CZ Talk:Editorial Council Rules of Procedure

From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search

Sanger's responses to comments

I'm going to use this page to summarize the many & various requests for clarification of these rules, as well as explain how I plan to edit the rules to satisfy the requests. Thanks to Supten S. for a start on this summary. Replies below are all by Larry Sanger.

Comments and replies


J Dennehy wrote: "Should there be some quorum for voting. Perhaps some fraction of editors needs to approve of proposals before they are implemented."

Changed before submitting for public discussion. Quorum set at 40%; I'm open to debate on the exact number. Robert's Rules says that 50% is the usual number.


Robert Winmill wrote: "A combination of a parliamentary procedure and hierarchy system will be needed. The combination would be structured into a matrix with the structure of overall editorial policy on one axis and the structure of subject matter areas on the other axis. Each intersection of this matrix at some defined level would be considered a specific "editorial working area"."

Actually, I think that the other end of the axis is not "subject matter areas" (i.e., workgroups), but individuals; and I still would like individuals talking to individuals to be by far the most common way to make decisions. There should only be an "escalation path" whereby one can go to workgroups and after that to the Editorial Council (or other body; it depends).

I think we will have to have a procedure for creating committees. Such a procedure is provided for in Robert's Rules, but it should be explicit in our own rules.

RW again: "Another thought would be to use the logic of "inheritance" used in object oriented programming, and integrating this into a hierarchy of voting for editorial topics that will be needed at many levels."

Sounds too complicated.

Length of time for votes and discussion

Anthony Argyriou: "Second: timing - consider requiring a minimum 72 hours for most major things, unless you're going to forbid 24-periods from starting on fridays or weekends. Some people will have schedules which make participation on weekends or evenings or particular days of the week highly inconvenient."

I'm highly sympathetic to this point, but first let me make an important theoretical observation. The way that digitized parliamentary procedure must work, if it is to be asynchronous (i.e., everyone isn't online and available to talk at the same time), is that some people may be unavailable when important business is conducted. This is unavoidable. There is another way to proceed, of course. Short of doing a conference call, we could do a giant "chatroom"-type chat, and then standard parliamentary procedure could be followed much more closely. But in such a case, we cannot fit everyone's schedule--indeed, it seems obvious that even fewer people would be able to participate in such a case. I think that in the long run, we will be able to accomplish more, and include more people, modelling parliamentary procedure in an asynchronous system.

We have to walk a narrow line between allowing enough time to vote (or make motions) and taking so much time that the whole process moves like molasses. The hope is that by treating several resolutions at once, even if any one resolution takes some time to get through the system, we can make stead progress on setting policy.

I guess I have to agree that we need at least 24 (or 30, see below) hours during the standard five-day work week in which people can vote.

Gary Giamboi: "if we are going to limit the actual time period for the casting our votes, there should be a reasonable minimum period of notification for the scheduled vote."

I think the main motion--the one offering the resolution--together with the regular process for considering it, counts as "notification" that a vote will take place. Note also that the vote takes place over a period of time--a minimum of 72 hours for a vote on a resolution. Hence, in declaring that a vote will be closed 72 hours from now, that I think counts as adequate notification of a "scheduled vote" (insofar as the relevant part of the scheduling is the closing of the vote). Moreover, there will be reminders posted 24 hours, 12 hours, and one hour in advance of the close of a vote.

Matt Innis: "4). I see potential problems with my ability to respond in short order at

certain times of the year, etc. Some editors may be away for 3, 5 or 7 days at a time. Maybe more time for the more important decisions?"

I'll add language that directs us to make discussion and voting longer for more important decisions.

Jochen Wendebaum: "I would like to suggest to loosen the quite short time frames given in the Council Rules in several places.
"As I was out of office last week, I had to experience myself that the given time frames could disallow council members to join the discussion and voting of a resolution, and most of the members are professionals which will have more or less time on travels and therefore limited web access. On the other hand I understand very well the need for short time frames in order to not prolong discussions and votings.
"So my suggestion is to add a longer minimum time for discussions. Also the initial vote itself should be prolonged to 48 hours. And maybe a table of all times could be added to make the time frame a bit easier to understand."

Will add a table or two.

Bear in mind that most of the short time frames are indeed minimums--and that, as an assembly, we can request for more time. But there are some decisions that, I think, it is better that we make quickly, and omit a few people who are busy (as long as there is a quorum). This is strictly in the interests of efficiency.

JW again: "Additionally, I could not find some rules of how discussions will find an end. I think, one of the problems of wikipedia are the endless debates, and at least for the resolutions there should be some kind of regularisation of the end of the discussion."

According to the rules at present, time for discussion is initially set by the Chair, since the Chair has the authority to transfer a resolution to voting. Moreover, others may "call the previous question," which means to end debate and begin voting. This is a motion that can be voted upon. What the rules don't actually clearly specify is that the Chair should, in fact, set a time for voting, as I did. I think this would be clarified if I included a step-by-step guide of the travels of a resolution. I'll do that too.

Motions to extend

Anthony Argyriou: "Third: timing, again. On the unilateral extension of discussion time, perhaps a limit of ad extra 7 or 15 days would be useful, so that a proposal can't be killed by extending discussion indefinitely."

Good point. The limit should be two days, and then we vote on more time.

Tracking motions

John Moffett: "There should be a specific web page or forum section dedicated to this function. Having one location where all business takes place will make it easy for editors to keep up to date on the current agenda. So if each proposal is going to have its own location (wiki page, forum section, whatever), they should all be grouped together under one main heading and listed chronologically."

I agree. There should be a log that lists all motions chronologically and links to resolution pages and Why didn't I think of that?  :-) Ultimately, all this bookkeeping could end up being rather arduous. So, clearly, we need a secretary. But since this is a wiki and work is done asynchronously, it is better to spread the work around. We should, I think, have a rules committee, and this committee also has the responsibility of enforcing proper form and recordkeeping--I would see these people all playing the role of parliamentarian.

JM again: "All editors should be notified by e-mail when a new proposal is added to the queue, rather than expecting all editors to check the agenda page several times a day."

I think it is simpler and better for participants if we make all motions on the mailing list (where there is a permanent record of them), and then track those motions on the Web page.

Anh Nguyen: "About the discussion, it is not really clear who will keep the initial comments? Some kind of secretary.. ?"

I agree that we need at least one secretary position; but actually, I think a Rules Committee can do double-duty here.

Rules too complex?

David Goodman: "I think the general procedure is appropriate, although perhaps over-complex--it is probably designed to simulate the private and public lobbying, but it's more than we need--we are not discussing the fate of the world."

I have no great love for complex rules, and in fact I like to have no rules when they are not necessary, or when more good can come from their lack. But, for better or worse, when a lot of people get together--particularly a lot of very smart, independent-minded people, like our Members--there have to be reliable methods of guaranteeing two things. First, Members have to be treated more or less equally and fairly, preventing any one from "gaming the system" and gaining an unfair advantage--except when explicitly recognized and encoded in a person's role. Second, the system should be such as to be allow a clear resolution of (potentially) common procedural disputes. Otherwise, we end up in governance crises.

Also, you may underestimate the importance of our work. Suppose we end up as successful as Wikipedia: we generate millions of articles in hundreds of languages. Suppose our articles are regarded as authoritative, where Wikipedia's are not. The articles then become potential political footballs (politics construed very broadly here). Our system should be set up from the beginning as a fair arena of discussion, with means of reining in those who would abuse the system. And the worst potential abuses will come from those in authority who want to set up policies that permit or order lower-level abuse. Our governance, thus, should have many of the procedural safeguards that democratic countries have, over the centuries, devised against injustice.

David Shapinsky:"I agree with both of you. What I got from David Goodman's comment was that we simply put the emphasis on the 'less is more' principle. We need rules? Yes. The work is important? Yes. What we most need, I think, is to have clear processes to resolve issues -- those that will occur on a regular basis -- and those that may only occur occasionally but could cause great difficult. In either case simplicity and clarity can help make things move more smoothly. What we need to avoid is complexity that interferes with prompt efficient decision-making. My guess is that we all pretty much agree with that."

There are two different things that can be clear and/or complex: the rules themselves, and the procedures they encode. I am in favor of clear and simple procedures, as much as possible (or, anyway, it should be simple enough for members to know what to do, without straining--and that might require the Chair or a Rules Committee explaining what the rules are); but I am not really in favor of simple rules of procedure, because simplicity when applied to rules means vague rules, and vague rules are inherently open to abuse.

Queue unnecessary?

DG again: "first, I think we need no formal queue, unless it is expected we will have a great deal of formal business. I think it unlikely."

Well, we can simply skip it when business is light, as I did with 0001. I think you are wrong, however, about the amount of business we'll have. Within a few weeks, you will probably see over a dozen resolutions and there will always be a queue after that. That's my prediction. We should prepare in case I'm right.

Rewording the discussion section

DG again: "second, I would replace the entire section 3.2 with something much simpler: (the following is not necessarily exact wording--I'll work it up if there is any sentiment along similar lines) 3.2.1 Initial discussion shall take place for at least 48 hours in a private forum. 3.2.2 Subsequent discussion shall take place in a public forum page for at least 72 hours. 3.2.3 The talk page of the motion will be reserved for formal matters: amendments, rewordings, etc. They should be discussed in the forums first."

This would remove a silent comment period, which in the present case worked quite well, I think. At least, we should try it a few more times to see how we like it. I like the fact that we have a wide assortment of independent opinions. This helps prevent demagoguery from getting a foothold.

Basically, your rewording would simply make all sorts of matters vague that can and should be made clear. Vague rules are not any more fair--or simple--than detailed rules. They simply leave more open to the initiative, or abuse, of participants. I do agree that we should not specify any detail that is not well-justified; but, without criticisms of any individual parts, and considering that I have my reasons for all or almost all of the details, I'm inclined to leave them in.

Discussing amendments

DG again: "and I would amend 3.4 to say that ,
Voting will first take place on the amendments, followed if appropriate by continued private & public discussions before discussing the amended motion
The chair is responsible for arranging such matters."

Note that the rules currently (perhaps they shouldn't, but they do) permit discussion of and voting on an amendment to happen at the same time.

Anyway, you raise the question, "Should we plan to continue discussion after an amendment has been accepted?" I'd say, definitely--but in some cases, it will be unnecessary, as you imply. Hence, at the close of discussion, the Chair should say, "If there is no objection, discussion will close in 24 hours, after which voting will begin." Then people have 24 hours to call for more time for discussion.

And there, by the way, is a perfect example of a necessary detail. Add all the necessary details up and the rules end up being quite long. I'm in favor of adequately detailed rules when it comes to parliamentary procedure. But I am not in favor of very many rules and standard when it comes to wiki work, and I am particularly opposed to punishing people for failing to follow stylistic standards and the like. There might be exceptions, but the point is that people work best and do the most for the project when they don't feel bound by niggling rules. This is the spirit behind the old Wikipedia maxim "ignore all rules."

Elaborating amendment rules

Matt Innis: "I do think the amendment process is going to be important for all new resolutions as I don't envision any one editor creating a resolution that won't require some sort of amending as other workgroup editors get involved and new ideas are introduced. Keeping that in mind, I would like to see the amendment process more explicit as to mechanics."

Well, note that a single member's resolution cannot be added to the agenda until it is co-sponsored by two other members. So it's possible we'll see resolutions that need no further editing. That said, I agree with you--amendments will be necessary in many, perhaps most, cases.

I'll make the procedure that is now only vaguely described more explicit.

Proportion for passage

Matt Innis: "2). How many votes are required to pass an resolution or amendment? Is it majority, or 2/3, etc."

On such matters I propose that we follow Robert's Rules. I'll include some such info in the doc.

Also from MI: "3). A method for recinding a resolution will be needed someday. How many votes will be needed to recind a resolution or amendment?"

Again, Robert's Rules is very detailed on this and our rules needn't be that different. I'll add some introductory info in the doc.


Anh Nguyen: "I do appreciate the "Recess section" as the motion was posted yesterday, the Labour Day, I was not there... if proposed during a long week-end, a resolution could end up with a vote that would not have the required quorum. I would be great if we could set up an official holiday calendar..."

Good idea. I will add that in (although I won't actually produce the calendar--I'd like to ask someone else to do that). And now I will proceed to worry whether we'll have enough days left in the year to actually do business!

Agenda oversight by management

Andrew Carpenter: "I've reviewed the resolution, and my only substantive concern right now is that the chair, edit-and-chief, and constable have too much control over the creation of the agenda and I believe that there are not enough procedural safeguards in place in the resolution to prevent abuse of that power. I don't have specific recommended changes now, but will continue to think about that as the council deliberates."

You're right that this line--"The editor-in-chief and chief constable may, in a way to be determined, object to a resolution on grounds of improper purview"--is dangerously vague as it stands.

Rather than attempt what would essentially be a constitutional convention right now, I'm just going to remove it.

Robert Tito: "In the way things can get proposed the EIC is all-mighty. It seems

too much influence in one person. Wouldn't it be better to have - for the council a "board" of three that decide by majority what new proposals are to be on the agenda? It makes it more transparent and less a one man's play. It does give editors a way to influence the part CZ will choose in the future."

The EIC isn't all-mighty, because he/she can be overruled by the Council. The reason the Chair has responsibilities that are unilateral (but reversible) is to secure some amount of efficiency. For every Chair decision to be made subject to regular discussion, even among a small group, would, I think, really slow procedures down.

But there are two things I'd like to do to take care of this concern. First, I want to clarify in the rules that if it is moved and seconded that the Chair's decision be put up to a vote, a vote will be taken. Second, I do anticipate a Rules Committee. These people will be the "local experts" in our own procedural rules, and as such will be able to make sure that the whole system is running according to those rules. They therefore will be keeping a watch on how long a Resolution sits in the Queue, etc.--and thus will be in a position to make recommendations to the Chair.

Edits/additions to make

  • Add language specifying that a resolution concerning some dispute is discouraged if no attempt to settle a dispute has made, and particularly if there is no pressing policy issue that underlies the matter.
  • Clarify rules for creating committees.
  • Make rules to the effect that the minimum designated time for a type of vote must take place outside of the weekend (taking into consideration that the weekend is longer than two days because of 24 time zones).
  • Limit automatic motions to extend to two.
  • Make a chronology of all motions.
  • Establish a rules committee; this committee also has the responsibility of enforcing proper form and recordkeeping.
  • Clarify that the Chair may call for advice on Chair decisions, and that Members may offer such advice without thereby making a motion.
  • Allow motion to extend voting for 24 hours, if seconded (this can happen once).
  • At the close of discussion of an amendment, the Chair should say, "If there is no objection, discussion will close in 24 hours, after which voting will begin." Then people have 24 hours to call for more time for discussion.
  • Clarify that the queue may be bypassed.
  • Make amendment procedure more explicit.
  • Clarify proportion for passage.
  • Make introductory info on motions to rescind and reconsider.
  • Add language that directs us to make discussion and voting longer for more important decisions.
  • Distribute motions to appropriate sections; then add table of motions, which includes time frames.
  • Clearly specify is that the Chair should set a time for discussion and for voting, and that this time can be extended.
  • Create a step-by-step guide of the travels of a resolution.
  • Strike "The editor-in-chief and chief constable may, in a way to be determined, object to a resolution on grounds of improper purview."
  • Clarify that if it is moved and seconded that the Chair's decision be put up to a vote, a vote will be taken.
  • The Rules Committee should keep a watch on how long a Resolution sits in the Queue, and make non-binding recommendations to the Chair.
  • Clarify when the Chair may or may not contribute to a discussion.

Other discussion


How meaningful is it to say whether or not debate is allowed on a motion? Since voting will always take at least 24 hours, and most discussion/debate is supposed to happen on the wiki and forums anyways, it doesn't seem realistic to prevent debate from happening. Carl Jantzen 00:58, 28 April 2008 (CDT)