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Choosing the Right Admins

Back in May, I talked about how to become an admin. Today we're going to look at this from the other side: how should you choose a new admin?

The choice of admin or bureaucrat on a wikia is a very important one. A good admin can grow and nurture the wikia, and make it thrive. A bad one, at worst, can cause major disruption and destruction.

There are different views on how many admins a wikia needs. Some prefer to have many, to divide up the admin tasks between them, and to make sure some are always available. Others prefer a strong core of the best candidates, to make it easier for them to work directly together and in tune. I would advise starting with a very small group for a new wikia, and then deciding how many works best for your community once it's grown and matured.

This is even more important with bureaucrats. Remember, bureaucrats cannot remove other bureaucrats' rights. That means if you make a mistake and someone starts damaging the wikia, it will be hard to stop them. It's likely you will have to get staff involved, and often we won't. For a new wikia, just one or two bureaucrats is plenty. You can always add more as the wikia grows.

However many admins you decide to add, and whether you are on a mature wikia and voting with the community or a founder choosing the people you want to build your new wikia, the selection of admins is something that's worth taking care with.

One of the classic mistakes I've seen from new founders is to make people admins and bureaucrats too easily - often simply giving the rights to the first people who edit. If things go bad, that can be very messy! So it's important to choose admins carefully, and remember that not every contributor needs to be an admin, and not every admin needs to be a bureaucrat.

As you choose your admins, it's important to consider the attributes that make them the right person. Everyone will have their own list, but I would start with:

  • Trustworthiness - This is very important. A community needs to be able to trust their admins, and to believe that they are working for the good of all. That makes a massive difference in growing a harmonious wikia.
  • Fairness - An admin who treats everyone fairly and considerately will go a long way towards gaining the respect and trust of the community.
  • Skill - A good admin knows the tools of the wikia and how to use them. But they also have other skills, such as the ability to organize, and to motivate the community to cooperate. All of the items on this list are skills, and they are skills you can learn!
  • Tact - Sometimes a careful choice of words can make all the difference. Someone who can talk to others in a way that encourages positivity is more effective than one who prides themselves on being blunt.
  • Resilience - Sadly, being an admin can mean being a target for anger and abuse. At times, admins have to do things that someone won't like - whether that's a ban, a deletion, or just telling someone to stop bad behavior. A good admin needs to be able to cope with bad reactions without overreacting, and without letting any harsh words or actions affect them.

There are plenty of other attributes I could have listed, such as honesty, patience, determination, flexibility, friendliness… but it all really comes down to choosing a person who already shows the characteristics you expect an admin to have.

As well as looking at the character of the person you are considering, there are many other questions you can ask yourself to see if they are the right person to choose.

  • Have they been on the wikia for a while? An admin needs to know the wikia and its community. How long would be expected depends on the wikia. A very new wikia might promote someone who has only been there a short time. On an older wikia, the requirement might be years.
  • Have they contributed to the wikia? Some wikis have an edit count requirement, and for some, those edits must be to articles. But someone might contribute by being active and helpful in the forums, or by producing excellent blogs... there are many ways to help on a wikia and it's good to consider all the ways a candidate has done so.
  • Have they contributed well? There's no point choosing someone who has hundreds of edits if those edits aren't worthwhile. Quality counts as much as quantity.
  • Do they have a history of conflicts or disruption? It may seem obvious to say it, but if someone has been banned many times from a wikia, they are not likely to be the right person to regulate it. And that can be true even if it's another wikia they have been banned from.
  • Do they talk to others on the wikia? - Editing is important, but wikias are all about collaboration - and that needs communication. Someone who participates in the various discussion spaces on a wikia is already acting as a part of the community, something necessary for them to help run it.
  • Do they interact with people in the way you would want an admin to interact with you? People rarely change their interaction style when they become admin, so looking at them now can show you how they will act as admin.
  • Do you trust them to always act in the best interests of the wikia? This is the key question. Each admin chosen on a wikia should have the community and the wikia's best interests at heart. If they have that, the rest will follow.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing an admin. A person doesn't have to be perfect in every respect to make a good admin, of course, but if you consider the whole picture, you will have the best information to make your decision. Whether you are voting on a formal "Votes for Admins" page or choosing the first admins for the wikia you have founded, care in selecting admins is always important.

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