Wikipedia:Advice for RfA voters
|This page is an essay, containing the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors on the Requests for adminship. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.||
|This page in a nutshell: This advice is based on 100s of previous RfAs. Being a Wikipedia administrator is not the same as being a moderator on an Internet forum. The tasks are many and varied and require a high degree of competency and judgement. In particular, see: What adminship is not. Whether they pass or fail, candidates at RfA are entitled to a fair and supportive process.|
The process of becoming an administrator is described on Wikipedia:Requests for adminship. The tasks that admins actually do are described at Wikipedia:Administrators. Candidates for adminship must be nominated (either by another user or by themselves), answer some questions, and then be subjected to a 7-day community discussion as to whether they will be accepted as admins by the community. Successful candidates will almost always have edited Wikipedia for at least several months and will have thousands of edits in various 'maintenance' areas of the project, and will have made good contributions to articles.
Words of wisdom:
RfA is a horrible and broken process
...if anything, fixing one problem would break the tradition that nothing changes at RFA and make it easier to fix other problems.
This may sound like a cliché, but maybe they're discouraged because RfA has become a bloodbath.
And that is the exact problem with having the wide open venue for questions – they promote drive-by voting rather than actual examination of the candidate. A simple restriction that all questions must be about something in their editing history would go a long way towards improving the tone of RfAs.
...it's the people that pick one error in an otherwise qualified candidate and oppose over it that discourage potential candidates. More often than not, those ridiculous oppose !votes create a pile-on that ultimately fails the RfA. .
The thing that makes fixing RFA so challenging is, yes, the community... The thing stopping us from fixing RFA is us ourselves.
People at RfA love to load up on one particular flaw. It's one of the reasons hardly anyone goes for the mop anymore: they just load up on one thing, and hold it to be worth as much as everything else.— Resident Mario, 28 February 2011
Contrary to the Wikipedia mantra 'Adminship is not a big deal', it is – because of the very stressful and oft humiliating experience of the inquisition itself. The trials and tribulations of being a sysop come later.
The first questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I already know enough about Wikipedia to be joining discussions about back-room stuff?
- Do I really know enough about what adminship entails to be voting at RfA?
- How long did I take to research the candidate before making my vote?
- 20 minutes?
- 30 minutes?
- 1 hour?
Of course, voting 'as per' someone else is no good, they might already have got it completely wrong - it happens!
Advice for RfA voters
Wikipedia welcomes all registered users to express their opinion on requests for adminship. Unlike our major other-language Wikipedias where you would need to be registered for about three months and have made at least 500 edits to mainspace, nothing is required here other than having been around long enough to understand the process and to be able to comment in a polite and fair manner. So, you are either new to Wikipedia and you think you have enough experience to voice your opinion in meta areas, or you have been around a while and would like to contribute earnestly to the way the project is managed. Either way, four important things to reflect upon in your participation at RfA are:
- Do you want to support the candidate because they have done you a favour or a good turn?
- Do you want to oppose the candidate because they have drawn your attention to something you may have done wrong?
- Are you applying a set of personal criteria that may be far more demanding than what is actually required?
- Are you basing your vote partly (or even wholly) on what the candidate has done on other Wikimedia projects (e.g. Commons, WikiVersity, WikiTravel, other language Wikipedias, etc.)?
If you are new to participating at RfA, read the last few RfAs of both the successful and failed kind, and see how it works and the things not to do.
- If you were on the jury in a clear case of stealing, would you vote 'not guilty' just because the person who was charged seemed to be a nice guy?
- Would you vote against your local policeman or shopkeeper who is running for mayor just because he scolded you for riding your bicycle on the sidewalk/pavement?
- Would you vote Oppose or Support just because that's the way most people appear to be voting or just because your best friend told you that's how you should vote?
- If you were a driving test examiner in the state of Florida, would you insist that the candidate also has driving experience in Alaska, England, Germany, and Thailand?
In the first analogy, if you were a fine responsible citizen, probably not.
In the second analogy probably not either, but here is the difference with Wikipedia: at political elections, we only vote for a candidate - there is no system for voting against them, while on Wikipedia, RfA has both votes for (Support), and votes against (Oppose).
In the third analogy, the best advice is really to do your own research. Those who you follow (what we call 'pile-on' voting) may be quite wrong. In fact some of the more honest ones may come back after some thinking and change their vote or cancel it entirely. If you copied such a vote, your vote would be wrong too and unless you change it the candidate wouldn't be given fair consideration. You should therefore consider following an RfA you have voted on in case you may wish to change your mind.
In the fourth analogy, probably not. It is therefore of no more concern of ours whether or not a candidate has contributed to other projects belonging to the Wikimedia Foundation as whether or not the candidate has contributed to Facebook, Twitter, or even Wikipediocracy. More broadly, we are not interested in what a candidate does in real life with the rest of their free or professional time. Even asking about it in the question section would be inappropriate.
Another thing that makes RfA very different from elections for politicians or classroom spokesperson is that RfA is not a popularity or an unpopularity contest. Your own opinion of the candidate may not reflect his or her general work and/or behaviour at all. If you've seen him or her being nice to a lot of people besides yourself, and generally doing a lot of good work for the Wikipedia and getting it right, you would be well within your rights to want to support the candidate. If you've seen him or her being rude to a lot of people besides yourself, generally not doing a lot of good work for the Wikipedia and getting it wrong a lot of the time, then you may be right in thinking that the candidate should not be an admin.
- How can you therefore arrive at these conclusions objectively?
It's not enough to read the nomination statement and the comments of the others and say 'yeah, I agree with that', or simply reading the oppose votes and just piling on. Bear in mind that some of those votes may be wrong, so making a fair vote on RfA means doing a bit of homework – and sometimes it can take you half an hour or even longer.
- What homework?
We'll just give you a list here of things for you to check, then we'll give you a list of links below to examples of criteria that some of the regular users base their votes on (each RfA also contains a list of links that will lead you to some of the things to check):
- Check how long the user has been on Wikipedia
- Check the breakdown of their work by looking at their pie chart and how often they have been editing over the previous months (the edit counter will provide you with all these details).
- Has the user worked in enough different meta areas (back office stuff) to get a good understanding of the tools in order for you to trust them in using them?
- Has the user added enough new content to articles to demonstrate a knowledge of basic article policy and required elements - note that the creation of new articles, or elevation of articles to GA or FA are not required by policy for adminship.
- Check out the candidate's comments on WP:ANI cases - do you think his or her judgement was fair?
- Has the candidate been active in helping new users to overcome what is hard to them?
- Are the candidate's taggings for deletion accurate?
- Does the candidate understand policy, such as for example when doing Non admin closures in places where they are allowed to?
- Does the candidate use a mature approach (i.e. that of a responsible adult) when talking with other editors?
- Does the candidate appear to be 'over-eager' to want be an admin?
- Look at the candidate's user page - there may be many hints to their readiness for the task of admin. Does it project the image to people of all ages and backgrounds that Wikipedia is a serious project?
- Keep watching
There have been many instances where votes were piled on, but the original voter later retracted or changed their vote. The pile-on voters did not retract their vote as well. This is the kind of behaviour that makes the process unfair. Because of that, voters should continue to watch an RfA in case they may wish to change their mind.
Voting early: it's essential that the homework we mentioned above has been done; making an energetic support only to find that after only a dozen or so votes the debate plunges into the depths of the 'oppose' section often demonstrates that the support was a fan vote and not really based at all on what the candidate has contributed.
You are not obliged to leave a comment with your support vote, but most users do, and if you don't, in the case of a close call the closing Bureaucrat might discount your vote. Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate – if this were your RfA, how would you like the participants who are supporting you to express themselves?
If you want your vote to be taken seriously by the rest of the community and counted by the closing Bureaucrat, you should qualify your reasons by including diffs of evidence you present. Don't take the candidate's previous actions or comments elsewhere out of context, and do be sure of your facts. If a vote does not make sense, all it will do is make the voter look silly. In some cases, entirely inappropriate votes or comments might be indented, struck, or even removed by other editors in good standing - they will certainly be discounted by the closer. Put yourself in the position of the candidate - if this were your RfA, and the participants are opposing you, how would you like them to express themselves?
Too many admins: If you don't like the Wikipedia system of adminship, RfA is not the place to get the system changed, so don't use RfA as a political platform; your vote will not be counted and you'll only make yourself look silly. Propose changes by all means but please do it somewhere else, such as WP:RfC or by testing the waters first at WT:RfA..
If you can't make your mind up after doing all that research, or if your feelings and findings are not enough for you to make a firm commitment to Support or Oppose, you can place a comment in the neutral section. This may help the closing bureaucrat decide on the outcome in the case of a close call. Sometimes, neutral votes lean towards support or oppose, and sometimes they offer some friendly advice to the candidate; put yourself in the shoes of the candidate - if this were your RfA, and the participants are voting 'neutral', how would you like them to express themselves?
The question section is there for a purpose. A review of 100s of RfA however will clearly demonstrate that many questions are posed by:
- New and/or inexperienced users who haven't fully understood what adminship is all about.
- Users who noticed that users can ask questions at RfA so they thought: 'Oh, I can ask questions here too. Goody, goody, I'll think of something to ask.'
- People simply fishing for answers to general issues they should already know but don't.
- People just being silly.
Think very carefully if your question is absolutely necessary to the process or whether other users will just perceive it as one of the cases above.
Comments are often placed on the bottom of the RfA page or on the RfA talk page. Previously intended to be a place for pointing out technicalities concerning the debate itself, in recent times it has become a general discussion on RfA matters or adminship. These comments do not affect the closing bureaucrat's decision. Before commenting there, consider whether or not your comment is relevant, or is really a topic for discussion at WT:RfA. Using a comment section just because it's there would be silly.
When you have done all that, read *Arguments to avoid in adminship discussions and then you will be ready to vote, but before you do, please just read the next section below.
"A horrible and broken process"
You'd be surprised, but that was a statement made not too long ago by our founder, Jimmy Wales about RfA. Think about that for a moment and try to figure out why he said it. Well, the answer is that we are not getting enough users of the right calibre who are prepared to go through the process.
- Why is that?
- It's because of the unfriendly - sometimes even very unpleasant - way users occasionally make their votes - usually in the Oppose section. This also means that if you disagree with a vote, you MUST be polite, and objective. If someone is rude, you must NOT be rude back. All this would do is create drama and turn the RfA process into the nasty place that it's gotten a bad reputation for and drives candidates away.
- It's because some voters require edit counts that are too high. Opinions are different, but generally candidates nowadays will not pass if they have less than around 6,000 manual edits. Insisting on as many as 20,000 though, would not be appropriate.
- It's because some voters demand to see a lot of quality article creations such as GA and FA. Having written just a few clean, well referenced articles is usually enough to show a good knowledge of article creation, layout, and sourcing.
- It's because some voters oppose for minor blocks that are more than a year old or for good-faith minor mistakes from only 6 months ago.
- It's because of some of the additional questions asked by the participants. The questions should relate to the candidate's application for the tools. Trick questions for which there is no correct answer are unfair. Don't ask questions for which you don't yourself know the correct answer. Keep the questions to an acceptable minimum and avoid multiple questions under the guise of one question. Candidates can be expected to answer up to about 10 or 12 questions from participants; any more is simply bothersome and remember that answering additional questions is not required. One cannot seriously oppose a candidate for declining to answer.
- Put yourself in the position of the candidate - if this were your RfA, how many questions would you be prepared to answer? Think about this for a moment, because for some questions it can take several hours to find and write the best answer.
If you have understood everything above, click HERE
Good luck with your participation at RfA!
- See also
- Users' RfA criteria
- User:A Nobody, RfA Standards – (2009) Comprehensive (but by a now-blocked user)
- User:Acalamari/RfA views – (2007) Short view, mainly on civility.
- User:Animum/RfA criteria – (2008) User 'Has no criteria'.
- Kudpung – Detailed and up to date. Major contributor to RfA and WT:RfA
- Swarm – (2011) – very up-to-date
- User:WereSpielChequers/RFA by month