Wikipedia talk:Requests for comment

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Updating the RfC guidelines to better reflect present usage[edit]

While I've not done a detailed statistical count, my impression is that at present RfCs are frequently (most often?) used as vehicles to host community '!votes'. If this is indeed the case, it seems to me it would be wise/pragmatic/kind-to-newbs to adapt the guidelines to better reflect common practice. i.e. To bring de jure more closely in line with de facto. 'Principal-of-least-surprise', etc.

Could be a matter of simply incorporating a few links and/or comments regarding '!votes', initiating a new section to cover the topic more thoroughly, or if feeling adventurous/ambitious revamp the whole page. Thoughts? --Kevjonesin (talk) 15:01, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
p.s.— Should we hold a RfC on adapting RfC? It'd be delightfully recursive. <wink> :  } --Kevjonesin (talk)

Kevjonesin, just to make sure: You do realize, don't you, that when there's an RFC that's set up to get in "opposes" or "supports" or other short-form responses that it's still not a vote? A proper consensus evaluation closing that RFC must not only take into account the numbers, but first and more importantly, the quality of the arguments made for and against the proposal. Straw polls, on the other hand, can take place via RFC or in the process of an RFC but can never create consensus (though they can help analyze or focus it). It may be worth mentioning here that RFC's can do those things in regard to straw polls, but it needs to be done pretty specifically so as not to suggest that RFC's can be used to determine things by voting and, frankly, I have to wonder if that's just not too fine-pointish to be worth the effort. Best regards (and I like your humor), TransporterMan (TALK) 15:44, 7 May 2015 (UTC)
Hi TransporterMan. Yes, I have some awareness of the official dogma/'wikidealism' surrounding such; hence my use of (and link to) the term "!vote". I'm not sure though how well (whether?) present common practice really coincides with such.
As a 'side note', I came across the origin story for the term "!vote" yesterday while wandering about—and found it somewhat amusing.[1][2] It would appear that there is some precedence for feelings of Orwellian dissonance regarding these things. :  }

"Remember, folks, voting is evil, but !voting is perfectly acceptable. --Deathphoenix ʕ 14:15, 9 June 2006 (UTC)"[3]

I'm not proposing anything so radical as officially overturning the underlying dogma that 'we do not vote'. However, I would like to more clearly and explicitly express to those coming to this page for guidance that there are in fact in common practice a variety of procedures involving editors explicitly expressing opinions 'for' and 'against' various proposals—which often carry not-insignificant weight in the process of determining and implementing 'consensus'—which frequently take place under the auspices of a 'request for comments'.
If an archetypical 'reasonable person', previously unfamiliar with Wikipedia lore, were to thoroughly peruse WP:RFC/A for a time and then start making inferences, what might they infer? I'm proposing that we explore ways in which to address such inferences a bit more forthrightly in our guidelines. --Kevjonesin (talk) 01:02, 8 May 2015 (UTC)
One of the problems with officially enshrining this approach is that it would make it happen even more often (which is not necessarily desirable) and that it would fail to highlight the differences between the English Wikipedia and most of the others, where actual votes and usually strict majority rule are typical. (Your comment in an RFC elsewhere is mostly an effort to persuade subsequent people to vote along with you, not to share your views.)
I'm leaning mostly "no" to this. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:03, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
  • I think a lot depends on what the purpose of the specific RFC is... In some cases, the purpose is simply to assess whether a consensus exists on a disputed issue (and if so, to determine what that consensus is). This type of RFC usually takes the form of a quick support/oppose !vote... with comments explaining why participants hold the view that they do. This format makes sense if all we are trying to do is get a quick assessment of opinions.
In other cases, however, the purpose is to actually achieve a consensus... this type of RFC usually takes the form of a (often rambling) discussion, with different editors suggesting different ways to resolve the dispute.
Of course, if the editors who file the RFC are not clear what the purpose of the RFC actually is, then the resulting format will be equally confused... with some editors !voting, and others discussing.
Perhaps we could do a better job of explaining how RFCs with different purposes can be formatted in different ways... and which format works best for different purposes.
I find it is often helpful to intentionally create a series of "phased" RFCs. Set things up so everyone knows that there will be two back-to-back, related, RFCs... the phase one RFC (in !vote format) designed to assess whether there is a consensus (or not); and the phase two RFC (in discussion format) designed to figure out what to do next (if anything) - given the results of the assessment from phase one. The key is to clearly state the purpose of each "phase" in the RFC postings... If you do it right, you often get a productive RFC, with few objections. Blueboar (talk) 16:26, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
Blueboar, I think that one of the causes of the increased tendency to "vote" is that the "good examples" on the page are focused on binary questions. You either change that picture or you don't; there's no middle ground or compromise position. I wonder if you could come up with an example that would show a good (=likely to result in productive conversation, not too vague) question that doesn't have a 'pick one option' result. WhatamIdoing (talk) 08:55, 1 July 2015 (UTC)
I'll give it a try. Blueboar (talk) 10:45, 1 July 2015 (UTC)
You might also want to look at the newly created Wikipedia:Writing requests for comment. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:16, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Amending a proposal in an ongoing RfC[edit]

Question. I posted an RfC here asking if a statement is supported by its sources. In the course of the RfC, it became clear that the an amendment to the statement to clarify it, would be useful. So in this dif I amended it using underline redaction, and added a note below it to state that i did that. I then went to the Talk page of each editor who had !voted or commented to give them notice of the change. Some editors are objecting that this is "illegitimate". I don't believe it is and have seen it done before. The RFC instructions are silent on this. So... am I right or wrong? If i am correct, would it be useful to add something on this to the instructions? thx Jytdog (talk) 11:48, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

In the case that you mention, you notified the editors who had previously !voted, so that gave them a chance to change their comments. There is a common practice, unfortunately, for a tendentious editor, especially one who thinks that the RFC will go against him, but who knows beyond knowledge that he is "right", either to change the wording of the RFC, or to deface it, such as by inserting a statement above the first question criticizing the RFC. This is very disruptive (and is done precisely as a way to achieve one's will disruptively). I think that they were criticizing what you did because when an RFC is changed, it is usually done disruptively. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:34, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
In the broader case, people who complain about "non-neutral" or "illegitimate" procedures are usually worried that their side is "losing".
Jytdog, so long as the person who started the RFC doesn't object (because it's possible to 'clarify' a question from "is this a picture of a cat?" into "shall we delete pictures of dogs?"), and people can still make sense of the responses (e.g., not reversing support/oppose !votes), then your approach is a model of transparency. WhatamIdoing (talk) 08:59, 1 July 2015 (UTC)
Thank you both for replying! Jytdog (talk) 10:54, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

Suggestion on RfC process[edit]

I think RfC would work better if we banned threaded discussion and asked each user to comment in their own region.MissPiggysBoyfriend (talk) 05:43, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

I strongly disagree. I find that contributors to the discussion sometimes make good points, which make me change my view. Indeed, I am starting to wonder if my irony detector just failed. 07:10, 11 June 2015 (UTC)Maproom (talk)
Heh, you and I must read different RfC's. Try this one -- all the threaded discussion makes it difficult to get a sense of how the RfC is going.[4]. I have no objection to people answering each other in their own sections; I find that such discussion makes it a lot easier to skip over certain folks who are throwing more heat than light.MissPiggysBoyfriend (talk) 12:48, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that's a bit difficult. But RFCs are just normal talk-page discussions, perhaps on a somewhat grander scale than average. You can no more ban threaded discussion from an RFC than you can from a normal talk-page discussion. Also, threaded discussion can be remarkably productive, if you can get people to stop voting and start trying to find things that work. WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:02, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

RFC Notice Template Taskforce[edit]

Question: Is there a taskforce established to create and promote new RFC notice templates?

Habatchii (talk) 07:05, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

Habatchii, I'm not aware of any. When do you think a new template would be used? WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:03, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

What RFC Tag to Use for Military[edit]

What RFC tag should be used for military questions? pol and sci seem the "least wrong". Are there other opinions? Robert McClenon (talk) 23:56, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

hist, if it's about military questions referring to past years; econ if it's about the military-industrial complex; bio for military people; and sci (as you said) for technology and military medicine. It could really be just about anything. WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:05, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

Changing the Wording of an RFC Other Than by Proponent[edit]

I don't see a statement that editors should not change the question at the top of the RFC without consensus or consultation with the proponent. I think that there should be a statement to this effect. This is an unfortunately common form of disruption. In addition to having any previous replies no longer be replying to what was originally posted, it causes work for the bot and may confuse the bot and complicate the result of the RFC. I have seen this done often enough that I don't think that prohibiting changing an RFC non-collaboratively is a case of advising someone not to stick beans in their nose. Robert McClenon (talk) 02:38, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Actually, I think that there are very good grounds for suggesting that nobody should change the wording of an RfC without the express consent of those who have already responded. Even an apparently minor change can prove contentious - or give whoever 'loses' the RfC an excuse for Wikilawyering even if it makes no substantive difference. AndyTheGrump (talk) 02:55, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree that no one should change the wording of the RFC without express consent. As Jytdog noted above, in the case he mentioned, he did at least provide notice. In the case in point today, an editor actually reversed the wording of the RFC, which had been whether to include a paragraph, and the proponent of including the paragraph reversed its wording to ask whether there was a reason to exclude the paragraph. The obvious problem with that is that it reversed the meanings of the !votes and (until corrected) made them seem ridiculous. Robert McClenon (talk) 03:00, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
To my way of thinking, anyone other than the creator of the RfC editing the wording without prior consent is doing so contrary to WP:TPG anyway. Editing other peoples' posts in a manner which changes their intended meaning is the sort of behaviour that frequently leads to immediate blocks. AndyTheGrump (talk) 04:12, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes. However, an argument can be made that the question of an RFC is a special case, which is why I think that language concerning it in this guideline would be appropriate. Robert McClenon (talk) 04:49, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
Unfortunately, this idea is not practical. "Don't change it" sometimes means "let the RFC pages remain broken if the OP doesn't agree to change the question". Also, very long statements sometimes need a very brief 'question' added to the top (for the sake of the bot/central listing pages). And sometimes, the OP isn't handy, but it's clear that you can improve the question without violating its integrity.
One should be slow to change questions without consent, but I don't believe that we should prohibit it. However, it's often desirable for all but very minor or technical changes to not be posted under the OP's name. For example, if a six-paragraph rant gets summarized at the top as "Is X a good source for Y statement?", then that should be posted to the RFC with only the date, not with the OP's name (unless the OP wants to go back and add his/her name later). WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:10, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

RfC limit?[edit]

I've noticed that certain users bring RfCs with great frequency when they do not get their way on Talk pages. I suggest that each user be given a limit of, say, two RfCs per month, or, perhaps better: you have to stop bringing RfC's for a month if you bring two *unsuccessful* ones (that is, one where the requester's position on the relevant Talk page is not successful) in a row. Or some other kind of limit that would discourage abuse of the RfC process. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:57, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

There are no limits, but if it becomes disruptive, and gentle education does not seem effective, then blocks or WP:TBANs for WP:Disruptive editing, talk-page abuse, WP:IDHT, and even WP:CIR problems are possible.
Also, it's more complicated than that. Imagine that someone creates 31 RFCs, at a rate of one RFC per day. Assume that all close on the bot's default date rather than a sensible point in the discussion (as chosen by the participants). Assume that all can be classified as "unsuccessful". When the second one finally closes as unsuccessful, there will still be 29 other RFCs in flight... and the ban will expire almost exactly when the last RFC (the one created the day before the ban kicked in) expires.
Rather than creating rules, you're better off seeking individual action on the basis of the real problem (e.g., disruption). (Also, it doesn't happen that often. I think I can remember two such instances over the last half-dozen years, although I know that I haven't seen all cases. But compared to, say, someone trying to use table formatting for the question, it's much rarer.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:20, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

Possible update on closing RFCs[edit]

I've started a discussion at Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#Requesting closing statements for archived discussions about whether this page and/or WP:Talk page guidelines should be changed to discourage editors from making routine requests for closing statements to be added to archived discussions. The general idea is that if a discussion was archived weeks ago, and you don't actually care about the discussion or need help understanding the result (so excluding anyone dealing with a dispute related to that, etc.), then you should neither request nor provide a formal closing statement directly in the talk-page archives (where nobody will see it anyway).

If you have ideas about whether this page or TPG would be a better place to clarify the best practice or ideas of what the best practice is, then please join the discussion there. Thanks, WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:41, 22 July 2015 (UTC)