What is the problem you're trying to solve?
- To make ANI (Administrator's Noticeboard / Incidents) and AE (Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement) more friendly for wikipedia editors that are trying to improve wikipedia, while still keeping them effective for intentional trouble makers.
- To reduce use of ANI for minor issues and encourage other ways of handling problems
- To prevent the frequent occurences of rambling discussion covering a multitude of new issues not mentioned to the problem editor before the ANI.
Also to prevent use of ANI for other ends:
- To prevent editors from topic banning as a way to remove the opposition to their vision for an article, for instance to take you to ANI in the middle of an RfC that's going against them.
- To prevent editors from using ANI as a delaying tactic (example, you can't submit a DRN while an ANI is in progress against you which encourages editors to take out an ANI to delay a DRN).
It does this by adding a milder level of warning which can be used at a much earlier stage than a statement that you have just taken the editor to ANI. Then the rule would be that you can still do a DRN if you have only been notified of intent to take you to ANI and are working to improve your behaviour and to resolve the issue amicably. This need to notify you first would make it impossible to use ANI as a delaying tactic, also make it much less disruptive in RfC discussions.
This is not intended for obviously intentional troublemakers such as spammers, vandals, etc who could be taken to ANI rapidly.
This is in response to the Inspire initiative to reduce on-wiki harassment.
What is your solution?
Require that problem editors who are working to help wikipedia, and are not obvious trouble makers are notified first. They need to be given a chance to settle things amicably before they are taken to ANI. Some of the wiki harassment is mainly a case of editors being "quick off the draw" to take other editors to ANI (whether intentionally or just because they are impatient). This suggestion would require them to give problem editors a chance first.
The rest of this proposal outlines one way it could be done in some detail. The suggestion is to turn ANI from a single stage process to a two stage process.
- Stage 1. To require editors to first notify someone they want to take to ANI of what the issues are with their behaviour and of their intention to take them to ANI, say, a week before. Give them a week to modify their behaviour, and if the problem is not solved after a week, they can take them to ANI. Something like this:
- Stage 2. During the ANI itself, only the issues they were notified about can be discussed. If editors have new issues, then they need to be raised in a separate ANI with notification beforehand.
- In stage 1: The warning must be explicit, of the form "I intend to take you to ANI for x, y, z" and it also expires if not acted on, after a period of, say, a month.
- Urgent special cases such as: spammers, vandals, and extreme forms of harassment would or course still be dealt with swiftly and this requirement wouldn't be used for them. The two stage procedure is for editors who, assuming good faith, can be reasonably interpreted as doing their best to improve wikipedia, and who are not acting in ways that are causing major problems imminently such as extreme harassment.
I think this would lead to a much more friendly atmosphere, greatly reduce wikibullying, and make it much clearer to relatively inexperienced editors what is going on. It would also make it very difficult for ANI to be used by editors as delaying tactics or to block other editors whose views they don't want to hear. Also, if you can't add new disciplinary issues to the debate as it goes on, I think it would help with some of the long complex debates in ANI, and make them much more focused.
Also, though this could only be a guideline, they would be encouraged to talk to the problem editor during the week between stages 1 and 2 (for instance on their talk page) to discuss the issues with their behaviour and try to find a way ahead.
The rest of this section goes into some details of how it might work.
I think detailed notifications of intent to take an editor to ANI is probably best done outside of article talk page discussions as well as ANI and other forums, unless it can be stated simply and quickly. Otherwise, it's almost bound to lead to some comment and discussion and then you end up with two interweaving topics - the discussion of the topic already being discussed on the talk page, and the discussion of the editor's behaviour. The two issues are likely to get mixed with each other in a long thread and both become harder to follow. For this reason, I suggest two templates for the early warning.
The short form of the early warning would be in the form of a template which can be used to insert a brief statement directly into the discussion where the problem is occurring - directing discussion to the user's talk page
@VerboseEditor: Warning of intent to take you to ANI. Your posts are too long and they make the discussion hard for other editors to follow Let's see if we can solve this amicably first. Please discuss this on your talk page here, SuccintDude 12:11, 1st January 2016 (UTC)
Then on the user's talk page a new section is added like this with a longer form of the template:
Friendly one week warning of intent to take you to ANI
Warning of intent to take you to ANI. Your posts are too long and they make the discussion hard for other editors to follow.
Can we discuss how to deal with this issue? It's best if we settle this amicably, see the suggestions below.
If we can't resolve it, I will be able to take you to ANI one week from this date. This warning expires after four weeks, if no action is taken.
... (Editors are encouraged to add suggestions here) ...
To see this example in more detail, see: Example ANI Notification
Alternatively (not sure which of these is best, discuss) the longer warning and the discussion could to into a new board, of notifications for "intent to take you to ANI":
New issues that are noticed for the first time during the one week warning period or in the ANI discussion itself
I suggest that if new issues arise during the one week warning period, or during the ANI discussion itself, this starts a new one week warning period for those issues.
So, for instance, using an example from my own experience suppose that
- you are warned of an intent to take you to ANI for doing talk page posts that are too long.
During the one week period to try to fix this amicably, you make many edits to shorten your posts and this irritates the other editors as it leads to long edit histories on the talk page. To make things worse you don't remember to mark these as minor edits.
So, in that case you can be warned of this as a new issue, and of intent to take you to ANI for doing too many edits of your posts and for not marking them as minor edits. That's all fine, but this starts a new warning period, and if they take you to ANI only one week after the original warning. they can only discuss the issue of too long posts. That's because you haven't been given an opportunity to fix the new issue of too many edits amicably.
If they want to discuss both issues in ANI they have to wait for the second warning to expire.
Also, I suggest that detailed discussion of new issues that occur during an ANI debate itself must be done outside of ANI, for instance on the editor's talk page, in the same way as before. A brief note could be added in the ANI discussion as before, starting a new one week period, sending them out of ANI to their talk page for further discussion.
This is to deal with the problem that new issues complicate on-going ANI discussions, and that even discussing whether to bring them up in a future ANI is an additional complication - we want the ANI itself to be as simple and straightforward as possible. Also this all makes it much easier for a closing editor to judge the case as the ANI will only consist of discussion of the case to be judged.
This will help to keep every ANI discussion on topic, on the issues that the problem editor was notified about a week before the ANI. All other discussion, such as discussion of which issues to raise against the problem editor, and notifying the editor of those issues, happens somewhere else, outside of the ANI discussion.
Why the statement has to be explicit
Wikipedia editors complain about each other all the time, in talk page discussions, and usually don't take you to ANI for each complaint. This makes it hard to know if someone plans to take you to ANI or not if they don't say. In my case, I never had any idea that the other editor was on the point of taking me to ANI - it was a surprise each time. So, the proposal is that it doesn't count as notification of intent to take you to ANI to just say something like "your posts are too long", they need to make it totally clear what their intent is, and say: "I plan to take you to ANI unless you make your posts shorter" or "unless you fix x, y, z", whatever the issues are.
Why the statement expires if not acted on
People forget about warnings, and need to be reminded. Also many issues are grey areas with a sliding scale. Example, if you were warned about too long talk page posts, a year previously (as happened in my case), the suggestion is you can't be taken back to ANI instantly if you start writing longer posts again. They need to draw your attention to your longer posts first, with a new explicit statement that they intend to take you back to ANI if you don't fix them.
I suggest a four weeks time out. It's long enough to forget the warning, if you have a busy life, or to drift in your behaviour, if it's a gray area issue. But it's long enough to have plenty of time to bring someone to ANI if they don't solve the problems. After four weeks, they have to give you a new explicit one week warning, and so a new opportunity to fix the issue amicably by writing shorter posts (or whatever the issue is) before they take you back to ANI.
Preventing use of ANI as a delaying tactic for DRN etc
The new rule, to prevent use of ANI as a delaying tactic, would be:
- You can't do a DRN during an ongoing ANI but you can do it if you have just been notified of intent to take you to ANI and are working to improve your behaviour and to resolve it amicably.
- If it's a truly urgent matter you can take them directly to ANI. That would indeed delay a DRN, but in this case it probably it should, e.g. if they are engaged in vandalism, spamming or extreme harassment then it is reasonable that they can't take out a DRN until that issue is resolved.
So, if it is just being used as a delaying tactic, the chances are the problem editor hasn't done something that would justify taking them urgently to ANI. The DRN discussion, or whatever it is that gets delayed by the ANI could be suspended if necessary during the ANI and resumed after, if it is a long one, but most likely would be resolved before the ANI. Anyway if the ANI was just a delaying tactic, then it's not likely that an editor would take you to ANI just to achieve a one week suspension of a DRN discussion up to a week after the DRN starts. I think this would
- Deal with the intent behind that ruling that you can't take someone to DRN when an ANI is going on against them,
- Prevent use of ANI as a delaying tactic.
- Not interfere at all with normal use of ANI
Early notification - as something you do soon as a much milder action than ANI itself
Editors may be warned of an issue many times before they are taken to ANI. But the difference here is that it's made explicit that the intent is to take them to ANI. This would also give other editors something they can do which is much milder than taking someone to ANI but is still a step that may immediately resolve the issues, or help with the issues, just a formal statement of intent. Probably as a template that will say that the idea is to resolve it amicably if possible.
If this is a formal procedure as suggested here - then it helps both sides I think. The editors who plan to take someone to ANI are required to give the matter some thought, to actually try to analyse what the problem is, and to write it out as they would for an ANI. And they will take care because only what they write at this stage can actually be taken to ANI a week later. So this will help with clarity on both sides. And because it's something much milder than ANI, it is something you'd do at an early stage. You wouldn't wait until you've warned the problem editor many times. As soon as they start doing something that you think is an issue that they could be taken to ANI over, they are warned right away.
Of course then the other editor may not agree that it is an ANI issue and continue with their behaviour. But if so - well a week later you can take them to ANI over it, and in most cases on wikipedia a week is not a long time. If the situation escalates rapidly, e.g. extreme harassment or vandalism or spamming, then it becomes one of the urgent special cases and you can take them to ANI right away.
Area for topic banned editors to talk freely about their ban, e.g. to ask questions of experienced wikipedians
I'd like to suggest that after being banned, an editor should have at least one person on wikipedia they can go to, to talk about the action and whatever it was that lead to the ban, without risk of being further banned just because they discuss what happened to them. You need a small area somewhere in wikipedia where you can talk freely about these things, if it is just a single conversation thread with a knowledgeable editor. Or it could be someone on wikipedia you can talk to privately via email, or some other place where you can talk to an experienced wikipedian off wiki. This would be very much appreciated.
I have now made this into a separate project, on suggestion of @Darkfrog24: See Grants:IdeaLab/Area for topic banned editors to talk freely about their ban, e.g. to ask questions of experienced wikipedians
About the idea creator
This suggestion comes out of my own recent experiences. I've been taken to ANI three times. The first two times, a year ago, were inconclusive, leading to warnings only but very stressful. The last time, just a couple of weeks ago lead to a topic ban for six months. During all those debates there was never any attempt by editors who voted against me to talk to me personally on my talk page, to ask me any questions, to try to resolve the issues in a friendly way, or to suggest ways I could improve my behaviour. Note, all these ANI actions were the result of talk page activity only, I was not editing the articles.
Details of the particular dispute that lead to me being topic banned, for anyone interested:
I'm a Buddhist and I think that certain articles in wikipedia seriously misrepresent central ideas of Buddhism, not intentionally, just because the editors concerned don't understand those ideas very well. They base the articles on certain very technical Western academic sources that are easily misunderstood, and in my view they often do misunderstand them. Meanwhile they ignore clear statements of the same ideas in the many books and articles written by eminent Buddhist scholars such as Walpola Rahula (who was both a Buddhist scholar and a professor of a US university) in plain English to explain these central Buddhist concepts to Buddhists. If other editors try to raise these sources in talk page discussions, or cite them in article edits, they say that these are not reliable "secondary sources" on their own but rather are "primary sources" and must be backed up by sources in the Western academic literature before they can be used.
It's my view, and the view of several other editors in this topic area, that these articles and books by Buddhist scholars for Buddhists are secondary sources in this topic area (the primary sources are the sutras themselves and the in depth studies of them by Pali and Sanskrit scholars), and what's more, that they are by far the best secondary sources to use for expounding central ideas of Buddhism as understood by modern Buddhists.
I think it's the works by the Western academics that need caution. Some like Richard Gombrich are excellent, others less so, and sometimes they get things wrong. You can see that because they correct each other and point out flaws in each other's work. Also, they are written for other academics, and assume a lot of background scholarship, which makes them hard to understand. Also scholarly articles like this often present only one minority view in a very complex debate.
(Please note I say this just to explain the background, it's not meant to be an indirect way of avoiding the topic ban on me! Obviously what I just said must not be used in any way to influence the debates on these articles in wikipedia, because of the ban).
In this topic area, editors who use the Buddhist sources such as Walpola Rahula, the Dalai Lama, Prayudh Payutto etc get their article edits reverted immediately, and if we present our views on article talk pages, opposing editors tag each other on the talk pages and overwhelm us with numbers (using the yo template to shout out to each other to join the discussion), telling us that these are not suitable sources to use. I think that they genuinely believe that they are protecting wikipedia. But to us, it seems that our views are just being silenced and ignored. Editors with similar views to mine on reliable sources do just walk away from the project as a result of this activity.
The latest ANI leading to the topic ban began right in the middle of my attempt at an RfC trying to focus right down to a single word, a relatively minor point which I was hoping to settle quickly. Immediately after one strong oppose to the current usage in the article in the RfC, the main editor of the article took me to ANI. I don't think that timing can be accidental, which is why I interpret it as a successful attempt to silence me. If it wasn't, the timing was unfortunate. I was given no warning that he was about to take me to ANI. Let me put it this way, I don't think he would have had any issues at all with the length of my posts if they were supporting his side in the debates.
The ANI said in its opening statement that my posts to talk pages were too long and that I did too many edits of them. The discussion lasted for pages and pages in ANI and continued for several weeks, so long that I logged out of wikipedia for a week for a break and when I came back it was still going on, just logged out again. Probably more editors time was spent on that than on the original discussion they were banning me for. As it went on, they added more and more new issues they said I'd done wrong. One of them even brought up my wikipedia user name as an issue for the ANI, having found out that it's the same name as my small sole trader software company. This was soon dropped as a non issue (it is just my internet handle which I use everywhere), but it is a nice example I think of this tendency of these rambling discussions to bring up anything they can think of that in some way might count against you, with no sense of focus at all.
I was keen and willing to follow wikipedia guidelines - they agreed that I was "well meaning". Yet they had no interest in trying to resolve it in a friendly way. This sort of thing is stressful and leads you to want to walk away from the project altogether.
You can probably see how this suggestion comes out of these recent ANI experiences. The aim of this suggestion is to help make wikipedia a friendlier place for editors such as myself, whose only wish is to follow the guidelines. These new proposals would also make it impossible for editors to use ANI to silence the views of others whose views make them uncomfortable. That helps everyone - it also means as a potentially banned editor that you know they can't be doing it just to silence you in an ongoing RfC or other debate, because with the one week notification period, this is impossible.
It wouldn't take away any powers to restrain other editors for things they do that are against the guidelines. It would just change the process by which this is done. I think this suggestion for a two stage process would lead to many less cases in ANI, and simpler discussions for the cases that remain. It would also reduce the workload on admins and make wikipedia friendlier for less experienced editors.
I'd like to make it clear, this is not an attempt to change the decision against me in any way, as it was done under the existing rules. I have no reason at all to believe that they were misapplied by the closing admin for my case.
- Volunteer I don't know what I can do, but I'll help do it. I particularly like the idea of a 'demilitarised' free speech area for disputes and issues. Hookorcrook (talk) 01:15, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- Volunteer I also support this IDEA. Laxnesh LOKEN (talk) 04:41, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
- Encourage users also to talk, literally. Posting a message on a personal talk page may be a good starter, but may not always solve the issue. How's about offering also an audio talk, e.g. using WebRTC or simply offer a call or even a meeting (when in the same town or region), to clarify things.
Written communication in conflict situations often tends to be mis-interpreted and may create over-reactions. Try or at least offer additional communication cues. Rasos (talk) 13:04, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
- Full endorsement of "free speech area" concept. The procedures involved in AE and ArbCom are so complicated that even experienced editors need a place to at least ask questions. Even if this is non-binding, like noticeboards, it would allow topic-banned editors to streamline their posts before taking them to a more official forum. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:39, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
- You know what a topic ban noticeboard could really do? "Hi, I want to make this edit. I'm pretty sure it's not a violation but would a few experienced editors take a look?" I've got this essay I've been drafting on a conflict resolution technique that I developed during my years in an area from which I am currently topic-banned, even though it would work even better outside it. I removed all references to the topic-banned area from the essay, but the single best example of its use is in the banned area (but not the part of the banned area in which I was accused of causing trouble). That's the sort of problem a free speech zone could solve. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:56, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- This idea seems robust and a great way to provide checks and balances to help all users. Hookorcrook (talk) 01:00, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
- I was also banned without a notification. Laxnesh LOKEN (talk) 04:40, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
Expand your idea
As for expanding, I don't enough about how wikipedia works. It is just based on my own experience as a topic banned editor. The idea seems a simple one to implement to me, but I dare say it is complex and it would require lots of discussion, it being wikipedia. It's just a thought for consideration.