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"Fixing" the reconfirmation process Edit

It's been pointed out more than once that the reconfirmation process isn't working the way it was intended to, which is true, so I have many, many suggestions rolled into more or less a complete rewrite of the policy that I think will solve the perceived problems.

The reconfirmation policy text would be replaced by this:

Featured articles can be brought up for reconfirmation from time to time to ensure that they are still an example of Memory Alpha's best work. It is expected that these articles will have undergone revisions over time to keep them up to date, and it's important to make sure that these revisions have maintained the quality expected of a featured article.
Any featured article more than six months old can be listed on the reconfirmation of featured articles page. If you feel the current revision of a feature article is just as good, or better, than the featured revision, it should be added to the "uphold" section on the discussion page. If you feel that an article currently listed as a featured article needs to be removed from the feature article list, for example because it has been significantly changed for the worst, it should be listed on the discussion page in the "remove" section. Either way, be sure to state the reason(s) why you think the article should be reconfirmed; then add the {{far}} template to the top of the article in question while leaving an edit summary informing other members that it was listed for reconfirmation.
Reconfirmation discussions
  • Any registered user that has been in existence for at least two weeks and with at least twenty significant contributions can participate in reconfirmation discussions.
  • An archivist may start more than one reconfirmation, provided that the overall number of concurrent reconfirmations doesn't exceed five.
  • Starting a reconfirmation discussion is considered a vote in support for the suggested course of action.
  • At least one additional vote is required.
  • Be sure that you are familiar with the entire article before you form an opinion and vote.
  • If you approve of the suggested action, write '''Support''' followed by your reasons.
  • If you have any objections, write '''Oppose''' followed by your reasons. Any objections should be directly related to one or more of the featured article criteria. Objections purely based on personal preference are considered invalid.
  • If you wish to request more time to make minor changes or read the article, write '''Hold''' followed by your reasons and how long you think you would need. Generally, holds should only be for a few days at most.
  • If you want to comment without supporting or opposing, you may do so.
  • To withdraw a vote, strike it out (with <s>...</s>) rather than removing it.
  • As always, sign your comments (~~~~). This is important to keep track of voting.
Frivolous reconfirmation discussions, for example ones that have nothing to do with the featured article criteria, may be removed by administrators without notice.

This policy change would coincide with a number of other changes to related pages and templates:

  1. Faupdate and Farc would be merged together to form the {{Far}} template, as there is no reason we need two different templates to point to the same page. Fac would be renamed {{Fan}}, so the templates would be Featured Article Reconfirmation/Nomination.
  2. The Reconfirmation of featured articles page would be changed to only have two sections, one for upholding the consensus that the article should be featured, and one for removing the article from the FA list.
  3. The old featured articles category would only be on FAs that are more than five years old, since MA standards have been pretty stable for years, and I assume the category was created originally to list articles that have changed significantly. See Worf (Colonel) and Elizabeth Cutler for articles that are "old" but essentially unchanged.
  4. The {{featured}} template would have a link to the reconfirmation page if the article is in the old FA category, and text suggesting it should be listed.

These suggestions remove the "automatic" parts of the system, mainly the removal of old FAs from the list and the "need" to reconfirm FAs every two years. I don't really see this as a problem since the consensus to remove articles automatically required the backlog to be dealt with before that would kick in, and I think we can all agree that is unlikely to happen. How reconfirmations are resolved using these changes would have to be decided upon here though, since the reconfirmations wouldn't be "compulsory" anymore. The system I think we should use is this:

  • If support to uphold the article during the reconfirmation is unanimous, the current revision of the article becomes the featured revision after fourteen days. This should be done by updating the featured revision ID and date in the {{featured}} template at the bottom of the article.
  • If the majority of votes cast are for removal after fourteen days, the article will be removed from the featured article list.
  • Reconfirmations with five or more unanimous votes, either to uphold or remove the article, can be resolved after seven days, though the fifth support vote must have been cast at least 24 hours before the reconfirmation is resolved.
  • Reconfirmations that do not have: unanimous support to uphold the article, a majority to remove it from the feature article list, or two votes after fourteen days of inactivity are considered deadlocked, and the original revision will remain the featured one.
Any objections to the main page blurb are independent of the article, though a reconfirmation to uphold a featured article can not end until 24 hours after all objections to the blurb are resolved. When a reconfirmation discussion is resolved, it should be placed with the nomination discussion on the article's talk page, and a link should be placed in the archive.

I think this mainly keeps the status quo for changing the featured revision while more or less reverting to the old system for removals, since the only real change to removing an article was the compulsory nature of the reconfirmation process. I think this is at least the framework for a workable solution, so I'm open to wording changes and/or better ideas. - Archduk3 20:48, February 5, 2014 (UTC)

I'll need some time to digest it but just from skimming it this seems like a good change. 31dot (talk) 20:51, February 5, 2014 (UTC)
This will "fix" the process by, in practice, completely inactivating it. By restricting article removals to those cases where an article "has been significantly changed for the worst" (yes, it says "for example", but what other reasons will not immediately be shot down if that is the one reason given as example?), this rule change would basically ensure that no FA removals will take place in the future. Even in those cases where an article "has been changed for the worst", wouldn't it be the most logical solution to revert a change that everyone agrees made the article worse (and then not remove FA status) - instead of keeping the bad article changes?
I still think a better way would be to only call those articles "Featured Article" that are actually featured somewhere (novel idea, I know!), or have been featured during, say, the last year. That way, we would have a fixed number of FAs (52, one per week) at any time, without the hassle of having either too many or too few. -- Cid Highwind (talk) 22:07, February 5, 2014 (UTC)

The only FAs not featured somewhere, excepting their pages in the database as a whole, the featured articles list, and the category, are the old ones we never got around to reconfirming, and I was going to deal with that after this, but since we're on the subject, there is no reason we can't approve blurbs independent of the article. They can simply be approved en masse so when we say "featured", we mean both definitions.

As for "articles of the week", we would need 416 actually, one for each week per portal. Also, all the reasons that system was replaced remain valid on top of the proven fact that people won't update them anymore than the FAs are currently, and limiting the number will only lead to pointless comparison arguments when the cap is reached, whatever it is, if it requires removing the status itself. As for limiting ourselves to FAs in just the last year, we have exactly two, both of which we're just one article for more than half the year. In fact, the last year we had 52 or more feature articles pass was 2005, when approving FAs was much easier than it is now.

As for the old system being ineffective in removing FAs, a quick look at the archive proves that removal discussions succeeded far more than they failed. I'm sure there was a reason the 39 articles removed before the system changed, and the 12 since then, weren't simply reverted, so I don't think that argument holds water. We both know that if a feature article is no longer considered to be well-written, comprehensive, and accurate by something as unwiki-like as a simple majority, then it can and should be removed, even if it wasn't changed in any way since being featured. - Archduk3 23:31, February 5, 2014 (UTC)

That argument swings both ways, though. Why the need to "fix" a process concerning keeping FAs if, apparently, people are no longer interested in trying to make a new article an FA in the first place? If there have been just two of those in a whole year, then perhaps we should first ask whether we still need that whole process at all - and if we do need it for some reason, how we can make that process become more active again. Given that, currently, FAs are mostly featured by being on a list of articles that are considered featured (still sounds a little circular to me) and only eventually get displayed on one or another portal page, there might be a different process to "fix" right there.
In any case, a different way of solving this would be to just get rid of the idea of a "backlog" that needs to be handled completely, once, before an automatic "de-featuring" of articles happens. If I remember correctly, this "backlog" idea was brought up late in the initial discussion about this "removal process" - and apparently, it now only serves to stall the process instead of being helpful in any way. -- Cid Highwind (talk) 09:51, February 6, 2014 (UTC)
It's the backlog that I've found to be the most problematic and (as Cid said) unhelpful. If nothing else here I agree that whole concept should be removed or somehow addressed. 31dot (talk) 10:22, February 6, 2014 (UTC)
I agree to changing the policy surrounding FA reconfirmations to something like what 31dot is suggesting. I don't see why there needs to be a backlog in the first place. Why can't we just have it so when someone nominates an article and it is successful, it becomes an FA, and then it only becomes eligible for reconfirmation once a significant number of edits have been made to it, changing it from what it was when nominated? Note that the thought behind putting an article up for reconfirmation is to support it's continued status as an FA. If a person thought it was no longer worthy of FA status then it would be put up for removal in the normal manner. To give an example, I recently put a lot of work into the Martok article as I knew there was a ton of information not included in it. However, when I began working on it, it was an FA. When I finished working on it, it was considerably different to the version nominated. Realizing this, I put it up for reconfirmation to solidify the new edits as being worthy of FA status. If I thought the article wasn't worthy, I simply could have put it up for removal. In my opinion, this is all the reconfirmation process needs to be. We don't need a "list" to go through and check every week. Just have it so that any article that has had significant edits can be put up for reconfirmation by any MA user. --| TrekFan Open a channel 10:48, February 6, 2014 (UTC)
Just to give an idea about what that "backlog" was supposed to be: when we first discussed changes to the FA process (probably three or more years ago), the idea was to not display an article as "the best we currently have", if that article was nominated years ago and both it as well as the overall idea of what constitutes a very good MA article might have changed in the meantime. So some sort of automated removal process was suggested, that would lead to articles being "unfeatured" (for lack of a better term) after quite a while (2 years, I think). This first turned into a "reconfirmation process" (articles must be suggested for reconfirmation after time X, or be removed after time Y), and eventually even that process was watered down by suggesting to only start that process of automated removal once all FAs had been through the reconfirmation process once - the "backlog".
I still think that the idea of not calling an article, say, "the best of 2014" if it actually just was "the best of 2009", a sound one. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater just because the "backlog" addendum didn't quite work is not something I'd support. -- Cid Highwind (talk) 12:20, February 6, 2014 (UTC)

Let's be clear that Cid's suggestion would remove roughly 100 featured articles without discussion, outside of this one, without even looking at them. What I am suggesting would also "remove" the backlog by no longer requiring the articles to be reconfirmed within a certain time frame. The argument for keeping them remains what it was when when the process was first suggested, namely that "old" featured articles don't suddenly stop being some of MA's best work 24 months after they were featured, and if the only problem is that they are "old", they should be a better way to make them "new" again without removing them first.

Regarding the backlog and the automatic removals, I believe the first relevant mention of both happened here while the process was still being tweaked. This is supported by the automatic removal not being part of the policy itself until Dec. 13 2011, which means it was not part of the original suggestion in November or even part of the initial policy.

Some other points made I'd like to respond to, in no particular order, are:

  • Featured articles with blurbs are "always" featured, in that on a portal every few pages loads a new one is randomly selected from the list, so "eventually" should be within 24 hours easily.
  • The last few FA nominations seem to have turned people off to the process, and it's likely that there simply aren't articles out there right now that people want featured enough to put themselves through the nomination. Forcing the archivist running the nomination to be the one to respond to objections IMO is why there's a sharp drop off in nominations starting in 2006, so maybe we should look at that if we want to revitalize how we make "new" FAs, but I don't see why having "new" FAs means we should throw out the "old" ones.
  • As far as I know there is no way to put an article into a category after a certain number of edits from a fixed revision, nor would that really solve backlog issue because I bet most of the "old" FAs actually have a fair number of edits since they were featured. Elizabeth Cutler has had nine edits since it was featured two years ago resulting in no real noticeable change to the article, and extrapolating those numbers means we can conclude that a large number of edits to an article over time will simply be maintenance edits that don't really effect the content. There is no way to evaluate the content without a person actually reading it, which is why a people should be the determining factor in keeping or removing a featured article, not time or edits.
  • Cid, I agree that saying "the best of 2014" shouldn't be "the best of 2009", but we aren't saying that. We're saying FAs are the best work MA has to offer ever. both when they were featured and now. I don't see how we can say something stops being the best after a relatively arbitrary date without someone at least looking at it and making a judgement.

I may have missed a point in there, but this is already rather long and rambling. - Archduk3 18:57, February 6, 2014 (UTC)

Thank you, Archduk3. I think that's what I was trying to say, just you said it better. There may be articles that have been FAs for two, three, four years but had next to no edits to the content during that time. Yet, there will be FAs that have changed considerably. It should be up to people to look at them and nominate them for reconfirmation if they think the article has changed considerably, else it can remain as is, surely? --| TrekFan Open a channel 06:22, February 7, 2014 (UTC)
I find myself liking where TrekFan is going here. The idea that a reconfirmation should have to do with changes to the article and not an arbitrary period of time sounds better to me. I also agree that 'new' FAs should not mean getting rid of the 'old' ones. 31dot (talk) 22:43, February 15, 2014 (UTC)

The only real time limit in the purposed changes is the six month period right after an article is featured where it shouldn't be reconfirmed or removed. That time period is part of the current policy, and it's assumed that any changes made in that time that negatively effect the article should be the revertible kind or otherwise be fixable without having to remove the article from the featured list. Other than that time limit, articles would be reconfirmed or removed based on if the archivist thinks the article still meets the FA criteria, and when that happens would be entirely up to them. - Archduk3 20:31, February 16, 2014 (UTC)

I do agree with the six month period. 31dot (talk) 21:27, February 16, 2014 (UTC)

It seems the "rough consensus" supports the changes I've purposed, and attempts to involve other users who have used the current system in this discussion seem to have failed, so I will make the changes as outlined shortly. - Archduk3 00:11, February 23, 2014 (UTC)

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