Forum:Redefining adminship for 2020

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Pages related to administrators have recently come under fire for not really reflecting what editors expect from admins in current times, particularly in relation to expectations of candidates going through an RfA. I would like to update the offending pages (rsw:RuneScape:Administrators/rsw:RuneScape:Requests for adminship/rsw:RuneScape:Requests for adminship/Guide) to better reflect what editors expect from admins these days, but it’s become clear through informal discussions that people have differing opinions about what these expectations are.

For reference for RfAs the current RfA page suggests:

There are no explicit requirements for nomination, but a few guidelines that may improve the chances of a successful request are as follows:

  • Candidates should be well-known, trusted, and helpful contributors to the wiki.
  • Candidates should have been an active contributor to the wiki for a significant amount of time.
  • Candidates should have a high number of quality contributions.
  • Candidates should present a clear "need" or use for the tools (e.g. significant amounts of counter-vandalism contributions, etc.).

And the “guide” on RfA has this section:

What RfA contributors look for and hope to see RfA contributors want to see a record of involvement and evidence that you can apply policies calmly, maturely and impartially. What are often looked for are:

  • Strong edit history with plenty of material contributions to articles.
  • Varied experience. RfAs where an editor has mainly contributed in one way (little editing of articles, or little or no participation in RfDs, or little or no participation in discussions about policies and processes, for example) have tended to be more controversial than those where the editor's contributions have been wider.
  • User interaction. Evidence of you talking to other users, on article talk or user talk pages. These interactions need to be helpful and polite.
  • Trustworthiness. General reliability as evidence that you would use administrator rights carefully to avoid massive damage, especially in the stressful situations that can arise more frequently for administrators.
  • Helping with chores. Evidence that you are already engaging in administrator-like work and debates such as RC Patrol and articles for deletion.
  • High quality of articles. A good way to demonstrate this is contributing to getting articles featured, although good articles are also well-regarded.
  • Observing consensus. A track record of working within policy, showing an understanding of consensus.
  • A clean block log as evidence of good editing behaviour.

These points are not mandatory and there are always exceptions, but if you think back over your contributions and any of these are missing, it may be better to broaden your experience before an RfA.

What RfA contributors look for and hope not to see No matter how experienced you are, some actions will cause problems. In roughly decreasing order of seriousness, here are some things which, if seen in your edit history, will be raised and thoroughly discussed:

  • Vandalism: A persistent and unreformed vandal will never be made an administrator; one of the primary tasks of administrators is fighting vandalism (and a truly bad administrator could cause serious damage to the site). Even a relatively minor disruption, like making a joking edit to a friend's userpage, can cause problems.
  • Incivility: If a nominee has responded to unpleasant or irritating users by leaving insulting messages which violate the spirit of civility.
  • Edit wars: If a nominee has ever refused to be involved in good faith efforts to reach consensus on talk pages, and instead engaged in edit wars. If a candidate is prone to repeating a single edit after it becomes obvious that there is a disagreement with it. To most RfA contributors, it does not matter who is right, it matters how a candidate handles themselves during a debate.
  • Controversial activity on RfD: Deciding according to criteria not relevant to the purpose of RfD, persistently starting RfDs on articles on the kinds of subject generally (let alone explicitly) recognised as worth an article.
  • "Advertising" your RfA: Some editors do not like to see an RfA "advertised" by the nominee on other people's talk pages, in signatures, ingame, or on IRC. RfA is not a political campaign. The intent is to develop consensus. Impartial evaluation of a candidate, not how popular they are, is the goal. Canvassing is often looked down upon.
  • Blocks: If your block log has activity and shows you've been blocked in the past several months.
  • Long gaps in editing: Unless you have a good reason and you state on your page, a steady edit history is preferred.
  • Use of sockpuppet accounts to avoid scrutiny, or to mislead the community about your past editing history.

However, many RfAs have succeeded despite some of the above. The important factors are:

  • Time. If a nominee has demonstrated high standards of conduct for a few months, the RfA contributors may discount earlier undesirable behaviour.
  • Disclosure. If a nominee brings up past missteps him or herself, and either apologises or explains how such missteps will be avoided in the future, the candidacy will be more likely to succeed.
  • Approach to opposing opinions. Responding in a calm, rational, and (if needed) apologetic manner will be to a candidate's credit. A candidate who shows anger or frustration or makes insults when presented with opposition is likely to engender more opposition.

Therefore I am making this discussion to get a rough consensus on what the community thinks:

  1. should be expected of admins
  2. should be looked for in RfA candidates.

While this discussion is based on the RS3 pages, this could be a project for OSRS if OSRS editors feel that it is needed (the OSRS equivalent pages seem to have been updated more recently).

Discussion[edit source]

Comment - I think the foundation of a someone's suitability to be an admin is good judgement. Poor judgement erodes community trust in an editor, while good judgement builds it. Other qualities such as how you present to the wider RS community are rooted in this, but in reality if you can make good decisions on the wiki you can do the same representing the wiki elsewhere. I'd like to say it's more complicated than that, but on reflection it really isn't. cqm talk 22:28, 29 January 2020 (UTC)

Comment – The admin role for me is complicated. When I first joined, it seemed like these were the folks that were in charge. Not necessarily in a bad way, but they had this sort of authority and appeared to be more top-down level of editing, not necessarily consensual. However, I think this might have been something that I just sort of assumed based on my experiences with the definition of administrator. Per, administrator has a definition of a person who determines the site policies, appoints moderators, and manages the technical operation of an Internet message board or other interactive website.

Okay cool, so these are the folks in charge and everyone else sort of follows them in their direction. This was before I realized the community aspect of a Wiki and what that fully entails. Particularly with our Wikis, it is essentially a bureaucracy. There’s even been a conversation recently that I recall where our setup is becoming too bureaucratic; but that’s the nature of this Wiki. There’s legal and expected ‘red tape’ that comes with it because of the materials and expectations that the community has bestowed upon us in terms of quality and that we’ve bestowed upon ourselves in the way that we organize our information.

What has confused me in recent times is this exact distinction. Are these appointed folks for the benefit of the community/Wiki, or are these folks that wanted/be viewed as having a level of power? I think that’s where the admin role becomes tricky. On one hand, it’s about tools and essentially having ‘power’ in the technical aspect; but also, there’s a level of perceived hierarchy/authority that comes with it, especially for new editors. On the other hand, it’s this person that is trusted and respected in the community and has shaped the Wiki in an important or prominent fashion.

What I think the administrator should be is as followed:

  • Someone that is not only trusted within the community, but respected. Someone that is encouraging and constructive to newer editors is going be viable in growing the editor base and encouraging folks to learn more. This was tricky for me at first; I was learning how to edit in the Wiki and there were definitely different levels of explaining that came from admins. Particularly, there was one that was very encouraging and showed patience in teaching me, and there was another that I don’t feel came off as patient – which for me encouraged me to really not mess up, but I could have reacted in a way of “I don’t know enough to help, so why bother.”
  • Someone that is actively learning new things or trying to make changes they might not have been focused on before. On the OW Wiki we have some administrators that I really feel like are diving into different things for improvement and are including nonadmins to follow suit or help out.
  • Someone that has to accept that whether they want to try and represent the community and encourage/help newer editors, or not, it’s implicitly part of the role.
  • Someone that encourages others to step out of their comfort zone or present a project for someone to learn. There needs to be an acknowledgement of editors that perhaps want to try and learn other things or might be a little unsure of what to do or how to ask to learn something.
  • Finally, someone that understands the role to be an honor that is bestowed from the community, not a right because of their tenure or abilities. That being mentioned, it’s someone that is openly willing to expand the admin base given that they feel others are the right fit. It’s a community-given position.

I know that I might be newer to this whole thing, but I believe that a new perspective is important when deciding things like this. It’s provides either a fresh viewpoint, or a viewpoint on folks that might not be willing to share their experiences.

TL;DR – Admins are community-entrusted individuals that must encourage and support the community with their new set of tools all while promoting and encouraging editors. Legaia2Pla[T] 00:04, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Forgot to add that I believe this should be a conversation for all Wikis; this is something that should be consistent across them all. Legaia2Pla[T] 00:13, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
I think your confusion is understandable and something we've tried to combat over the years with mixed success. Policies like rsw:RS:AEAE are examples of these attempts, as was the abolition of highlighted names for admins on RSW. It's also why we have community discussion instead of doing things behind closed doors. More recently, it's why we try to avoid using the cabal channels for anything that could be a community discussion. Thankfully, most of these processes have always existed for us and we remained true to those foundations as much as possible.
Ideally an admin should be a user that happens to have some extra tools. They might lead by example in some areas, but that should be no more than the benefit of experience. I think this experience is why admins are viewed differently, simply the two parts get conflated. Some parts of this are unavoidable, e.g. admins determine consensus in discussions, but we should be trying to avoid any heirarchy where possible and encourage non-admins to get as involved as admins may be. cqm talk 00:32, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Comment - I'm not sure if anything needs to be strongly redefined. I think the pages that have come under fire perfectly explain the responsibilities of a sysop and how they fit in with the community. However, there are definitely points that are outdated, especially in the big guide. I'm probably going to be way too granular here but:

What RfA contributors look for and hope to see

  • I think there should be more emphasis here on the position of a sysop within the broader RuneScape community. We're at a high point in the community where actions we say off-site reflect on the wiki itself, and it's important that people who are sysops know what they're talking about.
  • "High quality of articles" is very outdated considering we don't feature articles anymore. I think the other dot points absorb this point, so we can remove it.

What RfA contributors look for and hope not to see

  • A lot of this section is "Don't break any policies" - this is surely a given, and a lot of the failed RfAs aren't because they've been a vandal. I propose we remove Vandalism/Controversial activity on RfD (how extremely specific...)/Advertising your RfA/Use of sockpuppet accounts.

So yea, I think the status quo is fine - perhaps this thread needs to explain why things have come under fire? Because I'm not totally understanding what change needs to happen. Haidro (talk) 22:26, 1 February 2020 (UTC)

I think much of the fire has been about whether sysops should "[be] at a high point in the community where actions [they] say off-site reflect on the wiki itself" as you say. And, among people who don't agree with that, whether steps can and/or should be should be taken to try to minimize that perception. Some might even question whether that even is the case right now or not. Remember, as recently as 2015 it was not a big deal. But both the wiki and its place in the community have changed over time, and perhaps that did demand changes to what it means to be a sysop (that section was removed. Maybe it was just to save space, or maybe it was a sign of the times). Some might even believe that it really always was a bigger deal than people acted like, and that if we're treating it like a bigger deal now that's a good thing. I imagine people with similar views on that will probably have similar views on what makes a good sysop as well, but the drama comes from people not agreeing on that.
Somewhat related to the above, we find statements like "Comments should assess [the candidate's] leadership ability and skill at diplomacy - necessary qualities for an administrator", "The RuneScape Wiki's practice is to grant this access to anyone who [among other conditions] is generally a known and trusted member of the community", "RfA contributors want to see [...] [e]vidence of you talking to other users, on article talk or user talk pages. These interactions need to be helpful and polite". Does that exclude people who engage heavily with the content and/or technical aspects of the wiki, but tend to avoid the discussion and community sides? If it does, is that a bad thing (limiting some people who may be reliable, trustworthy, experienced editors who can find good use for some subset of sysop tools), or a good thing (keeping destructive tools away from people who can maybe deal with the tools themselves but perhaps not the people they might come into conflict with as they use the tools)?
And that's all taking for granted that the sysop role as it stands should be a single cohesive role, keeping both more-or-less the same technical tools it has now (in terms of what sysops can do, what non-sysops can't do, and the presence or absence of any intermediate/orthogonal steps), and more-or-less the same community role it does now. Some people have mentioned that they consider this to be a problem, believing people are denied access to tools they can be trusted to use because that would come with a community position that they don't care for (and that the community might not want them to have). Or, that if someone would be capable when it comes to managing discussions, or could otherwise be a boon to the community at large, their ability to use the more technical tools shouldn't be important (or perhaps even relevant). Others argue that these privileges are dangerous enough that someone who can't be trusted to not cause harm with any of them probably shouldn't be trusted with the other ones either.
These are pretty closely related issues, issues I'm not quite sure where I stand on myself. There might be aspects I've missed or sides I've unintentionally misrepresented, but from what I've seen this is more or less what's at the core of what's going on. -I Am Me Talk- 02:31, 2 February 2020 (UTC)

Comment - I don't have a perfectly-formed suggestion, but since this thread is mostly for sharing ideas, I'm just going to give some thoughts and hopefully add to the discussion. Personally, I think the focus on "a clear 'need' or use for the tools" is overblown throughout the RfA process, and doesn't actually improve the system or lead to better admins in the long run. The reasons for this are threefold:

  1. We don't care about admins making use of their tools at any point except during the RfA. Nobody loses adminship because they haven't used their tools recently, nor do we expect admins to continuously justify having the tools for various projects. It seems odd that the RfA process focuses so much on short-term projects that require tool usage when adminship is a long-term position.
  2. Prospective admins can't reasonably be expected to know how they would make use of tools they have no access to. When I did my RfA, the stuff I wanted admin tools for was very different to the things I ended up doing for most of the last year. For example, when I did my RfA I didn't know what js or css was, but my most recent administrative action was to edit css pages to improve dark mode functionality.
  3. In my opinion, tool usage is one of the least important responsibilities of an admin, and there's much more important things to consider when it comes to RfAs. Things like engaging new editors, representing the wiki within the wider RuneScape community, and leading collaborative projects on the wiki are all more important things admins can do than deleting a few pages or whatnot. Those should be much stronger considerations during the RfA than any temporary need for admin tools.

I have some more thoughts on some recent RfAs and the RfA process in general, but I think that's a good place to start for now, and I'm curious what others have to add. BigDiesel2m (talk) 20:12, 11 February 2020 (UTC)

Comment - I think we need to decide if the main function of being an admin is actually to be an admin or to be a brand ambassador of sorts. I agree with Legaia in that there also seems to be a perception, especially in discord, that admins are somehow more powerful or above regular users in a policy/running of the wiki type sense, and see this as an issue. Part of it is that the set of admins overlaps the set of the most active editors quite a bit, so on some discussions it can seem like admins basically decided something, when in reality they just also happen to be the people who are more active on discussion pages. On a similar note there is a lot less activity on this thread considering the number of people who have voiced opinions on the subject in discord.

I'm not really a fan of the "brand ambassador", I'm not sure what purpose it serves and I think it would make adminship seem like even more of a cool kids club or status symbol, which is already a problem we seem to have. In the same vain, I'm not really a fan of using adminship as a tool for editor retention. I'm also not convinced that it really works as a retention tool, if someone is active enough to pass an rfa, is being an admin really going to make them keep editing more than if they weren't? I think most of the things a brand ambassador would do can be done without adminship. Non-admins can do just fine coordinating things, leading projects, helping people in discord, leading oswf tasks, liaise with other communities etc. There's plenty who already do these things on a daily basis without being admins. There are some specific cases where having an "official" title on the wiki would be helpful/necessary to do some things, and I do think that should be a valid reason to rfa, but I don't think that it would apply very often. Being an admin can actually make it harder to work with other groups because they assume that, as an admin, you have some inherent power on wiki policy, which is not the case.
I actually don' think that wiki admins, as a result of being admins, are much more visible representatives of the wiki than other editors can be. I'm not very active on reddit, the rs forums etc, but it doesn't seem like wiki admins are more visible than other active editors who present themselves as wiki editors. There's an exception for a few individuals who are much more widely known in the rs community as being associated with the wiki, but that's more a factor of how long and how active they are vs them being admins. Again part of it is that a lot of the more active editors are also admins, so they tend to also be the ones who reach out to other communities etc. This is not to say that I don't think how an admin acts in the RS community reflects on the wiki, because it does.
If admins are meant to be admins then the need or use of the admin "tools" is a very relevant question. Note that since we don't have separate discord mods, then moderating chats in discord would be a valid use of tools. Depending on the tools a person specifically mentions as a reason for rfaing, I think there being "enough" admins already is a perfectly valid reason to oppose. For example, with how automatic most spam filtering is now, when was the last time a spam type edit was up for. more than a few minutes before an admin reverted and blocked? Admins are meant to be the ones moderating the (insert choice word)s not being the (insert choice word)s. I think Cqm actually did a good job of summing up my thought process Ideally an admin should be a user that happens to have some extra tools. They might lead by example in some areas, but that should be no more than the benefit of experience. I think this experience is why admins are viewed differently, simply the two parts get conflated. Some parts of this are unavoidable, e.g. admins determine consensus in discussions, but we should be trying to avoid any heirarchy where possible and encourage non-admins to get as involved as admins may be. It is still important to keep in mind that the people who use the tools need to be trusted, experienced, fairly active etc. This also includes being respectful of other people on the wiki, discord etc. In fact I think that, as a group, admins do not do a good enough job of moderating the discord at times. I know I am guilty of it as well.
At the same time, making adminship more restrictive might not be the way to make it seems less of a status symbol or less about "power". :shrug:

tl;dr I think this has mostly come up recently as there has been a perception that admins run the wiki/determine policy, and that it's some type of exclusive club. Maybe regular editors need to be pushed more to take on projects, talk to other communities, and the like. Adminship should mostly be about being an admin (~using tools) but that there may be other cases. Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts - Elessar2 (talk) 10:06, 12 February 2020 (UTC)

Response - While I agree that non-admins should be encouraged to take on more projects, I'd like to speak about how I think being an admin helped with one of my major recent projects. Mid last year Cook was contacted by a well-known UIM (Ultimate Ironman) community member with the goal of improving the wiki's coverage of UIM-specific strategies and guides. Soon after, I was put into contact with them, and I ended up leading the wiki side of the collaboration for the next three months. The end result of this project are some of the most in-depth, high-quality guides on the wiki, and the go-to UIM guides throughout the entire OSRS community. I think being an admin helped this project succeed in three distinct ways:
  1. Being an admin led to me being involved very early on the process. Soon after Cook was contacted by this UIM group, he passed it along to me, and we were able to get started on the project in earnest. While other wiki editors (both admins and not) would become involved in the coming months, being there at the start helped me steer the project in a productive direction, set goals for the guide's quality, and really get the ball rolling from day one.
  2. Being an admin put me in strong contact with other admins, which was helpful particularly with high-level technical hurdles we encountered during the project. Most notably, we were able to work with Gaz to rework the Inventory template, significantly improving its functionality and appearance. While communicating with admins and other knowledgeable wiki editors is not something exclusive to my role as an admin, I felt more comfortable asking for technical help than an regular user might.
  3. Most importantly, having an admin leading the project lent a degree of seriousness or gravity to the collaboration. Rather than just regular editors casually working with UIM people to put some guides up, this was a major collaboration being joint-led by well-known UIM figureheads and OSRS Wiki Admins. While we try to downplay the importance of the admin role on the wiki, to the wider RuneScape community the admins are still seen as authorities and leaders in some capacity. By having an admin lead the project it showed the UIM collaborators that the wiki was taking this project seriously, and they took it seriously in return.
I don't want to suggest that the UIM collaboration wouldn't have happened without my involvement, as that would be a disservice to the excellent work done by dozens of UIM players and editors alike. However, I think the quality, seriousness, and success of the project in general were potentially improved by me being a wiki admin, even if very little of the project required me to use admin-only tools. BigDiesel2m (talk) 00:27, 13 February 2020 (UTC)
I'm curious about your second point about admin contact. How did you go about contacting other admins - was it via admin-only channels on discord? cqm talk 06:43, 13 February 2020 (UTC)
I brought it up in the private OSRS wiki admin channel, where multiple admins were able to contribute to the development of the template over a couple days. The process involved lua coding and css work, if I remember correctly, which I felt the admins were most knowledgeable in (and in the case of css, the only ones capable of changing). I think that this approach was more succesful than if I had done it through private messages, and it avoided any derailing that might occur in the general #wiki-osrs channel. At the time I don't believe a #wiki-tech channel existed, though that may be an appropriate venue for a similar request today. As I stated above, I think that this part of the project was improved by me being an admin, but it is less important than the other two examples I gave. BigDiesel2m (talk) 07:11, 13 February 2020 (UTC)
To play devil's advocate, you asked admins in an admin only channel and admins helped you. It's effectively shutting out others who may have been able to help just by virtue of where you asked. Being an admin may or may not have made a real difference to the technical success of the project. cqm talk 14:33, 13 February 2020 (UTC)
There's no reason a non-admin can't be there right from the start, and I disagree that established editors are hesitant to ask for technical help from admins, it happens on a regular basis, and depending on the editor, they might really only need an admin to add css/js etc for a project, we have a lot of editors with tons of coding/technical knowledge. I agree that an admin backing it helps credibility in the wider communities, but there's no reason that it can't be an admin basically saying X person is responsible for this project and is the contact person. Basically how things usually work in companies etc. I agree with your closing statement but I think it was you being a good and dedicated editor that improved it, and not necessarily that you were an admin. Just my take on your excellent work. Elessar2 (talk) 08:57, 13 February 2020 (UTC)

Response - Hey there, Buddhapuck here, I am the UIM that Diesel referenced. He had asked for some of my thoughts concerning the community/wiki team-up that we worked on together, and to provide an external view of what an Admin looks like from a general community member's perspective. From the outset, I would like the echo what Diesel has said specifically about the legitimacy that working with an admin provided for the project that we worked on. Coming from my experience of never having touched the wiki before, having an Admin express interest in collaboration proved to excite the prospects of creating something on the wiki, and that energy directly transferred to the scores of people that ended up contributing to our project. From an outside eye, the title of Admin comes with significant weight, as those are the individuals that I would looks towards for guidance and authority. They are the face of the platform, and should represent the views and mentalities of the wiki as far as the general wiki-consumer is concerned. It is interesting to find out, as I have read this thread, that originally the role of Admin was designated with access to page deletion tools/ability to ban, and not necessarily the desire to have much importance/authority beyond the addition of those wiki tools. It might be useful to embrace the idea that Admin is a more intensive position, beyond the addition of the deletion tool/ability to ban, and bring the internal definition of the role to more accurately fit the external assumptions that are made of said role (Admin). In response to these changes, perhaps the addition of a new role in the hierarchy that fills the slot between Custodian and Admin, to better fulfill the desire of current admins that do not wish to be in the limelight of the community, but continue to do the good behind-the-scenes work that they currently do. I hope that this helps in some way, and I appreciate all the work that you all do. BuddhaPuck (talk) 00:46, 14 February 2020 (UTC)