybody else. I've run into one bully who accuses everybody of spam, wags the rule-book in peoples' faces, and who won't hesitate to wipe out whole sections of my well-researched article on technicalities. Do they contribute much? No. Everywhere it's delete, delete, delete justified by a WP:RULESRULE type-tag. It only takes a few mean comments to kill off any urge for helping. I've run into one such bully, and I'm pretty savvy myself, but instead of me doing stuff I enjoy (writing new articles, contributing), I find myself wasting time fussing with this bully.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 21:13, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • I have had problems recruiting editors into the project. Recently, I posted to a roadgeek forum to try and recruit some people to help out with the U.S. Roads wikiproject. Most people seemed to like the idea of editing road articles on a wiki in general (several suggested opening a dedicated roads wiki), but posted that they'd rather not contribute to Wikipedia due to some specific policies. One that seemingly got singled out for the most derision is WP:OR. "Why," most people said, "why can I not contribute the most late-breaking changes to the highway system that I have seen with my own two eyes? Why must I wait for a published source? If I must source things to an outside source, why can't I source things to x roadgeek site? I know the webmaster of that site is reliable!" Another guy stated that wikicode was "tedious", Then the rest of them pretty much said "Can't be arsed, I have my own website to attend to." Seeing as how Wikipedia would be unwilling to dump WP:OR out the window for some more hands, I doubt I'll see many of the people I talked to over here. So that ended my little experiment with trying to get people involved in Wikipedia. —Scott5114 [EXACT CHANGE ONLY] 01:40, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
  • Interesting experience. I've come up against WP:OR in my own way and generally think the "no original research" policy is good. It keeps us on track, focused, reliable; if we abandoned WP:OR then what would constrain everybody from putting in all kinds of stuff based on their experience? That said, I think in some respects, that the research standards can vary somewhat. Like, trying to find good, reliable, not-spam sources for Kitchen cabinet is difficult. In the same way, are there going to be NY Times writers writing about specific roads? So my sense would be, when writing an article about roads, use the roadgeek website as a reference whenever possible, and realize that it's more vulnerable to being questioned than a sourced comment.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 12:47, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Possible solutions (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

This section is for proposing solutions only. Critical evaluation of these proposals should take place in the Discussion section below, and wait until we have a good number (5–10) of proposals. The first priority is to compile as many ideas as possible. Add your own ideas, and feel free to improve and build upon the ideas of others.

  • I think it might be beneficial to somehow change the FA process to be more of a forum for improving articles in a friendly athmosphere. I think the FA concept serves two functions but only the first i s acknowledged while the second is in my view more important - the first function is identifying wikipedias best articles, the second and in my opinion more important is provide editors with an incentive to produce great articles. My three experiences at FA have been decidedly negative experiences and entirely demotivating (regardless that the articles were promoted). If editors nominating articles were somehow given the feeling that "hey thats a great article you've been made there - we'll help you get it that last step" instead of "How dare you write an article without Alttext and where some references lack page numbers you sloppy, lazy person - why do you even bother to show us such a waste of wikipedia articlespace!", then i am quite sure that more FA would be written and the best content contributors would be encouraged to contribute even more instead of discouraged from contributing any new material. •Maunus•ƛ 13:56, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

Wait for changes that the Wikimedia Foundation is working onEdit

  1. The Foundation has a usability initiative that has already implemented a new skin, with many more changes proposed. If the initiative is successful, the technical barrier to editing Wikipedia will be much lower, because it will be easier to learn to edit Wikipedia articles.
  2. The Foundation has a number of outreach programs; the July Academy at the National Institutes of Health is one example of these. The goal is to recruit new editors to Wikipedia, particularly those with subject matter expertise.
  3. The Foundation is (as of July) in the process of hiring a full-time manager for "Project Bookshelf", an initiative to create a lot of learning materials for new editors.

—Preceding unsigned comment added by John Broughton (talkcontribs) 13:53, 24 July 2009

Modify an existing policy or process (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

  1. Encourage red links in articles. My memory is that at present, leaving a red link in a FAC invites comment, and pressure to produce a stub if only to make the article look tidy. Red links provide an instant signal pointing to an area where reasonable work will be welcomed. Also, make the page that appears when editors click on a red link more friendly: at present it's set up to discourage vandalistic trivia more than to help newbies, in my opinion.
    As an example, in writing an article on Charles Darwin's book Fertilisation of Orchids, sources introduced me to the names of Friedrich Hildebrand (biologist), Severin Axell, Charles Robertson (biologist) and Federigo Delpino, all of whom were 19th century biologists and pioneers of flower ecology, the last named coining pollination syndrome. At present I've left them unlinked, it would look odd to have a patch of redlinks but maybe that's something worth trying. By the way, Friedrich Hildebrand is redirected to someone with no credentials as a biologist. . . dave souza, talk 18:40, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
    • comment Hi Dave, I very much like your idea to encourage red linking. I've tentatively created a Wikipedia category Redlinking Wikipedians‎ (as a sub-cat of Wikipedians by Wikipedia editing philosophy) and an associated user box. Is this idea useful? Feel free to edit the category and/or userbox ... or to suggest deletion. Esowteric+Talk 13:09, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. Discourage compulsive redirects. I have become discouraged by having articles repeatedly redirected out of existence, when there was a need for an independent article to exist. Many relatively short articles are extremely valuable for wikilinking finer points. dave souza's redirect experience (above) is typical. For example, there was a period when every article on a specific type of dam was automatically redirected to the global article. Thus, if an editor wanted to explain an embankment dam or an arch-gravity dam, the reader had to be linked to a lengthy explanation in dam to hunt for the relevant information. I have had to fight this over and over, e.g. with Turfan water system which was repeatedly redirected to Qanat. —Mattisse (Talk) 00:20, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. Strongly discourage WP:OWN. Create a "Secret Shoppers" style program to combat it. As a very experienced user who regularly uses new accounts, I have endured abuse from article owners more times than I care to count. I cannot imagine how many truly new users have been turned off to Wikipedia due to this problem. Everybody should try it; create an alternate account and edit an article. See what happens. I personally use such instances of ownership to educate the owners, since they often are unaware of how they sound. Abductive (talk) 22:25, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
    Absolutely true. A number of editors seem to think they own articles, and have the right to prevent any real improvements. Collect (talk) 23:17, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
    Abductive is guilty of sockpuppetry. Many in Wikipedia are so hung up on this or use this as an excuse to attack others because they lack good ideas (when they cannot discuss, they change the subject to "sock" or "duck". Others stalk people causing most people to quit and a few people to have to start fresh with a new username. Gasp2009 (talk) 05:17, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    Who's stalking who? Abductive (talk) 05:22, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    I agree that established editors are often downright hostile to newcomers and have experienced this numerous times while editing without logging it. Every time it happens I feel so sad for the new user who doesn't yet know how to stand up for himself. Calliopejen1 (talk) 21:36, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    And users who do stand up for themselves get branded as troublemakers far too often. Collect (talk) 11:37, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    • Strongly agree that discouraging WP:OWN would be of benefit. Some editors do not allow editing of "their" articles, and some monitor the article talk page and unilaterally decide what "consensus" is. When a new or casual editor encounters this behaviour, I can see why they do not want to contribute further to the encyclopaedia. —Mattisse (Talk) 19:15, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I don't think it's quite that simple. When you've laboured to get an article through FAC only to see a trivia added which tells the world, for instance, that "V place was mentioned four times in W song", or that "character X in Y video game twice mentions the name Z" it gets a bit wearing. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:22, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I'm not saying it is simple. But if Wikipedia wants to attract and groom new editors and encourage casual editors to continue and increase their expertise, then something has to be done about article ownership. Otherwise, you will have a decreasing pool of editors even willing to help out the entrenched editors and the encyclopaedia in general. That is part of the crisis Wikipedia is facing. —Mattisse (Talk) 19:55, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • In my view the crisis that wikipedia is facing is that the "guardians of the wiki" are slowly driving everyone away. Soon they'll be like the dusty knight left all alone to guard the Holy Grail. --Malleus Fatuorum 20:02, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I'm not sure discouraging WP:OWN is right -- there's a presumption "ownership" in general is a bad thing, and I think there are many good things which come out of the idea of ownership -- philosophers like Aristotle argued that ownership brings substantial benefits. In Soviet Russia, when nobody owned anything specific, work was lousy, substandard, the economy languished, since people didn't have their heart into developing something from which they wouldn't benefit; but when peasants owned their private plot of land they worked harder on their particular property because they owned it; they had a vested interest in making it work. Similarly, there's a kind of "ownership" at work when we, as editors, work hard on trying to make a particular article good -- we're motivated to produce something of value -- the article -- which others can hopefully enjoy freely. An expert in Roof Gardening, for example, will spend much time and effort laboring to craft a worthy article and has a vested interest in seeing the article stay visible and useful. The prospect of ownership, in my view, motivates us, whether we may wish to admit this or not. We wish that our contribution survives somehow, and this isn't a bad thing necessarily, in my view. I agree there's a problem when an editor, having created something, refuses to let anybody alter the creation, question details, or add information -- in that sense, ownership is counterproductive since it kills off helpful contributions from others. Nobody owns the truth, and there is no such thing as a perfect, forever-finished article. But an editor who labored hard to produce a worthy article, only to find it mostly undone, has a reasonable cause for complaint -- when this happens, these editors are less likely to work hard in the future, because they'll think that their possible future work might be similarly trashed. The task, then, I think is to find some kind of balance -- perhaps when specific contributions are made, these are honored, and the contributor should have a sense of "owning" particular contributions and getting real recognition for this contribution; at the same time, the created articles become community property, and users must ultimately relinquish any right to dominate an ongoing project. Let me illustrate what I'm saying: suppose an article writer labors hard on subject X; but the contributions turn out to be wrong or flawed and then they get deleted (rightfully so); still, I think the original contributor should be honored and respected for having made a valuable contribution, even though it turned out to be subsequently overthrown, in some way, and the contributor "owns" a right to some kind of recognition. Contributions should be honored. And I think this is a key to motivating good editors. If interested, I expand on my thinking in the analysis section, above. Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:05, 16 August 2009 (UTC)tomwsulcer
I have had major problems with several article where editors refuse to consider parsing down information into subpages once a page is established. I know the feeling of extra protective editors. This could scare away alot of people with strong convictions of their C and B class articles.SADADS (talk) 15:58, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
  1. When I was a new user I wanted to help but didn't really know how to find what needed to be done. So I clicked "Community Portal", which sounded more or less like where I should go, but found it incredibly unuseful and bewildering. The welcoming committee has some sort of portal page but it's dated and pretty crappy, and there's a how-to, but that assumes you already know what you want to do. There are probably others like me who want to help but don't know where to start. We should make some sort of obvious link in the community portal section (or even better, on the main page, but god forbid we treat readers as our recruiting pool, which they so clearly are), and then build a decent introduction for new users that shows tasks they can meaningfully help with. Calliopejen1 (talk) 21:32, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
    • When I was a new editor, before I learnt to write my articles offline (or in a sandbox) and make sure I had plenty of references in place from the outset, the articles would be jumped on within seconds or minutes and tagged for lack of notability. At the time, this made me go into panic mode hunting up references, thinking my article would be zapped and dispatched to the abyss, and was not a pleasant or welcoming experience. Esowteric+Talk 10:01, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    • I wasn't such a new user when a new article I was in the process of writing was speedily deleted before I even had the chance to add more than about a sentence, let alone references. I took a deep breath, recreated it, flagged it with an in use template, and got on with writing it. It taught me that I should write a new article in a sandbox, but also that new article patrollers can be overzealous. I also see this when I prod patrol; I see new page patrollers flagging articles for deletion when they've clearly made zero effort to check notability, only making a cursory assessment of the article in its current state. A version of WP:BEFORE for speedies and prods would make Wikipedia a more welcoming place for n00bs. Fences&Windows 17:00, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
    Is the whole theory of XfD at times also an "ownership" issue, perhaps? Collect (talk) 11:37, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
    I don't know if it is ownership per se, but it is annoying. I've had articles tagged for deletion within five minutes of creation while I was still working on it - really frustrating. I think it would be a good thing to encourage the application of WP:IMPERFECT and WP:PRESERVE for those compulsive deletionists.•Maunus•ƛ 19:59, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
    dittoSADADS (talk) 16:00, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
    Is it really necessary for speedies and prods to be implemented immediately upon the article being created? What if we gave new articles 4 hours of immunity? That would solve the problems you're describing, and I don't see it having any downsides. Andrew Gradman talk/WP:Hornbook 08:11, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
    I agree that there should be some time delay before new articles have "hostile" action taken against them. Recently I had a new article immediately (as soon as I clicked save I think) tagged for speedy deletion as the subject was not notable. By looking at the history I saw that it was a piece of Javascript, called Twinkle WP:TW that had done it. So in a sense it was not an actual person who had actually looked at the article, but a piece of script they had set running. The article in question was London Friend in case anyone wants to look this up. In this case I could possibly have expected this to happen, when I had first started to create the article, I think that as soon as I put the title in a warning came up that 3 years earlier an article of the same name had been speedily deleted - but the warning also said that if the content was different then I should just go ahead (I did not know whether the content was different, but I thought that it was worth going ahead). In this case that was also some rapid "friendly" action, within minutes, defending the notability. It was clear that the "friendly" action was from a person who taking action in person. At the time of writing there is still a "may not meet notability" tag, but nothing has actually been written in the Discussion of the article explaining the challenge to notability. So maybe the relevant piece of Javascript should be edited to be more friendly. I had another recent encounter with a piece of Javascript when I put in a reference that included a domain that was blacklisted. In this case when I tried to save I got a message saying I couldn't with that URL in place. This led to a bit of panic action: see Talk:Graeme Obree, the section about "Old Faithful".FrankSier (talk) 00:53, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
    • So a proposal for a part-solution: modify Javascript bots so that they are likely to feel less hostile and they demonstrably WP:AGF (Assume Good Faith - I have put written-out version of this because when I was reading this page I was continually having to look up the various acronyms).FrankSier (talk) 01:16, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
  2. Combine and reduce policies as much as possible. The recent merging of the three revert rule into the edit warring policy is the one of the best policy changes in recent memory. More of the redundant and overlapping rules should be merged. In the same spirit, policies should be mercilessly edited down to simpler expressions. This will make it easier for new users to read and comprehend the rules, as well as getting back to the fundamental idea that the rules approximate broader principles (and as an added benefit, discouraging the unfortunate steady rise of wikilawyering). Vassyana (talk) 05:59, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. Encourage editors to actively approach organizations that have highly specialized knowledge for edit support. This might require a readdress of the COI policy, but as the reception at the NIH academy proves, there are a number of organizations that have invested interest in distribution of neutral knowledge that are unaware that they can make the edits to improve Wikipedia(and some editors might scare off these organizations because of COI policy). I am by no means talking about advocacy like Scientology tried to do(ugh!!!), but instead organizations like UNDP , USAID or other development specialists editing about development issues. This could bring high quality information and perhaps turn Wikipedia into a centre of inter-disciplanary discussion as editors strive to focus on policies more central to Wikipedia activity, such as NPOV. This could recruit more editors who, once they realize the accessability of wikipedia, can go beyond the fields they initially were recruited for. SADADS (talk) 15:53, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Propose a new policy or process (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

  1. There is already in existence Wikipedia:WikiProject Wikipedia Outreach, but hard to imagine what impact, if any, an WikiProject can have on attracting new editors to Wikipedia, simply because it is not known to the outside world. Key to being an effective Wikipedian is access to relaible secondary sources, and although more sources are becoming available online, a far wider range of sources is available though the library service.
    I would suggest the most direct and effective outreach programme would involve the recruitment of new editors via the network of public and university libraries.
    The key to such a programme must be two pronged; it must involve a scheme to expand Category:Wikipedian librarians and to develop outreach material which would assit libarians to encourage Wikipedia participation. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 10:37, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. I don't know if this would be technically feasible, but maybe there could be something like a watchlist notice after your 1st, 10th, and 100th edit saying something helpful. Different notices based on your number of edits. An easier thing would be a bot that puts a template on your talkpage after X edits. Maybe "Congratulations on you 100th edit! Did you know you can put {{adminhelp} on a page to get the assistance of an admin?" or whatever. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) (contribs) 17:53, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I like this idea. It is bot-able and exudes the friendliness of the eBay star system which, although any reasonable person knows it is meaningless and bot-driven, still "feels" good when it happens to you. catherine yronwode (talk) 05:39, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
Again I agree with the excellent catherine yronwode. Excellent idea (my POV).Tomwsulcer (talk) 00:49, 6 September 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
  1. Would it help if new editors had the option of using a blank article template which they could later fill in with detail? Could they be guided through an article creation wizard (maybe a third-party tool)? Or do such things already exist? Esowteric+Talk 09:52, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. Utilize differing sets of guidelines depending on article maturity. Criteria such as article popularity (# of views per month), mutability (relatively static like ancient history v.s. highly dynamic like current events) and quality (as determined by a group such as a WikiProject) could be used to determine which guidelines need to be applied to an article instead of a global "catch-all" set for all of them. In this way, we'd treat new articles in a manner similar to the "old" Wikipedia where almost anything goes, and then gradually ramp up the requirements and restrictions as it matures; this would encourage a system where newer editors focus on collecting content (breadth) while established editors focus on verifying and polishing (depth). This would have to be at least partly technical in nature (article becomes semi-protected when... etc.) along with a clear explanation up top (after the user clicks edit) as to what restrictions are on the article and why. Discussion pages, of course, function as normal. --Oberiko (talk) 20:39, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  3. Transferral of (some) powers from ArbCom to the WikiProjects. With the ever expanding role of WikiProjects, I think that established WikiProjects (as determined by ArbCom or some other committee like the WikiProject Council) should have the capability to perform dispute resolution for matters such as article content, styling and source reliability should consensus not be attainable on the article discussion page itself. I believe the benefits from this would be that decisions would be made by a fairly consistent set of (mostly) established editors who are both familiar with the content under question and somewhat detached from the original discussion itself. Speaking for myself, I think this would considerably reduce the stress of such matters, as it would be much less likely for them to boil down to either a shouting match or a test of stamina. --Oberiko (talk) 20:39, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
  4. Possible way to help retain good editors. Suppose, first, there is within Wikipedia a small cadre of mean-spirited editors who have the effect of making the Wikipedia experience unpleasant for most others -- let's call them Wikibullies. Suppose, further, Wikibullies consistently wreck the experience of quality writers and cause them to quit. Then, by dealing with Wikibullies, Wikipedia could have better luck keeping good editors. Suppose these suppositions are true. (I don't know if they are, but I think so.) Now Wikipedia has extensive databases tracking interactions -- who interacted with who -- what was written by whom to whom -- which are quite detailed, am I right? That is, for each quitting editor (dormant account for three months, perhaps) there is information about which other editors he or she interacted with before quitting. I bet reading the user pages themselves would give some indication about what problems were encountered, like the black box of a downed jetliner, possibly pointing to problems. But for each departing user, a list could be built of other editors with whom the quitting editor interacted. What I'm saying is that it should be possible to identify the Wikibullies statistically by bunching the interaction histories of all quitting editors and looking for common names they associated with. Do a giant statistical sort. And I bet a small group of names would pop out of the computer. And these would be established users who maintain the veneer of following the rules and an image of helpfulness but who have a caustic effect on the community at large and cause many quality editors to quit in droves. The statistics should not be difficult. Suppose, for sake of argument, that one Wikibully had a pattern of consistently alienating people with hostile and vague "fix this" flags, reverts, undos, deletions, with destructive tendencies cloaked in helpfulness, who knows how to use rules to whack around editors or articles they don't like. Then, if you looked at groups of departing editors, and looked for common people that the quitting editors encountered, then the names of Wikibullies would come to the top of the list. Then, after being exposed, senior administrators or the community could decide what actions to take.Tomwsulcer (talk) 02:38, 5 September 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
  5. On every article's front page, near the top, updated counts showing (1) how many viewers read the article that day or that month (2) how many editors worked on the article (3) number of contributions. To an editor (or writer, sorry Catheryne) it makes it seem more important if lots of people are reading it; further, it encourages writers to work on articles which are popular (and thus be more helpful). The "counts" statistic for individual article viewership has been developed already by a user named Henrik.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:24, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  6. On bottom of viewed article pages, show handles (maybe names?) of the article's most active contributors, especially active recent contributors. Or, an easily accessible link to a Wikipedia page where contributions are honored and highlighted for specific users. Again, it's one more way to motivate contributors by recognizing and honoring them.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 18:24, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
  7. Helpfulness scores for editors. Let editors/writers rate each other on how helpful the other person is. So, whenever we interact with others editors, we can rate them a 5 (most helpful) rating to a 1 (most unhelpful), and these ratings go into a composite score for this editor. Simpler scales are possible (helpful or unhelpful) or more complex ones (different ratings for competence, writing skill, civility, effort). If people don't bother to review another, then a neutral grade is automatically given (such as a "3" on a 1-to-5 scale). And the score should reveal how many different people contributed to that rating (ie "Score of 4.3 based on 57 peoples' views.) Amazon's reviews ask "Was this review helpful?" and builds composite scores for each reviewer, and I think Wikipedia should consider something similar. Post this continually updated rating prominently on each user's userpage. Benefits? (1) Encourages kindness, civility, helpfulness. (2) Gives us a quick assessment when we deal with unknown editors. (3) Allows further scrutiny of editors with continually low scores (which may be reasonable if they do unpleasant things such as fight spam, or unreasonable if they're bullies or obnoxious or difficult-to-deal-with types). Tomwsulcer (talk) 19:51, 7 September 2009 (UTC)
  8. Pop-up form enabling easy input of reference info. Many times a new editor will want to contribute, but with article standards being raised (as mentioned in analysis section) coupled with difficulty of learning how to input reference information between the < and > -- this means that well-meaning but unreferenced contributions contributed by new users are often reverted or edited out. This sours a new editor. So let's make it easier for new editors to stick in references. Right now, I think putting in references is somewhat tricky. One way to make it easier is as follows: Suppose after a new editor adds a contribution to the article, before hitting the "SAVE" button, a reference pop-up form pops up (hey, that's what pop-ups do) and asks for detailed source information -- what publication? what title? what author? what date? what url? (and adds accessdate automatically perhaps?) And it encourages the user to copy and paste this data right into the pop-up form with perhaps a mild note saying contributions are more likely to remain if well-referenced, and the form does the tough work of making sure the reference information is included after the comment, and is formatted correctly, with the proper sideways triangles and slashes and reference numbers and such inserted into the text. Of course, it should be possible to bypass this step, or turn off the pop-up form completely if desired. Something very simple, intuitive, easy to use, no explanation required.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 12:53, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
  9. Readership counts by contributed articles on user pages. If one of the motivations to contribute to Wikipedia is a sense that lots of people are reading our contributions, then a feedback system which tells an editor "32,333 people have read your Article X", "2,223 have read your Article Y" with a quick note of "Thanks!" This is a variant of my idea (currently numbered 5). User:Henrik built a tool to tally how many people have read their contributions. --Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:53, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
  10. Editor rankings. A numerical system which ranks editors for contributions that stick (contributed "bytes" that aren't wiped off) weighted by article readership. So, a WP contributor who adds new information including references (which doesn't get reverted or removed) for highly-read articles (Michael Jackson, United States) would get a high helpfulness ranking score; whereas people who write articles read by only 5 people per day (some of my articles, unfortunately) will have a much lesser ranking. A ranking or scoring system would give editors feedback about how useful they are, give them bragging rights, and might motivate them to seek out popular articles with stickable useful well-referenced contributions. And this might make Wikipedia more useful to the reading public too.--Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:53, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
  11. Start all over again. Somewhat drastic, but some of the contributions a long way above seem to suggest that Wikipedia may be fatally flawed, in other words "you can't get there (a better system) from here (the present system)". This is not necessarily a pessimistic view, but more about a different way of seeing how it might be possible to build on what has been achieved so far. Maybe some problems are just too deeply rooted. This may be my projection, but I am referring to people who have talked about themselves or others just giving up and leaving. As I understand it, there is nothing in Wikipedia saying that one cannot simply copy the whole lot and use it to set up something else. In a sense it would not be starting again, as the existing data would be used, and also Wikipedia contains within itself - as it is free-content - the possibility of starting again with different rules and guidelines. This is possible because Wikipedia is an area of freedom with the larger area of freedom which is the Web. (I also seem to remember reading about the Web itself being fatally flawed etc etc.) It would be a very big project though. Is someone already working on it? Or maybe thinking about this could be a way of thinking about modifying the existing Wikipedia. FrankSier (talk) 01:53, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

New Proposal: to retain good writers we need better collaboration platformsEdit

During the Wikipedia in Higher Education summit (I was following along on Twitter via the #wihed hashtag) what Sue Gardner said about Wikipedia's coverage of the social sciences and humanities rang true for me. I've been trying hard to get some teamwork and collaboration going to help improve weak history articles (history, especially history outside of the United States and Europe are weaknesses at present) with limited success. With WikiProjects largely abandoned and useless as tools for collaboration, my only success has been through talk pages and the wikipedia-en IRC channel. So, I've created this proposal that–extrapolating from the Wikimedia Strategic Plan to 2015's call for more social and collaborative tools–aims to change the way collaboration works on Wikipedia: Proposal: Moving beyond moribund WikiProjects to a new platform for collaboration.

In order to reverse the troubling trend of editors leaving Wikipedia (i.e. improve the recruitment and retention of new writers) it's necessary we move beyond moribund WikiProjects to new platforms for collaboration. This is already addressed, in part, by the "strategy:Attracting and retaining participants" portion of the current Wikimedia Strategic Plan. My proposal deals with how we get from where we are now (in en.wikipedia, littered with moribund WikiProjects) to where the Strategic Plan takes us: the introduction of more social/collaborative tools to the Wiki, including "Users would be able to join topical groups, based on their editing interests (e.g., “18th century American history)". My proposal is about how we get from here to there.

It's just a start, but your thoughts are appreciated here and at Proposal: Moving beyond moribund WikiProjects to a new platform for collaboration --NickDupree (talk) 03:54, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Discussion of the proposed solutions (Retaining/Recruiting)Edit

Please withhold criticism of the proposed solutions until there is a good number of proposals. If you feel that one of the proposals above has a shortcoming, build on the proposal and propose an amended version of it that avoids the shortcoming. Once a sufficient number of proposals have been made (usually 5–10), discuss and evaluate the proposals in this section.