User talk:Dennis Brown

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Arb Election - Opposing All[edit]

Yes, I'm really opposing all. The only hope I can see for changing the Arb system is if we force change by having no one serving. This doesn't affect Arb not up for election, but one year of no one getting 50% would be enough to send a message and maybe to force some changes. I don't blame the individuals, but I do blame the system, and this is the only way to force change. It is less futile that supporting good people who are powerless to fix the system, and watching the system get worse each year, and 2015 definitely ranks as the worst year in recent memory. You don't need to even tell anyone, it isn't any of their business. Even if just some of the seats go unfilled, it will still send a message. I'm tired of being a sheep. If you are, too, and want to vote in a way that actually makes a difference, then oppose all. Dennis Brown -

Greetings, Dennis. We haven't met before, but I have come across your contributions to many heated discussions, and I would give your opinion some weight. Ergo, I would find it helpful if you would share some thoughts on what sort of reforms you are looking for in Arbcom, or alternatively point me to somewhere where you had made these opinions clear. Regards, (talk) 18:02, 25 November 2015 (UTC) Um, belatedly realized that I had not logged in; I do not intend to do so now and out my IP, but suffice to say I am an editor eligible to vote in the current election. (talk) 18:03, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
The current Arb year demonstrates changes are needed, but so have past. Outcomes that aren't reflective of community consensus, or are simply unenforceable, always late and sometimes defy logic. To make changes, it will take former Arbs (the only people that really know how things are run behind closed doors) and the input of the community BOTH to solve the problem. Insiders and outsiders both. The problem is, no discussion takes place, we just bitch about the system and nothing really changes. We just elect new people and the same thing happens. Nothing is forcing a change. I'm under no illusion that I have the answers or even fully understand all the reasons for the problems. It is kind of like when your car won't start. You don't have to be a master mechanic to realize something is broken and needs fixing. Some have mistakenly thought I was angry or sad or emotionally drawn to this, but it is really pure logic dictating my decision. If every Arb Committee is more or less the same, then it doesn't matter who I vote for, my vote is meaningless. I should either not vote or vote in a way that might make a difference. The only vote that can possible change this is enough people voting "none of the above". My expectations are low, I'm no fool, but I am sincere and not afraid to voice my opinion. At a minimum, it would be better to not waste a vote with a neutral vote, so if you must vote for a couple of people, oppose the rest. Dennis Brown - 18:31, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Unfortunately, Dennis, I think you chose the wrong year to make your protest. With a staggering 1,500 votes cast already (or so I belive) due to the mass mailing, your protest will be completely diluted, so many clueless people will be voting anyway (I mean just look at some of the questions the candidates have been asked) that we will again probably be getting the Committee we deserve rather than the one we need. Reforms to Arbcom can only really be brought about by the community. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 19:28, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
How do I amend my vote Kudpung ? I had voted for you, but given the above I wish to oppose you now. Thanks in advance. Pedro :  Chat 
Perhaps, but it is really more of a statement than a protest. If I were trying to actually protest or start a movement, I would have started earlier and made sure it was posted all over Reddit, 4chan, and all the other troll havens. I'm an old marketing director by trade, if I wanted many people to know, trust me, they would know. Of course, whether they would react or not is another issue. Several fine people are running, including yourself, but I have little hope in reforms coming from within and there is currently no mechanism for change from outside. It is a walled garden if there ever was one. Win and prove me wrong, I will happily serve my own crow, but I won't hold my breath. Dennis Brown - 22:20, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
(talk page stalker) I found a "troll haven" once, but it was out of my reach, alas. Martinevans123 (talk) 22:37, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Had to reach for that one, Martin ;) I'm just tired of pretending everything is fine when it isn't. Again, not mad, I just want change and I think it will take people like me politely but bluntly saying change is needed. I don't require the masses to agree with me to know that change is needed. For now I'm content to just say it like it is. For now. Dennis Brown - 02:22, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
I admire your candour. I suspect many people will vote just to get the least worse candidates. Martinevans123 (talk) 08:56, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
I have more or less said in my candidate statement (or was it in answer to one of those pesky questions) that if I should be miraculously elected, I won't be pushing for reform. On the other hand, if I survive a two-year stint there, I shall probably have a lot to say about it when I come in from the cold. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 10:38, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Of course, what Dennis should really be looking for is an agent provocateur who can smash the system from within. Martinevans123 (talk) 11:09, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Well, as much as my genuine very good friend Dennis would like me to be, I'm not going to be an agent provocateur. Again, if (and that's one heck of a big if) I get on to the committee, my preoccupation would simply be to be equitable as possible. The big problem with Arbcom is that there are always some nice people on it, but unfortunately, they are often in the minority. If all is true about the work and the environment there as declared by WTT, its hardly surprising that the group becomes apathetic long before its term is up. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 11:19, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
As you have probably guessed, KP, I am just playing the devil's advoaat here. I'm sure your intentions are perfectly genuine. Martinevans123 (talk) 12:14, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
  • This is why I get back to forced changed, but the force coming from outside Arb, then all of us working on changing it a bit. Kudpung is right, Arb is poison to those who serve, and that is part of the problem. Ex-Arbs only talk in general terms, so you don't know until you are inside. I know enough to know it will take the cooperation of all of us, not chair throwing, but actual cooperation. But none of that starts until the choice to change is forced upon us. Dennis Brown - 12:26, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Chair throwing?? Can we please just stick to shoes? Martinevans123 (talk) 12:36, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
One of the problems with Arbcom is that unlike all other committees, it doesn't have a chair. Not that anyone would be daft enough to take the job if it existed. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 12:42, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
I would imagine that Brad was kind a of quiet, unofficial chair in many respects. I imagine Roger is filling some of that void with the behind the scenes paperwork. The problem is, when you elect new people every year, you can't always find a new "unofficial chair" person to show leadership in these times frames. I hadn't thought of an official chair, or leadership, but that is an interesting idea. Dennis Brown - 13:00, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
The impression I got was more youthful enthusiasm vs older wisdom. So you'd get the younger (and by younger I refer to number of terms, rather than actual age) members discussing lots, while the older members would just pop in and make a single comment and turn the discussion. However, there really wasn't a single person who chaired anything - whoever was interested in an area did the work there. So, I did a lot of mail management and BASC appeals, but less in the way of drafting. It rather happens naturally. WormTT(talk) 13:07, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
So some years, you get good synergy, some years you get bad. I don't think Kudpung is saying they need a dictator, but every successful open source project has one except Wikipedia (Jimbo no longer counts here). I would imagine some kind of leadership would be helpful, just judging how every organization has it, but have no idea what that means at Arb because I've never served. It does seem to be a crap shoot, which is no way to run the final dispute resolution stage of a top 10 website. Dennis Brown - 13:16, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it's one of the things I was considering suggesting to the new committee. A chair (or secretary, if people prefer) is desirable just to manage the administrative overhead: make sure all pending tasks are assigned to people, and track their progress, so if someone becomes unavailable, the task can be reassigned. Also the priority of the tasks can be rearranged as necessary. It could even be a clerk filling this role, since it doesn't require any access to the actual private discussions. isaacl (talk) 14:53, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
In many committees and boards a chair often has a casting vote but with Wikipedia's obsession with flat hierarchies it is unlikely to be ever brought into our byelaws. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 20:22, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Flat structures can sometimes be strong. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:20, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Inflexible ones, however, tend to break. ;) Dennis Brown - 21:34, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
True, but I guess you know all about matrix management and all those other Japanese inventions. Martinevans123 (talk) 21:48, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
With my suggestion, I don't see the secretary having much influence over what work gets scheduled to be done: he/she would just be making sure things run smoothly (keeping the trains running on time, so to speak). So if a committee member served in this role, I don't feel deferring his/her vote is necessary. It wouldn't cause any harm, though, and if it helps ease any concerns regarding the secretary's influence, then sure. Just having a clerk assume the role may be the simplest approach. isaacl (talk) 23:51, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
My gut says that actual leadership is needed, not just paperwork. I'm not sure how that would work in the current system. Every other organization (as Kudpung has pointed out) does it with leadership positions, not just figureheads. The trick is how we manage to do it here, and if you could even get consensus to get it done. People love to oppose change around here (or just fear it), more so now than years ago, which is why so many things end in a stalemate. Dennis Brown - 04:16, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
I'm not proposing a figurehead; the impression I get is that no one drives issues to be completed, which lets them get drawn out. In the real world, there are many committees that don't need a hierarchical leader; they just need someone to take minutes and follow up on actions to ensure they are done. That being said, I don't disagree that a leader that sets direction for the committee would be beneficial. It may not be necessary, though, to have one appointed by formal title. isaacl (talk) 06:46, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
  • This concept is something that should have been included in the mass email. — Ched :  ?  04:58, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Denis, that's not a bad idea, but as Kudpung pointed out so many are voting that it's not likely to work (and likely to lead to some unexpected results). I did support level-headed experienced people such as kudpung and Drmies but opposed the rest. As I see it, the problem is that the way ArbCom is formally structured it repeatedly creates a type of Stanford prison experiment scenario. I think the the whole idea of such a committee was a bad idea, but since we have it the best strategy might to eliminate most of its formal structure. This could greatly reduce the likelihood of creating Stanford prison experiment scenarios. For example, cases should be treated more like ANI or AN cases where there is open discussion, but informal Arb consensus and Arb closure with none of the silly voting on principles and such. --I am One of Many (talk) 05:44, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
    If you go back in history, you find that Arb was setup initially with the idea that most cases would last one week. I think the formal setting for commenting is needed, to keep it from being the chaos that ANI can be. Some of the rest is too much. They skipped the Workshop phase in the current case, for instance. Not sure that hurt anything. Dennis Brown - 14:36, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
    Given that the arbitration committee typically deals with situations where the community is split on how to handle matters, regardless of the level of formality used, I think it is helpful for decisions to layout the guiding principles followed, and the identified events that occurred. This clarifies the basis used by the committee to reach its conclusions regarding what transpired, how it was beneficial or detrimental to the project, and how the specified remedies are deemed suitable. isaacl (talk) 17:55, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
    The problem is that within highly formalized systems undesirable group behavior can emerge from otherwise good people. Good prisons, for example, recognize this problem and attempt to train guards to avoid undesirable group behavior such as seen in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse case. Now, the chaos of ANI could be largely avoided by strictly sticking to the principle that only Arbs' opinions matter to Arb consensus. We could become creative and even have experts at consensus—Bureaucrats—close Arb cases. --I am One of Many (talk) 05:46, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

ANI style cases.

  • Never seen Arb compared to Abu Ghraib, which is a bit humorous and obviously unfair to make a direct comparison, but I get your point that once in an isolated group, behavior changes. Stanford prison experiment is an interesting read in group think, an experiment that won't likely be repeated but has some value nonetheless. Dennis Brown - 12:55, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Abu Ghraib is, of course, an extreme example. Unexpected group effects happen in degrees. Unfortunately social psychologists have dropped the ball in studying Stanford prison experiment like phenomena. There are ethical issues but such social phenomena (including the Milgram experiment) need to be better understood. My view is that similar social phenomena often arise in rigidly interpreted rule-bound systems. You have probably found (at least in some cases) that by not rigidly following Wikipedia policy, you can save editors. ArbCom is the paradigm of rigid rule following on Wikipedia and I think an important source of its problems. --I am One of Many (talk) 19:19, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
'Ere Dennis, I've got this mate in Bay Area, any chance you could vote for him, he also thinks the whole farce is absurd. Martinevans123 (talk) 00:17, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
  • All the fun is here, including a graph. Maybe with a bit of luck the election will be declared null and void and we'll have to go through the whole rigmarole again. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 16:22, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
    • I was talking to Carrite on WO, where he was looking forward to more voters (but probably not this kind of turnout), and I remarked that as participation increases, the average knowledge of the candidates goes down, so at some point you reach a diminished return and maybe even negative results in respect to the quality of the "winners". When you see huge participation increases like we have seen now, it is usually not a good thing. Claims of gaming, ballot stuffing, offwiki canvassing, sockpuppetry, etc will soon be filling the pages, just watch. Whether any of this is true, it is anyone's guess, but it looks like I picked a great year to not run and instead oppose all the candidates afterall. Thankfully, real life keep me busy enough to not get involved. Dennis Brown - 17:10, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure who will get elected to ArbCom (and, as a clerk, I'll work with whomever does get elected), but I'm 100% certain that many individuals who don't get a seat will lay the blame on the mass messaging. For some reason, few seem to believe the increased turnout will help their candidacy which is odd.
Is it such a bad thing for voters to judge candidates based on their ACE2015 statements and Q&A and not be aware of their long history of interactions with other editors? I mean, knowing someone's history on Wikipedia can work for or against a candidate. There are few editors who have been here any length of time who don't carry around some baggage.
My guess is with so many editors talking about blanket opposes of all candidates, there likely won't be 9 candidates who get over 50% support. But that's just a guess. So, no revolution, no mandate for change, just a smaller number of arbitrators to handle the workload. Liz Read! Talk! 20:28, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
I agree that regardless of outcome, some candidates will complain. As for people relying on just the statements and answers instead of actually knowing the candidate, I'm not sure it is better or worse, but it is different and changes the dynamics of the election. I still have no idea what the outcome will be, no guess at all. Fewer Arbs might be better or worse, who knows, but I'm thinking that a higher turnout will likely mean the slots will get filled. People have always been more willing to support than oppose, and at least as willing to be neutral. I do notice that I haven't received the mass mailing here yet. All I do know for sure is that the mailing system will be scrutinized, as will the decision makers for it. Dennis Brown - 20:52, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
(Maybe the delivery bot has seen how keen you are to vote, Dennis?) Martinevans123 (talk) 20:56, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
I was quite keen to vote, and did soon after the polls opened. Dennis Brown - 21:25, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
You're such a Mephistopheles, Dennis. Martinevans123 (talk) 00:08, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Re: the idea of a chair mentioned above, I think it would be good to have one who wasn't part of the committee. I like the idea of a community observer, someone who would write regular reports about how cases were handled, deadlines met, etc. Also strongly agree that people's behaviour changes once elected. Can we centralize this discussion somewhere? SarahSV (talk) 17:05, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
    • Doesn't really fit under the scope of WER, so not sure where else to take it. VP discussions often get dominated by regulars, enough that I seldom even visit. After the election (and the fallout), it might be interesting to have a full WP: page on the concept, just a brainstorming, but organizing all that text will be a problem, because it will get flooded, so the good bits get lost. Dennis Brown - 17:10, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
    • The talk page for Wikipedia:Arbitration redirects to Wikipedia talk:Arbitration/Requests, so that's where I posted my previous suggest for a minor change to the arbitration process, but I'm not sure if it got much attention from arbitrators. (Maybe they all agreed with the one arbitrator who responded?) Given that a proposal for a secretary is more related to how the committee works and not the arbitration process itself, perhaps Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee would be a good place to discuss it.
    • Regarding a community observer, if I understand your proposal correctly, no privileged information is required to write it. If that is the case, anyone can volunteer to do it right now and publish it in, say, the Signpost. isaacl (talk) 18:02, 28 November 2015 (UTC)
  • I couldn't get myself to oppose anyone....well, except for the one that pulled their nomination. I figured if the option was there I vote to oppose.--Mark Miller (talk) 18:41, 28 November 2015 (UTC)