[WikiEN-l] Proposal: Task forces

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Thu Feb 16 23:23:39 UTC 2006

Chris Jenkinson wrote:

>After a task force as a group were happy with their suggested 
>modification of a policy, they would require consent from the community 
>to implement it. This would probably be done via a simple straw poll, 
>and due to the task force already having a mandate from the community to 
>develop changes, would be typically lower than the usual "consensus" 
>pass mark (e.g. a simple majority would be sufficient to implement the 
So much of this tries to put old whine in new bottles.  It is based on 
the premise that policies should provide unchangeable black and white 
alternatives.  Or that a majority vote creates a policy that will be 
binding on everybody, and remain fairly inflexible.  It sets up 
situations where there are winners and losers, and minimizes the 
opportunities for those losers to seek alternative solutions. 

>This would be useful for Wikipedia because of the increasing size of the 
>community. Due to its size, people are excluded from topics they may be 
>interested in discussing and debating but may not know are under 
>discussion purely due to the amount of things which are under 
>discussion. Unfortunately this means it is likely that good ideas are 
>excluded. Forming a body tasked specifically with reform of an area, 
>which actively solicits feedback from the community gives people a 
>single place to discuss topics they are interested in. In a large group, 
>decision making becomes difficult.
This is all superficially true.  At least the problems that you describe 
are very real.  What we really need is new and imaginative ways to 
approach decision making, not just grafting tired old techniques onto 
the problems.  Whatever the solution it must be very wiki.  This implies 
a very high level of uncertainty that goes well beyond the comfort zone 
of many people.

>The general idea of this was inspired in part by select committees in 
>legislative bodies. In the House of Commons, select committees are 
>groups of MPs, from all political parties, each one dedicated to a 
>different government department. Their role is to hold the government to 
>account, solicit feedback from the general public, and to report to 
>Parliament. While of course a direct comparison between Wikipedia and a 
>legislative body is naturally flawed, the concept of a small body of 
>people, interested and dedicated to a specific field, to help improve 
>the system to improve its functioning is a good one and works well in 
Commons commttees may very well do what you say... to a point, but when 
they reach a conclusion contrary to the cabinet's desires party 
discipline must prevail.

>Things to consider
>* How would task forces be created?
Somebody starts a talk page

>* How would members of a task force be appointed?
Let anyone participate at any time.

>* Is a single "policy committee" a better idea than having multiple task 
Whatever ... It makes no difference.

>* How do we ensure that a task force is representative of opinion across 
>Wikipedia/has community support?
That's impossible.

>* How do we ensure that time spent dealing with policy does not affect 
>contributors' time spent on encyclopaedic articles?
:-D  Extend the length of the day beyond 24 hours.


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