Forums: War Room New user groups policy
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User group policy was changed.

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I'd like to propose a change to the first two items on the current user groups policy, which state:

  • New groups can be created at the discretion of any user. Create a new project page (a page with the prefix Project: or Avatar Wiki:), and link to it from this page. Outline the purpose of the new group and advertise it to interested users, possibly through a blog post or the official community newsletter, The Ba Sing Se Times.
  • After a period of two weeks, new user groups will be checked by an administrator. If the group does not have more than one member, or if the group is clearly for social purposes, it will be deleted.

Now, the #1 basically allows for the unfeterred creation of any kind of group, whether it's needed or not. In my opinion, necessity is very much a factor, but instead of placing the burden of proof on the creator, the current policy makes initiative and enrollment (of only one member) the only real requirements for a user group to the created and become official.

So, I propose to replace #1 and #2 with:

  • User groups must go through war room consensus in order to establish its need.
  • No group will be considered unless there are already three people interested in being in it.

Of course this policy would work retroactively, meaning that many existing groups would need to be examined. ― Thailog 15:26, June 29, 2013 (UTC)

Nothing else to add, but "I agree". Lady Lostris vstf (talkHotN) 15:28, June 29, 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Fully agree. While I'm fully aware that I advocated for the present user group policy, we always have to adapt to shifting circumstances and correct for experience. It's become quite evident that this is what's needed to foster true collaboration without the noise of spur-of-the-moment groups. The 888th Avatar (talk) 15:30, June 29, 2013 (UTC)
I agree with replacing #1, but I think #2 is still applicable. Even if a proposed user group passes War Room consensus (and has 3 users wishing to join), I believe we should still have a check made after two weeks to ensure the group is existing constructively; passing consensus is no guarantee that the group will actually act upon its proposed goal. So, I agree with replacing #1 with the proposed suggestions, but I don't agree with removing #2.
Additionally, since this is part of the proposal, how exactly are we going to examine existing groups, that is, what criteria are we going to use to measure whether an existing group should stay or go. HAMMEROFTHOR 15:50, June 29, 2013 (UTC)
But #2 is not meant for what you've just described. Per the current policy, as long as the group has more than one member and they appear to be doing what they proposed to do, they will be left alone. What you're proposing is a revision of #2, not keeping it as it is. I don't oppose your addendum, but if said group garners consensus for creation, then it would be because 1) it really is a necessity and 2) the members interested have provided enough guarantees (either by their experience or quality contributions) that they will fulfill their commitment. I find it hard to believe that such group would fail to meet their expectations. ― Thailog 18:09, June 29, 2013 (UTC)
Hmm, I didn't mean to suggest anything different to what we have already have; by existing constructively, I was referring to "not for social interaction". To clarify my original statement, I believe that the check as detailed by the second point should be kept.
A check after two weeks that they are fulfilling their commitments is hardly a long and complex process, so I don't see that keeping the policy (altered or otherwise) is such a problem. Consensus may be that the creation of the group is necessary, but just because the users provide guarantees in the discussion, doesn't mean that will actually happen; there have instances in the past when users have guaranteed their new group would do something, only for nothing to happen. If we keep #2, we have a small, quick, unobtrusive policy that ensures this happens, and allows for the removal of the group if it does not. I don't see how doing so is disadvantageous. HAMMEROFTHOR 18:35, June 29, 2013 (UTC)
It can't be as it is, because "[...] If the group does not have more than one member [...]" will no longer be applicable, as three will be the required minimum to create a group. ― Thailog 18:58, June 29, 2013 (UTC)

I don’t see how this new rule is needed. The current policy is defined as to what constitutes a user group, what the goal of a group should be and how to create it. The current policy also gives the group and its creator an assume good faith benefit of the doubt to have a trial run for their idea for two weeks before evaluation. This seems a better way to go about things to me because a)sometimes one doesn’t know how effective a group will be until it is put into practice and b)the creation of user groups is infrequent, so having a little leeway in the beginning does not burden the wiki significantly. Furthermore, that leeway from the start without the extra red tape provides a relatively open door for the creation of groups when they can arguably be useful.

@888: I completely agree about having to adapt ourselves to shifting circumstances, but I don’t believe this is called for as the time to do it. Look at profile images, for one thing. Until 2009, profile images on articles could be changed at any time just like in any other edit. Then, when the wiki became a larger and more active place, a policy was created that profile images had to be discussed on the appropriate talk page before changing. This was the case through the end of 2010 and in early 2011, the current profile image change project page was created for such discussions. If pre-2009 policy were still in effect today, we would be overwhelmed with many needless back-and-forth changes to profile images. That is why this is a perfect case of when it was sensible to adapt to changing times. However, to say the same is true about having to create a new rule on user group creations today implies that there has been a “flood” of needless creations of user groups. This is not the case at all. Creation of user groups are still a rare occurrence. Sure, there was one on June 28th, but the most recent one before that was all the way back in October.

As you and Thailog probably well know by now, the face of this wiki is constantly changes over time. What user groups we have will have to adapt to those needs. There can be emerging needs that a new user group can assist with that may not be blatantly obvious at first. Subjecting them all to the War Room might not be beneficial. I’d like to point out the FRS for instance. When it was first created, some users were skeptical about whether it was right to create a user group for something “trivial” like blogs reviewing fanons. Once the group became active, most of those users dropped their objections once they saw it in practice. Since then, the FRS has become one of the most coordinated and effective groups on here, but that initial chance and leeway was essential in the beginning. On the other hand, it’s not a hassle to dispense with a needless group under the current system, without this new and quite possibly over-the-top screening process. We’ve done so on a number of occasions, such as with the Penguin Sledding Team, a group solely to welcome new users to the wiki. Other users quickly pointed out the lack of necessity and the issue was promptly addressed.

If the unfettered creation of spur-of-the-moment groups were a much more frequent of an occurrence than the present once every several months, then the case for a new policy would have more merit. At the present, however, I must oppose both rule changes. --AvatarRokus Ghost (Message meRead my fanon) Aang Cosmic Toph-DoBS-2 05:03, June 30, 2013 (UTC)

"The current policy is defined as to what constitutes a user group"
A rather broad and vague definition. The current policy pretty much allows for the creation of any group as long as it has an apparent purpose, such as, say, removing double spaces after periods. What's the point of that when any user handling the AWB can do that effortlessly?
"The current policy also gives the group and its creator an assume good faith benefit of the doubt to have a trial run for their idea for two weeks before evaluation."
I think you're misinterpreting the two weeks clause. The only thing evaluated after two weeks is whether or not the group has more members (at least one) besides its founder and is clearly for social purposes. So, the aforementioned fictional group, as long as it had two members in total and went about removing double spaces here and there, would be allowed to stay, even though it's completely pointless.
Your entire case rests upon the premise that potentially successful groups such as the FRS would be stymied from the start. That's a fallacy predicated on the assumption of bad faith. As long as the purpose of the group was innocuous, such as the FRS, I don't see why it would fail to garner consensus, provided that the need for it was established (as opposed to the group I mentioned, which is innocuous but unnecessary).
I also oppose the idea that one successful group which, in your opinion, could be shut down in the War Room is a good enough reason to justify the unrestrained creation of any group. ― Thailog 08:53, June 30, 2013 (UTC)
Edit conflict: The necessity comes from the fact that many "new" groups nowadays are just recycled ideas (whether the creator of the group knows that or not). A War Room consensus could put a stop to the creation of said useless groups by sharing past experience to point out why it would never work. That does not have to mean that a big discussion will arise every time a new idea comes up and is presented well -with the three users supporting it and all. It does not need to be a crossfire exam or something, but gathering War Room consensus will prevent us having to clean up after a certain period of time. Sure, that is not a terrible time consuming thing to do, but it is a completely useless thing to do when it could have been avoided. The last user groups were all deleted due to being unnecessary and/or recycled ideas that already proved to be unneeded. It are those groups that the WR would stop. New ideas can still very well pass, even when some are skeptical. Besides, users being skeptical about an idea prompts the idea-haver to defend his/her idea and as such, work it out further. So that's not a bad thing. Lady Lostris vstf (talkHotN) 08:58, June 30, 2013 (UTC)
I agree with this proposal. The need for reasonable regulations on usergroups is fittingly highlighted by the large number that have been proved rapidly redundant over the past six months. Instead of relying on the messy free-for-all that is our current system, there should be more coordination in how groups are mandated to serve the needs of the wiki - if there is no demand, there is no group. As under our current arrangements, this means groups die out all too quickly when their purpose is rendered meaningless, so the proposal but speeds up the process of separating the wheat from the chaff - i.e. the usergroups that will most likely survive in the long-term and those that will not. I believe under the scrutiny of our sensible community, the decision of whether to keep or reject the premise for a usergroup will almost always be made practically and rationally, and thus be in the favor of all involved - plus constructive criticism is not a bad thing, as it provides grounds for improvement and allows the users involved to justify their endeavor so that we know they are willing and able to carry forward their collaborative project in the long-term. Indeed, more thought will be put into these groups. Lastly, I do think that greater community involvement in our usergroup projects has been a long time coming, as the two are interdependent - it hardly makes sense that a newly founded group with the overarching goal of assisting the entire wiki in a certain area has not even one knowledgeable member of the wider community giving feedback on its creation and subsequent viability... Which I think will be corrected by this proposal. KettleMeetPotwall 11:55, June 30, 2013 (UTC)

Even though I just created a user group (which is probably the reason for this forum) I have to agree with the proposal. Looking forward, my group won't last long simply because it is not needed. The new terms will prevent situations like this from happening in the future. Shadow☆Star 14:58, June 30, 2013 (UTC)

@Thailog: Actually, the stem of my case is the point of this rule addition not being necessary. Why add extra burden if it’s not needed? Under the current policy, groups have been shut down. For the creator under the proposed policy, they would have to explain themselves more whether the group is a good one or not, while under the current policy they would have the benefit of the doubt it a trial run. For the community under the proposed policy, there will be a discussion whether the group is good or not, while under the current policy, there is only the discussion if it warrants it. Thus, something like the Fire Sages never required a discussion, but the Penguin Sledding Team had one similar to how it would under a new policy. The extra burden on the creator I don’t see as as big of an issue, since they’re the one that chose to create the group, but this will add many pointless discussions on good groups. The discussions on bad groups could’ve happened anyway.
Since this is a policy that would be in place from now on, an example of one group that has been beneficial to the community is actually quite a strong reason to justify keeping the policy the way it is. When not that many groups have been created altogether lately, we’re talking on a small-numbers scale. An entirely theoretical group to remove double spaces after periods is more frivilous than anything that’s been created in the past couple years, even the Penguin Sledding Team. I can support amending the rule to say the purpose of the group itself can be evaluated after the initial two weeks, but I wouldn’t go further than that.
@Lostris: Well, first off, there aren’t that many new groups nowadays. Six months into the year only one has been created. Past experience isn’t always relevant, either. Some groups have been started, then became inactive, then a new user or group of users stepped in to make them active once again. Although it’s not the same thing, that’s a de facto re-founding of a group that has failed in the past. Past experience may say not to give it another go, but oftentimes it’s worked quite well the second time around. And sure, forcing the founder to defend themselves and take constructive criticism isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s no guarantee it would be beneficial each time, and we have message walls and the groups themselves have talk pages, so there’s no need for a new process when feedback can already be provided if need be.
@KMP: The community doesn’t automatically have a discussion on every newly-created page or every edit to a page being made. For something like starting a new user group project or changing something minor, the individual user has leeway. Not every issue or micro-issue needs to be escalated to the War Room unless it’s necessary. In fact, I would say it should be avoided if possible.
@Shadow Star: This isn’t about any one individual user group, even though that might have brought it up. It’s about whether a more or less flexible user group creation path should be followed by the wiki in the long run. --AvatarRokus Ghost (Message meRead my fanon) Aang Cosmic Toph-DoBS-2 18:07, June 30, 2013 (UTC)
ARG, you're missing the point: not many new groups have been created, but those that have been, were deleted shortly after due to being unneeded/unnecessary. Past experience would put a stop to that, which is always beneficial. So no, it isn't always relevant, but when it comes to user groups, it is. A new motivated group can always revive a group that was deleted due to inactivity. Such projects will most definitely manage to garner WR consensus. However, a motivated group to revive an unnecessary group will not, cause there is simply no need for the group. And for those situations, it is good that the WR consensus will bock them beforehand. Lady Lostris vstf (talkHotN) 20:46, June 30, 2013 (UTC)
"Why add extra burden if it’s not needed? Under the current policy, groups have been shut down."
Yes, because of inactivity or because it failed to recruit one more member. What other groups have been shut down for being deemed unneeded?
"Since this is a policy that would be in place from now on, an example of one group that has been beneficial to the community is actually quite a strong reason to justify keeping the policy the way it is."
Only if you assume that the FRS would have been shut down under the proposed policy. I've already explained why it wouldn't, so FRS being a beneficial group or not is a moot point.
"I can support amending the rule to say the purpose of the group itself can be evaluated after the initial two weeks, but I wouldn’t go further than that."
And who would do that? You don't want to burden the creator but would have someone else being judge, jury and executioner? I'd rather leave it to the community to decide, in which case would only make sense before the group is approved. ― Thailog 22:34, June 30, 2013 (UTC)
The standards of whether or not something is needed are often subject to debate, especially before something has been done before, so in this case past experience isn’t always the best indicator. And as I’ve pointed out, groups have been shut down for being deemed unneeded: the Penguin Sledding Team, which I already pointed out, and also the Fanon Certification Team amongst them. They were deleted following a discussion which deemed them unnecessary, as would be the same in the proposed system. However, the proposed system makes the fate uncertain for groups that are ambiguous or in the middle, which are entitled to at least two weeks of a trial run under the current system. As I said before, the reception to the FRS in the beginning wasn’t as upbeat as other groups, so there’s no way to tell for certain whether they would or would not have passed under the proposed system, which requires more scrutiny at the beginning.
“And who would do that? You don't want to burden the creator but would have someone else being judge, jury and executioner? I'd rather leave it to the community to decide, in which case would only make sense before the group is approved.”
Okay, maybe I wasn’t clear enough on that point. As of now, every group gets two weeks after which they get deleted if they are social or don’t have multiple members. I would support amending that to say that after that two week period, users would having the option of challenging the legitimacy of the group in the War Room. The community would still be the deciders, but this would be fundamentally different than your proposal in that each group gets an automatic two-week grace period to test the necessity of it’s mission. Also, the initiator of the discussion would be the one who disagrees with the group, not the creator. In other words, if no one makes the forum “against” the group, no discussion needs to be held. --AvatarRokus Ghost (Message meRead my fanon) Aang Cosmic Toph-DoBS-2 03:49, July 1, 2013 (UTC)
"The community doesn’t automatically have a discussion on every newly-created page or every edit to a page being made. For something like starting a new user group project or changing something minor, the individual user has leeway. Not every issue or micro-issue needs to be escalated to the War Room unless it’s necessary. In fact, I would say it should be avoided if possible."
That is false equivalency. You believe that the business of usergroups is trivial, enough so that there doesn't need to be a discussion; I and others beg to differ. They form an important part of our collaborative projects - you have seen yourself the impact a successful usergroup can have with your own FRS example; their quality reviews of fanon have gone a long way to enrich user involvement in that namespace such that their services are highly sought after by many authors on the wiki. I do not see why creating an easy enough process to further quality standards on the question of usergroups would be such a disadvantage to you. This is hardly a "micro-issue", since successful projects have, in the history books, encompassed and affected large numbers of users on this wiki. If groups are all about collaborative work in service of the wiki community, why should not the community itself be able to influence the creation of these groups? Why should not broader discussions be held instead of unilateral decision making by a select few? That seems like a blatant oxymoron to the founding synergistic principle of usergroups, if you ask me.
In times past, it has also been made very much apparent how closed-off and hierarchical some usergroups had become - I need not remind you of the "founder" tag debate - such that the attitude had become that wider community principles did not automatically apply to these groups. Ensuring that the community at least gets a say in what usergroups will be endorsed on the wiki will not only dispel any such perception, but it will also ensure that groups with creative thought and effort behind them are selected for and gain wider community recognition - an improvement to the current "swim or sink" doctrine, as I have observed of late that the latter seems to occur far more often than the former. To further this point, the high failure rate not only creates more messes for us to deal with every time one happens, but it also clearly emphasizes that the current system of unilateral creation is inefficient... Something I think would be markedly improved by these changes. KettleMeetPotwall 10:16, July 1, 2013 (UTC)
I don’t see why the founder/leader tag needs to be brought into this. Per the forum we had a forum about that, it is now Avatar Wiki policy that such a label is not allowed in user groups. It can and shall be removed any time it appears. However, this doesn’t deal with the existence of the group itself, just how it operates. I fully agree that the community should play a part in user group protocol, and also which groups we allow. However, I also believe that the proposal constricts the flexibility of user group creation, and that is in-and-of-itself, something to be avoided unless necessary. I don’t see what can be brought by this that can’t be brought by a watchful enforcement of the current protocol, plus noting that users can bring up concerns about a given group after a two-week period of trial operation (unless the group is blatantly irrelevant, in which case they can be closed beforehand, as has been done in the past.) This allows for community input regarding the group itself, but gives a a grace period to a)give the benefit of the doubt to the initiator at least for a little while and b)help the community make an informed decision by witnessing the new project in practice in order to make a clearer evaluation. --AvatarRokus Ghost (Message meRead my fanon) Aang Cosmic Toph-DoBS-2 05:28, July 2, 2013 (UTC)
I was but using that as an example to further a point... But I can see that you will not be changing your mind anytime soon, so all I have to say further is that I do not see how the "flexibility" of usergroup creation would be affected by a mere request for the users in question to justify its need on a forum. Even if there was a problem with this, the pros still far outweigh the cons - I have made it abundantly clear how the current system is insufficient, and that "watchful enforcement" won't be getting anyone anywhere at this point. Furthermore, this was never about giving "the benefit of the doubt" to anyone - that is completely irrelevant - just sounding out new usergroups to the community and collectively evaluating their need, such that time and effort won't be needlessly wasted by all involved in the initiative to foster true long-term collaborative projects.
And I fail to see why the community, with its abundant and diverse user base ranging from all different sides of experience and thought, cannot make an informed and logical decision given the premise and details of any new usergroup; if there was a theoretical 50:50 split as you were concerned about, it could easily be compromised to run a trial period to dispel (or reinforce) any issues over practicality upon operation - your solution of having the community instead of administrators directly dealing the finishing blow to already contested usergroups will not change anything about the abhorrent turnover rate, due to the unnecessary groups that have been made and will still be made under that setup. In fact, it is exactly the same as the previous system except for that one key difference, and adds nothing of benefit over the proposed yet bundles unnecessary red tape to a process that works sluggishly at best - which I think is unacceptable. I'm sorry, but I'm not convinced that this is so bad over the current arrangements that we should not even give the proposal a try - which is why I for one will be sticking to it. KettleMeetPotwall 08:29, July 2, 2013 (UTC)