Adminship processes debated, two bureaucrats resign

Recurring issues with the requests for adminship (RfA) system flared up again last week, with various complaints and the resignation of two bureaucrats. The two who resigned, Francs2000 and Cecropia, did so of their own volition, however, rather than based on any serious concerns about their conduct. Along with this, an extended debate developed regarding the criteria for selecting administrators and bureaucrats, and the ideal size of each group.

Francs2000's resignation

Francs2000 resigned on Wednesday after having closed the RfA discussion for AzaToth. According to the 7-day period for which adminship nominations are considered, AzaToth's nomination was scheduled to end at 23:57 (UTC) on 26 March. However, Francs2000 marked the discussion closed a little more than half an hour early, due to a miscalculation because of the change to British Summer Time. This caused some consternation, in part because voting on AzaToth's nomination stood just below the threshold at which it might have succeeded (73% in favor, where 80% is usually automatic and as low as 75% may be deemed successful at the discretion of bureaucrats).

In response, Francs2000 decided to take a wikibreak and ultimately resigned as a bureaucrat as well, citing stress and real-life priorities. This prompted an outpouring of sympathetic comments and reassurances that despite the mistake, he was still trusted in that capacity.

Critique reaches mailing list

Afterwards, an unsuccessful self-nomination on Friday from Tyrenius prompted some re-examination of the entire adminship process. Considered alone, the failure of the nomination was not that extraordinary, as Tyrenius seemed to be largely unknown to RfA participants, gave a very terse statement introducing the nomination, and hurt his chances with lengthy (but generally polite) attempts to refute an initial batch of voters opposing adminship. Tyrenius withdrew the nomination within a few hours, leaving in closing a detailed argument that this opposition went against Wikipedia policy for granting adminship.

The incident was called to the attention of the wikiEN-l mailing list, leading to a lengthy discussion about the RfA process. In Tyrenius' specific case, several people pointed to a failure to understand Wikipedia culture and the impropriety of displaying the attitude that adminship is an entitlement. But at the same time, others used the opportunity to question generally whether the process overemphasizes statistics such as edit summary use.

Kelly Martin commented that the current process is "relatively poor at discriminating against people who should not be admins", saying that voters were using criteria unrelated to whether someone could be trusted not to misuse administrator privileges. UninvitedCompany argued that the process was no longer treating people fairly, as the mutual reinforcement of people participating on RfA and in IRC tends to exclude outsiders, and the ever-growing expectations for a minimum number of edits now "have little to do with understanding Wikipedia." However, nobody had a clear solution to offer, although UninvitedCompany did suggest possibilities like granting user access levels divided into smaller chunks.

Bureaucrat status

Among the current access levels, bureaucrat status has also been the focus of some frustration because of the difficulty in having successful nominations. In part this is because a number of RfA participants feel no need for additional bureaucrats, and oppose any nomination for that reason. The lack of a backlog on the few bureaucrat-specific functions is frequently cited, compared to the constant backlog for admin-related tasks such as dealing with copyright problems, although comments also indicate that should any real backlog develop on RfA, it would produce considerable displeasure and impatience.

Prospective bureaucrats have also been held to a higher bar than adminship candidates, with the expectation of roughly 90% votes in support. The promotion of Essjay on Friday was met with questions when his nomination finished barely 0.06% below that mark. One issue raised was that Danny, the bureaucrat who handled it, had voted in support of Essjay, although UninvitedCompany pointed out that other bureaucrats have also occasionally promoted candidates they had voted on. Incidentally, Essjay has been involved in adding to the functions of bureaucrats, having worked on a change to have bureaucrats instead of stewards set bot flags for individual Wikimedia projects.

After all this, Cecropia announced on Saturday that he had also resigned, after he closed a successful adminship nomination but neglected to actually make the user an administrator. He emphasized that his resignation was not an April Fool's Day joke. New bureaucrat Essjay stepped in instead to handle the job, making HereToHelp an administrator.

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