Sunday, March 04, 2007

On Bureaucrats

In the aftermath of Essjay's resignation, a number of people have declared that "there is a need for bureaucrats", and three people -- RyanGerbil10, W.marsh, Durin -- have already jumped into the breach to close the purported "gaping hole" created by Essjay's departure. The first two have since withdrawn their candidacies, but Durin's continues. This situation raises several related issues.

First, is the thesis that Essjay's departure creates an immediate need for more bureaucrats. This claim is unsupportable. First, Essjay was never very consistently active; he would often disappear for days or weeks at a time. Second, there is nothing bureaucrats do that is time-critical. The main responsibility of bureaucrats is to determine consensus in requests for adminship. This is not in the least bit time-critical: if some admin has to wait 24 hours, or even a week, to be promoted, the encyclopedia will not be materially harmed. Frankly, any admin candidate who is so impatient to become an admin that he cannot wait a few days more for a bureaucrat to review his candidacy and come to a decision does not deserve adminship. The other two duties, user name changes and bot flagging, are equally non-time-critical. There is simply no urgency for the completion of bureaucrat duties, and no reason to believe that Essjay's absence from the ranks of the bureaucracy will materially affect the responsible and timely completion of these duties. Not enough time has passed to see if the other bureaucrats will rise to the occasion; and in any case the expectations of RFA candidates of instant promotion are quite unreasonable, and arguably even contrary to the best interests of the encyclopedia.

Second, is Durin's qualifications as a bureaucrat, and more generally what I, at least, consider appropriate in a bureaucrat. I opposed Durin's candidacy on the grounds that Durin is an "inflexible process wonk". And I really do believe that. It's well-known that I have a history of a rather nasty past conflict with Durin. And I freely admit that that history influences my vote, but what influences me more is all the other people who have also had conflicts with Durin. Durin is rigidly inflexible on what he has decided is right -- whether or not his opinions are justified by meaningful facts or sound logic. Once his mind is made up, he is impervious to other opinions. Furthermore, he is paranoid and overly sensitive. This combination of characteristics is the reason why he has been in so many acrimonious conflicts, and why he will continue to be in them for as long as he remains at Wikipedia. Durin is a pleasure to get along with as long as he agrees with you; as soon as he disagrees with you, though, the gloves go off. He shows clear evidence of "binary thinking" (perhap's he's a Bynar?). Unfortunately, this sort of rigidity in thought is exactly what Wikipedia does not need, and especially not in bureaucrats. I have complete confidence that Durin will rigidly apply an exact percentage rule of some sort (his addiction to statistics suggests that he's already analyzed every RfA in recent memory and established what, in his mind, the proper cutoff should be).

However, none of the above is my real reason for opposing Durin. I believe that bureaucrats should not seek to "determine the consensus of the Wikipedia community" by counting votes and applying them against some arbitrary yardstick. Rather, I believe that a bureaucrat should evaluate the candidate, taking into consideration all the comments made by those commenting on the request for adminship, and determine whether or not promoting this candidate is in the best interest of the encyclopedia. I realize that this is a revolutionary position on my part; it is directly contrary to the current declared practice. However, it is the practice I desire to see followed. I also firmly believe that Durin will oppose this to his dying day -- and if he ever becomes a bureaucrat, his ability to prevent that from becoming practice at Wikipedia will be that much stronger. Therefore, I oppose Durin's candidacy because I believe his elevation is not in the best long-term interests of the encyclopedia, and not because of his capability to perform the specific duties of the office.