Wikipedia:Settle the process first

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This cart is after the horse, where it belongs. Likewise, debates should always take place after process questions have been resolved.

Wikipedia has many established rules to help guide discussions towards more productive outcomes. However, in reality editors regularly start discussions that violate these rules, sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes because they are seeking to gain an advantage. This can take many forms, from non-neutral RfCs to discussion forks to attempts to close discussions by involved parties.

When these things happen, it creates process questions that can disrupt the discussion and, if left to fester, ultimately undermine confidence in the result. The longer the problems go unaddressed, the messier the situation becomes and the harder it is to resolve. It is therefore important that such problems be nipped in the bud as soon as they are spotted.

Unfortunately, this often does not happen. Voicing your opinion on a hot topic is satisfying, whereas trying to wrangle a discussion into compliance can be thankless, and it's often inadvisable to try to do both. But for Wikipedia to function smoothly, the project needs editors who come across a discussion and see a process violation to pick up the mop in that moment and set things straight. Likewise, when someone comes in and raises a process-related point, editors engaged in the discussion need to temporarily set down their pitchforks and give space for the point to be resolved before resuming the debate.

Wikipedia has few technical means to enforce discussion rules, so it ultimately falls on human editors to keep everything in line. When process is settled first, discussions work better.

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