Wikipedia:Follow the leader

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US soldiers follow the Squad Leader over a bridge.

Follow the leader occurs during a deletion discussion (such as an AfD), when the first editor to comment on the board, or in some cases, the nom, gives his/her opinion, and then most editors who give their opinions thereafter are strongly influenced by that first comment. The majority of comments thereafter mirror the first, and this gives a skewed view of the true consensus among those who are familiar with the topic, and especially the creator and other editors who have made major contributions to the page, who are really the ones who can best make a judgment. The result is that any additional editors making comments, and ultimately, the closing administrator's positions are influenced by this majority rather than the valid points a minority of those who have participated in the discussion, who are often just the creator or the main contributors, have made.

According to Wikipedia guidelines, an AfD discussion is not a vote. The final decision is made based on the points made by those participating in the discussion and their congruence to Wikipedia's existing policies. The purpose of making a comment on an AfD board is not to make a vote as to whether or not to keep or delete a page, but to help the Wikipedia community and ultimately a closing administrator interpret Wikipedia's guidelines in reference to whether the page should or should not belong.

It is with this in mind that if ten editors state an article should be deleted and only one states that the article should be kept (or vice versa), but that single editor has really good points that, in congruence with Wikipedia policy, show a good reason this should be the outcome, but the comments of the other ten fail to do so, the opinions of that single editor are supposed to stand.

Therefore, editors who participate in an AfD discussion should not be swayed by how others have commented, but rather, should provide their own ideas based on their own knowledge of existing Wikipedia policy or their own beliefs on how Wikipedia policy should be.

When commenting on an AfD, please keep the following in mind:

  • Do not be ashamed to be in the minority: As a Wikipedia editor, your opinions are valued, no matter how unpopular they may seem. An AfD panel is not a popularity contest, and if your idea does not conform with the majority, it will not be held against you.
  • Become familiar with Wikipedia policies: In particular, knowing those that pertain to what makes an article belong on Wikipedia or not is important. This will help you be a good judge. Of course, editors, particularly those who are auto-confirmed (as most Wikipedia policy pages are semi-protected), are welcome to change Wikipedia's policies. Most policy and guideline pages can be modified without administrator status (though unless there is a consensus to make the change, these edits will likely be reverted).
  • Read the article first: It is best, before looking at the AfD page, to at least take a glance at the article itself, and decide, based on your knowledge and beliefs, if you feel at that point whether or not it belongs. Based on your familiarity with Wikipedia's guidelines, do you think this article is encyclopedic? Would you propose it for deletion yourself?
  • Read the nominator's comments next: After looking at the article, the next step is to read why the nominator proposed the page for deletion. Do you agree with the nominator? You may feel free to agree or disagree. Whichever way you do feel, your status as an editor will not be affected. Provided you are commenting in good faith, your value as an editor will not be judged poorly. After you have given more thought to your position, you are free to read other comments. But your position should be your very own rather than a jump on the bandwagon.
  • The nominator is no more likely to be an administrator than you are: You may assume that someone who is proposing an article for deletion, and even those who are commenting, are some authority who will keep records, and will think highly of those who hold by his/her position. This is not the case. Truth is that any registered user has the power to propose an article for deletion following the instructions on WP:AFD. The nominator, and those who have commented are no different than you are, and they do not have any power over you.
  • Do not intimidate or show anger toward others: In this world, and on Wikipedia, we, humans, have the right to disagree. Our differences will give us an opportunity to come up with a solution. So on an AfD panel, though we may give civilized rebuttals, we shall not intimidate others into complying with the majority opinion, or what we wish for the majority opinion to be. This is a place for editors to talk out a solution, not to campaign for one. Remember, all good-faith edits and discussions are valued on Wikipedia, no matter how unpopular.
  • Wikipedia is not an instant messaging service: Editors vary in frequency of log-ins, user talk reviews, and watchlist checks. While some may view their accounts several times daily, others may go days or even weeks between such activity, and may not be aware of an article they have interest in being proposed for deletion until the AfD discussion has been going on for at least a few days, or in some cases, until it is done. Even some very active editors may not, and are frequently not aware of an article's proposed deletion until numerous other editors have commented, as people have varying schedules of available time to view their accounts. It is for this reason that editors must be specially careful not to let the first comments that are made following an AfD's posting set the pace, and to be sure that comments that are made later in chronological order be made as close as possible to the way they would be, had they been first. It is for this reason that in 2009, deletion discussions and prods were extended from 5 to 7 days.

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