Wikipedia:Discuss and Vote

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Decisions on Wikipedia are made by consensus through a variety of methods centering around discussion. For this reason, people are encouraged to discuss their differences of opinion when editing. When substantial numbers of people are involved, when a decision is necessary, or when it is helpful to record agreement in consensus, voting or polling may also be used. However, voting should be used with care to avoid the presumption that a simple majority vote wins without a reasonable discussion that comprehends all views. Experience shows that in smaller groups, discussion and compromise will produce a better product than a brute force vote and a "majority rules" approach. However voting or polling is not restricted on Wikipedia as long as it does not curtail or reduce discussion.

Deletion and featuring[edit]

Wikipedia has several processes to deal with deletion (e.g. WP:AFD) and featured content (e.g. WP:FAC). These are sometimes correctly described as advisory votes. They are not supposed to be votes without discussion. An admin takes the discussion into account as well as the numbers voting to arrive at an informed conclusion. Consequently, the stronger arguments will prevail although a decision contrary to the majority would only be rendered when there is compelling evidence of inappropriate campaigning or "vote stacking" by one side.

Because the point of these processes is to form consensus, it is preferable that people include comments and discuss the matter along with voting - that is, people are encouraged to explain their reasonings, respond to others and possibly compromise or change a vote, rather than signing a one-word opinion and not looking back.

Policy and guidelines[edit]

Policy and guidelines are ratified through a vote. They may also be imposed by the wikipedia foundation or by Jimbo. However, even in these latter cases, it is appropriate to call a vote or straw poll on a proposed policy or guideline. A successful proposal is made by discussing it, listening to objections, and rewording the proposal accordingly until a compromise is reached that has the support of a supermajority of the people. This vote also validates the claim of consensus. Insisting that votes be denied on a proposal precludes such validation of consensus. A discussion can only validate that consensus has been achieved when there are small groups. Otherwise, it may only suggest consensus. With larger groups or in the case of a strongly divisive issue, consensus is validated by a vote, after substantial discussion. In many consensus may not be achieved without further discussion following the vote.

If a proposal is not controversial, doing a headcount is not necessary; if a proposal is controversial, doing a headcount to see different perspectives will help establish a base point from which to proceed. However, to avoid further polarization it is helpful to reduce a problem to more detailed elements and find areas of common agreement as well as identifying those areas of disagreement. When dealing with disagreements, it is often possible to compromise by referring to Wikipedia Policies such as Neutral Point of View. No consensus can be declared, even in the case of a vote unless there has been a reasonable discussion regarding all points of view. Objections to conducting polls is as much a failure to deliberate as refusal to engage in open and honest discussion of the issues.

Guidelines should rarely be enacted without a vote. Similarly, most policies should be voted upon. Although current policies may not have all been voted on, as wikipedia has grown it has become clear that managing larger groups requires this as part of the process. (Examples include WP:3RR, WP:AP and the older parts of WP:CSD). In all of these cases, a vote was carefully put together while discussing the matter for a month or more.

Standards[edit]

Once it has been decided by consensus to standardize an issue (e.g. template layout), it is likely there will be several suggestions for standards. Unless one of them is clearly preferred, an approval vote is recommended to select the best-liked standard.

People[edit]

Whether certain people are trusted for certain functions is put to a community vote, in particular on WP:RFA and with the ArbCom election. However, in both cases the vote results are subject to interpretation by the party who makes the decision (i.e. the bureaucrats or Jimbo). There is no exact "target" percentage that forms the cutoff point, although a supermajority is generally expected. Again, in these processes it is preferable if people discuss, ask questions of the candidate, and state their reasonings, rather than simply voting "yes" or "no" with no further comment.

Feature requests[edit]

Changes to the MediaWiki software are made by the developers and are usually discussed on BugZilla. Votes on feature requests may elicit attention, however votes in this area are trumped by larger issues of economical implementation, programming feasibility and server load.

Arbitration[edit]

The ArbCom follows a procedure of listing principles, findings of facts and remedies; individual arbiters vote on these to indicate their assent or dissent.

See also[edit]