Requests for comment/Global requests committee

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The following request for comments is closed. Resolved with useful feedback, and a suggestion to start a new RfC with wider participation when there is a specific proposal to implement.
The Dispute Resolution Committee proposal was merged with this proposal. Please discuss this proposal, or add to this RFC below.


A global requests committee has been proposed by a number of stewards to handle cross-project requests that do not fall under the stewards mandate. Comments on the proposal are welcome. From its page:

A global requests committee (GRC) is a body that would facilitate the resolution of disputes across multiple projects, and processes requests for global blocks and bans, as well as supervise steward elections and controversial requests on Steward requests/Global (SRG). The committee will work towards conflict resolution, will give advice to projects without internal conflict handling devices and will mediate in conflicts involving more than one project.

Scope[edit]

  1. Facilitating and closing discussions of controversial cross-project requests
    • Controversial requests made at SRG, and RFC, including global [un]blocks and [un]locks (i.e., cross-project behavior problems)
    • Controversial requests at SRGP, including investigation of abuse of global rights (including steward and global sysop rights, excluding global rollback)
  2. Facilitating other global processes
    • Supervising steward elections, replacing the ad-hoc steward election committee
    • Identifying cross-project community requests emerging from global discussions
  3. Helping communities to establish internal means of conflict resolution and discussion
    • Disputes on projects that do not yet have mediation or dispute resolution mechanisms (e.g., no active admins), or where these mechanisms are themselves part of the dispute
    • Disputes involving an entire small project (or a majority of its contributors) where there are no impartial observers from that community

Stewards will continue to handle uncontroversial requests on SRG and SRGP, but have the choice to direct requests to the committee if they are controversial or disputed. Meta contributors will continue to handle uncontroversial RFCs, but will have the same choice.

Choosing members[edit]

Initial members would be appointed by the Board after a public nomination process. They would organize the policies of the committee including how to choose and replenish members each year, which would then be approved by the Board.

Activity[edit]

The initial members will have to organize their work as they see fit, defining a charter that lays out duties and procedures. They should work closely with the Ombudsmen to find ways to coordinate or combine efforts as needed.


Comments[edit]

Rationale[edit]

There has been an increase in requests for global locks, and global blocks and bans. At least two non-trivial cases were settled and carried out by stewards in early 2010, and stewards discussed that summer that they would like to have a global body to deal with these requests. Currently, individual stewards feeling sufficiently brave handle these requests when they come in, judge consensus to justify implement a global [b]lock, and respond to the request. Sometimes when a case is murky, there is no clear response -- and no other body tasked with resolving the issue. Problems can linger for years.

Background[edit]

During Wikimania 2010 in Gdansk stewards had a meeting. They concluded that there are more and more issues all around Wikimedia projects in which they have to make urgent decisions, which is according to the Steward policy, but the number of needed decisions is above the comfortable limits. On the other hand, as stewards are not able to make any non-urgent decision, conflicts remain unsolved.

One conclusion was that we need bodies that have a mandate to make decisions in conflict resolution. Two specific classes of conflicts that are regularly brought before stewards:

  • Conflicts on projects which don't have their own arbitration committees
  • Conflicts involving many projects, or an entire smaller project (or most of its contributors).

This GRC proposal addresses the second class of conflicts. The first would be handled by a dispute resolution committee (which is more controversial).

Current [non]process[edit]

All requests for global blocks come to Steward requests/Global. Obvious vandals or abuse accounts are blocked or locked promptly. Accounts which seem abusive or vandal-like but only on one wiki, or otherwise clearly don't qualify for a global response, are pointed to the appropriate local remedies.

Every now and then there is a non-trivial request, for a global lock of an account that seems abusive or has been permanently blocked on one wiki, but is contributing well on another; or for a global block of an IP that isn't clearly spamming or vandalizing, but is very active and causing some confusion. Some can be resolved by pointing the requestors to local remedies. However for a handful of cases, the problem spans many projects, is outside the scope of existing local groups, and requires assessing user behavior and related policy. This goes beyond the normal role of stewards.

A committee dedicated to these tricky global requests might handle 5 a year (perhaps there are some other than the blocks and locks that are similarly difficult that I haven't thought of yet; but those are the only ones that spring to mind. And there have not been 5 such cases so far this year). The committee would be independent from stewards, limited in their work, and organized in information gathering and decision framing. They would spend more time on local information gathering, and would often have tricky problems that are difficult for a single person to work through and analyze on their own.

Handling controversial requests is even a little bit contradicting the steward policy, as stewards should implement consensus - so if there is no such consensus, stewards shouldn't do anything until a consensus is reached. So far, however, stewards are forced to make a decision. --თოგო (D) 19:26, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
How would the committee deal with languages not understood, and cultural issues unknown to its members? With conflicts inside small wikis and unevenly distributed English skills in a community, asking locals to translate or explain something may not always be a good idea. --10:17, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Other ways to choose members[edit]

Possible methods for choosing members:

  • Wikimedia-wide elections.
    I would personally like to see this done via Wikimedia-wide election, rather than board appointment. Not only would this ensure that those being chosen are the best possible people for the committee (in general, a few hundred people are collectively more knowledgeable than ten or so) but it would also ensure that the global community is kept involved in this process. Ajraddatz (Talk) 14:22, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
    Me too. All the Wikimedia community is involved, so elections should be the same as stewards'. -- Quentinv57 (talk) 08:01, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Giving this authority to a scope-broadened Ombudsman commission.
  • Appointed members by the community members of the Board.
  • Some combination of the above (e.g., ombudsmen or appointments for an N-month trial period, followed by elections from then on.)
  • What about chapter members? vvvt 06:28, 19 July 2010 (UTC)
    What about them? Chapters are independent organizations mainly focusing on outreach & partnerships with external organizations. How does that make them a good body to choose members of a global arbitration committee? guillom 07:38, 19 July 2010 (UTC)
    Per Guillom. --Vituzzu 18:43, 20 July 2010 (UTC)
    Combination: X number of members chosen by each existing project arbcom, X number by the board and retained at its discretion, and X number of members, including a chairperson (if any) which are solely selected by global election. Chapter people can be easily added by board fiat if there is a need, then. Kylu 19:49, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
    I would suggest an advisor (either technical or from the community department) from the WMF staff as well... non-voting, pobably. Philippe (WMF) 22:01, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I think that this body should be community one exclusively (staff advisers should be welcome, of course). If there are, let's say, 10 members, then 3 could be from the community-elected Board seats -- if they want -- and the rest could be elected similarly to the en.wp ArbCom members. I wouldn't add ArbCom representatives as it would mean that communities would hurry to create their own ArbComs to have representatives in GRC. I also agree with Guillaume that chapters are not connected to this body by their very nature. At the other side, GRC should have ability to appoint advisers or even full members up to some extent, to cover diversity, similarly to the Board. --Millosh 12:18, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • We should also think about COI. It is possible that being a Board member and GRC [voting] member could be COI. What about members of chapters' boards, WMF and chapters' staff? Stewards, Ombudsmen commission? --Millosh 12:18, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I suggest senior steward could be promoted or promote him/herself. Bennylin 06:52, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
    Clarifying my idea further: I saw that current stewards are highly trusted users from various background (currently numbered 35). While not all of them should become GRC, lest we don't have stewards anymore, but they can be appointed per case basis, with their background as one contributing factor, to serve as a temporary member of GRC. For example, in an emergency case not too unfamiliar to us with regard to certain religious prohibition, the committee need to include some members from that religious background, or those who are familiar with the case background, while in some other cases members from different background might be needed. All I mean is that a fixed members of GRC cannot be neutral in every cases, so they need to be rotated; but then it might not be a practical thing to do in every case, so short term appointment might be a good idea as opposed to unlimited time (until he/she resigns). Real world example that's similar and probably more practical is UN's Security Council that rotates its ten membership (although it also has five permanent seat) among its members of 192 states. Bennylin 19:01, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
    I partly agree. In fact I'd like to see maybe 10 "full" members of the committee elected by the community for a certain term, and stewards and maybe other trusted users could then be called in on a case by case basis (be it on their own initiative, or by some kind of invitiation by the committee). Additionally, not all members of the committee have to be involved in every case, and there should really be a way to recuse people if needed. The comparision with the security council is not to good here, IMHO, as the SC's composition does not change per case. --MF-W 10:36, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Process question[edit]

If we are ever to introduce such a global requests committee, how we will do it? Another global sysop policy voting (with at least 10% of people not understanding what are they voting for/against)?

Similar to visiting Commons and clicking "upload", you can institute some obligatory reading before presenting the vote page. There's always going to be people linking directly to the vote page, but in the absence of some sort of challenge-response captcha where the challenge is based in the text of the required reading, it'd be hard to enforce. Kylu 19:53, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
Unlike global sysops, which created a new group of users that could drive by and carry out logged actions on dozens of wikis, this is a group that will help stewards respond to requests that they already get. So we don't need the same sort of overkill on discussion -- we can hold a Meta RFC about it, broadcast an essay about this and global blocking [once it is enabled], and if there is enough support here, try it and see if it helps. Each global request will need to engage all of the local communities affected -- as happens now when stewards are faced with a thorny multi-project problem. SJ talk | translate   06:24, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

Could this committee be reasonably merged into the DRC? The scopes of these two committees are such that I suspect jurisdiction issues would often arise for the few cases in which the committees would take action. In general, users who require banning on smaller wikis also have global issues that should be addressed, and it would be a shame to see bureaucratic inefficiency cause undue stress in a system which is designed to make the process more efficient. Ajraddatz (Talk) 22:19, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

There was originally a merged proposal, if you check the header. I agree with your idea of avoiding inefficiency, and would add a desire to make progress on uncontroversial points before tackling controversial ones. This GRC is less controversial than the DRC, and covers the more urgent issues. I would like to come to agreement about creating this committee, let it get started, and then work out in the other RFC how to resolve the other class of disputes.
  • OK, this is going be be a bit more on-topic for the section. I will only support such a committee if it's design was to promote community discussion and determine consensus only. I see absolutely nothing broken with the current system of discussion, just a lack of discussion sometimes, and so a committee to organize discussion would be beneficial. Ajraddatz (Talk) 21:45, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Scope[edit]

Is it intended that the GRC also takes over the duties of the steward election committee? (I would definitely support that.) --თოგო (D) 10:12, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

That's a good idea - it's another sort of public discussion that needs resolution with care. SJ talk | translate   02:03, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
And, of course, a steward candidate requests global rights of some sort. :) --თოგო (D) 10:25, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

A couple of thoughts about the scope:

  • Explicit jurisdiction of GRC would be content projects + community part of Meta and its forks. --Millosh 12:30, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Besides explicitly noted jurisdictions, GRC should have jurisdiction -- in cooperation with the Board -- over "everything rest" related to the community. For example, as there is no clear procedure for the Requests for new projects (not to be confused with well defined Requests for new languages), GRC could take initiative to normalize it. Anything which comes to RfC on Meta should be also a matter of GRC. If anyone has a question or initiative not covered by present rules, that person could be able to ask GRC about that. If it is internal issue to the community, GRC should just inform the Board. If it requires resources or affects WMF or chapters, GRC should cooperate with the Board. --Millosh 12:30, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
  • Stewards should be implementers of GRC's decisions. As GRC would be the top community body, it should have jurisdiction over stewards, as well. --Millosh 12:30, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Uhm, I'm not sure I would agree that RfC should be a matter for GRC, isn't that more the DRC thing? --თოგო (D) 15:05, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Do we really need two bodies? GRC includes DRC. --Millosh 17:48, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
I don't think we do, but someone has split it up, so at least for now we have two proposals. ;) --თოგო (D) 10:23, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I made DRC proposal as relatively week body, which would pass community voting. That was before it became clear that Board will stand behind such body. In September 2010 Sj created this proposal. I would say that if Board is willing to support strong community body, then there is no need to work on DRC anymore. --Millosh 10:37, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. Is the Board willing to agree to merge the two proposals? --თოგო (D) 10:59, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
I read this (bottom of the diff) as yes :) --Millosh 12:37, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Well, at least it reads like the Board would be willing to create the committee if it likes the proposal. :) So, let's merge it. Shouldn't be too difficult... I would say, for the sake of traceability, we should not mess up the proposal above here (because then the comments don't fit anymore), but to copy it below and start a new round of discussion below it. Page will get long, but who cares... --თოგო (D) 13:00, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. Let's say that the name GRC would be good. I think that we should archive DRC and present GRC (and some other proposals) and create new proposal as GRC. May you do that, as my internet connection is not so bright (I am on vacations). --Millosh 14:14, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Uh, vacation! Enjoy. :) Yes, I'll do, I'm at work now, but when I'm home I'll get some strong coffee and then put the pieces together and wait for the outcries. :D --თოგო (D) 14:18, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

I just decided to stay on this page, but to color the parts in the proposal that have been changed. green = new, red and crossed = removed, orange = edited, but I closed the DRC proposal. As I did add some things we did not yet discuss, please look at it again. Feel free to change it. --თოგო (D) 19:26, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Thank you Thogo, that looks fine -- could you get other stewards to share their opinions here? We can start archiving the outdated discussion to the talk page. SJ talk | translate   19:17, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
I completely missed your edits of July 21st. I'll tell to stewards to take a look on this page. --Millosh 23:06, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
  • I understand the GRC as being some kind of a global Arbitration Committee. But now we speak of jurisdiction, we shouldn't forget that these roles shouldn't be a big deal and that stewards don't have "authority" anyways. However, for long I've been thinking that stewards should be dissociated from decision. Now, all these words and discussions are nice, but it would even greater if somebody could put up a nice table outlining the duties of the GRC and stewards. Cordially, Kudu ~I/O~ 20:22, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

A couple of points about the scope:

  • Why would this committee investigate abuse of global tools by stewards and global sysops, but not global rollbackers? Global rollback can be abused, and as such I think that it would be beneficial if this committee could handle those cases as well.
  • I really don't want to see this group getting the final say in anything - in my opinion, the main goal of it should be to coordinate discussion. I think that "Handling controversial cross-project requests" should be amended to "Promoting discussion over controversial cross-project requests", and then possibly even determining consensus from the discussion since that it out of the scope of stewards. Ajraddatz (Talk) 22:47, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

See also[edit]