Wikipedia:Advice for RfA voters

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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 a series of 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 measurable 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.

The Utahraptor, RfA discussions 25 January 2011

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.

JimMillerJr, RfA discussions 25 January 2011'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 Utahraptor, RfA discussions 25 January 2011

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.

Advice for RfA voters[edit]

Wikipedia welcomes all registered users to voice 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, no other qualifications are required 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 relatively 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, three important things to reflect upon your participation at RfA are:

  • If this is your first participation on RfA, do read up on a few previous RfAs of both the successful and failed kind, and see how the process works and the things to avoid.
  • Are you considering supporting the candidate because they have done you a favour or a good turn?
  • Are you considering opposing the candidate because they have drawn your attention to something you may have done wrong?

If you were on the jury in a clear case of theft, would you vote 'not guilty' just because the accused seemed to be a nice guy?

Would you vote against your local sheriff 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?

In the first analogy, if you were a fine upstanding 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 of no confidence (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 afterthought and change their vote or retract 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 a fair hearing. You should therefore consider following an RfA you have voted on in case you may wish to change your mind.

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 chances are you may be right in thinking that the candidate is not suitable for the job.

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 genuine 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 bulleted 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 regularly 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 to get sufficient understanding of the tools in order to inspire confidence in using them?
  • 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 their difficulties?
  • Are the candidates taggings for deletion accurate?
  • Does the candidate correctly interpret policy, such as for example when doing Non admins closures in places where they are allowed to?
  • Does the candidate use a mature approach (i.e. that of a responsible adult) in their exchanges 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 suitability for the task of admin. Does it convey 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 follow suit. This is the kind of behaviour that corrups the process. Hence, voters should continue to watch an RfA in case they may wish to change their mind.

Voting 'Support'[edit]

Voting early: it's essential that the homework we mentioned above has been done; making an exuberant 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 position of the candidate - if this were your RfA, the participants are supporting you, how would you like them to express themselves?

Voting 'Oppose'[edit]

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 is not plausible, all it will do is make the voter look silly. In some cases, entirely inappropriate votes or comments might be indented 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.

Voting 'Neutral'[edit]

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 position of the candidate - if this were your RfA, and the participants are voting 'neutral', how would you like them to express themselves?

When you have done all that, you are ready to vote, but before you do, please read the next section below.

A horrible and broken process[edit]

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 potential candidates away.

Good luck with your participation at RfA!

Further reading[edit]

See also
Users' RfA criteria