This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
Here are some thoughts and observations on the nature of being on the Arbitration Committee, whether for prospective arbitrators, new arbitrators, or anyone curious in general.
- Unblock requests: the Committee accepts appeals for blocks based on private evidence; in practice, these include checkuser, oversight, and arbcom blocks. Of these, the overwhelming majority (95%+) are checkuser blocks. While the workload isn't particularly high (no more than 20-ish in a given month), it is quite dreary and perhaps requires a slightly different skillset compared to what one could assume based on the Committee's on-wiki actions.
- Corollary: it is useful to have an experienced and technically confident checkuser (and then maybe a second one) on the Committee.
- Email load: definitely not as bad as has been stated to have been in the past. In terms of core mailing lists, that is, arbcom-en, arbcom-en-b, arbcom-en-c, functionaries-en, checkuser-l, oversight-l, clerks-l, a ballpark figure is perhaps 10 discrete threads per day (i.e. 300 separate threads in a month). Of these, perhaps half are arbitration business. The rest are useful but optional, particularly checkuser-l and oversight-l (if you're not that into being a checkuser or oversighter).
- The functionaries list can be particularly useful. One major reason is that we now have generations upon generations of ex-arbs on that list, and a simple "why are thing done this way" type question will yield plenty of very useful (and prompt!) responses from the list members.
- There is significant variety as to the emails sent to arbcom. Sometimes, we receive them because there's no other good place to send them.
- It has always been the case that plenty of people will think that your intelligence has plummeted the moment you got elected. (Or: the previous year's committee is always better.) Take care to not take this personally. The goodwill towards the Committee in 2020 and the latter half of 2019 is likely a function of Trust and Safety being the new "evil organization" in town.
- On AE: remedies that end up punting stuff back to individual admins (or groups of admins) at AE are a double-edged sword. On one hand, perhaps it is not reasonable to throw the book/banhammer at everyone in front of the Committee. On the other hand, cases are proposed with the purpose of putting the drama/conflict collectively behind us. Certain situations end up being an ongoing problem that was never truly resolved; this problem is especially true when a given sanction is particularly difficult to enforce. Finding the right balance between throwing the book and throwing the dispute back (with DS, other bespoke sanctions, and so on) is one the more difficult parts of the job.
- Admin cases: when arbcom desysops an admin, it runs the risk of telling someone that they are not fit to be an administrator now or ever. While nowadays desysops are likely the only arbcom decision truly appealable to the community, the track record of subsequent RfAs is quite poor. This reason is likely one of many why the Committee can appear reticent to desysop administrators because we have to consider whether an admin's behaviour was so poor that it merits what is likely to be a permanent revocation of access.
- Possible corollary: it makes it difficult to accept cases that are likely to end with a slap on the wrist. A particular consideration is whether it's worth to subject a volunteer to a month-long circus that ends with an admonishment (or nothing at all!).
- Possible second corollary: a particular perennial problem is that we don't have a good mechanism to deal with less-than-ideal-but-not-terrible administrator behaviour.
- While the Arbitration Committee is considered to be the final step in Wikipedia's dispute resolution framework, it in practice tends to be a disciplinary committee that can, but not always, rely on previous decisions. While first optimizing for the best interest of the project (disciplinary committee), there is also an element of finding a solution that is reasonably acceptable to the parties and to anyone tasked with enforcing it (arbitration).
- Corollary: we tend to be leery of a-pox-on-all-your-houses solutions, even if such an option might actually be the most acceptable to the project's interests.