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The Zen Admin

Sannse September 29, 2014 User blog:Sannse Google
Zenblog

Balance and calm are needed for the zen admin

Today's topic was suggested by 452, and it's a good one. We've talked about the attributes of the ideal admin, and about the best ways to react to trolling. But between that is the best way to react to users you dislike or are causing problems on the wikia in ways other than simple trolling.

This is related to "Don't Feed the Trolls," but there are some differences. Not feeding trolls is generally about not giving feedback to those that are editing specifically to get a reaction to their disruption. But sometimes there's more involved than that, and sometimes your reaction is not just about not feeding, it's also about your own effect on the wikia and its community.

So let's talk about your reactions to vandals, users that don't listen, or who go against the community grain, who have a way of provoking anger in others, or otherwise cause problems on your wikia - intentionally or unintentionally.

When I talked about what makes a good admin, I mentioned admins having tact, being friendly, and interacting in a good way with others. One of the ways that shows is in their interactions in difficult situations. Calm and considered reactions show an admin as able, respectable, and responsible. It's easy to get angry with bad users, or those that aren't bad but irritate or anger you. Shouting insults at them can be satisfying, let's be honest here, but it also shows the admins and the wikia in a bad light.

One opinion is that problem users don't deserve courtesy and politeness. But that really misses the point. Even if vandals don't (and I happen to think everyone does) the rest of the community definitely does. And by peppering the wikia with bad or abusive language, you are disrespecting your visitors and your genuine and hardworking contributors. You are also introducing a bad tone for the wikia as a whole. If the admins feel it's okay to curse at people, so will the rest of the wikia. Or they will see you as hypocritical and untrustworthy as admins.

The sort of problematic language I’m referring to can range from simply using curse words, to more direct abuse, threats and angry rants. In block reasons, for example, I've seen everything from "you suck!" to extreme rants about the vandals family and threats to find and kill them!. Of course, the latter is not only offensive and counter-productive, it's also against the Terms of Use (ToU). Homophobic and racist slurs are also against the ToU, and staff may also intervene in any situation where the abuse is getting out of hand.

It’s better to be calm and factual any time you are dealing with a problem user. Look for your inner zen and reflect that before reacting. For block reasons, edit summaries and similar messages, just state the facts without trying to insult or add opinion, or to get some sort of revenge. "Blocked for vandalism" is always better than "blocked for being a poopy head!!!!!"

When talking to someone causing problems - maybe on a wall, talk page, or forum - always take the higher ground and act well even if others aren't. One technique I find useful is to pretend that what they are saying is polite, and reply in kind. So you could reply to "I hate you!!!" as though the user had written what he probably meant: "I am angry and frustrated" - and then reply as if they had said that instead.

So

  • Don't allow your natural anger and frustration spill over into your words on the wikia
  • Keep edit summaries, block reasons, and other comments neutral and polite
  • Remember that you are not just speaking to the vandal, but also to everyone viewing the comment
  • Remember that abusive behavior towards others is against the ToU, and that applies to both sides of a dispute
  • Keep in mind that your reputation matters, and the best way to keep that reputation as a fair and reasonable admin is to keep your manner fair and reasonable!

Do you have good examples of calm and reasonable messages in the face of provocation? Which admins do you admire most for their skilled reactions to those who behave badly?

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