In the last few weeks, we've seen a huge influx in activity here on the wiki. And that's great! Really, I couldn't be happier about it. But along with new faces and more frequent edits, some policy revisions have come up or I'm seeing places that I think we could clarify or establish guidelines to better serve the community as we grow and evolve. There has been some talk several times on setting up a method of proposing new policies or changing existing ones, but we have never really established a way to do so to the completion of the process. Obviously this is sort of a chicken and the egg scenario, but it is what it is. To date, many of our "official" policies are a hodge podge of a single person or several people piecing together policies from various other wikis and adapting them as best as they could. I think that we need to revisit many of them and make them our own, the first of which should be how to do just that. So let's discuss it here and try to come up with a way that the community can evolve and grow without working forever under the guidelines decided on by just a few people. I want this to be an open community, so anyone who wants to offer a suggestion or participate in the discussion is welcome to do so.
I've given myself a fair bit of time to think the matter over, and have a few ideas. They're in no way complete, and there's plenty of room for improving them, but they'll serve to start the discussion along:
- We currently have an article for Policies and Guidelines, but in its current state it's inadequate for the project and sorely lacking in functionality. It should be directly linked from both the sidebar and the front page, most likely as part of the Pathfinder Wiki Portal. It should link directly to every accepted policy in the project, and possibly proposed policies as well. And of course it'll need rewritten once we're done with this line of discussion.
- Whenever possible, changes in policy should be decided by consensus of those who decide to take part in the discussion. However, in situations where such agreement can't be reached it would fall to the Admins to decide among themselves the course of action that will be best for the project. If the Admins cannot come to a consensus, a vote among them should serve to decide the issue. We need to address how to nominate new Admins anyway, and expand their numbers accordingly as the project grows; you've done a great job piloting the project, Mark, and I've been able to help out when things get busy, but if the interest in the setting continues to increase we'll soon need more to handle the workload.
- Any case of revising a current policy or proposing a new policy should be discussed at least two weeks before any decision is made, in order to allow anyone who might have something to say on the matter the opportunity to do so. As a fairly casual project, it's important to remember that even our best contributors will from time to time take a break for several days to several weeks at a time. They should have as much an opportunity as any to provide input on such matters, but we also need to try and handle such matters as quickly as possible; unless the topic is still being actively discussed, two weeks should be long enough to come to a conclusion.
Revisions to Existing Policies
- Anyone should be able to recommend a revision to an existing policy, regardless of how long they've been part of the project or how active they've been.
- Each policy should have it's own article, and that article should be locked. To recommend a change to an existing article, one would start a new section heading on the article's Talk Page, followed immediately by the Policy Change Template and the proposed revision. This not only creates a space to discuss the proposal, but will add the article to the category Policies with Suggested Changes. Once a desicion regarding the proposal is made, the template would be removed.
- We should try to keep all discussion about a proposal on the article's Talk Page, and anything discussed elsewhere should be moved. If such discussions cause the Talk Page to become too lengthy, we can utilize archival subpages to alleviate the text, but I think it's vitally important that all such discussion be kept with the policy itself.
- Changes to existing policies should not be implemented until a decision is reached.
Proposing New Policies
- Anyone should be able to propose new policies.
- Each proposed new policy should have its own article. The article's title should take the form PathfinderWiki Proposal:Proposal Title, and must include the Proposal Template in its body followed by the idea itself. If the proposal is accepted as Policy, the template can be changed to the Policies Template, and the article itself finalized and renamed to reflect existing policy articles.
- Any discussion regarding the proposal should take place on the article's Talk Page, as with proposed revisions to existing policies. Once again, sub pages could be utilized to archive discussions should the prove too lengthy in the long run.
- Proposed new policies can be enacted in the project, so long as they don't impact any policy that's already been put in place and provided their implementation is documented in the proposal's Talk Page. As long as all instances are noted, it should be a small matter for the Admins to clean up anything that needs tidying and putting such a proposal into practice is a good way to provide support for and/or against such a proposal.
That's a pretty thorough overview you put together there. I tend to agree with all of it. It's not that different from the little bit we have up now, but it is concise, clear and organized and that's what we need. Just a few remarks:
- Linking to the policies from the sidebar is an excellent idea, I'm just not sure where we'd put it in the current setup. Either in "Contributing" or "Help" I assume.
- Adding the Policy Change Template to a talk page would add the talk page to the category, no? In either case, the onus of then adding the template to the policy itself would fall on an admin, who would have the privileges to edit a protected page.
- Protecting the policies seems a logical thing to do. I think we should edit the Policy Template to indicate that pages on which it appears are protected and linking to the Policies and guidelines stating to look there to find out how to propose a change to it.
- I think the concensus > Admin > Admin vote hierarchy for making a final decision is a good one that clearly defines what role Admins will play within the governing of the project as opposed to just maintaining and enforcing the agreed-upon policies. We should try to establish Admin nomination policies in earnest, however, as we ourselves (as the two active Admins) have had our own disagreement regarding subarticles and were it to come to a vote we'd need a tie-breaker.
- I do have concerns about your final bullet, that policies can be enacted before being officially put in place. While this seems ok in theory, on the grounds that an Admin could simply rollback all the edits of a contributor making these edits, the way people in this project (myself included) tend to get distracted and work on many things at once might make it hard to distinguish what changes were made. This is especially true if it is a minor change affecting a large number of pages or changes being implemented by multiple editors. In this instance an Admin would need to spend a lot of time weeding through the changes. That said, one of the best ways to see if a policy will adversely affect the project or to work out kinks is to put it into practice and test it out, so I do see the advantage of this element.
So let's see if we can't use this particular policy as a test of the system. I will add the Change template to the Policies and Guidelines page and let's give it two weeks. If we encounter problems in the process as we go, we will already be discussing the very policy that would need to be changed to lessen them. And We should test out the policy creation guidelines on the Admin issue.
- To be honest, I can see benefits for linking to the policies from both the Contributing and Help sidebars, and little reason not to include them in either. They're the foundation on which the project's built; there's little harm in giving them a little additional face time, so to speak.
- Adding the Policy Change Template to a Talk Page will only drop that Talk Page itself into the category, but even that alone should be sufficient from a category perspective to let folks know what's going on.
- The edit to the Policy Template to denote protected status sounds good. Composing my thoughts for this thread made me realize the policy templates could use a face lift anyway.
- You're thoughts mirror my own regarding the Admin nomination; the subarticle discussion came to my mind as well. I'm researching what's used elsewhere and organizing my thoughts on the matter now, and I hope to have a post on the matter up by midweek. In any case, I agree that using the new policy procedures for the topic will be a good test of the system.
- You're not the only one with concerns about that final bullet. Ultimately, though, if a new policy proposal doesn't fly against what's already in place there's little reason not to allow its use. And ultimately we'd have to go through and fix things anyway. If we ask that its usage be documented, then we might at least have something to start with if we need to revert edits.
Sounds like we've got something to run with, then. Once the Change Template's been added, I'll start transcribing our discussion here onto the Talk Page. Since it's the king of all our policies, I'm going to go ahead and make use of the Site Notice system as well, to make sure everyone realizes that we're addressing it now. Actually composing the new policy page will be a good use of our Sandboxes, too.
I have added the Change Template to the page and transcribed the above posts to the talk page
. I am protecting this page to ensure discussion is taken there and not continued here and there simultaneously.