Aired August 15, 2013

This webinar provides an overview of the rights, tools and role associated with being an admin on a wiki. We will focus on how you can gain admin rights, what tools you can use to help manage your wiki and what your role is as an admin in your community.

Slides & Transcript

Admin Webinar August 2013 Slide01

Welcome to the our August webinar, Admin rights, tools & role

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I’m Sarah Morales, a Director of Community Support at Wikia and today joining me is Sannse Carter a Director of Community Support and Jake, also known as Axel TWD, a Wikia Star and the admin of our Walking Dead Wikia Community.

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So what exactly is an admin? Admin is shorthand for administrator and refers to a user right, specific to your Wikia. As an admin, you have access to advanced tools and settings. Admins have access to tools that allow them to help maintain content, adjust features and encourage community growth. They are often looked to as leaders within their community.

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Lets do a quick review of what I mean by a user right and what rights exist on Wikias. A wiki by definition is a website that allows anyone to contribute content in collaboration with others. On Wikia, how much and what types of content you can contribute is based off of your user right level. If you have an account you can submit more content then if you don’t, and if you are an admin, you have access to more tools than if you are a regular contributor. Here you can see the list of basic tools & actions that admins have the ability to perform.

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On a wiki there are 2 basic advanced admin rights - administrator and bureaucrat. Both of these rights allows for access to the same tools, the only difference is that bureaucrats have the ability to make other users admins. You may see other rights listed on rights pages, such as chat moderator, rollback or other special rights that larger communities may use. This webinar we are going to focus primarily on the admin and bureaucrat rights.

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So how do you become an admin or bureaucrat? There are a couple of ways. The first is if you are the founder of a wiki you automatically have both admin and bureaucrat rights on your community.

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If you participate on a wiki that the founder is no longer active on, you can apply to adopt the wiki, which means you would like to gain admin rights there. You should do this only after you’ve become an active contributor and are ready to make more advanced changes to the wiki. To apply to adopt a wiki, just visit community central, and the adoption request page. It’s important to meet on all of the criteria listed on the page, so please read through the criteria before applying. Once you meet these, a staff member will get in touch, and give admin rights on that wiki.

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If you edit on a wiki that has active bureaucrats, then the process for becoming an admin needs to go through the wiki’s local policies on adminship. Some wikis have activity requirements and most require community consensus. If you are interested in becoming an admin on a local wiki, its best to understand these policies and chat with others about your interest.

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If you are a bureaucrat on a small but growing wiki, we recommend you don’t worry too much about setting strict policies for choosing new admins. In the beginning it can be better to ask dedicated editors if they are interested and share admin responsibility, to help maintain and grow your up and coming wiki.

How do you actually give rights? As a bureaucrat, visit the Special:UserRights page, and then add in the username you wish to adjust. This will pull up the details for this user, list what rights they already have and show what rights you can adjust. A checked box means the user is in that group and an unchecked box means the user is not in that group. The column on the right includes those rights you can adjust for this particular wiki. To give someone rights, simply check the box, add an edit summary and hit save. To undo this, simply uncheck and save. All adjustments are logged and listed below.

A couple of things to remember. A bureaucrat rights are there to help the community as a whole, and not meant as a way to exert power or influence over others. You shouldn’t add or remove rights just because you like someone or are mad at them. You should do it when there is consensus, or you feel their efforts and dedication will help your wiki community.

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As an admin you are given access to quite a few tools, and I am going to cover those I feel are most important. These will include many of the tools within the admin dashboard, communication and content management tools, as well as tools I use to work with difficult or disruptive users.

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The admin dashboard is a great place to find almost all your admin tools. You can access it by visiting Special:AdminDashboard, or by clicking on the Admin link in your custom toolbar. You can see there are 4 sections within the admin dashboard - Wiki, Community, Content and Quick Stats. Let’s start in the Wiki section.

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The theme designer is your wiki’s personal design tool. It allows you to update the background, wordmark and favicon. You can choose from default options, or upload a custom design. All changes in the theme designer allow you to preview first before saving. The changes are also logged, so if you want to see who updated or reverted to an old design, you can do so easily.

The theme designer is important for personalizing your Wikia and distinguishing it from others. Make sure your theme, background, and wordmark work nicely together and nothing becomes an eyesore or distracts too much from the page content.

My advice is to use themes, backgrounds, and wordmarks that match your wiki’s content and can be appreciated by your readers, but don’t dominate their attention. So stay away from complex skins, bright colors and full transparency.

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Navigation refers to the group of links found at the top of every wiki that direct people to the important sections of your community. 4 of the 5 tabs are customizable and on the walking dead wiki we use it to direct you to important parts of our topic - including the comic series, tv series and video game. We also have a browse tab that links to other important sections of the wiki.

In browse, we’ve linked to what we call branch pages. These are pages that act as a landing page for a particular topic. So for Themes, it links to a landing page that displays and links to all of the themes that are present in the series. This keeps the navigation simple and effective.

Editing the navigation is easy to do once you understand how it works. As you can see, the navigation is broken into 3 levels, with 4 level 1s that show as tabs. Under each level 1, you can have 7 level 2 links, and under each of those, 10 level 3 links. That’s a total of 280 possible links within the navigation.

Editing is done in source mode, and the number of asterisks before the text indicate what level the link will appear on. Links do not need to use the classic link brackets. The link to the page is listed first, then a pipe followed by what text you would like to appear.

Here you can see we’ve superimposed the edit mode onto the published mode for the Comic Series tab. You can see that level 1 is Comic Series, then there are 6 level 2s. On the last link, Novels, there are 5 level 3 links below it.

The navigation does have a width limit, which is checked when you hit preview. My recommendation for creating your navigation menu is to make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for, even if it is their first time on the site.

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Next is wiki features, which allows you to enable or disable optional and new features on your wiki. It can be difficult to decide which features will work best for your community, so deciding which features to enable should usually be a decision made by a group of admins rather than just one. If there is not a conclusive decision, it may be a good idea to reach out to your community to see what they think would be best.

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One of the most helpful tools for growing your audience in the admin dashboard is the Promote tool. This feature is connected directly to and Wikia mobile apps, and allows you to promote your community to a wider audience.

Via the promote tool you can provide a headline, description, and up to 6 photos that describe your wiki. These should summarize what your wiki is about and why fans should join you. Promote is an important tool in spreading the word about your community and attracting new users.

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Keeping in touch with your fellow admins and prominent editors is vital to your community’s success. Build relationships with these people as much as possible. This can help with collaborating as well as just making friends! As an admin, you may attempt to get everything done single-handedly, but this is not the way Wikia works!

Find out what your fellow Wikians are interested in and take advantage of that! Reach out to others and ask them for help with something you know they are interested in. For example, an editor who frequently works with photos/videos would be a good person to contact if you are working on improving a gallery.Collaborating gets projects done much faster and brings more ideas together that can help improve the project.

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When you have a new announcement or a collaboration drive that you want more people to learn about, a tool you can use is called community messages. This is located on the Wiki Activity page and it’s a great way to inform your community of new policies or relevant news on your topic.

When it’s updated, a popup appears informing all visitors. Community Messages should be updated somewhat frequently in order to keep them relevant and informative. You can edit the Community Corner through the admin dashboard or from the link below the message itself.

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Your welcome message is likely the first thing people will see if they contribute to your Wikia, so you’re going to want to make sure your message is very welcoming and inviting. Each wiki comes with a default welcome message, that is able to be edited by admins. There are a number of mediawiki messages, all linked from the help page listed here, that you can edit to adjust the message to be specific to your wiki.

You want to get new users to stick around, so make it easy for them to learn your wiki’s policies and get started editing. As you can see in our message, we thank users for the edit they made, direct them to where they can ask questions, and point them to our community portal so they are aware of local policies. If any new users respond to your welcome message be sure to reply and get to know them. I’ve found this a great way to meet newcomers and welcome them to your community.

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Outside of helping to support and grow your community, managing content is a big part of being an admin. I rely most heavily upon history, wiki activity, and recent changes.Wiki activity and recent changes are great ways to monitor newly added content. They also help you to keep an eye out for potential vandalism and see what the editors on your Wikia are up to.

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If you do encounter vandals or problem users, you may need to block them. It’s first important to consider your wiki’s local policy. A warning may be in order before a ban. Sannse will talk soon about how to create and build wiki policies.

If the user has already been warned or vandalized to a point where they need to be blocked, the steps are as follows. Go to their user page and hit the “Contributions” tab. Click “Block”, hen, fill in the expiry time and reason for the blocking and click “Block this user”. The length of time and whether their IP is also blocked is dependent on what the user has done. If you need help, you can contact our volunteer spam taskforce or Wikia staff.

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We’ve discussed a lot of admin tools and it can be a little overwhelming. Keep in mind that there are many resources and people you can go to for help, so don’t be shy! Reach out to your fellow contributors and Wikia staff. Now, Sannse is going to talk about what exactly an admin’s role is.

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As an admin, your position within a community can be a bit tricky to understand, with varied ideas on your role and position. Traditionally an admin is seen to be "an ordinary user with a few extra buttons". But in practice, having these extra tools and rights tends to lead to admins becoming the decision makers or leaders within a community. This leadership is looked for in decision making - from content, to policy to community management, with admins often taking independent decisions in small or everyday matters.

But this is usually balanced with community input in major or unusual decisions on the wikia. An admin should be able to distinguish between decisions they can make, and those that should be taken to the community as a whole. Not every wiki looks for this balance, and small wikis may not have enough of an established community to be able to. But including others helps unify the community and ensure everyone feels valued and included.

This is why, ideally, admins should be chosen from among the most trusted and respected contributors. Those that the community has faith in, both to make decisions for them, and to listen to and carry out the decisions of the community.

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Ideally Admins are role models. They are the people who others want to be. They lead by example, showing how it's possible to stay polite and reasonable in the most heated dispute. They are the ones that others trust and try to emulate. They choose their words and actions knowing that they are demonstrating good practice with everything they do. There are many other characteristics that the ideal admin has, for example:

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They should be supportive, sympathetic and gentle. Admins are the people everyone turns to in a difficult situation, the one who can bring calm and reason to a dramatic conversation. They should be facilitators who see both sides of a problem and helps others do the same. They should be willing to help anyone in the community - even to those they find irritating or difficult.

No admin can keep everyone happy, but the best will do what's needed for the community as a whole while treating each individual with respect - even if they are having to block them.

It's best for any admin to try and use the minimum force for any situation. They need to act decisively when necessary, but should choose to act in a way that makes the fewest ripples. It's better to try and have an effect with a small action and leave room for recovery, than to over-react and leave no room for future changes.

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The best admins are aware that they share the wiki. They are not owners and don't control the wiki exclusively. Instead they help lead it and recognize that non-admins also have a role in shaping their mutual project. An important part of this is listening. A good admin doesn't jump to conclusions or rush to judgment, instead they talk to those around them to understand the full story. Then they decide on a course of action with the full information, and without anger.

And most importantly, the best admins know they are not perfect! They are willing to change their mind if they are wrong, or if the rest of the community disagrees with them. They decide, but always with others' opinions in mind.

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Of course, all these are ideals, but a way to strive for them is to remember to look for balance. If you aren't too extreme in any area of looking after a wiki, you will be a better admin. This covers everything from block length, to opinions and reactions in discussions, to enforcement of policies. Balance is vital in many areas and admins who balance their reactions in turn help give balance to the community.

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So how does this work in practice? How can you incorporate these ideals and the admin traits into everyday life on your wiki? The most important part of any admin's role is communication. How people interact and what expectations there are around their interactions are key to a community working smoothly. Much of this on a wiki is governed by local policies, so lets talk about policy creation, enforcement and how to maintain a healthy balance.

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Many wikis have extensive policies and it's often admins who write, update and enforce these. Formal policies are not always needed, especially for small or new wikis. In fact, they can be destructive. Too many strict policies, especially enforced too harshly can lead to a wiki that's difficult to be part of. Policies should help the community, not drive them away!

For example, I've seen wikis that will give a permanent ban after one bad edit, or one mistaken use of categories. Giving people time to learn how the wiki does things, and what policies they need to stick to, may get you good contributors for the long term. But at the same time, policies can also help give structure and consistency to a wiki. With carefully written and clear policies, everyone knows the agreed standards and norms. And that can lead to less disputes, and a better run wiki.

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One important thing to remember in creating policies is that what's right for one wiki is not always right for another. Each wiki is unique, and one wiki may have a policy that's exactly the opposite of another - and that's okay. Try to keep your policies simple and clear, and be be thoughtful in how you implement them. If a policy is wrong for a specific situation, don't stick to them! Flexibility and fairness are often more important than the letter of a policy.

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Consider whether you really need a policy, or if it's best to leave people to try different things - something new might be good, and might take the wiki in a whole new and productive direction. Talking of new directions, consider reviewing and revising policies as your wiki grows. A rule about categories in a 50 page wiki may not work for a 5000 page wiki. If you keep a careful eye on the wiki's needs as it grows, then it will probably grow faster!

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And one last thing I'd like to talk about, is admin burn out. It's important for admins to remember that they don't have to do it all. As a wiki grows, it needs enough admins to get things done, while still allowing time off for editing or getting away from the keyboard. Someone who is enjoying admin tasks, will do them better and more often. Focusing on the tasks that you do best, and those that you find most satisfying is a good way to keep going. Remember others probably have different areas that they love, and expertise that you don't have, let them use it and work as a team to look after the wikia you all love. Sharing responsibility can help not only you but your community.

Being an admin is a very rewarding experience but can come with challenges. The important thing to remember is why you are here - to work with others on the content you love, so keep that in mind. There are lots of resources available to you as as admin.

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