News and notes
Wobbly start to ArbCom election, but turnout beats last year's
Leaks and last-minute panics give way to a successful election process
The cumulative total of unique voters. Black is for this year; red for last year; green for 2010 (ten days only); and purple for 2009. ACE2012 had a total of 858 voters, comfortably more than last year's record low.
Day-by-day numbers of unique voters, showing the characteristic surges at the start and finish of the voting periods. This year in particular, voters came out in force on the first day.
At the time of writing, this year's election has just closed after a two-week voting period. The eight seats were contested by 21 candidates. Of these, 15 have not been arbitrators (Beeblebrox, Count Iblis, Guerillero, Jc37, Keilana, Ks0stm, Kww, NuclearWarfare, Pgallert, RegentsPark, Richwales, Salvio giuliano, Timotheus Canens, Worm That Turned, and YOLO Swag); four candidates are sitting arbitrators (David Fuchs, Elen of the Roads, Jclemens, and Newyorkbrad); and two have previously served on the committee (Carcharoth and Coren).
Four Wikimedia stewards from outside the English Wikipedia stepped forward as election scrutineers: Pundit, from the Polish Wikipedia; Teles, from the Portuguese Wikipedia; Quentinv57, from the French Wikipedia; and Mardetanha, from the Persian Wikipedia. The scrutineers' task is to ensure that the election is free of multiple votes from the same person, to tally the results, and to announce them.
- Good and bad aspects
A three-member electoral commission was charged with mediating any disputes and making decisions on unexpected issues. The commission comprises three trusted members of the community: MBisanz, Happy-melon, and Lord Roem. MBisanz and Lord Roem told the Signpost they felt that the format of the elections has generally run smoothly; Lord Roem highlighted the SecurePoll voting interface, which has been tweaked to include links to candidates’ statements and their responses to questions, "making it easy for voters to do last-second research". MBisanz was pleased that "all the candidates readily complied with the required statements and voters have thus far been helpful in flagging ineligible votes". He also thanked DeltaQuad for coding a reliable bot for the election in under 90 minutes.
We asked MBisanz and Lord Roem about the downsides. Both commented on the lack of technical preparation, requiring Bugzilla requests to be filed to alter SecurePoll; and there was a five-day hold-up in the appointment of the commissioners. The result was a 24-hour delay in the start of the election. Stressing that this is a personal opinion, MBisanz was critical of "the misuse of the questions pages as a forum to re-argue or advertise prior disputes, as opposed to discovering the views or opinions of the candidates". Lord Roem said, "Next year, we definitely need to organize the technical side a few weeks in advance to avoid the scrambling of looking for a developer the day before."
Aside from these technical and procedural hitches, this year's election was not without controversy. Shortly before the start of voting, emails regarding controversial arbitrator Jclemens from the off-wiki arbitrator mailing list (arbcom-l) were leaked to a community member. Elen of the Roads confirmed to the committee that she had shared at least some of the emails with an editor with whom she is associated. They then forwarded them to some current candidates, including NuclearWarfare, who notified the committee of the breach of confidence. The situation deteriorated quickly and led to a motion to suspend or expel Elen of the Roads, under the "conduct of arbitrators rule", which would include removing her checkuser and oversight flags, her access to all mailing lists associated with ArbCom and those flags, along with her access to the ArbCom and Checkuser wikis. However, the required two-thirds majority of all sitting arbitrators to take this action was not achieved. While five arbitrators supported and only one opposed, the number of recusals – partly comprising arbitrators who were standing for reelection – made it impossible to pass.
This is not the first time that emails from the committee's mailing lists have been leaked: messages from arbcom-l were disclosed in 2009, and in 2011 where the entire list appears to have been compromised going back to July 2005 in a series of releases on the Wikipedia Review.
- Calls for early release of unaudited votes
Every year frustration boils over in candidates and others who watch the election closely. This time, there was a plaintive attempt to release the unofficial results as soon as possible, to which Happy-melon responded, "All community members ... are entitled to a secret ballot. Please sit back and continue to chew your fingernails patiently." The full results are expected to be released within the next few days and will be reported in next week's edition of the Signpost.
Editor's note: Seven years ago, the Signpost ran a 17-part series on the 2005 Arbitration Committee ("Arbcom") elections. This surprisingly extensive coverage was understandable, since ArbCom at that stage was still a relatively new phenomenon, still finding its feet, and rapidly becoming more complex, with more than 20 open requests for arbitration when the 2005 arbitrators took office (see the Signpost's "History of the Arbitration Committee"). The second half of 2012 has been a study in contrasts: there has not been an arbitration case since Fæ in July. Given that ArbCom's role has become more settled from year to year, our coverage nowadays is somewhat less than 17 articles.
The new logo of Wikivoyage, Wikimedia's new travel guide project.
- Indian Wikipedia summit scholarships: Editors interested in participating in the first Wikipedia Summit India, hosted by the volunteers of the Wikipedia Club Pune, can apply for scholarships. The application period started on December 1 and the deadline is December 15.
- South African campaign for free mobile access to Wikipedia: On December 10, the news portal news24.com reported on a campaign by South African educators for free mobile access to Wikipedia. The model pointed to is the WMF's Wikipedia Zero initiative.
- German paid editing evaluation project: On December 10, Wikimedia Germany approved an €81,000 grant for a project evaluating paid editing concepts on Wikipedia. The investigation, to be conducted over the coming year, will be led by Southpark.
- New Wikivoyage logo: The community contest determining the logo for Wikimedia's new travel guide project, Wikivoyage, established a clear winner. The original proposal of the first round won with 68 votes.
- WMF restructure: On December 7, the WMF announced the first phase of its restructure, which aims to improve support for core tasks such as a better software interface for Wikipedia. While the final decision on the structure of the tech department will be taken early next year, the current broad working management structure of the global development department (renamed Grantmaking and Programs) has been made permanent.
- WMF audit report 2011–12 published: On December 10, the Wikimedia Foundation published its audit report 2011–12. KPMG states in the document that it represents the financial position "fairly, in all material respects" and that the year ended in "conformity with US generally accepted accounting standards".
- WMF board minutes published: Minutes of the WMF board of trustees October meeting have been published. The meeting focused on administrative business and the Legal Fees Assistance Program,.
- English Wikipedia miscellanea
- New administrator: Harrias, a British editor based in Somerset, passed RfA this week with strong consensus, marking the 27th new administrator this year—a total far below that of previous years.
- Final pending changes update: Level one of the controversial pending changes tool, which affects only new and unregistered editors, has been enabled across the English Wikipedia.
Explore Wikipedia history by browsing The Signpost archives