Wikipedia:Wikirules proposal

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Over the past four years, Wikipedia has grown from a tiny village where everyone knew each other into an enormous enterprise with thousands of users, hundreds of sysops, and an unknowable number of passersby. As the project grew, so did the number of rules governing Users, so that now, there are an unknowable amount of rules, which are being gamed regularly by some users. This causes frustration and, in turn, new rules, new games, more frustration, more rules, etc. Rules have been created to suit specific circumstances, which may no longer exist, to respond to particular threats, which likewise do not exist anymore, or just for a smaller community. Rules are found in or derived from various Wikipages, in emails, statements by Jimbo or the Arbitration Committee, and various other sources. Rules are often cited and sometimes used as weapons, but sometimes with the preponderance of rules, it seems that we are forgetting the most important principles of Wikipedia: common sense, trust, and wikilove.

This proposal suggests that a committee be established to pare down the abundant rules to a reasonable size (1-2 pages) that every user and certainly every admin can be expected to know. These new rules, based on the principles of common sense and trust, would be easily accessible, and serve as a point of reference for all decisions and actions by community. Their purpose, first and foremost, would be to further the primary objective of this community--creating a world-class online encyclopedia. The rules would be stated in simple language and worded in such a way to allow the Arbitration and Mediation committees, as well as individual sysops, the discretion to enforce them reasonably. They would also contain an option for amendments, based on the specific needs of this evolving community.

The committee would consisted of trusted users and admins, as well as former and current members of the Arbitration and Mediation committees. Their discussions will be transparent, and open to critique by all members of the community, and the final result may be put up for a vote by the community at large. The committee would work in concert with the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Directors to ensure that the rules they create further the Foundation's goals.

This is a long, arduous process, but in the long run it is a necessary one in defining user rights and responsibilities. Please support this proposal.

Support:

  1. Danny 23:44, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  2. Waerth 23:49, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  3. silsor 00:30, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)
  4. oscar 00:34, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  5. Evil Monkey 00:49, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)
  6. Alex Krupp 02:18, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)

Oppose:

  1. For the moment, pending the addressing of my objections (see talk page). Mackensen (talk) 00:57, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)
  2. A defined, bottom-up democratic process by which rules can transcend from semi-policy to policy status is preferable to a top-down jury-style selection of "good rules" which is only likely to cause conflict and slow innovation.--Eloquence* 01:10, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)
  3. You can see the problem with "defined user rights" in the german wikipedia. A group of administrators is dominating users, is applying rules arbitrary to users (but not to administrators), vote was renamed to "point of view" (you can have an opinion but the decision maker is always the same group of administrators). Some administrators are always involved in edit-wars (last year a french "steward" interferced and banned three administrators) and rules often become a re-definition (only by admins). The main problem is arbitrarity and power politics/misuse of power. wikipedia - anyone can edit (if he/she is an admin). In a community, every user (including admins) should interact in the same eye height - so democratic principles are mandatory. Nephelin 09:28, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
  4. Pointless or ineffective "rules" (which are simply ossified guidelines) can easily be pared away. Adding a new "hard rules" superstructure is not the way to do this. Where is the Wikipedia:"Rules" to delete page? --Wetman 15:56, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Supersupport:

  • Forgive me for the muddy heading; I've been up all night on You Know What. By "supersupport" I mean that I like the proposal, but I think it does not go far enough; my support is so extreme it edges over into disapproval. I think nearly all existing rules should be obliterated. I like the way this essay begins, with an appeal to common sense, trust, and love; but then it falls into that star-chamber trap again. Qui custodiet ipsos custodes? We do need to put something in place of rules, but more rules is not it. — XiongXiong2char.pngtalk 15:50, 2005 Apr 10 (UTC)

Comments:

I'm undecided, but I do have a few questions. How would the committee members be selected? Why does the committee have to be "official" when its recommendations are subject to community approval anyway? Would the committee be perpetual, or have a defined end mission? --Slowking Man 00:36, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)

It is as yet undetermined. I would prefer appointment by Jimbo, but I would have no problem if it was elected (though this should not turn into a popularity contest), or some combination of the above. It is an official committee in the sense that they are dedicating to achieving this end on behalf of the community at large and are charged by the community to do just that. If the community did it together, it would take forever. The committee expediates the process. The committee would cease to exist once it had submitted its proposals, or alternately, once its proposals had been adopted. Danny 00:43, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I think this needs more discussion before I can vote yea or nay. The committee idea needs to be specifically laid out, which policies will be discussed, what is its purview, etc., etc., etc. Could we have more discussion before we even begin voting? Also, this vote needs to be extensively advertised. I only happened to stumble across it on the Recent Changes. RickK 00:49, Jan 31, 2005 (UTC)

I agree that it should be more extensivelty advertised, but at the same time, I don't see this as a binding vote, but rather as an opportunity to see if people think, like you rightly point out, that this should be discussed in greater depth. Then we can focus on purview, policies, etc. Danny 00:55, 31 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Forming another committee means more bureaucracy, which typically results in more rules rather than fewer (i.e. lots of rules about the scope of the committee's activity, see Wikipedia:Arbitration policy). Also, I have concerns about automatically making all past and present members of the Arbitration and Mediation Committees part of this proposed committee. This is not the function and purpose for which they were chosen, and the possibility that they would be determining policy was not a consideration in choosing these bodies. Consider that mediators are not elected at all (and few people pay attention to the nominating process), and the mostly-elected arbitrators have generally been very careful to reflect existing policy, rather than trying to dictate it.

This proposal looks to me primarily like a complaint about instruction creep, which I agree is a problem. I've often complained about the proliferation of pages in the Wikipedia namespace masquerading as policy, and try to condense or redirect them as much as I can. But I'm not sure that we can't fight instruction creep under existing policies, just by making a conscious effort to remove it and not create more of it. I wonder if it's really necessary to empower a committee to determine policy in this way, and by implication remove the rest of the community's ability to make policy. --Michael Snow 01:49, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments, Michael. Perhaps I wasn't clear. This committee would be short-lived. It would last only as long as it would take to create the document. It would consist of a handful of members selected by Jimbo or the board (not all members of the committees past and present), who would have no authority except to propose a document for community approval. In effect, the community would have an equal voice in creating this document, which is aimed at reducing instruction creep. Danny 03:08, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Ah, sort of like a Constitutional Convention, then? A temporary body commissioned for this purpose makes more sense, thank you for clarifying. --Michael Snow 06:02, 1 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Ye of little faith, REPENT![edit]

Shouldn't the rulemaking process just be like any other wiki activity? Wikis are known to be very useful for creating sophisticated documents, for some reason. I've had good experience with them at least. O:-)

Instead of setting up committees and building a nupedia for wikirules, I suggest we use the wikiprocess instead.

Come on over to Wikipedia:Simplified_Ruleset and tidy up my mess. Let's go!

Kim Bruning 11:29, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)