Wikipedia talk:Requests for comment

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RFCs as tools for canvassing[edit]

An editor has made several comments recently about RFCs being a tool for Wikipedia:Canvassing, e.g., "The RfC system, in the case of infobox discussions, has basically become a canvassing system". (I don't want to single out the editor because I think it can be important to hear criticism without making people justify and explain their concerns.)

Starting an RFC is obviously not a letter-of-the-law violation, but does anyone have any ideas about how to prevent such problems, or the perception of such problems? WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:32, 4 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I can see how this arises. If there's a noticeboard where likeminded editors gather, then a neutral RfC notification on that noticeboard will affect the outcome... so for example, if I was starting an RfC aimed at removing the word "pseudoscience" from Bigfoot, someone placing a neutral notification on WP:FT/N might just possibly have the tiniest negative effect on my chances of success? It's only a problem where a WikiProject that gets these notifications takes a collective view that conflicts with our norms. I don't know how to solve it.—S Marshall T/C 09:26, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I believe that idea was that the RFC itself, merely by existing, is a form of canvassing. Consider a possibility like "If you start an RFC that appears on Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Media, the arts, and architecture and is about infoboxes, you are canvassing an audience known to support a particular POV about infoboxes, because a lot of POV-ish editors decided to put that page on their watchlists". WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:14, 20 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Reply and Worthy of exploring. Just the idea would make one cringe. I will state, with more than surmising, that there will always be those that can and will exploit things to gain an edge.
"An editor has made several comments". Examples seem plausable. S Marshall's comments indicate an agreement that instances can arise and the examples are valid. This means there is a chance the editor is not trying to make trouble but sees, from his or her point of view, that there is a problem. In this case, it seems to me that a message on the editor's talk page, asking if there is interest in discussing this issue and possibly directing that editor here. ::If this editor joins in there would be four in some agreement so more than conjecture. At this point, other editors can see links to discussions that are apparently causing concern. This sounds like something that absolutely should be brought to the community for discussion. -- Otr500 (talk) 01:37, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm not sure that it's worth bringing to the community unless there's something we can do about it.
So far, we have someone speculating that the "wrong" side could be prevailing at certain RFCs because too many editors with the "wrong" POV follow widely advertised discussions in which all editors are invited to participate.
What could be done about that? We can't ban sitewide discussions. We can't hide the fact that RFCs are happening from the "wrong" editors. Unlike the FTN example, there's no Wikipedia:Infobox preservation noticeboard or Wikipedia:Disinfobox opposition noticeboard here. We're talking about neutral notices to an audience whose views are unknown (e.g., to the Wikipedia:Feedback request service bot) – exactly the kind of thing that CANVAS supports. So – what then? The whole thing could just be a case of someone with a minority POV blaming the majority for being in the majority (I don't happen to know this editor's view or which way these RFCs have generally turned out), but beyond saying that majority vote isn't always a good way to handle complex content questions [see *Example], I'm not sure what to do.
[*Example: It's not difficult to find sources that say that various religious practices like prayer are pseudoscientific, but if you look at the definition of Pseudoscience, it's obvious that such sources are wrong/imprecise, because religion does not claim to be scientific, and claiming to be scientific is an integral part of what it means to be pseudoscientific. We'd normally use Wikipedia:Editorial discretion and find other sources, but a large discussion would likely attract support for including what amounts to a claim that religion claims to be scientific.] WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:36, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I largely agree with this; if you are notifying a group of editors whose collective opinion diverge from the broader communities, then this is going to produce the same effect as canvassing; it is going to make it less likely that the result of the discussion will be one the broader community will agree with. BilledMammal (talk) 04:30, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would disagree with RFCs inherently as canvassing. They can be engineered by editors to make canvassing more possible, but the most effective way to canvas is to post notices to familiar editors you know would take a certain side. Or put a reddit post up. This, however, is the easiest way to get caught for canvassing. InvadingInvader (userpage, talk) 16:45, 13 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Intriguing. I would add, I think many disputes tend to skip DRN completely and go straight to RfC. If consensus is supposed to act as a safety net, the aspect that makes it "safe" seems to be that consensus is supposed to be viewed through the lens of policy, ie "The quality of arguments is more important than whether it represents a minority or a majority view." So in essence, it seems to come down to quality of the "RfC closers" that ultimately decide. But how many RfCs have you witnessed where the minority argument (vote!) ultimately get their way, even if they make the "better" argument? DN (talk) 03:35, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

RFCs are perceived more as a vote now than ever before, IMO. The kerfuffle over WT:NOT is an example of this: An alternative suggested later in the discussion, and not (AIUI) opposed by anyone, was accepted by the closing admin, with the result that some editors are complaining that it's invalid and couldn't possibly represent consensus, because the editors who commented in the early days of the RFC didn't get a chance to vote on it. (Apparently, editors who comment on RFCs don't know how to use a watchlist, but that's a complaint for another day.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:39, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The WP:NOT situation is slightly more complicated than that; earlier !votes indirectly opposed the later proposal but weren't taken into consideration because they weren't direct votes, and the later proposal was explicitly presented as workshopping for a future RfC, not a proposal to be considered in that RfC. BilledMammal (talk) 04:30, 22 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Quick question[edit]

How do I ask multiple-question RfCs?

Do I put the questions all in one RfC, or do I start separate RfCs on them (as long as their subject doesn't overlap significantly)? — AP 499D25 (talk) 05:20, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Please try to avoid starting several RfCs at the same time. RfCs use up a lot of volunteer time, and volunteer time is Wikipedia's limiting resource, so RfC is an "expensive" process, if you follow me. Which isn't to say don't use RfC -- please do! -- but just be mindful of doing so efficiently. One big RfC is better than several small ones. Wherever possible ask fewer, broader questions instead of small granular ones that try to give the community a menu of options. So for example, instead of asking "Is the Spartan 3000 a Special Force Unit or a Quick Response Unit?", it's better to ask "How should we describe the Spartan 3000?"—S Marshall T/C 09:15, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Got it, thanks. Actually I'm going to use 3O for the second question in the dispute I'm in right now, as that one only involves two editors, it's split off into its own topic, that would leave me down to one question to ask in the RfC. — AP 499D25 (talk) 11:06, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    If you'd like to get some help writing a clear question, please feel to ask for help here. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:32, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Related: User talk:Redrose64#Apologies! --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 20:48, 15 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the answers everyone!
I have another question I want to ask here: after starting an RfC, can I write my own comment, as well as invite an editor from the dispute that I was involved in to add their comment as well?
The reason for me wanting to do this to provide uninvolved editors with an insight as to what to consider when writing their comment.
To make sure not to canvass the RfC, the editor that I choose to invite will have an opposing opinion to me, and furthermore I will only invite one or two other editors. — AP 499D25 (talk) 00:42, 19 June 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You might be interested in Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Example formatting#Pro and con. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:35, 20 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Malformed RFCs: what’s the process for dealing with them?[edit]

An editor has recently opened an RFC here. There was no current or recent discussion (the last one was May), so this fails RFCBEFORE, and the RFC itself is malformed (no category, a very un- neutral statement). What’s the process for dealing with these? Thanks - SchroCat (talk) 17:38, 13 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@SchroCat, it looks like the immediate problem was solved by removing the tag, but I wanted to add that a discussion a mere two months ago probably counts, and RFCBEFORE isn't absolutely mandatory anyway (it is "only" a very, very good idea). WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:54, 17 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Usually editors ignore issues and just comment. Although that's not the ideal many times. The RFC guidance is just an information page, which means it's not as binding as guidelines or policies. But many times it is enforced. Regards, Thinker78 (talk) 03:03, 17 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
One of the things I value about experienced editors is their skill in navigating sub-optimal RFC questions. WhatamIdoing (talk) 14:03, 17 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think a valid issue would be of more importance and "Malformed" might be from a lack of knowledge. WhatamIdoing is correct about the RFC guidance, "RFCBEFORE isn't absolutely mandatory anyway (it is "only" a very, very good idea)" and Thinker78's "just an information page", especially the part about "But many times it is enforced.".
These "other pages", Information pages, informative and instructional pages, Wikipedia how-to, or Supplement pages, and essays can really carry absolutely no weight (a very slim single or minority page) to at least some "explanatory essays" that if treated like "only an essay" and ignored, might be regretted. Consider WP:BRD: Has anyone ever been called on the carpet or maybe sanctioned for violating an explanatory essay? How about another explanatory essay, WP:NOTHERE. An editor can (I am pretty sure "and has") receive sanctions of blocking or banning for not being here. But it is just an essay!!
A valid point (I think) is that these should not be summarily dismissed unless someone is attempting to invoke one that is clearly subordinate to a policy, guideline, is actually not relevant, or is just some form of smoke.
Just recently I saw a close, and rebuke, I support: "Requests for Comment (RfCs) are used to reach consensus on issues after other types of discussions have failed to produce consensus. Please review WP:RfC. This should've been posted as an ordinary topic on this talk page, not an RfC".
It would be better (in my opinion and likely shared by some) if there was mention in the lead of "Editors are expected to make a reasonable attempt at resolving their issues before starting an RfC" (from the body). This could potentially forestall some unnecessary RFC's. It does seem to be acknowledged that many only read the lead of an article. -- Otr500 (talk) 02:24, 20 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have wondered if it's the other way around with policies and similar pages. For example, a surprising number of editors do not seem to know what "original research" means, and it is defined in the second sentence of that policy. Far more editors can explain SYNTH than can correctly identify OR. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:30, 20 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In fairness to the editors who don't understand WP:NOR, it is the most horrible mess of a policy. It's full of what linguists call false friends: terms like "primary sources" that editors learned about at university, but here they have Wikipedia's own, idiosyncratic meanings. (Unless, apparently, you happen to be a historiographer.) NOR is our second-worst policy, after NOT, which is just a thinly-disguised bucket list of things some editors don't want other editors to do.—S Marshall T/C 08:40, 20 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Untagged RFCs[edit]

I've seen two discussions recently, both started by less-experienced editors (e.g., 500–1,000 edits, accounts around a year old), that claim in the section heading to be an RFC, but they aren't. They were never tagged, the bot never listed them, FRS participants were never notified, etc. Both were on high-traffic pages (one at a Village pump and the other a COVID-19 article). In one case, I eventually corrected the section heading to indicate that it wasn't an RFC; in another, a more experienced editor added the tag and triggered the bot processes.

Has anyone else seen this happening? WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:59, 7 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I see it all the time, along with untagged RMs and untagged protected edit requests. Changing the heading or adding the tag both seem like reasonable responses, depending on the context. Firefangledfeathers (talk / contribs) 17:10, 7 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If a non-RFC gets archived with an RFC-claiming section heading, that could be a bad thing later. Editors do rely on the section headings to be truthful when they're searching for prior RFCs. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:58, 8 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Publicizing in noticeboards[edit]

I added some guidance reflecting apparent practice that I stumbled on last year. Also, some RfCs might look like they are unrelated to the noticeboard and may be removed, depends on the interpretation of the posting editor and the removing editor. For context, see this notice in my talk page, relating to this post. I started a discussion at the time in this page titled, Removal of my rfc publicizing from noticeboard. Notice how Nightenbelle says "you wouldn't go to the administrator's noticeboard to advertise an RFC either", which appears to contradict Jc37 previous revert rationale. Regards, Thinker78 (talk) 06:03, 22 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The advice doesn't feel actionable. It's sort of "Caution: There is a secret list of noticeboards that will reject your notice". WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:33, 22 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree. I don't think this has been happening enough to require guidance. And when it does happen, there's usually a natural learning moment where those at the noticeboard redirect the user elsewhere. Firefangledfeathers (talk / contribs) 16:40, 22 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]