Wikipedia:Anticipating problems in consensus

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This essay concerns problems about consensus which have been debated for years. The Wikipedia policy WP:Consensus describes rules for trying to reach consensus in various aspects of Wikipedia work. After all the discussions, there are still numerous obstacles to reaching consensus or "no consensus":

  • The root conflict of defining consensus: The meaning of "consensus" is debated (there is no unanimous consensus about "consensus"). Some people believe that consensus should be defined as the unanimous agreement of all participants acting in good faith (a person who says, "all of you are totally stupid" gets removed as not acting in good faith). However, most people think that consensus is a "rough consensus" where they decide whose ideas to ignore, which has been the general attitude in WP:Consensus. However, we have essay "WP:No consensus" which explains that consensus is not always present when debating some issues.
  • Conflicting levels of perspective: Some people think that restricting colons to one-per-sentence is beneficial, while others think such minor rules are excessive. Hence, we have WP:IAR to "Ignore All Rules" as a last resort to overcome excessive policing of wiki-text.
  • Conflicting cultural norms: There are some major differences between varieties of the English language. In American English, a semicolon can be used to split a sentence into major clauses where "or", "and" or "but" might be used. However, in UK English, a semicolon can be used to begin a list, rather than using a colon, as in American English. It might be surprising to see text written in the other style.
  • Conflicts from systemic bias: Many people are unaware that they are influenced by the underlying structure of the English language and the Wikipedia system. The very existence of a "WP:Manual of Style" implies using a stylized approach to writing, whereas if there were a "Manual of Diversity" then that could foster an alternative mindset in the systemic viewpoint of people.

I'll stop the list there, but I must emphasize that beyond forming a consensus, it is important to realize when no consensus has been formed, and not try to force a de facto consensus and define restrictions when there is strong disagreement about the issues.

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