The H2G2 Telephone Sanitizers

18 Conversations

The Full Proposal for the Creation of
The Arbiter Volunteer Scheme

The Mind-Numbing Monster Version

A poster of a film entitled 'Attack of the Killer Dummies'.

I. General Specifications

I always had to understand everything fully before I was prepared to say anything.

-Douglas Adams1

I.A. Goal

It is the objective of this proposal to create the basis for an Arbiter volunteer scheme that is modeled after and compliments the existing H2G2 Volunteer Schemes, and subsequently presented to first, the Community, and then the Italics/BBC2 for revision and ratification.

(The researchers who have constructed this draft shall be referred to herein as the Arbiter Development Team or ADT where needed.)

I.B. Presumptions

For the purposes of this document, the following presumptions are made:

  1. That any powers subsequently delegated to the Arbiters from the Italics remain delegated and can be rescinded per "just cause" at any time.

  2. That this proposal is at no time to resemble, suggest or intimate any 'non-negotiable demands' in any way, shape or form.

  3. That the need for and benefits of such a proposal are recognized and accepted by the H2G2 Community and the Italics alike for purposes of discussion and possible adoption.

  4. That the services of the Arbiters are available to and can be utilized by the Community and Italics equally.

  5. That the Italics are open to discussing this proposal in a public forum as a further means to fostering and adopting such a scheme in whole or in part as will satisfy all participants prior to any implementation.

  6. That a trial period of this scheme will be implemented after tentative approval from the Italics and the Community has been received. This trial period will be not less than four nor more than six months, and will allow both the Italics and the Community to observe the scheme in action, form qualified opinions regarding its feasibility and effectiveness, and make further suggestions for improvement. This trial period will be considered a binding part of this proposal regardless of other subsequent modifications.

I.C. Limitations

This proposal, and any further revisions of the same, acknowledges and admits that any and all rights, responsibilities, duties and authority that may be granted to the Arbiters upon ratification of this proposal are limited to only those rights, etc. as specifically granted by the Italics. It is further understood that these granted powers should not imply and do not extend license to the Arbiter to circumvent, modify or ignore the H2G2 House Rules as published.

I.D. Schedule

The schedule for the ultimate adoption and implementation of this proposal is suggested as follows:

  1. Original draft of proposal (Completed 2 August)
  2. Co-researcher input and revisions (Completed 2 October)
  3. Presentation and discussion with the H2G2 Community for feedback (concurrent with development)
  4. Presentation to the Italics for feedback (in progress)
  5. Final revisions as needed (minimum two weeks anticipated)
  6. Provisional Adoption
  7. Determination and approval of the Arbiters.
  8. Implementation of the Trial Period (see I.B.6 above)
  9. Final Approval and Adoption (projected: early 2002)

II. Need

Today, there is no black or white: / Only shades of gray.

-The Monkees' Shades of Gray

II.A. Introduction

In an online Community as mindbogglingly huge as H2G2, catering as it does to the personalities and temperaments of the artistic as well as the volatile, there arises occasionally - when differences of opinion emerge - a need for hands to be held and flaring tempers to be soothed. Everyone here joins with the expectations of having fun, meeting new people and writing the most brilliant Guide entries ever. When argument evolves out of passionate disagreement, a researcher's first instinct is to offer help towards getting things straightened out and back to the expectation at hand.

Most of the time, this is all it takes – apologies are exchanged and virtual pints passed around and the Community gets back to working on the Final Question. When the occasional dispute gets a little more involved, the Aces often step in and offer their services as peacemakers. However, albeit rarely, a situation does get so out-of-control so quickly or burns so hotly that even the Aces step back from it. It is for this infrequent yet nonetheless damaging possibility that the creation of an Arbiter Volunteer Scheme is here put forth: to establish a designated system specifically designed to help settle researcher conflicts when all other attempts have failed, and before they escalate into a need for disciplinary action on the part of the Italics. And to further mutual respect and trust between the Community and the Italics.

Therefore, the impartially and objectiveness of the potential Arbiter must always be respected and above reproach.

II.B. Why an Arbiter Volunteer?

Demonstrated need: Certain recent events in the H2G2 community have suggested the need for a new system of dispute-settling when conflicts arise between researchers. The resources of the Italics have been stretched to the point that they are increasingly hard-pressed to contain the occasional chaos that can develop here (e.g. the recent closing of the Moderation Help Desk). There have been, of late, frequent requests for just such an arbiter or mediator plan in several ongoing threads, and even the PTB have asked for feedback and ideas that might help our boisterous crowd to get along.

Specifically, since the inception of 'Moderation' concurrent with the BBC's acquisition of H2G2, a great deal of confusion and anger has arisen onsite, and this has led to the creation of the Zaphodistas and other groups concerned about and organized to restore greater researcher freedom. Controversy over the recent 'lifetime suspension' of LeKZ has inspired flame wars that some would say far surpass any that LeKZ themselves were involved in. Also, the new self-protective 'official' anonymity that the Italics have chosen for themselves within the H2G2 fora suggests that they themselves are, perhaps, acknowledging the need for some form of 'flame protection' above and beyond that which can be provided by the Aces.

Future need: As much as we would like to believe that what has "worked just fine in the past" will continue to suffice, growth is inevitable – and growth brings change. As the BBC's involvement with H2G2 evolves and becomes more complicated, further and more complex misunderstandings and resentments are likely. And as H2G2 continues to grow, bringing in more and more researchers with their attendant passions and opinions, the potential for disagreement increases.

Benefits:The establishment of a group of Arbiters could provide for these immediate benefits:

1) Such a group could, as allowed, deflect much of the handling of inter-researcher disputes away from the Italics, thereby assuming a portion of the workload of an already over-burdened staff;

2) Help defuse the inclination to blame the Italics for unpopular or controversial decisions by creating an adjunct group specifically designed and prepared to dissipate that heat, and

3) Create yet another method for the committed H2G2 researcher to get actively involved with the community.

These benefits could give both the Italics and other groups – both official and semi-official – some much-needed assistance in the sometimes baffling task of maintaining intra-community relations, and allow them to concentrate on their primary responsibilities as well as such daunting things as fine-tuning the new relationship between the BBC and H2G2.

III. The Arbiter Volunteer

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together

-The Beatles' I Am the Walrus

III.A Who the heck are these Arbiter people, anyway?

An Arbiter would be someone who:

  • Has been an active H2G2 researcher since before the BBC involvement or for at least nine months, so that a thorough understanding of the dynamics of the Community has been achieved and demonstrated.

  • Has a demonstrated ability to remain impartial and objective, and can be neither easily intimidated nor flattered.

  • Has earned the respect of both the Researchers and the Italics.

  • Provides both a safety valve for the paid staff and a guarantee to the Community that punitive measures given out by the Italics are done so in a fair, objective and consistent manner.

  • Is prepared at all times to be known as an Arbiter.

  • Can realistically make the commitment to be available as reasonably needed during the arbitration process.

  • Has a proven ability to make up hir mind when presented with conflicting facts, and the ability to change that mind should new information come to be presented.

  • Has the common good of the community as a clearly demonstrated priority, and acts in the interests of the community to find peaceful resolution of interpersonal conflicts.

  • Represents the Italics at all times in the same way, for example, that the Scouts and Sub-Editors represent the Editors.

  • Has passed the P.O.S.T.O.S.E.H.3

III.B. How not to be an Arbiter.

An Arbiter is not:

  • Either the secret police or your secret friend.

  • Arbitrary.

  • An Inquisitor who assigns punishments for transgressions.

  • Someone who seeks out disputes in order to resolve them.

  • A new Moderation Help Desk, where moderation issues can be reviewed by the Community.

  • An Ace, Scout, Sub-Editor, etc. while acting in the capacity of Arbiter. The duties and responsibilities of these other volunteer schemes are at all times separate and distinct.

  • Normally an advocate or liaison for the Community to the Italics unless convened in a special arbitration panel specifically for that purpose.

  • Someone who interprets the House Rules in any way that can be construed as altering the original or legal intent, or attempts to exceed the authority granted to the Arbiters by the Italics.

  • The fawning lapdog of a decadent bureaucracy.

III.C. The Arbiter Code of Conduct


The Arbiter, acting in the capacity of a 'Neutral Third Party', will above all help the parties to the proceeding in finding an amicable solution themselves by identifying problems and pointing out possible solutions or alternatives within a
fitting atmosphere (Mediational Process). Should it become apparent to the
Arbiter that no amicable solution can be reached or should one party explicitly request so4, the Arbiter shall decide the case according to this Code of Conduct, the House Rules and any other applicable regulations as adopted by H2G2/BBC; and so deliver a decision binding on all parties (Arbitral Process)5. Amendments to this code must approved by a majority vote of the Arbiters.

  1. An Arbiter recognises that Mediation is based on the principle of self-determination by the parties.

  2. An Arbiter shall uphold and abide by the Code of Conduct, the H2G2 House Rules and other regulations adopted by the H2G2/BBC.

  3. An Arbiter shall not carry on any activity or conduct which could reasonably be considered as conduct unbecoming an Arbiter.

  4. An Arbiter shall at no time act in any 'official' capacity unless specifically called upon to do so.

  5. An Arbiter would disqualify hirself in the presence of an existing relationship with either or both of the disputants when that relationship might reasonably preclude unbiased judgement.

  6. An Arbiter shall conduct the proceeding in an impartial manner, free from
    favouritism or bias in word, action or appearance.

  7. An Arbiter shall ensure that the parties involved in an Arbitration or
    Mediation are fairly informed and have an adequate understanding of the
    procedural aspects of the process.

  8. An Arbiter shall conduct all proceedings fairly and diligently, exhibiting independence and impartiality, and in a timely manner.

  9. An Arbiter shall be faithful to the relationship of trust and
    confidentiality inherent in hir office.

  10. An Arbiter shall maintain the confidentiality of all proceedings before, during
    and after a mediation, including all electronic communication.

  11. An Arbiter shall provide a written report to each party, summarising the
    mediation and the resulting agreement - where applicable - at the conclusion of the
    proceeding. Such reports shall be filed for future reference within the Arbiter archives.

  12. An Arbiter's commitment is to the process and the parties, and will not be
    influenced by outside pressures to settle a case.

  13. An Arbiter shall be removed from 'office' for failure to maintain the highest standards of this Code of Conduct by a majority vote of the Arbiter Volunteers in conjunction with the Italics.

III.D. Finding an Arbiter.

When one feels in need of an Arbiter, one could find them on:

  • The Arbiters' Home Page

  • Via the Arbiter Badge on their Personal Space

  • The H2G2 Post Page of Useful Links

  • Pull-down rosters on The H2G2 Help Page; The Volunteer Schemes Page; and other group and club pages as deemed appropriate. (Everyone will want one.)

  • The creation of an "Arbitrate!" button (to be added to the thread postings next to the current Yikes! button) would allow for the inserting of a public notification that that particular posting has resulted in a request for mediation. (The questionable posting would not be "hidden" by this action.)

III.E. Selection of the Arbiters

  1. Designation as an Arbiter nominee presupposes that the candidate meets or exceeds the qualifications as outlined above.

  2. Arbiters shall be both nominated and then elected by the Community.

  3. The nomination process shall be limited to a period of four weeks, and voting shall end two weeks after the nominations have closed.

  4. Only those researchers who have been active and visible participants in the Community for a minimum of three months shall be allowed to nominate and vote for the Arbiters. ("Active and visible" shall be taken to mean participation in fora throughout the community and contributions to the Guide, but no quantitative standard is to be established.)

  5. Acceptance of a nomination shall be taken to mean that the candidate in question has read, understood and accepted all the Terms and Conditions of the Arbiter Volunteer Scheme.

  6. Under the auspices of the H2G2 Post (or similarly neutral body), a central Arbiter Ballot entry shall be established, and the Community's nominations and votes shall be generated within the public fora of that entry. Whereas discussions about and with the candidates may occur anywhere inside or outside the Community, only those nominations and votes included in the 'official' entry may be counted. Ongoing summations of the process shall be posted periodically as needed.

    (The draft of a sample nomination entry is being created here.)

  7. Having accepted the nomination, a candidate shall be permitted to 'campaign' within the relevant forum and only within the relevant forum.

  8. While researchers may vote for multiple candidates, it is not permitted to vote for the same candidate more than once. Disclosure of either overt or covert 'over-voting' may result in the disqualification of the researcher's votes for all candidates.

  9. The results of the election shall be presented to both the Community and the Italics simultaneously as a matter of public record.

  10. In lieu of voting, the Italics shall retain the right of final approval of all Arbiters, and that approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.

  11. The approval process shall begin with the candidate receiving the highest number of votes, and continue until the stipulated number of Arbiters is approved.

  12. Future elections shall be held as deemed necessary by the Community in order that a consistent number of Arbiters is available to fulfill the duties as specified in the final version of this scheme.

IV. Procedural Methods of Mediation and Arbitration

In the interests of time and compassion for the human race, this particularly scintillating section has its own page, which can be found at the Arbiter Volunteer Scheme Supplement A.

V. How Are We For Time? (Appendices)

The following links are provided for background information, and to inspire further research and discussion:

Relevant H2G2 pages

Like-minded entries


The original statement leading to the creation of this proposal can be found in the final paragraph of Post #36 in this thread, and is mentioned here simply to establish that this proposal actually 'began' during the one-week suspension of LekZ, and not as a specific reaction to the 'lifetime ban'.

VI. Endnote:

The preceding proposal has presented the case for establishment of the H2G2 Arbiter Volunteer Scheme as an augmentation of the five existing schemes. It has discussed the need for such an additional scheme, developed definitions and recommended guidelines, and suggested possible methodologies for its implementation. And it has been presented in as flexible a format as possible with every expectation that it will be revised, reviled, yelled at, complained about, compromised and likewise murderlized beyond recognition until it emerges as exactly the best that it can possibly be.

We believe that this outline is fair, reasoned and studied, and would accomplish its stated goals of assisting the Italics - and the Community - in the day-to-day adventure called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Earth Edition.

Thank you.

Revision history:

  • 4 Oct - consolidation of proposals and links
  • 13 Sep - schedule
  • 30 Aug - revised Benefits (II.B) and Appendices (V); general shuffling
  • 27 Aug - micro editing
  • 24 Aug - minor editing; added link to full version of Section IV
  • 21 Aug - added Selection of the Arbiters
  • 15 Aug - minor tweaking
  • 13 Aug - major organizational rewrite and general editing
  • 6 Aug - major revision
  • 3 Aug - medium tweaking
  • 2 Aug - minor tweaking

Help! I can't stand it anymore! Take me back to the
Warm and Fuzzy Arbiter Proposal.

1As quoted in Neil Gaiman's Don't Panic--The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion.2Hereafter referred to simply as Italics but intended to acknowledge their capacity, as employees, as official representatives of the BBC.3The Possibility of Sorting Things Out Sensibly Event Horizon as described in the 'definitive' version of DNA's How To Leave the Planet; Gaiman, ibid.4(There is no need for both parties to agree, since failure to mediate would force the parties into an arbitral process anyway.)5Additional definitions of relevant terms may be found in Section IV: Procedural Methods of Mediation and Arbitration.

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