Wikipedia:What administrators do
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Administrators are regular Wikipedians who have access to maintenance tools which give them the ability to protect pages, delete pages, and block users. Administrators are given these tools following a request for adminship.
Although there are various standards that are applied when making a recommendation on an editor's application, meaningful contributions to articles are usually considered a prerequisite. However, after gaining use of these tools some administrators find that their contributions to articles decrease, and in a few cases stop altogether. We all have limitations on time, and there is a significant backlog of "janitorial" tasks, in addition to missing articles.
While the creation and refinement of articles is the principal aim of Wikipedia, the support work that administrators perform is also a useful contribution. In this context, administrators should remember the principal purpose is to write an encyclopedia. Similarly, other editors should acknowledge that there are some responsibilities for administrators which don't directly involve the article namespace.
Deletion is a process to improve the quality of the encyclopedia by removing articles that are not suitable for inclusion in an encyclopedia. It also removes unnecessary pages, such as unused categories. In general, content to be deleted is identified by the community.
Protection is a tool to assist pages that are undergoing tendentious editing, disputes, or excessive acts of vandalism. Protection does not move an article forward – it effectively puts it at a standstill. It is used to maintain the integrity of an article.
Blocking can stop users who are damaging the encyclopedia or its surrounding community. Once again, blocking is not a tool to add to articles, but it maintains their integrity (or maintains the integrity of the community).
Common-sense interpretation of rules
Rules provide a starting point. A sensible interpretation of the rules is often more beneficial than a literal one. For example:
If an editor reverts an article three times every 24 hours, but never 4 times in 24 hours, he or she is clearly gaming the three-revert rule rather than helping achieve a compromise. Edit warring to the letter of the 3RR is objectionable, and in many cases may be blockable as a violation of principles which the 3RR was written to address.
Rules such as blocking for 3RR are usually ignored if the edits being reverted are deemed to be vandalism, libel, or otherwise of significant detriment to the quality of the encyclopedia. However these evaluations are often subjective, and may be disputed. If in doubt, consider not blocking. If the user is acting in good faith, he or she will learn from the situation, and hopefully the situation will not arise again.
Then what do administrators do?
Administrators, like all users, are editors. They still retain the ability to edit articles. The tools that directly concern the article namespace are deletion and protection. Deletion is a tool to remove unwanted articles (or other pages) and can also be used to assist in page moves. Protection is used in the event of an edit war or excess vandalism.
The administrators who deal with backlogs in the Wikipedia namespace are the true janitors. Their actions often go unnoticed, but administrators who show a desire to work in this area should not be denied that if they are trusted members of the community.
Administrators can also deal with user issues and disputes. These administrators often have to make the choice of protection or blocking in content disputes, and whether blocking is the best option in user disputes.
Does it matter?
All administrators make mistakes at one time or another. Nobody is perfect, but proficiency should generally increase with experience. If an administrator exhibits a pattern of mistakes in a certain area, but excels in another area, his/her adminship could still a tangible benefit to the project, as long as he/she is able to recognize and willing to acknowledge such errors, and strive to avoid repeating them, rather than defending them out of some infallibility complex. Such steps may include avoiding controversial decisions in that area of administrative work, or focusing on different area altogether.