The Admin Ship comes back to port – where the voyage starts
Is the Admin Ship actually sinking? No, but listing heavily. This last leg of our current cruise on the Admin Ship brings us to a round up of what seasickness or other ills deter candidates of the right calibre from coming forward – back to where it all begins: RfA. We list some of the comments we fished out of the dirty water on the way as well as some of the answers and advice from the admins we interviewed. However, if you are an aspiring admin, don't let it discourage you; and if you are a voter at RfA, the admins' and other users' comments reveal much about the situation and perhaps you may like to read Advice for RfA voters. With comments such as "My default attitude is that an admin is dishonest and/or corrupt. An individual admin has to prove themselves to be otherwise. So maybe their reputation is so slimy that it's hard to recruit any more" Carrite's opinion may be accurate based on his own experience but may not be shared by the majority of the community.
|“||It is unreasonable to expect a volunteer admin or editor to put up with any sort of harassment or other form of bullshit, [...] I didn't become an admin to be harassed [...] Wikipedia is a hobby, not work, and is supposed to be enjoyable.||”|
|“||I see few reasons to go through the RfA process. I would be happy to do the housekeeping work that sysop tools allow, but the harassing process of RfA isn't worth it.||”|
|“||I would put myself forward but ... its just that fear that all your dirty washing from the past is going to be brought up and held against you and not to mention the fact that you could face a wall of "Nos" as a result. [...] The thing that holds me back, is thinking that people could bring up stuff from the past to be used against my nomination in the present.||”|
|— The C of E|
|“||The number of people who are drive-by supports is far more than that of the drive-by oppose, and it is more difficult socially to oppose anyway, which is part of the reason why a higher passing standard is good.||”|
Commenting on the reforms he made in December 2015, Biblioworm says "I especially supported the idea of separate clerks, but every comprehensive clerking proposal has been rejected. I remember someone, maybe Montanabw, suggesting restrictions on the length of vote rationales. I didn't comment, but I, as well as Kudpung, thought it was a good idea. Perhaps someone could take that up."
|“||There is no way it [RfA] is ever going to be repaired ... I am not surprised people don't want to go through it. It is like the worst job interview of your life. I have been through some terrifying job applications with large numbers of people on the panel, but never anything like Wikipedia's RfA where the entire "factory" can turn up, ask random questions, and oppose you for trivial or entirely irrelevant reasons.||”|
No BIG deal?
A big deal?
Back in July 2012, exactly six years ago, Andrew Lih—a 2003 admin (Fuzheado) and author of The Wikipedia Revolution—told a reporter in The Atlantic: "The vetting process is akin to putting someone through the Supreme Court," he said, "it's pretty much a hazing ritual at this point." Lih became an admin in October 2003 and was formerly an associate professor of journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.
|“||Every effort that has been done to avert the long, slow, painful decline of administrators has utterly failed. NOTHING has changed that has stopped this trend. We either plan for an era where there are woefully insufficient administrators or we might as well pack up shop, shut out the lights, and leave the project to the vandals. The community will NOT respond to this house burning down. They won't care. It's more important to them to prop up the ridiculous social paradigms than it is to save the project.||”|
|— Hammersoft (in 2016)|
|“||We currently have people who care about at least seven different criteria for adminship, length of time someone has been here, editcount, need for the tools, can they be trusted with the delete button, can they be trusted with the block button, have they made quality contributions, do they communicate clearly online. [...] I'd urge nominators and candidates to at least be aware of the criteria that they regard as irrelevant.||”|
|— WereSpielChequers (in 2016)|
|“||I think RfA would make a great subject for a social psychology project.||”|
|— Boing! said Zebedee|
|“||RFA has been a safe haven for incivility, disruption, and soapbox. [...] Using this venue for other means disingenuously is a form of disruption and should be prevented especially for long term abuse".||”|
|“||Running an RfA candidate off the site is also a possibility, even if they pass, due to the poor experience. It very nearly happened to me. I endured wild accusations both on- and off-wiki that I was a sock of some unknown LTA case during my RfA. It was clearly going to pass, but I very nearly withdrew myself from consideration and decided to spend my time elsewhere. It's hard to stay motivated to improve the encyclopedia when your work is met with unfair accusations or opposition that you could have done nothing to prevent.||”|
|— BU Rob13|
Suggestions are frequently made to limit voting to users who at least have a minimum knowledge of what adminship is all about.
|“||I'm pretty close to saying it's time to create voter criteria and restrictions rather than candidate criteria. Either they're way too focused on RFA and are jumping in early all the time, or they're operating under wrong assumptions about adminship. I'd suggest that anyone with more than 50% oppose votes should be restrained from voting for a minimum of six months; [...] there are several people who seem to almost always find a reason to oppose. Anyone who's got a 80-90% oppose rate over more than 25 RFAs (or the last 25 RFAs) should be strongly encouraged to re-examine their position, at minimum; I'd prefer that the 'crats discount their votes to almost nothing, and a reasonable argument can be made that they're practically trolling and should be removed from participation on a more definitive basis.||”|
Her edit summary reads: "yeah, but there are people who can always find a reason to oppose. Why have we not taken steps to remove them?"
Where it stalls, however, is the paradox that because no official entry point exists for admin candidates, one can hardly impose regulations on those who vote. It's a Catch-22 question. The English Wikipedia is the only major language project not to operate such restrictions.
Advice for candidates
|“||An essential part of readiness is the ability to understand current community requirements. This involves having read all available RfA guidance, recent successful and unsuccessful RfAs and obtained guidance from some of the well trusted editors who can offer honest advice on suitability. A set of technical entry criteria should not act as a substitute for these more practical measures.||”|
|— Leaky caldron (in 2013)|
Beeblebrox, who succeeded at his second attempt, gives this advice: "If you believe you have the experience and have demonstrated the demeanor expected of an admin, go ahead and run. The worst that can happen is that you won't get it. It's not the end of the world."
This writer who has now been researching RfA for many years advises prospective candidates to read WP:RFAADVICE page – "properly, and don't waste our time. Unless you want something to brag about in the schoolyard, adminship is absolutely no big deal. Someone has to do the dirty work, so if you think being an admin is a cool job, think again. If you joined Wikipedia with the intention of becoming an admin on the world's #4 web site, you joined for the wrong reasons; go away."
Lourdes who declined the bit immediately following her second but nevertheless very successful landslide RfA (207/3/1), says: "My advice would be, don't go for it. Going for an RfA is not at all worth the time of a good productive editor, given the stress before and during the RfA and the investment of personal time further on; and later even the possibility of public denoument of admin actions. RfAs and adminship are not for those who can't take mass criticism on a public platform, and that includes the majority of editors here. While I sincerely extend all my support to RfA candidates, I would reiterate that it's not worth it."
Admins were asked to comment on their experience at RfA
|“||It was extremely stressful, especially since a minor controversy ensued over a userbox I had on my page back then which I never thought could be problematic (since I thought being honest with your potential biases would be a plus, not a negative).||”|
|“||My RFA was great; I've rarely had my ego so thoroughly stroked.||”|
"Very stressed. Very negative. I don't recommend it. That was in 2012, which was a different era than now. Don't seek RFA unless you can handle a lot of abuse. We are just glorified teacher's assistants with mops, and no teacher, so don't seek it unless your goal is to fix things and help people. It can be rewarding, but it is also a huge pain sometimes. There is no glory in the job, so make sure your reasons for wanting it are worth it. If in doubt, don't", says Dennis Brown whose very successful RfA (134/31/2) was something to write home about in the days when 100+ support votes were still rare.
On another successful bid at 121/3/2 in days of yore, Worm That Turned said: "It was stressful, despite having a very positive RfA. But it was also years ago, and things are different now – quite possibly worse."
"It went much better than I expected. I did a thorough preparation with the nominators and knew that if there was one thing that could cause RfA to fail it would be civility. However, in the event it only generated a handful of opposes," says Ritchie333 with a very healthy 138/3/3 in pre-reform days.
Again quoting Beeblebrox, who tells us that during his RfAs he was not relaxed. "...I was distressed to see one or two opposes that got basic facts wrong."
Cullen328 who currently holds the record for the most successful RfA ever (post reform), found the process somewhat stressful, but "...the result was gratifying. Once the trend was well-established, I was relaxed and a bit amazed. Very amazed and humbled in the end."
|“||I found it very stressful, even though I got a three figure number of supports and a one figure number of opposes [102/9/3], so that objectively I had nothing to worry about. Some of the opposers said things which I thought were very unfair, and even though they were vastly outweighed by positive statements it was the negative ones that I noticed.||”|
|“||I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went and kind of blown away by the praise that was heaped on me by support voters. In fact I sometimes go back and read it just to give myself a little ego boost.||”|
|“||My RFA was stressful as hell. It was an event that drew much oppose and many neutral votes – much of it due to things I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to do or did incorrectly, but many due to reasons that, looking at today, I would have opposed for too. If I remember correctly, I was in the low 60% on the last day, but enough users rallied in support within the last few hours to get me at 75% support, which closed as a pass. I was absolutely floored... my jaw dropped in disbelief. Just a few hours before, I accepted that I was surely going into a crat chat and had a chance to fail, but only a few hours later managed to pass it clean. More than feeling amazed and in disbelief, I was absolutely positively humbled. Looking at my RFA today, I'm actually glad it came out so close. I wouldn't have learned nearly as much as I did, nor would I have moved forward with as much caution or with as much weight on my shoulders with every action I took. It helped to shape me into the admin that I am today, and (I believe) is still the RFA with the lowest support percentage that managed to pass without a crat chat (you might have to check me on that, though)...||”|
This writer describes his supports and opposes going up and down until the last two days. "I was on tenterhooks the whole time. I had been investigating the RfA system because I wanted to know how a couple of admins who harassed me ever got their bits (they've long gone). With that and other work I was doing I was urged to run for office. Due to lies and blatant PA (even from since desysoped admins), it was one of the worst ever examples of a 'horrible and broken process'. Although I finally passed with flying colours [100+ in 2011], it was not a pleasant experience so I've been involved in RfA reform ever since. I'm getting on for 70 and it was the most humiliating experience in my life."
|“||When I see questions like the one I just mentioned, I want to advise them to speak frankly and say 'Are you kidding, you think I'd work with that tricky stuff as a new admin?' or 'I'd ask someone more experienced', or 'I'm not planning on ever working that area, it sounds depressing'... I would like to instead ask people to stop with the questions that ask for the candidate to exercise subtle admin judgement in all sorts of arcane areas, as if they have to be renaissance admins before they even start.||”|
|“||I was lucky that most of the opposition was considered and respectful and provided useful feedback. Some wasn't, and it was painful to see people think poorly of me and not be able to change their minds (at least not within the timeframe of an RfA)||”|
|— HJ Mitchell|
|“||Very stressed. Very negative. I don't recommend it.||”|
|— Dennis Brown|
Wikipedia:WikiProject Administrator/Five Problems with a Single Solution (for some reason tagged as defunct) is more pertinent today than it ever was (at least most parts of it). Quite deliberately mainly some of the more negative aspects of RfA have been highlighted here, but in fact many successful applicants found them less worrying. The main consideration is that candidates should do a thorough self analysis to ensure they are ready to become admins.
Depending on who turns out to vote, the bar is set anew at each RfA. Objective comments based on the criteria and research of serious voters carry a lot of weight and significantly influence the voting. RfA actually does a reasonably good job of passing those who are ready for the bit and failing those who are not. The problem is how the candidates are treated by the community, whether they look like passing or not. Discussions at WT:RfA always come full circle, but a lot of research has been done into RfA and adminship both on- and off-Wiki. A vast amount if it was done at WP:RFA2011 and from more recent discussions among people who are not even aware of the 2011 project, it appears that essentially, most of it is still very valid today. It could well be that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the RfA process itself, and that the dearth of candidates is due to the environment they are expecting to meet when they run for office. On the other hand, the climate they will meet as admins if they choose to work in the front line will be much, much worse.
A matter of principle deters many users from accepting a process in which editor behaviour clearly dismisses fundamental policies for seven days. Apart from a small core of regular voters, the participants are nowadays largely drawn from users who only occasionally make an appearance at RfA, some of whom neither fully understand the the process, nor what being an admin really entails – many of them quite wrongly assume, for example, that an RfA is a quest for power. New admins are needed, but equally required is an informed and well behaved electorate to get there.
We leave this series of articles and disembark from the Admin Ship without expressing any opinion, and leave our readers to form their conclusions – and perhaps run for adminship?