Last call for discussing draft of deletion policy

There is a draft of a deletion policy for the OpenStreetMap wiki which is almost ready for voting. You can find it here: (page will be moved shortly but the link will still function).

This is a last call for comments on this draft. Otherwise, I plan to start the voting on 7 April 2019 during lunchtime (UTC).
Please observe that I will be rather busy until then, so I will respond slowly (also the reason I keep this on hold for now).

I’m sorry in advance that this criticism is showing up so late. However, my overall feeling after loosely following the discussions and reading through the latest version again can be summed up as “too bureaucratic”.

Primarily, this is because of the proposed deletion process, which appears to require a discussion even in comparatively straightforward cases and involves several manual steps that really ought to be automated.

But it also doesn’t help that the document seems just too long – more detailed than many of the rules for editing the actual OSM database. Written rules aren’t going to cover all eventualities, and I worry that attempting to make them do so might just enable wiki-lawyering and cause people to talk about what the rules say rather than what makes sense in a particular, unique situation. I’m not convinced that condensing the entire section about proposals into a “to keep” list entry would make it worse, for example.

So, all this probably isn’t super helpful at this point. But I know that a lot of effort and debate by some of the most active wiki editors has gone into this document. The least it deserves is honest feedback.

Thanks, Tordanik for reviewing. I try to address the points raised.

Regarding the discussion in straight forward cases: I thought that deleting pages which I created myself could be dealt with a deletion request, but others opposed arguing that the creators should not be able to request deletion “behind someone’s back” simply because they were the creators. So, we met in the middle which happened to be a discussion.

I personally struggle to estimate if the policy will work. Will the discussions be heated or merelyin agreement? Will the wiki administrators cooperate? So maybe we need to revise it after gaining some experience. I also fear “wiki lawyering” but I had the impression that the parties wanted some generalisation and I hope the discussions will enable reasonable decisions.

We formulated examples in the policy document to make it easier to understand and align it with previous practices. This made it longer.

Sent from a mobile device.

My point about automation seems to have gotten lost a bit, so let me elaborate: Obtaining a list of pages currently containing a Delete proposal template is possible through the MediaWiki API, so curating a “Deletion discussions” page (including manually moving stuff to archive subpages, no less) seems unnecessary. Likewise, asking people to contact a page’s creator feels like an attempt to manually duplicate MediaWiki’s watchlist functionality. Increasing the number of steps for having a page deleted from 1 to 4+ would most likely discourage useful cleanup work.

Giving people the time and opportunity to discuss a deletion is highly desirable – my issue is with the extra effort which is incurred even if no other wiki user objects.

In my opinion, the same goal could be achieved with much less effort by simply not deleting pages until at least x weeks have passed since the template was added, giving ample time to contest a suggested deletion.

We’re probably not going to agree here as the value of brevity is somewhat subjective. But we should keep in mind the effect that a growing body of wiki-specific rules may have on mappers who only occasionally edit the wiki. Ultimately, the wiki is only a tool, a means to an end, and I would love for that group to become more active on the wiki.

The purpose of this page is to document the deletion discussions and the decisions. When discussing a deletion on the talk page, there is the problem that it will be deleted when the page is deleted. In addition, interested people can subscribe to the deletion discussion page to watch all discussions.

I guess you got a point there, but the intention was reaching out to occasional editors who do not use the watchlist or are not used to this.

Please name a specific case or the circumstances then I can tell you more.

This would contradict with the idea of faster deletions in undisputed cases. Additionally, I tried to stick to templates currently used for the initial draft (although their usage was inconsistent). This point was barely changed during the discussion.

Yes, but this seems to be a sensible topic which deserves a rule. I guess the forum also has some rules (like when mods/admins should delete posts). The only way of avoiding those is to avoid writing them down. That in turn may be even more confusing to occasional users.

I do not think such documentation is valuable enough to justify the extra work. Spending the bulk of the effort to document what was done, rather than doing it, is what I consider “too bureaucratic”.

Of course, preserving discussions would be appropriate for major or controversial decisions. But those represent only a tiny minority of all page deletions.

Those who care about a page being deleted would most likely also care about its entire content being replaced with something else, wouldn’t they? So they should already have that page on their watchlist.

Ok, random example: I want to delete an image that’s a duplicate of a Commons image. According to the new rules, I no longer just have to add a template, I also have to edit the Deletion discussions page. As expected, I get exactly zero responses there because this is a boring, uncontroversial routine cleanup. So assuming I still remember this some weeks or months later, I decide to proceed with the deletion. To do so, I need to replace the template with Template:Delete, and archive the response-less deletion discussions section.

I wouldn’t mind for deletion discussions to happen on a central page, as long as a discussion is defined as involving at least 2 people. (That is, a section on the deletions discussion page is only created when someone wants to contest a deletion.)

I feel that human effort spent should be the most important metric, not time elapsed.

Well, then there is the situation that you oppose the outcome of a discussion (namely which is legitimate, but I guess you would need to start the discussion again.

This is now optional following some discussion.

From the discussion, I experienced that some users want to avoid the deletion of proposals except for very specific circumstances. Would you suggest that they add all proposals to their watchlists?

This was actually newer discussed, so I suggest starting a new section on the discussion page proposing a delete request in this case as well.

This is a complete change of the proposed deletion process. I tried to formulate a process that does not involve undoing changes, because that seemed to trigger aggression.
The deletion discussion is used in the following cases:

  1. In case of files and media: This media is already stored in Wikimedia Commons and the licence allows the use in this wiki as well.

  2. In case of files: The file is a duplicate of another one, so there are two identical files. There are sometimes reasons for duplicates, always check them individually.

  3. You were the only editor of the page and consider the content outdated (for instance, you wrote about a software that is not available any more and this has never had a major implication to OpenStreetMap).

  4. This page is an exact copy of a different wiki page.

  5. A page which is empty or contains white space characters only for more than one month might be proposed for deletion after the proposer has ruled out vandalism.

  6. Pages that are contrary to basic principles in OpenStreetMap (e.g. proposing to severely violating copyright, or Good practice). However, if this violation of principles is more subtle and therefore being discussed or disputed, that is a discussion to preserve. In these cases, deletions should always be proposed before they are requested to avoid reverts.

  7. You merged the content of two multiple pages. In this case a discussion on multiple channels is necessary beforehand.

  8. Proposals: Draft pages on request of the original author, that have not attracted discussion from other users except for relevance and deletion discussions. After a period of one year passing without significant content changes, other users might suggest deletion (using {{Delete proposal}}) and finally request deletion in case of no objections.

  9. Proposals: Hoaxes and jokes that are not a sub page of a user (= in the user’s space) or not clearly marked as such.

  10. Proposals that neither define nor provide examples for their usage.

  11. Proposals which violate the significance conventions of the proposal process and are not in use.

There were longer discussions about c, e, f, g, h, i, j, and k and I could imagine that there would be some discussion in the individual cases. That would leave cases like a, b, and d to benefit from such a change or in other words, in cases like a, b, and d you will probably have some 1-user discussions. The benefit from the current draft is the definition of “delete request” as a call to the administrators “please delete after checking that this was placed appropriately”.

Okay I see. Well, … Is it not worth considering that the policy is rather defensive and hopefully creates trust between the users?

I started a discussion about the Commons issue yesterday. Not sure if discussing individual items is the way go, given that my objections are quite broad, but let’s give it a try.

Err, I don’t mean in the context of deletions, just some other major change of the content that completely changes the page’s meaning. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone opposing the deletion of a page would not care in the slightest what’s actually written on it.

I share the sentiment regarding proposals, but in my opinion, this issue has already been addressed by creating a rule that deleting such proposals is not allowed. Someone who breaks the “no deleting (most) proposals” rule isn’t necessarily going to follow the “must discuss beforehand” rule, either.

So, I’d like to repeat the suggestion of only creating a discussion section once another user actually wants to discuss something. The only reason for creating it pre-emptively seems to be as a notification mechanism, and as explained above, I feel that’s not really necessary.

This is more of a philosophical point, so feel free to ignore the rest of this answer. I’m not sure if it’s even a good idea to include it because it might distract from my more actionable suggestion above. But to me, the policy demonstrates a lack of trust.

We currently (before the policy) entrust users with the power to start delete requests on their own. And that has been working well for the better part of a decade, all things considered – it turns out most users actually can be trusted to handle that power responsibly! But recently, some users have wielded that power too liberally, and we seem to be responding to by placing regulations onto all users, even those who have never caused problems. This doesn’t feel ideal.

I have the impression that there are some users who simply revert if they dislike the delete request, but they are not available for productive discussion about enhancements to the page. I started the discussion when this was done by Mateusz Konieczny. AFAIK these users had the impression that pages were deleted silently behind their backs.

No, that is wrong! The preemptive discussion should enable users to voice their opinions and assure they are heart in a fair way. Otherwise, they would have to change the deletion requests quickly (in theory such pages could be deleted at any moment). This is directly linked to the situation above.

We have these Kosmos pages labelled for deletion since 30 May 2018, but apparently the admins do not want to delete them or they are not sure about it.

I personally often felt unsure about deletion requests. Sometimes I proposed a deletion but nothing happened, in other situations I requested deletion and was reverted. I gained the impression that the outcome of a deletion request was mainly based on the fact if anyone could object fast enough. Maybe you have made a different experience?

I thought a bit about the idea of discussing deletions only when there is a second user objecting…

While I think that it is not suitable for proposals in general, I could imagine this being useful for other pages. The cases You were the only editor of the page and A page which is empty or contains white space characters only seem to fit well. Given that I assume few such cases I do not see the benefit of formulating a third process for deletion for now. I will keep the idea in my mind however and in case that I will see a need for less “single user discussions” I might bring this up again.

So, I would use the current version for voting or is there anything left to discuss?