Monday, December 29, 2008

ArbCom 2009?

This may be a preview of what to expect from the 2009 Wikipedia Arbitration Committee, and if this is a sample then things don't look good.

Two days ago Geoff Plourde opened a request for clarification on the recently closed Piotrus 2 arbitration case. AGK agreed that a case which had about 20 named parties and remedies upon a substantial number of them would be better named Eastern European Disputes then named after one party.

The first arbitrator to respond was Rlevse:

Question--did anyone ask this before the case closed, by any method? RlevseTalk 01:47, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, if you know Wikipedia arbitration, the first place you'd look is the top of the case workshop page. And sure enough, second from top is a formal motion to do that.

Geoff was on the ball. Nine minutes after Rlevse's query he supplied a link to the motion:

A motion was filed
here, but Arbitrators did not act on it despite support from several members of the community. Geoff Plourde (talk) 01:56, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

In a sensible world that would clarify things, right? Kirill had a comment (more on that in a moment) before Newyorkbrad dropped this on the page:

It frequently happens that the final scope of a case winds up being different from what was anticipated, and we don't usually rename the case for this reason (except sometimes by dropping the name of a party who winds up not really being mentioned in the final decision at all). That being said, I might be willing to consider taking action here if Piotrus feels strongly about it; otherwise, there's really no reason to.
Newyorkbrad (talk) 00:27, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Okay, Brad may be everybody's favorite arbitrator, but how hard would it be to click on Geoff's link and see that the motion to rename the case was actually initiated by Piotrus himself?

Proposed. First, it is obvious that I and Deacon are not the only parties. I believe that all editors who have presented extensive evidence sections or started their own workshop proposals (other than arbcom members) should be recognized as parties. Second, the focus of this case is not only my person, but quite a few other editors (this was also the case with Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Piotrus. However, framing it as "Piotrus arbcom" is misleading, as it gives uninvolved bystanders an impression that it's "all about Piotrus and nobody else". This ArbCom started as "Piotrus-Deacon" but have obviously outgrown that, and should be renamed to something more general and less fingering individuals, such as "Eastern Europe". Let me stress: this is not a technicality, naming is important (see framing (social sciences).--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 18:39, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

Apparently Sam Blacketer didn't click on Geoff's link either because he reflect's Brad's confusion over whether Piotrus wants it.

It's a bit late but a rename would not be inappropriate if, as Brad says, Piotrus feels it is important.
Sam Blacketer (talk) 19:55, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

FayssalF also weighed in with a curious condition.

I have no problem with renaming this recently closed case (to reflect final remedies). However, I'd recommend such requests be made within a week of the closure; otherwise we'll end up renaming cases closed years ago. --
FayssalF - Wiki me up® 17:15, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Um, how about considering requests that get made two months before the case closed? Could you do that perhaps? Or could you (ahem) pay attention to them?

We have not, traditionally, renamed cases merely because the final decision dealt with users whose names did not feature in the original title; the only occasions I can recall where we undertook this sort of change involved removing names, not adding them. I'm not convinced that the idea of matching the title with the scope, in and of itself, is worth the confusion that radically renaming the case will cause; is there some substantive benefit to doing so? Kirill 03:20, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

No arbitrator commented upon Piotrus's motion during the case (or apparently even noticed it was there), so even though editor responses ranged from neutral to favorable apparently, by Kirill's rationale, the fact that a reasonable motion gets ignored by the Committee eventually becomes grounds to hallow the mistake.

The most sensible comment so far has come from FloNight:

I'm open to renaming this case. My preference is to never name a case after an user since it often causes them distress. In situation such as this one, I think that naming the case after a single user in not for the best since it over emphasizes his importance in the situation.
FloNight♥♥♥ 13:58, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Although I wouldn't go quite as far as she does about case names generally, she appears to recognize the basic problem here.

What's worrisome is that several of these arbitrators weigh in with statements and questions that demonstrate a lack of even cursory examination of the matter at hand. I admire and respect people who disagree with me when their research and reasoning holds together, but it is frankly impossible to respect the opinions of people whose statements reflect a refusal to do obvious and easy homework. This is not the way to arbitrate, and several of our Committee members ought to be blushing when they read this.


Xavexgoem said...


llywrch said...

In defense of the ArbCom, I'd like to point out that many cases have a metric buttload of materials that need to be plowed thru in order to get to the bottom of the matter. And they are volunteers, so it is understandable that they look for ways to cut corners & often miss things that are not at the heart of the matter.

(Which is why I've never seriously thought about running for the ArbCom. If I have the time to contribute to Wikipedia, I'd rather add content & not untangle a Gordian knot of accusations & misrepresentations just to find who was the bigger asshole in a dispute.)

That being said, we need to do something to encourage ArbCom members to keep an appropriately high level of interest in the role. In the past members dropped out when they were jaded or felt worn out, but that proved a problem in itself: there was a lot of turnover. On the other hand, three years is a very significant committment to ask of anyone in a community where most members rarely last beyond a hndful of edits, & only a handful have been around longer than three years.


Sam Blacketer said...

I was asking whether Piotrus considered it important, not whether he merely wanted it.

Compare: I want eggs on toast for breakfast but I'm not too fussed if I get bacon instead. However it is important that the morning newspaper doesn't print my bank account number and sort code.

Lise Broer said...

Hi Sam, did you get to the final sentence of Piotrus's request? "Let me stress: this is not a technicality, naming is important (see framing (social sciences)."

What's left to ask?

Piotr Konieczny said...

I am not surprised: clerks are doing an excellent job here, arbitrators... well. This was a long and complex case, and arbitrators are only human, but...

Their participation in the workshop was much, much greater then in the two previous cases I participated in - which means that this time, three of them had their own sections in the workshop, and all ignored anything that was not posted first by another arbitrator... see my post-arbitration summary here.

I'd hope that the proposed arbitration reform will REQUIRE arbitrators participation in the workshop, and adding logical rationale to their votes.

Bottom line: I am highly disappointed at how arbitrators ignored comments of various parties (including mine at their talk), and based on lack or replies, lack of comments and bandwaggon hopping in voting, I very much doubt that more then half have actually read (carefully) important statements and evidence.

Here are few other "amusing" things from this arbcom:
* some users who had fidnings/remedies about them were not notified of them when the arbcom closed (and still aren't)
* even better, some users had remedies passed on them, where findings failed...

With all that, as I said earlier, this arbcom was not a failure. I'd call it a "minor victory" for justice, but only a minor one.

PS. Geoff is not a clerk?

Lise Broer said...

It shouldn't need saying, but for the record Piotrus had nothing to do with the creation of this blog post. He didn't know I was writing it and apparently it took him a few days to find out via other channels that this post existed.

Adam C. said...

If nothing else, appropriate, descriptive case naming allows people to at least have a chance of finding arbcom decisions that might be relevant to a problem at hand.

Piotr Konieczny said...

To be honest, I'd have preferred to be informed that somebody is blogging about me. Last time I found someone was discussing Piotrus 1 off-wiki (but publicly), I joined the discussion half a year after the last comment ;p

Lise Broer said...

Well, the disputes from that arbitration are so entrenched and bitter that good faith is in tatters; one of the participants tried to initiate a new case against one of the arbitration clerks when it ended. So I was a bit worried that this would be construed as partisanship.

The fact is, though, that something is really wrong when a brief polite request posted in the proper location gets ignored, and even upon appeal several arbitrators comment despite obviously not having read it. Every editor deserves basic attention, but when someone as dedicated as this gets the brush-off--who's written about 20 featured articles etc.--then the average editor reacts with despair.

And it doesn't matter whether Piotrus is right or wrong in his disputes; what's important is that the arbs act as if that brush-off fulfills their responsibilities. Well it doesn't. They asked for their position, and if they're too inundated to prioritize sensibly then they ought to be asking the community's assistance with the less crucial parts of their work.