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A man walks up to the main gate of Kirtland Air Force Base. He tells the guard, "I'm here. Make me a general." Even if the guard happened to have the authority to promote someone to that high a rank, is it a good idea for the guard to immediately say, "Sure, why not?"

No, obviously it's not. It's a bad idea for a military base and it's also a bad idea for a wiki. Though a wiki should be a community where people feel welcome rather than something more rigidly-run like a military organization or a government, when it comes to granting user rights, the same concepts apply.

In order to become a General in the Air Force, you first have to enlist in that service. You start at a low rank and over time, you work your way up and receive promotions in recognition for your efforts. There may be occasions where you move up more than one rank, but you wouldn't go from Airman Basic to General the moment you signed up.

But what if you're a general at another Air Force base? That proves you've earned being in charge of Kirtland, right?

Not exactly. In the military, a general would have some authority on other Air Force Bases, but there are instances where their decisions could be overridden by a lower-ranking officer.

With a wiki, that general would be considered a civilian. The admins might listen to what he says and respect his opinion, but the general has no authority on their wiki.


How to you make the request?

So how would someone be given extra authority on a wiki? The short answer is work for it. Just like there are 21 ranks in between Airman Basic and General in the Air Force, there are steps you would need to take before you could be considered for advanced user rights.

The first way is to look at why you want to be an admin. Is it so you can say, "Neat, I'm an admin"? If so, you're not ready. Being an admin takes work. You have to perform maintenance on the wiki, deal with vandalism, settle disputes, make decisions, set policies and answer questions from the wiki members.

Next, take a look at your own attitudes and behavior. A good admin is level-headed and doesn't get upset by what vandals and trolls do, even when they're personally being attacked. In these situations, it helps to look beyond the surface and realize that a lot of these people want to see you get upset. If you don't, it stops being fun for them.

Third, and this one's counter-intuitive, in some cases you shouldn't ask to be an admin. Some of the best admins have been chosen by the members of the wiki because they see the results of the hard work that person has done and they didn't push to be an admin.

Fourth, spend time on the wiki and show you're willing to help make it better. The people that show up and immediately ask to be an admin usually don't have the commitment to be one. Stick around for several months and be active on a regular basis. Show them it's not a flight of fancy for you.

And fifth, if you're already an admin on a couple of wikis, make an honest evaluation if you'd be able to devote time to supporting yet another wiki. Besides the tasks listed in the first point, the members of a wiki will expect their admins to lead the way and keep interest going among the members.

I can tell you from personal experience that it is possible to be an admin on too many wikis. As the number increases, the more likely the amount of attention you can give each one will decrease. And when an admin's activity drops off on smaller wikis, the members tend to drift away as well.


Stick around

Point #4, "stick around", is what I see a lot of the people who ask to be an admin fail to do. They make the request and then you never hear from them again. They don't get an instant answer, so they leave.

Not everyone's active on a wiki every day. The person who expects to immediately be given admin rights is like a person who walks up to the Customer Service desk in a store and says, "Make me a manager", then walks off a minute later because there didn't happen to be anyone at the desk at the time.

When you're looking for a job, a good step when you don't get an answer right away is to check back at least once. It lets the employer know that you're still interested in the job. If it's been filled by the time you check back, the employer can let you know.

That's the kind of test I give when someone asks me to be an admin. I will deliberately not answer right away to see if they will stick around and start working or continue to work to build the wiki while they wait for an answer. Most of them don't, which tells me they don't have the commitment to be an admin. Even when I post a response to officially close an inactive request, the person doesn't show up to acknowledge it.


Advice for bureaucrats

So what if you're a bureaucrat and you get a request for admin rights? Well, there's several things you can do.
 

  1. NEVER give someone Bureaucrat rights at the same time as Administrator rights. For as much as you have to trust an admin will do a good job and not abuse those rights, you have to trust bureaucrats even more.
           I saw the results a few years ago of someone who tricked their way into becoming a bureaucrat. They immediately promoted several of their friends' accounts and/or sockpuppet accounts to admin and bureaucrat level, then used those accounts to vandalize the wiki. It required help from Fandom staff to clean up the mess.
     
  2. Decide what the process will be for requesting extra user rights. Many wikis want to see proof that people are a good fit to be an admin, so they'll have a requirement of having Rollback or Moderator rights first, or something like 250 edits in three months or 500 edits in six months.
           Some wikis go a little further and want to see that those edits aren't just talking to other people or leaving comments on articles and blogs. The "Edit count" page (found at Special:Editcount/username) will show you the percentages of each area on a wiki the edits fall under.
    1. Some wikis stipulate that you can't nominate yourself. For these, the community helps pick who will run the wiki. If you decide to go this route, list the nomination process and check which people make the nomination. A brand new person you've never seen before making a nomination could be a sockpuppet account created to support the person they're recommending.
       
  3. For the person looking to get admin rights, take a look at their edits on other wikis. See how they communicate with other people. See what they've done to help build the wiki. Go to their Profile page and look at their "Top 4 Wikis" in the header of that page. How many edits have they made on those wikis over what length of time?
     
  4. If someone says they're already an admin on another wiki, find out how long they've been there. The "x Edits Since Joining This Wiki" in the profile header will show the date they first made an edit on that wiki. Also check under the User Rights log to see when they became an admin there.
     
  5. Related to that, if they list they're a bureaucrat on a wiki, find out how they got those rights. Did they create the wiki? Did they adopt it? Were they elected or make the request themselves? Anyone who creates a wiki is given admin and bureaucrat rights, but if the wiki is brand new, don't be surprised if they created it just to get crat status. People who adopt wikis have demonstrated they can put in effort to get a wiki back into shape.
     
  6. Look at the timing of the request. If you've had to deal with one or more people that were being disruptive and had to be blocked, a request for admin rights, especially from someone you've never seen before, may be an attempt to get those rights so they can cause further problems.
           Keep in mind that this could also apply for other wikis. For example, the person got blocked on a different wiki, created a new account so they could try to become an admin on your wiki, which they could then use to say on a third wiki, "You can trust me, I'm an admin."
     
  7. Decide if you're willing to offer a second chance. Let's say you get an admin request and you find out that account is blocked on another wiki. Does this automatically disqualify them? If you do a little bit of research and find out the block may have been due to a misunderstanding, personality conflict, or maybe even the result of an abusive admin, would you be willing to give them a chance and explain the circumstances that led to the block? (If the block is a global block across the Fandom network that's still active, I'd be a little more cautious of the request.)
           I've been on the receiving end of an abusive admin's bad behavior. Asking clarification on something I didn't understand was escalated by an admin into saying it was harassment and I was blocked. A few months later, that admin resigned in the midst of a vote to remove them from the wiki for their attitude and behavior towards other people, and my block was overturned later by another admin.
     
  8. You may want to check every so often if the people on your wiki that have advanced user rights haven't been around for a while if they're still interested in having those rights. For example, if you notice an admin hasn't been around for two years, their interests may have changed and might be willing to give up those rights if they don't plan on coming back.


Summary

Just as military organizations don't let people who walk up to a base become an instant General, wikis should not give admin rights to people they don't know. As stated before, never grant bureaucrat rights at the same time as admin rights. Admin rights can be dangerous in the wrong hands and bureaucrat rights are even worse in those situations.

Take the time to spell out how someone can get promoted on your wiki, and for those who ask for a promotion, check into how established they are on your wiki and other wikis. Avoid automatically distrusting a request by a new user since it could be a new person that doesn't realize there might be prerequisites. But at the same time, keep in mind that some requests may have ulterior motives. As the saying goes, "Trust, but verify."

For those who are interested in becoming an admin, do what you can to help out before you make the request. Show that you'll stick around. Show that you can make good edits to build the wiki. Actions over time will speak louder than just saying right when you show up, "Make me a general."