Block war and desysoping

Block war leads to group being de-sysoped temporarily

A block war last week briefly led to the de-sysoping of several Wikipedia administrators. All had their admin privileges restored, but one of them decided afterward to leave Wikipedia.

Revert complaint stokes furor

The incident started as a reported three-revert rule violation, due to a dispute between 172 and Silverback over History of Russia, an article 172 had recently succeeded in getting made a featured article. The two got into an edit war on Monday over the subject of emigration and each made three reverts (Reverts: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), but because 172 had made a different revert the previous day, Silverback reported this on the admin noticeboard as a violation.

In response to the complaint, Jayjg pointed out that the first revert was different from the others, since the question of whether the rule applies to any reverts or only identical reverts has been debated previously (see archived story). However, Geni went ahead and blocked 172 at 20:44 (UTC) on Monday.

About two hours later at 22:42 (UTC), 172 unblocked himself, contending that the block was mistaken and he had not violated the rule. He was immediately re-blocked by Snowspinner with the comment, "Unblocking yourself is verboten." Again 172 unblocked himself, and the two went back and forth for several blocks and unblocks, ending with 172 unblocking himself at 23:20 (UTC).

At 01:39 (UTC) on Tuesday, Geni stepped back in to block 172 again, saying on the noticeboard, "There was no mistake." When 172 returned to unblock himself later that day, another round followed when Chris 73 blocked him yet again. Throughout the dispute over the block, 172 insisted that he had not violated any rule and said, "I'm a bit disappointed that so many admins fell for Silverback's trick of reporting an earlier revert of an incorrect anon edit as a part of the emigration edit war."

Ed Poor's intervention

The cycle of blocks and unblocks finally ended when bureaucrat Ed Poor took the extreme measure of de-sysoping all of the admins who had been involved in the block war - Geni, 172, Snowspinner, and Chris 73. This prompted further concerns, both due to the unilateral action taken without warning, and because bureaucrats are only supposed to have the ability to confer admin status, not remove it.

It was determined that Poor, who although not a developer himself had been one of those responsible for promoting new admins before bureaucrats existed, still had a developer flag in the system for this purpose. While he had since been made a bureaucrat, the developer flag had never been removed, which made it possible for him to de-sysop as well as make new sysops. Once this was determined, the flag was removed, and Poor restored the admin status of all those affected.

Once this was all sorted out, Snowspinner, who had brought a request for arbitration over the issue, withdrew the request. Meanwhile, 172 announced his departure from Wikipedia by posting a farewell message on his user page.

The ability to remove admin status is actually supposed to be restricted to stewards, who have this capability on all Wikimedia projects but are only supposed to use it on projects where they are not personally active, based on community consensus. In the aftermath of this incident, Anthere suggested that new stewards be added, saying that there was a need and several people had expressed interest. A discussion ensued on the Foundation mailing list, but the process had not been finalized.

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