The following request for comments was closed; the comment period is over.
Comment: WMF has been undertaking the renaming of staff accounts and separation of staff and volunteer actions for the best part of September 2014, so this should be accepted as a tacit acceptance of the proposal, and general practice. There may be exceptions to the rule, and there may be accounts that still exist that need to be discombobulated(I love that word), and that is for WMF staff to decide and explain. — billinghurstsDrewth
RFC: Distinguishing Wikimedia Foundation staff accounts for official actions and personal use
It is proposed that Wikimedia Foundation staff members should consistently use accounts with a personally identifiable name with "WMF" appended when acting on-wiki in their capacity as staff and reserved for that purpose. This will reduce confusion when Wikimedia Commons users are dealing with a fellow member of the community or a representative of the Foundation acting with special power. Personal accounts of staff members shall be considered members of the community and shall be treated as such, including following standard processes for granting access to user rights or advanced permissions.
A proposal from the Wikimedia Commons community is not binding for the Wikimedia Foundation, however this change is intended to improve relations between our project and the Foundation and we further believe the Foundation can institute this minor change with little to no disruption of their activities, and we further ask that they consider making this a requirement not just here but at all WMF projects.
surely any such proposal should be at meta. Having every wiki have different rules for staff account naming in a world with SUL, seems like it would be too confusing for staff to reasonably follow. Bawolff (talk) 06:56, 13 July 2014 (UTC)
I disagree, as this can only serve to decrease participation. If the English Wikipedia Community and the Commons Community can be shown to have the same viewpoint, then meta will doubtless follow. As can be seen in the Arbcom discussion, there have been several assertions by staff and well known Wikimedians that RFCs by the community may be dismissed by the Foundation as not meaningful, unless thousands rather than hundreds take part. In terms of numbers, having this discussion on meta makes that view more extreme as the level of participation is invariably significantly lower than if we have discussions on the largest projects instead.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by [[User:|]] ([[User talk:|talk]])
@Zellfaze: Please add the Difflink where you copied this thread from.
Given that a number of people have suggested that this be proposed at Meta. I am making a copy this this proposal here. The original discussion can be found on Commons. I for one, support this proposal full-heartedly. Zellfaze (talk) 23:05, 28 July 2014 (UTC)
Support We are long past the days when staff actions were done by a small number of well-known people. The WMF now has more than 200 people so it is reasonable to ask WMF staff to clearly identify themselves when they carry out actions in an official capacity. There is no need to rename any accounts, because those staff that don't have separate official accounts can just create a new one with "(WMF)" at the end. Green Giant (talk) 03:08, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
Comment - For the avoidance of any doubt, I am an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation, I frequently am an executor of OFFICE actions, I manage the team that handles rights assignments, and I control the user account User:WMFOffice. Professionally speaking, I have no comment as to whether or not I agree with this proposal (personally speaking, of course, I have an opinion, but choose not to voice it at this time). I do, however, wish to point out one thing. The list of users with staff privileges includes two role accounts (and this proposal includes the words "personally identifiable name"): WMFOffice and WMFLegal. Those are critical accounts set up on the advice of experienced professionals in security. Though infrequently used, they exist for very specific purposes having to do with the security of staff. Using one of those, it is possible, for instance, for us to take actions against individuals who are extremely dangerous (I'm talking both physical, real-world danger and internet reputational danger) without exposing staff needlessly. Those accounts make it possible for us to erect a certain arms-length that is sometimes necessary for dealing with the extremely obsessive, for instance. I think that the fact that they are so infrequently used demonstrates that we are extremely judicious with our use. Only two people know the password to WMFOffice, for instance, and I'm not pulling it out unless it's absolutely necessary. I can and have taken controversial actions under my own name, but we have advice from security professionals that we maintain a role account, just in case. I would therefore suggest that an exemption be built into any final recommendation to the staff, such that those two - which have been proven to not be frequently used or abused - be allowed to be maintained for security purposes. Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 19:03, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps we should change it to "included" or something more generic then, because it's clear those accounts are under WMF jurisdiction. --Rschen7754 20:13, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for raising that issue Philippe. It is precisely because we have (and need) office actions operated by WMF staff that I feel it is necessary for staff to use staff-identified accounts for day-to-day business, so that the staff members do not feel the need to dream up terminology to explain the role based nature of the edit they are about to perform using their personal account. I believe that the recent dramas are a symptom of staff using personal accounts, because with the best of intentions they label an edit as a 'WMF edit', or worse 'WMF action', when what they mean (AGF, it is hard) is 'edit/action performed as part of my paid job' (maybe they should used 'paid edit' or 'paid action' per the paid contribution amendment ;-)). I whimper inside each time this happens. At best, confusion reigns supreme and 'office actions' crops up in the discussions, diluting the community understanding of office actions as a rare beast to be considered a friend, and they worry that the scope of 'office actions' is being expanded. A big thank you to your team (and you) for being extremely cautious wrt using those accounts. Should this RFC get traction (say about 15 supports), based on the concept, we'll need to put our heads together to construct a proposed wording suitable to become a meta policy. John Vandenberg (talk) 22:29, 10 August 2014 (UTC)
I would support this change to the RFC as well. Zellfaze (talk) 19:14, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
In light of what has happened on the German Wikipedia, this is now a must-have. I would like the policy include the two accounts mentioned by Philippe, though. odder (talk) 07:09, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Support I sometimes come across WMF employees which I have not previously heard of. Having "WMF" somewhere in the user name of all official accounts would make things less clear. I Oppose the idea of using the same account for both personal and office use as such use risks being confusing and unclear, as recently seen at en:MediaWiki:Common.js and de:MediaWiki:Common.js. I have no problem with having "WMF" at the beginning of some user names as in the examples given by Philippe, as long as it is unambiguously clear that the account is controlled by the WMF. The letters "WMF" should not appear anywhere in accounts which do not belong to the WMF. --Stefan2 (talk) 15:32, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
There's nothing in the proposal suggesting a single (WMF / personal account) and most WMFers on en-wp (except Wales, of course) have dual accounts. NE Ent (talk) 13:35, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
Support In my personal opinion this is a good move, it allows work and personal actions to be distinctly separated and leaves little question when staff members leave so that rights can be removed and the accounts completely locked. For those that do not know, I am also Jalexander in my staff capacity and generally oversee staff rights. I am speaking completely in my personal capacity. Jamesofur (talk) 18:18, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
Support, that's actually some basic work missing here. If these accounts are used for WMF staff work they should be clearly identifyable. It's up to the specific user to decide whether his personal account should be renamed (assuming he/she have ever edited in Wikis) or a new account created, any special right granted to the old account for staff work needs to be transferred to the WMF account then. Anyhow the use of the WMF designation (or similar ones like WMDE, WMUK) should be prohibited in usernames for normal users. --Denniss (talk) 13:54, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
Support This is a necessity. Post-event "claiming" of edits and actions is unacceptable.--Gilderien (talk) 19:58, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
Support – Seems to be a reasonable request and may prevent some needless drama. CT Cooper ·talk 20:31, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
Support – Astounding that this has not already been required long ago. Carrite (talk) 21:28, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
Support for clarity of identification, so long as staff can still use an alternate (non-staff identifying) account for "regular editing" if they wish, and so long as existing non-staff accounts that happen to contain the string, WMF, are grandfathered in. No regular editor should have to change an existing username. BD2412T 03:48, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
Support - smart staffers already do this, avoiding confusion over their actions and even comments. (Go smart staffers!) Also staff should not be using community acquired rights for WMF purposes, or WMF acquired rights for personal purposes. Rich Farmbrough 14:28 16 August 2014 (GMT).
Oppose I believe that such "policy" is up to the Wikimedia to decide. The use-case that triggered this discussion does not warrant any policy change from our side.
There should be a way to say that a specific edit is for a specific organisation or a result of affiliation with it. Having two separate accounts for such purpose feels ...stupid at best. (I understand that staff have extra rights, but I'm sure the software is quite capable of attaching them to a "I'm doing an office action" or "I'm doing a staff action" tick box.)
Question of identifying the edits clearly is an open question. I'm, again, confident that this may be easily solved by attaching metadata to an edit and displaying them as necessary (such as, in a conversation, Flow may add a special word or couple next to messages said on behalf of the WMF). --Gryllida 10:05, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
Support (with the assumption that each WMF employee would have his own official account):
Most of us don't know who the WMF people are, and therefore may miss when they make an official response to a situation and think they are ignoring it -- but won't if their comments end in "(WMF)".
By separating unofficial editing from their work activities, WMF employees should reduce the liability exposure of WMF for their personal free-time edits.
By having all official WMF edits in a set of special-purpose accounts, managers should be better able to review all WMF edits made on a given day at once to see if anything stands out.
I have been told that some WMF people still don't have SUL unified accounts. All official WMF accounts *should* be SUL unified, since there is almost no one for them to conflict with who has (WMF) at the end of the username.
If WMF accounts have advanced and problematic permissions like "superprotect", then people should not log into them every hour from every airport, restaurant and bar hotspot in Europe. They should be used sparingly and logged into sparingly, reducing the risk of compromise.
Lots of WMF people do this now and I've never seen a downside to it.
I assume this is a true request for comments and not simply a vote. :-)
I don't think this is necessary as I don't see evidence of a problem needing to be addressed. There's mention of confusion, but I don't see what's allegedly confusing. While I vehemently disagree with many of Erik's actions lately, it was never ambiguous whether he was acting in an official capacity.
A small part of me thinks this this proposed policy change would deepen the "us v. them" divide. I wonder if others share this concern. A small part of me also thinks that this proposed policy change would act as a brand (in the cattle or criminal sense) on otherwise productive accounts. And in some ways I think this inconveniences and almost punishes the people we want to be staff members the most (people from the community, who are actively editing in the community). Unlike other sites such as GitHub, which make it easy to link multiple accounts or switch between accounts, MediaWiki does nobody any favors.
Sue, Brion, Tim, and many others have used unadorned accounts without issue for years. If staff members want to use accounts with "(WMF)" in the name, that's certainly fine, but I don't currently see a reason to make it a hard requirement.
Regarding advanced user rights, those privileges should be closely monitored and audited, but that's true no matter the account names being used. By all means keep a close eye on advanced rights and limit their use as much as humanly possible. But I disagree with the suggestion above that we need to lock accounts when users depart; we just need to be mindful when staff depart (and it wouldn't hurt to be mindful all the other times as well!). --MZMcBride (talk) 02:43, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
The ambiguity arises when their actions with unadorned usernames are confused with Office actions. Erik sure did make it make it pretty obvious with super-protect he was acting as MeatBall:GodKing, with dev minions backing him up, but that didnt stop confusion with Office actions, and that wasnt understood during the initial revert war on de:MediaWiki:Common.js. Re community members who are also staff, they can and should be using their ordinary account for most participation, with only the rights that come with it, and subject to usual community practises, both good and bad. It is the WMF who are asserting (more strongly that before) that their staff have rights (both actual rights and the right to not be subject to community practises) above those of the community. While I am concerned about what happens when we go in that direction, I am more concerned that actions taken using 'staff' rights should be performed by accounts which unambiguously indicate they are WMF accounts. If you ask 'who is Eloquence' to the typical regular contributor to a smaller wiki, they have no idea. There are accounts like User:Yurik which hold staff rights, but there is no mention of who they are on their meta user page (until I added the category now). There are also have several accounts like User:Jalexander which is James' 'WMF' account - distinct from his personal account - and could easily be renamed? John Vandenberg (talk) 04:11, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
The Board has spoken and has endorsed this horrible power-grab. Pages such as office actions probably need to be updated, but I don't see the relationship between out-of-date documentation and the usernames being used. Documentation pages such as office actions or w:Wikipedia:Office actions would need to be psychic or artificially intelligence to be able to already be updated with information reflecting the events of the past few weeks.
m:User:Yurik points to w:User:Yurik which makes it clear that he's currently working for the Wikimedia Foundation. For some reason he's missing from WMF Advanced Permissions, but that's easy enough to get fixed with a bit of poking. We should certainly ensure that every user in the staff group is properly accounted for, but I remain unconvinced that we need to try to force a username convention. --MZMcBride (talk) 04:56, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
@MZMcBride:w:User:Yurik has been added to the advanced permissions sheet, and should be seen on the wikipage as soon as the bot synchronizes. The issue was a, uhm, transducer... thingy... in the flux capaciter... that resulted in a bad Director forgetting to update the form. He has been destroyed. Thank you for the find. :) Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 19:37, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
@MZMcBride: Certainly this is a true RFC! Thank you for leaving some thoughts!
This RFC isn't about the super-protect rights or the recent actions of WMF employees. Its about trying to keep people from being confused and its about making the distinction between acting in an official WMF employee capacity and an unpaid volunteer capacity easier to see. Unless Erik (not to pick on Erik, but he has been the talk of the town lately) makes a note that he is acting in an official capacity or as a volunteer, its unknown how we are meant to interpret his actions. You meantion that in his case it is obvious that he is acting in an official capacity, but I think for anyone who is not familiar with who he is and what position he holds, the act is far from obvious.
By forcing the distinction between WMF account and volunteer account, we fix that problem. This also allows for measures, such as those taken against deWP's community advocate to happen. In the case of deWP's community advocate, after helping Erik his/her sysop privileges on their personal account were removed as they had lost the trust of the community. Whether you agree with that change or not, the option isn't even available without the seperation of accounts (and it could work the other way too, maybe someone should only have a privilege when they are working in an unofficial capacity).
"A small part of me thinks this this proposed policy change would deepen the 'us v. them' divide." This is a sad and unwanted byproduct of this proposal, but I think its a sacrifice that is worth it. If it counts for anything, staff of the WMF who want to be (mostly) free of the "us v. them" divide would now have to use their personal account for personal editing, which would help remove the stigma of being a foundation employee when they are just trying to have some fun. (That last sentence was poorly worded sorry.)
I'd love to debate the pros and cons of this further with you. So far my support remains untarnished though. Zellfaze (talk) 19:12, 15 August 2014 (UTC)
Page "User:Foo" may be very clear that the user is an employee. But I do not go and look at a user page every time I see an edit or other action. Certainly I see no reason that bad actors should be given the wriggle room to say "oh that was just me, not as a WMF action" when things go against them, and "That was a WMF action you reverted! De-sysop her!" when they think they might get support. This clarity is essential, when people with no wiki-experience have sweeping rights across community wikis, and people with extensive Foundation experience are locked out of Foundation wikis. Rich Farmbrough 14:24 16 August 2014 (GMT).
"I don't think this is necessary as I don't see evidence of a problem needing to be addressed." — I wholeheartedly agree. --Gryllida 10:07, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure why MZ would question this. I think Mz created the contractors page when WMF just sort of kept it quiet and had similar concerns about this sort of stuff? I mean the ambiguity is a big problem, new users don't have the same level of familiarity with individuals - most can go for years without knowing another user's gender. Only someone who has been around for years would know Erik, Sue, Tim are old staff members. There are new admins, users around all the time, it would just be expected that they familiarize themselves with the higher ups at WMF? Some staff members just point back and forth with their staff account across wikis. Meta user pages just have a link to their en.wp which explains they are a staff member, some don't - all this is a mess to follow for someone new. I'm not sure what the problem is with a clear simple Delineation between accounts. The existing personal accounts are kept separate, so an individual can still have their opinions - even if those opinions are critical of their employer - while an employer might object to their employee criticizing their company openly, so they can limit and control those interactions in their official capacity. All this seems pretty straight-forward. On the point of locking accounts after departure - can you tell me how that should work with those unadorned accounts? Sue's for example? If a special concession is made for her to use that single account, why not others? Theo10011 (talk) 17:34, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
Theo10011: I don't believe Sue's account ever had elevated privileges, but if it did, they can be removed if they're no longer needed or wanted. I don't see an issue here.
Again, I'm led to wonder what problem is trying to be solved here? Is there evidence of an actual problem?
And as stated above, I have no issue with properly accounting for staff members with wiki pages and spreadsheets. By all means, please do! But I don't see how the account name is relevant to that. --MZMcBride (talk) 04:07, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
As pointed out by others, you can't expect people to go check the user page of everyone involved in a discussion. Nor can you expect people to always look at the edit history to see that there is "WMF Action" in the edit summary. I've been here since 2009 and I'm still learning about new staff members all the time! Zellfaze (talk) 20:09, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
An alternative: support account ‘roles’ or ‘affiliations’
I would like to suggest that we don't have two accounts for one person in the first place.
I don't know how staff are using this, but I'd personally find this awfully inconvenient. For instance, if a staff member resigns and someone decides to leave them a talk page message onto their old account, they'd miss it. Similarly they'd miss anything whatsoever happening to their entire watchlist and personal notifications (echo).
This is all probably written in a tone which suggests that everything else is wrong. Please don't interpret it as such; I welcome any discussions, rejection, or tweaks, as necessary. (The only strong feeling I have here is one of the paperwork itself being utterly redundant, as noted one section up.)
Basically you are suggesting a longer route to the same problem. Your solution would involve some form of new development for this "tick box" or support account field feature to be enabled, then it would need to be turned on either a limited wikis or pages. I would still question what benefit this would have for 99.9% of other users, only to help 0.01% representing the staff at the moment to delineate their edits(WiR and any paid edits still represent a very very minuscule minority compared to regular edits). In essence I think just separating account is a shorter fix than forming this alternative field. Also, I don't believe that getting a message on a former WMF account would be a problem. I saw recently most inactive staff accounts had a template attached and moved to former staff category - something like those guidelines could be expanded to protect the talk page and and mention in the template at protection to leave messages to the personal account. Theo10011 (talk) 16:27, 20 August 2014 (UTC)
This enhancement request exists in bugzilla (there are a few of them), and hasnt been implemented. If the WMF response to this RFC wsa "give us a few months and we'll add affiliations to accounts", that would be an excellent outcome from my perspective. John Vandenberg (talk) 14:09, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
This would generally solve the problem as I see it. Though it wouldn't help much in discussions. That could be solved by having their signature modified if they check an affiliations checkbox. I would support this solution. Zellfaze (talk) 20:11, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Comment from Lila
"As part of this process, we have heard feedback that WMF employees should have distinct accounts for their WMF-related actions as opposed to their personal actions on the projects. We accept that feedback and will put in place such a system within the next month. ... For the purpose of additional clarity regarding roles and responsibilities, we will put in place a clear distinction between work and personal accounts for all WMF employees by September 15." -- @LilaTretikov: on her talk pageZellfaze (talk) 21:07, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes. Today, we informed staff of this. Recent events have raised the question of WMF account naming. Historically, some WMF employees have used a separate account for “work” and “non-work” purposes. Still others have used a single consolidated account for both work and non-work purposes. We’ve known for some time that this could create confusion, and have been gradually moving toward a “two accounts” system. Based on community input, we're now finalizing that process. Here’s the important bit: All employees maintaining a “consolidated” account will need to separate work and non-work editing into separate accounts, and all employees must have a work account that clearly identifies their affiliation with the WMF, using the “(WMF)” suffix (or, in certain circumstances, the “-WMF” suffix). There will be a period of transition as we complete account renames and migrations for this, but our target is to be complete by 9/15. As of that date, work-related edits will be made from specifically designated (WMF) accounts, and there will be no more comingled accounts. Note that this policy applies to production wikis only, and does not impact things such as Phabricator, Bugzilla, or private wikis. Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 21:10, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Why not Bugzilla (and Phabricator)? That may be important as well. --Anika (talk) 08:48, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
I think given that the WMF is changing their policy now to require this, and there appears to be pretty widespread support for it, we can close this RFC now. I don't want to be the one to close it though given I opened it and obviously have opinions that may influence my ability to properly read consensus. Zellfaze (talk) 22:57, 21 August 2014 (UTC)
Pardon me? You're suggesting that a statement from the Executive Director discussing the new rule, and from the WMF employee charged with implementing it are mere "gossip"? Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 00:13, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Oh, hush. You didn't address the substantive point: wmf:Policies#Board and staff members makes no mention of this alleged new policy and it remains to be seen whether you can brutishly force this username convention in practice.
Zellfaze: The standard length for a discussion of this nature is at least thirty days (sometimes discussions can last months or years). Unless there's a reason to deviate from that, I don't think it hurts to leave the discussion open. Meta-Wiki users, historically and in my experience, have been very particular about not closing discussions early due to snow. --MZMcBride (talk) 02:01, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
Once the policy is posted though, I don't think that this will be case of snowball closing. The RFC will be made irrelevant. Its more like an RFC asking whether or not Wikipedia should change its policy to require a NPOV. The NPOV policy already exists, an RFC about creating it would be silly. This RFC could be reworded a bit to ask whether or not its a good idea for staff to have separate accounts, but as it is, a RFC asking whether or not a policy should be created requiring staff to have separate accounts, I don't think it will serve much purpose anymore. Zellfaze (talk) 13:23, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
@Jalexander-WMF, Philippe (WMF), and ...: Are you aware that some of the accounts must not be renamed? User:Eloquence for example has done a lot of edits as volunteer, those would be re-labeled to "official WMF edits" in the histories, what would be not acceptable. --Trofobi (talk) 10:57, 26 August 2014 (UTC) PS. forgot to ping @LilaTretikov (WMF): (& thank you to James for renaming her) --Trofobi (talk) 11:14, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I suspect for that account he would keep it as his personal account and a new WMF account would be made. Zellfaze (talk) 12:47, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
That is also the case for a few more accounts in the staff user group. And I think they know. For example, Reedy is also normal sysop in the English Wikipedia and has made tens of thousands edits there, also thousands of normal edits and file uploads f.ex. on Commons. Also Yurik is a normal user, and Tim is sysop in the English Wikipedia with thousands of edits, too. And Ariel has done tens of thousands edits in the el-Wiktionary and many in other wikis. I have understood it that they will check this and perhaps create new WMF accounts for those kind of users.
@Trofobi: Aye, we are doing the change on a case by case basis. That means that it will be more time consuming for us but is better in the long run. Some accounts will be able to be renamed, some staff members will have new accounts created (and any staff rights they have moved over) and some will likely create new volunteer accounts. (or some combination Lila will be creating a volunteer account for example). For example Erik just had a staff account created for him (User:Erik Moeller (WMF)) and I will be switching staff rights to that account in a couple minutes. Regarding Lila not being in the staff user group, we only give out +staff (or any user rights to staff members) for those who can prove a need for work. So far Lila has not had a need for it and so hasn't gotten the rights. While we're doing all of these switch overs I'm doing a review of staff rights and different global groups so we may end up with a lesser privileged 'staff' that has all staff members in it but until then there is no need to give the (very highly privileged) staff right out to those who don't need it. Jalexander--WMF 18:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm pleased that +staff is only given out as needed. I like the idea of making a second less privileged group to contain all of the staff that don't need enhanced privileges. Thank you guys. :) Zellfaze (talk) 19:07, 26 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that’s a very good idea, thanks also. @Jalexander-WMF: Why don’t you link to your new WMF user page with your staff account, but to your former user page? Forgotten to change the signature? --Winternacht (talk) 20:29, 26 August 2014 (UTC)