To be completely honest, I've allowed the way @Narrative Network Team members have voted to sway my vote, on occasion, even when I believed the niche was sub par. Not often, but on occasion.
Why? Because of reputation. We see the Tribunal members voting on niches, and we know they are going to be the ones fielding any appeal of the community decision to approve or reject the niche. So their votes become strong predictors of what is going to be considered the 'right' decision.
I'm speaking up about this because we need to correct this flaw in the system.
Either the Tribunal members should not be voting on approvals, AND/OR the Tribunal should decide to strictly adhere to the guidelines @MOLLY O drew up in her excellent blog post. The second option is the best, IMO, but both could be helpful.
If Molly's guidelines are strictly enforced, it creates a communally shared definition of the criteria for a niche to pass muster, and our results will improve significantly. As long as they are not enforced, the decisions of the Tribunal will appear arbitrary, springing from a fount of wisdom us community members do not understand the mechanics of. Worse, from a fount of wisdom that seems to ignore or negate @MOLLY O's article. How do we expect users to follow these guidelines, if the Tribunal does not enforce them?
The guidelines article is a great resource, and as long as we're not letting it guide our efforts, we're squandering that resource needlessly.
This change has to happen from the top down. If the company does not make this decision, communicate it clearly, and hold the Tribunal to enforcing it, nobody should expect anything to change. The Tribunal holds complete power over the final decisions made on niche approvals. If they do not follow the criteria we've all been given, not only will nothing change, but the power of reputation will cause some of us to vote as they do, compounding the problem. Confusion over how to vote will only grow, the more the value of reputation is realized by the community.
We're beginning to see that the power of reputation is significant, and it can have a dark side unless the final arbiters of what is positive for the network make a bigger effort towards consistency. The first step towards that is to enforce the guidelines.