Wikipedia talk:Canvassing

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Policy

Would it make sense to promote this guideline page to be a policy? (This is a question, not a formal proposal.) I'm surprised that it isn't a policy already, since it is widely treated as though it were. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:45, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Not sure. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 00:42, 14 March 2018 (UTC)
As someone who understands and sympathizes with the purpose behind the guideline, but also believes it to be woefully misguided and counter-productive, I would certainly not endorse elevating it further. Unschool 07:28, 14 March 2018 (UTC)
No, not until we find a more acceptable name for it: two discussions within the past year show substantial disagreement over whether the term "canvassing" in itself denotes a sin: Noyster (talk), 10:26, 14 March 2018 (UTC)
OK, thanks everyone. That's why I asked. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:21, 14 March 2018 (UTC)
Yeah, I thought about those discussions before replying to you above. People can be sanctioned for canvassing whether it's a guideline or policy, though. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:27, 14 March 2018 (UTC)
Thanks! --Tryptofish (talk) 23:18, 14 March 2018 (UTC)

Canvassees' responsibilities

I wonder if the guideline needs a couple of sentences to guide editors in how best to proceed, if they feel they have been the target of inappropriate notification about a discussion (either expressly, or through the ignorance of a new editor).

I notice that the guideline doesn't currently mention anything about the responsibilities of someone who is the target of possible canvassing. My guess is that this is by design, but I just wanted to throw it out there. Clearly, there's no sin in being the target of it, because if there's a sin involved, you're the "victim" so to speak, and not the agent in any inappropriate notification.

However, I wondered if someone canvassed me about something, whether or not I would feel duty-bound *not* to go !vote on some subject under discussion. My first reaction, was that I should stay away in an abundance of caution, to avoid any possible misinterpretation of my own action, or to avoid tainting the voting.

On reflection, however, I think an editor should feel free to !vote even if they suspect they are canvassed, because the contrary leads to an absurdity: if canvassed votes were prohibited a priori, that could lead to "reverse votestacking" by a partisan individually notifying opponents in order to disqualify them, while notifying projects neutrally so their supporters see it, thus tilting the balance their way. That would be an absurd side-effect of prohibiting canvassed votes; that may be one reason why there isn't a statement in the guideline about this now.

But, not saying anything about it at all, might not be ideal for NPOV, either. Because I would still feel funny about !voteing, if I felt canvassed, and might well avoid it anyway. So how to handle this? I think a "best practices" move here, would be that an editor who feels canvassed should vote, if they would have voted had they been notified appropriately, and that they should self-tag their vote with {{canvassed}}. This alerts the closer to the situation, who can then decide what to do with such votes. As this is a bit subtle, in order to make this clear to editors who want to do the right thing, we might need to say something explicit about this in the guideline. So, my attempt:

If you feel you may have been inappropriately canvassed to participate in a discussion, you are neither obliged to vote, nor to avoid voting because of it. Consider whether you would have voted, had you received the notification in an appropriate way. It is the responsibility of the closer to evaluate the consensus of a discussion, and you can help by including the {{canvassed}} template with your vote, and then leave it up to them.

Any thoughts on this? Mathglot (talk) 00:33, 5 June 2018 (UTC)

Consultation request

Perhaps this belongs at Wikipedia:Requests for comment, but since it concerns alleged canvassing on my part, I will first post here. The exchange at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Ukraine/Archive 5#New Kiev/Kyiv naming discussion, which was further developed near the bottom of the discussion at Talk:Kiev/naming, suggested that my posting at Talk:WikiProject Ukraine the sentence, "Editors who may wish to participate, can access the discussion at the page specially designed for that topic, Talk:Kiev/naming" constituted canvassing.

Are we to assume that only like-minded editors keep Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Ukraine on their watchlists, while everyone else ignores that talk page. It was certainly noticed immediately by an opponent of the proposal and it was possible or even likely that the announcement I posted would have attracted more votes against my position than in favor of it. The venue itself, however, is the precise spot where it would seem such an announcement should be posted in the same manner that Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Film is the venue to post announcements about ongoing film discussions.

A complaint might have been legitimately lodged if I picked through Category:Ukrainian Wikipedians and posted on the talk pages of individual members but, as I indicated at the time, this was my only announcement regarding the discussion in question. Does anyone else feel that such an announcement constitutes canvassing?    Roman Spinner (talkcontribs) 13:27, 5 July 2018 (UTC)

Intent

GreenMeansGo, I can see why you made this edit, but notification can influence a discussion in a particular way even when the notification is neutrally worded. Canvassing is more about the intent. I'm trying to think of unintentional canvassing. Examples? Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 17:05, 10 July 2018 (UTC)

Well there's certainly a robust discussion going on here currently. I was actually mostly working on improving c:COM:CANVASSING, the absence of which was highlighted in January at c:Commons:Administrators/Requests/Yug. In both cases, the intent of the user and whether that matters if it has an effect regardless seems to be a topic of debate. For my own part, even if a user has every intent of leaving a neutral message, but how or where the message is left has the effect of inappropriately introducing bias through non-neutral recruitment, is still probably relevant to our guidance, and that's probably especially relevant for newer users and for off wiki discussion. It's not terribly uncommon for someone to simply complain off-wiki with no direct appeal for someone to involve themselves, but we get an AfD riddled with SPA tags. GMGtalk 17:17, 10 July 2018 (UTC)  
I know that people can have different views on what canvassing is, but canvassing is usually interpreted as being intentional. Even if a newbie does not know of our canvassing guideline, if they leave a message or a series of messages to bias an argument in their favor, that is trying to influence the matter in their favor. As for the SPAs, in my opinion, they should be tagged. Complaining about something that happened on Wikipedia in a forum off Wikipedia is likely to bring in one or more editors from that forum to assist the one who complained; that's common sense. The complaint might not have been to get WP:Meatpuppets, but the newbies are SPAs and meatpuppets nonetheless.
Anyway, what do others think of GreenMeansGo's wording change? This is the latest one. Swarm and Nyttend, any thoughts? Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 18:10, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
Definitely not saying that the SPAs shouldn't be tagged or anything like that. Just saying that I didn't canvass. I just complained about Wikipedia deleting my article to my 2 million twitter followers. isn't really a defense. Still pretty much going to have the same effect as saying Dear twitter, go vote keep. So it's still canvassing.
Or something like this ANI, which tl;dr, was pretty much I didn't canvass, I was just seeking outside opinion. Yeah, but if you leave pretty non-neutral notifications, it's not gonna be out of line to call it canvassing. In neither case would people really be willing to accept lack of explicit intent as a defense.
Anyway, open to other opinions. GMGtalk 18:26, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
The wording seems a bit redundant; if it's done fairly to everyone (including opposers, and including people who don't want to be notified trivially), it won't be a inappropriate. It doesn't change the meaning in a problematic manner, so I wouldn't mount some strong opposition, but I oppose it because it's not necessary. Nyttend (talk) 20:11, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
This thread caught my eye because of what is going on at Commons, and I see that it was indeed suggested by that. I think it would be a mistake to change guidelines here unless there is actually a problem here, because the culture at Commons is so different. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:19, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
Fair enough. Reverted. GMGtalk 20:20, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
The "Dear twitter, go vote keep." aspect is a good point, and funny. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:15, 11 July 2018 (UTC)
And it reminds me of this recent move discussion. I and others argued that the Twitter posting was canvassing. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 05:19, 11 July 2018 (UTC)
  • GreenMeansGo The term is often misunderstood and often misused, but there is no "debate" or lack of clarity here. Canvassing is simply the practice of attempting to artificially fabricate a consensus (or lack thereof) by introducing bias, using deceptive notification tactics of any kind. It does not matter if it's a neutral notification to a biased user, or a biased notification to a neutral user, or a completely esoteric way of notifying someone; canvassing is no specific "event" or "situation", it's the attempt at introducing biased participation. It's an intentionally malicious and abusive act. Even the first rendition of this guideline from 2006 defines it as an "attempt to influence the outcome". There's no such thing as "unintentional canvassing" because intent is the whole point. Canvassing prohibits the specific act of attempting to game the consensus-building process, by which we are governed. If there is a "debate" at Commons, that means people are trying to redefine the term for their project's purposes. That's that community's prerogative, but it's pretty simple on this side. Swarm 02:27, 13 July 2018 (UTC)
Umm...I don't draw any real conceptual borders between projects. Most people are collaborative, even when you can barely communicate. Most of the differences are fairly far on the periphery and primarily content related. The initial reference to Commons was more of why I happened to be thinking about this at the moment and looking at this policy as a reference, especially as the definitive version of guidance on Commons has to start in English. (For that matter, on some projects fully half the policies and guidelines are just links to en.wiki.)
As to whether unintentional canvassing is a thing, I simply disagree per above, with probably most of the instances being generic off-wiki complaining, and on-wiki genuine but failed attempts at neutral notification. I suppose if you define all swans as white and prefer the definition over the circumstances, then you are correct, but probably not in a way that is deeply meaningful. The only harm I expect the current framing does is setting users up for assumptions of bad faith: you canvassed, therefore you must have done so intentionally. I don't think that's particularly helpful, but if there is general opposition to any change in wording, then the wording won't change, and that's that. GMGtalk 15:31, 15 July 2018 (UTC)
@GreenMeansGo: Semantical musings aside, I'm simply explaining to you what the term "canvassing" means so that you can understand why your edit was not the superficial correction you intended it to be. The assumption of bad faith you give as an example doesn't make sense: canvassing is specifically a malicious, bad faith act. An accusation of canvassing is, and always has been, an inherent accusation of bad faith. Yes, "intent" is an intangible concept and there is the theoretical possibility of a grey area, but I doubt it's the problem you're making it out to be. Perhaps you could give me a hypothetical example about an "unintentional canvassing" scenario that wouldn't be covered by the present definition? Swarm 07:16, 20 July 2018 (UTC)
I mean, I understand the difference between the two definitions: intent vs. effect. What I've been arguing is that the community applies the second definition when there is effect without intent. There have already been given a few examples above, both real and hypothetical. But it doesn't lend any clarity to the discussion to reify canvassing as if it is a thing that exists apart from its definition. It exists however it is defined. The question is whether there is a meaningful difference between the definition de jure and the definition de facto. GMGtalk 10:50, 20 July 2018 (UTC)
If we want a counter-intuitive thought experiment, consider the opposite scenario. An established user has a dispute with a new user on Prayer. They leave a neutral notification on FTN, as a central noticeboard, but do so knowing they frequent FTN themselves, and with the expectation that they will primarily attract users they've worked with extensively in the past, as opposed to also notifying the equally appropriate Wikipedia:WikiProject Religion, with which they are not personally active. Consider that their argument on Prayer is actually quite weak, and participants from FTN generally agree with the new user. We would probably not ever characterize that as a form of canvassing, even though by their intent, the subtle difference between who they notified and why was done with the expectation they would attract others to the discussion with whom they would agree. The primary consideration would be the bare facts, without recourse to what their intention may have been, even if we could somehow read their mind, or suppose they later posted on their talk page to the effect of That discussion went off the rails. I did not expect users from FTN to side with a religious nut over someone they know. GMGtalk 12:24, 20 July 2018 (UTC)
Some editors have a, shall we say, surprising lack of awareness of the impact of their edits. I do think editors can post a message without an intent to bias a decision, and yet do so anyway. Going back to this discussion on using canvassing as a neutral term, if that had been accepted, then I think it is less clear that such a thing can happen without intent. But going with the English Wikipedia connotations of "canvassing", I believe there are cases where editors honestly think they are posting a neutral message or providing neutral notifications, but are not. We could try not to label situations that lack intent as canvassing, but I suspect it'll be difficult to get wide adoption, as it requires too much divining. isaacl (talk) 19:45, 15 July 2018 (UTC)
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