Talk:Jerusalem/2013 RfC discussion

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This page hosts the moderated discussion, mandated by ArbCom, that will lead to an RfC about the lead section of the Jerusalem article. If you are interested in taking part, please ask Mr. Stradivarius.

Discussion overview[edit]

List of participants[edit]

Please leave your signature below, by using four tildes (~~~~)

  1. Ravpapa (talk) 09:47, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  2. Evanh2008 (talk|contribs) 10:27, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  3. Dailycare (talk) 12:54, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  4. Nishidani (talk) 14:09, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  5. Formerip (talk) 22:36, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  6. The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 15:49, 13 January 2013 (UTC)
  7. -- tariqabjotu 17:47, 13 January 2013 (UTC)
  8. Sean.hoyland - talk 11:02, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  9. ClaudeReigns (talk) 11:30, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  10. Zerotalk 14:54, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  11. Nableezy 15:31, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  12. Mor2 (talk) 01:37, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
  13. Sepsis II (talk) 16:16, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
  14. Hertz1888 (talk) 06:18, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
  15. BritishWatcher (talk) 09:39, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
  16. PerDaniel (talk) 09:42, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
  17. Dlv999 (talk) 14:13, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
  18. ZScarpia   18:27, 5 February 2013 (UTC)
  19. Steve, Sm8900 (talk) 18:00, 28 February 2013 (UTC)
  20. Ezzex (talk) 09:43, 19 April 2013 (UTC)
  21. -DePiep (talk) 22:18, 23 July 2013 (UTC) got involved after RfC was opened.


This is a rough schedule for the moderated discussion. This is by no means a finalised version of what will happen, and the steps may be shortened, lengthened, swapped around, or changed completely as the need arises.

  • Preliminaries: participants provide opening statements. Scheduled length: 6 days.
  • Step one: decide RfC scope. Scheduled length: 5-10 days.
  • Step two: decide general RfC structure. Scheduled length: 5-10 days.
  • Step three: decide the details of questions and/or drafts. Scheduled length: n/a
  • Step four: finalise implementation details. Scheduled length: 1 week (provisional).
  • Step five: RfC goes live. Scheduled length: 30 days. Will end at 11:00, 22 June 2013 (UTC).
  • Step six: breakdown of RfC results. Scheduled length: 10 15 days. Will end on Thursday 25th July 2013 Tuesday 30th July 2003.

As you can see, the schedule moves from the general to the specific. It starts off with what exactly the focus of the RfC should be, moving on to the decision about the broad structure of the RfC (questions, drafts, or both? etc.). Only then will we get onto the details of what questions should be asked and/or what drafts should be written (plus whatever else we find appropriate to include). Then we will discuss the fine details of implementation, such as where to advertise the RfC, how to deal with potential problems such as votestacking, etc.

This is designed to eliminate the need for back-tracking. The idea is that once we have decided to do something a certain way, it should stay decided, and not be influenced by further discussion. The steps are structured in such a way that the prior steps may influence how we approach the later steps, but that discussions we have during later steps shouldn't influence the decisions we have made during prior steps. If you're aware of something that I have scheduled for, say, step four that might affect how we go about discussing steps one to three, then please do let me know. It will be a lot better to talk about this kind of thing now than to deal with the frustration that comes from having to back-track over issues that have already been discussed. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 16:23, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Previous steps[edit]

Step six: Breakdown of RfC results[edit]

Now that the results of the RfC are in, and there has been time for the dust to settle, I think it would be a good time to look back over the process and see what things we did well and what things we could improve on. We have already had some discussion on this topic at the Arbcom clarification request and in a few other threads over the last few months. We now have the leisure to reflect on the contents of those discussions without worrying about any possible effects on the RfC, and we can also bring up any new ideas that we have thought of during the RfC itself.

Although the result of the RfC is binding for three years and cannot be changed, there are some good reasons to take part in this discussion. First, it will benefit me as a mediator, which should in turn benefit any poor souls who find themselves in future mediations I might preside over. Second, it will be helpful to the Arbitration Committee when they decide to do something like this in the future. And last, but not least, if any of you are unsatisfied with the results of the RfC, then we will be able to discuss what we might be able to do about it.

I'd like to collect statements from each of you about what you thought went well, what could go better, and about any ideas that you might have to improve the process. I'll leave five days for this, until Saturday, July 20th. After that, I'll add my own statement, and then we can discuss any issues that might come up in the statements. I'll wrap things up by July 25th, or possibly sooner depending on how the discussion part goes. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 09:27, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Step six statements[edit]

I'll give you some questions to answer for your statements in the interest of keeping things structured. However, the questions are all optional, and if you want to write something about the process that doesn't quite fit with them, then go right ahead. I'm not going to set a word limit, but please try and avoid being too wordy if you can, as it will make the statements easier for others to read. Here are my suggested questions:

  1. What did you think of the RfC structure that we agreed on? Did it encourage commenters to focus on the important issues? Could it have been improved?
  2. What did you think of the structure of the moderated discussion? This includes the order we discussed things in, the system we used for finding consensus, and the model of having one moderator making decisions about how the discussion should proceed. Would you have changed any of this, and if so, how?
  3. In previous threads there was wide agreement that we took too long to generate the RfC. How could we have made the process shorter? Would it be necessary to circumvent the consensus-building process to some extent to cut down on the time spent in discussion, or could we make the process shorter and still have all the participants feel that their voice has been heard?
  4. What did you think about the atmosphere of the moderated discussion? In the Arbcom clarification request it was noted that there had been some uncivil behaviour in the discussion - do you agree with this, and if so, what do you think could be done to make future discussions more pleasant to participate in?
  5. Are you happy with the result of the RfC? If there is any part of the result that you would like to be discussed, let us know.
  6. So that we can end on a positive note, what did you think went well in the moderated discussion and in the RfC? Let us know the good points that you would like to see repeated the next time around.
  7. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to share?

If you have any questions about step six, please ask me on my talk page. And thank you to everyone who leaves a statement here - I appreciate your feedback.

Statement by YourUserNameHere[edit]

  • --Wickey-nl (talk) 17:02, 15 July 2013 (UTC) While I respect the decision, I think there must be room to discuss it. I propose to split the last sentence into:
"Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there, and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally."
The reason I gave here. I consider this as an adaption within the judgement.

Statement by Dailycare[edit]

1) I think the split structure worked well in this case, since the close produced more than one consensus relating to the subject-matter. Other types of issues may be served with a different (e.g. simpler) structure, however. A drawback in the split structure is that agreeing on all aspects of each prong takes some time and effort. On the other hand, if an issue ends up in this kind of treatment, it probably isn't very simple ;)

2) A good feature of the system we had was the step-wise approach, where issues were frozen one at a time starting from less detailed points and progressing to more detailed ones. This helped prevent the discussion from wandering chaotically back and forth.

3) One way to make the process shorter is to agree on a simpler structure for an RFC. However, there are many issues that can only be genuinely addressed by coming to terms with their complexity. Dealing with highly contentious subject-matter tends to take time overall, since to safeguard impartiality participants need to be given opportunities to contest and dispute. Maybe stricter time periods could be applied, e.g. give everyone three days to present comments and then decide something, and proceed?

4) At the outset IIRC it was noted that uncivility would be penalized without warning in the leadup to the RFC. I don't recall if there was actionable uncivility in the leadup.

5) I'm happy with the end result, which resolved a dispute that had gone on for a very long time.

6) Overall the structured approach overcame lots of problems that had dogged discussion on the talkpage. In fact participants in the end didn't hold as diverging views as I'd assumed.

7) Nope ;)

Statement by Tariqabjotu[edit]

  1. I thought the approach was okay. However, I felt there should have been more questions to ascertain a better idea of what to include in the lead. Unfortunately, I feel the questions and drafts focused far too much on the capital point, to the exclusion of every other relevant point that might be considered for the lead. That was obvious the primary point of contention, but if the goal (as it apparently was) to write an opening paragraph that discusses more than just the city's status as a capital, we needed questions about those other points. For example, there could have been a question asking about location of the city? [In Israel? In the West Bank? In Palestine?] Because there wasn't, we didn't get much discussion about that and resulted in the consensus to make no reference to geopolitical borders in the first paragraph (perhaps making this article unique among city articles on Wikipedia).
  2. I also would have to use "okay" to describe the nature of the moderated discussion. My biggest issue is with cases (most notably with the dictionary definition point) where things that should have been decided during the RfC were decided during the moderated discussion. I didn't think it was fair to shield certain pieces of information from RfC participants because a small group of editors that wasn't necessarily representative of the wider community decided that should be so.
  3. I feel some of the discussions were allowed to continue until everyone got their last words in. That truly was not necessary. Also, going back to Point 2, if there is a realization that most controversial points should be saved for the RfC isn't, there wasn't too much to spend a lot of time discussing. The primary questions that should have come up were (a) What format should we use? and (b) Which questions and drafts do you want?. And the former was so predictable that it was really just Question (b). I thought developing the source statements was an utter waste of time, and I doubt they made any difference. There seemed to be no reference to them, and I got the feeling people approached the RfC with their own background knowledge and interpretations.
  4. Uncivil behavior? No. Counterproductive behavior? Yes.
  5. The result is fine, but I still feel there were a few faults with the process that led to its acceptance. One of the biggest issues with these drafts was scope. I truly believe we should have agreed upon a set of things for each draft to address (e.g. capital status, location, occupation). There were some people objecting to particular drafts (Draft 1, especially) because it didn't provide any information about X -- without the understanding that the exclusion from the draft didn't mean it wasn't going in the lead. Alternatively, some simply said that those drafts left them with insufficient information to form an opinion. Also, even though we said that the drafts were not necessarily intended as the opening sentences, some people objected to particular drafts because they didn't sound like opening sentences.
    Another thing I'm worried about, as I've said a number of times, is that the fact that the first paragraph was changed (and specifically "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel" removed) may be interpreted by some as validation of the attacks and accusations of misconduct against those who were fine with the previous wording in the artilce. As the RfArb from December was not accepted, there was never a chance to analyze these accusations. There was never a statement definitively reminding people to assume good faith and stating that accusing people of pushing a point-of-view is never helpful to a conversation. While the consensus fell toward removing the statement "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel" from the lead, it doesn't mean the people who supported it or the failure to get that changed for a decade is evidence of a point-of-view conspiracy. I'd like to think that message is clear to everyone, but I'm not confident it is.
  6. I thought the format, overall, was great, and I feel the process was structured in such a way as to withstand appeal. The idea of a moderated discussion to help disputants come up with an RfC was a good idea.
  7. See Dailycare's Statement 6. This should be a lesson here. Perhaps some highly opinionated editors didn't participate in the RfC (not sure about that), but I feel this process goes to show that if the temperature is turned down on heated discussions and if there is a moderator or someone else to help guide the process, people would discover that they have a lot in common and can achieve a happy medium.

-- tariqabjotu 20:13, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Ravpapa[edit]

Congratulations, Strad, on a job outstandingly done. I must admit, from the outset, I was skeptical: there were two approaches that I saw, the slow, inch-by-inch, stuttering along to a consensus; or a shocking, original, out-of-the-box approach, that I militated for. In the end, you were right and I was wrong - the methodical worked better than I imagine the out-of-the-box method would have. I didn't participate much in the discussions, because others always managed to say what I thought before I got my fingers to the keyboard. But I think the consensus was the best of all the options considered.

Not much more for me to say. I'm not good at answering real questions. --Ravpapa (talk) 00:51, 18 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Pgallert[edit]

Thanks to Mr Stradivarius for having done a very good job. As one of the closers of the discussion I think I'd like to comment on point 7.

I would have liked to see one more step, closed by the moderator of the discussion, after our determination of consensus. While the overall preference was somewhat clear, the exact way in which to implement draft 7 was rather muddy, and the closers for this reason had a number of arguments and discussions with, if I may say that, split decisions. For instance, we had a hard time to determine if the "support" !voters would have stood behind the changes that were suggested under "support with revisions". As you know, we cannot say "but those are good/bad suggestions" because we may not get involved in that way.

Not sure if that is feasible, but an "okay, there is consensus to implement draft 7" from us could have been followed by another step, just discussing draft 7, its wording, its wikilinking, and its exact implementation. --Pgallert (talk) 07:53, 18 July 2013 (UTC)

Short response to DePiep (talk · contribs);
  1. I don't think this needs to be veiled in secrecy: ArbCom did not discuss anything with me before appointing, other than asking me if I would agree to take over the task. What the three closers have in common is revealed by a simple Google search.
  2. We were indeed not supposed to 'discern good/bad suggestions'. Imagine one of the closers would have said anywhere that X is/is not a good suggestion... we would have been the talk of the Wikipedia for quite a while. --Pgallert (talk) 18:33, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Then, of course, is my question: why were you (all) selected. -DePiep (talk) 22:35, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by DePiep[edit]

Step 5: Am I happy with the result?

  • 5a: Scope of the fixation. - Frozen text: Formally edits are prohibited in "the first three sentences" now, which is some 8% of the lead text. What is the status of the other 92%, how to edit? Does the motion, or the RfC, give a clue in this? (Note: I made two proposals for lead edits in Talk [1], [2], both out of the stone text i assume. They are in limbo).
- Frozen content: The RfC aimed, first sentence, "... to decide the content of the lead section of the Jerusalem article." This is already a reduction from the motion, which only said "with a specific emphasis on the lead section", but no problem yet. Now the actual outcome is "the first paragraph". Then the Closers stated: "no one may add information about Jerusalem’s capital status or location in either Israel or Palestine to the lead" (the whole lead). So implicitly they fixed the whole lead wrt this topic, but without evaluating that actual content. This is a bad result: the three fixed sentences (actually, only one is about Jerusalem's status) are not conclusive on what is to be written further in the lead, let alone in the sections. The sentence is so wide and unspecific, that the problem has been pushed out of the conclusion. It has fallen just outside the fixed text, into the non-evaluated, non-concluded, but now fixed lead text. I find this unacceptable. The process to discuss this (editing unfixed lead text) is unclear or does not exist, and at worst it requires the same repetitive discussions for consensus we wanted to have concluded by today. So first there was the RfC reduction, then within that the Concluders reduction. By setting the reach of the fixation this way, the proces has evaded to solve a main issue the motion was about.
  • 5b: Text-oriented. I get the impression that the Conclusions were mostly text-based, not content-based. More cut-and-paste than plasting the clay. I see little of the Closers having composed arguments into an upgraded statement. Unless I am missing some conditions set on the process, it is in this that the Closers had a lot more freedom that they actually used. A bit more boldness would have been great.
  • 5c: Sources. There were 40 sources listed in the RfC, none was added.
  • 5d: RfC process outcome: the Conclusion. The motion's aim was: ".. a definitive consensus on what will be included in the article Jerusalem, with a specific emphasis on the lead section and how Jerusalem is described within the current, contested geopolitical reality." (this is all the motion says wrt content). Now what is the definitive consensus? The Concluders have ended with a minimal set of three sentences. As I described above, the scope of the Conclusion has been narrowed into moving but not solving disputes. And this about the content of the three sentences. First sentence spends words on "... one of the oldest cities in the world" and "Judean Mountains". Consensus easily, but are these the first things one needs to read? Consensus only exists because it says next to nothing. And about the montion request on "how Jerusalem is described within the current, contested geopolitical reality"? The third sentence? No, even that sentence does not address geopolitics at all. It just states that there are two opposing claims-and-denials, and symmetrically at that. Maybe if there were an expanded paragraph following, that could be a fine opening -- but there is none. The Conclusion is below target and usefullness. What have we learned from these three opening sentences?
  • 5e: Is it me? My expectation was: of course there is no single simple Consensus Conclusion to be expected. But that doesn't mean we should blend it into a meaningless short statement, one that leaves all essential points out. At least, the lead should describe that the "two" sides are not even, there is no symmetry. Describing the geopolitics without mentioning the East-West border, the annexation, current borders, recent history, religious conflicting claims? What encyclopedia are we? The current Conclusion shows that the Closers had acknowledged two sides. That's a good step, indeed no singlehanded description seems possible. From there, the Conclusion could have included many more subtle, nuanced varieties. The remit was big enough to grab the whole and rewrite the lead. WP could have been the go-to place for this issue.
Now, could it be that I am just disappointed? Maybe. But the reduction of fixed text to 8% of the lead, the unclear scope of edit-limits, the oversimplified symmetry in the third sentence, not connecting the religions to geopolitics, the omission of sources, and the almost complete omission of geopolitics were not mine.

Step 6: Good news

  • 6: The motion was very good, with a very broad remit for the appointed editors. It gave an oppurtunity to rewrite the lead into a coherent, well-written piece. Once the RfC was open, I did not see big disturbances (out of line contributions), which is great too.

Step 7: Extras

  • 7a: Three year period fixation: which one? The motion said: "the result ... will be binding for three years from the adoption of this motion." [3], 22:21, 27 December 2012. That would imply 27 Dec 2012–2015. But the moderator set the expiring date to "July 2016" [4], obviously 3 years after the conclusions, which is some 6 months off. I think it should be corrected.
  • 7b: Post-conclusion changes. The Concluders published their conclusion in stone 9 June 2013 (RfC page), and of course promulgated it into Jerusalem and also into Talk:Jerusalem. After this, three edits were made to the stones:
- Two commas [5]: one comma from the stone went missing (grammatical error), another one was added. This may seem minor, but it is actually having to correct the Concluding editors. (Note: I made this edit, which could get me into trouble: not a nice situation).
- Changing "Dead seas" into "Dead Seas" (ouch) —sometimes. As it is now: RfC: "the Mediterranean and Dead Seas", article: "the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea", Talk: "the Mediterranean and Dead seas". Of course there should be differences no between the three stones. This (or some) change was proposed but not discussed post-Conclusion. The Concluders have left a bit of a mess. What is the guidance for such a change?
This is my bone with this: I am glad "Seas" did not made it into the article yet, because "the Mediterranean and Dead Seas" is ugly if not wrong grammar, and a stab for a reading and speaking person. (I hope someone can point out the grammatical issue with this "Seas", I can not. Elude part of a name?). The concluded text could have been improved for such improvements beforehand (I have read two better alternatives in the RfC). Grammar is not for discussion, but then it should be prevented to become so. My suggestion: vigorously be fixed and then fixed by Concluders, but only into a correct and most readable writing. In general: Concluders should prevent grammar, spelling, MOS and wikicode issues. For this such a motion/RfC could use a simple post-decision-edit procedure, through Concluders probably.

-DePiep (talk) 11:11, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

After posting, I read the #Statement by Pgallert above. Pgallert is one of the three Closing Editors. Now I am surprised about the Concluding Process internals Pgallert mentions.
Example 1: "a hard time to determine if the "support" !voters would have stood behind the changes that were suggested under "support with revisions"." -- This supports my text-based orientation remark here. It is closer to vote counting than to weighing the arguments.
Then 2: "As you know, [...] because we may not get involved in that way." Wait wait. Closing editors were not allowed to discern good/bad suggestions?
I have not followed the months of RfC preparation. I can hardly imagine (and did not read in the RfC) that that phase made extra rules for the Colosing Editors' process.
Now I come to this: what is the background of the Closing editors' appointment (I never met then as far as I know, and did not click/check their background at all, up and until today not at all). How & why were they selected by ARBCOM on January 12? They must have been from outside of I/P of course. But what else? What was discussed and stated before and after their appointment? Were there instruction/expectation like talks? And didn't they have some bad experience in the Concluding weeks, that should be evaluated? -DePiep (talk) 21:49, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
I understand that restrictions were introduced in the RfC building process. For example, this step One has a core of what I was questioning here. This archive do shift the point of decision (into the RfC building pocess). However, my surprise about the reduction, decribed above, stands. -DePiep (talk) 21:54, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
@Pgallert about me: What is this? Pgallart is one of the Closing editors. How, when and with what permission am I to react at all? Mod (moderator Mr. Stradivarius), is this evaluation not really closed yet? You concluded didn't you?-DePiep (talk) 22:15, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Kaldari[edit]

Congratulations on accomplishing the impossible! Now if only Israel and Palestine could learn from our example :P Kaldari (talk) 06:04, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Nishidani[edit]

I second Ravpapa's words. And, as an admirer of Alan Sillitoe 's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner commend his extraordinary stamina. It's easy for us to sit round and argue, paying attention only to what snippets over several months interest us. Quite another matter, studiously wading through, and weighing kilometrical kilobytes of chat and commentary to find a rush-free foothold out of the swamp and back to the main track and its beckoning conclusion. Few people have those gifts ( I don't, far too impatient), and we are all lucky to have, permit the amicable abbreviation, Strad around, to straddle the various brumbies and ride herd with an uncharged shotgun. The time didn't worry me: I just worried about the human limits put on the moderator. I think the extended time actually had a positive function: the out-of-left-or-right-field shock trolls and troops many feared never turned up, and we had a surprisingly smooth final review of the proposals. Probably the contretemps over the p's and q's of the closing trio's prose might be handled by leaving nudging room for fine-tuning, limited to a day, before the definitive text is set in concrete, just to avoid messiness. All round, a fair and satisfactory conclusion gentlemen, well done.Nishidani (talk) 16:26, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by ZScarpia[edit]

Thanks to Mr. Stradivarius, Keilana, Pgallert and RegentsPark for the time and effort they put into the process.

1. I would be interested to hear from the closers whether their job could have been made easier if a different structure, particularly the way drafts were put forward and discussed, had been adopted.
2. Good!
3. It was better to err on the side of taking things slowly; that gives people the chance to mull things over and minimises the grounds for complaint from people who feel they didn't have a proper opportunity to participate. tariqabjotu stated: "I thought developing the source statements was an utter waste of time, and I doubt they made any difference." I disagree. Since WP:NPOV is about fairly representing the contents of sources, the process naturally required providing sources to justify and validate arguments put forward. Better to have a central pool of sources, I think, than to have them spread, and repeated, throughout the text of the moderated discussion and the Rfc.
4. Compared to the bearpit that many I-P discussions and arbitration requests have been, the whole process was pretty civilised.
5. It would have saved a massive amount of arguing if, years ago, a judgement about consensus had been made by non-involved editors. Now that has been done, after a fair and open process, I'm very happy with the result (and that's despite the fact that the adopted text is primarily based on one of the few drafts which I opposed outright). As one of the editors who frequently criticised drafts for not covering all the points that I thought should be covered, I tend to agree with tariqabjotu that it might have been a good idea to have had, before the Rfc, a discussion about what points the drafts should address. However, my criticisms weren't based on a misconception about whether unaddressed points could be mentioned elsewhere in the Lead, but on what points should be included in the fixed text and on what information should be grouped together.
6. Comparing the process with the long, heated, shapeless arguments which preceded it over years, shows what a difference having a moderator to shepherd and non-involved editors to judge consensus made.
7. After the closers produced a text, perhaps there should have been a stage when participants could make suggestions, those to be acted on or ignored as the closers saw fit.

    ←   ZScarpia   16:13, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Mr. Stradivarius[edit]

Thank you all for your statements. It is good to see statements from some of the regulars at the moderated discussion, and also some from those who got involved after the RfC started – thank you very much for taking part here.

First I will leave my own thoughts about this process and how it went, and then I'll address some of the issues that you have raised. After I've finished, I'm not going to start the general discussion straight away, but I'll leave a window of a day or so for the closers to leave statements if they wish (and I'd like to stress again that participation here is strictly optional). For those new to this discussion, the two closers who haven't left statements are Keilana and RegentsPark; Pgallert has already left a statement above.

So, to my thoughts about the process. First, I think it took too long. This is mostly my fault; it was me that decided what to do when and how long to take over individual steps. The funny thing is that I was actually quite conscious of the need to keep the process short when I first set up the discussion. My previous mediation leading to an RfC about the verifiability policy suffered from much the same problems with length, and I didn't want to make the same mistake this time. My experiences in the present discussion have shown me that this is more easily said (or thought) than done. To avoid future ventures of this kind being drawn out for too long, it will take concrete plans rather than just the right intentions.

Part of the problem is that there is inevitably going to be a trade-off between the length of time spent on a moderated discussion and the amount that we are going to be able to listen to participants' opinions. If participants don't feel that they are being listened to, there is a risk that they may come to regard the whole process as unfair and reject it entirely; that will only serve to increase drama, which is of course not what we want. It is this notion which made me spend more time on this discussion than I originally intended.

I think that the ideal length of a moderated discussion like this one would be about a month, or possibly a little more. I think that two months would be too long. However, as I said above, it will take more than just the right intentions to make this work well, especially if we want to make the process fair to all the participants.

I have thought about a few different ways to make this happen, and the best I have come up with is the following. (This is assuming that we keep the idea of using a moderator.) First, I think the structure of deciding general aspects of the RfC first and then moving to more specific aspects was a good idea, and should be kept. We didn't spend any time discussing any of the things that had previously been decided this time, and I am taking this as a good sign.

Second, I think we should set an explicit time limit for the discussion about each step, say a week, at the moderator's discretion. After that time, the moderator should close the discussion according to the consensus showed within, and not allow any time for further discussion. Furthermore, there would be no “no consensus” results – in the case of a discussion that would ordinarily result in no consensus, the moderator would decide on the best course of action. Hopefully this would resolve Tariqabjotu's complaint about not deciding on a proper scope for the drafts, which originally came about because of a “no consensus” result in one of the moderated discussion steps.

Finally, after any of the steps of the discussion, the participants would be able to appeal directly to the Arbitration Committee if they thought the result was unfair. This should help to keep the mediator from exceeding their authority, and to keep the participants invested in the process. If the mediator does a good job then this would probably not be necessary, but given the reduced time and the increased risk of not dealing with all the issues fully, I think it is important that participants should have a proper avenue to appeal.

There is also another change that I think should be made to the process, and this ties in with the civility question I asked above. Around April I made the mistake of asking a controversial question right before going travelling, which led to much heated discussion being had with me unable to moderate it properly due to lack of Internet access. (I had wanted to not let my absence prolong the proceedings any more.) That could have been avoided with more foresight – however, the relevant part here came afterwards. When I got back, I felt it was necessary to warn some of the participants that their behaviour on the discussion page wasn't acceptable. After doing so, I got a short and effective education in why mediators do not generally comment on conduct matters ad – a significant proportion of the editors that I warned felt that my warning undermined my neutrality as a moderator. (If anyone wants evidence of this, there are some pretty caustic diffs out there that I will dig up on request.)

Because of this, I think that it is necessary to split the role of the moderator into two. One half of the role would be a mediator-style role, with the moderator directing discussion, judging consensus, and maintaining neutrality throughout. The other half would be a clerk-style role, with the clerks watching the discussion for conduct problems and refactoring comments, warning editors, and issuing sanctions if necessary. This could be done by the Arbcom clerks or by another admin (or admins) who has experience in resolving conduct disputes.

If these two ideas were implemented, I think the process would work pretty well. I would definitely be open to suggestions as to how to improve them, though. And on that note, let me address some of the concerns raised by the others above. (Note that I won't address everything just yet; I have already touched on some of the points raised in my comments above, and I think some of the meatier criticism would be better addressed in the general discussion.)

@Tariqabjotu: I agree that there should probably have been a wider variety of questions and a more strictly defined scope. One of the problems here was that not many participants had experienced this kind of RfC before, and didn't really know what to expect. I did try and explain the RfC process at the beginning as best I could, but at the end of the day this kind of thing is best learned through experience. I remember that some of the participants were in favour of the RfC including discussion about the body of the article. I thought that this would lead to a fragmented RfC and was probably a bad idea, but I didn't feel I really had the authority to declare a consensus on this where none really existed. Perhaps this particular sticking point could be solved by some clear guidelines on what these kinds of RfCs should focus on? My suggestion would be to keep the scope as small as is practical and to present all drafts on an equal footing (same length, same scope, same length of time being discussed).

I also agree that the result shouldn't be taken as validation for any conduct issues that cropped up before the RfArb in December. I don't think it would be practical to go through all the hoops of getting an official statement on this from the Arbitration Committee now, however. Perhaps it would be best just to keep in mind that this should be the natural state of affairs on Wikipedia. If you run into problems you can always get help at WP:DRN or go to WP:AE if you think sanctions may be necessary. At both of those venues the volunteers will are not likely to look very favourably on any misconduct.

@Pgallert: The idea of adding another step to the moderation to interpret the RfC result is a good one, I think. If people think that this is still necessary now, then I can make that happen. @Wickey-nl: If the RfC closers are happy with me moderating a discussion deciding this kind of thing, then your suggestion might just happen. However, you must bear in mind that this kind of discussion works against the principle of having a binding RfC – the very idea behind making it binding is that we reach a decision, even if it may not be the absolute perfect decision, and then we stop discussing it. I'd like to see how the discussion here goes before I make any promises.

@DePiep: About the closers statement “no one may add information about Jerusalem’s capital status or location in either Israel or Palestine to the lead” – presumably text that doesn't touch on this topic can be edited in the usual way. In the two suggestions you made I don't see anything that looks prohibited, but I'll be happy to look into it if there has been any disagreement over it.

About your point that the close was text-oriented rather than content-oriented, I think this is always going to be a dilemma for the closing editors in an RfC like this. One one hand, they are entrusted with finding the position that best represents all the dozens of editors that commented at the RfC, and they are not allowed to use a “supervote” to sway the result to match their own opinion. On the other hand, it is common sense that writing an opening paragraph by committee is not going to result in professional prose. Perhaps there could have been room for more interpretation by the closers, but I'd want to hear from them on that point before making any judgements.

As I said above, I'll leave this open for another day or so in case the other two closing editors want to make statements, and then I'll open it for general discussion. Sorry for the delay in posting this, and thank you for reading this far! It has been a bit tl;dr, I know. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 14:45, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by RegentsPark[edit]

When I see here is a methodical and meticulous process of moderation and consensus building, one that went way beyond the call of duty and one that resulted in a set of drafts carefully worded through community consensus. Perhaps the final wording is not perfect but "done is better than perfect" is not a bad philosophy to live by and it is worth bearing in mind how that wording was arrived at. Obviously not everyone is happy with the outcome but is there an outcome that will make everyone happy? All in all what we have here is a model process on how to deal with controversial real world issues on Wikipedia. --regentspark (comment) 18:25, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by Keilana[edit]

I felt that this process was very thorough in achieving consensus on this important issue. I recognize that the writing now set in stone isn't perfect but I agree with what RegentsPark said - done is better than perfect. I think that using a moderated RfC is a very effective way to solve long-ossified content problems. Keilana|Parlez ici 22:20, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Statement by formerip[edit]

The process succeeded in providing a solution to the central point of contention, but has resulted in an opening paragraph to the article that is stylistically poor and has been condemned to remain so. It starts by defining the subject weakly ("one of the oldest cities in the world" - this is vague and hardly distinguishes Jerusalem within its region). It uses odd geographical reference points ("plateau" should not be part of the the first fact we learn about the place). It's sloppily worded so as to imply that, rather than wanting Jerusalem as their capital and then placing their government buildings there, the Israelis did it the other way round. The Palestinians, for their part want it as their capital mainly because they foresee it as their capital. Thanks, Wikipedia. Oh, and there's a semi-colon where there should be a full-stop.

I don't agree that "done is better than perfect" is any sort of philosophy to live by. Imagine it as the Wikipedia strapline. And I don't see the sense in the closers insisting on riveting in place content which they appear to acknowledge is poor so as to immunise those two sentences (three if they were punctuated correctly) against further dispute, because there is no reason to suppose that was necessary. Below, pgallert appears to be defending this aspect of the close at the same time as satirising it. Something must be wrong.

However, I do not blame the closers, because they took an approach which was broadly reflective of a lot of comments in the RfC (although they could have at least proofread what they were imposing). I think the real problem is that at no point was the actual purpose of the RfC specified. The ArbCom motion was ridiculously vague and broad (essentially, "decide what the content of the article should be"), which was not a good starting-point. How could the closers be expected to identify the point at which this remit had been achieved? Above, Tariqabjotu suggests that the moderated discussion should have included more questions regarding various things to include in the lead. This might have resulted in a better result (although, I'm not sure - perhaps it would have just resulted in a lot of horse-trading and random suggestions being adopted), but I think it would have exponentially complicated an already over-complicated process. And, as a matter of principle, RfCs are for resolving disputes that have proven intractable through other means, rather than for writing article content (or anticipating future disputes). Which is the key to where this process has been defective.

Where a case proceeds to mediation, a locus of dispute is normally identified. In this case, that didn't happen because the request made to ArbCom had not asked for a resolution to this dispute and because the RfC was called by a motion which failed to identify what dispute it was seeking to address.

So, I think the main developmental point is for ArbCom: do not request an RfC an a matter for which you have not identified a locus of dispute; ensure that any motion made for a moderated discussion sets appropriate parameters for that discussion.

On the other hand, bad style is not necessarily unusual for Wikipedia and I personally got what I wanted out of the process, so hey-ho. And thanks to Mr Strad and the closers for their work. Formerip (talk) 20:12, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Step six general discussion[edit]

As we have now had input from all of the closers, I think it is safe to proceed on to the general discussion. I'm going to keep this pretty simple. It will be just like a talk page discussion - you can start your own sections, and reply to whoever you want. I just ask that you do the folling:

  • Keep things positive. Everyone here is acting with the best of intentions, even if you might not like everything that happened in the RfC or in the moderated discussion. So rather than arguing with each other, let's keep that in mind and work together.
  • Keep on topic. The point of this step is to see what we can improve about this process for the next time Arbcom tries something similar, and also to discuss possible ways forward for anyone who may be unsatisfied with the results in some way. Let's keep the discussion focused on those things and not get sidetracked.
  • Use level three headings. This is just to keep things looking neat, although it's not that important.

I'll be adding new sections as points to discuss occur to me, and I encourage others to do so too. Happy commenting! — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 11:26, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Binding for three years[edit]

About DePiep's point that the result of the RfC should be binding until December 2015 rather than July 2016: I had another look at the original Arbcom motion from December, and I think that he is right. The wording of that motion is pretty clear: "The discussion will be closed by three uninvolved, experienced editors, whose decision about the result of the discussion will be binding for three years from the adoption of this motion." This was a failure on my part to check the exact wording of the motion, and I'll go and update the notices that I left on the article talk page now. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 11:39, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

I've changed the notice to January 2016. Technically it should be 27 December 2015, but I don't want people to think that they should be counting down the days until it expires. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 11:54, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
So I will change my alarm to set for January 2016 then, not Dec 27. But really, you could have done one small single edit in total on this fact. Did I really cause you this time & edit spending? -DePiep (talk) 23:52, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Changing the result[edit]

I did mention the possibility of a further discussion about how to interpret the result, but Keilana's and RegentsPark's statements have made it clear that their opinion on the matter is that "done is better than perfect". I wouldn't have the authority to carry on such a discussion without getting the all-clear from the closers, and so I think we must declare the RfC "done". This means that unless there is any signal to the contrary, the interpretation of the close that was worked out on Talk:Jerusalem and approved by the closers will now remain in effect until January 2016. — Mr. Stradivarius ♪ talk ♪ 12:07, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

I agree that we should resist any temptation to keep working on the text, which in turn might turn this into an open-ended process. --Dailycare (talk) 17:54, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
There is the fear among the closers that as soon as we give only so much of space to change the result of the RfC, somebody will misuse it, and a fruitless discussion will flare up. For instance, if we allow additional commas to be added, somebody might see this as a go-ahead to add
,   ,  ,,,  ,,,,,  ,,,,, ,,,,  ,   ,  ,,,,
,,  , ,   ,   ,      ,   ,   , ,   , ,
, , , ,   ,   ,      ,   ,,,,  ,   , ,,,
,  ,, ,   ,   ,      ,   ,   , ,   , ,
,   ,  ,,,    ,      ,   ,   ,  ,,,   ,,,,
That is certainly a reason behind "done is better than perfect", a statement which under different circumstances could not be farther from what I would subscribe to. --Pgallert (talk) 18:13, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Fear you say, fear? Did not you know you were covered? Did you not trust ArbCom and moderator support? Or, from your angle: if you feel under fear, why did you not resign/reject? And I find your reaction here childish. Only now I feel invited to backtrack you Closing abilities. Why did Arbcom ask you. Any idea yourself? -DePiep (talk) 22:49, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
  • So the glorifying self-quote is "done is better than perfect", which only afterwardly ​23 of the Closers used seriously (but not before they concluded) is the argument. BTW that contradicts these many compliments "you [four assigned ones] did a great job" I read everywhere in the ending of this process. (Now what is it: "You done great job" or "[we] done is better than perfect"?). I still don't get it today. -DePiep (talk) 22:29, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
The great miss was the absence of a forelast step for the finishing touch. Without restarting the whole discussion and without losing face for the arbiters by correcting a proof version. Better corrected than badly done.--Wickey-nl (talk) 14:24, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Fixing a larger portion of the lead[edit]

There was a concern that 'only 8%' of the lead are fixed by the RfC, and that those 8% are actually not saying much. I agree. However, there was the opinion (and not just a singular one) that the current conflict must not be overemphasised in the lead in order not to play down Jerusalem's 5,000-year history (WP:Recentism). I might have misunderstood some of that comment but just want to say that: We could not have fixed the entire lead, or a large part of it, because the lead summarises the article, and our remit was clearly not to fix the entire article. --Pgallert (talk) 18:13, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

You, Closer Pgallert, are turning the whole motion upside down. Read it again. Even Stradivarius had to do that to find the right three year period. However, I am glad you agree that your own Conclusion did only cover 8% of the lead of Jerusalem, and that even that [your 8%] is not saying much. -DePiep (talk) 23:06, 23 July 2013 (UTC) changed sentences for clarity -DePiep (talk) 23:17, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Why & how these closers?[edit]

Why & how did ArbCom choose exactly these three closers? -DePiep (talk) 01:13, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

Ask them, not us. I think I got asked because I helped close the Muhammad images RfC and this was a similar situation where I was uninvolved. As for RegentsPark and Pgallert, I have no idea. Keilana|Parlez ici 15:45, 24 July 2013 (UTC)