[Wikipedia-l] Developers should mind their own business

Tim Starling ts4294967296 at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 9 07:30:15 UTC 2004

There is no sense in giving developers administrative power. Developers 
are good at programming, not management of a community. By wrapping up 
their ability to contribute with their ability to rule, they are made 
effectively unaccountable. Nobody wants to remove someone's developer 
access if it means they can't do much needed progrmaming work. 
Administration of the encyclopedia also distracts them from programming, 
a task which they have a rare skill and motivation for.

Wikipedia should not be a technocracy, ruled by those with knowledge of 
computer systems. Wikipedia should be a democracy. Those in power should 
be accountable to the community at large, and ideally selected from and 
by the community at large.

I have written a feature giving people with the "developer" flag set in 
their wiki user accounts a level of administrative ability similar to 
what developers with shell access are capable of. Specifically, such 
users are able to set arbitrary user rights for any user on any 
Wikimedia project. They may create sysops, desysop, create bureaucrats 
or other developers, or any other user-rights operation you care to 
mention. This feature is operational right now, and I've been using it 
for the last couple of weeks to make bureaucrats on various wikis.

The feature is easy to use and does not carry the security risks of 
write-access to the database. At the moment, it is not possible to 
rename user accounts or change the history of articles through the web 
interface, but such features are planned.

I suggest we use this feature to split the roles of developer and site 
administrator. Specifically, here is what I think should happen:

1. A policy should be instituted disallowing any developer from using 
their power for administrative purposes, except where there is no other 
way to perform the relevant operation. New developers applying for shell 
access should be made aware of this policy.

By "administrative purposes", I mean exercises of power for any other 
purpose than testing and implementing software.

2. A small number of users should be made "honorary developers" (perhaps 
a better title can be found). These users should be selected by putting 
forward nominations and then conducting a vote, similar to the vote now 
conducted at the English Wikipedia for sysop access.

3. These "honorary developers" can lose their developer access by a 
community vote giving a majority in favour, by an arbitration committee 
ruling, or by Jimbo's decree.

It should be possible for a developer to hold both shell access and 
community blessing. Such people would take the role of both programmer 
and administrator. However as I said above, we really have a lot of 
programming work to do.


I'll also take this opportunity to drop a few subtle hints.


Wikipedia's most active contributor, Maveric149 has done a tremendous 
amount of work for Wikipedia over the last two years. Mav is always cool 
and rational when dealing with a dispute, and works hard to find a 
compromise amenable to all parties. Respect for him in the community is 


Angela has been extremely active in the Wikipedia and Wikipedia talk 
namespaces over the last 6 months, organising the formation of many 
policies. In her enthusiasm for weeding and quality control, she has 
edited almost every functioning Wikimedia wiki. She also lives in a 
different time zone to Mav, so she'll be able to deal with situations 
arising when Mav is unavailable.

-- Tim Starling

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