Standard offer

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
(English) 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.

The standard offer is a set of parameters some Wikimedians believe in for when a user hit with a siteban or indefinite block should be unblocked or unbanned. If the user waits six months, without sockpuppetry, promises to avoid the behavior that led to the block/ban, and doesn't create any extraordinary reasons to object to a return, then he has fulfilled the standard offer criteria, assuming his situation was not an extreme case such as one in which law enforcement could have become involved.

The English and Russian Wikipedias appear to be the only Wikimedia wikis with a project page about the standard offer, or whose arbitration committee has endorsed the standard offer. It is not a global policy or guideline. However, users sometimes suggest the application of the standard offer in Simple English Wikipedia discussions about unblocking.

In some cases, such as when a banned user is caught engaging in sockpuppetry, the enwiki ArbCom has been known to require that the user stay away for a year, rather than six months, before applying for an unban. It is unheard-of for the ArbCom to officially require any waiting period longer than a year before submitting another unban request.


Providing a safety valve[edit]

The standard offer is a safety valve to protect against occasional or temporary stupidity on the part of the community, the ArbCom, and individual users. Sometimes those who ban are in the wrong; sometimes those who are banned are in the wrong. It would be unreasonable to expect that any individual would always obey all rules, or that any community or its judiciary would always make the best decisions and avoid running to excesses. The standard offer limits the harm that can come from these mistakes by limiting the period that the sanctions usually run and allowing for another chance as the default rather than the exception.

Limiting drama[edit]

The standard offer also limits the amount of drama that can result from a ban by making it unnecessary, after six months, for a user seeking to be unbanned to show that his ban was unjustified. He can, at that point, simply ask that the ban be lifted in light of his contributions to other projects and his willingness to obey the rules. This puts a six-month sunset period on any disputes, which might otherwise rage for years.

Not assuming bad faith[edit]

The standard offer gives users the benefit of the doubt. It avoids assuming that the user has bad faith in wanting to allowed to resume editing, even if he has demonstrated bad faith in the past.

Allowing a way to cut through Gordian knots[edit]

The history of a user's activity and blocks/bans can often be very complex. It would be time-consuming to examine all the past edits and try to weigh the pros and cons of allowing the user back on. The standard offer provides a way to cut through that, solving the problem without rehashing old stuff.

Saving face[edit]

If the user was, in fact, punished overly harshly, he can be let back onto the wiki after six months without the community's or ArbCom's needing to admit that mistake. Theoretically, people should not mind admitting mistakes, but in practice, often people want to put such matters behind them and not revisit them, once the decision has been made. The standard offer provides a way to do that and still let people back onto the wiki. It can be a face-saving measure.

Manifesting the wiki way[edit]

The standard offer is also a manifestation of the "wiki way," which is to make bad changes easy to reverse rather than hard to make. Any actions taken on a wiki can be reversed fairly easily (technically speaking), so if a user is unbanned and misbehaves, fixing the damage is just a matter of hitting a few buttons. If he is then rebanned, the community will not need to deal with him for another six months.

Providing an incentive for good behavior[edit]

The standard offer gives banned users a reason to stay away for six months, rather than engaging in sockpuppetry. If the standard offer were to be abolished, then banned users might feel that they might as well continue editing whenever they had a reasonable chance of getting away with it, because they had nothing to lose but the time spent making edits that could be deleted or reverted. They would become outlaws rather than temporary exiles.

Trying to detect and unmask all these sockpuppets, and revert their edits, could be more time-consuming and disruptive than simply letting the user come back every six months to have another short run and then get kicked off. At least when a user comes back with permission, his connection to the permitted account is known and it is easier to keep an eye on his activities for possibly bad behavior. Also, if the community or ArbCom extends another opportunity, the user may have more of a mentality of "they were nice enough to give me another chance" rather than "they wouldn't even give me another chance, after I was willing to wait six months, so to heck with their rules"; the former is more conducive to promoting good behavior.

Recognizing that people and communities can change[edit]

At the time of banning, a person might not be a good fit with the community. Either the person or the community, or both, could change in a six-month period so that they could be more compatible. People get older and gain knowledge and wisdom, and their personalities change; communities' cultures and memberships change over time. Arbitrators come and go from ArbComs, and a user who was kicked off the wiki by one ArbCom might be able to coexist with another ArbCom.

See also[edit]