Wikipedia:How to pass an RfA
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
So you want to be an Admin? You really have two choices at this point. You can throw your hat into the ring and see what happens or you can approach the subject like you would any other job. By researching the subject and preparing for an RfA, you can enhance the odds of your passing.
Are you qualified
Many people have written criteria by which they evaluate potential admins. This list is NOT a list of requirements, but rather observations of what seems to be the minimum expectations. If you are thinking about running for admin, consider the following questions:
- Have you been active on Wikipedia for at least six months? A year is better!
- Do you have at least 3,000 edits (5,000 if your primary involvement is vandal fighting)?
- Have you participated in XfD's? In 2007, if you didn't have a track record with XfD's you might as well not apply, today XfD's are still looked for, but people realize there are other ways to gain/show policy knowledge.
- Are your edits isolated to one or two silos? In other words, are your edits limited to one or two pet areas of interest?
- Are all of your edits in the Mainspace or have you contributed elsewhere? For example templates, categories, wikipedia, user spaces and their associated talk pages? If you don't know, check out User Analysis Tool.
- Have you been blocked in the past 6 months? Have you been involved in a nasty dispute in the past 6 months where you acted immaturely?
- Do you know how to navigate Wikipedia? This essay will make references to many features, but they are unlinked. If you are admin potential, you should be able to find them on your own!
While the above are not requirements to become an admin, they are often the basis for people to oppose an RfA. If you don't meet the above minimum guidelines, you might want to consider waiting until you do meet them. Many users/admins have their own standards which are much higher and more detailed than the above.
Things that kill RfAs
- Repeated !voting on XfD's with the notes "Per Above", "Per Nom", or simply "Delete/Keep." Justify your !vote. It is not as important that you !vote with the majority as it is that you give a policy/reasonable explanation for your !vote. In fact, sometimes you want to show your independence by !voting differently.
- Incivility or vandalism or being blocked in the past 6 months.
- Over-vigorous defense of the candidate---particularly by the candidate or the nominator.
- While this may not kill an RfA, it does hurt: Self nominations. Find an Admin to nominate you. Who nominates you can have an impact on the RfA. An experienced admin who has a proven track record of only nominating strong candidates will go a long way. An inexperienced user with no track record nominating a candidate may invoke more scrutiny.
- Prestacking !votes. Don't let others post !votes on your RfA page until it goes live--particularly supports. This includes the nominators. If somebody does post an !vote, simply delete it and let them know that you will contact them when the RfA goes live. (You can leave opposes.)
- Admin coaching for a qualified candidate can be seen as "gaming the system."
How to prepare for an RfA
Once you've decided to run for RfA you might want to prepare for it. How do you prepare for an RfA?
- Increase your participation in XfD's.
- Learn the policies---especially the key ones such as the four policies governing article standards.
- Edit articles outside of your comfort zone.
- Fight vandalism, contribute to AIV, mark articles for speedy deletion.
- Increase your participation in the various projects (DYK, GA, FA, RFC, Help Desk, Teahouse, etc.).
- Participate on the talk pages of those various projects.
- Start acting like an admin. Admins really have no more authority than non-admins. They only have a few extra tools. If you want the job, then others should see you as an admin already!
- Study up on the policies and responsibilities of admins.
- Consider having an Editor Review.
- If you are one of those types that responds to comments on the other person's talk page, STOP. These pages are extremely hard to assess as a reviewer, and they can actually kill your chances. If somebody comes to your page with a criticism/warning, you want others to be able to see your response/side of the story. You don't want them to have to dig for the truth.
Start watching the RfA process if you aren't already. Like many things on Wikipedia, issues are decided by consensus. This consensus can be affected by who is participating in RfA's at any given moment and what their concerns are. By watching ongoing RfA's you gain two distinct advantages over those who don't. First, you can see what the hot topics are on RfA before you are nominated. This gives you a chance to gain exposure in those areas before being nominated. Second, you can see what questions are being asked. But not only that, you get to see how others answered those questions. You can determine if those answers worked or didn't work and you can formulate your own answers, knowing that you may very well be asked the same questions.
If you are already qualified, feel free to ignore all rules and run!
How to answer the questions
When answering these questions remember what you are trying to do. You are answering questions to get a job. What is that job? To be an admin. The people who are reviewing you are more concerned with who you are than what you've done. We want to know that you have both the technical and the soft skills to be an admin. You have to sell both the hard and soft skills that you have.
1. What admin work do you intend to take part in?
A: This is the first question you are asked, so you want to make a positive impression. The question is looking for two things. First, do you have a need for the tools? Second, do you have the experience necessary in those areas? Good answers will cover both of those questions; saying that you want to close XfDs when you have no experience with XfDs will kill your chances. Your answers will show the community that you've thought about what you want to do and that you have a need for the tools. Cite specific issues or areas where the tools will help. A generic "tackle administrative backlogs" tells the reader nothing and doesn't demonstrate what you know. When citing areas where you intend to work make sure you link to them; some of the voters won't be experienced Wikipedians, and they may need help finding what you're talking about.
If you are primarily a vandal fighter, make sure you discuss your contributions to AIV and XfD's. If you haven't done much more than fighting vandals and other work that doesn't require a lot of interaction with the community, spend a few months doing things that show that you "play well with others" ... for instance, you might take part in policy and deletion discussions, or spend some time working collaboratively on articles with a wikiproject. Even if this makes you a little uncomfortable ... especially if it makes you a little uncomfortable ... it will show the voters a side of you that most of them feel they need to see to evaluate you properly.
2. What are your best contributions to Wikipedia, and why?
A: Share whatever you think has been your best work, with links: a tough featured article, a difficult situation you handled well, a community discussion where you had a hand in forging consensus. Some candidates need a lot of quality article work to pass; some, not so much, because of their dedication in other areas. If article work isn't your strength, it's still a good idea to collaborate with others who are good at it.
3. Have you been in any conflicts over editing in the past or have other users caused you stress? How have you dealt with it and how will you deal with it in the future?
A: Conflict happens. Regardless of who you are, there will be a time where you or somebody else blew it. If you blew it, now is the time to own up to it. Address what happened, how you handled the situation, how you should have handled it, and what you learned. (Note, depending on the issue, you may want to wait 3–6 months before going for RfA.)
If you were under attack from somebody else, and believe that you handled a situation appropriately, share those experiences.
In both cases, provide links to the conflicts. Most people are not as concerned that you had a conflict, they want to know how you handled it. What was your approach to the issue? Did you and the other party reach a reconciliation in the end? (e.g. did everybody walk away happy?)
Optional question from ...: Optional questions are your chance to shine. Some questions are very well written, but most of the time the questions are vague and incomplete. When presented with an optional question you need to remember that you are being asked a question because somebody is interested in the subject. You might not be, but it is a concern of a potential supporter or opposer. Think about what the person asked. Do your homework---in other words, look up the relevant policies that affect the question. You may never have considered the scenario before receiving the question, but potential supporters want to know that you know how to look up the answers. Then write complete answers. If you don't know the answer and can't find it, admit that you don't know, but explain what you would do to find the correct answer. (Often, if the question is too esoteric, other admins will chime in in your defense. But if you give the wrong answer, it will hurt you regardless of what other admins say.)
For example, in an RfA, the following question was asked: Explain how you would deal with a WP:BLP dispute in this scenario: there is some content in an article that is libelous and biased to some but perfectly fine to others. It appears extremely libelous to you. What do you do?
This question has several different dimensions that could have been explored. Was the libelous statement cited? Was it attributed to an individual? How reliable was the citation? Any one of those questions could have changed the proper response. Not only did the candidate fail to delve into them, he appeared to be completely unfamiliar with the policy despite having the link provided. He failed in his RfA.
Starting the RfA
After answering the questions, you will need to transclude the RfA on the RfA main page. When you do this, you need to make sure that you will have 2–4 hours to monitor the RfA. People expect candidates to respond to questions/queries during that time period. If your RfA has been live for a few hours, you get more grace room to answer questions, but there is an expectation that answers asked during that period are answered immediately!
During the RfA
- Answer questions on your RfA, but don't get involved with any drama. This applies both on the RfA and elsewhere. Many people will take a semi-wikibreak during their RfA.
- Nominators and candidates need to avoid getting into deep debates. If somebody opposes the candidate, respond with a short rationale response (at most) and let it go. If you acted inappropriately, acknowledge that and explain what you learned and how you would respond differently in the future. Too often the nominator or candidate get into debates with people who oppose the candidate. The debates encourage people to dig deeper into the candidates past and this often ends up killing the RfA.
- Generally it is better for the candidate to respond to the criticism than for the nominator to do so. Let the candidate demonstrate his/her temperament and reasoning skills. As the ideal nominator is already an admin, the community expects nominators to know how to respond to the criticism. We want to see how the candidate handles it.
- If the nomination starts to go sour, it is better to withdraw the nomination than to let it drag out. This is particularly true if your supports start changing their votes to oppose or neutral! Changing a vote from oppose to support doesn't attract as much attention as a support changing to oppose. In fact, when an oppose changes to a support, it solidifies the support base. When a former supporter changes his/her vote, however, it gets other supports to re-evaluate their own vote.
Nominator role during the RfA
- The nominator's role is to nominate the candidate. She/he should present the candidate in the best possible light and/or address any possible concerns that others might have. S/he should demonstrate why a possible criticism is lacking.
- Defend the candidate against spurious attacks.
- SHUT UP! The nominator had their chance to introduce the candidate, don't say too much. While the nominator should be willing to defend the candidate, s/he should let others do so first. Nominators are biased. They have a stake in the nomination. If the nominator gets too involved with an RfA, they can end up ruining it. Vigorous defenses by nominators may cause people to dig their heels in and "find" fault with the candidate.
- Get others to shut up. While deflecting criticism is important, don't let others become so vigorous in their defense that it forces the opposes to "find something."
Why who your nom is matters
A nominator can help or kill an RfA. Not only does it set the first impression of the candidate, but it also tells the community how well the candidate was vetted before the nom. Some noms do their homework better than others. Their candidates will usually get a little less scrutiny than somebody whose judgment is questionable. But even after the nom, it matters. Perhaps even more so then. While the nom and candidate both can respond to opposes, the nom has to be careful of not blowing it. This was arguably the most egregious and obvious example of a nominator killing an RfA, but it isn't the only one. Usually, people aren't as vocal as to that being the reason for the oppose. So beyond the initial nomination, the question has to be asked, "Does my nominator know me well enough that s/he can defend me against unwarranted opposes? Does my nominator have the judgment/temperament to know when to respond or shut up? Does my nominator have enough clout that if s/he tells a respected admin/crat that s/he disagrees with them, that the nom's voice will act as a counterweight to the other established member? Does my nom have the internal fortitude to tell a respected admin/crat that they are wrong?"
So you failed your first RfA
Don't despair, many of the best Admins failed their first RfA. Analyze why you failed and fix the problem. Take the advice of others into consideration. If they felt you needed more time participating in XfD's, then participate in XfD's. If they felt that you needed more experience developing articles, develop articles. If they felt that you need to expand your horizons, then expand your horizons.
When you come back for your second RfA, people are going to see if you did anything to address your weaknesses. If you didn't, then your RfA is almost certain to fail. If you listened to what the community told you the first time around, and nothing new emerges, you are much more likely to pass.
As a general rule of thumb, wait at least 3 months before going up for your second nomination. Renominations less than 3 months apart are almost doomed to fail. If your RfA failed due to temperament or personality/judgment issues, you might want to wait even longer. The community perceives rapid renominations as a person who is "overly eager" to become an admin and/or power hungry.