[Foundation-l] Consensus [was: Top 10 Wikipedias]

Thomas Dalton thomas.dalton at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 00:42:47 UTC 2008

2008/7/9 Anthony <wikimail at inbox.org>:
> On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 6:06 PM, Thomas Dalton <thomas.dalton at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I haven't been able to figure out whether or not any of them have
>>> managed to define that concept in a reasonable manner, though.
>> Consensus doesn't need defining. Consensus decision making isn't
>> something you actively do, it's what happens automatically when you
>> don't impose any other form of decision making and everyone has the
>> power to undo any change.
> That may be your definition of "consensus", but it's certainly not the
> only one.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus and
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making suggest that
> there is much more to consensus decision making than just letting
> everyone do whatever they want.  In fact, what you describe sounds
> more like anarchy than consensus.

I didn't say consensus was just letting everyone do what they want,
it's what naturally evolves out of letting everyone do what they want
(or, rather, letting everyone stop anyone else doing what they want,
which is subtly different). Since anyone can just undo anything it
requires people to stop and talk about anything controversial and
discuss it until they reach a compromise that everyone agrees not to
undo (not the same as everyone supporting it, that's unanimity rather
than consensus). You throw in a little peer pressure which prevents a
tiny minority being overly stubborn (they're allowed to be a little
stubborn, otherwise you have a tyranny of the majority, not
consensus), and you have consensus decision making.

> The model described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rough_consensus
> seems somewhat close to the practice I've seen on the English
> projects, at least in those areas that have decisionmakers who
> formally declare whether or not consensus has been reached (e.g. AfD).
>  Interestingly, [[Wikipedia:Consensus]] doesn't even seem to link to
> that page or point to the IETF model.

Most decisions on the English Wikipedia are made using true consensus.
Bold-Revert-Discuss is basically a description of consensus decision
making, and that (and slight variations) is what's used for the vast
majority of content decisions. It becomes increasingly difficult to
reach a true consensus as the number of people involves increases,
which is why things like RfA and AfD end up using rough consensus,
which is somewhere between consensus and democracy (basically, you
accept that you aren't going to please everyone and just ignore
stubborn minorities - although RfA tends to just ignore all minorities
due to the lack of any real discussion). True consensus, by its very
nature, doesn't require someone to determine consensus, it just
requires someone to think there's a consensus, perform the action and
observe that no-one reverts it (at least, on Wikipedia it's generally
one person, in other situations it may be a group effort to get things

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