The future of pending changes
Pending changes, often condensed to "PC", is a tool that underwent a two-month trial on the English Wikipedia in 2010. At the end of the trial, a straw poll was held, and closed in September 2010 with 407 in favor of implementation, 217 opposed and 44 other responses. A Request for Comment (RfC), opened in February 2011, saw more than three months of community deliberation, with the outcome that closing administrator Newyorkbrad found consensus in favor of full removal of pending changes from the English Wikipedia. However, the closure was made without prejudice against future reinstatement in some form, given consensus and discussion; this open-ended closure has ultimately led to the ongoing 2012 RfC on pending changes.
Provided with three options, discussion participants can endorse one of three standpoints presented. The three positions propose outright abandonment of the tool; use under a draft policy; or use once another policy has secured consensus:
- "The negative aspects of pending changes outweigh the positive. Therefore the tool should not be used at all on the English Wikipedia."
- "Despite the flaws of the trial period pending changes has proven to be a useful tool for combating vandalism and other types of problematic edits. The tool should be used in accordance with the following draft policy. This policy is intended to reflect the community input in discussions. It is not set in stone and after use of the tool is resumed there may be unanticipated problems which can be corrected through normal consensus gathering processes."
- "Pending changes should be kept in the long term, but the draft policy is insufficient and/or out of step with what the community wants from the tool. Pending changes should not be rejected entirely but should remain unused until such time as there is a more complete policy in place that has been explicitly approved by the community."
At the time of writing, there were 77 in support of option 1, 202 in support of option 2 and 9 in support of option 3. There has been no set deadline for the closure of this discussion but based on the assumption that the polling period will be at least 30 days in length, the earliest closure date would be April 23.
According to Beeblebrox, initiator of the current discussion, pending changes is active on the German Wikipedia where they "[use] the more restrictive 'flagged revisions' tool." Pending changes on the English Wikipedia is, per Beeblebrox, "a specialized version of that tool developed specifically to meet the requests of this project."
As pending changes should be distinct from any other protection medium on the English Wikipedia, concerns have been raised about the differences between pending changes and semi-protection, and why there is a need for what appears to be replica copy of semi-protection. For example, Sven Manguard broached the issue that pending changes level 1 and semi-protection have no distinct set boundaries as to when either is to be used. In another example, Zaminamina suggested that semi-protection be replaced by pending changes. Because pending changes should be like any other protection medium and not warrant any special treatment, there are further concerns as to why a separate policy is needed or why the project needs a new protection request system separate from Requests for Page Protection (RfPP).
In support of Option 1, SoWhy argued: "While I do understand the benefits of PC and why people support it, I still believe that any PC/FR-style protection is against the fundamental principles of the project, in that there should [be] no difference between editors (except such differences that are unavoidable) and that everyone should be able to edit equally (while semi-protection for example blocks IPs, those users can easily get the status that allows them to edit regardless – PC on the other hand would restrict editing in those cases to a small group of users). I also think that the PC trial showed that this is a kind of "power" that a number of admins do not grasp correctly and I fear that PC will lead to further problems with incorrect usage and problems with anon / new users being scared away by overzealous "reviewers" who use their new-found "powers" to reject valid edits they don't agree with. [In my humble opinion] the problems of any tool that allows one group of users to decide which edits of other users are valid without discussion by far outweigh the benefits."
On the other hand, in support of Option 2, Dcheagle contended that: "PC worked good during and after the trial and it would be a shame to let a useful thing dry up and blow away in the wind. Simply put PC is perfect in allowing good faith edits while combating bad faith edits."
And finally, in support of Option 3, Xavexgoem opined that: "I like the idea, but think it should only be used exceptionally. I'm worried about a huge backlog, and the drama that could ensue when a reviewer decides that an otherwise good-faith edit is rejected. It'll happen, and I fear it'll be hard to tell whether a reviewer was acting maliciously. Furthermore, new editors may perceive a chilling effect when they make a good-faith edit that's at odds with a reviewer's idea of a good-faith edit. I'm not sure if the ensuing drama from this technology will be less than the drama it solves. All in all, I just think there needs to be a whole lot more documentation on what's expected from a reviewer, and what's expected from an admin who has the option of choosing between [protection] and pending changes."
What the future holds
As this may be the final Request for Comment on pending changes, the community is strongly encouraged to participate and weigh in with their views. This discussion may kill pending changes for good or may establish it as a permanent feature of the encyclopaedia's defense mechanisms.
Any further developments will be covered in next week's Discussion Report. For a more partisan discussion of the topic, see also this opinion piece by Beeblebrox, written in August 2011.
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