The call for nominations for the 2010 elections to the Arbitration Committee will close in little more than 24 hours, at 23:59 UTC Tuesday 23 November. Thus far, 15 candidates have nominated themselves: SirFozzie; Harej; Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry; PhilKnight; Newyorkbrad; David Fuchs; Casliber; Off2riorob; Elen of the Roads; N419BH; Shell Kinney; Xeno; Jclemens; HJ Mitchell; and Sandstein.
The Signpost understands there will be more nominations over the next day. Last-minute nominees are urged to jump into the system running—there is a statement to write and questions to respond to. There will be a two-day fallow period on Wednesday and Thursday for further discussion and Q&A between voters and candidates, as well as for election staff to make technical preparations. Voting will open via the SecurePoll system at 00:01 UTC Friday and will run for 10 days until Sunday 5 December. The four scrutineers—all uninvolved stewards—will take up to a week to announce the tally, and Jimbo Wales will make the formal announcement shortly after they post the tally on the election page. Up to 11 new arbitrators are expected to take office from 1 January. Until the close of voting in two weeks, voters are invited to ask an individual question of each candidate, and may participate in open discussion of the candidates on their respective candidate talk pages, which are collected on a single page for the convenience of voters.
Arbitrator Risker has written a FAQ for current and prospective candidates. Among the issues she addresses for newly appointed arbitrators are the volume of email correspondence, identification requirements, and realistic expectations. The FAQ clarifies that the Committee will provide assistance to successful candidates to move through the identification process (concerning which a Wikimedia Foundation staff member issued a recent statement), to set up email accounts, and to induct them smoothly into the practicalities of being a Committee member.
Most members of the community see the election from only the voter's perspective. To learn something of what it is like to stand for office, The Signpost talked with two candidates from last year's election who didn't quite make it over the line: MBK004 is a Military History WikiProject coordinator and is active at WikiProject Ships; Cla68 mainly edits in military history and Japan-related articles, and true to form is a martial-arts enthusiast in real life.
Was it a hard decision to stand? Cla68 says "A little; I think everyone is aware of how demanding time-wise being an arbitrator is, so it factors heavily in the decision as to whether or not to run." MBK had given serious thought to running about six months before the election, but decided to put himself forward only after consulting a few other editors for whom he had great respect, including a few of the then-sitting arbitrators.
The election process itself was challenging for both candidates. MBK says he was overwhelmed by the number of questions, "which did strike me as slightly excessive, and there were several duplicates. I spaced out my responses over a few days and thankfully did not have many extra questions added on top of the standard questions asked of all of candidates." For Cla68, responding to the questions was very time-consuming, and "a few could have been interpreted as somewhat confrontational and hostile." He judged the experience to be "closer to an RFB than an RFA", but concluded it was "probably good practice for being an arbitrator". For both editors, the wait for the release of the tally after the close of voting was a very different experience. MBK says "I wouldn't call it exciting so much as nerve-wracking " while for Cla68, it was "a little suspenseful", although the outcome was "about what I expected".
In retrospect, Cla68 thinks that "overall, it was a positive experience. Even if you don't expect to be elected, the candidacy give a platform for your opinions on different areas of Wikipedia. The few hundred core editors who basically run Wikipedia's administration will read what you say and perhaps be influenced by your ideas. So, even if you aren't elected, you may have had an effect on Wikipedia's present or future governance." A tally of 200 positive to 600 neutral surprised MBK, who thought he'd have been better known. "I've come to realize that on top of the name recognition issue, I did not have an established track record with dispute resolution, except for filing one arbitration case. That probably did not help! Although running unsuccessfully probably raised my name recognition for this year, I decided not to run again, mainly for personal and time-management-related."
Reflecting what MBK said about the experience of being on the Committee, Cla68 thinks the arbitrators are over-tasked. "They should delegate more of their administrative responsibilities to others. They've done more of that lately by setting up sub-committees, and I think they should continue with that." On a more speculative note, he says it would be good if the Committee used its power more broadly to fix Wikipedia in those areas where it really needs fixing. "Perhaps this is outside Arbcom's mandate. If so, I don't care. Someone needs to get some of this stuff done."
What advice do the former candidates have for this year's hopefuls? MBK says, "Good luck, answer the questions to the best of your abilities and be clear and concise with your answers. Your platform needs to be clearly explained, because if people need to ask you to clarify things that is not a good thing." Cla68 suggests, "Keep your cool, but speak your mind. Even if you're not elected, many people will read your opinions and perhaps be influenced by them, for the better of Wikipedia."
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