Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2012-06-18/Investigative report

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I tried once. Not likely to try again. They want flawless and super-active people, good luck finding them. Maybe admin rights should be given to every user who has shown themselves to be trustworthy by contributing in a positive way and not having been blocked for a certain period (e.g. 1 year). Make it similar to applying for rollback. If a user abuses their rights just take them away. Or else have a modding system like on Slashdot where established users can mod down an edit and if it gets too much of a negative vote it gets high up in a queue for admin reviewing. Targaryenspeak or forever remain silent 21:21, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

  • The solution to RFA is simple - remove it. Replace it with a panel of elected admin recruiters who should have specific community driven objectives both in task and time frame - (i.e maintain x active admins for x hours coverage to xyz part of Wikipedia for next x months), so an agreed and set criteria by the community and the admin recruiters go find the best people for the positions to fill those set objectives and ask them if they would be interesting in an admin position to the known objectives. Being asked to fulfill a task would be more an honor(rather then the pain of RFA), I know this to be true from personal experience having selected many hundred of moderators from another large community. The process results in matching suitable of person to the task required, plus the new recruit would know what they are suppose to do, rather then randomly being an admin like at present and perhaps not knowing where to fit in. Community wise it takes all the ongoing RFA arguementsbanter away, the time wasted on RFA voting and instead give a more broad based opportunity to discuss and elect admin recruiters and objectives. The end result is the community getting more suitable and better organised people without the choas. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 21:34, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

As someone involved in some of the discussion 5-6 years ago, I guess the recent outcomes aren't too much of a surprise. My observations then were that calls of it being broken etc. were largely driven by individual cases where person X should have been promoted or person Y shouldn't. Maybe it's more general now and it is a belief more people should pass, I'm quite out of touch with that side of wikipedia, but I guess at the bottom of it the concrete reasons as to why weren't really forthcoming, beyond the same material listed in the RFA itself. i.e. it's more or less to do with simple disagreement about who will/won't make good admins. It's pretty much the same reason then why reforms are hard to define, a way to remove the opinion part is to provide solid criteria, however defining those solid criteria requires the input of the same set of opinions which will undoubtedly differ. Other methods such as boards to create admins, lead to suspicion that it'll end up in "group think" type situation whereby those selected are all of the same ilk, rather than being the diverse sets of the past. As said though wikipedia is ultimately quite conservative as that is part of the core principals - outcomes with no consensus default in retaining the current status quo in pretty much all forums. -- (talk) 22:19, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

Have to agree with Targaryen. The large number of failed RFAs and the dropping numbers of attempted RFAs are a good sign that people are being driven off by the process, not that our process is working to guarantee better admins. Nyttend (talk) 02:11, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • In response to SunCreator's idea of having a panel of elected administrator recruiters... what if these "recruiters" were selected by the community at large? It could be an election similar to what WP:ARBCOM has currently to decide the arbitrators. The recruiters could have a quota of administrators that they nominate, and the community voted on all of them in a secure poll like they do in the ArbCom elections? That way, people aren't swayed by one bad diff from fourteen months before when someone did a stupid bout of vandalism. And also, this would allow users to be elected based on their overall reputation and their answers to questions (which are far more important than minor instances of error ten years ago), and the panel could be required as part of their mandate to investigate people they nominate and vouch for them as part of their noms? Well, I can see a billion flaws in what I just wrote (a LOT of bureaucratic red tape, taking hands out of the Wikipedians, etc.). It was kind of a stream of consciousness thing. Either way, we need new ideas. Why not have an RfC about this? Because these paltry amounts of nominations are unacceptable. And one last thing: great article, Ed, probably one of the most interesting stories I've read in the Signpost. Gets the point across extremely well. Nomader (talk) 03:02, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
    • Side note: when I say "stream of consciousness", I mean it, but what I was trying to get at with this odd meandering comment was that we should just through stuff at the Velcro and see what sticks. Why can't we, all these people who have written these great encyclopedia articles, come up with something that's a good alternative to all this? I just don't see a reason "why not". Nomader (talk) 03:06, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

The voting system should be eliminated. Non-substantive arguments should be discouraged and ignored, with the final decision going to the bureaucrat. Like an AfD, if the arguments for a certain outcome are superior, that outcome should win, even if the other side gets more "votes". That would disempower those few nasty, petty individuals that make RfA such a hellish process. --JaGatalk 04:31, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

  • I've recently started participating in RFAs after a lengthy break, and have been pretty depressed at how they're conducted. A number of editors seem to be playing games, and pile in with 'oppose' votes on what seem to be arbitrary (at best) grounds and make unpleasant comments while doing so. A small number appear to be using RFA as a venue to regularly play games of 'whack an admin'. I know several excellent editors who'd make great admins who've chosen to not put their names forward because RFA has got such a bad reputation. At a very minimum, I'd like to see editors who are not in good standing with the community (for instance, those who've recently been the subject of adverse ArbCom findings or blocks or have been active for only a short period) barred from participation. More generally, the meme which has developed that candidates for the admin tools need to be highly experienced in all fields of editing and behind the scenes work needs to be countered. When considering candidates I place a very low emphasis on their experience with behind the scenes stuff, and look to see if they've got common sense and a good knowledge of the main policies, which is all that admins actually require. Nick-D (talk) 07:58, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

If you want to start with reform at rfa then you may want to consider listing the reform options up at rfa for a year, then letting candidates choose the reforms they want to test in their rfa, then draft proposals based on that approach. Allowing the candidates to test the reforms would provide actually usable data for any reform attempt so that we could move forward with facts and not opinions, fear, guesses, etc. TomStar81 (Talk) 09:34, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

Make it less of a "big deal" to get, and less of a big deal to suspend (either by oneself or forcibly). And introduce a three- or six-month probation period. It's one of the few reforms in which Jimbo could take the lead, but understandably, he sees problems whichever way one goes. Tony (talk) 10:11, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Content dispute admins versus WP:Edit warring. Specialized admins are the solution to getting enough admins. It would also solve the main problem in active editor retention, the lack of adequate content dispute resolution. The other related main problem concerning editor retention is admin misconduct while trying to resolve content disputes. Since there is no adequate content dispute resolution admins use WP:Edit warring sanctions. WP:Edit warring is a completely arbitrary policy that drives away many editors. See: User:Timeshifter/More articles and less editors. It should be a lot easier to become an admin, and a lot easier to get rid of admins. Problem solved. --Timeshifter (talk) 14:12, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment concerning formatting. Could someone decrease the width of the blank right sidebar in this comment section? The wide right sidebar is squeezing the discussion column too much. A very narrow discussion column hinders discussion. And it is ugly. Wikia lost a lot of users when it went to this type of narrow format on nearly all pages (article and talk pages). I am using a 17-inch monitor at 1280 by 1024. --Timeshifter (talk) 14:53, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
The Signpost "Discuss this story" section is transcluded from Wikipedia:Signpost/Template:Signpost-article-comments-end. The "Discuss this story" and the "In this issue" section are transcluded from the same source, so its impossible to remove the white sidebar (which is technically the "In this issue" section) without substituting the template. Michaelzeng7 (talk) 22:00, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
What is the link to the "In this issue" sidebar in the comments section? I can't find it. I can fix the width if I can find it. --Timeshifter (talk) 12:48, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • I've been thinking hard and gathering data ... and I'm having a hard time with this. There's a lot that's broken, in a lot of ways. I'd be willing to help, and I'm sure we could find a bunch of people willing to help ... if people would let us. The recent RFC on Pending Changes reminded me of how the RFCs on RFA used to go ... careful observers of RFA would invest massive amounts of time gathering data and clarifying the issues, then hundreds of people who had invested much less time would show up to defeat whatever was being proposed. I'm not going to go through it all again, and I know others feel the same. If people want to have an election to give broad powers to investigate the problem to a board of 11 to 15 people, and let us experiment and try to address the concerns of as many people as possible, and bring as many people on board as possible, over say 3 months, I'm in, whether I'm on the board or not. Otherwise ... there's a lot of things that need doing where I can actually have an impact. - Dank (push to talk) 15:04, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Personally, I have a new, beneficial idea: a group of twelve admins who are agreed on by the whole participating group to be unbiased and active are sort of like recruiters. They find editors who have made a large amount of beneficial edits to the site, and when one finds one, they must submit it to the whole group with examples of helpful edits that these editors have made. If the whole group agrees that this person would make a good admin, they post a message on the editor's talk page asking whether they would want to become an administrator. If they say no, that's the end of that, and the admins ask the user to keep them in mind if they change their minds. If the answer is maybe, then the admins get one try to convince the user yes, and if yes then welcome aboard! Brambleberry of RiverClan ChatWatch 16:24, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
Yes, there needs to be some kind of representative democracy involved in admin recruitment and selection. The current method of direct democracy has become too unwieldy for such a large organization as English Wikipedia. --Timeshifter (talk) 18:09, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • I've long thought RfA should be a two step process, with an apprenticeship period, say 9 months, during which the editor has limited admin tools, e.g. 12 hour block max with a required report to a watchlist. The apprentice would be expected to spend some amount of time in several of the admin areas. He or she would then be be judged on their record during the apprentice period and promoted, denied or maybe renewed as an apprentice for one more term. The criteria for entering the apprentice level would be more relaxed.--agr (talk) 16:55, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

I've started up an RFC on this topic. Please feel free to comment at Wikipedia talk:Requests for adminship#Request for comments about whether the RFA process should be changed. Targaryenspeak or forever remain silent 18:31, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Tony1 & Timeshifter both mention it, but the article doesn't. A method of losening the standards for adminship would be a lot more palatable if it were combined with greater ease of pulling the rights back if the candidate proved to be unsuited. Give me a robust and enforceable method for tool removal short of arbcom cases and I'll drop my standards by half.--Cube lurker (talk) 19:09, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
    • I didn't think de-adminship was a major factor in changing RfA when I wrote the story, so I dropped it to simplify the story (covering everything would mean I covered nothing, imho). I've now been disabused of that notion.[1] Regards, Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 06:40, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • I totally agree with this and the idea that Crats should have the ability to make an RFA successful if the candidate meets certain criteria. Electriccatfish2 (talk) 21:56, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

I suspect that it might be more acceptable if there was a second intake stream in which a representative cabal of experienced admins invited existing non-admins to join their ranks. Highly undemocratic, but totally sidestepping the inquisition stage which many non-admin abhor. Even lowly editors with only a few thousand edits can identify very quickly a few names that they would trust to do the job, but persuading those names to be put forward at RFA is like drawing teeth. It isn't that RFA isn't working, it is that many consider the pain not worth the very minimal gain.  Velella  Velella Talk   21:57, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

Some of us consider RFA not to be working for that very reason - too few qualified candidates are willing to run. ϢereSpielChequers 23:00, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, sure...many non-admins are just chomping at the bit to have the admins pick their own favorites to rule over them in the way that User:Velella describes. That's exactly what I have been sensing lately.- UnbelievableError (talk) 02:50, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I suspect that the great bulk of editors wouldn't care either way. Only a handful are seriously interested in where admins come from. Nick-D (talk) 03:16, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Brilliant article, and much needed. Every admin action remains logged and reversible -- adminship should be no big deal. Clearly some improvements are needed to how RfA is handled and how adminship can be removed if an admin doesn't work out. I like a number of the suggestions above:

  • A two-stage process would be a fine step forward and would reduce drama around losing adminship after a trial period.
  • Giving crats more leeway would be a fine step forward, and minimize the impact of any griefers on !vote outcomes.
  • Setting standards and goals for the process as a whole, such as #s of new admins, makes sense: it gives the community a tangible way to see whether RfA is working (from the perspective of project-wide maintenance) or not.

Thanks for this writeup, and for the great comments. – SJ + 13:17, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

  • I particularly don't want to come across as admin-bashing: we have some wonderful admins. Nonetheless, we also have some admins who not only wouldn't succeed today at RfA with the levels of input and experience that they had when they stood – they wouldn't even be likely to succeed with the levels of input which they have to date. There are a few people who have been admins for a long time who still have less than the number of total edits which seem to support a NOTNOW vote. And there are a few long-standing admins who are (in my view; maybe I'm embittered) "less than admirable". (That may be a civil paraphrase of a more well-known comment ;P) There are a few who are (maybe intermittently) less-than-competent in gauging consensus. There are a few whose first instinct is to hit the block button as opposed to something less likely to be destructive and just as likely to work. Desysopping is a BIG DEAL, and it very rarely happens. There are people wielding power who should not have it, and who would not have it according to the standards of today. What could be done about that? Adding: possible thoughts: automatically desysop any admin with (for example) less than 7000 edits to date, or maybe an average of less than 1000 edits per year? Pesky (talk) 06:21, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

I don't see a lot of evidence that this is anything but a symptom of the changing (read: shrinking) active user base. Yes, I'd admit that the unofficial requirements (>3000 edits, not automated or automated depending on the phase of the moon, sainthood, etc.) restrict the pipe a bit but the nozzle doesn't matter if there isn't any water pressure behind it. by and large new editors become admins. This is more true now than it was before, but it has always basically been true. If the supply of new editors who stick around for 3-9 months and care enough about the site to want to be administrators dries up, so to will the pool of admin candidates, regardless of what RfA looks like. Protonk (talk) 07:49, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Hmm. "Caring about the site" and "wanting to be an admin" don't necessarily equate. [Reinstated comment which seems to have been accidentally deleted] Pesky (talk) 09:34, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
I don't see a need, save for pathological specificity, to disambiguate the two. If you wish, please insert "care to be admins". Protonk (talk) 00:55, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Not sure that is quite true. I have been around for 7 years+ with over 30000 edits but have no wish to submit myself to the inquisition. Sure having a few extra buttons would be great, but I, and quite a number of similarly placed editors, are quite content to allow others to press the buttons at our request. I would be interested to know the evidence behind your assertion that by and large new editors become admins , I am not convinced that this is true.  Velella  Velella Talk   08:37, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
With a little research... - you find that the average tenure of a successful candidate has gone up from 2.4 years in 2009, to 3.4 years in 2011 (and 4.5 years so far in 2012). My analysis implies that Protonk has that wrong. WormTT(talk) 08:55, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
Your facts about tenure are correct, but your interpretation is inverted. Average tenure of admin candidates is rising but so is average tenure of long term editors (rising nearly in lock-step). If we were seeing the same number of admin candidates with the tenure changing I'd be inclined to agree with you. But if we see the tenure rise AND we see the RfA rate plummet then I'm hardly going to accept that as a counterclaim. When I say "by and large new editors become admins" I mean that in a general sense and (depressingly) in a a specific sense. In the general sense, long term editors make a choice (sometimes vocalising it, sometimes not) as to whether or not they want to be admins. Those who delay that choice tend to suffer rockier candidacies and are likely not to try again. This is the sweet spot for RfA success. Enough edits to establish credibility but not enough to have pissed someone off. That spot moves over time (usually to the right) but it exists. In the specific sense you can overlay the new admin rate against a time series of new "active" accounts and see a pretty good lagged relationship. We're now 3 years after editor growth started to plateau and we're seeing the results of that in a process which operates mainly on newer editors. None of this means that RfA isn't broken or doesn't need fixing. But we (as editors) tend to focus on all the internal fiddly bits and ignore the large scale changes which are driving most of the dynamic. Protonk (talk) 17:28, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

RFA also has the problem that it privileges editors who are not willing to edit in controversial areas. If you frequent, say, the fringe theories noticeboard, and deal with the problems raised there, you're going to have enough people who hate you for not letting them promote their views on Wikipedia that you will never pass RfA. RfA seeks people with great experience in things like AfD, but throws out people who work hard to support five-pillar policies such as WP:NPOV, because they'll have upset too many people.... and so gets admins who have absolutely no knowledge of any of the real problems of Wikipedia. (talk) 16:42, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

I can only remember one RFA where the candidate's problem was that they'd edited a controversial article and a bunch of people from the "other side" derailed their RFA, there may be more, but it is rare. My experience of RFAs is that overzealous deletion tagging, lack of tenure, poor communication skills, answering the questions without first rereading the relevant policy and lack of content contributions are all frequent causes of RFA failure. Editing controversial subjects may get you a bit of scrutiny, but if you are doing so civilly and neutrally and citing reliable sources you should be OK. If a couple of outraged editors from the other side of an editing dispute turn up and oppose over it, then provided you keep your cool and they are simply taking a content dispute to RFA you will probably be fine. ϢereSpielChequers 23:58, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
Bingo. Someone give a prize. This is precisely the reason I don't support RfA. It elects candidates who have no real experience dealing with actual problems and encourages potential RfA candidates to avoid getting into any disputes in order to get elected. Why anyone would support this kind of system boggles the mind. Viriditas (talk) 10:22, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
This particular issue is the known problem of low RfA activity (and, as a consequence, very much varying population of voters). If 300 users would vote, 10 fringe theory freaks would just not be visible. This actually surprises me. I remember for instance from Russian Wikipedia that for an arbcom member it was almost impossible to not vote at an RfA, because everybody wanted to know what their opinions are. Here, there are arbcom members I have never seen at RfA, ano some more whom I have seen one or two times.--Ymblanter (talk) 10:53, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Things sure have changed![edit]

"but the process has remained virtually the same as when Camembert created the page in 2003.".

I'm pretty sure that the process has changed. I recall that edit-counting was discouraged when I became an admin. I also distinctly recall (therefore) being able to read *all* of a person's edits and questioning them about them.

I maintain that anyone who can be trusted with the tools should have them, especially now that admins have been nerfed and can't delete the wiki anymore. We could give the buttons to 80% of the regular editors or more.

Ceterum censeo RFA editcountitis esse delendam.

--Kim Bruning (talk) 15:57, 22 June 2012 (UTC) ps. I was the nominator for the first WP:100 RFA (source). I now refuse to nominate people on the grounds that I don't do unto others what I would not have them do unto me

That's interesting. Thinking outside the box, it's probably much safer to give the buttons to people who'll probably never use them and didn't want them in the first place than it is to risk giving them to someone who sees the "power" aspect of the job rather than the litter-picking, pest-control, and loo-cleaning aspects of it. Pesky (talk) 17:17, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
The most recent RfA failed because some of the voters suspected (contrary to the statement of the candidate) that the candidate actually does not want to have the tools, and swiftly voted him down.--Ymblanter (talk) 18:46, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
That's just ancient common sense, Pesky! ;-)
Ymblanter, hmm, yeah, I'm beginning to get the impression that the problem might not lie with RFA, but with people's ideas about what an admin is or should be.<scratches head>
If we unbundle the buttons entirely (which is now quite possible), we would incidentally end up abolishing RFA at the same time. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing!
--Kim Bruning (talk) 20:08, 22 June 2012 (UTC) By splitting responsibilities more like this, I can imagine this could lead to (further) esperanzification of certain sub-areas of Wikipedia (like CSD or 3RR noticeboard). But that's the next problem, let's take things one step at a time. --Kim Bruning (talk) 20:08, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
I've always been in favour of unbundling the tools, and giving them out (like rollback) to people who would use that particular tool in a trustworthy fashion, and who ask for it and are obviously sensible people. There would be nothing stopping there being some kind of mini-RfA for the more "dangerous" tools, but with some unbundling there wouldn't be such an expectation of people having to be multi-talented, able to do anything and everything, and so on. One wouldn't have to give the delete button, for example, to the vandal-fighters (who need the block button but may not be the best judges on content matters), or the block button to content-specialists who are good at knowing what can and should be deleted, but whose personal skills may leave something to be desired ... and so on. I've had rollback for over a year; I think I may have used it twice. Possibly three times. Pesky (talk) 05:55, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
(de-dent) I agree with KB concerning editcounitis. somewhere along the way it's gone from: Well, it seems these days rfAs don't pass unless the candidate has x # of edits and been registered for z length of time; to: Well, you should withdraw as NOTNOW because you don't have x # of edits and been registered x length of time.
It was innocently done, but it's seemingly happened. Maybe we should see about "undo"-ing it? - jc37 21:04, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

  • This was an interesting report; and the comments that follow are as refreshing. I am linking a couple discussions I did not see linked, yet believe they are relevant! In particular, this discussion gives good insight regarding Jimbo's thoughts on this matter; and his willingness to support certain suggestions which do resurface at interval. Also this discussion which failed to gain traction; for it has suggestions similar to some current proposals and might be worth the time vested in review. I wish the best to those who endeavor and reiterate my thanks to the Signpost editors for a thoughtful rendition of a timely subject. Sincerely - My76Strat (talk) 06:52, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
  • 1. We need to separate ourselves from the idea that having Administrative tools represent a "promotion." Call 'em "janitors" and give the tools freely to the anti-vandalism sorts that need them. 2. The current RfA process is a Lord of the Flies-like gauntlet that only a fool, a saint, or a person with power-hunger would submit themselves to willingly. There needs to be some sort of semi-automatic granting of the toolbox based on tenure + edit count + clean block log with the RfA circus only for those not meeting these unbending standards. 3. Unbundling certain tools would be a good thing. Being able to read deleted material is the one (and only) thing about the tool box that would be of interest to me, personally, as once in a while I bump into situations at AfD or in starting pieces where it would come in handy to me as a content-creator. Vandal-fighters have a different set of needs. Carrite (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 03:33, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

What year?[edit]

Signpost editor, please note: the second paragraph under "Brief history" begins "In the same year . . ." - What year?? Textorus (talk) 21:56, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

Done, nice catch. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:58, 25 June 2012 (UTC)