Forum Talk:Governance/Archive 1

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Current discussion

New governance proposal

I am currently drafting a new referendum proposal on future governance. Briefly, the intention is to dissolve the current governance structure, which clearly no longer works, and replace it with a community-driven version based on discussion and consensus. Furthermore, all current rules would be reduced to the status of guidance and the only binding policies would be those in the list below:

Citizendium [proposed] Policies

The Citizendium shall be run according to the policies set out in this document.

Usage and eligibility

1) The Citizendium shall be open to all who endorse this document.

2) The Citizendium is a knowledge resource which shall be owned and managed on a non-profit basis.

3) Citizendium articles shall be free to access on-line via a wiki and available under a licence that permits reuse with attribution.

4) Citizendium contributors shall participate publicly under their real, verified names and maintain public biographical details about themselves; minors - who must be at least 16 years old - shall provide only brief details, and otherwise personal information shall be kept private and destroyed when no longer needed.

5) The Citizendium shall sanction prohibit behaviours that restrict the activities of the project or its members, or damage its reputation, including but not limited to unauthorised advertising ('spam'), vandalism, harassment, copyright violations, libel, slander, use of the site for purposes other than providing a free knowledge resource, criminal activity, or use of material that is considered either illegal or inappropriate for minors inappropriate for minors or illegal.


6) Citizendium articles shall be as neutral, comprehensive, accurate and comprehensible as possible while respecting the balance of scientific evidence.

7) While all article contributors shall be otherwise equal, there shall be special recognition for subject experts (who shall be individuals with any of: accredited research-level qualifications; three or more peer-reviewed publications; or equivalent practical experience as defined by existing expert contributors), who shall have the final say in any dispute over content, and shall have the right to close a version of a reasonably high quality article to further editing.


8) The Citizendium community or its representatives shall decide its own governance structure and who shall be responsible for administrative, financial, legal, content, behavioural and technical matters.

9) No Citizendium member shall be denied a fair, unbiased appeal process against a decision made against them on administrative, legal, or technical matters.

10) These policies supersede all previous articles, rules and decisions, which may be used as guidance where publicly accessible, and this document shall be modified, abolished, added to or otherwise changed only via mandatory public discussion and when authorised by a two-thirds majority of participating Citizendium members; other rules and decisions may be made through voting, consensus or precedent, in as transparent a manner as possible.


Comments welcome. If there are no objections, this can form part of a petition to the Council for a referendum to take place under Article 37. John Stephenson (talk) 19:51, 5 October 2016 (UTC)

Interesting, and needs thinking about. Trivial point: the word "sanction" has two meanings, impliedly contradictory. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 21:28, 5 October 2016 (UTC)
I was going to make just the same point myself!
Thanks; I've corrected this. John Stephenson (talk) 18:19, 6 October 2016 (UTC)
I think we might do with a bit of clarification here.
  1. It seems to me reading it that this is intended as a new charter to replace the old one,
  2. but that much detail currently covered in the Charter is demoted to non-entrenched status,
  3. so that rules about elected or appointed offices would be decided by simple majority,
  4. as would any policies not entrenched above.
  5. Would this referendum, if passed, have the effect of abolishing the Council immediately, or only when its members' terms of office expire?
  6. It would seem that any disputes for which no suitably qualified Editor is available would be dealt with by the community unless and until it delegates that job to someone else.
Peter Jackson (talk) 10:52, 6 October 2016 (UTC)
Yes, it replaces the Charter and becomes the only binding document on the project. All earlier rules become guidance, i.e. something that could be followed by default or changed following a public discussion. Rules and offices would be decided by mutual agreement, or by voting if people felt it necessary. As for the Council: I intend to include in the referendum proposal its abolition, as under (8) above, any offices or responsibilities would have to be agreed by the community or representatives that they would delegate such tasks to. The general idea is to give everyone who is active on the wiki the chance to be involved in administrative discussion and decision-making without asking them to stand for formal offices first. John Stephenson (talk) 18:19, 6 October 2016 (UTC)
Ah, it looks like by "guidance" you mean binding on individuals until changed by the community. Bear in mind that some existing policies are on the EC wiki, which is not accessible (at least to me). If we're going to go in for this sort of thorough-going reform, which I'm inclined to support, I think we should take the opportunity to get rid of all the policies we can't actually find out about. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:14, 7 October 2016 (UTC)
Not exactly "binding", as they would be up for discussion and could be ignored with community agreement. It could be as little as one person stating publicly that they intend to ignore an old rule and say why, and if no-one objects, they just get on with it. As for the EC: agreed. I will put something in the referendum to say that only publicly-accessible rules may act as guidance. John Stephenson (talk) 12:49, 9 October 2016 (UTC)
I get it now. A 1-0 vote is sufficient to change, or grant an exemption from, non-entrenched policies.
That made me think of something else, though. One of the problems WP has often had with dispute resolution is that, in many disputes, the community is just not interested in intervening to sort out the problems. It's not obvious that our much smaller community would do better, though of course it also means fewer disputes. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:11, 11 October 2016 (UTC)
(for background, I'm on the Arb Com at WP, and inactive here because of the complexity of the system); WP dispute resolution works well in many individual areas--those where the whole community is involved tend to descend into chaos--as Peter says, the size of the WP project is too large for that to be effective, A proposal like this would certainly encourage me to return to CZ, if it did result in the simplification of working rules and of rigid article structure, and facilitate rather than discourage properly revised or high quality imports from WP)
Certainly it's a problem if too many people are involved, but it's also a problem if too few are. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:47, 14 October 2016 (UTC)
I see I've met you over there occasionally, in particular in discussions of dispute resolution. I'm no longer active there, precisely because their DR seems unsatisfactory to me. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:09, 14 October 2016 (UTC)

I've just been looking at the proposal as officially presented for us to vote on (sorry I didn't do so earlier). The "Question" refers to reducing the Charter to "guidance". The introduction talks, in the same place, of reducing "articles" to guidance. This wouldn't make sense for the usual meaning of articles in CZ, and I assume, in the context of the "Question", that it means the articles of the Charter.

Yes. John Stephenson (talk) 16:15, 4 November 2016 (UTC)

It would appear, then, that the proposal we're actually being asked to vote on wouldn't abolish the Council, ME, moderators and technical officers. It would just make it easier to abolish them. Is that right? Peter Jackson (talk) 10:28, 4 November 2016 (UTC)

The referendum says that the current governance structure would be dissolved, so those formal offices would disappear. There would be nothing to stop the community agreeing that someone should be called the Managing Editor and their decisions should be respected, however. Likewise, there could be a 'Council'. People may agree to delegate.
As for other offices: there have been no moderators since 1st July. (But a number of people have sysop user rights, and there's a current rule that says any of them can use those rights to tackle vandalism.) The tech staff are in place whatever happens because, pragmatically, they run the servers (no-one here has ever really had the ability to dismiss them). The guidance would say that there ought to be moderators, but the community might agree that they're unnecessary for the moment. It depends on how much structure people want. John Stephenson (talk) 16:15, 4 November 2016 (UTC)
I'm for whatever we can make work -- in a reasonably easy way. And that keeps the project going.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:07, 4 November 2016 (UTC)
Ah, yes, John, I see it does say that. I'm afraid I haven't been allowing myself enough time to study this.
Hayford, the problem is that we don't know what works. I phased myself out of Wikipedia because they haven't got a sensible dispute resolution procedure. I came here because there were supposed to be Editors to deal with that. When I discovered they often didn't exist, I restricted myself to discussion, not article editing, just as I did for a long time over there. I also joined Wikinfo, which has got a sensible procedure (POV-forking). I supported the Charter because it promised such a procedure, and then resumed full participation. With an increasing tendency to conciles fainéants, and now no ME, it's not clear whether we've still got a proper DR (in Editor-free areas). Nor is it clear whether this proposed change would make things better or worse. No doubt I'll continue giving CZ the benefit of the doubt and contributing in a modest way in either case, pending an actual dispute to test things. But at present I see no definite basis to vote in this referendum (and there isn't much time left). Peter Jackson (talk) 10:24, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
Those are certainly good points that you make, Peter, and quite valid ones, I think. Certainly we all had high hopes for CZ at its beginning and it's been very disappointing to see how things have turned out. Right now we don't KNOW how the new charter will turn out, but if we don't give it a go we're certainly not going to get anywhere (I think) with the older model. As for not voting: to me that's like the people who are saying they are only going to vote for the Green or the Libertarian -- that means they're letting OTHER people dictate their future, since it's really only a choice between Clinton and Trump.... Cheers! Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:06, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I am letting others decide, because I've got no idea. In a rather different way I did the same in our recent referendum. I certainly don't understand enough about the workings of international politics and economics to tell whether the EU does more harm than good. I voted to remain because that was the weight of opinion: most politicians, most economists, most trade unions, most big businesses, about half of small businesses, about half of national newspapers, and the Church of Scotland. But the weight of opinion may be wrong.
Now, to quibble about your election. Suppose
  1. McMullin wins Utah, which I understand the opinion polls indicate is a serious possibility
  2. Nobody gets the necessary 270 electoral college votes
  3. Republicans get a narrow majority in the House of Representatives (counting by states)
What happens then? Enough of those Republicans would probably be anti-Trump to prevent his winning. So maybe McMullin would be chosen as compromise candidate. Or maybe Trump, anticipating these results, would instruct his electors to vote for his running mate instead.
Possibilities, albeit rather remote ones. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:25, 7 November 2016 (UTC)
Yes, there is indeed the McMullin Gambit, with the *possible* consequences just as you have outlined them. I think, though, that this is 99.99% "click-bait" speculation by people who have to fill some empty blog space. Certainly no one like Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium has bothered to consider it in more than just a passing way. Myself, I would say the chances of this happening are, oh, literally one in 10,000. Which means that it *could* -- but that, realistically speaking, it won't. 45 years ago I would have had a *chance* to beat Pancho Gonzales, say, in a three-set match, but *realistically*....