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How You Can Work Through an Admin Dispute

A few weeks ago I talked about why staff don't remove bad admins. But that's only half the story. Bad admins still sometimes need to be removed, and that's what we will look at next.

Young wikias tend to be run almost completely by the Founder. They set up the wikia, make the decisions of its content and scope, and choose who else should have admin and bureaucrat rights. At this stage, it's generally best for unhappy people to vote with their feet. If they don't like how the wikia is being run, then it's a good time for them to move on and find or start a better one! It's a form of survival of the fittest, or in this case, survival of the best managed wikia.

More mature wikias tend to be run by admins selected by the community and will often have procedures for removing admins, as well as other checks and balances. It can be very hard to remove an admin on these wikias, but that's balanced by it being harder to become an admin. And as the admins are picked carefully from the most trusted users on the wikia, it's rare for one to need removing. If they do, the other admins are likely to be aware of that and to make sure that anything done is for the benefit of the community as a whole.

In between these two groups of wikias, are those that are growing successfully and have an active community, but that are still young and still developing their "personality." These wikias may have good content added with lots of community effort, which means the community is too invested in the wikia for it to be practical for them move on.

But that doesn't mean that it's only possible to remove admins from big wikias. After all, the community owns each wikia, and there are times when the community needs to stand their ground and insist an admin isn't right for them.

The first thing for anyone unhappy about an admin should think about is, "is this just me?" If you are the only person who feels the admin is a problem, and it seems that no one else on the wikia is prepared to back you up, then it's possible you are in the wrong. Just as the community can remove an admin, they can also decide that the admin is right and you are the one causing the problem!

If you think you will have the backing of the community, then the first thing to do is to talk to the admin. Explain in a polite and calm way what you see as the problem, ideally on their wall or talk page. Try and be balanced and to acknowledge those times you have been at fault. It's a good idea to ask someone neutral to check what you have written before it's posted. You may also want to ask someone (but not a flood of people) to add their point of view and explain why they are unhappy too.

The aim here is to try and resolve the dispute without further action being taken. After all, the admin may not know that anyone's unhappy. It's important to go into the conversation with that goal in mind, rather than with the aim of simply getting to the next step.

That next step, if the initial discussion doesn't work, is to gather opinions from more of the community. You might do this on a forum post, or a blog - whatever works for your community. Again, it's important to be polite and make sure you don't sound as though you are attacking anyone. The aim at this point is still to solve the problem without removing the admin. Encourage those participating to explain why they are unhappy, and what they are asking for from the admin and the rest of the admin team. For example, someone might say "I am unhappy with the number of long blocks given for minor errors. I would like us to have a page that gives guidelines on when to block and for how long, and for [the admin] to agree to follow those guidelines"

Even with everyone doing their best to be constructive, that discussion may not work at resolving the problems. That's when it's finally time to discuss whether the admin should lose their rights. Again, a public space such as the forums is generally best. Open and clear discussion that everyone can see are better than a closed space such as a chat PM. Even if you ask for someone to be removed as admin, you should still stay calm and resist attacking them or others. This is your best chance to make your case, and any bad behavior on your part will just make you look like the one in the wrong.

If the community is in agreement that the admin's rights should be removed, then it is a bureaucrat's responsibility to make the change. If the person being removed is themselves a bureaucrat, then you will need them to remove their own bureaucrat rights, or ask staff to do so. Be sure to link to the community discussion if you contact staff.

You can also contact staff if the bureaucrat(s) are not willing to remove rights. Again, you need to link to the community discussion, and be prepared for us to look at the situation carefully before we decide whether to go ahead and make the changes.

There is also another situation in which you might need to contact staff - if the admins delete the discussion page rather than allowing people to have their say. We will look into the situation and may ask the admins to leave the conversation in place for a set time. If they don't, we may insist and take action to ensure everyone gets their say.

It's always a serious thing to try and remove an admin or bureaucrat, and the best attitude to have towards the process is "how can we mend things so we don't need to remove rights?" As you can see, you may need some staff help even if the community is trying to remove someone's rights by themselves. And that takes us back to all the reasons we try not to get involved in local matters such as this. So be aware that there are many varied situations, and we may decide that it's better for the wikia for us still not to intervene. We will look at the situation carefully and try to be fair to all. But what we always prefer is for you to try to resolve your differences with good will and good faith, and for no admins to need to be removed at all!

Do you have any examples of solving an admin dispute without removing admins? How did you do it, and what advice would you give to your fellow community members? Tell us about it in the comments!

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