Following discussions with some fellow Meta admins about the need for clarifications of the RfC rules and perhaps updating and improvement of the processes surrounding it, I am working on some reform and improvement of the RfC procedure, to ensure that we no longer have RfCs open for years and years.
The situation before the start of this process
- There are a lot of very old RfCs open
- There seem nobody really interested in closing RfCs, even when the matter at its core was long resolved, and, as in some cases, the original filers asked for its closure; I get the distinct feeling that until this effort was started, nobody was directly working on RfCs as a whole
- There are a lot of RfCs where only one user alleges a problem
- There are a lot of RfCs where even if consensus was reached, it was reached so long ago that it was no longer enforceable, or subsequent RfCs reached different a different consensus
- There are a lot of RfCs about exquisitely local matters
- The RfC page is hard to navigate, not "attractive" or clear.
- The first priority should be to close RfCs that have been open for years and have had little or not input for years. I have been working in this direction, and have so far either closed or marked as already closed 25 RfCs. Now the oldest active RfCs are from 2010.
Policy and in general conceptual ideas
- Meta admins should close RfCs, Stewards should close global RfCs (as in ones that affect global rights, multiple wikis, etc -- I'm talking about policy changes rather than users; with the caveat that formal global ban discussions should be closed by stewards)
- No user should close a RfC he's involved in (without defining what involved means, Meta historically has allowed some latitude)
- RfCs without significant activity for a fixed period of time (6 months, 1 year), should be "automatically" closed (by automatically I mean that the policy would tell admins to go close it) -- it's impossible to implement a consensus reached say 3 years ago...
- We need a way to dealt with RfCs on User conduct where only one user alleges impropriety. They should not be allowed to sit there if not even a single other user is willing to support that point of view
- Users mentioned in a RfC must be notified. This has to be a non-negotiable thing. Users have RfCs open against them personally and never been notified of them for years. That is not acceptable. The notification should be made on their own project too, users can't be expected to be on meta 24/7.
- Meta admins should take a more involved role, moderating discussions if they get too heated and attempting mediation
- Users should be deferred to local dispute resolution and policy venues wherever possible. This is aimed at those who, having been blocked or banned from their original project, come here to accuse administrators of being abusive. While Meta is happy to take a look at serious problem, such as the trwiki complaints and the hiwiki complaints, we should not be indulging every blocked user's wishes for another shot. I would think that unless multiple users complain about a generalized problem, we can safely close all such requests when the wiki has a local arbitration committee and redirect them there.
- Users from different wikis who have interest and experience in dispute resolution procedures should be encouraged to take part in it.
- In general, RfCs should be a short, focused burst of discussion, rather than a process dragged out for years. People change opinion over time, and 1 or 2 years are already faaaaar too much for any discussion to take place
- The RfC page should be re-designed with some goals in mind:
- Clarity -- information should be easy to access and unambiguous and users should be able to tell what a RfC is about by looking at the RfC index page
- Ease of access -- Open RfCs should be showcased rather than bunched together with closed ones, and older ones should be emphasized. Perhaps a bot could weekly write when the last non-bot edit to a RfC was, so that Meta admins can see when the discussion is going stale?
- I'm thinking of adopting a table format, that would show when it was filed, who filed it, when the last edit happened, the title of the RfC and perhaps even a short description written by Meta admins
- Hopefully the sum of these procedures would slim down drastically the amount of work and RfCs around, which would perhaps motivate more users to take part in them and share the reduced workload.