Monday, February 20, 2006

Admins or Trusted users

Given what WiktionaryZ is about, we should appreciate that when you use a word to describe something, existing usage implies all kinds of things. Within the MediaWiki software we have things that are typically called "bureaucrats" and "admins". On the Dutch project the word "moderator" is used in stead of "admin".

The function of an admin is quite specific; an admin is trusted with extra functionality that help to manage the project. This functionality allows for the roll back of changes, for the deletion of content and for the blocking of users that have vandalised the project.

The function of a bureaucrat is also very specific; a bureaucrat can make a user an admin or a bureaucrat and it will also become possible to mark a user as a bot.

Technically, both these tools should be given to people that are trusted. People that are trusted to perform these tools for what they are intended to do. Technically it does not mean at all that any special expertise about subject matter is implied by the status that these titles seem to imply. It is therefore that I am of the opinion that the names of these functions are misnomers, they do not adequately reflect what they are. The name "trusted user" would better reflect what we call an admin. A bureaucrat is nothing but and admin; when consensus has arrived that someone is to be trusted, it is acted upon by the bureaucrat.

Within the wiktionaries and certainly within WiktionaryZ, there is another group that will be more relevant they are the people who have expertise. This expertise is something multi faceted; it does not take much expertise to add many translations to a phrase like "Olympische Winterspelen". I have added some 20 translations, but I do not have the expertise to say that they are correct. I have written a lot about WiktionaryZ so I do have a certain type of expertise about the subject of terminlogy, lexicology and thesauri.

Most of the time when people work on the content of a wiki project, the admins have a good feel to distinguish the good from the bad. Typically it is rather obvious when it is bad. You do not have to be much of an expert to do this; you have to be trusted to give a consistent best effort. That is all.

My proposal is therefore to rename "admin" to "trusted user" and "bureaucrat" to "admin" for WiktionaryZ. When people have a minimum of say 500 or maybe 1000 good edits, a language community can be asked if they have objections. When there is no objection, the admin for that language community just does the deed.

When someone proves that he is not to be trusted as a vandal fighter, the person is first warned and when this proves not to be enough the trust is revoked and the person has to win back the trust.

This does not mean at all that the person is less of an expert in his subject matter, it is just that he is not trusted as a vandal fighter. I am sure that in time we will create functionality that is best trusted in the hands of people that know a language well. These tools are different tools from the current vandal fighting tools, there may be some overlap however ..

So what do you think ?



Blogger Angela said...

The title "Trusted Users" only works if they are actually trusted. Perhaps this won't be such an issue once all language Wiktionaries are together, but at the moment, if a new language Wiktionary is created and there is no community to support or oppose a person's request for adminship, then a steward will make that person an admin without knowing whether or not they can be trusted.

I made the mistake recently of forgetting that admin does not equal trusted user at Wikicities. Every person who requests a wiki gets admin access on that wiki, relying on the Principle of First Trust. I recently made one existing admin a bureaucrat on another wiki that had been abandoned by its original founder because I thought if they're trusted on one Wikicity, why not on another? Sadly, they couldn't be trusted to be responsible and it all led to me later having to de-admin 9 users on that wiki.

To call an admin a "trusted user" could often be misleading, when all you really mean is "there's not yet a reason to think this person will abuse their admin position", which is a very narrow definition of the word "trust".

-- Angela

5:19 am  
Anonymous Javier Carro said...


I don't think it is a good idea to say that they are "trusted users". I learnt that in an old problem of the Spanish Wikipedia.

There was a tendency to think that being administrator was a reward of your good work in the project. For a long time it was like that, administrators were seing like "better users", in a higher point of a certain hierarchy.

However it is not simple. Administrators have certain specific powers and the community expects from this administrator a rational use of such powers.

We had a very good user, very hard worker and we trusted totally on him as a content contributor. However, he had difficulties to accept other oppinions. For him it is quite hard to discuss without getting angry. It did not make him trustworthy of administrator powers.

What I mean is that somebody may be a trusted user without being administrator. If we would call them "trusted users", those contributors who don´t get the label "trusted user" will feel rejected and they will very probably abandon the project.

This topic was long discussed in Spanish Wikipedia. We also thought that "Administrator" was not a right name, because many users didn´t understand the task of an administrator, watching him as a leader in general terms. I liked the metaphor "rubbish collector", others proposed "gardener", and many others. Finally "librarian" was chosen.
You can see the results of the votation in:

Javier Carro.

7:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Renaming "Bureaucrat" to "Admin" is a good idea. But I share the concerns of the other posters about renaming "Admin" to "Trusted User". Of course an admin must be someone who can be trusted, but he must have another quality as well: He should be able to mediate between users and help to solve conflicts.

Many users are excellent editors and contributors who can be trusted when it comes to validation of content, but not everybody has the ability to act as mediator or moderator. So in my opinion "Moderator" would be a good choice. This also has the advantage that most people know what a moderator is and what he does, whereas "Trusted User" might create the impression that all other users are not trustworthy.

5:25 pm  
Blogger GerardM said...

I have waited a bit before answering because I think this is a REALLY important discussion.

The difference between WiktionaryZ and the Wikicities projects is, that we will start with several bureaucrats. The members of the "Commission" are already for quite some time. As our project is very much an alpha project, we will slowly but surely increase the number of people who can edit the project. The first people will be invited to join and they are trusted.

For WiktionaryZ the functionality for "admins" could be split into the "vandal fighting" and "project specific" functionality. We could call those who get the block / unblock funtionality "vandal fighters" and the ones who fix up the content "shit shovelers". Then again, these two groups will be largely the same and they will be trusted to do well. And, I do not really like these names.

When you look at how "admins" are perceived, they are seen by many as being special. They are expected to mediate, to be always really clever in how they deal with things. When you look at how it works out, they are people, typically well meaning people. They are trusted to use the extra functionality. The normal turn of event would be that at first you establish your credentials after that you are trusted to do well. As long as this trust is not betrayed this would be normal. When the basis for trust evaporates, it would be the "admin" who takes away this trust in an as yet undefined procedure. It is then for the user to regain the trust he lost. Regaining trust is hard, giving back trust would not be automatic, there could be a time element, an amount of good work and maybe even a vote involved before a user is giving the "trusted" status again.

So to recap; WiktionaryZ will start with some great people being the "admin". At first for technical reasons, we will invite trusted users and give them access to the editable version. As the code stabilises we will invite more and more people. This in turn will grow a community of people who understand the concepts of WiktionaryZ and when we open the floodgates, we hope to be able to be ready and gracious and prepared.


6:16 pm  
Anonymous Javier Carro said...

Sorry for these questions, but, what is "the Commission"? What for is it and who are they? As much as I know, there is no Wikimedia project with a Commission.

5:02 pm  
Blogger GerardM said...

This is where the Commission was introduced and where it was explained the rationale for all this.


5:11 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home