Task force/Recommendations/Community health 7

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Outline: improve consensus-building processes

Question/Problem

Editors of all experience levels risk burnout due to hostility and conflict. Hostility is increasing.

Strategy

More effective decision-making and dispute resolution processes can resolve conflicts over conduct, content, and policy.

Implementation

  1. Create a "binding mediation" process as a "last resort" for content-related disputes
    • Although the mediation is binding, the mediators must not arbitrate a decision
    • Authorities (e.g.: administrators, mediators, ArbCom) should be granted discretion to exclude parties who engaged in disruptive behavior
    • The mediated agreement should be represented as a guideline, and should be protected for an interim period
  2. Create "representative consensus-building" processes, to manage the scale of disputes with too many parties
    • Parties would self-organize into factions, with each faction choosing a representative by consensus
    • Representatives would then continue the dispute in a smaller, more manageable forum
    • Each representative would carry the consensus-building weight of the volunteers who chose them
    • If necessary, a mediator can help representatives find common ground, or help parties select an appropriate number of representatives
  3. Encourage consensus-building by taking power away from filibusters and "spoilers"
    • "Spoilers", who frequently take positions in discussions that are outside consensus (or at the fringes of disputes without consensus), should risk losing discussion privileges
    • If the same issue reaches no consensus multiple times, viewpoints that do not make a reasonable attempt to meet core policies should be ignored
    • If the same issue reaches no consensus multiple times, the threshold for consensus should become more relaxed for the next discussion
    • Consensus-building must include a good faith effort to address minority interests, and should never become so relaxed as to become a majority vote

Assertion: The community is experiencing increased conflict, which is causing the community to stagnate

Sub assertion: There is increasing conflict in the community

Fact: Several experts have indicated that conflict is a major factor affecting community health on all Wikipedias

Fact: Several editors from different projects have independently suggested that Wikipedia is growing more hostile

Fact: Activity at dispute resolution pages (on the English Wikipedia) has been rising over the past few years

Sub assertion: Conflict prevents a consensus from forming on issues, resulting in community stagnation

Fact: The current consensus-building process fails to account for volunteers who are unwilling or unable to seek a compromise

Fact: Non-binding dispute resolution processes cannot be used if volunteers are unwilling to participate

Fact: Failure to achieve a new consensus results in the current consensus prevailing

Fact: A study of the English Wikipedia shows that the number of policies and their usage are both stabilizing

Assertion: Barriers to consensus-building can be reduced by improving our decision-making processes

Sub assertion: Wikimedia projects need a binding "last step dispute resolution" for disputes about content (and content policy)

Fact: Many projects do not have any "last step" dispute resolution process at all

Fact: Several projects have an Arbitration Committee that is stated to be "the last step" in dispute resolution, but they do not settle disputes about content

  • However, although the Dutch Wikipedia has an ArbCom with a mandate similar to that of the English Wikipedia (excludes decisions on content), it has so far chosen to also exclude decisions on user conduct (no matter how outrageous). It limits itself to user-to-user interactions.

Fact: ArbCom at the English Wikipedia has recently experimented with binding mediation/negotiation for disputes that involve content, with some success

The following three cases involve a remedy where ArbCom ordered the parties to agree on a process to resolve the dispute. The outcome of the disputes resulted in new community standards, such as a guideline or an approved bot. ArbCom provided three neutral administrators to help build and assess the consensus.

  1. ArbCom orders a binding discussion
  2. ArbCom orders a binding discussion, and insists upon a strict range of accepted behaviors
  3. ArbCom threatens to review conduct of editors if they cannot agree on a process for mass delinking

Sub assertion: multi-party negotiations are more effective on a smaller scale, but the few negotiators must still represent all stakeholders

Fact: As more parties become involved in a negotiation, the number of competing interests increases, which reduces the options for an agreeable outcome

Fact: An important step in multi-party negotiations is to decide who will be at the negotiating table, and this should be determined by the parties themselves

Fact: Mediators should not decide who will negotiate, but can define criteria to help parties decide for themselves

Fact: Mediators should help negotiators notify and communicate with the constituents they are representing

Sub assertion: The current consensus-building process includes disincentives to negotiate, which must be corrected or rebalanced

Fact: If someone has the power to block or veto a multi-party agreement, this creates a disincentive to negotiate

Fact: Threatening to punish or exclude a "spoiler" from the negotiation can encourage them to negotiate in good faith

Fact: ArbCom has encouraged consensus-building by threatening to review the conduct of editors if they fail to reach an agreement

Fact: If parties do not participate in negotiations (if they leave or are excluded), this can jeopardize the quality or permanence of an agreement

Fact: "Spoilers" will negotiate in good faith if they are only allowed to participate within a range of acceptable behaviors

Fact: ArbCom has encouraged consensus-building by excluding viewpoints outside an acceptable range