Proposal:Representative mediation (dispute resolution)

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


Summary

Legitimize a new form of dispute resolution where a large faction-vs-faction conflict can continue as a discussion between two representatives in a small and manageable forum. Representatives should be chosen by consensus, and given the assistance of a mediator.

Proposal

If a content or policy dispute has escalated to a large group discussion and has not reached consensus, then the dispute may be appropriate for "representative mediation". Each faction of the dispute will discuss and appoint a Wikipedian to represent their views. Each representative will be chosen by consensus. The representatives of each faction will then continue the dispute in a smaller forum, with the assistance of a mediator. This form of dispute resolution is only appropriate where each faction is equal in influence (e.g.: where two equal factions could be distilled down to two equal representatives).

Motivation

Where large disputes come from: The current escalation of dispute resolution is effective for small issues, but not for larger ones. Two parties may ask for a third opinion or get feedback from another forum. Sometimes a small dispute will attract a large amount of editors that put the issue to rest, because there is a consensus on how to address it. But sometimes a small dispute will simply explode into a faction-vs-faction conflict, particularly in an era where disruptive editors are organizing factions to push their viewpoint.

Why large disputes never end: Large disputes are unmanageable for several reasons. There are too many people talking, and it unlikely that editors will read every other comment, let alone give them a fair response. Moreover, there is always an extremist component that sees no value in compromise. Even if there are moderates on both sides looking for common ground, the remaining editors can disrupt consensus because they know it is impossible to move forward without their permission. Worse still, editors who have no interest in discussion will ignore efforts to find a compromise, and show up to vote down whatever compromise has been found.

Why large disputes are hurting Wikipedia: These disputes thus repeat over and over, with no definitive answer. This prevents Wikipedia from moving forward and making progress. It also frustrates editors and wastes their time. It makes Wikipedia a less pleasant place to work, enough that editors leave.

How to manage large disputes: If each faction could each agree upon a representative, it would be possible for a more manageable discussion to take place. Any agreement between representatives would represent a consensus, since they would each represent a fair proportion of Wikipedians in the dispute. There would be closure on the issue.

Because this dispute resolution is voluntary, its benefits are limited. But there is no harm done.

Key Questions

  • To what degree would the outcome of the mediation be binding? Should the broader community be able to reject the outcome reached by their representatives? Or does that completely undermine the effectiveness of this as a dispute resolution tool?
  • Would it be feasible to do representative mediation with more than two sides to a dispute?
  • Does there need to be a check and balance against each faction nominating someone who is belligerent and disagreeable? To what extent should opposing factions be able to approve or veto each other's choice of representative?

Potential Costs

  • Unless this were treated as a "last resort" type of dispute resolution, there is a risk this would encourage strategic filibustering in order to trigger a representative mediation. Then again, it's not like people don't already do that with ArbCom.

References

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Representative mediation (dispute resolution).

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