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Grants:IdeaLab/Make sysops a technical role, but for real

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Make sysops a technical role, but for real
Wikimedia policies say that sysops have a merely a technical role, and they just enforce consensus. But reality is much different: many procedures (like Articles for deletion) involve last word decision-making by sysops; when they think consensus is obvious, sysops are allowed to "be bold" and decide themselves; and that's not simply "applying the rules", because differents sysops come out with different decisions. Even when real discussion takes place, it is not uncommon that the case is enterely or mainly decided by sysops (that's to say, the same one who will enforce the decision). Not even in the wild west it was allowed to the same person to be, at the same time, sheriff and judge. What Wikipedia lacks is a separation of powers: those who decide should always be sharply divided from those who enforce decisions. No exception allowed.
contact email• alessandroantonelli2@gmail.com
idea creator
Una giornata uggiosa '94
this project needs...
created on01:29, 21 July 2018 (UTC)

Project idea


What Wikimedia project(s) and specific areas will you be evaluating?


Is this project measuring a specific space on a project (e.g. deletion discussions), or the project as a whole?
Decision-making by sysops

Describe your idea. How might it be implemented?


Provide details about the method or process of how you will evaluate your community or collect data. Does your idea involve private or personally identifying information? Take a look at the Privacy Policy for Wikimedia’s guidelines in this area.
One who gets elected as sysop should lose the right to take part to decisions (on users, on pages, on everything); every single sysop action should be the enforcement of a decision taken by others (the non-sysop community). Above all it is important that sysops be forbidden to participate in the procedure of election, confirmation or referral of other sysops, because this produces a vicious circle and a closed, self-referential community that self-acquits itself. If that won't happen, Wikimedia projects will remain an oligarchy as they currently are.

Are there experienced Wikimedians who can help implement this project?


If applicable, please list groups or usernames of individuals who you can work with on this project, and what kind of work they will do.

How will you know if this project is successful? What are some outcomes that you can share after the project is completed?


How would your measurement idea help your community make better decisions?


After you are finished measuring or evaluating your Wikimedia project, how do you expect that information to be used to benefit the project?

Do you think you can implement this idea? What support do you need?


Do you need people with specific skills to complete this idea? Are there any financial needs for this project? If you can’t implement this project, can you scale down your project so it is doable?
What's needed is a strong will from high-ranking Wikimedia officials, to counteract the contrary reactions that would arise from sysops of local Wikiprojects

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About the idea creator


10-year contributor with 20k edits on it.wiki and 4000+ uploads on Commons. Regretting every single one of them.


  • Volunteer. I don't know the process, but if I can help, I'm here! Camelia (talk) 01:44, 28 July 2018 (UTC)


  • Yes, theory is different from reality, and often be sysop/check user/burocrat is not only have one more button. Means power that influence decisions and the process of election/confirmation, as is now, could be not a discussion extended to the community but a war of simpathy/antipathy or a (autoreferential) formality. Camelia (talk) 11:56, 22 July 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree that at least in passages related to core ns0 content those who decide should not be those who enforce the decision. If someone think this is too complicated, let's supporte them in find new ways that assure that these passages are smooth and clear and fast. In any case, they should not be carried by the same person. Guidelines should updated to be sure about this requirement.Alexmar983 (talk) 00:38, 25 July 2018 (UTC)
  • I find it absolutely correct that sysops should play a technical role and not a decision-making role. More and more behaviors become confused: the personal ideas of the sysops, which may not coincide with those of "normal users", always have a different weight compared to all the other participants in any discussion. I think that few will support this proposal, not because it is not valid, but for fear of exposing oneself to personal attacks. Geoide (talk) 08:56, 25 July 2018 (UTC)
  • I agree there is a grey zone. Quite a number of sysops are aware of the double role they have and they act consequently, but sometimes a sysop accepts difficultly even small critical remarks on double roles. --Havang(nl) (talk) 12:09, 28 July 2018 (UTC)
  • Oppose Oppose This is a universal issue among management groups of all types. However, there are more sysops who are multi-skilled and fair-minded than not so why limit their scope when they can be of service in multiple roles? If there is an issue of "power grabbing," or "personality conflict," or "cliquish behavior," that should be a community concern addressed at the community level. It doesn't need to be codified by a rule which, in my opinion, will only hurt new topics, small topics, and growing topics that need multi-faceted editors to perform many roles.Ouranista (talk) 15:13, 28 July 2018 (UTC)
I don't see it. New topics, small topics, and growing topics actually need a more balanced approach. For example, deciding to delete a certain article can have long-term effect in some cases, and that's where separating those who decide and those who enact the decision is important. Also, this image of the good users who are so brilliant and trusted that they can do everything is misleading. I saw it in many working environments and it's usually toxic. Good wiki users, good leaders, good workers don't centralize competence and don't let them be put on a pedestal. They find new users and new coworkers, they spread knowledge about the procedurces and they push for diversification. They are aware how this separation is crucial on the long term. It can take a big amount of energy and time to fix it, but it's usually the same amount it takes to oppose the procedures which catalyze it and also complaining after a while that they are overwhelmed with work, something that happen when you set up things on a wrong way, and mixing roles is a wrong way. Alexmar983 19:58, 29 July 2018 (UTC)
I'm all for "share the load" when there are enough workers, but sometimes there aren't enough and sometimes the workers don't see the "big picture" or simply resent not "being in charge." Limiting roles can backfire as much as not having enough separation of roles. Maybe there's a way to modify a sysop's control or appeal a sysop's decision without locking them out of the decision process entirely? After all, that person probably got initially involved with Wikipedia as an editor interested in providing content. To go from that to being a technical advisor only sounds dull and to sign up to be a sysop in that capacity is somewhat demeaning (i.e. the sysop cleans up everybody else's mess and makes suggestions but has no say in the outcome and has less influence than the editors). That isn't fair or just, either.Ouranista (talk) 16:48, 1 August 2018 (UTC)
i don't think that you are limiting roles, we might have nuances in the word we use but to me you are limiting actions. You can be one role or another, for me. You want to be the one who summarizes what to do next? Good, you just leave to someone else to enact it. You are not locked out of the process as a user, you just have to feel the importance to the fucntional role of a sysop of not mixing the two dimensions. This simply has to be clear. Also, I am sorry but I never trust the "poor guy" narrative. "Poor guy" has so many things to do, that we seem "ungrateful"/"excessive" if we ask this or that limitation. It's not like that. I do a lot of things with limitations, I just don't cry for them, I offer solutions whenever I can and find people to spread the advanced flags to overcome them. I want some of the flags, I suggest other flags for other people. I accept that simple codified action can be embodied to one flag in one action, like you can move the files or change temporarly the visibilty of a page yourselfs in some specific cases, but I don' t expect it to be possible to act directly in other cases. More importantly, when I do things that are more subtle, I want to be corrected, I want an additional step to be verified precisely because I do a lot of things. It never limited my productivity, quite the opposite. They don't affect what I do, they enhance what I do. So everytime I hear the echo of "the poor guy"... so limited , so stressed, so hindered, that you cannot stress him or her futher by demanding things in a more passages... I don't feel a lot of empathy. Plus, I kinda know those profiles on some platforms and ironically, when users want to have some of their "powers" to be given to subgroups of users (moving files, accessing deleted histories, assigning semiprotection of pages...) is usually those poeple who might say no, that is too complicated, that is not trustworthy. Now, if you (plural indefinite) want a system where you centralize everything in few profiles, you probably don't get what is a balanced wiki enviornment. but that's not my fault. Basically, you act as a node that convert everyhting on you, instead of the opposite. That's a key reason why you are overwhelemed, and you don't have time to go on with the content you liked, that's why you feel that if this changes it is going to be worse. You support and sometimes actively create a system that limit roles or fuction or actions (call it how you want) for many of us and than you feel that because the system is fragile (and it is), is not good to limit yours. Well, if this manages to make you change this mentality a little bit, that's a good thing.--Alexmar983 (talk) 19:58, 2 August 2018 (UTC)
  • Thumbs up for the basic concept of separation of powers! As a rather abstract example: in the design of operating systems, this is known as separating mechanism from policy. In one place (kernel) there is the mechanism to enforce decisions. What those decisions are, is decided another way / in another place. This makes it easier to change policies, to strengthen the mechanisms without changing policy, to see what the policy is and how it's implemented. Debate on how useful it is, or how difficult it would be to implement. Not on whether it's a useful idea in principle. RetroTechie (talk) 21:43, 28 July 2018 (UTC)
  • Support Support Jury is a different role from enforcer/executioner. The "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" practice among admins/sysops should be stopped. Ne0Freedom (talk) 11:57, 31 July 2018 (UTC)
  • There certainly is a conflict: technically-savvy users are typically not the best at conflict resolving. Guiding a process to consensus requires an emphatic, emotionally intelligent person, not someone who is good at spotting detail problems.

See if you can get some ombudswomen to mother a bit over the nerds…

Get some women on board of a structure overhaul, I’d say. Geke (talk) 09:46, 6 August 2018 (UTC)

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