Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Adminship and recognition

en.wikibooks has a policy, often the center of controversy, that inactive sysops are deadmined after a period of time. The justifications for, and the arguments against are both numerous, so I won't discuss them here.

There is always some opposition to this process, and the most recent round of it is proving to be the most controversial yet. Up for deadminship are three editors who played a large role in Wikibooks at the beginning of the project, but who have all since been completely absent for over a year. One of those admins, having had a particularly large role in the foundation of the Wikibooks project, was immediately re-nominated for adminship after the de-adminship process ended. If I may quote my fellow Wikibookian, Rob Horning:

Since the desysopping is a "done deal", I'm formally requesting that those who are interested to express perhaps a sort of "honor" upon this user that is deserving and experience has shown has not been abused at all.

I do understand this sentiment, and I really wish this were the case. However, adminship isn't some kind of "honor" that we bestow on people, it isnt a badge of accomplishment. The last thing we want is for admins to become some kind of aristocracy, and we don't want it to become a popularity contest either. My opinion has always been that admin tools are given to people who need them, and are returned when not needed. There are, of course, plenty of people who disagree with me on this, but I truely believe that adminship really is no big deal.

In lieu of using an honorary admin title, how do we recognize people who have had a large and beneficial impact on the project? Barnstars don't quite cut it (although they can be very nice). A "Featured user", or "User of the week" or something would also be nice, but i can just foresee it degrading into a mud-slinging popularity contest. A "user hall of fame" might be nice, where we could induct only inactive members, but i can't think of a way to do it judiciously.

And in the end, the greatest strength of wikimedia projects is that they are, nominally at least, flat. There is no definite hierarchy or aristocracy. There are plenty of cases where users draw a disproportionate amount of respect from their fellow users, but that respect is typically hard-earned over a long career of contributing and helping. Doing anything to set particular users up on a pedastool really defies the whole system, and serves to decrease the inherent equality among users.

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