Monday, October 02, 2006

A Proposal for Adminship on the English Wikipedia

It is broadly accepted that the Requests for Adminship on the English Wikipedia is not working well enough. Most of the proposals I've seen so far involve either (a) restricting who can participate in the process or (b) trying to place restrictions on how people participate (usually in order to avoid the process turning into voting). Solutions in the (a) group raise (wholly reasonable) objections of cabalism; those in the (b) group are doomed to failure because they will eventually mutate back into voting.

I think the real problem, however, that everyone is trying too hard to protect adminship. What if, instead of treating adminship as such a big deal, Wikipedia actually embraced its oft-repeated claim that "adminship is no big deal" and treated it as such? In addition to simplifying and detoxifying the adminship process (by making it much lower stress), it will help to undermine the appearance of adminship as a high-status position. If virtually everyone is, or can be, an admin, then the prestige associated with the position is diminished. And since all administrative actions are now reversible, the risk is a lot lower.

So, instead of doing things to make getting adminship harder, I instead propose to make getting adminship easier -- but impermanently.

The basic proposal: Any editor with one month's experience (that is, one month during which the editor has been consistently active) may request adminship. If nobody objects to the application during a five-day period, that editor shall be sysoped. If, however, anyone objects, then a discussion, not to last more than seven days, shall be initiated. Unless a consensus is formed why this editor shall not be an admin, at the conclusion of the discussion that editor shall again be sysoped. That is, consensus not to promote is required; it is not enough to have a lack of consensus to promote. Candidates for whom there is consensus not to promote must wait one month before trying again (and should in that time seek to remedy the defect that were identified in the discussion, if possible).

All administrators serve for a fixed three month term. After those three month, the editor is desysoped, and must sit out a month as a non-sysop before he or she may reapply using the above process. (This would not apply to admins explicitly exempted from this process by the Foundation, who would remain admins for as long as the Foundation says so.)

Finally, one final check: you can only object to one candidacy every three months. That is, if you object to someone's candidacy, thereby forcing a discussion, you can't object to anyone else's for three months.

My thanks to Triona, who discussed this idea with me, and offered several suggestions, some of which made it into this proposal.


  1. you fucking moron... this will never fucking work... stay off wiki... i'm glad you left bitch.

  2. I've posted my thoughts and comments on this proposal - trackback doesn't work hence the comment.


  3. Meta uses this model, but the adminship is for a year. It'd produce interesting times for sure on en:. I foresee about a year or two of severe and process cruft as the politics of the wiki suddenly become incredibly turbulent.

    It has the unfortunate side-effect of throwing away experience: I predict a lot of stuff would be done badly and enthusiastically as the people with lots of experience just go "ok, fine, you do it."

    I'd suggest making it at least three months' wait - I really think it takes that long to get a feel for the place. Make the term a year. Set out desysopping procedure that can't be gamed much (lotsa luck!), and don't expect the ArbCom to take on the job.

    Or, as Tawker says, convince RFA it actually has a problem when it on one hand wonders why no-one much is running and on the other keeps raising the requirements recommendations. That would be the actual problem.

    Have a good break.

  4. I should add: the main problem with RFA is that it build adminship into a HUGE deal. This proposal wouldn't remedy that, it would only strengthen it.

  5. David,

    I disagree that this proposal would make RFA even more of a big deal. When adminship is basically available to everyone save a few total losers, it becomes "not a big deal". Of course, it could become an entitlement, which could be worse, but...

    I think a three month wait is too long, and a one year term definitely too long (a year is forever in the life of the average Wikipedian). I might be willing to accept two months tenure and a six month term, but those are near the outer limits of what I think is acceptable. As to throwing away experience: it forces knowledge transfer. But it doesn't throw away the experience of those in their mandatory breaks, it just forces them to transfer it. In other words, it just might encourage enculturation, which is one of our biggest problems.

    Finally, I'm not concerned about making the politics of enwiki "incredibly turbulent". In case you hadn't noticed, they already are. Stirring a maelstrom has little effect.

  6. Making it so easy for people to become admins (after a month of being in the project) would make for too many green admins.

    Forcing people to stay out of adminship for one month after the first three months as admin is unproductive.

    You suggest that if an editor objects to a certain admin, then that editor must not object against other admins for three months. That is artificial.

    All in all, your suggestions would make for a burdensome approach. The current system is better as only people who indeed want the job and have enough experience can get it, and they can't be removed unless they do badly. It is more efficient that way.


  7. Well I hope something is worked out. Something which causes all current admins to be put up for re-evaluation. Wikipedia is on a course to failure now because of the admins that have been given the keys to the kingdom, most of whom are totally anonymous and some of which have only been contributing to Wikipedia for as little as 3 months.

  8. Part of the problem is that "elevation" to admin-ship is the primary form of validation as a member of the community. That makes it very attractive. I suggest de-coupling user reputation from adminship. There are many different ways to do this -- one might be to give registered users the right "vote" on the value of a particular edit -- that's done in many circles. Others might include a hierarchy (without authority) of honorifics such as "Wikipedia Fellow" or "Senior Editor" etc. determined by some sort of vote.

    This has been an age-old issue in academia, the military, etc.

  9. As are many of your ideas, very good. Pity you are not politically adept enough to wield power. I think it would be a good idea to "rotate" adminship, so that there is a pool of editors (with the experience you mention) who have it for, say, three months. That way, power does not become entrenched, "bad" admins are discouraged by the impermanence of their decisions, etc. But those who are now empowered (not surprised to see Dave Gerard poohpoohing it, as he does just about any reasonable suggestion that aims at detoxing the place) will never accept any solution that involves broader empowerment, or accepts that a structure that they thrive in is actually broken. And the place is broken. Anyone who stands back and takes a look knows that.-- [[User:Grace Note]]

  10. Sounds good in general, but I don't like the 1 month off period. It encourages people to slack off and not contribute during that month.

    Plus there's other things that I can't quite put my finger on. Seems a little like it devalues the persons contributions that they'd make, like they're not trusted for permanency (until proven otherwise). I mean, if we're making it so that you're a sysop unless shown not worthy, then why remove it for reasons that have nothing to do with merit (i.e. time)?

  11. Hi! Is there any chance that you might be willing to release the information on this page under a free license so that it can be used in discussions on Wikipedia? Someone recently proposed several of your ideas (with attribution) and they were deleted as being copyright violations. Thanks!