The essay needs to be rewritten to make it more general. The example of WP:PRX and the Absidy block may possibly remain, but should be made more clear, and with some explanation of the resolution that took place (which, in my mind, is only temporary; MfDs and Rejection tags don't set policy; there remains no policy against users designating a "proxy." What is against policy is for that proxy to vote or act on behalf of that user. But that is a very small part of what WP:PRX was about. And I've learned more. Absidy was blocked for disruption. What disruption? Canvassing. Wait a minute! His actions didn't clearly fit WP:CANVASS, and, further, that whole guideline is weak, seriously questioned by many. Including, apparently User:Jimbo Wales. --Abd (talk) 04:18, 7 March 2008 (UTC)
Did you ever get an answer?
You asked here:
|“||That is correct. AfD debates are not a vote. However, something puzzles me. If they are not a vote, why is vote-stacking or canvassing a problem? What harm does it do? Shouldn't the "votes" generated simply be ignored? --Abd (talk) 02:50, 26 February 2008 (UTC)||”|
- No, never. However, I do know an answer, and it has to do with pile-in making discussions complex. Delegable proxy would reduce this problem, as would other fairly obvious fixes that involve slightly more complex but far more efficient and accurate process. On Wikipedia, most !votes are a version of the Queen of Hearts' policy in Alice in Wonderland, "Verdict first, trial afterward." Except that we often skip the trial. Instead of collecting evidence first, and arguments second, and then proposals (the "penalty phase" of a criminal trial) and !votes, we mix it all together. The thinking would be to avoid "bureaucracy," which is here a code word for any organized structure, even if there are no bureaucrats involved. Yet even informal deliberative bodies, when they involve more than a handful of participants, have learned to use Rules of Order, because to fail to do this results in vastly increased discussion time with no improvement in quality of result.
- This discussion gets very complex. Please, if you are not interested in my ideas, don't read this, it will just irritate you. You will not lose anything except possible understanding, and whatever is valuable here, if anything, will come back around in simpler form.
- What if a user RfC were divided into stages. In the first stage, evidence is presented, without proposed solutions, but with organizing explanations allowed. In the second stage, there are proposed findings of fact, with arguments; findings are closed, and may be independently closed, i.e., there is not one single overall close, necessarily. In the third stage, which is now rigorously separated from RfC but which could be included if there are findings of policy violations, there are proposed remedies and arguments, and then closes.
- Voting may be done, but on a separate page, and voting should not be allowed until the relevant sections have been closed. Voting would represent, then, a ratification -- or rejection -- of a decision. It doesn't change the decision, but the decider might decide to change.
- Whether or not to use a more formal process like this should be up to consensus. Wikipedia can be thought of as a huge pile of committees, with voluntary participation in each, except as banned. Committees decide their own process, under standard rules; even if there are default rules, an absolute majority may suspend them. In order to understand absolute majority, we need defined membership. With defined membership we can then let the members know when there is a vote, and we can also start to perform better consensus analysis, and it gets even better with delegable proxy.
- All of this can be implemented without changes to policy and guidelines. There will be claims that innovative processes violate this or that principle, but groups can voluntarily meet either in user space, and they can ban participants at their discretion, but to avoid disruption they can also meet off-wiki, it's trivial. (The biggest mistake that Esperanza made wasn't the bureaucracy, that was merely a transient stupidity, albeit a very understandable one. It was to have the relevant communications and control structures on-wiki. I don't think they expected to be absolutely crushed merely because they hit a snag.)
- There are lessons in the Esperanza history, both in the mistakes they made and in how the community responded. Participation in Esperanza was voluntary. I didn't see accusations a that they functioned to coordinate policy violations. Rather, the argument made over and over was that they wasted time in bureaucratic nonsense that distracted editors from our purpose: creating and maintaining the project. That would certainly be true, but the time wasted didn't belong to the project, it belonged to the editors who voluntarily decided to devote it to the work of Esperanza. The community, or, more accurately, the hundreds of editors who voted in the MfD to stop Esperanza, acted to prevent a group of editors from voluntarily cooperating toward what they saw as beneficial to the project. That was repressive control. And the sign that Esperanza was not mature was that it was accepted. Esperanza could have resisted, even resisted non-disruptively. Esperanza did not develop the consensus network that would have made it more efficient and rapidly responsive, but also bulletproof.
- If Esperanza's operating mechanisms, its meeting places, its decision-making process, had been off-wiki, it would have stood or fallen on its own merits. It might have fallen with no MfD, because the community wasn't ready to do that.
- Standard, I'll say again, in any free deliberative process, is the right of a committee or other deliberative body to determine its own process. There are standard rules for face-to-face meetings, but those rules always contain provisions for amendment at the will of an absolute majority of members. By not defining committee memberships, which could be quite open, even fully open, we make this kind of fundamental decision-making impossible, because any establishment of order can be disrupted. With good traditions, not yet established, this could be done on-wiki, even in WP or mainspace Talk. Until then, it could easily be done off-wiki: an announcement would be made that a committee has been formed to consider X, and editors may join by subscribing to a mailing list. Editors may also join by listing their name on-wiki, and naming a proxy who is presumably a subscriber. That's to allow editors who don't want to reveal an email address, even a free one, to participate. That proxy could forward suggestions and arguments from the on-wiki member. Now, this would be a mailing list which has "push" content, mail goes to all interested members. Orderly process can be followed, and generally, all members of the list would be receiving the email address of all members who participate. The moderator of the list would be a trustee, and if the trustee violates the consensus of the group, the members can reform the whole thing elsewhere, they all have archives if they keep the mail. If delegable proxy is used, it becomes possible for a small subset of members to actually participate in deliberation and seeking consensus on behalf of a much larger group, but, again, polling would be solicited from all members; "proxies" in situations like this are simply devices for estimating a broad consensus from a few participants.
These kinds of processes can also be done, theoretically, in user space; the user whose space it is generally may define who may or may not edit pages in their own space. This, though, while it should not be controversial, provided only that the usage is designed to benefit the project and is a reasonable effort toward that, is considered disruptive by some editors. Still, especially for small committees, it can be tried, and, again, a proxy table used to define membership. (Designating a proxy in a committee proxy table establishes membership, if permitted by the committee, and actually naming a proxy should be optional. The trustee decides issues where consensus isn't clear, pending consensus, and the members can walk if they don't like it; they could all independent communicate and decide to meet elsewhere. These kinds of structures don't own anything and are not owned; as with Alcoholics Anonymous, "our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern." And when group "secretaries," they are called in AA, become domineering, those who know the AA traditions don't argue about it, they just start another meeting. That, in fact, is part of how AA grew so rapidly, "The only thing you need to start an AA meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot." AA used dissent and conflict to expand the available diversity and flexibility of the program, but because the tradition was also that any AA meeting should be open to any alcoholic, people would go to lots of different meetings and so the meetings did not become isolated unless truly oppressive, in which case they simply died, or became frozen, with a small fixed membership that gradually dwindled. (Being highly controlling doesn't bode well for the survival of an alcoholic.) --Abd (talk) 03:14, 3 August 2009 (UTC)