Wikipedia:RfA Review/Reflect

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A Review of the

Requests for Adminship Process

Overview

Question

Reflect - (Stats)

Recommend

Collate

Present

The Review Process
Methodology - Discussion

Requests for Adminship

This page is for the Reflection Phase, a component of the RfA Review. The review is a detailed analysis of the Requests for adminship process.

Discussion about this report, and the RfA Review in general, may be found at Wikipedia talk:RfA Review.

Introduction[edit]

The Requests for Adminship process, or "RfA", is the current process by which editors are granted additional tools for use in maintaining the encyclopedia. These tools include the right to Delete or Undelete pages, to view deleted pages, to protect or unprotect articles from being created or edited, to edit pages so protected, and to grant the use of the Rollback permission to other editors.

Number of Administrators as of 21 August 2008, Total and Active

As of 21 August 2008, there were 1,584 users with administrator rights on the English Wikipedia. Of these, 962 were listed as having performed an administrator function within the previous 30 days. Former admins are not included in this count.

The previous phase, called the Question phase, sought the input of editors and admins alike on the current state of the RfA process. Responses were accepted from 12 June 2008 until 1 July 2008, at which time a collaborative analysis of the responses began. This report is the result of that analysis, and is an attempt to draw common threads and themes from the responses generated during the question phase.

This report also includes a statistical analysis, which analyzes the scope and frequency of common responses. This analysis may be viewed as an appendix to this report, and is found at Wikipedia:RfA Review/Reflect/Statistical Analysis. For the purpose of the statistics indicated below, note that 209 total responses were generated as part of the Question phase. As a response was tallied for each statement made by an editor, it is possible that the same editor is counted for multiple statements in response to a given question. Unless a percentage is indicated, the number of responses should not be taken as anything other than a count of the number of times a particular response was given.

This report is divided into three sections. The first section examines the role the administrator has to play in Wikipedia, the attributes that an administrator is expected to have and the way in which they should carry out their duties. The second section looks at the components that make up the current process of adminship, how contributors feel they work and their views on the merits and pitfalls of each. The final section examines the experiences of contributors either passing through or participating in the adminship process and what observations they have made. It is felt that in this way, an exhaustive analysis of the current process can be made.

The role of an administrator[edit]

In summary:

  • 73 responses indicated that administrators are "Nothing Special", and fill the role of "Janitors" on the project.
  • 50 responses likened administrators as simply editors with extra tools, nothing more.
  • 33 responses identified admins as servants of the community, tasked with performing simple administrative functions
  • 25 responses noted that administrators are supposed to be trustworthy and impartial

Perceptions of the role[edit]

Wikipedians are somewhat divided on the role of an administrator. Some feel that an administrator takes on a role similar to a janitor by performing mundane tasks such as clean up and maintenance. An oft-quoted essay on this is that adminship should be 'no big deal'. In support of this, a common opinion is that an administrator is there to serve the community at large and Wikipedians individually, by carrying out tasks according to community consensus. Some feel that they should hold advanced knowledge of Wikipedia and its policies and use that knowledge to help others, including new and inexperienced contributors. To this end, some Wikipedians feel that an administrator is just a good or capable editor who is trusted with the capability to perform additional tasks as required.

What Roles do Administrators Fill?

Another body of contributors feel that although the above was once true, that administrators are now perceived as something more. Some describe the administrator as an ambassador of the project, performing tasks with a detached neutrality and presiding over rulings and points of policy. They feel that an administrator should be a role model and set an example to other Wikipedians. It is also mentioned that an administrator acts as a "keeper of secrets", with the ability to view deleted articles and other restricted information. Some describe it as a "guardian of integrity" for the project. To this group of contributors, promoting someone to an administrator is seen as a big deal requiring a high level of trust in a candidate.

A further group feel that the role of an administrator should be broken up into operational areas, feeling that an editor who primarily wishes to work in examining pages proposed for deletion would not require the ability to block users, while a contributor wishing to help counter vandalism is unlikely to be required to delete or restore articles. Some members of this group feel that the gaining of administrative capabilities should be an automatic advancement, or made available to editors in a similar way that rollback is now.

There are, however, some central themes that run through each of the three groups. One of these is trust - Wikipedians feel the need to for administrators to be trusted to perform their duties for the benefit of the project and the community as a whole, and to be trusted not to abuse their position. Following on from this, an administrator is expected to act for the betterment of the project or in a way that improves it, with their promotion being a net benefit to Wikipedia. Rounding this off, the role of an administrator is commonly seen as someone who serves the community, providing support and assistance where it is needed.

Attributes of administrators[edit]

Specific attributes ascribed to administrators include:

  • A Cool Head / Patience (69 responses)
  • Dedication to and Knowledge of the Policies and Values of the project (60 responses)
  • Common Sense and Good Judgement (43 responses)
  • Good Communication skills, including grammar and listening (43 responses)
  • Civility (40 responses)
Top Attributes of Administrators

In order to be effective in the role, contributors have expressed a large list of traits that they desire administrators to posses. Some of these are dependent on how the contributor perceives the role (see above), while others seem to be recurring themes that are brought up by a range of Wikipedians. These attributes can be broken into distinct areas, as shown below. Although a deep competency in each of these areas is not sought by Wikipedians, some capability in each area is desired. Editors describe that contributions that appear to run counter to these traits are a cause for concern.

Behavioural traits are those that describe how an administrator reacts in a given situation. Contributors have suggested that calmness or a "cool head" is desirable, as an administrator can frequently become involved with disputes. To augment this, patience and maturity are also desired, in order for decisions to be balanced and prudent. Traits such as wisdom, common sense and humility are also recognised as good features to find in an administrator, in order to be able to attain a balance between the various policies and guidelines that Wikipedia has, and when those work against rather than to improve the project.

Knowledge traits are those that describe what an administrator should have a familiarity or understanding of. A common theme here is a grasp of the various policies and guidelines that Wikipedia uses as a framework for content management. More than that though, some editors require an applied use of that knowledge, either through contributions in areas such as article deletion or vandalism management, or through the construction and development of articles. Further to this, evidence of the ability to build an article using the consensus of multiple contributors is desired.

Mediation traits are those that are used when resolving disputes with other editors. Administrators are strongly discouraged from using their additional capabilities in order to resolve disputes with which they are involved. As such, a willingness to co-operate, being open-minded to alternate opinions and the ability to communicate in a civil manner are desired by Wikipedians. For administrators entering a dispute that they are not a part of beforehand, a sense of neutrality coupled with the ability to listen and the willingness to discuss their actions is cited by contributors.

Components of the process[edit]

Candidate selection[edit]

In summary:

  • 65 editors have no objections to the current Candidate Selection process, viewing it as "Good Overall".
  • 27 editors believe that only trusted editors should be nominated for adminship.
  • 16 editors believe that candidates should be chosen on the strength of their contributions, and not on any other factor.
  • 13 editors note that the process is daunting to prospective administrators.
  • 13 editors have nominated other editors for adminship.

This section of the process is mainly concerned with inviting editors to take part in a request for adminship, usually by a potential nominator or co-nominator. Alternatively, candidate selection can come from an editor or administrator willing to coach or mentor the candidate.

Wikipedians have expressed a wide range of views on this part of the process. Part of the community feel that this can be a way of identifying potential candidates, stating that they may never have contemplated adminship or that some candidates may never run if not prompted to. Some feel that it is also a sign of trust in an editor if they are encouraged to consider requesting adminship. Some feel that those who suggest a candidate should bear responsibility for examining the candidate's background beforehand.

However, to counter this, some contributors have stated that potential candidates often decline, "shunning" the RfA process and adminship. Others state that potential candidates feel the process is too "bloody", or that they do not wish to run out of modesty. Perceived negative aspects of the process, or fear of it, are also detailed as reasons why potential candidates decline acceptance. Comments from editors in this regard include asking candidates to sign a disclaimer stating that adminship can lead to a higher level of harassment.

There is also a concern that the process of selecting a candidate may suffer from "selection bias", making it appear "clubby", a "popularity contest" or an "old boys network". Some concern is expressed of a "subculture of minting admins", where competition between who can find the highest number of successful candidates develops.

Administrator coaching[edit]

In summary:

  • Coaching is Good Overall / Coaching is a Great Idea (73 combined responses)
  • Coaching is "Teaching for the Test", and Bad before the RfA (39 responses)
  • Coaching is Bad (30 responses)

This element examines opinions on where a candidate is provided with coaching by a more experienced user. The coach assesses the candidate's strengths and weaknesses and recommends further ways in which the candidate can develop themselves. Some coaches use individual methods and coaching styles while others use a uniform process. This section also examines mentoring and other support candidates may receive.

Is Admin Coaching Good or Bad?

Opinion on the role of coaching in order to prepare a candidate is divided amongst Wikipedians. Some feel that coaching should be encouraged, while others are strongly against the idea. A third group are somewhat neutral, stating that coaching or mentoring is reasonable providing focuses on improving the editor's capabilities rather than being successful at requesting adminship. A fourth, somewhat smaller group feel that the process must be broken if it requires coaching to be successful, or that coaching is the result of a process that "has become political enough to need it"

Some editors feel that coaching in order to train a candidate how to complete administrator related tasks should be encouraged. These feel that the ability to learn all of the various policies and guidelines through experience alone is difficult to achieve without designing a programme in order to give the candidate exposure to a number of areas. Some go on to describe that they feel that this cannot be a bad thing if it aids in finding "candidates that are capable of doing the job" and that it can help to prevent mistakes occurring should the candidate be successful. They also state that candidates always have the opportunity to study previous successful requests in order to understand how to respond to questions, should they wish to "game" the process.

Somewhat in the middle, there are a group of editors that feel that coaching or mentoring should be encouraged as long as there is a focus on improving the candidate's capabilities. There is a concern among this group that coaching can attempt to "game the system" or "teach to the test", or that it promotes "editing for adminship" rather than promoting good practice. there is also a feeling here that it should be treated as a close-up, extended editor review

On the other extreme, there is a group of editors that feel that coaching can make the process seem like a rite of passage, that adminship can be an automatic expectation of candidates once their coaching is complete. Others feel that the selection of coachees could lead to "mandarinism" or a "closed admin caste". They also state that candidates always have the opportunity to study previous successful requests in order to understand how to respond to questions. other feelings include being unable to train traits such as maturity in a candidate, or that previous coached candidates have stood too early.

Nomination, co-nomination and self-nomination[edit]

In summary:

  • 76 editors view the nomination process as good overall or acceptable as-is.
  • 72 editors have no objection to Self Nominations.
  • 44 editors believe that co-nominations should be limited.
  • 26 editors note that a nomination from an experienced editor or admin is of value in evaluating the candidate.
  • 18 editors do not favor supporting or opposing a candidate based on who their nominator(s) may be.

This part of the process is where the nominator provides a rationale, reasoning why the candidate would make a suitable administrator. Co-nominators may add their own viewpoints separately if desired. A candidate can nominate themselves (also known as self-nomination) if they wish.

On the whole, editors seem comfortable with the process of nominating a candidate, although some editors expressed concerns over Wikipedians supporting or opposing a candidate based on their nominator. Other concerns were the appearance of some nominators to be in competition to introduce the best or the most candidates. It was also felt that the nomination process can promote the feeling of a "clique" within Wikipedia, and that candidates should be nominated from outside the more common spheres such as WP:RFA and WP:AN. There was also some mention that nominations should be left to existing administrators and experienced editors only.

By and large, co-nomination was also supported, although there were some editors who feel it is unnecessary, describing them as "bloated support votes". There were, however, concerns about the purpose and quantity of co-noms. Although they were recognised as being useful in cases where a candidate has worked in different areas of the project, editors felt that it was possible to have too many co-nominations. Of those who expressed an opinion, most felt that two or three co-noms were an acceptable limit, with any more usually being ignored. It was also felt that they should be included before the application is transcluded.

Self-Nominations

Opinion was somewhat divided on the subject of self-nominations. On the one hand, some editors feel uneasy about self-nomination candidates, feeling that it does not demonstrate a nominator's trust in a candidate and that if the candidate is trustworthy, an editor will nominate them. Editors also mention that often, self-nomination candidates submit their request too early. Some go further, stating that self-nomination should be abolished so that a nomination could indicate "acceptance" by the community. On the other hand, there are some editors who feel that self-nominations should be welcomed under the banner of being bold. It was felt that some editors "fly under the scope of others" but would otherwise make good candidates, or provide an option for those that are ignored or not noticed. Some view self-nomination as a positive, feeling that it is an example of a "self-starter" or showing initiative. A few Wikipedians go further, feeling that self-nomination should become a standard for all candidates under the idea that it presents a fairer or more balanced platform for candidates.

Statistical data on the question of Self-Nomination was also varied. The majority of editors who addressed the issue had no problem with Self-Nominations (73 responses), though some noted that there may be a bias against such self-noms (2 responses). 29 responses expressed disapproval of self-nominations, with 12 responses recommending that they be prohibited, and 17 responses stating that they should be permitted, but that they are not acceptable substitutes for standard nominations. An additional 3 responses favored requiring that all nominations be self-nominations; one such editor noted that "If editors want to support a nomination they can support it the same as any other editor."[1]

Advertising and canvassing[edit]

Top statements regarding Canvassing

In summary:

  • Limited canvassing should be acceptable, if neutral (68 responses)
  • No canvassing of any type should be permitted (58 responses)
  • A link from a candidate's userpage is acceptable (41 responses)
  • Current standards regarding canvassing are acceptable (21 responses)

This section examines the part of the process that controls how current requests for adminship are communicated. Nominations are advertised on Wikipedia: Requests for Adminship as well as through regularly updated transcludable content such as User:Tangotango/RfA Analysis/Report. Candidates are also welcome to use templates such as {{RfX-notice|a}} on their user page if they wish. Further canvassing is regulated through the guideline Wikipedia:Canvassing.

A large body of editors felt that canvassing beyond what is already permitted should not be allowed, with it being described as "grossly unfair". Comments included letting a candidate's edits "speak for themselves", with requests being closed or candidates being disqualified if cases of canvassing occurs. There was mention of canvassing occurring both for and against the candidate, with Wikipedians stating that oppose canvassing should be investigated. There was also concern about editors using methods outside Wikipedia in order to canvass for a particular outcome, with some editors feeling that permitting canvassing on Wikipedia would allow it to be observed and measured.

Some editors feel that in addition to the advertising already permitted, further methods should be available. A common mention was allowing editors to add a banner or notice to the projects that they are regularly involved in, in order to get an outside view instead of isolating the process to "RfA regulars". Another mention was allowing users to post on a central noticeboard in order to advertise that they are requesting adminship. It was also noted that there is a distinction between discussing a request between editors and canvassing, with mention that the former should be encouraged.

Debate[edit]

In summary:

  • 91 editors believe the question aspect of RfA is Good as is.
  • 60 believe that the questions should be limited, or that there are too many questions.
  • 54 believe that the questions asked should relate directly to the candidate (Their edits, experience, conflicts, etc.).
  • 43 expressed concern over "trick questions" and "trolling".
  • 17 recommended that the questions need more Civility.
  • 16 reiterated that the questions are supposed to be optional, and disapproved of opposes due to a failure to answer.

This part of the process is where the candidate is presented with three standard questions in order to describe what administrative areas the candidate has worked in, what work they are particularly proud of and what (if any) conflicts they have been involved in. The candidate may be set further optional questions by other editors as the debate progresses.

Top statements regarding Questions

Many editors feel that this section works well, with the ability to ask questions allowing them to get a deeper understanding of the candidate or a better idea of knowledge or experience (91 responses). It is felt that well thought out and relevant questions should make it easier to assess a candidate's suitability.

Editors have highlighted a range of concerns when looking at templated questions. These are where the contributor repeatedly asks the same question to candidates. Wikipedians feel that these can end up being 'me too ' question, where a contributor asks a question only to feel involved in the process without materially contributing to the understanding of the candidate. Respondents also felt that the use of templated questions would allow candidates to effectively copy and paste their answers from other successful RfAs. There was also some feeling that hypothetical questions do not help to ascertain how a candidate would react in a given situation. In contrast, respondents felt that questions that requiquire a higher level of thought would be more beneficial. It was also felt that asking candidates that are specific to a candidate or based on a candidate's previous contributions would be beneficial.

The form that questions can take was also of concern. Respondents felt that questions were sometimes asked in a way that would seem as if the contributor was fishing for reasons to oppose the candidate. Further to this, comments included observations of rude, abrasive or sneaky questioning, possibly in an attempt to trip up or pin down a candidate. Some also felt that responding to questions was more a test of literacy and RfA competence rather than assessing a candidate. Additional comments included the opinion that questions at RfA can contribute to promoting a particular point of view, either by furthering a dispute or by increasing exposure to an essay, proposed guideline or voluntary process. It was felt that bureaucrats should be proactive in removing unsuitable questions from a candidate's application as they arise.

Additionally, 16 editors expressed concern over voters who oppose a candidate for failing to answer them. These editors noted that the questions are listed as "Optional", and thus should not be treated as mandatory.

Election[edit]

In summary:

  • 66 editors believe that votes at RfA should include a rationale or reasoning, whether support or oppose.
  • 42 editors believe that the voting/election process is good overall in its present form.
  • 22 editors believe that the arguments presented for or against a candidate should count more than the number or Percentage of votes cast.
  • 22 editors believe that RfA should not become a Battleground, and that voting needs to have more Civility.
  • 15 editors believe that no rationale should be necessary when voting, and that the vote itself is sufficient.

This section of the RfA process is where interested editors can pass either a Support, Oppose or Neutral vote on a candidate. An editor can, if desired, include a rationale, argument or reason for their vote. This reason can then be challenged by other editors if appropriate.

Overall, feedback on the election section of the process could broadly be grouped into two areas. The first of these areas is around how support, oppose and neutral statements should be handled. It is felt that a request for adminship has become a vote rather than a discussion, in part due to the percentage threshold required to be successful. Respondents felt that this method lends the process to becoming a 'popularity contest' where the candidate is focused on pleasing editors rather than having the required skills. This was felt to contribute to a battlefield mentality, where statements become uncivil and contributors can 'badger' or 'hector' each other. there was also a feeling that contributor's feedback that receives challenges of this nature should be moved to the RfA's talk page for continued discussion.

The other theme that came from this discussion was how the statement in support, opposition or neutrality is supported by a comment detailing the editor's rationale for voting in that manner. Other editors supported the assumtion of good faith, and expressed a desire for opposes based on bad faith to be removed entirely. Some went further than this, urging for a removal of "per X" voting, where a contributor refers to someone else's argument rather than stating one of their own. Editors also mentioned that a candidate can effectively be buried by a high number of early oppose votes, or that a "lynch mob" mentality can take hold.

This point was further reinforced by statements critical of the adversarial nature of RfA, with editors expressing concern that RfA can become a battlefield. In many cases, a minority is able to effectively block an RfA by opposing en masse; as a result, candidate statements can be less about demonstrating or discussing editing skills and more about pleasing voters. There was a fear that opposition at RfA is used as a revenge mechanism, or that contributors add a statement to an RfA in order to "torpedo" them, either by misrepresenting an editor's contributions or through outright lies about the candidate.

Withdrawal[edit]

In summary:

  • Candidates should be able to withdraw their RfA, at their discretion (155 responses)
  • Candidates can and should take constructive criticism and feedback from their RfAs, even if they are failing (5 responses)
  • Withdrawal (or NOTNOW) should not prejudice future RfAs from the candidate (5 responses)

This element allows the candidate, at any time following nomination and before declaration, to withdraw from the process. In this instance, the process is archived at the point of withdrawal and terminates.

With only a few exceptions, editors felt that candidates should be able to withdraw their candidacy at will. Several editors also expressed disapproval over the perceived "badgering" of candidates to withdraw, and indicated that it should be the decision of the candidate when (and if) withdrawal is warranted. Some editors also noted that candidates who stick with the process receive valuable feedback and constructive criticism, which may be of value in a future RFA. It was also mentioned that withdrawal sometimes doesn't happen as early as some editors would like, and that some candidates use RfA as a form of alternative editor review - which typically results in a withdrawn RfA.

Generally, editors agreed that a withdrawn RfA should not have an impact on future RfAs.

Declaration[edit]

In summary:

  • 64 editors had no objection to the current means by which RfAs are closed.
  • 25 editors favor the use of a detailed closing rationale by bureaucrats closing RfAs.
  • 18 believe that bureaucrat discussions in close cases are beneficial overall.

This component of a request for adminship takes place seven days after nomination. In exceptional circumstances a bureaucrat may hold the declaration early, or extend the duration in order to make consensus clearer. Experienced editors may declare early if there is no chance of the candidate succeeding, as per Wikipedia: Not Now. The closing bureaucrat then analyses the debates and votes in order to determine if there is consensus from the community to grant administrator status to the candidate.

This question generated some discussion on the criteria used by Bureaucrats in judging the success of an RfA. While 10 editors dislike the idea of minimum support percentages for success, 9 were in favor of setting such minimum standards, and another 3 editors favored increased standards. 8 editors also favored restricting bureaucrat discretion in weighing votes, which would have the effect of moving RfA closer to a simple count of votes.

Opinions were also divided on the subject of NOTNOW and SNOW closes, where an RfA with little or no chance of success is closed early. 12 editors favored the limited use of NOTNOW, while 3 do not believe it should be used at all. 8 editors would add a caveat that the candidate must accept a NOTNOW proposal before the RfA itself could be closed. 9 editors favored increased or quicker use of NOTNOW. Similarly, 11 editors favored limiting the use of SNOW at RfA, and 3 advocated bringing a halt to its use at RfA. 8 editors specifically cited SNOW as a good process for RfA; one editor even advocated a version of SNOW for RfAs with certain success - sort of a "Speedy Keep".[2] Eleven editors compared SNOW and NOTNOW, with 10 favoring NOTNOW over SNOW, and one taking the opposite position.

Training[edit]

Alternatives to New Admin School

In summary:

  • 80 editors characterized the New Admin School process as good overall.
  • 25 editors believe that the process should be (or remain) optional.
  • 16 editors believe that the process should not be necessary.
  • 10 editors believe that the process should be mandatory.

As an optional section, successful candidates are encouraged to use new admin school in order to learn how to use the new options made available to them.

Editors were generally positive about this process, moreso than Admin Coaching. 80 responses characterised the New Admin School as a good process as-is, many noting that it teaches very specific skills that are necessary for admins to learn. The usefulness of the process was highlighted by 10 editors who favor it as a requirement for new admins. Other editors, however, suggest that the process should remain optional (25 responses). Some editors, however, noted that we should not be selecting editors for adminship if they are not familiar with the tools already - 16 editors noted that the process should not be necessary for this reason.

Some alternatives to the formal New Admin School process were offered, as shown. Options ranged from informal training with feedback (17 responses) to Mentorship, which would pair a new admin with an experienced one (14 responses). Other editors noted that experience, or "learning on the job", is a much better teacher (13 responses). 3 editors proposed a dedicated test-wiki for use by new admins, while 2 editors advocated continued, ongoing training.

Recall[edit]

In Summary:

  • 48 editors favor the current process of Administrators Open to Recall.
  • 44 editors see the current process as fundamentally flawed and open to abuse.
  • 40 editors favor a mandatory process for all administrators.
  • 25 editors cite the voluntary nature of the process as a key problem.
  • 19 editors favor a formalized process run by Bureaucrats, or some similar standardized process.

Should administrators decide to do so, they can choose to make themselves available for recall or re-confirmation of adminship, if requested to do so by a large enough group of editors. Administrators can set their own criteria for recall although default recommendations are provided as per WP:AOR.

Opinions were divided on the subject of Recall. 48 responses indicated support for the current Admins Open to Recall process, either considering the process to be good overall or indicating an intent to join it if the editor became an admin. 40 responses also indicated that the process should be required, or that all admins should be assumed to be open to recall. On the other hand, 44 responses indicated that the current process is fundamentally flawed and too easy to abuse. Much concern was raised about the voluntary nature of the process, with 25 responses citing this aspect as problematic - As one editor noted, "...the ones we need it for, don't use it."[3]

Other means for dealing with administrator abuse were offered. 19 editors favored a standardized, formal process, possibly administered by Bureaucrats. 20 editors noted that the AOR process is redundant to other elements of Dispute Resolution, and that egregious administrator abuse results in a desysopping by the community (via the Arbitration Committee). An alternative proposal, favored by 16 editors, would be to require admins to stand for reconfirmation periodically.

Process experience[edit]

Voter Participation at RfA

Participation at RfA as a Voter[edit]

As shown, the vast majority of editors had participated in the RfA process. Even when 17 questionnaires that had no response to this question are included, this would indicate that over 79% of participants in this review had, at one point, been voters at RfA.

Editors who were candidates at RfA

One group of comments from editors felt that the level of "drama" in the RfA process was substantially high. Comments such as the process being marred by editors opposing each other, ad hominem attacks, petty arguments and acts of revenge tended to put people off becoming involved with the process. Others added that the current level of drama made it difficult to decide which contributors are right. There was also mention of RfAs frequently becoming hostile. There was also mention of frustration with the process.

Participation at RfA as a Candidate[edit]

The participants in this review were generally editors who had been a candidate for Adminship. 119 editors noted that they had been candidates for adminship, constituting 57% of total responses. 77 editors had not been a candidate, or 37% of the total. 13 editors did not provide a response to this question.

Of the editors who had been a candidate at RfA, 92 were successful, and became administrators. 36 were unsuccessful in their request. Note also that some editors were successful on subsequent RfAs, and are counted twice, while other editors who had multiple RfAs were unsuccessful during each. 24 editors had multiple requests for adminship.

Success at RfA

Candidates at RfA had different experiences. For example, 54 editors characterized their experience as being low in stress, while 28 responses indicated a highly stressful experience. 8 also indicated that nominees receive too many personal attacks.

Unsuccessful candidates, as well as editors who had not yet stood as candidates, offered several thoughts on their likelihood to stand as candidates in the future. 20 editors indicated that they may run in the future, while another 20 stated that they were unlikely to run in the future. One editor expressed a desire to be an admin, but refuses to run under the current process. Another editor, currently an admin at the English wikinews, notes that the English Wikipedia makes a "much bigger fuss" about adminship than wikinews and other projects.[4]

Overall Impressions[edit]

Thoughts on the RfA Process Overall

For the final question, editors were offered the opportunity to present any general thoughts, either on the RfA process as a whole or on specific aspects of it, or even of aspects or proposals not yet incorporated into the process. The result was a wide array of concerns, recommendations, complaints, and observations. During the statistical analysis of responses, 60 distinct statements were recorded across a broad range of subjects.

Most frequently, editors commented on the overall process of RfA. 29 editors noted that the current process is good in its current form. An additional 13 editors stated that the RfA process could be worse, or that it was the best system we have in the absence of a better one. This is contrasted by 7 editors who characterized the RfA process as irreparably broken. One such editor offered a good summary of the position, saying "I think it should be scrapped and replaced with something substantially different."[5]

The drama of RfA was a common target of criticism. 12 editors admonished voters to be more positive in their comments, and 6 noted that drama was inevitable with a process as personal as RfA. 6 editors expressed concern over political aspects of RfA.

Several editors reiterated that adminship should be "No Big Deal" (9 responses), while 3 other editors responded that adminship emphatically is a big deal. One alternative proposal in this vein was shared by 10 editors, who recommended that the tools be de-bundled and given out individually.

Conclusions and next steps[edit]

The above report indicates several aspects of the Requests for Adminship process that are of concern to editors, as well as a number of elements of the process that are good in their current form. The common statements above raise certain questions, which will be examined in the next phase of the review. These questions are listed below, by topic.

During the Recommend phase of the RfA review, editors will be asked to answer these questions by providing their own recommendations. For each question, an editor can propose a solution or, alternatively, reject the premise of the question. Such a response would take the form of "I can't address that concern, as I don't think it's a problem." or a similar statement. Editors are, of course, free to answer as many or as few of the questions as they wish.

For discussion of potential recommendations or conclusions, please see the discussion page at Wikipedia talk:RfA Review. Editors wishing to participate in the Recommend phase may do so at Wikipedia:RfA Review/Recommend.

Selection and Nomination[edit]

A1. Editors note that the RfA process can be daunting to prospective administrators, and that the process itself may discourage otherwise qualified candidates from seeking adminship. How can this "Selection Bias" be countered?

A2. Editors expressed concern over unprepared or unqualified candidates at RfA, noting that their candidacies result in NOTNOW and SNOW closures that can be discouraging. In lieu of minimum requirements for adminship, how can prospective candidates be educated about RfA and the community's expectations of its administrators?

A3. 44 editors expressed concern over excessive co-nominations. Some of these editors advocated a limit on co-nominations, perhaps capping them at one or two per candidate; others recommended asking prospective co-nominators to post a Strong Support in lieu of an actual nomination statement. How can the concern over Co-nominations be addressed?

The RfA Debate (Questions, Election, Canvassing)[edit]

B1. 60 editors expressed concern over the number of questions asked of candidates, and indicated that questions should be limited in number. How can this be accomplished? What limits could be fairly imposed? Are there alternative means for the candidate to provide information about themselves without the prompting of questions?

B2. Editors expressed concern over the content of questions, with 43 editors disapproving of "Trick questions", 8 disapproving of questions that require only a quotation from policy to answer, and 54 favoring questions that relate directly to the candidate and their experiences, contributions, conflicts, etc. How should the scope of possible questions be determined? Conversely, how would the decision to remove bad-faith or problematic questions be made, and by whom? What subjects should be specifically off-limits, and why?

B3. Editors note that RfA is seen as a negative process, with issues such as badgering of opposes, personal attacks, and a general lack of civility being prominent concerns. How can the RfA process be changed to address these concerns?

B4. The very nature of the RfA process was disputed. Some editors desire rationales with every vote, and favor a more discussion and consensus-based process similar to other processes on the English Wikipedia. Other editors desire a more vote-based election, where the raw numbers of supports and opposes are the critical factor. Is there one of these methods that would provide a clearer consensus on the community's view of a candidate? Or, alternatively, is a hybrid of the two preferable, and how should that be structured?

B5. The amount of discretion held by Bureaucrats to remove or discount problem votes was also discussed, with some editors favoring increased discretion for Bureaucrats. 25 editors also favored a detailed closing rationale from Bureaucrats, detailing the specific factors that resulted in the candidate being successful (or not successful). What changes to the RfA process or format could clarify community consensus on this issue? Should Bureaucrats take a more active role in managing (or clerking) ongoing RfAs?

B6. 68 editors noted that a limited form of Canvassing or advertising would be acceptable, if such canvassing was done on-site and in a neutral fashion. How could a candidate advertise the fact that he or she is a candidate for adminship, while being completely neutral in the audience to which he or she advertises?

Training and Education[edit]

C1. Though 73 editors responded favorably to the Admin Coaching programme, 39 were critical of the process for "Teaching for the test", or for being an RfA preparation programme rather than an Adminship preparation programme. In what ways could Admin Coaching be improved to focus more on adminship itself?

C2. In evaluating New Admin School, some editors noted that a Mentorship element would be of great benefit to newly minted administrators - something that Admin Coaching provides in a direct one-on-one coach-coachee team. Similarly, 15 editors characterized Admin Coaching, a primarily pre-adminship process, as being invaluable after the RfA, which is traditionally when New Admin School is used for training. Are there areas where the two processes overlap, and can be made more complimentary? Are there common themes or elements that could be shared between the two processes, in order to improve the effectiveness of both?

Adminship (Removal of)[edit]

D1. Editors noted that the current voluntary Admins open to Recall process is redundant to Dispute Resolution process such as Requests for Comment and Arbitration. In the absence of Recall (i.e. if it were removed altogether), how could existing processes be adapted to more effectively deal with issues of administrator abuse?

D2. Editors cited the voluntary nature of the Admins open to Recall process as problematic, and 40 went as far as to recommend a mandatory process for all administrators, either as a mandatory form of Admins open to Recall, or a more formal version of the process administered by Bureaucrats. As a separate process from WP:DR, how could the current recall process be standardized for use as a mandatory process? Who would be responsible for such a process?

D3. 44 editors criticized the recall process for being too open to abuse, both through spurious or bad-faith calls for an admin to be recalled, or through administrators who fail to follow through on a commitment to stand for recall. How can the recall process be amended to address these concerns?

D4. Some editors recommended that administrators be required to stand for some form of reconfirmation after a given period of time. How would such reconfirmation be structured? How long would an admin have before such reconfirmation would be required? Could such reconfirmation be triggered by an effort to recall an admin, and how would that be handled? What form would such reconfirmation take (RfA, Straw Poll, etc.)?

Overall Process[edit]

E1. The earliest version of the RfA policy states that adminship is granted to "anyone who has been an active Wikipedia contributor for a while and is generally a known and trusted member of the community."[6] Current policy leaves the definition of a "trusted editor" to the community. Editors offered a wide range of basic characteristics desirable of administrators, including Trustworthiness, competence, and communication skills. How could the RfA process be amended to either A) more fully ensure that editors selected as admins do indeed have the full trust of the community, or B) more fully fit the community's expectations for administrators?

E2. Editors expressed concern over the format of the Requests for Adminship process. Some suggested that RfA has become a form of high-impact editor review, while others expressed concern over the view of Adminship itself as a goal or "trophy" that all editors should attain after a certain period of time. In taking the RfA process as a whole, what elements work well? What elements should be removed or amended?

References[edit]

  1. ^ User:Mattinbgn/RfA review
  2. ^ User:Ferdiaob/RfA review
  3. ^ User:DGG/RfA review
  4. ^ User:Stevenfruitsmaak/RfA review
  5. ^ User:Gmaxwell/RfA review
  6. ^ "Requests for adminship". 2003-06-14.