Wikipedia:We need more bureaucrats
|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.|
There are many user access levels on Wikipedia. The most common are anonymous users identified by their IP, logged-in users, and administrators. There are several more restricted access levels: bureaucrat, checkuser, oversight, and stewards.
Users are restricted from sensitive actions that might harm the project if anyone could do them. Thus, anonymous users cannot edit semi-protected pages, and non-admins cannot delete articles. Admins, a large group with more than 1,000 members, cannot view the sensitive information contained in the checkuser logs or the hidden "oversight" revisions.
However, the limited number of bureaucrats is more to ensure social harmony than to prevent obviously harmful activity. Bureaucrats have three special roles:
- Bot flagging
- Changing usernames
- Promoting users to administrators
The pages associated with each task are linked on the Bureaucrats' noticeboard.
There is nothing particularly difficult about bot flagging or changing usernames. The only difficult task of a bureaucrat is to evaluate requests for adminship to determine community consensus. Most RFAs are obvious yeas or nays; a case comes within the bureaucrats' discretion once every week or two.
It is important that a bureaucrat has the confidence of the community to make critical decisions that may help or harm the project for months to come. However, many experienced administrators, who have participated in the RFA process and in the efforts to evaluate and reform it, have acquired this judgment and maturity. So why are their applications to become a bureaucrat being turned away?
"We don't need more bureaucrats"
One reason is that any administrator with enough experience to run for bureaucratship has perforce acquired some dissenters along the way. Nobody has earned the wholehearted admiration of everyone else.
Also, there is no community consensus about the meaning of community consensus. No matter what a candidate says in response to the standard questions, someone will oppose by citing the adverse viewpoint. If a candidate says he will stick mostly to the standard conventions of counting votes, someone opposes because RFA is not a vote. Conversely, if he says he will ignore the vote count and assess the strength of arguments, someone will oppose because this will give the bureaucrat too much discretionary power. There's no way to please everyone.
The threshold to pass a request for bureaucratship is absurdly high, around 85–90% support. For every oppose vote, the candidate needs seven to eight countervailing support votes. A relatively small group of contrarians can sink a whole ship of sensible supporters.
The most troubling problem is the reason for some of the oppose votes. Two reasons, beside the foregoing ones, stand out for sheer ridiculousness:
- "A bureaucrat needs to have been an admin for at least a year."
- "We don't need more bureaucrats."
Regarding the first point, there is neither a guideline nor a logical reason for this to be so. Any admin who has proven his worthiness for a few months on the job may be capable of assuming additional responsibilities.
The second point is completely absurd and lacks any basis in reality. We don't need any more checkusers or oversights, except to replace those who become inactive, because those are sensitive positions where maintaining secrecy is a high priority. For bureaucrats there are no secrets to keep. It's true that we don't "need" any more bureaucrats because the current complement is doing its job well. But what's the harm? If the number of bureaucrats doubled or tripled, provided that they are all competent, it would lighten the work load on everyone. By the same logic, we don't need any more administrators because the current administrators are doing a good job. But what's the harm? Adminship is no big deal, and any help with the CAT:CSD backlogs is always appreciated.
Heck, we don't "need" any more editors on Wikipedia. We already have several thousands active contributors to the English Wikipedia. Why not just shut down the creation of user accounts, and let the current cabal run the show?