Method for Consensus Building
Wikipedia typically uses consensus to make group decisions. Left to their own devices, discussions often don't end well. Wikipedia's decline in participation has been the subject of a Wall Street Journal front-page article. Dissatisfaction with unproductive discussions has been cited as a major problem for participants. Even a WikiMedia Strategy task force is considering ideas for improving consensus-building processes.
This is a proposed recommendation for adding a simple consensus building method to discussions on Wikipedia. Initially it has to start as a voluntary experiment to see what changes are needed and how it catches on. The intent is to adhere to keeping it simple and avoid instruction creep as much as possible.
This consensus-building method encourages results that include all the editors' stated positions, like any consensus-based method. Importantly, it also mitigates the ability to filibuster or obstruct a discussion. It does that by requiring editors to state their positions up front, and obligating editors who object to a proposal to make a better proposal that includes all sides. An editor who does not make an effort to meet those obligations is more visible in having not participated, and may be excluded from the discussion if necessary to reach a conclusion. It makes it easier to show who is acting in good faith.
Even with that said, we're all human. So it can't possibly be perfect. We're looking for an improvement good enough to make Wikipedia more fun, or at least not setting up valuable volunteers to drive each other away, while retaining its basic principle of large scale consensus-based decision making. Remember the saying, Perfect is the enemy of done. So let's find what it takes to achieve these needed improvements in consensus building! Read more...
The fight-or-flight response developed by our pre-human ancestors may have helped them escape from angry mastodons, but it isn't constructive in an online encyclopedia. Wikipedia collaboration occurs between geographically isolated people in cyberspace. Nonetheless, sometimes editors get angry and feel a natural urge to fire off an immediate retort ("fight"). The urge is accompanied by a rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, and other physiological changes associated with the body's release of adrenaline (epinephrine). Or, they get scared or peeved or weary and just log off ("flight").
One of the best experiences at Wikipedia happens among editors with deep differences. People don't have to agree about a topic to collaborate on a great article. All it takes is mutual respect and a willingness to abide by referenced sources and site policy. If you think you're right, dig up the very best evidence you can find and put that in the article. Let the other side's best evidence be a challenge to raise your own standards and always bear the big picture in mind: we're here to provide information for nonspecialists.