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About a month ago I asked How should we handle questions about game completion time?.

There were two answers, which had fairly different approaches. One, which I proposed myself, was to close a lot of these questions as dupes of a more general "How can I find out how long a game is?" question which we'd create. The other, proposed by OrigamiRobot, was to close these as off-topic.

Currently it stands at 20 votes for mine versus 8 votes for OrigamiRobot. So my solution is in the lead, but does that actually mean anything? I don't know if that gives me license to go ahead and implement my solution.

My question here isn't specifically about the Game Completion Time issue. I'm just using that as an example of the more general issue with meta discussions like this. How do we know when something has been "discussed enough" that we've reached a decision about what to do? Should I just start VTC'ing those as dupes and trying to drum up support from 4 other people to close, and if we get the 5 votes, yay, we win? Should OrigamiRobot do the same thing with VTC'ing as off-topic? Are other people who disagree with both of us and think that status quo is fine just going to vote to reopen them?

This isn't the first time I've been confused about how discussions on meta actually drive site policy, and it probably won't be the last. In general, how do I know when it's okay to move forward on something? And what if the vote had been closer, like, say, 20 to 18 instead of 20 to 8?

Update: Per some discussion below which seemed to basically say, "Well, sounds like you have good support, so go ahead and do it", I went ahead and did it. End result: Lots of downvotes and eventually closed. Which makes it sound like either I should not have moved forward, or the process is simply that we must try and sometimes (often?) fail. Either way, it seems to prove the point that it's very hard to know if the result of a meta discussion should translate into an actual policy change.


Update #2:

I want to discuss a bit what seems to be actually happening, because I'm not sure whether or not it's the best overall policy.

Here is the general sequence of events that has occurred.

  1. Some issues from a certain class of question bugged me, so I raised the meta topic about it.
  2. The discussion a month later seemed to have stopped at ~20 votes for my solution, and ~8 for OrigamiRobot's solution.
  3. I didn't know how to move forward. I opened this meta question about how to move forward.
  4. Some users indicated they'd like to see mods take a more active role in shaping policy, but the mods would prefer this community handle it.
  5. Discussion in the comments leads me to believe that really the only way to move forward is to try it, and see what happens. I feel this is not a great approach for reasons I'll elaborate on below.
  6. I create the umbrella question. It doesn't prove terribly popular, initially getting a lot of negative votes, but eventually ending up slightly positive.
  7. It gets 5 close votes as NARQ.
  8. It gets 5 reopen votes and is reopened.
  9. Per yx.'s suggestion, I ask RavenDreamer to merge it with a pre-existing question that mostly covered the same ground.
  10. Yx. and I both cast votes to close other questions as dupes.

We are now at the point where a bunch of questions are sitting with two close votes. Maybe that will fizzle out and they won't be closed. Maybe they'll get 5 votes and end up closed. Maybe they'll all get 5 reopen votes after that and get reopened.

This is, essentially, the problem. It feels as if we're hashing this problem out via Close/Open votes. I feel this is a pretty poor way of deciding on an issue, but it seems to be the only avenue of approach that exists. I particularly dislike it because it has the side effect of appearing to indicate that only users with 3k+ reputation and the ability to cast close/reopen votes have opinions that actually matter. The votes in the original meta topic are in many ways meaningless, because if you don't have 3k rep to back up your opinion with close votes, it doesn't really have an effect on the actual outcome.

Is the only option we have duking it out on the main site with our close votes? At what point am I supposed to know I shouldn't pursue my issue further? At what point should opponents know that they shouldn't act against it further? Is there any other way we can reach a consensus?

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    Here on Gaming something can never be "discussed enough". There's always more room for discussion. – Invader Skoodge Apr 16 '12 at 13:33
  • I've often wondered this same thing. – GnomeSlice Apr 16 '12 at 14:05
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    @StrixVaria I don't know if I can agree with that. Perhaps we should start a meta discussion about it. – Ben Brocka Apr 16 '12 at 14:07
  • the problem with a democratic process is to figure out when the action takes place. I'd say its a safe bet with 20 upvotes you should 'just do it'. If no one cares enough to say otherwise, then success. – l I Apr 16 '12 at 14:30
  • @yx. That's a problem with a concensus driven process, not a democratic one. /pedantry. – LessPop_MoreFizz Apr 16 '12 at 15:32
  • @IvoFlipse And it was worded much, much better than my own question – Sterno Apr 16 '12 at 18:35
  • As crazy as it sounds, I actually like @BenBrocka 's suggestion - at least as I interpret it. I'm going to ponder it, and perhaps make a Meta on it of my own. – EBongo Apr 24 '12 at 2:53
  • looks like not enough VTCs on those questions :P – l I Apr 24 '12 at 13:04
  • @yx. I agree. I think we managed to close only one of them (which was one of the few with a decent non-HowLongToBeat answer), so I gathered some people in chat and reopened it. Abandoning this plan! – Sterno Apr 24 '12 at 13:27
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You've discovered why Athenian democracy doesn't work :P. On the internet, the minority often doesn't accept the majority ruling. And as we know from civil rights, majority rule is not always a good thing.

I believe SE is, and works best as, a representative democracy. As I said on your other post:

[P]olicy isn't formed unless the mods step up and say "this is how we're going to proceed".

I think we need our elected reps to weigh in here and tell us how they want to move forward on this.

On smaller SE sites (Android specifically) I follow a more lax process, but people tend to agree more there as well. As everyone knows we have a tremendous amount of argumentation here and I think we could use some strong guidance coming from a position of authority.

  • Agreed on the mods stepping forward for the final say. I've been part of many of these discussions and I never feel like we have a solid idea on the actionable takeaway when the discussion fizzles out. – Shaun Apr 16 '12 at 18:46
  • then just wait until you have enough mods on a big site and you end up with the same thing, majority of mods overrule minority :P – l I Apr 16 '12 at 19:00
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    I don't think I need to ping the other mods to guess we ourselves don't really have consensus on this... :P – badp Apr 16 '12 at 20:22
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    Having the mods to step forward and dictate policy doesn't seem like an ideal solution. Ideally, we should reach consensus as a community and act upon it, voting to close and open where appropriate, or up/downvoting if you can't. Relying on the mods should be a last resort (if at all). – tzenes Apr 17 '12 at 5:38
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    @tzenes do you have a proposal for how we determine that a consensus has been reached? – Sterno Apr 17 '12 at 11:11
  • I maintain that the only way for a 'consensus' is for one person to care enough about it one way or the other and just perform the change and no one else complains about it (or at least care enough to undo the change) :P – l I Apr 17 '12 at 11:17
  • @Sterno I think you sort of missed the point. We can vote on meta questions all we want, but the only voting that actually matters is voting to close/open or up/down. It isn't the reaching consensus that is the issue, it's acting on it. In the example you linked the voting was 22 to 12 (almost 2:1), and there are 7 [completion-time] with only 1 closed (for other reasons. We've fairly demonstrably reached consensus on this issue and acted on it. – tzenes Apr 17 '12 at 14:14
  • If the voting had been closer, people would be still arguing about it (see ITG and Game-Rec for examples) and voting on questions in either direction. There may be times when democracy fails us, but this isn't one of them. – tzenes Apr 17 '12 at 14:15
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    @tzenes The majority of the completion time questions aren't actually tagged with completion-time. I don't think we've haven't acted on this issue at all, yet. New questions about completion times are still rolling in and aren't closed as either dupes or off-topic. – Sterno Apr 17 '12 at 15:13
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    @tzenes If you're basically saying the same thing yx. is, I think I follow you. Basically, meta discussions don't mean squat until someone takes action and the community effectively approves it by not undoing their actions. Well, I guess they don't mean squat. They act as a barometer for whether or not your action will likely pass. If you're saying something else, I'm still confused. – Sterno Apr 17 '12 at 15:16
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    @Sterno I think yx and I are expressing the same idea: Action dictates policy. Sometimes we need to sync up on what the appropriate action is (via meta question). – tzenes Apr 17 '12 at 16:01
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    @tzenes For this particular case, I've now gone ahead and done that – Sterno Apr 17 '12 at 16:40
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    I would thus far categorize my "going ahead and doing it" as a failure. Plenty of downvotes, on its way to being close-voted, and has raised a new wave of argument against it (some of which I'm starting to agree with!). The end result is that this solution is unlikely to move forward, as I doubt I can drum up consistent "close as dupe" support on completion time questions, despite it (apparently) being the popular one on meta. Maybe that's just the way things have to be. It would be nice if we could come up with something better though. – Sterno Apr 17 '12 at 19:01
  • @Sterno my main reason was because I thought that rather than making a new question/answer, the other question could be fixed up enough to be the 'base question' for all other dupes. – l I Apr 17 '12 at 21:14
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There are times when the community reaches consensus on its own, and in most cases this is the right way to do things. I don't think it's a good idea for moderators to step in and try to set policy, except in serious situations.

When it comes to policy that changes a vast swath of questions, or best practices on the site, we should have a more extended, structured discussion. Even then, what moderators are tasked with doing is mostly moderating the conversation and making sure things don't get out of hand. We're not here to declare policy.

In most cases, I think it's fine to go forward with a policy that's been suggested, is feasible for the community to enforce, and consistently higher score (relative to other solutions) on meta. The design of the site is such that we can almost always go back and revisit old decisions to see if they still hold true.

The chances of failure in this process are certainly not zero - meta voting is cheap and easy, and only a small percentage of the people who visit the site actively participate in meta. Sometimes something that sounds good in concept doesn't work in practice. Don't be afraid to fail; failing's OK! Or to put it in a gaming context, Losing is Fun!

If a new wave of policy on meta is making you upset, post your reasoning and a different solution. I've seen meta threads that were months old come to life with new discussion because the existing policy didn't make sense or was out of date. In fact, that's what I'm doing here - I don't like this proto-policy, and I'm suggesting my alternative.

Having moderators come in, at their discretion, and say "this conversation is over, and the result is X" isn't beneficial in most cases. There are a ton of policy threads on meta where the community reached a consensus and agreed to uphold it without anyone throwing authority around, and that's the way I think it should be.

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    I think you're interpreting my post rather too strongly. Mod decisions should of course be based on user opinions and votes; the whole reason we have elections to elect mods who represent us. Since you have the ultimate close power and can overrule regular users, you ought to able to tell us how you're going to act when you encounter a question on the topic under discussion. I don't think that's throwing authority around; I think that's being responsible and communicating. – Matthew Read Apr 17 '12 at 17:26
  • I have absolutely no problem with the community acting on clear consensus without the mods weighing in, but that rarely happens (see legal questions for example). Having a policy (rather than just "agreement") is very helpful in getting things moving. – Matthew Read Apr 17 '12 at 17:26
  • @Matt, that's the thing though - I don't enforce most policies with my close vote - just those that are clearly FAQ-violating or dupes. The community takes care of the rest. This seems to be the general policy amongst the Gaming mods. Most of the questions closed on the site are closed by the community, based on the community's standards/policies. – agent86 Apr 17 '12 at 18:09
  • You guys update the FAQ :P – Matthew Read Apr 17 '12 at 19:04
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    @MatthewRead, the FAQ's real short and to the point, intentionally, as I gather it. Our "policy policy" is generally community-generated and community-enforced, and not moderator-generated-with-community-input. – agent86 Apr 19 '12 at 19:34
  • @MatthewRead The FAQ cannot contain every and all policies of this entire website. I believe this is not a major enough category of questions to deserve its own line in the FAQ. – badp Apr 19 '12 at 19:34
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    @badp I don't want the FAQ to contain everything, I'm pointing out that "We only enforce the FAQ" doesn't mean much when you control the contents of the FAQ. My overall point is that Gaming tends toward endless argument and little action, and a mod stepping up is helpful in ending that cycle. agent86, I do think mods ought to enforce community policies, even ones that aren't in the FAQ, with their votes. This is not saying you shouldn't consider whether it's appropriate to use your supervote in each individual circumstance, that's a good thing. – Matthew Read Apr 19 '12 at 19:46
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    TL;DR I think the site would benefit from a slight increase in mod leadership (not the same as control). We're a bit of a rabble :P – Matthew Read Apr 19 '12 at 19:47

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