Using Wikibooks/Discussion and Consensus
Who Makes Decisions?
If anybody can edit any page, who decides what goes where? Who keeps things in order? Who prevents this whole website from descending into total chaos?
The simple answer to all these questions is you. You, as an editor can help to keep things in operational order, so that everybody can share and enjoy Wikibooks.
The long answer is that people who edit Wikibooks form a type of community, a social group of people who want the project to grow and improve. It is through collaboration with the community that we develop policies and guidelines that all Wikibookians agree to follow, in order to keep the process running smoothly. With a username, you can join this community too, and help to keep everything in proper working order.
How are Decisions Made?
Wikibooks doesn't operate in a way that is similar to regular governments or groups with set leadership patterns. Simply put, Wikibooks doesn't have any official leaders, although there are always members who do take on informal leadership roles. Often, the best way to lead others into doing something is to do it yourself and set a good example.
Complicated decisions on Wikibooks are made by the community as a whole through a method called "consensus". Consensus is when the community discusses a situation, finds compromise, and comes to a general agreement on a proper course of action. Notice that this isn't the same as majority voting. Wikibooks is not a democracy, and we rarely vote. Even on occasions when we do cast votes, they are informal votes, used as a general way to measure consensus. A 51% majority never wins a discussion; you need to find compromise and get everybody, or almost everybody, to come to an agreement.
Why do we say "almost everybody"? Sometimes, people get angry and can just be unreasonable. If you can't be mature and work towards compromise, other people just won't listen to what you have to say. Other times — and this is something we especially appreciate and encourage — people who are in the minority tend to "stand aside". This means that a person will say "This is not what I want, but I will not stop the community from moving forward". Being respectful in this way never goes unnoticed, and it's precisely the users who take this option when necessary who are the most appreciated. After all, we may not always agree, but by being respectful and courteous, we can always improve and make forward progress.
The Reading Room
The central point for discussion and participation at Wikibooks is the Reading Room, a collection of discussion rooms where people are free to ask questions, and discuss various topics.
The Staff lounge was a page nearly as old as the Wikibooks project itself. Created in 2003, it was a single discussion page where all topics were discussed. The single-page structure of the staff lounge was unwieldy, and the page often became very large, a point that was brought up frequently.
The Administrator's Noticeboard was created in October 2006 as a separate discussion and notification area specific to Wikibooks Administrators. Special:Import had recently been enabled, and the Noticeboard was designed to be a centralized location where people could ask for help from admins.
In February 2007, the Staff lounge was broken into various sub-discussion rooms, including General Chat, Project Chat, and Technical Chat. A room specifically for new users and new book projects, the New Books and Users Chat was created in June 2007.
In October 2007, the Staff lounge was renamed the Reading Room. The Administrator's Noticeboard and the Bulletin Board were merged into the new discussion area in an effort to make finding and participating in discussions easier.
There are several discussion rooms in the Reading Room, each with a particular theme. Often the line between them is a little blurry, so there are few hard rules about what kinds of topics can be in which rooms.
- A discussion area for all discussions that relate to Wikibooks, but which do not necessarily fit into any of the other discussion rooms. When in doubt, post your messages/questions/comments to this room. A place where new users can introduce themselves.
- Bulletin Board
- Not a true discussion area, the bulletin board is a place where you can post announcements about important events.
- A page to discuss and collaborate on various projects, such as books, organization, cleanup, and maintenance.
- A place to suggest improvements to Wikibooks, to its policies, methods, or any other area.
- General Assistance
- A place where Wikibookians can help each other solve problems encountered while contributing to books or otherwise taking part in the Wikibooks community.
- Technical Assitance
- Administrative Assistance
- The place to report vandalism, request help from admins, or report problems. Most admins keep this page on their watchlists, and if you ask for help here you will usually get it quickly.
Posting a New Message
All the Reading Room discussion areas have a link at the top that says "Post a Comment". Clicking on this link will open an edit window where you can write a comment or question to post on the page. Make sure you:
- Give your post an appropriate title
- Sign your name with ~~~~.