Wikipedia:Survey notification

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Fundamental to Wikipedia is the concept of consensus. Proposals and suggestions that might be contentious must generally achieve consensus before being implemented. Most changes to Wikipedia are probably uncontroversial, and most of the rest can be discussed in an ad-hoc manner on the appropriate talk page, but in the case of certain proposals that are both routine and likely to be contentious, we have established various fora for discussion and polling to determine whether consensus exists: Articles for deletion, Requests for adminship, and so forth.

No matter what we do, such discussions will involve only a tiny percentage of active Wikipedians. This is unavoidable. The results, however, should ideally reflect the views of all Wikipedians, not just those who happen to stop by—polls are not "votes", where everyone in a certain group gets one vote if they choose to exercise it. Certainly, those who are more interested in the subject matter deserve a greater say, and they receive it by natural selection bias. This is fine; discussions should be as informed as possible.

But in some cases, users who favor one side try to skew the outcome of the poll by inviting a large number of people to support their view, when otherwise those people wouldn't have come. As far as discussion goes, the more the merrier, but in the interests of determining whether this microcosm of Wikipedians is in accord with Wikipedians as a whole, it's important to know who was invited to participate. Skewing toward those knowledgeable and interested in the subject matter is good, but skewing toward those more willing to electioneer and form factions is not.

Guidelines

  1. In many of the procedures we have set up, posting notifications in the appropriate places is mandatory. This is the skew toward people interested in the subject matter: they'll be more likely to read the page, follow the links, and comment than others. This is good (which is why it's required). Likewise, posting a neutral (ideally boilerplate) message to a Village pump or a similarly diverse and neutral gathering place is fine.
  2. It's fine to tell others about a poll, even if you know what opinion they'll express. It's also fine to suggest what their opinion should be. But if someone does do that:
    1. Anyone who contacts others privately should mention in the poll that they have brought the issue to the attention of others, and make sure that the ones you contacted are identified. That is, it's the solicitor's responsibility as well as the solicitee's to make sure point c. is followed.
    2. Anyone who contacts others publicly should post a link to the location where it was announced.
    3. Anyone contacted should mention in the poll that they were contacted.
    4. The closing admin or bureaucrat should attempt, based on what they know, to determine whether there is general consensus for the proposal. In doing so, they should not discard solicited opinions outright, but rather keep in mind that they may not be proportionately representative of Wikipedians as a whole, and base their evaluation of consensus on that point.

Violations

Of course, as with any guideline, there will always be those who don't know about it, and probably (unfortunately) a few who know about it and try to deliberately evade it. The first group, fortunately, can be easily educated; the second hopefully isn't large, but nevertheless may be more troublesome. Remember, however, that nobody is perfect, and everyone will make mistakes. Sooner or later, someone will be contacted who doesn't believe in flouting guidelines, and after a couple of times, the game will be up. So what should you do if you suspect that some people are breaking this guideline?

  • Post {{no spam}} at the top of the page. Probably the infractors were unaware of this policy and were acting in innocence. If this is the case, they should be perfectly willing to admit that they were involved, once it's clear there's nothing wrong with an honest mistake.
  • If you suspect a particular user solicited others to participate, post {{subst:WP:Survey notification/Solicit then inform|page}} ~~~~ to their talk page. If you suspect a particular user was solicited by others to participate, post {{subst:WP:Survey notification/Solicited then inform|page}} ~~~~ instead.
  • If these methods don't work, and you still believe that there's unannounced solicitation occurring—by extension, given that you followed the previous two points, deliberately against the rules—think carefully about why you believe this. Remember that there are many issues on which reasonable people can differ, and keep in mind that just because you're "losing" doesn't mean anyone's conspiring to that end. If you still really think you have good reason to believe that someone's trying to beat the system, keep reading.
  • Tell an uninvolved admin (or bureaucrat in the case of requests for adminship/bureaucratship). Explain your reasons for thinking what you do, and see if they agree. The admin should then follow the remainder of these instructions.
  • Consult with your fellow admins or bureaucrats. If there's some kind of alleged agenda going on, be sure to pick people who would fall out on both sides. If the evidence seems to point to the involvement of one or more specific individuals, talk to them and explain why you think they're involved.
  • If you and those you consult with still believe that some kind of secret electioneering is going on, post your reasons in detail on the proposal page, then allow the survey to close normally. The closing admin (who should not be one of the ones consulted, preferably) should take all applicable evidence into consideration when determining whether there's general consensus for the proposal.

How can secret solicitations be uncovered? The most obvious way is that someone will leak. Most people have some respect for authority and don't want to break rules, and many will surely see the reason behind this guideline. If you're worried about super-secret cabals disrupting surveys, keep in mind that the more influence they have, the more members they need to have, and the higher the chances of their being discovered. Nobody can keep their actions secret forever.

See also

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