Wikipedia:Administrators

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Wikipedia's administrative tools are often likened to a janitor's mop, leading to adminship being described at times as being "given the mop".

Administrators, commonly known as admins or sysops (system operators), are Wikipedia editors who have been granted the technical ability to perform certain special actions on the English Wikipedia, including the ability to block and unblock user accounts and IP addresses from editing, protect and unprotect pages from editing, delete and undelete pages, rename pages without restriction, and use certain other tools.

Administrators assume these responsibilities as volunteers who go through a community review process. They are not acting as employees of the Wikimedia Foundation. They are never required to use their tools, and must never use them to gain an advantage in a dispute in which they are involved. Administrators should not be confused with Wikimedia system administrators ("sysadmins").

The English Wikipedia currently has 1,407 administrators (see full list of accounts with administrator privileges or lists of administrators by activity level).

Administrators' abilities

Administrators have the technical ability to perform the following actions:

By convention, administrators also normally take responsibility for judging the outcome of certain discussions, such as deletion discussions, move discussions, and move-review discussions, although in appropriate circumstances this can also be done by other editors (see non-admin closures).

History

In the very early days of Wikipedia, all users functioned as administrators to perform various administrative functions, using a single password that was handed out fairly freely.[1] The current form of administratorship is the result of a code modification which changed from password access to role-based access control. Under this system, individual accounts could be flagged per the roles they could perform, which in turn determined the functions and tools they could access.

Administrators were not intended to develop into a special subgroup. Rather, administrators should be a part of the community like other editors. Most maintenance and administration aspects of Wikipedia can be conducted by anyone, without the specific technical functions granted to administrators. An often paraphrased comment about the title and process of administratorship was made by Jimmy Wales in February 2003—referred to as "sysops" here:

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I just wanted to say that becoming a sysop is *not a big deal*.

I think perhaps I'll go through semi-willy-nilly and make a bunch of people who have been around for awhile sysops. I want to dispel the aura of "authority" around the position. It's merely a technical matter that the powers given to sysops are not given out to everyone.

I don't like that there's the apparent feeling here that being granted sysop status is a really special thing.

Jimmy Waleswikimedia.org archive entry

Stated simply, while the correct use of the tools and appropriate conduct should be considered important, merely "being an administrator" should not be.

As Wikipedia's worldwide cultural impact and visibility grew, and as the community grew with it, the role of administrators evolved and standards for adminship rose. Given the lengthy procedures required to remove administrative access, often including a request for comments followed by arbitration, requests for adminship rights are carefully scrutinized by the community.

Becoming an administrator

The English Wikipedia has no official requirements to become a Wikipedia administrator. Anyone can apply regardless of their Wikipedia experience. Administrators are expected to have the trust and confidence of the community, however, so requests for adminship from users who do not have considerable experience are not usually approved. Each editor will assess their confidence in a particular candidate's readiness in their own way. Before requesting or accepting a nomination, candidates should generally be active and regular Wikipedia contributors for at least several months, be familiar with the procedures and practices of Wikipedia, respect and understand its policies, and have gained the general trust of the community.

If you are interested in requesting adminship, you should first read the guide to requests for adminship and the nomination instructions. When you are ready to apply, you may add your nomination to the Wikipedia:Requests for adminship ("RFA") page, according to the aforementioned instructions. A discussion (not a vote) will then take place among fellow editors about whether you should become an administrator. After seven days, a bureaucrat will determine if there is consensus to approve your request. This determination is not based exclusively on the percentage of support, but as a general descriptive rule of thumb most requests above ~80% approval pass and most below ~70% fail.

Only one account of a given person may have administrative tools. The only exceptions are bots with administrative access. See WP:ADMINSOCK.

Adminship is granted indefinitely, and is only removed upon request, under circumstances involving high-level intervention (see administrator abuse below), or temporarily for inactive admins.

Places where administrators in particular can assist

Administrator rights can be particularly helpful for working in certain areas of Wikipedia:

See also Wikipedia:Admins willing to make difficult blocks and the administrators channel on IRC for IRC users.

"Uninvolved administrators" can also help in the management of Arbitration Committee remedies and the dispute resolution concerning disruptive areas and situations. Administrators acting in this role are neutral; they do not have any direct involvement in the issues they are helping people with. Lists of sanctions that are to be enforced by neutral administrators can be found at Wikipedia:General sanctions and Wikipedia:Arbitration/Active sanctions (see also requests for enforcement at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement).

Administrator noticeboards

Two main noticeboards exist on which general administrator discussion takes place (any user may post or take part in discussions there):

Expectations of adminship

Care and judgement

If you are granted access, you must exercise care in using these new functions, especially the ability to delete pages and to block users and IP addresses. You can learn how to do these things at the Administrators' how-to guide and the new administrator school. Please also look at the pages linked from the Administrators' reading list before using your administrative abilities. Occasional lapses are accepted but serious or repeated lapses, or lapses involving breaches of 'involved' administrator conduct may not always be.

Administrator tools are also used with judgment; it can take some time for a new administrator to learn when it's best to use the tools, and it can take months to gain a good sense of how long a period to set when using tools such as blocking and page protection in difficult disputes. New administrators are strongly encouraged to start slowly and build up experience on areas they are used to, and to ask others if unsure.

Administrator conduct

Administrators are expected to lead by example and to behave in a respectful, civil manner in their interactions with others. Administrators are expected to follow Wikipedia policies and to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Occasional mistakes are entirely compatible with adminship; administrators are not expected to be perfect. However, sustained or serious disruption of Wikipedia is incompatible with the status of administrator, and consistently or egregiously poor judgment may result in the removal of administrator status. Administrators should strive to model appropriate standards of courtesy and civility to other editors and to one another.[2][3][4][5]

Administrators should bear in mind that they have hundreds of colleagues. Therefore, if an administrator finds that he or she cannot adhere to site policies and remain civil (even toward users exhibiting problematic behavior) while addressing a given issue, then the administrator should bring the issue to a noticeboard or refer it to another administrator to address, rather than potentially compound the problem by poor conduct.

Accountability

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Administrators are accountable for their actions involving administrator tools, and unexplained administrator actions can demoralize other editors who lack such tools. Subject only to the bounds of civility, avoiding personal attacks, and reasonable good faith, editors are free to question or to criticize administrator actions. Administrators are expected to respond promptly and civilly to queries about their Wikipedia-related conduct and administrator actions and to justify them when needed.

Administrators who seriously, or repeatedly, act in a problematic manner or have lost the trust or confidence of the community may be sanctioned or have their access removed. In the past, this has happened or been suggested for:

  • "Bad faith" adminship (sock puppetry, gross breach of trust,[7] etc.)
  • Breach of basic policies (attacks, biting/civility, edit warring, privacy, etc.)
  • Conduct elsewhere incompatible with adminship (off-site attacking, etc.).
  • Failure to communicate[6] – this can be either to users (e.g., lack of suitable warnings or explanations of actions), or to concerns of the community (especially when explanations or other serious comments are sought).
  • Repeated or consistent poor judgment

Security

It is extremely important that administrators have strong passwords and follow appropriate personal security practices. Because they have the potential to cause site-wide damage with a single edit, a compromised admin account will be blocked and its privileges removed on grounds of site security. In certain circumstances, the revocation of privileges may be permanent. Discretion on resysopping temporarily desysopped administrators is left to bureaucrats, who will consider whether the rightful owner has been correctly identified, and their view on the incident and the management and security (including likely future security) of the account.

Administrators should never share their password or account with any other person, for any reason. If they find out their password has been compromised, or their account has been otherwise compromised (even by an editor or individual they know and trust), they should attempt to change it immediately, or otherwise report it to a bureaucrat for temporary desysopping. Users who fail to report unauthorized use of their account will be desysopped. Unauthorized use is considered 'controversial circumstance', and access will not be automatically restored.

Involved admins

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In general, editors should not act as administrators in disputed cases in which they have been involved. This is because involved administrators may have, or may be seen as having, a conflict of interest in disputes they have been a party to or have strong feelings about. Involvement is generally construed very broadly by the community, to include current or past conflicts with an editor (or editors), and disputes on topics, regardless of the nature, age, or outcome of the dispute.

One important caveat is that an administrator who has interacted with an editor or topic area purely in an administrative role, or whose prior involvements are minor or obvious edits which do not speak to bias, is not involved and is not prevented from acting in an administrative capacity in relation to that editor or topic area. This is because one of the roles of administrators is precisely to deal with such matters, at length if necessary. Warnings, calm and reasonable discussion and explanation of those warnings, advice about community norms, and suggestions on possible wordings and approaches do not make an administrator 'involved'.

In straightforward cases (e.g. blatant vandalism), the community has historically endorsed the obvious action of any administrator – even if involved – on the basis that any reasonable administrator would have probably come to the same conclusion. Although there are exceptions to the prohibition on involved editors taking administrative action, it is still the best practice in cases where an administrator may be seen to be involved to pass the matter to another administrator via the relevant noticeboards.

Grievances by users ("administrator abuse")

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If a user believes an administrator has acted improperly, he or she should express their concerns directly to the administrator responsible and try to come to a resolution in an orderly and civil manner. However, if the matter is not resolved between the two parties, users can take further action (see Dispute resolution process further). For more possibilities, see Administrators' noticeboard: Incidents and Requests for comment: Use of administrator privileges. Note: if the complaining user was blocked improperly by an administrator, they may appeal the block and/or e-mail the Arbitration Committee directly.

Misuse of administrative tools

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Misusing the administrative tools is considered a serious issue. The administrative tools are provided to trusted users for maintenance and other tasks, and should be used with thought. Serious misuse may result in sanction or even their removal.

Common situations where avoiding tool use is often required:

  • Conflict of interest or non-neutrality – Administrators should not normally use their tools in matters in which they are personally involved (for example, in a content dispute in which they are a party). See Involved admins.
  • Communal norms or policies – When a policy or communal norm is clear that tools should not be used, then tools should not be used without an explanation that shows the matter has been considered, and why a (rare) exception is genuinely considered reasonable.
  • Reversing the actions of other administrators – Only in a manner that respects the admin whose action is involved, and (usually) after consultation.
  • Reinstating an admin action that has already been reversed (sometimes known as "wheel warring") – Responses have included Arbitration and desysopping even the first time.

See below for these and for the very few exceptions.

In most cases even when use of the tools is reasonable, if a reasonable doubt may exist, it is frequently better to ask an independent administrator to review and (if justified) take the action. This is a matter of judgment if necessary.

Reversing another administrator's action

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Administrators are expected to have good judgment, and are presumed to have considered carefully any actions or decisions they carry out as administrators. Administrators may disagree, but administrative actions should not be reversed without good cause, careful thought, and (if likely to be objected to), where the administrator is presently available, a brief discussion with the administrator whose action is challenged.

Special situations

In some situations, the usual policy for reversing another administrator's action does not apply:

  • Blocks made with the summary "Appeal is only to the Arbitration Committee": Rarely, in blocking an editor, an administrator will have to note that their block "should only be lifted by the Arbitration Committee" or that "any appeal from this block is to ArbCom or BASC only". Such a proviso must only be made if the nature of the block demands that its circumstances not be further discussed on-wiki (and instead be considered further only in a confidential environment). This could include situations where discussion would reveal or emphasise information whose disclosure could jeopardise an editor's physical or mental well-being, where on-wiki discussion would identify an anonymous editor, or where the underlying block reason would be defamatory if the block were unjustified. In such cases, the blocking administrator should immediately tell the Arbitration Committee mailing list by e-mail of the block and of the reasons for it.

    In August 2012, the Arbitration Committee issued a reminder that administrators must promptly notify the committee when making sensitive blocks or when noting that a block can be "appealed only to ArbCom". In these situations, the administrator retains responsibility for their block (see this arbitration ruling) but will be accountable to the committee. (Such blocks have been the subject of long-standing Wikipedia practice, and were also discussed in the fourth paragraph of this statement.)

  • Blocks made by the Arbitration Committee: Separate from the first situation, a member of the Arbitration Committee may block an account. Blocks made by an arbitrator with the summary "For the Arbitration Committee", "Appeal is only to the Arbitration Committee", or "{{ArbComBlock}}" are made on behalf of the Arbitration Committee. These blocks are made by a decision of arbitrators, very rarely, and only with good reason… Therefore, administrators must not reverse ArbCom blocks without the prior, written consent of the committee. (See also: Wikipedia:Arbitration/Policy#Appeal of decisions.)
  • Checkuser blocks: Blocks designated as "Checkuser blocks" (that is blocks relying on confidential checkuser findings) may not be reversed by administrators who do not have access to the checkuser permission. Appeal of these blocks may be made to the Unblock Ticket Requests System (which has a designated "checkuser" area) or to the Arbitration Committee's Ban Appeals Subcommittee. Administrators were reminded in July 2010 that they may not reverse checkuser blocks without prior consent from the committee or a checkuser.

Reinstating a reverted action ("wheel warring")

WP:WW redirects here; you may also be looking for Wikipedia:Avoid weasel words or Wikipedia:WikiProject WikipediaWeekly.
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When another administrator has already reversed an administrative action, there is very rarely any valid reason for the original or another administrator to reinstate the same or similar action again without clear discussion leading to a consensus decision. Wheel warring is when an administrator's action is reversed by another admin, but rather than discussing the disagreement, administrator tools are then used in a combative fashion to undo or redo the action. With very few exceptions, once an administrative action has been reverted, it should not be restored without consensus.

Do not repeat a reversed administrative action when you know that another administrator opposes it. Do not continue a chain of administrative reversals without discussion. Resolve admin disputes by discussion.

Wheel warring usually results in an immediate Request for Arbitration. Sanctions for wheel warring have varied from reprimands and cautions, to temporary blocks, to desysopping, even for first time incidents. There have been several relevant arbitration cases on the subject of wheel-warring.[2] The phrase was also used historically for an administrator improperly reversing some kinds of very formal action.[3]

Possible indications of an incipient wheel war:

  • An administrator getting too distressed to discuss calmly,
  • Deliberately ignoring an existing discussion in favor of a unilateral preferred action,
  • Abruptly undoing administrator actions without consultation.
  • Reversal of a Wikimedia Foundation office action.

Wikipedia works on the spirit of consensus; disputes should be settled through civil discussion rather than power wrestling. There are few issues so critical that fighting is better than discussion, or worth losing your own good standing for. If you feel the urge to wheel war, try these alternatives:

Exceptional circumstances

There are a few exceptional circumstances to this general principle. (Note: these are one-way exceptions.)

  • Biographies of living persons — Material deleted because it contravenes BLP may be re-deleted if reinstated, if it continues to be non-BLP-compliant.
  • Privacy — Personal information deleted under the Foundation's privacy policy may be re-deleted if reinstated.
  • Emergency — In certain situations there may arise an emergency that cannot be adjourned for discussion. An administrator should not claim emergency unless there is a reasonable belief of a present and very serious emergency (i.e. reasonable possibility of actual, imminent, serious harm to the project or a person if not acted upon with administrative tools), and should immediately seek to describe and address the matter, but in such a case the action should not usually be reverted (and may be reinstated) until appropriate discussion has taken place.
  • Page protection in edit warring — Reasonable actions undertaken by uninvolved administrators to quell a visible and heated edit war by protecting a contended page should be respected by all users, and protection may be reinstated if needed, until it is clear the edit war will not resume or consensus agrees it is appropriate to unprotect.

Review and removal of adminship

If an administrator abuses administrative powers, these powers can be removed. Administrators may be removed by Jimbo Wales, by stewards, or by a ruling of the Arbitration Committee. At their discretion, lesser penalties may also be assessed against problematic administrators, including the restriction of their use of certain functions or placement on administrative probation. The technical ability to remove administrator status rests with bureaucrats, stewards and Jimmy Wales.

There have been several procedures suggested for a community-based desysop process, but none of them have achieved consensus. Some administrators will voluntarily stand for reconfirmation under certain circumstances; see #Administrator recall. Users may use dispute resolution to request comment on an administrator's suitability.

Technical note – Removal of rights performed by stewards does not currently show up in the usual user logs. Use {{Userrights|username}} for full links to user rights information and full logs, including the stewards' global logs on meta as well, or Special:ListUsers to verify a user's current rights. See: Bugzilla:4055.

Procedural removal for inactive administrators

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Admin accounts which have made no edits or administrative actions for at least 12 months may be desysopped.[4] Subject to the #Lengthy inactivity consideration below, this desysopping is not to be considered permanent, or a reflection on the user's use of, or rights to, the admin tools. The admin must be contacted on their user talk page and via e-mail (if possible) one month before the request for desysopping and again several days before the desysopping goes into effect. Desysopping on inactivity grounds should be handled by English Wikipedia bureaucrats. The summary in the user rights log should make it clear that the desysopping is purely procedural.

If necessary, the user's userpage should be edited to clarify the status — particularly if any categorization is involved. For example, the userbox {{User wikipedia/Administrator}} should be replaced with {{User wikipedia/Former administrator|inactive=yes}}.

Voluntary removal

Administrators may request that their access to administrative tools be removed at Wikipedia:Bureaucrats' noticeboard.

Disputes or complaints

Further information: Wikipedia:Dispute resolution

In most cases, disputes with administrators should be resolved with the normal dispute resolution process. If the dispute reflects seriously on a user's administrative capacity (blatant misuse of administrative tools, gross or persistent misjudgment or conduct issues), or dialog fails, then the following steps are available.

Administrator recall

Some administrators place themselves "open to recall", whereby they pledge to voluntarily step down if specified criteria are met. The specific criteria are set by each administrator for themselves, and usually detailed in their userspace. The process is entirely voluntary and administrators may change their criteria at any time, or decline to adhere to previously made recall pledges.

Requests for comment on administrator conduct

Misuse of administrator access or behaviour that is incompatible with adminship may result in an involuntary request for comment on administrator conduct. Administrators who fail to satisfactorily respond to community feedback are likely to become the subject of an Arbitration Committee review, for which see below.

Arbitration Committee review

This is an involuntary process. Generally, the Arbitration Committee requires that other steps of dispute resolution are tried before it intervenes in a dispute. However, if the matter is serious enough, the Arbitration Committee may intervene without a request for comment on administrator conduct or other steps. Remedies that may be imposed, at the discretion of the Committee, include warnings, admonishments, restrictions, and removal of administrator privileges.

Restoration of adminship

Unless specifically prevented by prior community consensus, or by ruling by the Arbitration Committee, regardless of how adminship is removed, any editor is free to re-request adminship through the typical Requests of adminship process.

When an editor re-requests adminship at WP:BN subsequent to voluntary removal or removal due to inactivity (see below), there will be at least a 24-hour wait to ascertain whether at the time of removal the editor was "under a cloud". If there is a currently open community discussion concerning this issue, re-granting will wait until the discussion is closed.

Lengthy inactivity

If an editor has had at least three years of uninterrupted inactivity (no edit) between the removal of the admin tools and the re-request, regardless of the reason for removal, the editor will need to instead request through the WP:RFA process.

In the case of an administrator desysopped due to inactivity, if, after the one year of inactivity which led to the desysopping due to inactivity, there is a subsequent two years (24 months) of continued inactivity (no edit), then, if the editor returns after that, the editor will no longer be able to merely re-request the admin tools, but instead s/he will need to request adminship through the WP:RFA process. Again, this means there is a total of at least 3 uninterrupted years of inactivity.

After voluntary removal

Administrators in good standing who were not considered to be "under a cloud" when voluntarily requesting removal (that is not in controversial circumstances), may request at any time that their administrator status be restored by a bureaucrat, provided the bureaucrat is satisfied that the account's security has not been compromised in the meantime. This is commonly done at the bureaucrats' noticeboard and is recorded at the list of resysopped users.

After removal due to inactivity

Former administrators returning to Wikipedia may be resysopped by a bureaucrat without further discussion as long as there are no issues with their identity and they stopped editing Wikipedia while still in good standing or in uncontroversial circumstances. The resysopping will be listed at the list of resysopped users.

See also

Contacting administrators

Notes

  1. ^ nostalgia:Wiki Administrators
  2. ^ Tony Sidaway; UBX war; Pedophilia userbox wheel war; Freestylefrappe; Daniel Brandt deletion wheel war; Sarah Palin protection wheel war.
  3. ^ (e.g.: "Wheel warring against Jimbo Wales", "Wheel warring against BLP special enforcement")
  4. ^ Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)/suspend sysop rights of inactive admins, June 2011

External links