Parliamentary procedure

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Noto Emoji Oreo 1f4c4.svg This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. xlviii

The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast Wikipedia policies, guidelines and essays to principles of parliamentary procedure.

Similarities[edit]

Wikipedia:Administrators[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Administrators can be removed if they misuse their powers."
  • RONR: "...any regularly elected officer of a permanent society can be deposed from office for cause–that is, misconduct or neglect of duty in office..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 642)

Wikipedia:Assume good faith[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, assume that people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it."
  • RONR: "If the chair only suspects that a motion is not made in good faith, he should give the maker of a motion the benefit of the doubt." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 332)

Wikipedia:Blocking policy[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Before a block is imposed, efforts should be made to educate the user about our policies and guidelines, and to warn them when their behaviour conflicts with our policies and guidelines...Warning is not a prerequisite for blocking (particularly with respect to blocks for protection) but administrators should generally ensure that users are aware of policies, and give them reasonable opportunity to adjust their behaviour accordingly, before blocking."
  • RONR: "If unavoidable, however, proper disciplinary proceedings to cope with immediate necessity can be conducted when a disorderly member continues to speak...the chair normally should first warn the member; but with or without such a warning, the chair or any other member can 'call the member to order.' If the chair does this, he says, 'The member is out of order and will be seated.'" (RONR, 10th ed., p. 626)

Wikipedia:Consensus[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Consensus does not mean that everyone agrees with the outcome; instead, it means that everyone agrees to abide by the outcome..."
  • RONR: "'Unanimous consent' does not necessarily imply that every member is in favor of the proposed action; it may only mean that the opposition, feeling that it is useless to oppose or discuss the matter, simply acquiesces." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 52)

Wikipedia:Deletion guidelines[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "As a general rule, don't close discussions or delete pages whose discussions you've participated in. Let someone else do it."
  • RONR: "If the presiding officer is a member of the society, he has–as an individual–the same rights in debate as any other member; but the impartiality required of the chair precludes his exercising those rights while he is presiding. Normally, especially in a large body, he should have nothing to say on the merits of pending questions...To participate in debate, he must relinquish the chair; and in such a case he should turn the chair over to the vice-president...The presiding officer who relinquished the chair then should not return to it until the pending main question has been disposed of, since he has shown himself to be a partisan as far as that particular matter is concerned." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 382-383)

Wikipedia:Ignore all rules[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it."
  • Mason's Manual: "The purpose of rules is to aid a body to perform its duties more efficiently and with fairness to its members. Whenever the rules fail to serve this purpose and are not required by the constitution or other controlling authority, the rules may be suspended." (Mason's Manual, 2000 ed., p. 24)

Wikipedia:No personal attacks[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Comment on content, not on the contributor...it is important to avoid becoming hostile and confrontational yourself, even in the face of abuse."
  • RONR: "The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 380)
  • RONR: "Under no circumstances should the chair...permit himself to be drawn into a verbal duel." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 626)

Wikipedia:Snowball clause[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "If an issue doesn't even have a snowball's chance in hell of getting an unexpected outcome from a certain process, then there is no need to run it through that process."
  • RONR: "In cases where unanimous consent is already apparent, the chair may sometimes assume it." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 53)

Wikipedia:Sock puppetry[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "In votes or vote-like discussions, new users tend to be disregarded or given significantly less weight, especially if there are many of them expressing the same opinion."
  • RONR: "...if one or more ballots are identifiable as cast by persons not entitled to vote...these ballots are excluded..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 402)

Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Talk pages are for discussing the article, not for general conversation about the article's subject (much less other subjects). Keep discussions on the topic of how to improve the associated article. Irrelevant discussions are subject to removal."
  • RONR: "In debate a member's remarks must be germane to the question before the assembly–that is, his statements must have bearing on whether the pending motion should be adopted..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 379)

Wikipedia:Three-revert rule[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "An editor must not perform more than three reverts, in whole or in part, on a single page within a 24-hour period."
  • RONR: "No motion can be renewed during the same session at which it has already been before the assembly..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 326)

Wikipedia:Use common sense[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Instead of following every rule, it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing."
  • RONR: "At the same time, any presiding officer will do well to bear in mind that no rules can take the place of tact and common sense on the part of the chairman." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 433)
  • RONR: "Common sense should guide the presiding officer in interpreting the rules..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 133)

Wikipedia:What is a troll?[edit]

  • Wikipedia: "Trolling refers to deliberate and intentional attempts to disrupt the usability of Wikipedia for its editors, administrators, developers, and other people who work to create content for and help run Wikipedia. Deliberate misuse of processes is a favourite troll game. Examples include continual nomination of articles for Wikipedia:Articles for deletion that are obviously encyclopedic, nomination of stubs for Wikipedia:Featured article candidates, baseless listing of users at Wikipedia:Requests for comment, nomination of users who obviously do not fulfill the minimum requirements at Wikipedia:Requests for adminship, 'correction' of things that are already in conformance with the Wikipedia:Manual of style, and giving repeated vandalism warnings to innocent users...Unlike trolls who vandalize articles, the majority of the damage caused by those misusing process is fairly indirect. Generally it is best to simply state your opposition and leave it at that."
  • RONR: "A motion is dilatory if it seeks to obstruct or thwart the will of the assembly as clearly indicated by the existing parliamentary situation. Parliamentary forms are designed to assist in the transaction of business. Even without adopting a rule on the subject, every deliberative assembly has the right to protect itself from the use of these forms for the opposite purpose. It is the duty of the presiding officer to prevent members from misusing the legitimate forms of motions, or abusing the privilege of renewing certain motions, merely to obstruct business. Any main or other motion that is absurd in substance is dilatory and cannot be introduced. It would also be ridiculous if a minority of two or three members could constantly raise points of order and appeal from the chair's decisions on them, or repeatedly move to lay motions on the table, or offer frivolous amendments. If a member could demand a division on every vote even when the result was clear, or move to adjourn again and again when nothing had happened to justify renewal of such a motion, business could be brought to a standstill. Whenever the chair becomes convinced that one or more members are using parliamentary forms for obstructive purposes, he should either not recognize these members or he should rule that such motions are out of order–but he should never adopt such a course merely to speed up business, and he should never permit his personal feelings to affect his judgment in such cases." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 331-332)
  • RONR: "The chair should rule out of order, as dilatory, any motion to Commit that is obviously absurd or unreasonable..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 164-165)
  • RONR: "...the chair should not allow the individual member's right of demanding a Division to be abused to the annoyance of the assembly." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 272)
  • RONR: "But this privilege of renewal and the high rank of the motion are sometimes abused to the annoyance of the assembly. The chair should therefore refuse to entertain a motion to Adjourn that is obviously made for obstructive purposes..." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 232)
  • RONR: "...when the chair rules on a question about which there cannot possibly be two reasonable opinions, an appeal would be dilatory and is not allowed." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 248)
  • RONR: "When it is clear that there has been a full vote and there can be no reasonable doubt as to which side is in the majority, a call for a Division is dilatory, and the chair should not allow the individual member's right of demanding a Division to be abused to the annoyance of the assembly." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 272)
  • RONR: "It is the duty of the presiding officer of an assembly...To protect the assembly from obviously frivolous or dilatory motions by refusing to recognize them." (RONR, 10th ed., p. 433-434)

Differences[edit]

Requirement of a second, or lack thereof[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 35

At Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals) and other fora, proposals are sometimes raised which are unanimously rejected by the rest of the community, as expressed in many paragraphs of commentary by other users about why the proposal is a bad idea. It takes quite a bit of time to write all these comments. Perhaps that time could be more productively spent on edits in other parts of Wikipedia.

In parliamentary procedure, a proposal must be seconded before it can be be debated by the assembly. Immediately after a motion is made, another member rises to say "Second!" or the chair asks, "Is there a second?" The act of seconding the motion implies that another member agrees that the motion should come before the meeting and not that he necessarily favors the motion. If there is no second, the motion dies.

Could this aspect of parliamentary procedure be applied to Wikipedia? Parliamentary procedure is typically used by deliberative assemblies which differ from Wikipedia in many important ways. Specifically, a group comprising a deliberative assembly "meets in a single room or area or under equivalent conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participants."[1] In a meeting of members physically gathered together, the members must sit through whatever discussion is taking place, consuming the time of everyone present. On Wikipedia, members can skip reading a discussion on a proposal that seems doomed. Given that Wikipedians are dispersed among many activities around the encyclopedia, rather than being gathered in a single room, they are not all present to hear, and have an opportunity to second, every single proposal that is introduced. A basic principle of parliamentary procedure is that only one question is considered at a time.[2] On Wikipedia, many proposals are considered simultaneously. Given our capability to handle a much greater load of proposals (perhaps an infinite number) in a given time period than a deliberative assembly, seconds may not be necessary.

What about deletion debates? Perhaps, rather than having numerous members vote speedy keep, deletion nominations could automatically die unless seconded. It has been noted that certain deletion processes already require a second.

It was suggested that a better solution for certain situations might be delegable proxy, which would allow a small number of actively participating users to represent a larger number of like-minded users. The theory was that this would lessen the need for "me toos" and for interested users to personally review and comment on discussions. However, the proposal was rejected.

Voting basis, or lack thereof[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 387-388.

Wikipedia does not have a formal voting basis for decisions, with the possible exception of the 80% cutoff commonly accepted in WP:RFA.

Weighting of votes[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 1-2.

Largely due to concerns about sockpuppetry, new users' votes are given less weight than those of more established users. Moreover, votes may be disregarded entirely if the rationale is viewed to be faulty. The closing admin of a process makes the decision as to what is the consensus, although his opinion can be overturned at forums such as WP:DRV.

Allowability of caucuses[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 587-588.

Contacting like-minded Wikipedians to coordinate efforts to influence a pending decision may be considered canvassing, which is strongly discouraged and even potentially a blockable offense.

Rights of members[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 242.
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 255.
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th Edition, p. 631.
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th Edition, p. 221.

There are no rigidly-enforced individual rights on Wikipedia, and any rules granting due process can be waived by consensus. Wikipedia:Free speech notes, "In short, editing Wikipedia is a privilege, not a right; there is no right to edit Wikipedia. As difficult as it is to accept, and as harsh as it sounds to say it, there are only two rights on Wikipedia: the right to fork and the right to leave."

References[edit]

  1. RONR (10th ed.). p. 1. 
  2. RONR (10th ed.). pp. XXIX.