Arbitration series

New arbitrators interviewed

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In December, Jimbo Wales announced the election of seven users to the Arbitration Committee: Blnguyen, Flcelloguy, FloNight, Jpgordon, Kirill Lokshin, Paul August, and UninvitedCompany. This week, the Signpost interviews the newly elected arbitrators, after just over two weeks on the job, to see how arbitration is coming along:

1. How do you feel about getting the opportunity to serve on the ArbCom?

Blnguyen (BLN): I feel honoured and surprised to be appointed. Also, it is a large responsibility, so it makes me more conscious of my actions.
Flcelloguy (FL): I am honored to have this opportunity and great responsibility, and hope to serve well.
FloNight (FN): I am delighted and honored to have the trust of the community for this important position.
Jpgordon (JP): Grateful for the trust that's been put in me; apprehensive about the scope of the real work ahead.
Kirill Lokshin (KL): Honored and grateful.
Paul August (PA): I feel both honored and the weight of responsibility.
UninvitedCompany (UC): It is, at the same time, an honor and a huge responsibility.

2. What do you think of the election? Do you think they were conducted properly? What could have been improved, in your opinion?

BLN: I thought they were conducted properly according to what was agreed beforehand, and given the system which we have at our disposal, it's surprising and very pleasing that distasteful practices were much less widespread than they could be, which is a credit to the community and something to be proud of. Aside from the unregulatable phenomena of negative campaigning, one thing which I feel can be remedied is that of people posting misleading and false statements in oppose votes to generate negative momentum and scare off the electorate (eg, of pushing POV on articles the candidate did not edit, organising sockpuppets, etc). I personally feel that having a system where the voter submissions are made invisible until after the voting period would make this tactic mostly obsolete.
FL: In general, I think it ran extremely smoothly, even though there were a few "bumps" along the road. It was an improvement over last year's elections, when I remember moving all the voting and candidate subpages to a standardized form less than 24 hours before the voting, which had already been delayed for weeks, was to start. Thanks to everyone who helped, asked questions, and expressed their opinions by voting, the election was a success.
FN: Overall I think the election was well run. I'm a little concerned about the small number of female candidates. I believe that there is one less female on ArbCom now.
JP: Seems to me they went smoothly; at least, I didn't notice any glitches that mattered.
KL: It seemed to go as well as might be expected. There were a few unpleasant incidents, admittedly, but they're probably unavoidable in any open system.
PA: The elections went more or less smoothly. There was some negative campaigning which I thought was unhelpful.
UC: I continue to believe that the project would be better served by an election process based on a secret ballot. I think that the open voting leads to unnecessary WikiDrama. I have believed for some time that the RFA process is due for review, and have started Wikipedia:WikiProject on Adminship to that end. Using an RFA-like voting process for the arbitration committee, while having the benefit of familiarity, poses many of the same problems RFA itself does.

3. What would you say to those who supported you? Opposed you?

BLN: I hope that I can fulfil the expectations of those who supported me. I thank the opposers for being frank and giving me a piece of their mind, as a more comprehensive understanding of community sentiment can only help yield better results. I hope I can allay the concerns as to my suitability via my performance, and people are welcome to give me feedback, advice or criticism very liberally on my talk page or privately, especially if they did not give an explicit reason for their opposition.
FL: I thank those who expressed confidence in me, and also thank those who opposed for taking time to give their honest feedback and opinion. For those who supported, I hope that I will meet - and even exceed - all of your expectations, and for those who opposed, I hope I will improve in those aspects you pointed out. I also appreciate everyone leaving comments and suggestions in their votes; I have read those and will take those suggestions seriously.
FN: I ask them to give me positive and negative feedback so I can do this job in a way that reflects the desire of the overall community.
JP: I hope I can perform to my supporters' expectations. Those who opposed me mostly had good reasons, and hopefully some will find their opposition unfounded.
KL: I hope to fulfill the expectations of everyone who voted.
PA: I think most voted responsibly and deserve everyone's thanks for participating.
UC: I would like to thank everyone who voted. I am going to do my very best to avoid having the votes, pro or con, affect my feelings about any user who chose to vote.

4. What do you think of the other Wikipedians who were appointed along with you?

BLN: I have never worked with any of them previously, but I have observed them in action from afar over the last year and have been extremely impressed by and respect them for their judgment, maturity, article contributions, organisational skills, work ethic and wisdom. I think the elections produced a very good result.
FL: Wikipedia is lucky to have so many great, intelligent, and reasonable people willing to serve, and I look forward to working with all of the ArbCom.
FN: I'm just getting to know some of them for the first time. Having Wikipedian with a variety of different editing backgrounds and skills sets should serve the community well.
JP: They're an interesting and pleasant mix of personalities and opinions.
KL: We have a very good group of new appointees; I have nothing but the highest respect for all of them.
PA: I really don't know most of them very well yet. I'm sure they are all good folks.
UC: I believe that we are fortunate to have elected and appointed an excellent group of people, in spite of using an election process with many flaws.

5. After about two weeks on the job, what are your initial thoughts?

BLN: It seems like a large responsibility and a lot of work, especially because of the changeover, but I am confident that it will smooth out over time.
FL: It's been extremely hectic (but interesting), and things have been extremely complicated. There has been no shortage of opinions on our mailing list on a few issues, and the emails keep on flowing in. However, throughout all of this it strikes me that there are so many great people on the Committee, all of us working together for the best interest of the project.
FN: The committee is dealing with some tough cases now. Overall I am pleased with the way the old and new members are working together to solve the community's concerns.
JP: Theres some messy stuff out here. Encyclopedias are easy; people are hard.
KL: It's a lot of work, but interesting enough to make up for it.
PA: It's a difficult job.
UC: I've been reflecting on the diverse nature of the arbcom. All the people who are involved care deeply, very deeply, about Wikipedia and its sister projects. Yet we have widely varying biases and approach problems in differing ways. I think that's one of our strengths. I've also been pondering the best way to improve the overall collaboration environment at Wikipedia. Some cases are better vehicles to serve as a catalyst for change than others.

6. How active a role do you plan to take on ArbCom workshop pages, and in writing ArbCom decisions, a role that has historically been handled mostly by just a few individuals?

BLN: I do think that the workshop pages can be useful, so I intend to use them perhaps more than has been done historically, as I think it's useful to have discussion prior to the final decision. I do intend to help write the decisions on the new cases.
FL: As I promised during the elections, I will do my best to assist in this area, although as of now I'm still "getting my feet wet", as the saying goes. (We also haven't accepted any cases since the election, an odd coincidence that is allowing me to examine the current cases - in which we're all automatically recused - with great detail.)
FN: I plan to do my share of writing ArbCom decisions. I was familiar wilth many of the open cases from my work as a clerk, so I started voting on those first that already were written. In the past, I commented on Workshop pages and will continue to do so in the future.
JP: I'm thinking I'll be fairly active; it's the public face of ArbCom, which appeals to me.
KL: I'm hoping to take a quite active role in that aspect of the process.
PA: I intend to contribute wherever I will be most useful, but I hope to be active in all areas.
UC: I believe that my early involvement in these areas speaks for itself.

7. What do you think are the strengths of the ArbCom? Weaknesses?

BLN: I think that the strengths are mainly diverse representation as well as the community and arbitrators viewing its role seriously and thus examining things comprehensively to try and get the most effective solution. Speed is often a problem, mainly due to slow processing.
FL: The main strength is having so many dedicated people collaborating to find a way forward; however, this is also the primary weakness, as the abundance of opinions may sometimes lead to delays and standstills.
FN: A strength is that the members of the committee all have the community's best interest in mind and take their work seriously. A weakness is that cases are slow to finish sometimes when there is very little left to do on the case.
JP: Too soon to tell.
KL: The ArbCom is made up of people with a diversity of views; this is a great strength, but is also the cause of much of the delay in the process.
PA: Too soon to say.
UC: I think its strengths include fair process and community support. Its weaknesses include an inherently slow decisionmaking system.

8. If you could change anything, what would you change? Why?

BLN: As far as the arbitration process goes, it's too early to tell.
FL: To quote Dmcdevit, "Hunger, poverty, war... Oh, about arbcom you mean?" It's too early, though, for me to make a meaningful suggestion at this point, although I would probably advocate changes expediting the process and making it less bureaucratic.
FN: Nothing so far. The new committee needs time to settle in before we make changes, I think. Having a clerk or ArbCom member keep watch on a case and more aggressively push it towards completion might be helpful.
JP: Mm-mm. I'm not falling for THAT one again!
KL: Too soon to say, I think.
PA: I can't think of anything specific I would change just yet.
UC: At this point, I am unconvinced that I'm smart enough to make a change that would be sure to improve things. I believe I'll make some suggestions on how we write up cases, and on ways to speed up the process, over the coming months.

9. Do you plan on finishing your term? If you had to make a choice right now, when your term expires, would you run for re-election? Why or why not?

BLN: I do intend on finishing my term, and am not thinking about the December 2008 election.
FL: Yes, I do plan on finishing the term; I've made the commitment, and unless the situation changes in some drastic way, I intend to fulfill that commitment. It's also too early to tell what will happen in (a little bit less than) three years.
FN: Yes, I plan to finish my term. My term is for two years since I replaced Mindspillage making me more likely to run for re-election, I think. Otherwise, nothing has made me more or less likely to run again.
JP: I plan on finishing it. If I had to make a choice right now about running for re-election, I'd say "hell no", because I don't have adequate information with which to make such a commitment now. Two weeks on the job says nothing at all about what three years will feel like.
KL: I have every intention of staying on for my full term. As far as re-election goes, it's rather too early to say.
PA: I hope to finish my term. Three years is a long time. I would guess by then I will be ready to turn over the job to some one else.
UC: I do plan to finish my term. I have no comment regarding a possible re-election bid and do not anticipate that I will have any comment on such a possibility until the end of my current term approaches.

10. If there's one thing you could say to the Wikipedia community, what would you say, and why? Is there anything else you would like to mention?

BLN: I would like to say that irrespective of what "positions" anybody holds on Wikipedia, the objective of the project is to write quality encyclopedia articles. Thus, everybody is an editor, first and foremost, and everything else is secondary and should be geared towards this. I certainly think of myself first and foremost as an editor and hope that the community thinks in the same way also. I guess the saying "It does not matter who is right, but what is right" is relevant here, as it is the content the world sees which is important, and that we would become a lot more efficient in getting closer to our goal if disputes were not framed in terms of personality, politics, winning and losing, etc, even if it is unspoken and psychological. I don't think that there is room to be complacent about the future success and growth of Wikipedia and everybody should always be looking for improvement.
FL: You mean besides how familiar these questions are? In all seriousness, though, I would implore every Wikipedian here to keep in mind the spirit of the project. Whether you are an administrator, arbitrator, editor, writer, or janitor (or any combination of those, indeed), we are all here volunteering our time to improve this great project, dedicated to spreading free knowledge around the world. Conflicts will arise - that is inevitable. But what we can do is to treat all other people, especially other Wikipedians, with the greatest and utmost level of respect and politeness, and to assume good faith for everyone here. We're all here to write an encyclopedia, and though our methods may differ, our ultimate goal remains shared. Whether you are writing here on a wiki, or discussing on some other forum like IRC, please, please, remember to be courteous to everyone else, and to extend the same respect even to those who aren't currently present in the channel. Disagreement is fine, but disparagement is not. The next time you are involved with a heated debate, take a step back, and look at the situation. Take Essjay's creed and apply it, even when you are off-wiki; stop and smell the roses - look at the amazing progress we have gone through, and then think about the situation again. You are a Wikipedian. You can help us change and improve this project. You can be proud to be a true Wikipedian - civil, hardworking, and dedicated. Thank you.
FN: I would like to reiterate my delight at being chosen by the the community and Jimbo. Also I encourage Wikipedians, especially females, to think ahead to the next ArbCom election. Familiarize yourself with the committee policies and assist with the current cases. Hopefully this will give the community a broad base of quality candidates to choose from next year.
JP: Back in the days of FidoNet, the only two rules were "Don't be too annoying. Don't be too easily annoyed". It's a good way to live.
KL: I would prefer to interact with editors outside of my role as an Arbitrator; so please be nice to one another!
PA: I would like all of us to realize that wikipedia is not some giant internet adventure game, but serious work that effects the lives of millions of people throughout the world. And I would like us all to appreciate just how wonderful, unique and important that work is. We should all feel both a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility.
UC: Administrators are powerful. People in positions of power should treat those who are relatively less powerful with constant respect. It makes me cringe to see people being mean to others who are in weaker positions, whether on Wikipedia or in real life.

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