Over the past several months, there have been an alarming number of administrators resigning or becoming inactive for various reasons: stress, lack of faith in the project, community outrage over a particular action, etc. At the same time, Requests for Adminship (RfA) appears to have adopted higher standards, resulting in fewer admins passing the bar, and fewer editors nominating themselves for adminship. The recent study for WP:RfA Review showed that admin activity levels in August of 2008 were at their lowest point for the previous 12 months, only 60.73% compared to the 69.94% level in August 2007.
On the other hand, the community needs an easier way to handle problematic administrator behavior. Currently, there are limited ways to deal with this: "dramafests" at the Incidents Noticeboard or Requests for comment, emergency desysoppings by a steward in very rare and extreme cases, or a drawn-out process through the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom). The ArbCom is intended to be a last resort for problematic situations, and rightly so; cases take a long time to finish and absorb a great deal of editors' time. By the time the case finishes some months later, whatever the problem was in the first place has usually become a moot point, and the remedy is usually of the form "Admin X is admonished." As a result, administrators are regarded by many editors as "above the law," and a breach is forming which is counter-productive to the project's goals and foundations; this is also a likely cause for the increase in standards at RfA.
To resolve both of these problems, this proposal is presented to the community to both provide a means to lower standards at Requests for Adminship, and improve the means through which administrators can be held accountable for their actions. Currently, a total of 184 administrators have voluntarily listed themselves at Category:Wikipedia administrators open to recall, an optional process through which administrators may specify terms for editors to request the removal of their admin rights. However, these methods vary and do not involve everyone; this proposal would standardize that process, and be available for any administrator. This process is intended to be open to the active community, not overly time consuming, and easily accessible; however, to prevent unfair and abusive "pile-ons", certain precautions have been taken to assure that this process cannot be abused.
- 1 Reasons for initiating a request for recall
- 2 Procedure
- 3 Eligibility requirements
- 4 References & Notes
Reasons for initiating a request for recall
A request for recall should be made after several attempts to address the situation with the administrator both personally on their talk page and through dispute resolution have been attempted and failed to address the issue. At this time, there is no strict position in which this falls in the dispute resolution hierarchy, other than it's definitely before ArbCom and definitely after negotiation (However, the more steps attempted prior to recall, the better). Should a request for recall become necessary, it should only be requested in a few limited circumstances:
- Repeated or severe use of administrative privileges in a manner inconsistent with established policies, demonstrable through the use of log entries and/or diffs
- Flagrant, severe, and consistent disregard for established policies, resulting in the demonstrable loss of the community's trust
Reasons not to attempt a recall
To avoid the abuse or unintentional misuse of the process, there are several cases in which a request for recall would not be appropriate; should one of these occur and become problematic, alternative methods of solving the problem should be attempted.
Administrators are volunteers, just as every other editor on the project. For that reason, they have the right to log in, log out, make edits, and take administrative actions when they wish. Choosing not to be active, or not to use the administrative tools, is allowable and should not be held against a user. If they are on an extended wikibreak, they may have the full intention to use the tools again following their return, and it would be both unnecessary and impolite to make them request the tools back from a bureaucrat.
However, use of the tools and refusal to discuss them is problematic, and does need dealing with. This is outlined in policy, and the Arbitration Committee has passed a motion suspending the administrative rights of one such user.
Administrators are still editors, and are able and encouraged to continue to participate in the content writing process alongside fulfilling their expectations as administrators. From time to time, administrators will become engaged in content disputes with other editors which necessitate negotiation and dispute resolution. However, unless the administrator is in some way abusing their additional privileges as an administrator to gain an unfair advantage in the dispute, their actions are not made in their capacity as an administrator, but as an editor.
However, a demonstrable pattern of severe misconduct (edit warring, severe incivility and personal attacks, etc.) while engaged in such disputes may be grounds for further investigation, and a request for recall may be appropriate in those cases iff previous steps of dispute resolution have indicated so.
Administrators, in the course of their duties, are expected to, and will, make actions that, while controversial, are probably correct and in accordance with policy. If you find yourself on the receiving end of one such action, it does not indicate that the administrator taking the action is "stalking" you, being abusive, or otherwise behaving inappropriately. Review your actions to see if you have done something in violation of policy, and talk with others (including the administrator who took the action) for help with this. If the action was indeed out of line, more than likely another administrator will reverse the action after some discussion, and/or other editors will talk with the administrator to have it reversed. It is not advisable to start a request for recall yourself unless you have discussed the action thoroughly with the administrator and a wide range of other users, and there is a consensus that this is the appropriate course of action. Similarly, asking another user to file a request for recall knowing that a request of your own would be declined as retaliatory would be considered disruptive.
Should an editor wish to file a request for recall, it will follow this procedure, to ensure that proceedings are fair to all involved and that situations do not run out of control. This procedure is intended to closely mimic the Requests for adminship process, with added procedures to prevent abuse.
- A request is initiated by a qualifying editor (see below) by creating a pre-formed subpage (examples coming). The initiating editor will inform the administrator whom the request is directed against on their talk page, and will leave a link to the request on the Bureaucrat's noticeboard.
- The request will be reviewed for its validity by one bureaucrat and two administrators, all of whom must be uninvolved in the specified incident (In the unlikely event all active bureaucrats are involved to some degree, they may select a representative from among them; there are enough administrators this is not expected to be a problem.). The request may be rejected if, in the reviewer's judgment:
- The initiator does not meet the established requirements for eligibility (see below);
- The focus of the request does not fall under one of the #Reasons for initiating a request for recall, or falls under one of the #Reasons not to attempt a recall listed above;
- The request is found to be otherwise intentionally disruptive, such as by making a deliberate point;
- The request is not backed up by sufficient diffs or log entries demonstrating the reason for the request; or, if
- The request would be best handled by the Arbitration Committee. This would be appropriate in cases involving private information or widespread cases involving the misconduct of a group of administrators. The Arbitration Committee should be consulted prior to declining a request for recall for this reason, as they would be expected to accept the ensuing case. Added by Hersfold during cleanup, still subject to review, esp. by ArbCom
- If accepted, the request will be transcluded onto the main requests for recall page, and notices will be posted to the administrator's noticeboard, Incidents noticeboard, the miscellaneous village pump, and the administrator's talk page, to invite comments and discussion. If declined, the reviewing bureaucrat should leave a detailed reasoning why the request was declined on the initiator's and administrator's talk pages, and close the request.
- A five-day discussion period ensues on the request's subpage. Editors not meeting the eligibility criteria for discussions (see below) will have their comments struck out by a bot (yet to be written), which will also leave a note on the editor's talk page explaining the striking. Comments during this discussion must remain objective and civil, and avoid personal attacks.
- Following the discussion, a seven-day voting period will be held in public view on the request's subpage. Only editors meeting a different set of eligibility criteria (see below) will be able to vote, again with ineligible votes struck out by a bot. Votes should be accompanied with a comment explaining the reasoning behind the vote; again, these comments should adhere to standard behavioral expectations. Comments in response to votes should be made in the discussion section. Discussion may continue as normal during the vote.
- After seven days, if the subject of the request has not simply resigned or the vote clearly "snowballed" towards the administrator retaining their tools, a bureaucrat checks the results of the vote. A request may not be "snowballed" towards a "desysop" decision.
- If a simple majority (51%) are in favor of removal, the bureaucrat makes a request for desysopping with the nearest Steward. Exact bar level still under discussion on talk page; see also note here
- Votes without comments associated with them are to be discounted. Others may be discounted as a bureaucrat normally would in RfA's.
- If the result of the vote is "no consensus" or "retains tools", the subject of the request is to be immune from further requests for recall for a period of two months. This does not prevent ArbCom from accepting a case, nor a Steward from making an emergency desysop. This is intended to help reduce the possibility of "admin-bashing" and "POINTy" requests, and editors should note that even requests made shortly after the expiration of the immunity period may still be rejected by the reviewers as disruptive.
Any administrator would be subject to recall under this procedure. However, as administrators are an integral part of the project, and their tasks by nature are frequently the source of much controversy, many new users cannot be expected to fully grasp the complete extent of Wikipedia policies and guidelines, nor the assertion that adminship is "no big deal." Along the same lines, more experienced editors may not fully grasp the implications of an action from an administrator's point of view or may not fully appreciate the amount of effort and strife an administrator must deal with on a daily basis due to their position, particularly with tempers running high. For that reason, the following restrictions have been placed to help ensure that those commenting and voting have a full understanding of the relevant policies and the administrative background, and to prevent pile-on votes that would likely be discounted by a bureaucrat anyway.
Requirements to initiate a recall request or discuss in one
In order to request the start of a recall procedure, and/or to comment in the discussion section, an editor must meet the following requirements, placed to ensure that they have an adequate understanding of policies. All requirements must be met prior to the initiation of the recall request; thus, a block instated after the start of the recall request cannot be used to deny participation.
- At least two months tenure as an editor. This is measured from the time of the first edit to article space, not the creation of the account.
- At least 500 total edits across all namespaces.
- No blocks within the past year. Blocks that were overturned are disregarded. Under discussion on the talk page
- No active bans enforced by the community at large, the Arbitration Committee, Jimbo, or the WMF.
Requirements to vote in a recall request
In order to vote in the final phase of the recall procedure, an editor must meet at least one of the following criteria prior to the initiation of the recall request. The subject of the recall is not eligible to vote.
- Administrator (+sysop) on the English Wikipedia
- Standing member of the Arbitration Committee
- Able to receive admin access on request at WP:BN, or grant themselves admin access
An alternate proposal which would allow editors meeting a higher eligibility requirement to vote as well is under discussion on the talk page - it is further proposed that should this be instated, the required percentage for desysopping should be raised considerably.
References & Notes
- Wikipedia:RfA Review/Reflect#Introduction and File:RFA Review - Stats - Total Admins - Chart 2.png
- Defined as the time of creation of the subpage, not as the time the request is approved and transcluded to the main recall page.
- Obviously, this assumes that the block expires before the end of the recall - attempting to participate while blocked would be block evasion and won't help you much.
- This number should probably be taken from a tool that gets the edit count from the API, so that deleted contribs are included. These tools will usually state, or you can ask their operator.
- This includes bans of any sort (topic bans, edit restrictions, whatever); anything which would make you fall under "not in good standing." This ban need not apply to recall or the Wikipedia namespace to prevent participation.
- This includes former admins who voluntarily desysopped under good standing, stewards, bureaucrats, etc.)