ArbCom election

Criticism of the ArbCom

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This week, the Wikipedia Signpost examines criticism of the ArbCom and the proposed reforms.

The Wikipedia Arbitration Committee has been criticized from its beginnings, and the discussion regarding reforms is ongoing.

A major criticism of the ArbCom centers around the speed and efficiency of the proceedings. The multi-step process, described in detail last week, elongates the process. A typical case takes weeks, if not months, from the time it is brought to the conclusion of the case. Often the delay in closing the case results in justice being denied for that period of time. In addition, disputes taken to the ArbCom are often aggravated during the time the ArbCom is considering the case.

Most cases, in fact, take months to conclude. The recently concluded ArbCom case involving Cool Cat, Davenbelle, and Stereotek, took exactly three months to finish. The case was first brought to the ArbCom on 5 July, 2005, and was closed on 5 October, 2005. The case is not an exception; the vast majority of arbitration cases are extended over multiple months.

Because of the length of the cases, backlogs often develop at requests for arbitration. Multiple requests are listed, but weeks often pass before the cases are either accepted or rejected. Currently, several cases have stalled at the requests page, lacking the adequate number of votes to accept or reject the case. For example, the case filed against Willmcw and SlimVirgin by Rangerdude has been listed since the middle of August, but with only three votes to accept the case, cannot move on to the evidence stage. The last vote by an Arbitrator was nearly a month ago, and no further discussion has taken place since that vote.

The backlogs at the requests page contribute to the amount of work each Arbitrator is required to do. Many have criticised the current system as being inadequate; the critics claim that the ArbCom is overworked. With disputes often skipping steps in the dispute resolution process, such as mediation and requests for comments, the ArbCom is burdened with a large number of cases. With less than ten active Arbitrators usually, the ArbCom becomes inefficient and risks "burning out" Arbitrators. The high rate of resignations or inactivity is pointed to as evidence that the workload is too high for the ArbCom.

In addition, many have criticised the twelve member Arbitration Committee, claiming that it resembles a cabal. Despite advocates of the ArbCom claiming that there is no cabal, critics point to the temporary appointments of Fennec, JayJG, and Jdforrester as proof that an "elite society" exists. The three temporary appointments were made by Jimbo after many members of the ArbCom resigned earlier this year. The three Wikipedians were not the next three in terms of the number of votes in the 2004 elections, so questions were raised by critics about the appointments. "I remember the [December 2004] election perfectly well. In fact, I myself was a candidate. If [the temporary appointments are] just about votes, why don't we have another vote? Or we should go straight down the line and appoint the next two, who were Mirv and Cecropia. I thought the idea was that uncontroversial people were supposed to be appointed as placeholders until the next election," commented Everyking. Echoing Everyking, -Ril- stated, "Jimbo Wales has publicly announced that he doesn't support democratic elections, and would rather have arbitrators that he is friends with, than those with popular support in elections. He has also, in the announcement, stated that his appointment of (temporary) arbitrators has more to do with his favouring of their judgements in preference to those that might be made by editors such as User:Mirv (the next in line in the prior election)."

However, many others supported Jimbo's decision. "The arbitration committee made a short list of people we thought would make good arbitrators (based on our previous experiences with them), and Jimbo took our recommendation and appointed arbitrators from our short list," said Raul654, in response to -Ril-'s statement. "So no, he did not appoint them because he is friends with them; as Jimbo put it so succintly, he appointed them because we told him we think they would make good arbitrators (and he trust our judgement)." Pcb21 also voiced his approval of the process, commenting that he wished "best of luck to all new arbitrators. I am sure you will all easily prove why this trust has been placed in you." In addition, Jimbo defended his actions, saying, "The fundamental job of the ArbCom is to defend the community so that we can get our work done. This is a touchy and difficult job requiring difficult judgments."

More criticism has also been voiced regarding the process and jurisdiction of the ArbCom. Currently, the ArbCom "primarily investigate(s) interpersonal disputes", according to the Arbitration policy. This effectively means that most pure content disputes are rejected by the ArbCom, though cases involving point of view pushing have been accepted recently. 172 states, "The Arbcom still focuses too much on personality instead of the merit of the edits, and too much on process instead of product."

Next week — An in-depth look at the current members of the ArbCom, and their opinions of it.
Note: Reforms of the ArbCom will be written about at a later date.

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If it's of any help, for further information on some of my more mentioned criticisms from March 2004, see [1], [2], [3], and [4]. While I was around 7 points from winning in the last election in December, these links feature the two runner-ups in that election alluding to my statements and touching on the same line of criticism. 172 | Talk 01:43, 10 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I think this is one of the poorer Signpost articles I've read recently. The arbitration committee has been much criticised over the years. However, this article misses a great deal of the issues, instead giving half its time to Everyking and Ril's whingeing about a decision which was pretty much universally praised/accepted by everyone else. Ambi 12:36, 11 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Which issues do you think I missed? Thanks for the input. Flcelloguy | A note? | Desk | WS 22:19, 11 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
In the early days, it focused around the fact that they were so slow and were perceived as being relatively toothless. After the changing of the guard in January, there was a period where we were copping some flak for making decisions too quickly, and then as people burned out, we were again being criticised for being very much too slow. There's also been criticism of being involved in cases between good editors (the Jguk debacle comes to mind). But when the focus is instead on whingeing from all of two users who've got axes to grind after themselves being sanctioned (in decisions that were widely supported by the community), then it just comes across as bad journalism. Ambi 04:32, 12 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
I am inclined to agree - I think it's particularly odd that Mirv's criticisms about the arbcom aren't mentioned anywhere in the article. If you want someone making arguments similar to EK and Ril that is unsanctioned, did well in the last arbcom election, and has been very vocal, I'd turn to him. Snowspinner 22:13, 16 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I have to laugh. Here's Ambi complaining that you noted that the cabal chose the temporary arbcom members and some complained. Hmmm. I don't believe there was "universal" praise for Jimbo's decision. There was some of the usual kissing up to Jimbo but some unhappiness at the notion that the cabal's choice is preferable to the community's choice. Grace Note 01:05, 18 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Wow. Three sanctioned users. Still doesn't equal "the community". Ambi 01:20, 18 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

The Wikipedia Signpost appreciates all of your input, and we'll strive to improve our quality in the future. We are dedicated to reporting a fair and balanced story, and we will continue to do so. While the article was indubitably lacking in some aspects in retrospective, I will stand by the article including opinions from -Ril- and others. I see no reason why we should exclude their opinions, even if some consider it "whining" — it is a valid criticism (and when I say valid, I don't mean that I support - or not support - their opinions) that adds to the article. In the future, we will try and improve our articles. Thank you for your feedback, and please continue giving us your valued opinions. Flcelloguy | A note? | Desk | WS 20:41, 18 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]

That you mention their opinion is not my beef. That you refer to it as being held by "many" and go into more detail about it than other is patently misleading. Upon reading this article, one would assume that there'd been widespread controversy about this - not the complaints of two or three users with a grudge after themselves being sanctioned. Ambi 06:24, 19 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Whoops, "some" would probably have been a better term to use, and I apologize. Also, I've already said that I probably could have expanded some of the earlier criticisms, but I didn't intentionally try to do any of this. I guess the point is kind of moot now, but thanks for the input. :-) Flcelloguy | A note? | Desk | WS 19:31, 19 October 2005 (UTC)[reply]


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