Polling does not preclude discussion. Around these parts, discussion is expected before and during polls/votes.
- 1 Polling allows everyone to have their say
- 2 The implementation of polls is less biased than that of discussions
- 3 Saying that polling encourages false dichotomy is a lie
- 4 Saying that polling encourages groupthink is a lie
- 5 Polls make it harder for people to be bullied into a consensus
- 6 Voting is not perfectly fair, but what is?
- 7 Light at the end of the tunnel
- 8 “A famous poll from 1934”
- 9 Conclusion
Polling allows everyone to have their say
I am not a lawyer, I am not a politician and I’ve never studied rhetoric. I have a hard time converting my thoughts into words. Countless times I have given up trying present my argument in a discussion because I can’t write down the arguments in my mind. But thanks to polls the opinion of everyone, whether they’re a great orator or not, is considered equally. Not polling is also biased against those who aren’t native speakers of the Wiki’s language, or even those who are not very good with the standard variety of the language. I don’t want the opinion I support to end up looking like it’s supported by illiterates because of my malformed sentences.
The implementation of polls is less biased than that of discussions
The contributor who closes a discussion and implements its results will be subconsciously (or consciously) biased towards the arguments in favour of what he supports. Once he implements what he thinks is the consensus, those who oppose what he thinks is the consensus will be biased towards the other arguments and will revert the implementation, claiming it’s not the consensus. This creates a vicious cycle of edit wars whenever there isn’t an extremely clear consensus.
As long as there is a cut-off percentage for whether a vote passes or not specified (which, unfortunately, there isn’t here) this is not a problem with voting. Even in the absence of a cut-off percentage, it’s still less controversial to implement votes than discussions.
Saying that polling encourages false dichotomy is a lie
Fair enough, individual polls encourage false dichotomies, but if a poll doesn’t take a certain option into account it can always be changed. Around here it’s not uncommon for votes to be changed before the actual voting commences, or even after. If the vote creator doesn’t want to change it, those whose favoured option isn’t taken into account can oppose the vote and start a new one if it fails. The votes per topic limit is once every 24 hours, which is just a few seconds in vote years.
Saying that polling encourages groupthink is a lie
- “Seeing a list of participants in a poll encourages people to add their names.”
- I can only hope we are not that stupid. I doubt anyone would look at a vote and say “oooh look, lots of shiny signatures! I’ll add mine!” because we are not spoiled twelve-year-old brats (and because we disallow shiny signatures :-) ), ...
Polls make it harder for people to be bullied into a consensus
... on the other hand, seeing people in a debate be criticised or even insulted by those who disagree with them can discourage those who can’t take being criticised or insulted from presenting their arguments. Not everyone likes to participate in heated debates. I like to think of the fellow contributors as friends, not people to argue with all the time; that’s what Youtube and Flat Earth Society are for. People who present their arguments and are then criticised by opinion-extremists trying to “out-argue” them might take back their arguments just to stop being criticised, giving the impression that the out-arguer’s opinion is better or prefered; the same person, when his vote is criticised, can just say “fine, you win, but I’m not changing my vote” and the opinion-bully will have to lump it.
- “Polling factionalizes users who might not even have been that strongly opposed”
- Which is great, because then the opinion of people who tend to have extreme opinions won’t have an edge over that of others.
- “Not to mention that it's difficult to place yourself on the opposite side of users you respect”
- How is that any different in debates?
- “When the vote is strongly unbalanced, those on the "losing" side feel marginalized”
- “those on the "winning" side will sometimes feel as though the results of the poll give them license to do as they wish without taking into account the views of the minority”
Voting is not perfectly fair, but what is?
- “... not fair if one user creates a horde of sockpuppets ...”
- The voting rules here ban sockpuppets...
- “... friends from outside Wikipedia who have barely edited ...”
- ..., people who have barely edited...
- “... users who have only been around for a few days ...”
- ...and people who have only been around for a few days.
- “it may be that everyone comes out thinking something went awry”
- then just have another vote for amending or annulling the previous one.
- “What of those who do not vote because they don't believe in voting?”
- they can keep debating instead of voting, to convince the voters. But what about those who don’t like debating.
- “... going on the weight of arguments rather than numbers”
- And how can anyone objectively decide the weight of arguments? No one can. Voting might not be 100% objective, but it’s still much more objective than personal interpretation of arguments.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Votes do take a lot of time, but there is always the certainty that a vote will eventually be closed, whether it’s a pass, fail or no consensus. Discussions can keep going on and on and then abandoned with nothing done about it. This is what happens with half the Beer Parlour discussions.
“A famous poll from 1934”
Since we’re playing the Nazi card, here’s a consensus gathering.
Unlike consensus gathering, polls are not biased towards those who:
- are good orators;
- implement the consensus;
- can stand heated debate;
- tend to feel strongly about their opinions.
Therefore, polls are not only not evil, but a great tool.
Poles aren’t evil either. I’ve met some people from Poland and they were all very polite. And Polish is the coolest Slavic language.