The Signpost

Special report

ArbCom election—candidates’ opinions analysed

It’s election season again: voting will soon open for the 13th annual election of the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee. In a repeat of last year’s election, there are nine vacant seats on the 15-member committee, eight of which will carry two-year terms and one a one-year term. Following two withdrawals, there are 22 candidates, up on last year’s 18; five of them have already served on the Committee for at least one term: LFaraone, GorillaWarfare, Kirill Lokshin, Thryduulf, and Casliber. Many eyes will be on the number of voters, which last year shrank precipitously by more than a third, from 923 to 593.

Participation in ArbCom elections, 2008–14. Voter numbers are blue (left y-axis); candidate numbers are red (right y-axis).
As in previous ArbCom elections, the electronic interface SecurePoll will be used, with support–neutral–oppose ternary choice and an unusual S/S+O formula. In the 2013 election, the use of this system made a difference to who was elected compared with the number of supports alone, and last year changed who was given the one-year term.

This year has marked one of the most fractious in the history of the Committee, in which judgment voting patterns have at times shown mild evidence of the formation of blocks of arbitrators, depending on the theme. There were several drama-infused cases, including the Gamergate case, which attracted unfavourable outside press coverage; gender-related cases appear to be a point of divergent viewpoints among the arbitrators. The current election will influence whether the Committee can regain cohesion and weather external shocks, including emotionally charged cases and critical coverage by external news outlets.

Excerpts from candidate statements:

Am I suitable to work here as an arbitrator? I have no idea.

Well, this is about the last thing I ever thought I’d do here.

Fuck it, I'll be the first to throw my hat in.

I don't want ArbCom to be regarded as a death panel.

So I was an editor, if not a very hardworking or ambitious one.

We must clean our house, lest those who could advise and assist us dismiss Wikipedia as a nest of boobies.

ArbCom has encrusted itself in mock-judicial trappings.

My opinion of the current committee’s Infamous, Thoughtless, Careless and Reckless handling of Gamergate received some attention.

ArbCom requires more innocent merriment, and I’ll do my level best to supply it.

I consider myself pretty up on cultural differences, having spent extensive time working in ... Canada, US, Australia, and Mongolia.

As well as reading the candidate statements and question pages, community members have written 15 voter guides, almost as numerous as the candidature. Against this, however, the Signpost is providing a different angle by presenting the results of an emailed survey to candidates on both their personal qualities and their views on ArbCom-related issues. This is the methodology we have used twice this year in our coverage of WMF Board and FDC elections. With so many candidates, it is a way to provide voters with comparative data gathered on a large scale in isolation, eliminating the "herd" effect in which candidates' responses are influenced by those of their colleagues. This is at the expense of reducing candidates' views to numbers, so we invited short statements to give respondents the opportunity to state more nuanced views—taken up by only a minority. The survey and the writing of this story was designed and supervised by the Signpost's Editorial Board; editor-in-chief Gamaliel was excluded from the process because he is standing in the election.

The survey

There are several findings of interest. The candidates overall think that cases take too long, that case procedures should be streamlined, and that it's too hard for community members to extract the important messages from ArbCom’s judgment pages. They are satisfied with the voting system in the election, and believe the WMF should take more responsibility for minor issues. There is mild consensus that ArbCom's scope to manage excessive behaviour should not be widened, and that off-wiki outing is never acceptable. Consensus is less clear on transparency issues. The candidates are significantly divided on Gamergate and gender treatment.

We received 18 responses; one candidate, Kirill Lokshin, did not respond; Kelapstick apologised that he's "in a jungle" with bad connectivity; two more refused to participate on the grounds that the questions "require candidates to reveal information that they chose to withhold in their nominations or chose not to reply to the users' questions" (Kudpung), and were not "transparent" (NE Ent). Hullaballoo asked to withdraw his responses well after the announced copy-deadline, and after the data analysis had been done, a request we declined. One of the candidates who responded, Samtar, has since withdrawn.

We used a seven-number Likert scale, exploring a six-point response space from 1 to 7:

Each candidate was invited to put a number against each of 20 propositions, and were informed that blanks would be counted as "4" for statistical purposes (these are marked red in the table). We have abbreviated candidates' usernames for reasons of space; those who have served on the Committee are marked with an asterisk. The full wording of the propositions appears at the bottom of the story. Averages and standard deviations appear first;1 then net positives (5–7) and negatives (1–3), which disregard the strengths of the responses to focus merely on which side of neutral candidates lie as a whole.

Key to the abbreviations of the candidates' names in the first row of the table below:

Proposition Avg. StDev Net pos. Net neg. OR TT M G CL* W Cal KG MB K D GW* LF* H RF T* HW S
(A) I have a record of minimising drama 4.9 1.6 13 4 7 6 3 5 6 5 6 4 1 6 6 2 6 5 6 5 3 6
(B) I favour strong over light sanctions 3.4 1.3 6 8 2 2 3 6 3 5 5 3 4 4 4 5 2 2 1 4 3 3
(C) I'm prepared to manage difficult editors 6 7 7 7 6 7 6 7 4 6 5 6 7 7 7 7 6 6
(D) Drafting judgments in plain, simple language is my strength 5 5 6 6 5 6 6 6 7 6 6 6 5 7 7 3 6 7
(E) ArbCom's scope to manage excessive behaviour needs to be widened 3.1 1.7 5 11 2 2 6 6 4 5 2 5 2 5 2 1 4 3 1 2 2 2
(F) All case evidence should be on-wiki 3.4 2.1 7 10 2 6 6 2 2 2 1 1 1 4 3 1 2 5 6 6 6 5
(G) Arb discussions on cases should be on-wiki 3.7 1.7 6 9 4 5 5 2 3 3 3 1 1 4 4 2 3 6 7 3 6 5
(H) Arb burnout is a major problem to address 4.9 1.3 10 2 6 4 7 7 4 4 6 4 7 3 4 5 6 4 5 5 3 5
(I) Judgment pages: easy enough for community to get the messages 3.0 1.6 5 13 1 5 5 3 5 3 3 1 1 3 2 3 5 2 2 6 1 3
(J) Accept fewer cases, leave more for AN/I etc 4.3 1.6 8 6 5 7 6 5 3 5 2 3 4 4 6 2 2 6 7 4 3 4
(K) Cases need to take less time 5.7 1.2 16 2 7 7 6 5 6 3 5 7 6 6 6 5 6 5 7 6 7 3
(L) Case procedures need streamlining 5.2 1.4 13 4 7 6 6 3 6 5 5 7 3 6 6 6 3 5 6 4 7 3
(M) ArbCom was at its worst in handling Gamergate 4.2 1.6 8 6 4 4 2 6 6 2 5 3 7 5 4 5 2 6 4 2 3 5
(N) I was satisfied with the Gamergate judgment 3.4 1.5 5 10 2 4 6 2 3 5 3 3 1 3 5 3 4 2 4 6 1 5
(O) ArbCom should disregard off-wiki evidence 3.3 1.7 10 4 2 6 4 3 2 6 2 1 1 4 2 5 3 6 4 4 1 3
(P) Off-wiki outing never acceptable 4.7 2.1 11 5 4 4 7 6 3 7 6 3 1 5 1 7 5 7 6 6 1 6
(Q) ArbCom has treated men more sympathetically than women 4.6 1.8 8 6 6 4 4 7 3 3 5 7 7 4 4 6 2 7 3 3 6 2
(R) The WMF should take more responsibility for minors issues 5.8 1.4 14 2 5 7 7 6 7 6 7 7 4 6 5 7 7 4 3 3 6 7
(S) I'm happy with Audit Subcommittee arrangements 3.1 1.5 2 9 2 4 6 4 4 5 1 4 3 2 4 3 1 3 1 1 4 4
(T) I'm satisfied with the ternary voting system for ArbCom elections 5.4 1.5 14 2 6 7 6 5 5 5 7 2 3 6 4 7 6 5 6 7 4 7
Proposition Avg. StDev Net pos. Net neg. OR TT M G CL* W Cal KG MB K D GW* LF* H RF T* HW S

Making sense of the data

Our motivation was mainly to survey attitudes to ArbCom-related issues by the group as a whole (this is a highly relevant cross-section of the community—those who put themselves forward for election). However, before they cast their votes, editors may be interested in scrutinising the responses of individual candidates.

Data interpretation can never be 100% objective, and the Signpost welcomes critical comments and discussion on the talkpage below. Propositions C and D we regard as likely to attract a higher level of public-relations calculation by candidates, which explains the narrow, positive range (who would admit they're unprepared for managing difficult editors or can't write clear judgments?); statistics are less relevant here and are not included. Proposition A might have been in the same class, except that the focus is on evidence (candidates' "record"), with responses ranging from 1 to 7. B is the hanging judge question, which might attract more scrutiny from voters: eight favour light over strong sanctions, four sit on the fence, and six favour strong sanctions (not surprisingly, only one of them going beyond mild agreement).

Let's deal first with the five propositions on which there appears to be clear consensus among the candidates:

On four questions there is only a modest consensus:

Consensus is less clear in two related questions about transparency, especially the second one:

On five questions, the candidates show no consensus:


The two-week voting period will open at midnight on Monday 23 November (although some voters may be confused as to whether this refers to midnight start or end of Monday). Voters are advised that the arithmetic of the ternary system means that opposing all candidates they are not supporting, rather than voting neutral for them, is a more powerful confirmation of their supports. An election feedback page has been established.

1 Standard deviations are a measure of spread. They can be roughly visualised as the space that contains a third of responses above the average and a third below it. If 5.0 were the average and 0.5 were the standard deviation, two-thirds of responses, roughly, fall within the range 4.4–5.5. The larger the standard deviation, the more divergent the candidates' views.

Full wording of propositions:
Editor's note: Andreas Kolbe and Rosiestep made important contributions to help frame the questions as well as format the data on this page. Editor-in-chief, Go Phightins!, was also involved in the formulation of the questions and curation of the data. However, Tony1 deserves the bulk of the credit for this coverage. Questions or concerns can be directed to the Signpost talk page or the editor-in-chief's talk page. Thank you.
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Thanks for the survey. I would imagine most candidates had issues with the wording of the questions, and would welcome detailed discussion - I know I did, and would. For example transparency is one of the subjects on which I have made not a few commitments - and yet I accept that (contrary to some previous practice) it is not a good idea for ArbCom to "out" people, any more than if anyone else is doing it. Therefore even my strong agreement with the question on all evidence being on-wiki is hedged around with exceptions.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 22:43, 21 November 2015 (UTC).[reply]
  • Yes, at least one of the people listed here has withdrawn from the race entirely, and another of those listed has (unofficially at least) withdrawn their response to the survey. Which questions were asked of the candidates, the long form, or the short form, or both? I would also like to see the discussions that led up to the formation of the questions, if those are available. If I understand the rationale for doing otherwise, it was to get the honest ("non herding") responses of the candidates, without them being able to see how other candidates were responding? But this assumes that none of the candidates were communicating with each other, and of course, tends to look non-transparent in terms of the election-outcome, when the good-faith intent behind the secrecy was just to avoid messing up the validity of the survey-outcome. I also wonder whether the off-wiki-email-approach was technologically simpler, for proceessing the survey-data, somehow? Methodologically flawed, though, or at least, flawed from the "social" perspective of damping drama with objectivity. (talk) 23:34, 21 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

In the real world, my local newspaper serves a valuable role in summarizing events and local meetings that citizens are unable to personally attend. On wiki, The Signpost has a long tradition of identifying, collating, and summarizing real world activity related to Wikipedia; this is especially helpful since some such content is paywalled. In fact, I quote a 2012 signpost article on the importance of informal dispute mechanisms in my candidate statement. However, as the election RFC has provided a mechanism for the community to ask questions of candidates, it's unclear what "value added" a secretive email survey provides. I personally find the notion of a herd mentality ridiculous; as candidates we all have reasonably long track records on wiki, the electorate would spot pandering to the crowd instantly. (Also, while I'm not really a centuries old treelike creature living in a forest, I am also not a cow or bull.) In any event, when I received the signpost email I knew within 45 seconds I would not be participating, given the ridiculous bias of the question set. For the sake of clarity, I fully support the right of the signpost to ask what they want. NE Ent 23:55, 21 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • I did not participate in this survey, despite what has been presented here. I submitted a preliminary response, but withdrew it after comments made by Signpost staff indicated that the Signpost's process for developing questions and evaluating responses was substandard. Despite publicly stating that the response was withdrawn, and notifying Signpost staff my email within their timeframe for responding, the Signpost has elected not only to publish the withdrawn response but to omit any mention of the fact that I had withdrawn it. The Signpost's behaviour shows a lack of journalistic competence, ethics, and integrity -- a conclusion reinforced by the fact that Tony D, who communicated with candidates on behalf of the Signpost, has accused one candidate critical of the survey of dishonesty and engaged in what an experienced editor described as a "gratuitous personal attack". I've worked in real-world politics over many years and have never seen an ostensibly journalistic enterprise engage in behaviour like this. It's disturbing if not outright disgusting. The Big Bad Wolfowitz (aka Hullaballoo) (talk) 23:59, 21 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
There was nothing "preliminary" about your response. And so you thought you'd withdraw to make some political point after all of the stats and interpretation had been done? No thanks—it's a huge amount of work to process, and we don't unravel and start again to suit the whims of candidates who then try to bargain with us (post online or I withdraw). Who is "Tony D"? Now, on the personal attacks, don't worry, we published in full expectation of them. Tony (talk) 00:30, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Please do not misrepresent my statements or actions. I did not make any attempt to bargain with you. My statement was unequivocal; I stated quite clearly that "this survey was not properly thought out and is not likely to be appropriately presented". All you're achieving by attacking not only candidates but one of the election coordinators is to undermine your own credibility. The Big Bad Wolfowitz (aka Hullaballoo) (talk) 01:22, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Certainly is neutral statistically. You're supposed to be running the election, not blasting out your personal opinions on related issues. Tony (talk) 00:30, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Statistics compiled from flawed questions are not inherently neutral. To be concrete, here is question#F: "Case evidence should always be onwiki for the sake of transparency." If the candidate agrees to this poorly-posed question, they are saying arbcom should WP:DOX people, because arbcom accepts privacy-related information, and has access to checkuser evidence. Note the keyword 'always' in the question. Of course, if the candidate disagrees to this poorly-posed question, they are saying arbcom should be a secretive star chamber which encourages poison-pen evidence, right? Or maybe, they just disagree with the 'always' keyword... but how can anybody know that? The only suitable response is to refuse to answer the poorly-posed question, but in that case the candidate is *still* marked down as having answered something nonsensical, namely "neutral" as if they do not even care about the issues of transparency and privacy! The question itself is inherently non-neutral, because the candidate cannot give their actual answer, and whatever answer they do give is bound to be mis-interpreted by somebody in the arbcom electorate. That goes double, when the question is shortened to elide the transparency bit, and switches from 'always' to instead 'all' terminology, which is what is shown in the table: "All case evidence should be on-wiki." (talk) 01:09, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Really? If you say so. Tony (talk) 01:11, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Yup, pretty clearly a question which cannot be answered meaningfully, and any numeric answer can easily be misinterpreted. Are you okay, then, Tony, with me removing question F from the columns in the table? Some people will have already read the information, of course, but better to fix it late than never. Or we could temporarily remove it, reformulate the question with a qualifier like "case evidence that does not violate WP:OUTING/WP:BLP/WP:NLT should..." phrasing instead of that which was originally used, and then add the revised info back in, once the 16 survey respondents had replied. (talk) 01:21, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
"Don’t know or can’t decide" is not "neutral": That's why those responses are marked in red. Does that not make the candidate's (preference not to give a) response transparent to the reader? Moreover, there are only six such responses in the entire table. Andreas JN466 01:28, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Jayen466: An answer marked in red was for an omitted response, to which the signpost editors defaulted to a value of 4. A response of don't know/can't decide would mean that the candidate does not have an opinion on the issue. A neutral response would mean that the candidate has evaluated both sides of the question and determined there is equal enough strength to the sides that they would consider themselves in the middle of the road. When a candidate responded with a 4, they stated they were undecided on the issue. However, the signpost article portrays these editors as neutral on the issue. For example, Off-wiki outing is never acceptable. 11 positives (four strongly); 5 negatives (three strongly); 2 neutrals. In these statements, neutral should be replaced with undecided to properly reflect the candidates' stated positions. Mike VTalk 01:43, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
If a candidate didn't know or couldn't decide, they had the option of not leaving a response for that statement. Does this not seem reasonable? It seems natural not to attempt an answer if you don't know it, or can't decide on one for whatever reason, or have a problem with the way the question is phrased. The table makes those cases visible; a red 4 is the functional equivalent of a "don't know/can't decide/question doesn't make sense to me" response. I read the existing black 4s as a candidate saying, "Well, there are arguments on both sides and they roughly balance each other out; it depends, so I can neither agree nor disagree in general", and I read the red 4s as saying "I can't or won't comment on that statement (for whatever reason)". This is by no means anything specific to this survey; it's part and parcel of working with a Likert scale. If you look at the relevant literature, for example, you'll quickly notice that there are ongoing differences of opinion among researchers in the social sciences as to whether an explicit "don't know" option should be provided or not, whether it should be distinguished from neutral responses or not, etc., but these differences of opinion notwithstanding, the Likert scale in its various forms, including the one used here, is a standard tool in survey work. No one has gone about reinventing the wheel here. Andreas JN466 02:17, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • So 17 candidates among 21 have answered by a Lickert grade to the sentence "I favour strong over light sanctions". And now, the voters should ask themselves what answer they were expecting from a next to be Arbitrator. For myself, I was expecting: this depends on the case. There is a time for medicine, there is a time for surgery. Do I really want Arbitrators that will be 'light' or 'strong' without considering the merits of the case they are arbitrating? By the way, I really appreciate the apology about being "in a jungle with bad connectivity": don't tell a journalist that his question is a random stuff because he will probably retaliate by a non random story. Pldx1 (talk) 01:32, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Similar to many other candidates, although I support all possible discussion being held on-wiki, there are some issues (like a Wikipedian being stalked by a fellow Wikipedian irl) that simply cannot be discussed explicitly on-wiki, so my answers on questions of arbcom transparency are really 'Arbcom should be completely transparent except in cases where it can't possibly be transparent due to the details of the situations involved, or because they could be handled without drama in two emails or turn in to a full blown months long arb case." Obviously, we can't dox people. The question I chose not to answer I chose not to answer because I imagined either way would be held over my head, and in terms of harsh vs light sanctions, I geerally support light sanctions, but support strong, surgical, immediate sanctions where the details or nuance of the case require it. I had issues with a few other questions too, mainly because the available answers lacked nuance. I don't believe that a fast-moving generally transparent arbcom that tends towards light sanctions but can act with strong but humane force is an inherent contradiction. Kevin Gorman (talk) 01:58, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
If you think that the due answer to a question is not a number, is it that difficult to answer NaN, instead of answering by a number ? Pldx1 (talk) 02:18, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
The thought bluntly hadn't occurred to me, but you're probably right. The survey included room for 75 words per candidate where I voiced most of my last post, though it noted that not all commentary would be publshed. Kevin Gorman (talk) 02:30, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
I repurposed "4" as mu :) Opabinia regalis (talk) 04:58, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

(EC)There's a grand tradition among candidates and politicians of blaming everything on the press. Sometimes they (intentionally ambiguous) are correct. I don't think it does any good though for candidates to blame the press - the press does what they have to do, the candidates should do what they have to do. The press, as seen in this case, tries to nail down the candidates' positions, and sometimes the candidates don't like it.

That said, I don't think that questions like A, B, C, D, H, I, K, and L give us a lot of information. But sometimes, you just have to guess what questions will draw people out and produce disagreement. I much prefer the questions later in the alphabet, the ones on the issues.

Hullabaloo - there's a rule for anybody who deals with the press: never give them anything in writing that you wouldn't want to see in print; or if you do, at least start the private sections with [This section not for quotation] and end with [You can quote me again after this]. If the journalist doesn't understand what info you give them is for publication and what isn't, it's not his or her fault - it's your problem - sometimes a very serious problem. Smallbones(smalltalk) 02:31, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks, Smallbones. The email clearly stated "on the record" at the top. On the propositions, it wasn't the Board's intention to aim solely for those that might draw differences among the candidates. It's useful to see consensus among them, too. On the value of the individual questions you specify, take L, for example ("Case procedures need streamlining"); of the four with ArbCom experience, one mildly disagreed, one was neutral, and two agreed; yet there was strong consensus overall, including three 7s. Tony (talk) 02:52, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

"single-item questions pertaining to a construct are not reliable and should not be used in drawing conclusions."[1] NE Ent 03:56, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]


  1. ^ Gliem, Joseph A.; Gliem, Rosemary R. (2003). "Calculating, Interpreting, and Reporting Cronbach's Alpha Reliability Coefficient for Likert-Type Scales" (PDF).
Pardon my snobbery, but it's just an unpublished paper that was presented to a conference 12 years ago ... the 2003 Midwest Research to Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education. Tony (talk) 04:26, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
"Despite some limitations, Cronbach's coefficient alpha remains the most widely used measure of scale reliability.". So, did you calculate one? NE Ent 11:47, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Are you saying you would have happily responded to a questionnaire with about ten times as many questions as this one, because it would have given you more confidence in the statistical analysis? I'm afraid that would have been quite out of scope, both from the point of view of candidates' time, and the point of view of the Signpost's time. This was a very simple survey, as I'm sure readers can readily appreciate and allow for, and you along with one or two others didn't want to take part. I don't think there is more to it than that. Andreas JN466 15:04, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Dark red = 1 (disagree), dark blue = 7 (agree), white = 4 (neutral/no response/mu).

I find this big table kind of hard to read, so here's a matrix/heatmap version, sorted by the standard deviation for each question. I left off Hullaballoo (who withdrew from the survey) and Samtar (who withdrew from the race). Opabinia regalis (talk) 04:58, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

@Opabinia regalis: I love this graphic! Thanks for creating it. --Rosiestep (talk) 05:14, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Many thanks to the Signpost for this analysis, and it looks like we're going to be in for a very interesting election cycle. While I've taken the time to read some of the candidate statements (and will be getting to their questions), this analysis really helps like it did for the Board election last May.

That said, I'm disappointed though that of the 22 candidates running, only one is not from the the Anglosphere. That to me is a travesty, and one that I hope the ArbCom will seek to address in future elections. --Sky Harbor (talk) 15:03, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • You mean me, cause I live in Alabama? We can talk proper around here if we try. Drmies (talk) 17:51, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    • @Drmies: Having talked with you a lot, I understand that you were trying to joke ... but Alabama, despite the cultural backwardness the name implies, has a very different outlook of the world than someone from (say) the Philippines. That said, Sky Harbor, the Anglosphere dominates everyone else when it comes to the number of first-language English speakers, so it stands to reason that the geographic diversity of those running will almost always be suboptimal. It's not ideal, but we're imprisoned by the language. Open to other opinions, though, especially if we can do more to encourage non-Anglosphere candidates to run. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 00:23, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
      • Ed, you know I'm Dutch, right? I'm not sure User:Sky Harbor know. I don't think we're "imprisoned" by language--it stands to reason that those who are better at language x will have an easier time getting around in x-Wikipedia.

        In general, though, I think most Wikipedia readers and editors couldn't care less about these elections; I'm sure they are not sure about what ArbCom does, and if they are, I venture to guess that many of them think this is just another popularity contest between insiders. Drmies (talk) 01:43, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

        • With all due respect, Drmies, Alabama (and the Netherlands, by extension) is still a world's way's away from the places where our efforts to improve geographical diversity in the movement's power structures are lacking. The fact is, it's really a chicken-or-egg scenario: users from developing countries, even those from countries where we have large English Wikipedian communities because of their exposure to English (like mine), don't feel compelled to run because they don't see any inherent motivation to do so, and we're rarely engaged with as it is when it comes to dealing with things of importance on the English Wikipedia. But at the same time, you have users from this part of the world who feel that the culture is stacked against them and that they are being driven out by those who look at things from a developed world view (ergo, most people on Wikipedia who are in positions of authority), and they can't do anything about it. If they do run, there's a snowball's chance in hell that they'll get elected.

          I should likewise point out though to Ed that we had at one point three ArbCom candidates from India in this election—two decided to pull out because there were other, "better" candidates. I don't think it bides well for the governance of the English Wikipedia, which by virtue of it being the first mover of our movement happens to also be the most international of all of them, if all the members of the ArbCom happen to look at things from only one world view while ignoring everything else. That said, I do think we're spoilt for choice regarding excellent candidates in this cycle, but if we're going to do something about making the project more inclusive and accepting of our movement's own diversity, I certainly would like to think that we can do more, because it seems to me that we're doing nowhere near enough. --Sky Harbor (talk) 02:52, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

Sorry, but there is no way in which the Netherlands is part of the Anglosphere, and Alabama and the NL of course have nothing to do with each other; there's no "by extension" there. Neither do I accept, without qualification, this developed world vs. the rest of the world view: on the Internet, in a community like Wikipedia where so much depends on the quality of one's writing, linguistic competency is one of the most important factors. Being good at English does not, of course, mean that one is good at being an admin or on ArbCom or something like that, but since all this communication takes place via writing, one should not be surprised to find that those who are good at English have better odds in such races. The good news? Anyone can learn English and get quite good at it, better than most native speakers if need be. So while you're right on the general point, not many representatives from non-English speaking countries are running, this forum isn't the best place to get anything done. If you want to increase the number of non-English people running for ArbCom, consider nominating such candidates for adminship since many think that's a kind of necessary step for running for ArbCom. Best, Drmies (talk) 03:07, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
@Drmies: I did know that. I should have generalized to the west in general. :-) Regarding imprisoned, that's exactly what I meant—I'm sorry that I didn't state it clearly enough. And Sky Harbor, we agree, although I only see two candidates from India and neither of them have over 7,000 edits. Why do you think quality users from outside the global north don't feel the need to run? We do need more from the global south, but if the only editors nominating themselves don't have the resumes to win the election ... Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 06:27, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
We should mention that there is at least one Antipodean running. While it is clearly part of the Anglosphere, unless Australia has moved to the other side of the equator, it would not be fair to consider it part of "the global north".
Additionally, the "Anglosphere" and "Global North" have, by virtue of mass migration, incredible variety in their cultures - to consider the cultures of Berlin, Birmingham, Dunedin, Durban, Melbourne, Paris, San Francisco and Saskatoon to be the same would be strange. I believe that there is sufficient variety in the lived experience & worldviews of a small group of persons from those places to provide a sufficiently varied, and balanced, set of views.
We should much prefer an ArbCom with a diverse set of views than a diverse set of identities for its own sake.
I do appreciate aspects of Sky Harbor's initial point; content remains, in places, incredibly US-centric, and, in places, supportive of a limited range of viewpoints. This is in part due to the wider community; in part due to the availability of English-language sources; but I cannot concur that it is because of the demographics of our final dispute resolution body. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 08:13, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
@Ryk72: To refute one small point—Australia and New Zealand are part of the Global North under the WMF's definition (see right). On the rest of the point, Arbcom diversity is an ideal to strive towards. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 08:56, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Ed, I stand corrected on the intended meaning of "the global north", and thank you for that correction.
For the main point, I am, of course, not opposed to an ethnically, or otherwise, diverse ArbCom, but do suggest that of the qualities we would wish an ideal ArbCom to possess, diverse would fall far behind clear, communicative, consistent, efficient, and (above all) effective.
I am strongly supportive of the representation of more diverse, more global viewpoints in our articles; and while I might personally consider that ArbCom should be judged not by the colour of their skin, or the shape of their genitals, but by the content of their character, I am happy that editors have a view that a diverse ArbCom is an end goal.
I would, however, ask "Why?".
By this, I do not mean to belittle the idea, but to better understand the perceived benefit to the project. - Ryk72 'c.s.n.s.' 10:00, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
See also, the movement of Iceland into the western hemisphere, for troop-deployment purposes within the newly-redefined letter of the law. I believe User:Samtar was pegged as being from India, or maybe User:Salvadrim, by Sky Harbor? Also ping User:Iridescent, who had some specific thoughts about how to better deal with proportionality, and sees the voting-system as presently defined, being a hurdle thereto. Personally, I would be shocked if non-English-speaking people were not elected to the enWiki arbcom, which is how I originally took the "Anglosphere" bit of the comment. That very much includes candidates the ilk of User:Drmies... and by the way, all your Hollands are belong to us, doktor!  :-)     But as is becoming apparent, the point User:Sky Harbor is trying to make has more to do with first-world economic status, the hegemonic discourse, and that sort of thing, where the normal meanings of 'north' and 'Anglo' do not necessarily apply. It is certainly true that anyone can edit is more of a slogan we strive towards, than an on-the-ground truth in the trenches. Reasonable level of internet access, free time to devote to a website, and a decent skill level in reading wiki-reliable English-language sources, plus writing neutral boring plain just-the-facts English-language sentences... those are not a terribly high bar, but they are quite far from Anyone Can EditTM no matter how you slice the mango. (talk) 15:12, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
(edit conflict) Not from India here 75.108 :) I hail from Cornwall, UK samtar {t} 15:52, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
To drive home the point that I am making here: a lot of decisions being made on the English Wikipedia that affect the entire community are done so from an obvious Global North/developed countries/Anglosphere lens, and more often than not those who do not come from that point of view are simply expected to blindly follow. The fact that oral citations didn't pass community scrutiny because of concerns of reliability, despite the fact that oral citations are arguably the only effective way to document certain kinds of information in the developing world, is an example of this bias. Or how some editors would nominate articles about developing country topics en masse for deletion because they supposedly don't meet the notability criteria—something that relies heavily on a printed record that for many countries simply doesn't exist to the extent it does in the developed world. A lot of the things we do on the English Wikipedia, and in the movement at large, is by and large decided by a majoritarian point of view that, while capable of expressing the sentiments of our largest communities, is incapable of encapsulating the other large communities of non-Anglosphere/developing world English Wikipedia editors that exist here as well.

That said, I have a hard time agreeing with Drmies and Ryk72 that being a good Wikipedian is enough, and that their character is enough for them to be given the respect they deserve by the community. We may have some semblance of equality of opportunity (all you need is to write well to catch people's attention, and that's enough), but in reality I'd like to contend that Wikipedians outside our core editing communities (which, in the context of the Wikimania discussion has since been framed to mean the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, plus Australia and New Zealand for our purposes) will have a harder time on the English Wikipedia. They may be editors, but that's it—very few editors from those outer regions actually get a stake in shaping the culture we want to build as a community (the "hegemonic discourse" that points out). The ArbCom's composition may be a symptom rather than a cause, but I hope this serves as a wake-up call for English Wikipedians to recognize that we exist too. --Sky Harbor (talk) 15:48, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

There are many legitimate criticisms that can be made of Arbcom elections, ranging from "the voting system used magnifies systemic bias" to "the demands placed upon those running are unreasonable and discourage the best potential candidates from applying", but "too many of the candidates on the elections for a position which requires deep experience of an exclusively English-language project live in English-speaking countries" is not one of them. Do you likewise complain that a disproportionate number of arbs on de-wikipedia live in Germany, Austria or Switzerland? (Coren, FayssalF, Kirill Lokshin, Mailer diablo, Salvio giuliano and YellowMonkey have all been long-serving arbs in the past, as well as others I've probably missed, so it's hardly as if the committee is an Anglosphere stitch-up.) ‑ iridescent 16:40, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
( added afterwards by Pldx1 (talk) 17:38, 23 November 2015 (UTC): what follows is not a reply to User:Iridescent)[reply]
From a web source, Latin America accounts for 8.6% of the world population. So what? Should we require that 8.6% of the candidates belong to a "Latin America" category, i.e. 1.81 of them? Or should we require that 8.6% of the Arbcom body belong to the category, i.e. 1.29 of them ? Or should we count the heads and see how many registered users belong to the category? And then? Should we mimic the ratio among users, or apply an affirmative action factor? And perhaps augment the size of the elected body to minimize rounding problems? And deal with all these horrible questions about where is the boundary of the category? As soon as you think that people will act according to the categories you think they belongs to, you are not describing a cooperative process that can be ruled by arbitration. In other words, we should either abstain from categorizing or replace Arbcom by some Govcom (first choice being listed first). Pldx1 (talk) 16:47, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
If that's a reply to me, you're seriously misrepresenting my words to the extent of reversing their meaning. I'm saying that English-language Wikipedia is inevitably going to have a disproportionate number of its members from English-speaking countries, and that "non-English-speaking editors are under-represented" is never going to be a legitimate complaint. ‑ iridescent 16:54, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Iridescent, it is a legitimate complaint when in my comments I specifically mention English Wikipedia editors from countries that have large English Wikipedia communities, but are significantly underrepresented in the project's politics. Not once did I mention non-English speaking Wikipedians in my comments; I specifically refer to Wikipedians in places like South Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.), the Philippines (where I'm from), Malaysia and Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and the like, where there are large communities of English Wikipedia editors and can be reasonably deduced as being "English-speaking countries", but are nowhere near as being socio-politically influential on the English Wikipedia as are editors from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. --Sky Harbor (talk) 17:03, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]


Candidates were also asked to submit a 75-word statement. This was almost as silly as the Lickert Scale questions, for some of which (as @Kevin Gorman: and @Hullaballoo Wolfowitz: have said) a Lickert Scale was clearly inappropriate. However, none of the candidate statements appear to have informed the article. It’s interesting that nearly half of the pull quote of candidate statements was drawn from one candidate -- me -- who stands no chance of election but who also takes some care when writing these thing, despite the absurd restrictions. My 75 words were as follows:

Wikipedia must confront the widespread harassment and extortion which endanger our project. We must prevent anonymous trolls from using off-wiki harassment to gain on-wiki advantage. The encyclopedia is besieged by outside interests, agencies, and conspiracies that use Wikipedia for ends inconsistent with its mission; brats and cranks are no longer our chief care. ArbCom must acknowledge the shameful damage done to Wikipedia’s victims and should, when it can, protect and aid them.

Editing is seldom held in high regard, especially here at Wikipedia where everyone is an editor. Yet it's pretty clear that when an old, experienced and talented editor steps away for a moment to do something like run for ArbCom, the consequences are plain to see.MarkBernstein (talk) 02:34, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]

It's hard to balance nuance and firmness in 75 words!
Seriously, the absurd fixation with tired old inside baseball and with who’s been pals with whom for how many years, does the project no credit. Wikipedia faces real challenges, and this election ought to have concerned those challenges. MarkBernstein (talk) 21:51, 22 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Hi again, User:MarkBernstein, did you mean to say Wikipedia's victims, as in, real-world-victims of BLP-attack-pages in mainspace? Or are you talking about on-wiki-victims at WP:AN/I when sanctions get out of hand? Or just on-wiki-victims of snark and sniping in talkspace and userspace? I'm having trouble squaring your last sentence with your first sentence, which seem to be talking about different things (off-wiki and on-wiki incidents respectively). Definitely agree with your third sentence, but in some cases, there is little that wikipedia can do beyond what we are already attempting to do... I work the political articles an computer articles mostly, and there are a lot of political staffers, and a lot of computer corporation employees, who edit here. But I don't consider politicians as a broad class to be in a conspiracy to subvert wikipedia, for instance; they have bigger fish to fry, they are trying to subvert entire governments.  :-)     Can you clarify your statement please, so I can see where you are heading, in terms of the prioritization of issues that arbcom ought to be aiming to address? (talk) 15:12, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
My first concern is -- as yours should be -- the damage done to real-world victims by scurrilous use of Wikipedia pages, both in mainspace and elsewhere. I believe you will also share my concern over extortionate behavior on Wikipedia and the use of off-wiki threats to gain on-wiki advantage. 75 words does not allow much scope in which to address the project’s urgent problems, but even that was too much for Signpost. I’ve written more on my candidate page, though even there we are only allowed 400 words. This helps to trivialize the election, reducing it to a shallow popularity contest; that was presumably the reason for these silly restrictions and procrustean process. A reasonable starting point for my broader concerns over Arbcom's shameful treatment of Wikipedia and Wikipedians might start with my writing about Wikipedia and Gamergate:
An inside-baseball concern that I might mention to you, 75, is simply this: when I see a ping notification from an IP editor now, I cannot help but cringe. For the past year, I've been hounded here and elsewhere by scurrilous and outrageous anonymous trolls, many of them vile. Off-wiki, I get stuff like '“MarkBernstein = Evil Corrupt Jew. He must be stopped. He must be killed” in response to my candidacy. The systematic use of IP and throwaway accounts to annoy and disparage editors makes Wikipedia worse. Is there a way to retain IP accounts and also to restore the civil, collegial, and productive atmosphere necessary for encyclopedic work? This is not the right place for this discussion, but I think I owe it to you, 75, to tell you what so many people experience when they see anything here with a numeric signature. MarkBernstein (talk) 16:49, 23 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
Well, zeroth of all, I think you ought to keep going, and live.  :-)     As for primordial issues, to be perfectly frank, my first concern is off-wiki, of course; wikipedia is Just A WebsiteTM, whereas real life is more, well, real. But as for my on-wiki concerns, I most definitely have a special place in my wiki-heart for WP:NICE and pillar four generally (which includes the rules about WP:BLP and WP:HARASSMENT and such as especially-crucial subsets), second only to my love of WP:IAR. If we cannot have a wiki-culture of respect for each other, as humans not just as 'contributors' that are vast cogs in some byzantine wiki-bureaucracy, we are lost! As I see it, the pragmatic reason for the word-limits, is that the dedication of each candidate to the project of building an encyclopedia, is measured more by the quality of their time here, and by the quality of their edits while here, than it is by their candidate-statement (or their response to a signpost survey). It is also a test, of sorts: can you summarize a complex platform, into a few short sentences? If you can, probably you will be decent as an arb, where complex solutions to complex problems are summarized as tersely-worded ennumerated principles/findings/remedies, backed up by bangvotes with *extremely* terse rationales. There is little room for speech-making; simply on practical grounds, of dealing with 14 other arbs and hundreds of parties and peanut-gallery-members at the arbcom case-pages, arbs must master the art of omitting needless words. That's not enough to be an efficacious arb -- which requires ability to *solve* seemingly-intractable disputes whilst damping drama -- that's a bare minimum required not to be a hindrance to the rest of the arbs!  :-)     It is always permissible to leave a longer platform-statement on a subpage of one's userpage, or similar location, and wikilink to it. But with 20-something candidates, and 2000-some voters in the arbcom electorate, the maximum value is to be found in the keen-ness of the candidate's tersely-summarized candidacy-statement (secondarily), and in the insightfulness of the candidate's project-contributions (primarily).
  p.s. My apologies about causing a cringe by pinging you, and I thank you for being honest about the preconception -- but as you likely realize by now, I am also a bit of a stubborn-ish person on-wiki, seeking to prove by example that not all anons are high school vandals, darker-parts-of-the-internet trolls, nor generally-speaking-bad-for-wikipedia. I'm strongly committed to the idea that wikipedia is an encyclopedia where anyone can edit, which means I'm particularly interested in the recent arbcom decisions which compromise that with WP:HIGHSCORE-based rulings, naturally (cf WP:ARBPIA3). But in a broader sense, I'm trying to widen the bell curve, and show folks that sometimes anons *are* okay, if a bit, um, weird perhaps.  :-)     In that spirit, ping MarkBernstein once again, my suggested solution -- weird by wiki-traditional standards but perhaps so crazy it just might work -- to restoring the productive/collegial/civil atmosphere, where wikipedians must respect other wikipedians (and humans other humans), revolves around wiki-jury-duty implemented as a mass-message function. And yes, in my hypothetical scheme, anons would be eligible for wiki-jury duties.  :-)     Right now, we have ad hoc self-selected wiki-juries, at the noticeboards like AN/I, where admins can sometimes help out, albeit often only after dramahz have been ongoing for some time. We also have arbcom as the court of appeals, and User_talk:Jimbo_Wales as the high court of Appeal Unto Le Roi. What we don't have is any equivalent of the neighborhood watch, nor the citizen's arrest. There are not enough active admins to help keep the project from being gamed, and rather than lower our standards for admins (let alone for checkusers/arbs/oversighters/etc who have direct access to highly sensitive data), I'd like to instead empower us non-permbit-holding regular editors to help those folks out, using a kind of wiki-jury in which 12 quasi-randomly-selected editors can impose "non-admin blocks" (up to and including IP range-blocks) as well as "non-admin deletions" (up to and including salting and abuse-filter regex). Admins could overturn these wiki-jury decisions, and arbcom could overturn those admins, and Jimbo could overturn *them* if the issue was serious enough, of course.
  There is not a silver bullet here, though: we need an arbcom willing to truly enforce WP:NICE, we need more admins willing to fight hard to uphold WP:BLP in mainspace, we need the WMF willing to use the legal department to reach out to ISPs and get internet access shut off for the most serious troll behaviors (up to using throttling or outright refusal of maispace-content to that ISP to give our troll-patrol-requests teeth if necessary), we need more good potential admins running for RfA, and we need wiki-juries to take some of the load off our active admins in the obvious cases (so they can concentrate on the trickiest cases). Plus we need more pumpkin pie for everybody and for WP:ANYONE, and down with the pecan!  ;-) (talk) 22:25, 30 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]
The study is hopelessly flawed, to the degree that the results are invalid. Rating scales (not Likert scales, but never mind, no one ever gets that right), in this case a scale of agreement with each of the statements, measure one continuous variable. Therefore the semantics of the scale should be constructed so as to measure a continuum from the greatest degree of agreement to the greatest degree of disagreement. Someone, who clearly knew nothing about research methodology, continuous v. categorical variables or scale construction, planted a term mid-scale that broke the continuum and invalidates the survey. Any survey using an odd-numbered rating scales anchored with "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" must have "neither agree not disagree" as its mid-point anchor statement in order to maintain the continuum. By planting the opt-out/neutral/I don't know point in the center of the scale (which anyone who's had even the most basic course in statistics or research methods would know not to do), the scale is now rendered as two scales: 1-3 measuring disagreement, and 5-7 measuring agreement. There is no way to compare, the two, so what we have here, in simple terms, is garbage. Or as we say in academia: garbage in/garbage out. (For next time, a separate data point "no response" that is off the scale is the correct way to allow a respondent to opt out.) Worse, the practice of counting blanks as a four, rather than leaving them blank, further skews the results. What a waste of time; I hope no one makes a decision about a candidate based on this tripe. --Drmargi (talk) 21:52, 28 November 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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