Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in adminship discussions

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This is intended as a guide to getting the most out of the request for adminship (RfA) procedure. It is not intended to be binding policy, nor is there an expectation that editors who comment on RfAs should be familiar with it; it is, rather, intended to be an informative guide to useful participation in the forum.

The question posed with every RfA is "Can this user be trusted with the administrator tools?" Making a decision whether to trust an unfamiliar candidate is often difficult.

It is often said that "adminship is no big deal", bearing in mind that admin actions can be undone by another admin.

RfA is not a popularity contest, nor is it designed to force potential administrators to meet arbitrary criteria. It is not designed to judge whether a potential administrator holds the correct view on a controversial issue—which is different than asking whether they will apply a current policy consistently.

It is particularly helpful to give examples when commenting. The best way to do this is usually to link to the page or the diff showing the behaviour you are commenting on.

Comments opposing an RfA[edit]

Comments in opposition to an RfA are usually subject to greater examination than comments in support of one. It is particularly helpful if comments are precise, give examples and/or diffs, and explain why the examples presented give rise to the conclusion that the user cannot be trusted with the administrator tools.

Criticisms should be constructive and polite. They should give the candidate an idea of what they should change in order that you could trust them. If the change could be made quickly and easily, consider proposing it to the candidate on their talk page and waiting for a response before commenting on the RfA.

If you oppose an RfA, your rationale may well be questioned or challenged. If possible, consider the points raised in response to your objection, and reply politely as to whether or not you stand by your initial rationale.

Off-wiki activities[edit]

Activities off-wiki are not usually considered as part of an RfA—even if a candidate takes part in activities in real life or elsewhere on the internet which you find objectionable or highly admirable.

If a user's contributions to Wikipedia are constructive, many off-wiki issues are unimportant:

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – user was rude to me on IRC. Mr. Offended 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – I know this user and they are great. GoodFriend 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

In extreme cases, or where it may provide useful information in addition to a comment based on the user's contributions to Wikipedia, off-wiki activities can be of interest.

Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – user has threatened on a bulletin board [1] to delete the main page and block every user in London if they become an administrator. BoardInLondon 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – in addition to their great work on Wikipedia, the user has an exemplary record as an administrator on ThisProminentSite.[2] ProminentSiteUser 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

User supports/opposes X[edit]

If a comment in support or opposition relies on a user's support or opposition to a particular issue, it is particularly useful to make clear why this may affect their suitability to be an administrator.

A candidate may have a strong opinion on a topic but can be trusted not to abuse admin tools to further their philosophy. For example, many administrators with opinions which could be described as "inclusionist" or "deletionist" only make deletions in the most obvious and uncontroversial of cases, where reasonable editors are highly unlikely to disagree with their actions.

The question should be whether a candidate can be trusted not to let personal opinions lead to an action that is against consensus or policy.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – user disagreed with me in an AFD debate. ABitDisagreeable 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – this user gave a really witty response to someone I disagreed with. EasilyImpressed 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – user has stated that they believe the criteria for speedy deletion should be broadened, and that they will interpret the guidelines that way anyway.[3] StickToThePolicies 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – user has been very active in the debate on our usage of fair use images; even though I do not agree with their position, their reasoned approach shows that they can keep a cool head in a heated discussion.[4] KeepACoolHead 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

User is X[edit]

If a user can't change something, it is almost never helpful to bring it into a discussion.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – even though they are a great contributor, user writes like a twelve year old so they couldn't be a good administrator. Patronizer 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – user is from Wisconsin, and we need more administrators from Wisconsin. ILOVEWISCONSIN 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

If you are tempted to leave a comment like this, consider whether you could leave a comment based solely on the merits of the user's activities on Wikipedia.

Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – even though they are in their thirties, the contributor keeps playing immature jokes, removing text from articles,[5] [6] and redirecting them inappropriately.[7] StraightFace 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – user is from Wisconsin, and has been the core of the Wisconsin WikiProject, helping new users[8] and initiating discussions on policies.[9] WisconsinIsGreat 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Of course, requiring that administrators be adults is a perennial proposal: In fact, "[e]ditors are free to use age as a personal rationale for opposing adminship on RfA".

Exactly what she said![edit]

Sometimes, a user has already expressed your exact thoughts on an RfA, and in these cases it's reasonable to state that you fully agree with them. On other occasions, you might find yourself in broad agreement with various points made, and in these instances, it's very useful if you state exactly which points you agree with (and any with which you disagree).

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – as per most of what they said above. Agreeable 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – agree. VeryAgreeable 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose0003 makes a good point about the candidate's lack of experience in deletion debates, while 0005 highlights their tendency to get into long arguments on talk pages. However, I don't agree with 0005 when they say that the candidate has too few edits in the user talk space—what has that got to do with being an administrator? ReadTheDiscussion 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – looking at all the discussion, and through the editor's contributions, I see no reason to oppose and particularly agree with ExampleJ, ExampleK and ExampleL in their evaluation of the candidate. InformedSupporter 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Not providing a rationale[edit]

Votes that provide no rationale at all do not give constructive feedback to the candidate, nor do they contribute to the consensus-building process.

Unhelpful comments
Example: OpposeSilence 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: SupportPile-on 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Conversely, providing a brief rationale allows you to explain your reasoning, carries more weight in the bureaucrat's consideration of the candidacy, and may even convince others to change their views on the candidate.

Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – user behaves immaturely, as demonstrated here. Logicalandcoherent 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – in addition to the points raised by XYZ above, this user also has a demonstrated history of content contributions. Miss Helpful 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Must have 10,000 edits, three featured articles...[edit]

Shortcut:

Users often gain useful experience as they rack up edits. Particular contributions, such as involvement with a WikiProject, participation in various processes such as FAC, AFD and RFA, or discussion on talk pages, can not only give the user experience which will prove useful as an administrator, but also enable you to determine whether they are likely to prove trustworthy with the tools.

At the top of the comments section of each RfA, it reads "If you are unfamiliar with the nominee, please thoroughly review Special:Contributions/..." Snap decisions based on the number of edits, whether overall or in a particular namespace, work on featured articles or in discussions, without taking into account the quality of these and other contributions and their relevance to adminship are not helpful. If you are tempted to leave a comment along these lines, consider whether you can take the time to check out their edits.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – user only has ten Wikipedia talk: namespace edits which isn't nearly enough. TalkTalkTalk 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – user has worked on five articles which are now featured, so they must be good. FACFan 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – user states that they want to focus on deletion, but they have only commented in two AFDs, and they didn't seem to understand the process.[10] [11] Ms.Deletionist 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – the user has not only worked on five featured articles,[12] [13] [14] [15] [16] but has engaged in constructive discussion about them, and has many good contributions to the project namespace.[17] [18] [19] AnotherFACFan 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Doesn't need the tools[edit]

Shortcut:

Wikipedia benefits from having as many trustworthy administrators as possible. RfAs are intended to establish whether a particular user can be trusted with the tools, not whether they will use them to their maximum potential.

While it's great if administrators are active and use the tools they have, a contributor who uses the administrators' tools once a month still benefits the community. If a trustworthy person does not use the tools at all, there is absolutely no harm done. If they use them even once to good effect, then their adminship has served a purpose.

Editors who work with a certain process (e.g. AfD) may feel that any admin candidate must be experienced with that process. However, most editors focus on only a few types of contributions to Wikipedia, doing little or nothing in other areas, and for any given process, a substantial percentage of existing admins have no involvement with it. There are few, if any, processes, besides editing and interacting with other editors, that a potential admin absolutely must know.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – user sometimes disappears for a month at a time. Ever-presentEditor 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Oppose – user says they are mostly interested in deletion and don't intend to get involved with blocking vandals. TheBlocker 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – user has no experience of any deletion-related processes, so I cannot judge whether they can be trusted in this field. JudgeByExperience 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – even though the user has little experience of dealing with vandals, their contributions to various talk page discussions[20] [21] [22] convince me that they can be trusted with the tools. ATrustee 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

User made a mistake[edit]

Every editor was once a new editor who was struggling to figure out Wikipedia, and every editor made mistakes during that process. Many good editors and valuable admins have made significant errors or even been blocked at one time or another. Editors should generally place more emphasis on recent behavior and on the editor's response to his/her errors than on whether any error can possibly be found. Avoid undue emphasis on minor problems or errors made a very long time ago.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose – This user made a mistake six years ago,[23] and only people who have been continuously perfect since their first edit should be admins. Unforgiving 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Example: Oppose – Someone complained about the editor at ANI, and if she were a good editor, then no one would ever have complained. GuiltyUntilProvenInnocent 01:01, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Example: Support – This user always adds an edit summary and has never misspelled anything. Perfectionist 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose – This user's work demonstrates ongoing confusion about fundamental policies, as can be seen in these diffs from last month: [24][25] WorkReflectsTheAdmin 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)
Example: Support – This user is mature enough to own up to and resolve his mistakes without creating drama. WorkReflectsTheAdmin 01:01, 1 January 2001 (UTC)

Using another's opinion or name to cast a contradicting opinion[edit]

Arguments in RFAs should be made on the merit of the candidate alone, without even mentioning others, which could be construed as a personal attack.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose - User X supports, and I don't trust them, so this candidate must be bad. I Don't Like Them
Example: Support - Opposers have been very rude, and that makes me like this candidate. Anti-Rude
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose - I oppose this candidate because they need more experience. XYZ
Example: Support - I support this candidate because of their work in fighting vandals. ABC

Revenge and rewards[edit]

RFA votes should never focus on "getting back" at the candidate for AFD-ing the article you started, opposing your proposal, or anything of the sort. Inversely, support votes should not be given as rewards.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose - Candidate nominated my article for deletion. I Don't Like The Candidate
Example: Oppose - The candidate's nominator blocked me in the past. I Don't Like The Nominator
Example: Support - They have given me lots of barnstars and have been really nice. I Like The Candidate
Helpful comments
Example: Oppose - The candidate nominates obviously-notable articles, such as ABC for deletion. (See Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/example) XYZ

Diffs without explanation[edit]

While a given diff may actually have a good reason for supporting or opposing the nomination, it may not be self-evident to other users. In addition to the diff, you should give some explanation of why the diff shows that the user is good or bad for adminship.

Unhelpful comments
Example: Oppose Per this diff. This Diff Is Bad
Example: Support Based on [26]. Positive Diff Finder
Helpful comments
Example: Support - This diff shows the user truly understands CSD A7. CSD A7 identifier
Example: Oppose - As you can see in [27] and [28], this user has the tendency to make problematic reports at WP:AIV; if made an admin, (s)he will probably make too many bad blocks. Protect Wikipedia against bad blocks

Self-nominations[edit]

Shortcut:

Many excellent users are ready to take on administrator tasks, yet for whatever reason have not been nominated by another editor. If a candidate has demonstrated clearly that they have what it takes to be an administrator, then the sooner they become an administrator, the better for everyone. Thus, many people believe it is counter-productive to oppose a candidate based solely on the fact that the candidate is self-nominated. However, some users do not agree with this and hold a self-nomination to a higher standard than a non-self-nomination.

Editcountitis[edit]

It is unhelpful to keep counting beans once you know that you have plenty to eat.

One of the more problematic "arguments to avoid" is the improper use of the number of edits (usually determined by looking at the results from an edit counter). Certainly an editor with only 100 edits is too inexperienced to be an administrator. But the negation argument—that a lot of edits is needed to really know Wikipedia (and that this is critical for adminship)—has two different problems:

  • First, a very high number of edits isn't a guarantee of trustworthiness. There are editors with tens of thousands of edits who have been blocked dozens of times, as evidenced by their block logs. There are also editors with many thousands of edits who have racked these numbers up by using semi-automated tools such as Huggle to revert vandalism and issue warnings, something that (while valuable) requires neither editing skills nor much interaction with users (Wikipedia vandals typically are of the hit-and-run type). Similarly, it's possible to do huge numbers of edits in a matter of days (if one puts in the time) to post "welcome" messages to the thousands of people who register every day, with very little further interaction. In short, the quality of edits needs to be taken into account—a participant who does not consider an editor's contributions in detail should not simply support or oppose a candidate based on the edit count (too high or too low).
  • Second, setting an arbitrary threshold—say, 3000 or 4000 or 5000 edits—as a "minimum" to demonstrate experience penalizes candidates (and discourages potential candidates) who spend significant time improving articles and creating new ones. Finding sources and exercising good editorial judgment takes time, and while Wikipedia needs vandal fighters and fixers of typos and editors who tag problems, the true value of Wikipedia comes from those who improve the encyclopedia by adding content and (where appropriate) new articles. It's difficult to validly judge the quality of a candidate by looking at disambiguation pages or double redirects that he/she has fixed; it's much easier if the candidate has been a significant contributor to articles (particularly controversial ones) where he/she has had to interact and explain and make a case for changes.

In short, an RFA participant who looks only at the total edit count may well get a wrong impression of the candidate's contributions. To say something meaningful about the candidate, it's important to look at the contributions themselves, not just their number or distribution (as discussed in the next section). And certainly a decision to support or oppose a candidate should never be based solely on edit count.

One final twist on editcountitis is concluding that the candidate is experienced enough but arguing against the candidate based on edits per month: that "this candidate doesn't contribute frequently enough". For all practical purposes, everyone editing Wikipedia is a volunteer; it's inappropriate to demand a certain level of contribution from anyone. If a candidate can benefit the project by using their admin tools for just 10 minutes a week, that's 10 minutes more of useful admin work that Wikipedia gets that it otherwise would not.

Namespace balance[edit]

Different tasks generate different numbers of edits in different namespaces. Someone who spends a lot of time reverting vandalism or tagging unused non-free images will have a disproportionately high number of user talk edits because these actions, when properly done, include adding warning templates to user pages.

Sometimes a candidate receives opposition based on the balance of edits between the various namespaces. The extreme (and most problematic) of such arguments is that the candidate fails to have the appropriate balance—a desirable percentage in Wikipedia namespace (policy understanding), mainspace (article editing), user space (user interaction), and talk space (working constructively with other editors), for example. Sometimes this argument involves parts of namespace: AfD discussions, RfA discussions, etc.

There are at least three problems with this type of opposition:

  • First, counts in a namespace can come from a variety of things: a high amount of Talk edits may be an indication of experience interacting with users, or simply automated tagging for WikiProjects. A high number of User Talk postings may be dealing with problematic editors (a challenging matter to do well) or posting vandalism warnings to mostly anonymous IP talk pages (not so challenging, though still needed). Postings to Wikipedia and Wikipedia Talk pages may be helpful, or simply chattiness; RfA and AfD postings may be insightful or simply "me too" postings.
  • Second, a particular skill (interacting with other editors, for example) can be demonstrated in several different namespaces, including user talk pages, article talk pages, Wikipedia and Wikipedia talk pages. Similarly, the ability to understand policy (and make good arguments about it) can be demonstrated in a number of places, not all in the same namespace. In short, namespaces and skills are not the same, so failure to have many edits in a single namespace proves very little, if anything.
  • Third, editors contribute to Wikipedia in many different ways. Helping with copyright problems with images is different than identifying problems with new articles, and both are different than helping mediate disputes among editors, yet all three are things that demonstrate valuable skills that are important to an administrator. Wikipedia administrators are not required to be good at everything; in fact, most administrators tend to focus on what interests them: they're not being paid, of course; why work on what is tedious or uninteresting?

It's appropriate to oppose a candidate who has done nothing in an area that may be considered basic: editing, working with other editors, or understanding something about Wikipedia policies and the Wikipedia community. But opposing a candidate simply because they do not contribute in the same way that a participant does, or in the way that an "ideal" candidate would, is counterproductive: it can deprive Wikipedia of a good administrator, forcing existing administrators to focus less on the administrative task they prefer to do and more on what they feel they have to do.

See also[edit]