Thursday, June 19, 2008

BLP special enforcement

Note: this was originally posted to wikien-l in this thread, but as I'm having technical difficulties (post keeps getting truncated), I'm posting it here and linking to it. For reference, it discusses the BLP special enforcement provision of the Footnoted quotes arbitration.

On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 8:26 AM, Sam Blacketer wrote:
It is headed 'special enforcement' rather than 'special policy', and I think the distinction is more than merely terminological. The policy basis is WP:BLP which has been in place for some time and has wide acceptance; I agree it would be wrong for Arbcom to change that policy.
From our own article on the subject: "A policy is a deliberate plan of action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s)."

The distinction you mention is semantic and academic at best. We have here a committee which is not only manifestly decreeing policy in a way that toys with the philosophical foundations of this project, but even preparing itself to make content decisions, both things the committee was and is (supposedly) not supposed to do. I welcome you to make your case, but to pretend this isn't a big deal is an insult to the intelligence of the community that you represent -- it is a very big deal.

Administrator status is "not a big deal" precisely because we can self-police amongst ourselves. Reprehensible actions are less problematic on a wiki precisely because they can, in most cases, be quickly reversed. This ability of anyone to edit, more than anything, is what makes a wiki a wiki. Obviously, with blocking and protection, we have made necessary concessions to the reality that too much chaos can be damaging. As a community, we expect that consensus will show us a proper path, further reducing chaos. But here and now, we're providing an avenue by which adminship is absolutely a "a big deal" because any admin will, for any reason, be able to take any action of any kind against any user or article, without any need for petty things like consensus or discussion, and without any easy way to reverse that action. It takes that pesky "wiki" process out of the picture; so much easier to run the project when people can't easily edit, no?

We're even threatening dire consequences for any user, admin or not, who dares to challenge one of these actions without filling out the proper paperwork to request permission to do so. "Be bold!" we say -- just not if you're the second person on the scene. Specifically, I see a lot of mention that we should trust the good judgement of administrators, and yet this policy decree seems to do the exact opposite.

Where are the consequences for abuse or misuse of this power?

We as a community should be very careful when erecting systems which will inevitably become barriers to the creation of content and the free editing of the wiki, or which will enable users acting unilaterally to create such barriers arbitrarily and without easy oversight or accountability. We as individuals should be very careful to scrutinize the Arbitration Committee when it seems to overstep its bounds, as many users seem to think it has here.

The remedy is, as of yet, untested, and I believe predictions of impending doom are a bit overblown, but the fact remains: this is not a minor issue and should not be dismissed as one.

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