Wikipedia:Advice for RfA candidates

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The process of becoming an administrator is described on Wikipedia:Requests for adminship. The tasks that admins actually do are described at Wikipedia:Administrators. Candidates for adminship must be nominated (either by another user or by themselves), answer a series of questions, and then be subjected to a 7-day community discussion as to whether they will be accepted as admins by the community. Successful candidates will almost always have edited Wikipedia for at least several months and will have thousands of edits in various 'maintenance' areas of the project, and will have made measurable contributions to articles. Solid preparation is absolutely essential in order to have any chance of success.

More essays (especially those on users' !voting criteria) and advice pages are listed at the end of this page
The footnotes contain links to important examples. Viewed separately, they are an integral part of this advice. Please be sure to read them and follow the links.
Note: If you are below the age of majority (18 in most countries) you should read Guidance for younger editors first.
Nuvola apps important.svgUnfortunately, a large number of all RfAs fail – mainly because candidates did not read the instructions and advice pages.

Preparing yourself for adminship[edit]

No big deal

If you would like to be an admin someday, you should preferably begin preparations at least six months before making your application. You should thoroughly read the instructions and advice listed above, and on the RfA pages. Review as many old successful and unsuccessful RfAs as possible, and be absolutely sure to generally meet the criteria required by regular !voters (See the list of essays at the end of this page). Users who are not likely to pass may be considered by the community to be immature, or time wasters who are just seeking feedback on their editing. Some candidates whose first RfA failed, pass a second run with flying colours,[1] but previous attempts will be closely looked at again by the community.

  • Basics: Although administrators are responsible for blocking users, protecting and deleting pages, and closing some debates, some other actions can have an effect on the entire Wikipedia web site. Whichever areas candidates want to specialise in, they must convince the community that they can be trusted to use all the tools responsibly and intelligently. They must also demonstrate that they act civilly in an adult and mature manner at all times.
  • Blocks: Users who have been previously blocked for any legitimate reason(s) will be required by the community to have learned from their block(s), and have been block free for a considerable length of time (often 1 year).
  • Civility: Candidates should demonstrate cool headed participation in discussions, and to have overcome earlier lapses in civility. They should never have engaged in making personal attacks.
  • Content: Admin candidates are expected to have demonstrated understanding of how to assess and cite Reliable Sources inline. This can be done either by contributing referenced content to articles or by adding references to unreferenced content contributed by others. It is a huge plus but not essential to have contributed Good Articles or Featured Articles.
  • Creations: Candidates' own creations should demonstrate a knowledge of article policies, guidelines, and style and the pages should be free of old tags. A high number of creations that are mainly stubs, redirects, or disambiguation pages, might not be taken into consideration.
  • Diversity: Candidates who have only been active in a limited number of areas (see pie chart) may incur opposition. As the tools can also be used in many areas in which the candidate is less familiar, a relatively broad scope of previous activity in policy and decision making is expected.
  • Fresh start: It is generally expected that 'fresh start' users have declared their intention by closed communication to Arbcom.
  • High edit count: A high edit count (see pie chart) does not always demonstrate experience. The criteria are based on what and where those edits were. Editors with a high number of edits, especially automated ones, have been known to fail.[2]
  • Judgement: Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they can make carefully considered contributions. The criteria are based on the ability to assess consensus in areas that will require admin decisions, input, and discussion closures; and especially to correctly implement deletion and blocking policies.
  • Length of membership: Simply being a Wikipedian for a long time may not count for much. The criteria are based on what the candidate has actually done in that time.[3] In contrast, being a Wikipedian for too short a time is usually an issue. It is extremely rare to become an Admin within less than six consecutive months of activity. Individuals who might have the right temperament from day one must still demonstrate a broad knowledge of procedures and policies.
  • Low edit count: A low edit count (see pie chart) will obviously be regarded by most as evidence of insufficient experience. Contributions are the only available basic metric of performance. As such, editors with low counts generally fail.
  • Maturity: There are no age restrictions for being an admin. The criteria are based on the users' common sense, good judgement, and good prose. 'Cool-talk' and 'teen-talk' may win fan club !votes, but may not go down so well with older editors.[4] Wikipedia has several very young successful admins; it also has a lot of older people who behave like children.
  • Single purpose candidates: Unless candidates have demonstrated a very high level of specialisation and contribution in some areas needing advanced knowledge such as bots, scripts, copyright, etc., it is unlikely that they will be elected based on a 'need' for the tools for a single purpose.
  • Talk: Pie charts that reveal an overwhelming majority of edits to user talk pages may demonstrate that a user's participation at Wikipedia is more for social or off-topic purposes than for building an encyclopedia.
  • User page: !Voters look at user pages. An uncluttered page with intelligent content goes a long way to demonstrating maturity. An untidy user page may signify an untidy mind and careless work. A lot of highly self promotional content, userboxes, and/or excessive external links to one's own private and working life could be seen as the sign of a bighead and a possible power pusher.

Specific points[edit]

  1. Copyright: The use of unauthorised content is a major policy issue. The most innocent copyright violations that you have added – even older ones – especially to Did You Know, good articles, and featured articles will almost certainly be detected, and will seriously compromise your RfA, and perhaps your future on Wikipedia.[5]
  2. Your username should not be unusual or overly long (especially the code it generates) and should respect Wikipedia user name conventions. Some voters will oppose if they feel a name does not look serious enough for an editor of an encyclopedia,[6] or if they find it confusing.[7]
  3. Flamboyant signatures are seen by some as ostentation. There are absolutely no rules against custom signatures, but there are guidelines: Readability (it might look fine in your browser and on your computer, but not on others). It should be pronounceable: non-Roman fonts, symbols, and dingbats are discouraged and may not be easily available without multi-strokes from a standard ASCII keyboard or not be available at all from standard QWERTY or AZERTY keyboards without using a 'character insertion' help menu.[7] Fancy signatures are seen by many !voters as a lack of maturity.
  4. Talk page clean up is not recommended. Removing warnings or contentious discussions leaves them in the page history where they can still be easily accessed by anyone. The many admins who !vote at RfA also have the advantage that they can view any user pages that you have asked to be deleted. Access to your archives should be easy, and personal information and CSS decoration is best left on your user page.
  5. Barnstars should not be left on your talk page. There are absolutely no rules against having barnstars on a user talk page,[8] however, some !voters may see this as unnecessary ostentation. Most users move their barnstars to their user page or sub page.[9]
  6. Userboxes that express opinions on politics, religion, sexual orientation, or other controversial issues have been known to be reasons for 'Strong oppose' !votes based on fears of a potential risk of tendentious editing or systemic bias.[10][11]
  7. Humour (especially sarcasm, cynicism) and even friendly banter are often seen as bad form. Unless you are extremely popular and chances are very low of not being successful,[12] however lighthearted you may think your comment is, it will be wrongly interpreted by some. Most RfA commentators will instantly recognise humour, but !voters seeking reasons to oppose may not see them as such.[13][14][15]
  8. Conspiracies: Some editors may not be regular contributors to RfA, or even Wikipedia. They may bear a grudge that may even go back a long time (see note 2 below). They might cherry-pick diffs and take them out of context. They may have a history of gaming the system and/or combative commenting. Rebuke with utmost care, or preferably ignore.
  9. Old enemies may also have an axe to grind, and although they may never have !voted at RfA before, they might !vote on yours.
  10. Older issues: Examine your past and try to iron out any old differences. This should be done at least three months before the RfA. If the candidate has clearly demonstrated reform, minor issues dating back six months or so might be ignored while more serious issues even older than 12 months might be the reason(s) for opposition.[7]
  11. Off-Wiki activity: While nominators may be unable to examine candidate's private lives and activities on websites not owned by the Foundation, other users may have leads to behaviour that may cast doubts on the candidate's overall suitability, and might oppose accordingly.[7] Don't be misled into thinking that being a moderator on a small internet forum will be a free pass through RfA - while it may demonstrate a mature and calm behaviour, tiny forums do not have the same problems and challenges that Wikipedia does, so it may not count for very much.
  12. Canvassing: Wikipedia policy on Canvassing for RfA is clear; RfA is not a popularity poll and it should not be done, on or off Wiki - even an innocent mention on IRC will entrain opposition, and users will not hesitate to post copies of the chat log.[7] Consider using {{RFA-notice}} on your userpage, which is a more neutral way to communicate your RfA to other users.[16]

Are you ready?[edit]

Click to zoom

Every RfA needs a strong, convincing nomination. Generally, self-nominations are only likely to succeed from long-term, very experienced editors. Young or new users who have an I want to be an admin userbox may wait a very long time before they are proposed, at least until they have met the basic criteria demanded by the regular !voters. Nevertheless, the user category the box added your name to is regularly reviewed by experienced editors and admins who are actively looking for suitable candidates to nominate. If they believe you to be a potential candidate, they will contact you – probably by email, so be sure to have Wikipedia email enabled. If you have not already done so, you should opt in for your edit count details to be shown in addition to your pie chart by adding User:YOUR NAME/EditCounterOptIn.js. to your user js page. As previously recommended, review the nominations of previous RfA that have passed and failed.

  • Self-nomination: Self-nominations get mixed reception. In fact, some editors systematically oppose self nominations. Some nominations are too short, some are too long, some are too witty, some are too bold, and some candidates simply inadvertently shoot themselves in the foot in their nomination statement. A self-nom must be strong, but not too long, and not sound self-promotional. Candidates who intend to self-nom are welcome to ask an experienced friend for advice on their draft. At Wikipedia all editors are considered equal; what a candidate has done outside of Wikipedia is of little importance for being an administrator.
  • User nominations: Being nominated by another user demonstrates that at least another Wikipedian has confidence that the candidate will be successful. Strong nominations come from experienced users who have done significant research to be sure that the nomination will not backfire on them. Many successful candidates are those who have been nominated by an admin or co-nominated by a second experienced user. See: Requesting an RfA nomination.
  • The three standard questions should always be answered before you transclude and start your RFA. If you are nominating yourself, your answers can be an opportunity to expand (rather than duplicate) some of the things you have said in your nomination statement.
  • Timing: Don't imagine for a moment that everyone lives in the USA or the UK. Regular contributors to the English Wikipedia live in every corner and time zone of the world (two well known British admins live in Thailand). Many candidates admit to not getting much sleep while their RfA is running, but it's perfectly acceptable to maintain your normal 24-hour rhythm. Above all, choose a time period when you are fairly confident that you will be able to participate in the site regularly for an entire week. Remember that your RfA is the only thing on Wikipedia that you can control the timing of, so telling others in the midst of it that you are too busy with real life to respond will likely not be received well (unless it's a genuine emergency).
  • Transcluding your RfA: When you enter 'edit' mode for the RfA page, you will be asked one last time if you are really ready – remember, there is one thing that nearly all editors are unanimous about: they don't like having their time wasted. So don't start your RFA at the end of an editing session when you are off to bed. Instead, save it, reread it at the start of your next session and then submit it when you have time to answer questions that come in the first couple of hours. After the first evening later questions can be usually be left for up to 24 hours - everyone appreciates that different people are around at different times; Just remember to always answer in sequence, and always reread the relevant policy - especially if you haven't spotted the trick element of the question. Most important however, is to consider waiting another couple of months rather than submitting yourself to a lot of unkind comments and an embarrassing failure.[17] Transclusion is a frequently used process for combining elements of electronic documents, especially at Wikipedia. If you don't know how to do it, you are free to ask your nominator to do it for you, but it may demonstrate to the !voters that you are not entirely familiar with an operation that admins are expected to do with ease.

During your RfA[edit]

  1. At the start, unless there are obvious reasons why the RfA should fail, most RfA's typically begin with a number of 'support' !votes, but seven days is a long time and !voting patterns can change dramatically. The more experienced participants will often hold off their comments until later in the process. There could be either an influx of supports or opposes, thus making the outcome unpredictable until near the end.[18] Many of the later participants !vote 'as per user X' (often referred to as 'pile-on') without bringing fresh rationale to the discussion.[19]
  2. !Voters' questions are unpredictable.[20] RfA is an open book exam, and Wikipedia is a huge repository of policies, guidelines, and help pages. Careful phrasing of the answers is however required to demonstrate that the candidate knows how to apply the policy in question. Misinterpretation of candidates' correct answers has been known to incur a pile-on of 'oppose' !votes. Many questions may not appear to be relevant to becoming a sysop,[21] but the posers will sometimes argue that the answers demonstrate a candidate's capacity to act under stress or to address silly comments from other users. Although such questions often cannot have a 'correct' answer, many !voters will not see them as so and will oppose based on the answer; in the worst case scenario such questions may even cause pile-on oppose !votes. Advice varies from either putting on a brave show of making an answer, or ignoring the question. Nothing in RfA process policy suggests that the questions are other than optional, but not answering can also create pile-on oppose !votes.[22][23]
  3. Many RfA are not a fair process. (See also 'Rebuttals' below') The community is working to make the process as fair as possible, but there are no guarantees. Some candidates with tens of thousands of edits fail as a result of concern expressed about isolated minor issues, or pile-on opposition following deliberate improper !votes or inappropriate !votes made in good faith.
  4. Answering every !vote (1). Comments that are short and to the point and demonstrate integrity and good faith on the part of the !voter do not need a response. Users looking for reasons to oppose will see too many comments as being too chatty.
  5. Answering every !vote (2). Candidates should avoid making lengthy rebuttals. They will be considered TLDR,[24] and assumed to be a demonstration of excess verbosity that would be used on future talk page discussions and debates. Most people tend to regard 'intelligent' language as simply being pompous and authoritative, commanding, and overly self-confident from someone expecting to be respected and obeyed. Sysops lead by example and are trusted with some tools, but they do not command or issue orders.
  6. 'KISS' your use of language.[25] Candidates may believe that sounding intellectual will put them in good stead. It does not.[26] While many Wikipedians are academics and intellectuals, research has shown that most are not.
  7. Diffs of candidates' comments taken out of context: Cherry-picked diffs that do not reveal the full story in the thread they were taken from. This can be apparently deliberate, or innocently made. In all cases assume good faith.[27]
  8. Diffs of candidates' comments made longer than 3 months ago: It is recommended that unsuccessful candidates do not attempt a further RfA before 3 months have elapsed. It can therefore be assumed that candidates will have addressed any previous negative aspects of their editing and commenting.
  9. Citing unrelated diffs: Many participants cast their !votes based entirely on other !voters' comments. It is possible that they will take these comments on face value without verification.
  10. Rebuttals are dangerous (1): No users like their 'oppose' votes being disputed (this is often referring to as "badgering" in the RfA context). Many 'oppose' votes have comments that are short and to the point and demonstrate integrity and good faith on the part of the !voter. If the claims are reasonably accurate, they do not need a response.
  11. Rebuttals are dangerous (2): Some 'oppose' votes may be based on vengeance, extreme inaccuracies, and sometimes even lies. Rebuttals should be considered with utmost caution. They should be extremely polite, even if the !voter is calling the candidate an 'obtuse jerk'. The solution is a short, concise answer that contains extremely well researched diffs.[27] In the worst case scenarios, candidates have been told by other users to shut up and put up, and not question !voters' motives or integrity. Candidates who lose their cool or who demonstrate frustration or lack of patience with !voters will incur opposition and pile-on oppose !votes.
  12. Closure: Most RfA's with a final tally of 80% support or more will close as successful, while those under 70% will generally not pass. There have however been important exceptions, with candidates passing with as low as 61.2%.[28] The 70–80 'grey' zone is subject to the bureaucrat's discretion after taking into account the quality of the arguments made by the !voters, the strength of comments in the 'neutral' section, and after discounting any !votes they consider to be invalid. In extremely close calls, an extension to the 7-day !voting period may be accorded, or a discussion ('crat chat) may take place among the bureaucrats.[29]

After your RfA[edit]

If you passed
  • Relax – it's over.
  • Enjoy the congratulations and pints of beer, don't get drunk, and wear the T-shirt with pride.
  • Read all these links, learn to use the tools slowly, and watch out for some unexpected new links in strange places, especially in the Twinkle CSD menu!
  • Be a role model and lead by example.
  • Never hesitate to ask another admin for an opinion or advice.
If your RfA does not succeed or if you withdrew
  • Relax – it's over.
  • Read failed RfA advice.
  • Don't be disheartened.
  • Don't cry and don't get drunk.
  • Learn from the advice
  • Keep editing, don't retire from Wikipedia, and try again another time.

RfA essays and criteria[edit]

Users' criteria
Older pages

RfA !voters' brief comments on standards. The pages A–Z are classed as 'inactive'. The comments have mostly petered out since around 2006–2007, but may be helpful for research.

Related projects[edit]


  1. ^ RfA WereSpielChequers
  2. ^ Wikipedia:Editcountitis
  3. ^ RfA: NickPenguin
  4. ^ I wanna be an admin coz I'm the coolest dude in town.
  5. ^ "Cunard, RfA RCsprinter". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  6. ^ "Lankiveil, RfA Catfish Jim and the soapdish". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Σ
  8. ^ Wikipedia Talk page guidelines
  9. ^ Questions for the candidate (Townlake, WT:RfA 25 February 2011, Townlake, Revision as of 20:40, 23 February 2011)
  10. ^ RfA: Ctjf83 2
  11. ^ RfA: SoWhy
  12. ^ RfA: Boing! said Zebedee
  13. ^ "RfA: Kudpung". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  14. ^ "RfA: Kudpung". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  15. ^ "Shoessss, RfA: Kudpung". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  16. ^ RfA: Cobi 2
  17. ^ RfA: My76Strat
  18. ^ RfA: Kudpung
  19. ^ "HJ Mitchel: RfA N419BH". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  20. ^ RfA cheatsheet
  21. ^ RfA:The questions they ask.
  22. ^ Are the optional questions optional? (WT:RfA 27 February 2011)
  23. ^ "Optional" questions should be banned entirely. (Townlake, WT:RfA 25 February 2011)
  24. ^ too long, didn't read
  25. ^ KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid
  26. ^ "Korruski: RfA My76Strat". Retrieved 2013-08-17. 
  27. ^ a b Wikipedia:Don't take the bait
  28. ^ RfA: Carnildo 3
  29. ^ Wikipedia:RfA