Wikipedia:Petitions are considered harmful

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From time to time, Wikipedians publish pages in the Wikipedia namespace, call them "petitions", and request others to sign them.

A common wiki-aphorism is, "Polls are evil". On Wikipedia, discussion leading to consensus is the nominal decision-making process. Polls are considered detrimental to this process for a number of reasons, but chiefly because they impede the discussion-consensus process. Hence, Wikipedia is not a democracy.

Petitions, as they exist on Wikipedia, are like polls, but exponentially worse. You have all the problems of polls, such as short-circuited discussion, polarization, inflexible outcomes, and impediment to compromise. But far worse, they only allow one to register support. Petitions are inevitable framed as "Show your support for this", with the implication that lack of support is elsewhere. Some Wikipedians actively (re)move objections, arguing that petitions exist to show support only, not disagreement.

In short, a Wikipedia petition functions as a poll where the only allowed vote is "yes".

Petitions can have value in real life, where there is often a strict hierarchical power structure, and an appeal to authority is often needed to effect change. While Wikipedia does have a loose hierarchy, the fundamental mode is still discussion and consensus. Thus, all petitions do is generate drama, noise, and strife. If polls are evil, petitions are the devil incarnate.

If one must resort to counting numbers, a straight-up poll at least allows multiple options and dissenting opinions. Petitions are to be avoided. If someone does start a single-option petition, it should be immediately converted into a poll allowing other options -- or better yet, an open-ended discussion. Discussion is always the most preferred approach. Discuss, don't vote.

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