In response to continued discussion over the format of requests for adminship, Ironholds submitted his fourth RfA under a new format, inviting the community to ask questions prior to the RfA's voting period, rather than just during it. Because of the RfA's unique nature, a large number of questions were asked during and after the question-and-answer period. The RfA was withdrawn with just over 50% support, as Ironholds had previously promised to withdraw the RfA if it seemed unlikely to garner consensus.
The idea of splitting questions from voting has been suggested before, but received new attention after Kww suggested such a move on the RfA talk page. The perceived benefit of such a move was that such a format would allow candidates to answer all concerns before voting begins, while under the current format, Kww argued, early voters "set the tone of the whole RFA". With a question-and-answer period before voting, it was believed, the candidate might be able to satisfy those early voters, avoiding a quick cascade of opposition.
The format, as presented by Ironholds, included a four-day question-and-answer period, and a four-day voting period. He opened the RfA up for questions on October 7, and within five hours, 18 questions had been asked of him. By the end of the question-and-answer period on October 11, that number had doubled, and when the RfA was closed, it had reached 48 questions in all.
During the voting period, support and opposition was roughly equal. Particularly damning was a comment in opposition by Acalamari, who brought up concerns about incivility, some of which had not been addressed during the question-and-answer period. Nearly all of the users opposing Ironholds' adminship cited those concerns.
After about two-and-a-half days of voting, Ironholds withdrew the RfA on October 13. The withdrawal reflects an answer he had given to Question 27 on the RfA, where he said that he would withdraw if it seemed there would not be consensus for promotion.
Previous attempts to reform RfA through "trial RfAs" have been largely unsuccessful. In April 2007, the vote tallies were briefly removed from RfAs, and two separate RfA formats were introduced, one modeled after the format of deletion debates, and the other modeled after the format of requests for comments (see archived story). The former was unsuccessful due to concerns about inactivity, while in the latter case, the candidate had not received much opposition, but the RfA was declared unsuccessful by bureaucrat Rdsmith4. He noted that while the candidate might have had consensus, the process did not; indeed, the most supported view within the RfC-styled request was "This method of RFA is so confusing that I am unable to participate", which received the support of 42 users.
After his withdrawal, the Signpost asked Ironholds a few questions about his RfA.
What made you decide to have an experimental RfA?
Were you surprised at all to see quite so many questions raised?
Do you feel that, if you had ran a normal RfA rather than an experiment, you would have passed - or at least done better than you did?
Do you feel this new system of RfA would catch on?
Would you ever run for adminship again? If so, what preparation would you undergo beforehand, and would you use the "traditional" layout of RfA (assuming it is still widely used)?