Wikipedia:Activating a consensus discussion

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This essay, WP:Activating a consensus discussion, is about how to initiate a WP:Consensus discussion, in a !vote (not-vote) format of user opinions (see below: Suggested format). Inside a talk-page, a talk-topic can be created with sections for Agree, Oppose or Neutral comments. Although the structure could be considered as counts of votes, for each viewpoint, the subsequent comments posted within each section can re-focus the discussion to consider other issues, during the time period as the discussion progresses. For that reason, the Agree/Oppose entries are not real votes, called "not-votes" since they are not counted as raw votes, but rather just used to try to move the discussion into new directions where a full consensus could be reached. If all !votes are the same, then the consensus becomes obvious, but that situation is very rare.

In some cases, after extensive discussion, there might be a need to re-initiate a whole new round, as Discussion#2, with a new introduction which summaries major new aspects revealed only late during the first discussion. However, in most cases, the key, critical issues will be debated early, within the first few comments, so that most users who comment later are posting "Agree" or "Oppose" based on all the major issues which affect the final decision.

Suggested format[edit]

The following is a suggested format for a consensus discussion.

== Concerns about xxxxx ==
In this topic here, begin to discuss various concerns about some issue,
which will lead, logically, into the call for a "Consensus discussion"
as formatted in the following level-3 "===" subtopic.

=== Consensus discussion to decide xxxxx ===
''10-July-2011:'' This is a [[WP:Consensus]] discussion, about 
issue..... For more details, see above [[#Concerns about xxxxx]].

; Agree
: (''All who agree, list your comments here; see below Oppose/Neutral''.)
# '''Agree'''. State why.

; Oppose
: (''All who oppose the decision, list your comments below''.)
# '''Oppose'''. State why.

; Neutral
: (''All users neutral about the issue, list your comments below''.)
# '''Neutral'''. State why.

End of consensus discussion about.... -<signed> ~~~~~

By following the general format above, new editors (or newcomers who just wish to read the ongoing debate) can better follow the flow of the overall consensus-building process. Ideally, at the end of the discussion, the minority editors would be contacted to see if they would be willing to change opinions to reach a true consensus (total agreement of all interested editors), or agree to some new pre-condition where all could then agree. Care must be taken to avoid reaching a decision by a "raw count of votes" where, instead, any disagreements should be reconciled into some new plan where all editors would then agree. When there is a wide disagreement, then the discussion can be considered as being a "straw poll" where no consensus was reached, and the issues were merely clarified for a long-term consideration.

[ This essay is a quick draft to be expanded later. ]

See also[edit]

  • WP:Consensus - Wikipedia policy page about ways to reach consensus.