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A Wikipedian wrote to me to talk about one of the many pages on which some form of Charter or constitution for the Wikipedian Community is being debated. The hope was expressed that "After some time has passed, we will be able to present the results of [this] process to the community...."

But that's the trouble with using the Wikipedia wiki to discuss foundation issues. Some time does not need to pass at all. Every page is already in the (political) public domain. Any member of Wikipedia can and will have something to say about it, may or may not edit it. It will not have the opportunity to mature before it has been debated to death. Supporters and detractors will accumulate in roughly equal numbers, and the proposal will stall.

A wiki is a technical tool that facilitates online discussion between members of a group; by technical design, almost all pages run by the Wikimedia Foundation are open to be read and edited by almost everyone in the world. So, writing a Charter under these conditions is somewhat like sitting down in the middle of Times Square and trying to write the US Constitution. You will not lack for good ideas; but you will be swamped by the urgings of passing winos.

This is politics; and human nature is no different when the humans are wiki users -- old wine in new bottles. If you seek a political solution, you need to use political tools. One such tool is the caucus, and this is what we want to build. A caucus comes together, more or less privately, to create a proposal and iron out some of its weaknesses, and discuss methods of presenting that proposal to the larger community.

By "privately", I mean to say that a caucus generally forms at a convention when some group of members drift into a quiet corner and speak quietly amongst themselves. A caucus may be closed, but it is generally left open to any who drift in the same direction. Most caucuses are informal; but of course you have heard the term used by groups who wish to so self-identify; they are not caucuses at all, really, but parties.

Please do not imagine that any single effort constitutes a general convention, or that there is a definite beginning to such. Right at this moment, the Wikipedian Community is in a state of convention! Again, by virtue of the technical structure of the engine, all members are in constant communication -- that is one condition. And right now, there is a fast-growing sentiment that Something Must Be Done, and discussions are flaring up like wildfires on page after page. A community convenes to discuss foundation issues when it thinks it has done so. Not when some strong voice calls the convention to order -- that is a later step.

  • The Charter Convention has already begun.

If you have read all that, you will see why we seek to form a caucus. We would like to assemble two things: A group of like-minded individuals, for one; and a collection of Charter drafts, whatever names currently attach to them. We would like to see if a small working group cannot iron out the differences between competing drafts to produce a workable proposal which we can all support. That ironing out process will be facilitated by use of a wiki, but not one open to general view and editing -- not yet.

I have a dog in the fight -- my own draft Charter -- indeed, two or three such drafts. But I don't imagine a caucus will dance to my tune. We will bring our various drafts to the table and see what we can use from each one.

The purpose of a caucus is not to advance a particular, predetermined point of view -- that is the work of a party. A caucus's purpose is to discover a mutual meeting ground, so that something coherent may be presented to the general convention.

Our concern is that a convention, especially an ad hoc convention with little precedent, is guaranteed to debate without result until some subgroup, through strength of numbers, prominence, authority, or force of arms takes control. The only alternative is stagnation and eventual dispersal.

We should like, when the time comes, to have prepared a reasonable working draft of a Wikipedian Community Charter, one which all of us can support, which we may present to the convention of the general membership at large. There will begin a contentious round of debate, on two levels: Some will seek to revise the draft; others to trash it entirely. Our success in that round will depend entirely on the unity we have constructed beforehand, in the caucus we invite you to join today. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 15:46, 14 Apr 2005 (CDT)


The whole point of holding caucus is to discuss apart from the uproar of the general convention. We cannot hold a caucus in the middle of the floor. Our Caucus is open, but membership implies presence within the "room".

We suggest that you invite members to caucus by asking for an email, or by sending email. Please don't invite on talk pages.

The content of this initial email is unimportant; we only want to know you support our general goal of creating a draft Charter for presentation to the Convention at large. This is not a party created to advance a particular POV.

We ask that new caucus members register on this wiki. We don't demand that you meatball:UseRealNames, but please give us a "face" we can relate to, as a person.

Those who stumble over these Caucus pages by some other means are asked to send an email to a Caucus member if they wish to participate, and be registered on this wiki with some handle. If a number of individuals insist on participating without passing these simple qualifications, or just come to wreak havoc or amuse themselves, we will simply move the Caucus to another location.

Caucus members are urged to seek out like-minded Wikipedians to join. Consider carefully who you invite, because the temper of this Caucus may well determine the content of the Wikipedian Community Charter as finally adopted by the membership at large, and the future direction of the project for many years to come. Thank You! [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 16:02, 14 Apr 2005 (CDT) (revised 09:03, 29 May 2005 (CDT))

I must emphasize that this caucus has no power to act; it is merely a discussion group. Membership in the group implies nothing; it is especially not an endorsement of any action.

If, at some future time, some caucus members desire to form a faction or party to advance some plan of action, perhaps they may do so -- but no member of the caucus must become a member of the faction or party.

Joining this caucus means exactly one thing: You are here, to speak, listen, or both. We ask you to register on this wiki and list your handle only so we can speak honestly -- as it were, face to face. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 17:51, 16 Apr 2005 (CDT)


Here is suggested text for emailed replies to members who email you with interest in the Caucus or foundation issues in general. Please don't post this on Wikipedia anywhere, or email it to anyone who has not emailed you first.

Because it is designed to be sent by email, it is entirely in plain text -- no good to wikify it! But do replace the placeholders for sender and recipient. {g}


Congratulations! You have joined the Wikipedian Community Charter Caucus. Please go to:

Remember to register on *this* wiki, too. Right now, we are doing only one thing: building the caucus membership. Later, we will examine Charter drafts and discuss how to merge them into a single final draft for presentation to the general membership.

Thank You! for your participation.


What is a caucus?

More background on this subject. [[User:Xiong|— Xiongtalk]] 15:42, 15 Apr 2005 (CDT)