[WikiEN-l] The admin problem

Leif Knutsen vyer at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 28 16:14:37 UTC 2006

>From time to time, I come across complaints about the "admin subculture" at
Wikipedia, and there are times when I've been struck by the fact that while
som/most admins make a sincere effort at applying policy, guidelines and
their judgment consistently, others seem to have absolutely no difficulty
abandoning any semblance of fairness if other considerations are more

People who raise the issue in this forum are typically frustrated - they are
told that either being an admin is "no big deal," or that "the system works
pretty well," or "stop being a malcontent," all in so many words.

At the same time, there is an ongoing debate about the various trends
(userboxes, lawsuits, editors with inferior intellects) that threaten the
existence of Wikipedia.

I have my own opinion about what threatens Wikipedia most (a decay of
intellectual integrity for the sake of conventional wisdom, SPOV, and
appeals to authority that in turn breed slovenly thinking), but I really do
want to weigh in on an appeal that the admin community - whether it is a
subculture or not - give some serious thought to how the reinforce
accountability around the WP core standards.

Being an admin is a big deal whether we want it to or not, because admins
have it in their power to do really really annoying things to editors. Aside
from 24-hour blocks, locking articles in various ways, closing discussions
on AFDs, CFDs, etc., they also seem to enjoy a certain level of immunity
against complaints. There is, as far as I can tell, a presumption that
anyone who complains about an admin is a bit of a narcissist or
troublemaker. There are also constant allegations that some admins are
softer on people whose POV align with theirs, etc.

I think that the open source philosophy should be preserved, so I'm
reluctant to add more rules and processes than absolutely necessary.
However, I do think that some principles should apply, whether they are
instituted formally or not:

* Admins should be able to defend their actions in light of Wikipedia
policy, guidelines, or accepted practice. In other words, if an editor
protests a decision made by an admin, it should be incumbent upon (and easy
for) the admin to point to a clear precedence for his/her decision. And
these precedents should be developed by some level of consensus that at
least meets the standard applied for everything else.
* Admins should strive to be role models in their roles as editors. There
will be people who are better suited as admins than editors, and we all have
content issues we're passionate about; but I believe there is plenty of room
within policy and guidelines to expresss passion without being uncivil,
dishonest, flip, or offensive.
* Admins should strive for transparency in their workings. Backchannel
communications should be an exception limited to very specific problems.

I could think of more, but this is plenty for now.


More information about the WikiEN-l mailing list