The future of the Article Rescue Squadron (ARS) was once again drawn into question this week, as The Devil’s Advocate launched an RfC on the group with a 3,000 word opening statement addressing the issue of canvassing, which ARS members stand accused of engaging in.
At the time of writing, there were nine editors in support of the proposition that the ARS has engaged in canvassing. On the other hand, as expected, members of the ARS have entered the discussion in numbers to defend their project – which has survived four nominations for deletion in five years, primarily motivated by similar concerns.
Discussions covered in the main body of the discussion report are not listed here.
Some discussions extend to such great lengths and attract so much commentary that they exceed that 300 kilobyte mark. The Arbitration Committee 3 RfC, an ongoing discussion on the Arbitration Committee and its dealings with well-behaved sockpuppets, presents an excellent example. Although it is very well structured, many editors viewing the discussion may be moved to think too long, so don't read it. Such a situation leaves a small number of interested editors, composed of those who are involved with the underlying topic and those who are so intrigued by the long discussion that they are moved to leave a comment after reading. It can be very easy to formulate an opinion on the matter by merely reading the opening statements which frame the issue at hand. However, many editors take a look at the number of editors polled in favour of the statements and formulate a decision based on the popularity of the arguments presented rather than their merits. This can often cause discussions to continue without an end in sight when one editor is not happy with the decision made and makes another poll to gauge the consensus afresh.
Wikipedia tries to cap these endless discussions by having an RfC last only 31 days, yet participants relist the RfC over and over to attract other editors to review the closed (or inactive) discussion, as in the case of the above cited RfC. The discussion on the Arbitration Committee and well-behaved sockpuppets, which commenced in January, stopped in early-February and was then revived in late-February after an editor relisted it at centralized discussion.
Such discussions can often present a challenge to the editor who steps up to close them; "no consensus" is a common outcome for convoluted debates, a lack of resolution that opens the possibility of discussion starting all over again as the same issues continue to arise. One solution may be to encourage participants to keep their comments short and to the point, and to ensure closers read the entire discussion and undertake the difficult task of trying to divine rough consensus where it exists, rather than taking the easy option of closing complex debates as "no consensus" by default.
Does the Article Rescue Squadron need reforming and is the group open to it? Is the RfC on the right track to resolving issues? What should be done with long and lengthy RfCs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.