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Editors brainstorm and propose changes to the Requests for adminship process

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By Mikehawk10

Editors are brainstorming and proposing changes to the Requests for adminship (RFA), following discussions in which editors found issues with large parts of the process (see the September issue's Discussion report). The participants have identified eight key issues to tackle and have brainstormed ways to tackle them that are varied both in scope and substance. Editors can propose solutions until November 7, 2021 at the 2021 Requests for adminship proposals page.

Eight key problems identified

Eight key problems with RfA were identified during Phase 1 of the RfA review process, which concluded on September 29. According to the main page of the 2021 RfA review. These problems were:

  1. Corrosive RfA atmosphere The atmosphere at RfA is deeply unpleasant. This makes it so fewer candidates wish to run and also means that some members of our community don't comment/vote.
  2. Level of scrutiny Many editors believe it would be unpleasant to have so much attention focused on them. This includes being indirectly a part of watchlists and editors going through your edit history with the chance that some event, possibly a relatively trivial event, becomes the focus of editor discussion for up to a week.
  3. Standards needed to pass keep rising It used to be far easier to pass RfA however the standards necessary to pass have continued to rise such that only "perfect" candidates will pass now.
  4. Too few candidates There are too few candidates. This not only limits the number of new admin we get but also makes it harder to identify other RfA issues because we have such a small sample size.
  5. "No need for the tools" is a poor reason as we can find work for new admins
  6. Lifetime tenure (high stakes atmosphere) Because RfA carries with it lifetime tenure, granting any given editor sysop feels incredibly important. This creates a risk-averse and high-stakes atmosphere.
  7. Admin permissions and unbundling There is a large gap between the permissions an editor can obtain and the admin toolset. This brings increased scrutiny for RFA candidates, as editors evaluate their feasibility in lots of areas.
  8. RfA should not be the only road to adminship Right now, RfA is the only way we can get new admins, but it doesn't have to be.

According to Wugapodes and Primefac, who created the closing summary that identified which problems enjoyed community consensus, the identification of issues 1–5 as problems enjoyed "clear consensus", while the identification of issues 6–8 as problems enjoyed "rough consensus". The two administrators noted that there were two additional concerns identified that "have a numerical rough consensus but have very low participation relative to other issues", choosing to classify them as having achieved "no consensus." These were:

  1. The RfA process is biased against long-term editors The problem is that mud sticks. It is much harder for a veteran contributor to become an admin, compared to a fresh editor with one or two years of history, since usually the latter has a much more pristine record than the former.
  2. Expecting the unexpected The only known thing about RFAs is that they are rather unpredictable. It isn't clear for a given candidate what is on and off the table regarding their edit history. The things that have the potential to sink an RFA can almost never be guessed beforehand.

Editors brainstorm solutions

Editors floated a number of ideas to solve the community-identified problems with RfA via the review's brainstorming page. Of particular note, editors who have proposed creating an alternate admin-making process to RfA were given a contingent green light by Wikimedia Foundation's legal department (WMF legal) to explore their options. Barkeep49, citing permission from Jrogers (WMF) posted an email communication from WMF legal that identified the Foundation's current stance:

I discussed this internally, and we are comfortable with the community exploring alternative methods to RFA. The key point, per our previous commentary on the issue is to ensure that the process is one that can make sure that the selected candidates are overall trustworthy and responsible. We would want to try and ensure that people who have access to deleted content don't either accidentally or purposely leak it. At this point, given the concerns the community has raised with the existing RfA process, we would be open to reviewing other processes that might achieve the same overall goal.
— Jacob Rogers, Senior Legal Manager

Various methods for alternate processes to RfA were suggested along these lines. Barkeep49 described an idea to create a community-elected "Adminstrator Appointment Board" that, after a discussion period, would vote to decide on whether an individual should be given adminship; some editors—both in support and in opposition to the idea—pointed to the failed 2014 proposal for the Administrative Standards Commission as a baseline to evaluate against. Another alternate method to become an administrator was offered by WereSpielChequers: non-administrators that do sufficiently well (>65% support) in the Arbitration Committee elections could by default become admins. Others, such as Yair rand submitted an idea for RfA to be composed of two phases—the first to "establish an outline of the candidate's characteristics, qualities and qualifications, experience and expertise" and the second to determine "whether or not a person with this profile should be made an administrator, determined by !vote with normal bureaucrat closing ranges". Worm That Turned advanced a separate idea for a two-phase RfA during which the first phase would be a moderated discussion on the candidate's aptitude for adminship and the second phase would be an anonymous vote.

Along another vein, there were several ideas on altering how adminship can be revoked. Chetsford advocated having a probationary period for new administrators during which they could be subject to binding recall by the community. Extraordinary Writ proposed a "PROD-style adminship" process where potential administrators only answer three standard questions and become administrators by default unless a certain number of editors objected to their adminship; the idea would not prohibit individuals who fail the PROD-style adminship process to undergo RfA.

A full list of the brainstormed ideas is available at Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/2021 review/Brainstorming.

Period for formal proposal submissions opened

Since October 24, editors have been able to formally add their proposals to a list for community evaluation, with a November 7 deadline to submit proposals. The community evaluation process begins on October 31 and will last until November 30, according to the 2021 RfA review hub page. Following the end of community evaluation period, the proposals will be evaluated for consensus, and those measures that achieve consensus will be implemented. "[H]opefully," the 2021 RfA review hub page says, implementation will "be fast and not require any further phases."

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  • I'm not sure if you're saying we should unbundle more, and RfA less? Or something else? ☆ Bri (talk) 20:38, 3 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]
  • Maybe just that if that tool was available separately they would have no need to be an admin. Depends on the tool. If it is one that would require an equivalent process, it would not make a lot of practical difference to the procedure, but might make a lot of difference to the experience. For example, getting the tools to delete and undelete and view deleted material may attract a very different scrutiny and set of potential opposition reasons than getting the tools to block, though both sets are handed out based on community trust that they will not be misused. · · · Peter Southwood (talk): 11:32, 8 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]


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