Task force/Recommendations/Community health 7

Outline: improve consensus-building processes


Editors of all experience levels risk burnout due to hostility and conflict. Hostility is increasing.


More effective decision-making and dispute resolution processes can resolve conflicts over conduct, content, and policy.


  1. Create a "binding mediation" process as a "last resort" for content-related disputes
    • Although the mediation is binding, the mediators must not arbitrate a decision
    • Authorities (e.g.: administrators, mediators, ArbCom) should be granted discretion to exclude parties who engaged in disruptive behavior
    • The mediated agreement should be represented as a guideline, and should be protected for an interim period
  2. Create "representative consensus-building" processes, to manage the scale of disputes with too many parties
    • Parties would self-organize into factions, with each faction choosing a representative by consensus
    • Representatives would then continue the dispute in a smaller, more manageable forum
    • Each representative would carry the consensus-building weight of the volunteers who chose them
    • If necessary, a mediator can help representatives find common ground, or help parties select an appropriate number of representatives
  3. Encourage consensus-building by taking power away from filibusters and "spoilers"
    • "Spoilers", who frequently take positions in discussions that are outside consensus (or at the fringes of disputes without consensus), should risk losing discussion privileges
    • If the same issue reaches no consensus multiple times, viewpoints that do not make a reasonable attempt to meet core policies should be ignored
    • If the same issue reaches no consensus multiple times, the threshold for consensus should become more relaxed for the next discussion
    • Consensus-building must include a good faith effort to address minority interests, and should never become so relaxed as to become a majority vote

Assertion: The community is experiencing increased conflict, which is causing the community to stagnate

Sub assertion: There is increasing conflict in the community

Sub assertion: Conflict prevents a consensus from forming on issues, resulting in community stagnation

Assertion: Barriers to consensus-building can be reduced by improving our decision-making processes

Sub assertion: Wikimedia projects need a binding "last step dispute resolution" for disputes about content (and content policy)

  • However, although the Dutch Wikipedia has an ArbCom with a mandate similar to that of the English Wikipedia (excludes decisions on content), it has so far chosen to also exclude decisions on user conduct (no matter how outrageous). It limits itself to user-to-user interactions.

Fact: ArbCom at the English Wikipedia has recently experimented with binding mediation/negotiation for disputes that involve content, with some success

The following three cases involve a remedy where ArbCom ordered the parties to agree on a process to resolve the dispute. The outcome of the disputes resulted in new community standards, such as a guideline or an approved bot. ArbCom provided three neutral administrators to help build and assess the consensus.

  1. ArbCom orders a binding discussion
  2. ArbCom orders a binding discussion, and insists upon a strict range of accepted behaviors
  3. ArbCom threatens to review conduct of editors if they cannot agree on a process for mass delinking

Sub assertion: multi-party negotiations are more effective on a smaller scale, but the few negotiators must still represent all stakeholders

Sub assertion: The current consensus-building process includes disincentives to negotiate, which must be corrected or rebalanced