Monday, 12 January 2009

RFA community is broken

It's fairly obvious, but it's not the RFA process that's broken. The same system has been used ever since it was created in mid 2003: propose a candidate, support or oppose, promote if there's consensus. Of course, it's not quite like that nowadays: over time, people were able to go "neutral" (a pointless concept if you ask me, if you can't decide, don't vote); a set of standard questions were added to every request; the bureaucrat group was created; and of course the whole "!vote/vote" thing. It is a vote, always has been. Trying to claim a numbered list with a tally on top is a discussion is astounding. Then of course, trying to initiate a discussion will get a disgruntled opposer to bite your head off with "Wah!! Stop badgering me!". So, it is a vote, and always has been.

So trying to claim RFA is broken is like saying RFA has never worked, which is simply untrue since we have created nearly 1500 admins by that process. Though our community is larger, and there are more automated tools available such as Huggle, it is silly to say RFA is broken; though numbers have been dwindling as of late, people have still been passing RFA with flying colours. If it was truly broken, no one would not be passing.

What the main problem is, causing RFA to crumble, are the people who vote. Ultimately, it's their fault numbers of promotions are low, because they oppose so often, and so easily, therefore preventing RFAs from passing, and causing anyone considering it to think again.

RyanGerbil10, a relatively quiet and uncontroversial admin, expresses his thoughts about the process here. I do agree with him - it is fairly ridiculous he would probably fail an RFA if he requested now with the experience he had when he ran. This is even sillier. It is suggesting that some of the project's most respected admins would probably fail an RFA, if they ran today with the same experience they had when they did.

I do not blame the process. When Ryan ran in July 2006, the RFA looks fairly similar to today. That's because it's more or less the same. The process has not changed. The people have. I don't know why, I don't know how. But it's for the worse.


Jon Harald Søby said...

Small comment: A broken car once did work. ;-)

Majorly said...

But something about the car changed. It must have been affected in some way to make it stop working. In the case of RFA, it is the community preventing it from doing its job.

David Shankbone said...

Excellent post, Majorly. The RfA process needs to be discussed more, because we are hurting a lot of good people.

Pete Forsyth said...

Great post, thanks for focusing on an important topic.

I think what is needed is some effective guidance and leadership in the realm of "how should we think, as a community, about RFAs?"

The guidelines of Wikipedia as a whole are not sufficient to establish a safe and sane space for evaluating effective administrators.

I believe that running for adminship, in nearly all cases, involves a MIX of these two things: (a) the candidate seeks some validation from the community for the contributions they've made to the project, and (b) the candidate is making a selfless offer to make contributions on a higher level. Entirely apart from whether the candidate is worthy of being granted adminship, his or her service to the community should be gratefully acknowledged in pretty much every case. Evaluating candidates who do not succeed may feel like a waste of time, but it's not; these people are worthy of serious and civil consideration. Every one of them.

In my own RFA, I suggested that I might alter my behavior significantly -- that I might switch from primarily building content, to regularly patrolling noticeboards, etc. In hindsight, it was a silly idea, and I probably did so thinking that it would make my candidacy more attractive; but I didn't do so out of any willful intent to deceive the community. This was pointed out to me in the RFA; I appreciate that it was pointed out, but am frustrated by the negative tone that some editors chose to take. I regret the approach I took, but I certainly didn't intend to deceive the community or abuse the process; I just didn't have a realistic outlook on the subject.

Anyway, if there's one thing I think needs to change about the RFA process, it's that the community needs to put some careful thought into how to treat candidates. Personally, when I participate in RFAs, I try to call out incivility on the part of participants/voters, and redirect their comments onto my own, or their own, talk page, and away from the RFA page. It's only a micro-level solution, but I think this is the sort of thing that will ultimately improve the atmosphere at RFA/