The 90/10 rule is a Conservapedia
ad hoc guideline/suggestion rule that, contrary to their claim of welcoming opposing views, allows the sysops to squash dissent, not on the basis of facts or logic, but edit count. Ostensibly meant to reduce unproductive edits, it is enforced completely arbitrarily and selectively. The rule reads:
“”Unproductive activity, such as 90% talk page edits and only 10% quality edits to Conservapedia articles, may result in blocking of the account.
The rule is admittedly subjective. Different sysops disagree about what is unproductive.
The implication of the rule is that reducing discussion will increase more productive activity (i.e., edits to articles). Wikipedia, for example, has had heated discussions of what an admin should spend their time doing (more featured articles, less copyediting, less vandal-fighting, less IRC discussion, etc). However, the final conclusion has always been that there are widely varying ways for users to make positive contributions.
The rule may be somewhat successful in forcing ardent critics to do more work expanding articles that they would have otherwise ignored. However, they are such a small part of the user population (Conservapedia's strongest detractors are parodists, and parodists never need to edit a talk page) that the rule's effect on well-intentioned editors far outweighs this possible benefit.
Suppression of improvement
It is possible that an editor was going to make a legitimate suggestion for improvement that would have been implemented, or a constructive discussion which would have spawned new ideas for improvement. But because this rule discourages users from making said suggestions or having discussions in first place, it never gets heard and potential improvements that would have benefitted both the site and readers are not made.
Frequent misuse (false positives)
While the stated goal is to reduce unproductive activity, in practice sysops usually use it to silence users they don't feel they should have to listen to. A user is often blocked with a 90/10 violation (talk talk talk) after a comment, question or criticism of theirs is reverted. Another fairly common event is for a user to have their comment replied to but their account blocked, preventing their own response from ever appearing, thus making it look like a "win" for the collective sysops.
Never intended to be enforced (false negatives)
The rule has never been officially approved as site policy, but is one of the most widely used block reasons. Editors are frequently given infinite or five year bans without warning under this rule, although as stated above the real reason is often to stifle questions, criticisms and disagreement.
Appearance of objectivity
The rule has a precisely-defined threshold, and Conservapedia says "implementation is simple". It's beguiling to think that this rule could be objectively enforced. However, strict enforcement would encourage critics to make many minor and superfluous edits to articles, while still using 'preview' heavily to reduce the number of Talk-space edits. Therefore, a strict edit-count could never be relied upon. Rather, even the best sysop would have to subjectively judge the quality of each edit.
Conservapedia sysops sometimes misunderstand this rule to mean that any activity less than 90% mainspace edits will result in blocking of the account. It has also sometimes been used on a user after only a few edits, or occasionally only a single edit, possibly on the basis that 1 divided by 1 equals 100%, therefore a 90/10 violation. Aschlafly blocked User:BrianU, after one edit to a user's talk page, with an expiry time of 5 years for "violating the 90/10 rule against talk, talk, talk".
Lack of uniform penalty
Conservapedia sysops tend to be very random when meting out the amount of punishment for a block when invoking this rule. Some editors receive a lifetime block (or an impractically long one) while others receive a short one (on the order of a few weeks or days).
90/10 or 10/90?
Another source of confusion is that Conservapedia has two versions of the rule.
In the CP commandments it states:
- Unproductive activity, such as 90% talk page edits and only 10% quality edits to Conservapedia articles, may result in blocking of the account.
This would allow a user to make, say, 89% talk page comments and 11% article edits.
In the 90/10 Rule debate page it states:
- The 90/10 rule is an injunction against spending 90% of one's time complaining, carping, cutting people down and forming cabals at Conservapedia - and only 10% actively helping to craft good encyclopedia articles. This rule may be invoked any time a user starts to waste the time of productive writers with groundless complaints, specious arguments, et altii. Anyone who wants to take part in this writing project should expect to spend 90% of their time writing articles and 10% or less on their personal agenda.
This insists a user makes at most 10% talk page edits and at least 90% article edits. A radical difference.
- Conservapedia:Commandments #7
- Conservapedia:Guidelines#90/10 rule
- Talk pollution
- Conservapedia:90/10 rule
- After dozens of people blocked for it, this page still says "This a proposed policy or guideline. It is not official, and does not have wide acceptance. Please regard it as tentative and formative."
- A similar parable, as applied to software development: Productivity 2.0
- Mathematician Ed Poor misunderstands the rule, claiming noobs have to make ten edits before talking. But elsewhere he claimed the 90/10 doesn't have a fixed value at all.
- In July 2007, User: JackTheRealMcCoy was permanently blocked after only two talk page edits (now unrecorded due to Aschlafly's frequent deletion and recreation of his talk page - see Conservapedia:Burning the Evidence). In August 2007, User:Choronzon was permanently blocked after one talk page edit. In September 2008, User:DanB was given his first block after only one talk page edit.
- The 90/10 rule suggests 'If something is to be done for commenting on talk pages too much, it should be a simple warning, "hey buddy, quit jabbering so much and start contributing." If that doesn't work, and they still only engage in useless arguments, block them for no more than a week.' Nevertheless the user was blocked
- The Guidelines are clear: The 90/10 rule is remarkably adept at discouraging and eliminating the mobocracy or talk pollution that runs rampant on other sites, such as Wikipedia. Implementation is simple and application is swift.