This page is archived by .
Cracking a tough nut
Hi Isaacl. I assume you're familiar with the perennial naming-victims-in-mass-casualty-articles issue, e.g.    . Seems to me opinion is evenly divided among editors, and it's a large group of editors–too big for consensus, perhaps. Do you think there's a content dispute resolution system that can resolve this issue? – Levivich 04:07, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- A case like this is a matter of editorial judgement where there is no absolute right or wrong answer: it depends on how much weight is given to the applicable, conflicting policies. So it's pretty much a textbook case of a decision that can't be made by consensus in a large group. What can be tried (and will be part of the content dispute resolution proposal I am working on) is to sum up the cases for both sides in concise lists. At the very least, this will provide a reference for future discussions, so people can focus on raising new points and avoid rehashing old ones. I did this years ago for the then-perennial discussions on merging Montreal Expos with Washington Nationals. After that, if anyone proposed a merger, I'd point them to the FAQ I wrote and say, any new points to add? That pretty much stopped the arguing. Now the scenario you raise is obviously different and I can't see discussion stopping, but at least the conversation can start 12 steps ahead, instead of from scratch each time, and go right to the nuances of the specific article in question. isaacl (talk) 05:30, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- The other place where I used this technique is one you're familiar with: I wrote the FAQ on the relationship between the sports-specific notability guidelines and the general notability guideline. This still gets discussed as there are editors who would like a different relationship. However the amount of discussion on the current interpretation of the guideline has been reduced, because editors can point to the FAQ, which provides citations for the original intent when the guideline was created. isaacl (talk) 05:54, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- The argument synopsis sounds like a good start, although I still wonder what happens when we arrive at any given article at a decision point that has no right or wrong answer and about which editors are evenly divided. Flip a coin?
- The FAQs are helpful; unfortunately not universally followed. The closers in that area are quite good, though. I'm impressed it's such a contentious area of AfD, yet rarely ends up at DRV. Looking forward to reading you proposal as well; I'm watching the fostering collaboration page so I'll see it if you post it there but please let me know if you end up posting it somewhere else. – Levivich 06:21, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- The traditional answer is that a failure to reach consensus means status quo; combine that with biographical concerns and I would think that leads to exclusion. However what have you seen in your experience for these articles? Another approach would be to get the interested parties to agree to a vote, though I suspect for this particular issue where privacy is a concern, it may be hard to secure such an agreement.
- If you are referring to sports biographies when you say the contentious area rarely ends up at deletion review, I suspect the large supply of potential biographies to create or raise for discussion results in editors being willing to move on to the next one. I don't want to get anyone's expectations up too much with my planned proposal; it won't be revolutionary and I'm fully aware it'll probably serve more as a strawman for discussion than something that is adopted in the near term. I am hopeful, nonetheless, that it can lay some groundwork exploring the problems with English Wikipedia's current decision-making traditions. isaacl (talk) 13:06, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- You'd think our PAGs like CONSENSUS, ONUS, and BRD, stating the "exclude-unless-consensus" rule, would settle these disputes, but so often instead of bold, revert, discuss, it's bold, revert, cry censorship/POV, edit war. I see people edit warring to include all the time, especially in political articles. (Granted, there are a lot of, uh, "repeat players" in that area, so maybe the problem isn't really that widespread.)
- Funny, when I edited my comment, I edited out the part where I said what "that area" is, but you guessed right, sports bios (esp. BLPs). I think you're right about the "on to the next one" mentality keeping reviews down, and, unfortunately, that same thinking sort of applies to mass shooting articles, too: there will always be another one. I fear, though, that we end up in an endless loop, of arguing the same things over and over, without resolution. Meanwhile, the repeated arguing builds up bad feelings, leading to toxicity in the editing environment. With sports bios, for example, you can somewhat break that down into the SNG and the GNG editors. Essentially the same article can be kept or deleted depending on which "group" shows up for the discussion. When they both participate, it's a numeric stalemate, leading to either no consensus closes (which just leads to renominations and perpetuates the cycle), or the closer discounts !votes. And even though I may agree that the discounting is proper according to policy, I can see that if an editor's !vote is repeatedly discounted, it creates animosity between editors, and between editors and closers. In over half a year of regular footy AfD participation, it seems to me the core group of GNG and SNG !voters are no closer to compromise than they were at the beginning of the year, despite over a hundred conversations (and despite there nevertheless being a largely collegial environment, to the credit of the editors involved). In both the sports bios and shooting victims examples, the editors involved agree on 99% of the issues involved, and are arguing over 1%, but the argument is perpetual with no resolution in sight.
- So that all leads me to wondering if either side would accept a binding dispute resolution method–i.e., choose an umpire or umpires, and let them decide. Or else, choose a method (like straight voting), the outcome of which is binding. But, as you've written in your essays and elsewhere, consensus doesn't seem to be able to resolve the disputes here. – Levivich 15:59, 13 September 2019 (UTC)
- I think a key factor is how ideological is the disagreement. That's why I think it would be hard to get an agreement for a binding resolution based on voting or content arbitration where privacy is an issue, because people feel strongly about unduly including people's names and other information in one of the world's highest ranked websites in search engines. From the other end of the spectrum, there was a long-standing disagreement on what should be included in baseball biography infoboxes that ended up getting resolved through voting. People were amenable to it because getting a settled decision was more important to everyone than continuing to argue about it.
- Disputes on sports biographies are somewhat straightforward, once everyone can agree that the general notability guideline is what really needs to be examined in the end (which has always been the consensus view by those who created the sports-specific notability criteria), and not achievements. It then usually boils down to disagreements on what constitutes significant, non-routine coverage from independent, non-promotional, reliable sources. The complicating factor is that sports journalism usually has a degree of local promotion, because that's what its audience wants, which needs to be discounted.
- There are some who think policy should only be made from the bottom up, and so people should have lots of articles for deletion discussions, for instance, and then a standard for having an article can be derived from them. While it's true that policies stand the best chance of being followed when they reflect what has been done historically, the problem with insisting that what happens at AfDs is more important than policies is that it dooms people to eternally participate in all related AfDs. Otherwise, a perception can arise that consensus has changed when it hasn't. But this is terribly inefficient; the point of having a policy is so it can save editors from re-discussing the same matters over and over again.
- So with the goal of making discussion more efficient, if an agreement on a guideline or policy can't be reached, having a pros and cons list of the different sides of a dispute will at least limit the redundant discussion, and thus hopefully decrease acrimony between editors. isaacl (talk) 16:43, 13 September 2019 (UTC)