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Policy? Edit

While I have proposed this once before, this was when I was in the middle of the argument in question. Here, I am not. I propose that we make a policy for nominating the removal of administrators. While rare, there have been instances of administrators abusing their sysop tools, as well as generally not following the policies of the site. No one is above those policies, not any user, administrator, or bureaucrat. Abusing the sysop tools is even worse than that, though.

We currently have the case of User:Defiant, who's talk page, which has multiple instances of lashing out with anger and personal attacks when basic policies have been pointed out, such as putting proper licenses on images. This came to a head three months ago, with false accusations against User:Gvsualan, a fellow admin, of harassment. That is bad enough, but now out of the blue (and seemingly related), Defiant blocked Alan for a month, claiming "(Intimidating behavior/harassment: guilty of harassment and personal attacks!"

Defiant made no warning to Alan, did not indicate what behavior this block was for, and plainly has a personal issue here (meaning he should be the last involved in any administrative action with Alan), and seems to have clearly abused his sysop privileges. I think the time has come to consider an actual policy on removing administrators.

I'd close saying that Alan and I are likely to be butting heads later today on another issue, and he and I often do not get along. I am not a "buddy buddy" with Alan, and my motives in creating this thread are not based in affection for him, but displeasure at Defiant's actions. --OuroborosCobra talk 22:30, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

I think there should be such a policy, which should meet a high standard to prevent abuse, but such a policy should exist.--31dot 22:34, 31 May 2009 (UTC)
To clarify, I too have had disagreements with Alan and am not his best pal, but I have never known him to act in a harassing manner.--31dot 22:36, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

I may have known him to do so, but he certainly has not in the current issue with Defiant. Off topic anyways :-P --OuroborosCobra talk 22:37, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

The entire execution of this page must surely be considered a personal attack! There have been numerous instances, as of late, of supposed "administrators" ganging up on me, to an extent that I believe to be unfair. If anyone needs to be removed from sysop status, it should be the leaders of such personal harassment, such as Gvsualan and - as is made clear from the above - OuroborosCobra. I would suggest that this page, if its existence is subsequently agreed upon, follow an "oppose"/"support" system, so that personal jibes are avoided. If the above is meant to be taken seriously, I will have no problem with answering the complaints when they are delivered without what seems to me to be sarcasm - "false accusations", etc. --Defiant 22:44, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm not ganging up on you, I generally don't even like Alan. You have not made any of your accusations against Alan, or any sysops for that matter, the least bit clear. You have not explained what you mean by "harassment" with specific examples, nor "ganging up." I have pointed out specific examples. In addition, insult to injury, I'm not even a sysop myself. --OuroborosCobra talk 22:48, 31 May 2009 (UTC)

Back to the discussion, my early thoughts on such a policy, which are just brainstormed on my part:
  • Should at least be the same standards which apply in gaining adminship, if not stricter
  • Should contain a period of time during which they cannot be renominated to regain adminship
  • Should have clear criteria for nomination and not be based on personal opinion
  • Criteria should be limited to repeat offenses and/or a pattern of behavior and not be based on one incident
  • Possibly have some sort of cool down period between nomination and discussion to let heads cool off--31dot 22:50, 31 May 2009 (UTC)
It is not a "personal attack" to discuss the creation of a policy.--31dot 22:57, 31 May 2009 (UTC)
I agree. But I do find fault with naming a user and discussing/criticizing their negative attributes when coming up with said policy, since the topic need not to be personal so it is illogical to steer it in that way! I do regard the notion of creating such a policy as being admirable, however, since the intention is to better the environment of MA! --Defiant 23:11, 31 May 2009 (UTC)
Apparently, it has even been unclear to some that admins are supposed to know the rules which the community enabled them to uphold with special admin tools in the first place. So, step 1 is to make that even more explicit on Memory Alpha:Administrators. I don't consider this to be a rule change at all, just a clarification that wouldn't even be necessary for most.
As for step two, the "admin removal policy", I'm open for concrete suggestions. I believe we should have one in place to eventually be able to act - however, it should also be made sure that this policy is "fair" insofar as gaming the system to have an admin removed after a very minor issue is concerned.
What I personally think this policy should contain is some "auto-deadmin" clause for inactive admins. This has been brought up before, but has gone nowhere. The reasoning here is as follows: Any admin that has been inactive for a considerable amount of time cannot be expected to still know about the current rules after his return. Secondary issues are concerns of security/vandalism (why have admin rights handed out to people who don't use them?) and of bookkeeping (how many active admins do we really have, and do we need more?). For example, admin rights could be revoked if the user in question has been inactive for >3 months. The user could then perhaps reapply for admin rights using the standard procedure, after having been active again for some time (say, 4 weeks), during which he could re-familiarize with the rules. -- Cid Highwind 16:43, 1 June 2009 (UTC)
First, I think your clarification was a good thing to do.
Second, I think it is reasonable to suspend/rescind admin status after a period of time, anywhere between 3 and 6 months. I think the time period should be long enough to weed out truly inactive people and not too short as to drop users who have not been around for some reason and intend to return. I think restoring previously lost admin status could be the one instance where you could nominate yourself, unless it was rescinded for poor behavior.
I would first suggest (regarding the idea of a policy) that two users, including at least one other admin, be required to nominate someone for removal of admin status. I think this(or something similar) would help prevent abuse or frivolous nominations. --31dot 18:30, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

Cid, I agree with your changes in language to the admin page, obviously. As someone whose job it is to enforce policy, it only makes sense that you have an understanding of that policy. I still question whether there is a need for the "months of absence" removal of status. As I said in a previous discussion on this, I feel it is a solution in search of a problem, not a problem needing a solution. We have had admins return after extended absences, such as Harry, Alan, Jaz, AJ, Enzo, and others. While we have occasionally had problems on their return, none of them seem related to "misunderstanding policy or changes in policy," all were more problems with behavior of the person, and all for the most part have been incredibly minor and settled in a matter of minutes or hours. That's just my two cents, I genuinely don't think it is a problem in need of an automatic solution.

31Dot, I agree with a lot of what you have said in terms of a proposed policy, but I differ with you on a number of sections.

  • It definitely needs to have a clear reason for nomination, with specific examples (including links) of improper behavior.
  • It should also be made clear on what grounds someone can be removed, such as gross violations of policy (not something little like forgetting to indent, or once carrying out a deletion too early), clear abuse of admin tools (especially in a case where other admins simply would not have acted, so we aren't just talking about protecting a page they are involved in editing, we are talking blocking someone for personal reasons others would not have blocked for, or repeated behavior of protecting an article for personal reasons others would not have done so, etc.).
  • I'm a bit dubious of the "repeated offenses only" idea, in general it sounds good, but there are cases where the action may be so extreme as to warrant action based on one offense. I'd rather leave it to the voting process to decide that on a case by case basis.
  • I'm going to disagree with you outright on the process itself being stricter than the nomination to be an administrator. It should be easier to loose power for improper behavior than to get power through years of good behavior. Hell, our process is already so strict (requiring another person to nominate you, and 100% unanimous consent in a vote) that just about the only way to make it stricter would be to only allow administrators to participate in the vote. To me, this would encourage a possible clique situation, and definitely give a public perception of a "cabal" situation (whether it truly exists or not).
  • I'd propose, instead, that anyone meeting the requirements to vote be able to put someone up for nomination of removal (sounds so wrong using "nomination" that way), that the nomination must include the criteria I said above (specific examples, links) or be dismissed out of hand by a bureaucrat, and require a super majority of either 2/3rds or 3/4ths of the voting group, that the vote only be open to those with a clear editing history (under the same rules we have to FA nominations), and that regardless of the outcome, the vote be tossed out completely and nomination dismissed if it is discovered that sockpuppets were used at all to vote against the admin. I'd also propose that there be a minimum number of votes in a set period, say at least 6 votes over a week. That would mean a passage would need something like at least 4 people in support, and only 2 people that could be found to defend said admin.
  • Yes, this might open us up for some "frivolous," but then we already have a system that can have the same for admin nominations, for FA nominations, etc. I think that rather than coming up with a system that does not allow frivolous nominations to be made (which I think would generally be a rarity anyways), the goal should be to make a system where frivolous nominations are unlikely to pass. I think I've done that.

I'm going to write up a prototype page in my userspace over the next couple of days on this. Maybe even including a mock example of how it would work. --OuroborosCobra talk 22:05, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

I look forward to your prototype. I was considering doing something similar myself but if you're going to do one it seems kind of redundant to have two; I'll wait to see what yours looks like.
Most of my ideas were just brainstorms to start the discussion, and not hard and fast proposals on my part. I actually agree with most of your points about them:
  • The reasons you give as grounds for a nomination I think are exactly correct.
  • As for the strictness of the process, I think when I said stricter I was thinking that more people should be required to participate, but you made an good point that criteria could be deliberated during the voting/discussion process. You also covered participation with your minimum votes idea.
  • I agree with your voting criteria suggestions: same rules as FA nominations, a supermajority(I would agree with ¾), automatic throwout by a bureaucrat of blatantly frivolous nominations, and a certain number of votes in a week(I agree with 6 in a week)--31dot 23:06, 1 June 2009 (UTC)
I was almost tempted to simply duck out of this one, but I think I'll weigh in. A couple issues I want to bring up. Regardless of what policy we decide to set in place, I don't think any action should be taken against Defiant at the moment. Even if we pass some kind of "bad behavior removal policy" and even if it is decided by the community that this new applies to Defiant (I don't really know what transpired) I think there's a pretty basic principle of justice that we shouldn't retroactively enact laws.
Secondly, there are pros and cons of simply automatically de-adminning people (like myself) who take long absents. Obviously I'm a little biased here, since I take some very extended leaves of absence. On the pro side, I think it de-mystifies admin, rather than some title for life, it makes it a real reflection of current participation. On the con side, I do think returning admins (myself included) contribute positively. I'll be the first to admit, I'm usually rusty when I first come back, and as a result, I try to use a degree of self-censorship (I try not carry out blocks, deletes, et cetera in my first week or so back, except in really obvious cases). But once that period is over, I think people like myself, Alan, and others who've taken hiatuses of various lengths can continue to be positive community members. I think in general I reject the notion that people need to be super-active in order to be positive here, but I would definitely understand if the community decides that this no longer warrants sysop powers. Of course, if we should pass such a rule, I should of obviously be the first to be de-sysoped (and of course I would continue to edit as a regular contributor). --- Jaz 05:48, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Sorry I haven't been able to get to this yet. I will write up a draft, I promise, but likely not until at least tomorrow. A number of things in real life just sprang up, and real life comes first. --OuroborosCobra talk 20:15, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

Re:Cid - I'm glad I edit more often than every few months, in that case. I'm a little out of the loop of the personalities being discussed in the other subsection of this page, but I have to make a point: The personalities involved shouldn't matter when it comes to the enforcement of policy. I also have trended towards avoiding bans in my admin time on wikis, but not ever because I am out of the loop of involvement, but as I feel it is better to ask and ask again for compliance and wait for community response regarding whether they think the issue deserves further admin attention. If I am pressuring a user to stop adding info on the style of uniform seam stitching to the wrong place in the article, another user could just as well say "hey, I'll help fix this" and work with that user and make a ban unnecessary, even though my authority as admin got ignored for a little while, the wiki continues. Same as if I made a mistake, someone else could ask me to to correct it rather than banning or de-adminning me.
As to policies and editing standards changing since I was a daily contributor, I can't see that being a serious issue towards a returning admin -- as long as the people involved record their intentions properly. This is still the canon-only wiki I remember, although I might need to look around to see how many Okudapedia naming conventions are active. If you guys had all decided in IRC that we would no longer us words ending in "k", but never stated it anywhere on the wiki on a policy or standards page, then it would confuse a returning admin. However, I can read policy and watch RC as well as the next admin to see rules chagning, talk continuing, etc.. -- Captain MKB 14:53, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
But, that's partially my point. If your style is to avoid using "admin tools" and instead handle problems "as a user", and this style works for you and the specific wiki in question, then that's great and completely the Wiki Way. However, in that case you don't even need to be an admin in the first place...
Just to make that clear, this isn't about you - but generally, it's my opinion that admin status shouldn't be considered some kind of award or medal handed out to people that have been around for more than X months, or have edited more than Y thousand times, or have written Z featured articles. Rather, being an admin should be considered a volunteer service for the community. Basically, you get the keys to some of the more "dangerous" functions of a wiki, if a) the community considers you capable of dealing with that power without misusing it, and b) you are willing and able to actually use those functions whenever necessary.
Someone who is inactive for longer periods is not "willing and able", so why should he continue to have admin status? Giving back the keys shouldn't be a big problem - unless that person does consider his admin status to be an award he doesn't want to give up, that is... -- Cid Highwind 21:26, 8 June 2009 (UTC)
Since I had some free time, I created a draft verson of such a policy here. I've tried to digest the discussion so far and write it into the policy. This is only to provoke discussion and I welcome and encourage others to post their versions or criticize mine(I know Cobra was going to work on one)--31dot 22:46, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks 31dot, I've just been swamped. As it is, I'm probably not going to be able to even look at your proposal in any detail until Monday. --OuroborosCobra talk 02:36, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

Hey, life happens. --31dot 02:38, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the draft version to keep this going. Let me just throw out some observations and questions about individual details:
Their definition is very vague, I think. When does a policy violation become "gross" instead of "minor"? What exactly is "inappropriate" use of admin powers? For example, if it's common to block for 48 hours, would a 72 hours block instead already be "inappropriate"? Does it have to be the "victim" of such unfair action who may start a removal discussion, or can anyone do this? When is an admin "inactive"? If he doesn't make use of admin functions, or only if he doesn't edit at all? Would one spelling correction in 6 months be enough to consider someone "active"?
A bureaucrat is allowed to throw out "invalid" complaints. As "invalidity" is defined vaguely at the moment, this makes the available bureaucrat the sole arbiter about this whole proceeding - basically judge, jury and executioner in one person. Is this really OK for everyone? Do we need more than one bureaucrat? A proper procedure to choose them? What if it's the bureaucrat who violates policies (or is unfairly accused of doing so)? Or, going another route, should admins have "throw-out" powers, instead? Perhaps not a single admin, but a group of X admins? Or, yet another approach, can the definition of valid vs. invalid complaint be made specific enough to not even need any "throw-out" clause?
The "valid claimant"
Are 20 contributions in two weeks enough to potentially get a longstanding admin removed from power?
The sock-puppet clause
May be a little too powerful. Throw-out of all sockpuppet related votes? Yes. End process if the claimant used sockpuppets himself? Definitely. But ending the process completely because someone unrelated to the initial claimant used sockpuppets might serve as a way out for the accused party.
Warnings or probation
The proposed policy does not contain any of these. Any first- or one-time offender may immediately be removed from a position where he actually might have done more good than bad. Perhaps the result of a first process should be a warning with a fixed-length probabtion period, only during which another process would lead to removal.
-- Cid Highwind 14:25, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
Some of my thoughts on your thoughts:
  • The idea of a warning or probationary period has merit, I think. How long a period would you suggest? Maybe a few months?
  • The sock-passage clause could be limited to just the claimant(and perhaps the admin in question, for fairness, though I don't think that would happen)
  • I just put the FA nomination criteria there because someone (Cobra, I think) suggested it above somewhere. Perhaps it should involve a longer period of time, or a second from a longer-term user.
  • I think a bureaucrat was suggested as it might avoid the appearance of a "clique" of admins coming together to protect their own. I don't think that's likely, but I could understand how it would appear that way. As you suggested, maybe getting specific enough about invalid criteria would be sufficient to deal with this issue.
  • In my opinion an "inactive" admin would be someone who made no edits at all within the relevant period of time, not just a lack of using admin powers.--31dot 15:38, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

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