Since voting for the new project wikinews is well
under way... I would like to mention 2 things.
When Erik set the vote, he set the voting bar at 50%.
That means that if the number of approval is just over
the number of disapproval, the project will be
accepted (and obviously, it will be, since much more
than 50% of people are supportive).
What matters is not just whether people support or oppose, but also to
which degree. As you say, in a simple majority vote, 51% of people could
say "Uh yeah, let's give this a try", and 49% "IF WE DO THIS, WE'RE
DOOMED! THE SKY WILL FALL DOWN ON US! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" Obviously, this
is not a very good basis to start a project on. So I think we should
experiment with voting systems which account for the degree of preference.
In general, however, as an innovative organization, I believe we should be
willing to try out new things if a majority is enthusiastic about them,
and if no significant flaws in the proposal have been pointed out. Those
who do not try new things do not learn new things. I fully accept the
possibility that Wikinews may be a failure. Even if it will be, it will
provide us with many valuable lessons - for the peer review process in
Wikipedia, for new projects which operate in a time-critical fashion, for
neutrality on current issues, and so forth. And if it succeeds, it will be
I also hold the notion that we can find consensus on any project
substantially different from the existing ones to be very noble, but very
unrealistic. On a project like the Wikimedia Commons, where its usefulness
is not in dispute by anyone - yes. But something like Wikiversity or
Wikifiction - no.
The consensus principle is great for reasonably small groups of
contributors working on an article. It can even scale to some extent when
certain objections can be ruled out on the grounds of not being
"actionable", as they can be on [[en:Wikipedia:Featured article
As one example of consensus going awry, take my
[[en:Wikipedia:Quickpolls]] proposal. In this case, I refined the proposal
as best as I could to make everyone happy. The result was a lowest common
denominator idea which didn't have some of the safeguards in place that I
originally wanted. A consensus process with a large group of people, even
if it ever arrives at a conclusion, will *not* magically result in the
best possible solution. In some cases, it will result in the worst.
While it is important to listen, it is also important to maintain the
integrity and the consistency of an idea. Therefore, even if future
project decisions should not use a simple majority rule, I strongly advise
against using a consensus rule.