This is not a Wikipedia article, nor is it policy or a guideline. It is an idea by one Wikipedian to address a 'hole' in the arbitration process. Any editor is free and invited to make suggestions or comment about this on the discussion page.
- 1 Requests for Comment with Oversight (RfCwO)
Requests for Comment with Oversight (RfCwO)
To resolve content disputes where both sides have become so entrenched that discussion and informal mediation cannot resolve the issue.
Requesting the case
Anyone can request that a case be opened, placing that request on the appropriate page (to be created). They should summarise the nature of the dispute, fairly presenting the views of both sides, along with evidence that the dispute is long-running and that other forms of arbitration have been attempted (and failed). Other involved editors must be informed.
Considering the case
Once the case has been presented an "oversight committee"(OverCom) (volunteer admins from MedCab perhaps?) will consider the request. Each OverCom member should indicate whether they believe there is a suitable case to answer and also indicate if they are willing to act as "overseer" for the case. A simple majority or at least four "accept"s will be sufficient to open the case.
Cases rejected by ArbCom on the grounds of being content dispute may be referred here and will be automatically accepted.
The opening statement
The overseer will prepare an "introductory statement". This will outline, briefly, the nature of the case, its extent and scope and also which article(s) or policy/guideline are to be affected. It will also list the "principal protagonists" - those who have been most vocal in the debate recently.
The participants on either side can then challenge any aspect of this summary, but the final decision will be in the hands of the overseer. Once the wording of the introduction is finalised it will be placed at the top of the case page.
Presenting the evidence
For simplicity, one or two from among the principal protagonists on each side will be expected to present a "complete" case. These will be presented beneath the opening statement, including supporting evidence and a proposal for the final wording. Any other principal protagonists can then present (briefly) any additional evidence they feel may have been missed.
From this point onwards, all of the principal protagonists must then step back and cease from contributing unless asked for additional evidence/clarification by the overseer.
Considering the case
The RfCwO is then officially opened and given site-wide advertisement and the wider community are invited to comment and discuss with the aim of achieving consensus.
Whilst the discussion should essentially be given free rein, the overseer will have certain powers to maintain the flow of debate. Any breaches of wikiquette will be erased immediately. Since the purpose of the principal protagonists stepping back is to prevent them "drowning out" other voices, any other editor who begins to "drown out" the debate - especially if it is in a way that diverts other editors from salient points - can be given a warning and ultimately be asked to give a "final statement" before also stepping back. (The principal reason for this is to prevent any of the principals from using other editors as, in effect, meatpuppets.)
Closing the case
A reasonable time limit (1 month?) should be placed on the case. At any time, the overseer may decide that a reasonable consensus has been reached and present this to the community for consideration in the form of the final wording. If a general consensus is achieved then the case will be closed and the final wording placed in the appropriate article/policy/guideline. Consensus should be more certain before this step is taken with regard to policies/guidelines.
If no consensus is achieved
If no consensus can be achieved then it falls to the oversight committee to decide what to do next. This may require a decision by majority vote.
Explanations and caveats
The main purpose of the "stepping back" of the main protagonists is that they very often end up rehashing the arguments over and over, "drowning out" other voices to no useful end. If the dispute has already been going on for some time then both sides should be able to present a full and complete case with any evidence required. They will already be aware of the opposite side's position and should present any evidence against that position in their initial statements. The rest of the community can then decide on the strength of the evidence.
It may be that some currently uninvolved editors were once involved, or that an editor new to the dispute has strongly-held views. In order to prevent these editors from "clogging up" the dispute in the way that the involved editors would have been likely to do, there should be an admonition to all participating editors to be brief, to avoid personal attacks and to avoid impugning the motives of opposing editors. The overseer should have power to warn such editors should their contributions become excessive and disruptive and ultimately to ask that they present a "final statement" and then step back in the way that other involved editors will have already done.
The case presented must be strictly about the issue and not about the opponents (or what the opponents "might say"). The overseer should have power to remove any material that does not conform to this.
This is really a collection of "first thoughts". I am sure there are potential pitfalls that may need to be addressed. Please feel free to comment on the talk page.