Wikipedia:The need for coordination

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A more formal approach to this subject can be found at the companion page WP:CHARTER.

4,613,621. This is a truly massive number, and the story which went into creating it is almost unfathomable.

Wikipedia has an enormous number of articles, with an amount of content equal to thousands of Brittanica volumes, and more information than one could digest in an entire lifetime. However, the encyclopedia continues to run in an extremely decentralized process, forbidding a given body to drive Wikipedia to improve the encyclopedia. Despite what the sheer size of the encyclopedia says, the current method of running the encyclopedia is not conducive to improving the quality of the articles and the user experience. With a given centralized body which can make decisions on the most pressing issues, so they are not tied up in the netherworld of unclosed archived discussions in favor of generalities which might have overall consensus but eventually do little.

Why end the status quo?[edit]

Throughout the history of Wikipedia, many essays have been written on how we can improve Wikipedia, including an essay advocating the view that one-sentence articles which give no information of value should be deleted immediately. While this and many other ideas exist, the essays containing them are, in practice, merely statements of opinion that a large group of editors may agree on, but without an appropriate and speedy method for their implementation.

Let us first take a look at the present process to see why it is wrong. The present process for the implementation of nearly all proposals on Wikipedia is the process of consensus. This process is slow, prone to error, and without a clear list of practices to ensure that consensus has actually been reached (although I have written a proposal here), with the ultimate result of all discussions being dictated by all-powerful administrators - some benevolent, some malevolent, but each with their own views on how to run the encyclopedia and, for the most part, tainting decisions with their own views on how to run the encyclopedia. These tend to be rather conservative, and while this is beneficial to some extent, the excesses seen on the encyclopedia, with the most wholesome decisions being blocked due to a "lack of consensus" on the issue. This degrades the system of consensus, on paper a good idea, an idea far inferior to even a vote-count in the most contentious situations, and equal to the value of a vote-count in less contentious ones.

Consensus may be a powerful tool in small to moderately large decisions, like most content disputes on individual article talk pages or the working of individual WikiProjects. It is also extremely beneficial in large cases, creating the necessary scrutiny and community attention necessary to ensure the validity of such important decisions. However, for the majority of decisions which affect a large part of the encyclopedia, the process of consensus is a needless waste of time which neither introduces much community scrutiny nor proves more efficient than a top-down process. Many legitimate ideas on the village pumps have debates that drag on for days, ultimately moved to archives where they will be lost in the mists of time forever. The encyclopedia does not change due to the unwieldiness of the consensus process when applied to these decisions.

Worst of all, the community-based process when applied to cross-project coordination has failed to work. WikiProject Council seems essentially dead.

It is time to end the magical thinking and stop applying an idealistic principle in places where it has beyond a reasonable doubt failed to succeed. It is for this reason that the status quo must be ended.

Council of Wikipedia[edit]

My solution for this is the creation of a council of Wikipedians in good standing with legitimacy over the entire encyclopedia, but with constitutional limitations to their powers. This council will exist in order to facilitate inter-WikiProject collaboration and to ensure that the encyclopedia runs smoothly in areas such as AfC, RfA and RfB, and WP:AfD. The body will function alongside the Arbitration Committee, with the ArbCom becoming a judicial branch of a larger system. In addition, various other structures will be created in certain extremely broad WikiProjects in order to ensure collaboration within them.

I am aware that Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy; however, neither is Wikipedia a place for inaction. These are not mere ornamental structures that exist in order "to keep up appearances," but will actually serve a valuable function on the currently morbid encyclopedia.

Selection process[edit]

In keeping true with time-honored principles of Wikipedia (where they are practical), the members of the proposed council will be selected by community consensus. In order to run, a Wikipedian needs to have an account, be autoconfirmed and have 2,500 non-vandalizing edits of a non-automated character with at least 1,000 edits in the article namespace, not have had a block or ban in the past month (unless the action has been revoked), be otherwise in good standing on the encyclopedia, and be nominated by another editor. Individuals who hold positions such as Mediation Committee Member Arbitrator are expressly forbidden from running for a council seat, and all Administrators and Bureaucrats must resign upon assuming office. All persons who are running must indicate that they are attempting to run on their user pages.

Members are to run through various WikiProjects pertaining to broad areas of knowledge, which shall be:

Each listed WikiProject will send two representatives to the Council, and, pursuant to Wikipedia's policies and guidelines and its own internal procedures, will determine the consensus for which candidates will ultimately serve as representative of the project's interests. No WikiProject may create additional qualifications for running for or holding office than are provided project-wide. Discussion for the selection of councillors will take place on a designated page of the WikiProject, prominently displayed on the project's primary page. In addition, WikiProjects which specialize not in subjects, but in the maintenance of Wikipedia, will be grouped under WikiProject Maintenance for the purposes of allocating councillor seats and determining consensus. WikiProject Maintenance will be given seven seats in the Council of Wikipedia. In addition, an Unaffiliated Candidates Constituency will be created for editors who choose not to affiliate themselves with any WikiProject, and will be given eight seats.

The broad WikiProjects listed will also have work groups, selected by way of the WikiProject's own internal procedures and responsible for coordination within the WikiProject itself. These work groups will also be in charge of overseeing the implementation of the actions of the Council of Wikipedia. No members of work groups may run for or hold an office on the Council of Wikipedia. WikiProjects may combine these work groups with their existing administrative structures in order to facilitate their smoother running.

The selection for the members of the council will take place once every year, concurrent with the selections of the members of the Arbitration Committee. Members may serve at most two consecutive or non-consecutive terms. WikiProjects which are sufficiently broad may file a Request for Representation before the Council, and provided that the WikiProject is capable of organizing a selection process and create a reasonable level of oversight for the process, it will be accepted.

In the case of vacancies in the Council at least forty-five days before selection of new councillors begins, an Acting Councillor will be selected by the Council to occupy the vacant seat. These councillors may only stand for election once if they have served more than one-fourth of a vacant councillor's term. The Acting Councillor must be appointed from the same WikiProject that has a vacant seat in the Council.

Structure of the council[edit]

The Council will create nearly all of its procedural rules and committees in order to coordinate the timely performance of tasks. Decisions within the council will take place by consensus, with a nonbinding vote count taking place after a decision is made. All debates of the Council on every issue will be made public unless it would clearly undermine the workings of the Council. All declarations of secrecy may be challenged through a case in the Arbitration Committee or, if the Council agrees, other pathways of mediation.

The Council will have a collective administrative account, by which it can enforce the decisions that it can make. This account's password will be kept by a clerk of the council, a nonmember selected by consensus among the councillors. After every election, the password of the account will be passed to a new clerk (unless the existing one remains), who will be required to change it in order to ensure that no former councillors can abuse their powers. This password shall be unquestionably secret.

The Council will serve as a fused executive/legislative body in order to complement the Arbitration Committee, which is judicial in nature. The Arbitration Committee will maintain its existing powers and it will have the power to interpret and apply the decisions of the Council of Wikipedia and rule on their constitutionality.

Powers[edit]

The Council will have the power to facilitate cooperation between WikiProjects, and will therefore be able to pass resolutions calling for action in a specific area, including cross-project collaboration, requesting resources for this purpose, and publishing detailed statistical reports on various areas of the functioning of Wikipedia, such as AfDs and the number and quality of articles, in order to help users and others see how Wikipedia is progressing. The Council will then be able to develop strategies to improve the processes and functioning of the encyclopedia. To accomplish this, the Council will have direct control over a small amount of offices, but it will not be excessively top-down. Rather, the main merits of the Council come in the fact that it provides a place where the best ideas for cross-WikiProject collaboration can be collected and the necessary resources obtained.

Promulgation of policies and guidelines[edit]

The making of policies and guidelines will be almost unchanged from now, with community consensus remaining key in such large decisions. However, there may be certain cases in which quick action is required in order to avert catastrophe. If such a situation does eventually arise. the Council will be able to create policies and guidelines with at least 3/4 of its members approving as well as the requirement for consensus being fulfilled. This is the only case in which the vote count actually matters in the working of the Council, and consensus will also be required in order to make policies.

To restrict the scope of the Council's jurisdiction and ensure that it does not become authoritarian, the Council may only create and modify (but not delete unilaterally) policies related to enforcement, and editing, naming, content, and behavioral policies. None of its policies and guidelines may conflict with policies and guidelines it is not permitted to modify.

As a further safeguard, policies and guidelines passed by the Council shall be opened to debate on the date the document takes effect, and may be overturned by means of community consensus. Severability clauses in Council-passed policies or guidelines are forbidden unless the policy is later confirmed by means of consensus. While they are effective, though, policies and guidelines passed by the Council must be followed in the same way that existing policies and guidelines are followed. All policies of the council are null and void sixty days after they are made effective unless approved by subsequent community consensus. However, within this initial sixty-day period, the Council may repeal policies. No ex post facto policies or guidelines, or policies of attainder, may be passed under any circumstances. The resolution of individual disputes shall be the task of the avenues provided for dipsute resolution.

No policies or guidelines upon which the constitutional documents of the Council of Wikipedia are dependent may be modified by the Council itself, or superseded by any Council-created policy, but must only be modified through the traditional methods of making policies - community consensus. A change to constitutional documents of the Council requires unanimity within the Council and a community consensus in favor as well. The prohibition on modification extends to policies with legal considerations as well, and any motions to change them by means of the Council shall be considered null and void.

Enforcement and implementation[edit]

The Council shall have powers to enforce and implement policies, guidelines, and its own resolutions and create administrative regulations to enable doing so. Traditional pathways of enforcement, such as through the administrators' noticeboard, will remain open. The Council, though, will provide a pathway for the organized procurement of resources for enforcement if required. For example, the Council may pass a resolution to improve content on a given set of pages, and then assemble a group of editors to accomplish this goal. As another example, in a time of particular need, the Council may pass a resolution to collect editors from across Wikipedia to participate in tagging pages for speedy deletion.

Impeachment[edit]

Members of the Council of Wikipedia may be impeached if the member has conducted actions contrary to policies, guidelines, and actions the council. Though the case can be referred to the Arbitration Committee, the one who accuses the member of conducting illicit actions is encouraged to use other mediation methods to resolve the issue. If the Arbitration Committee finds that the member has been involved in misconduct, the member shall be removed and the processes stipulated in section 2.1 of this document shall be used in order to fill the vacancy created

What the Council of Wikipedia is not[edit]

  1. The Council is not a dispute resolution center. These should be accomplished through avenues of dispute resolution or, if the problem is large enough, the Arbitration Committee.
  2. The Council is not a bureauctratic fixture. The Council exists to foster projectwide collaboration and mobilization of resources to improve the encyclopedia, not to collect dust and write meaningless documents.
  3. The Council is not the Wikimedia Foundation. This body shall take no part in legal disputes or internal concerns of the Foundation.
  4. The Council is not a bastion of elitism. Members of the Council should not be selected based on how much an old order approves of them, and newer editors should not be turned away at the gates, provided they meet all requirements.
  5. The Council is not a soapbox for things unrelated to the workings of the Wikimedia projects. The purpose of the Council is to improve Wikipedia, not to advocate specific political, religious, or social views.
  6. The Council does not exist grant immunity to its members for unwarrantable actions. Even as a member of a Council, an editor of Wikipedia remains accountable to the community and cannot perform actions without proper reasoning.
  7. The Council is not the forum by which one can propose to change core policies of Wikipedia. The policy-making powers of the Council are meant to be either mutually agreeable policies and guidelines created by a consensus among various parties, with the Council combining the best of all ideas in the policy, or as responses to situations which cannot admit delay. Fundamental policies upon which the Council and the encyclopedia are dependent need community consensus in order to be changed.
  8. The Council does not possess absolute power. Users are encouraged to draw scrutiny to contentious decisions of the Council and see that the Council is accountable.
  9. The Council is not a talking-shop. The policies of the Council and its actions are very real and cannot be ignored unless there is proper reasoning, and its actions cannot be unilaterally declared invalid by individual users; this requires community consensus.
  10. The Council cannot violate office actions. This is quite obvious.
  11. The Council is not meant to be a base for perpetual campaigns. Membership in the Council does not grant extra rights to its members to use it pages to launch campaings.
  12. The Council's pages are not for the personal use of anyone. The pages of the Council are designed to facilitate and disseminate the proceedings of the Council, not a place to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of individual users or for purposes related to the Council but ultimately a personal action, like running Council campaigns.
  13. The Council does not exist to provide aid in locating and interpreting encyclopedic content. This task is performed by the Reference Desk
  14. The Council is not a WikiProject. Its structures are formalized and it does not focus on a specific content or maintenance area, but unites WikiProjects in order to divert resources from various projects to where they are most needed.
  15. The Council's decisions are not necessarily final. Decisions may be challenged before the Arbitration Committee, the Mediation Committee or various other formal or informal bodies if they violate the constitutional documents of the Council and core Wikipedia policies.

Work groups[edit]

I have touched on these briefly before, but I have not gone into much detail on them. Work groups are merely provided for in order to aid in the coordination of the tasks of individual broad WikiProjects. They may be merged with existing administrative structures of the WikiProjects in order to ensure that no unnecessary bureaucracy is created. However, the exact function of work groups is to be determined through the policies of the WikiProjects to which they belong, and the term "work group" itself is a preliminary name, which may be changed to a more appropriate term later, as some WikiProjects have "work groups" in order to coordinate subtasks in a larger task force.

The Unaffiliated Candidates Constituency will also contain a work group to ensure that the candidates running under its aegis are competent under the constitutional documents of the Council of Wikipedia.

Benefits of the Council model[edit]

The Council will have various benefits over the present method:

  • As stated before, the Council will be able to speed up the process of decision-making for policies and content improvements. This is an improvement to the previously long process of consensus which applied in most situations.
  • Consensus continues to reign in small decisions, where the use of a Council would be impractical; and for large decisions, which require the scrutiny of the community in order to ensure that the process of making the decisions is not botched.
  • It fills in a gap left by the Arbitration Committee and Mediation Committee, in order to coordinate content improvements on a truly Wikipedia-wide scale, which is not being done right now.
  • It allows for disparate groups of editors, who previously did not communicate with one another, to coordinate policies and improvements to content in a way that one could not do before, even with the best-organized top-level WikiProjects.
  • By helping to improve content, it will help to reduce the stigma that Wikipedia has acquired over the years as an unreliable source, and persuade more people to contribute to the encyclopedia.
  • It will be able to move quickly in times of crisis, such as the current lack of editors, ensuring that decisions are made quickly and decisively to best improve the encyclopedia.
  • The Council will create a centralized place for people to go to in order to see in one place the key issues plaguing the encyclopedia, and how they can be fixed.
  • The scope of the Council will enable it to get a bird's-eye view on the workings of Wikipedia and couple it with the unique perspectives ofWikiProjects to form a clearer and sharper image as to problems on the encyclopedia.

Potentially common objections[edit]

One of the first objections to this proposal will be that Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy. However, the truth is that this proposal will streamline many processes on Wikipedia and, as stated previously, will provide valuable services to the encyclopedia in the form of coordination of various disparate WikiProjects and run a cohesive effort in order to improve the quality of the encyclopedia drastically, thereby bringing new editors on board. In addition, the policy section deals primarily with the fact that Wikipedia is not run by statute - my proposal will change no aspect of that.

This leads to a second potential objection - that this proposal is redundant of requests for comment and centralized discussion, as well as a host of other processes such as requests for administratorship and bureaucratship. This proposal is none of that. Rather, it creates a body in order to create plans to coordinate the improvement of content and procedure on the encyclopedia, enforce existing policies, and, in cases of extreme emergency and only temporarily, with severe limitations on the scope of action, create policies and guidelines. The knowledge of these actions, through the position of the Council, be disseminated throughout the encyclopedia. While there may be other centralize places in order to discuss issues, the current proposal is the only one which can coordinate the plans of action on a projectwide scale and involve the largest numbers of individuals. In addition, the Council does not hire and fire officers on Wikipedia, such as administrators, bureaucrats, and members of the Arbitration and Mediation Committees; these bodies will be independent and will perform the functions of resolving disputes, rather than the Council's function of coordinating improvements to the encyclopedia.

Another objection may be that the Council will be able to accrue infinite power. However, with the limits on the policies and guidelines that it can make, and the duration that they last, this will not be possible. Much of the work of the Council will consist of creating plans to improve various pages and enforcing existing policies. This places the scope of action of the Council within community consensus for nearly all that it does, and when it does go against community consensus, safeguards are in place to stop the Council from gaining more power. With clearly delineated boundaries, no takeover of power can occur. All procedural processes outside of the domain of the Council shall remain nearly completely the same, with the rare exception of cases where the Council itself must go through those processes (like an Arbitration Committee case on the constitutionality of a Council action.) Impeachment processes are also provided for, making the point of infinite power and the community being overruled completely moot. In conclusion, consensus will be retained for the smallest and largest processes, where the Council would be impractical and overbearing respectively; for the tasks requiring project-wide cooperation but not the permanent making of policy, the Council system will be used.

One of the most weighty objections which may be made against this proposal is that the Council will interfere with the workings of individual editors. However, the Council will not operate on the level of individual edits - these shall still remain the choice of the editor. It will operate on a more macroscopic scale, passing resolutions calling for editors in a specific WikiProject to improve a certain article, perhaps, or creating a plan to organize administrators to deal with an influx of articles into Articles for Deletion. The Council will operate in order to ensure that all tasks within its scope are conducted in an orderly and streamlined fashion, rather than in the current, ad-hoc method.

To conclude this section, the snowball clause will almost certainly be invoked on this. But such invocation ignores the sensible case which has been provided in favor of the proposal within this essay.

True purpose of the Council[edit]

The Council is best viewed thus - like the speedy delete or proposed deletion processes, the Council merely allows for the faster working of common tasks and creates uniform procedures for everything within its scope. Similarly, the Council enables a clear-cut and rapid process for solving many issues on Wikipedia, ensuring that unnecessary time is not wasted and allowing more to be done to improve the encyclopedia than can be done currently.