Administrators, commonly known as admins or sysops (system operators), are Wikipedia editors who have been granted the technical ability to perform certain special actions on the English Wikipedia. These include the ability to block and unblock user accounts, IP addresses, and IP ranges from editing, edit fully protected pages, protect and unprotect pages from editing, delete and undelete pages, rename pages without restriction, and use certain other tools.
Administrators assume these responsibilities as volunteers after undergoing a community review process. They do not act as employees of the Wikimedia Foundation. They are never required to use their tools, and must never use them to gain an advantage in a dispute in which they were involved. Administrators should not be confused with Wikimedia system administrators ("sysadmins").
The English Wikipedia has 1,130 administrators (see or lists of administrators by activity level).
Administrators have the technical ability to perform the following actions:
By convention, administrators normally take responsibility for judging the outcomes of certain discussions, such as deletion discussions, move discussions, and move-review discussions, but other editors may close discussions in some cases (see non-admin closures).
The English Wikipedia has no official requirements to become an administrator. Any registered user can request adminship ("RFA") from the community, regardless of their Wikipedia experience. However, administrators are expected to have the trust and confidence of the community, so requests from users who do not have considerable experience are not usually approved. Any registered editor can comment on a request, and each editor will assess each candidate in their own way.
Before requesting or accepting a nomination, candidates should generally be active, regular, and long-term Wikipedia contributors, be familiar with the procedures and practices of Wikipedia, respect and understand its policies, and have gained the general trust of the community. Candidates are also required to disclose whether they have ever edited for pay. Questions regarding this are permitted to be asked of every candidate, by any editor in the community, throughout the RFA process.
A discussion takes place for seven days about whether the candidate should become an administrator. Per community consensus, RfAs are advertised on editors' watchlists and Template:Centralized discussion. The community has instituted a question limit: no editor may ask more than two questions of a candidate. Also disallowed are multi-part questions that are framed as one question, but which in effect ask multiple questions and exceed the limit. Bureaucrats may "clerk" RfAs, dealing with comments and/or votes which they deem to be inappropriate.
The RfA process allows other editors to get to know the candidate, and explore the candidate's involvement and background as an editor, conduct in discussions, and understanding of the role they are requesting, and to state if they support or oppose the request, along with their reasons and impressions of the candidate. An uninvolved bureaucrat then determines if there is consensus to approve the request. This determination is not based exclusively on the percentage of support, but in practice most RfAs above 75% pass. The community has determined that in general, RfAs between 65 and 75% support should be subject to the discretion of bureaucrats. (Therefore, it logically follows that almost all RfAs below 65% support will fail.)
While RFA is an intensive process, the quality of feedback and review on the candidate's readiness and demeanor by experienced editors is often very high. Applicants who are unsuccessful but take steps to address points raised will often succeed on a subsequent request some months later. If you are interested in requesting adminship, you should first read the guide to requests for adminship and the nomination instructions. When you are ready to apply, you may add your nomination to the Wikipedia:Requests for adminship ("RFA") page, according to the instructions on that page.
Adminship is granted indefinitely, and is removed only upon request, under circumstances involving high-level intervention (see administrator abuse below), or temporarily for inactive admins.
Administrator rights can be particularly helpful in certain areas of Wikipedia:
"Uninvolved administrators" can also help in the management of Arbitration Committee remedies and the dispute resolution concerning disruptive areas and situations. Administrators acting in this role are neutral; they do not have any direct involvement in the issues they are helping people with. Lists of sanctions that are to be enforced by neutral administrators can be found at Wikipedia:General sanctions and Wikipedia:Arbitration/Active sanctions (see also requests for enforcement at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement).
Two main noticeboards exist on which general administrator discussion takes place (any user may post or take part in discussions there):
If granted access, administrators must exercise care in using these new functions, especially the ability to delete pages and to block users and IP addresses (see the administrators' how-to guide and new administrator page to learn how to do these things). New administrators should also look at the pages linked from the administrators' reading list before using their administrative abilities. Occasional lapses are accepted but serious or repeated lapses, or lapses involving breaches of 'involved' administrator conduct may not always be.
Administrator tools are also to be used with careful judgment; it can take some time for a new administrator to learn when it's best to use the tools, and it can take months to gain a good sense of how long a period to set when using tools such as blocking and page protection in difficult disputes. New administrators are strongly encouraged to start slowly and build up experience in areas they are used to, and to ask others if unsure.
Administrators should lead by example and, like all editors, should behave in a respectful, civil manner in their interactions with others. Administrators should follow Wikipedia policies and perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Occasional mistakes are entirely compatible with adminship; administrators are not expected to be perfect. However, sustained or serious disruption of Wikipedia through behavior such as incivility or bad faith editing is incompatible with the expectations and responsibilities of administrators, and consistent or egregious poor judgment may result in the removal of administrator tools. Administrators should strive to model appropriate standards of courtesy and civility to other editors.
Administrators should bear in mind that they have hundreds of colleagues. Therefore, if an administrator finds that they cannot adhere to site policies and remain civil (even toward users exhibiting problematic behavior) while addressing a given issue, then the administrator should bring the issue to a noticeboard or refer it to another administrator to address, rather than potentially compound the problem with poor conduct.
Administrators are accountable for their actions involving administrator tools, as unexplained administrator actions can demoralize other editors who lack such tools. Subject only to the bounds of civility, avoiding personal attacks, and reasonable good faith, editors are free to question or to criticize administrator actions. Administrators are expected to respond promptly and civilly to queries about their Wikipedia-related conduct and administrative actions, especially during community discussions on noticeboards or during Arbitration Committee proceedings. Administrators should justify their actions when requested.
Administrators who seriously or repeatedly act in a problematic manner, or who have lost the trust or confidence of the community, may be sanctioned or have their administrator rights removed by the Arbitration Committee. In the past, this has happened or been suggested for the following actions:
Wikipedia's policy on password strength requirements requires administrators to have strong passwords and follow appropriate personal security practices. Because they have the potential to cause site-wide damage with a single edit, a compromised admin account will be blocked and its privileges removed on grounds of site security. In certain circumstances, the revocation of privileges may be permanent. Any administrator who is discovered to have a password less than 8 bytes in length or among the 10,000 most common passwords may also be desysopped. Discretion on resysopping temporarily desysopped administrators is left to bureaucrats, who will consider whether the rightful owner has been correctly identified, and their view on the incident and the management and security (including likely future security) of the account.
Two-factor authentication is available to all users to further secure accounts from unauthorized use.
Administrators must never share their password or account with any other person, for any reason. If they find out their password has been compromised, or their account has been otherwise compromised (even by an editor or individual they know and trust), they should attempt to change it immediately, or otherwise report it to a bureaucrat for temporary desysopping. Users who fail to report unauthorized use of their account will be desysopped. Unauthorized use is considered 'controversial circumstance', and access will not be automatically restored.
In general, editors should not act as administrators in disputes in which they have been involved. This is because involved administrators may have, or may be seen as having, a conflict of interest in disputes they have been a party to or have strong feelings about. Involvement is generally construed very broadly by the community, to include current or past conflicts with an editor (or editors), and disputes on topics, regardless of the nature, age, or outcome of the dispute.
One important caveat is that an administrator who has interacted with an editor or topic area purely in an administrative role, or whose prior involvements are minor or obvious edits which do not show bias, is not involved and is not prevented from acting in an administrative capacity in relation to that editor or topic area. Warnings, calm and reasonable discussion and explanation of those warnings, advice about community norms, and suggestions on possible wordings and approaches do not make an administrator 'involved'.
In straightforward cases (e.g., blatant vandalism), the community has historically endorsed the obvious action of any administrator – even if involved – on the basis that any reasonable administrator would have probably come to the same conclusion. Although there are exceptions to the prohibition on involved editors taking administrative action, it is still the best practice, in cases where an administrator may be seen to be involved, to pass the matter to another administrator via the relevant noticeboards.
If a user believes an administrator has acted improperly, they should express their concerns directly to the administrator responsible and try to come to a resolution in an orderly and civil manner. If the matter is not resolved between the two parties, users can proceed with dispute resolution (see this section below for further information). One possible approach is to use Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents to request feedback from the community – however, complainants should be aware that the behavior of the filer is often also scrutinized. If a user believes they have been blocked improperly, they may appeal the block.
While the Arbitration Committee does not review short or routine blocks, concerns about an administrator's suitability for the role may be brought in a Request for Arbitration, usually when other dispute resolution approaches are unsuccessful (see this section below).
Misusing the administrative tools is considered a serious issue. The administrative tools are provided to trusted users for maintenance and other tasks, and should always be used with thought. Serious misuse may result in sanctions or even their removal.
Even when use of the tools appears reasonable, if doubt exists it is better to ask another independent administrator to review and (if justified) take the action.
Administrators are expected to have good judgment, and are presumed to have considered carefully any actions or decisions they carry out as administrators. Administrators may disagree, but administrative actions should not be reversed without good cause, careful thought, and (if likely to be objected to), where the administrator is presently available, a brief discussion with the administrator whose action is challenged.
In some situations, the usual policy for reversing another administrator's action does not apply:
When another administrator has already reversed an administrative action, there is very rarely any valid reason for the original or another administrator to reinstate the same or similar action again without clear discussion leading to a consensus decision. Wheel warring is when an administrator's action is reversed by another administrator, but rather than discussing the disagreement, administrator tools are then used in a combative fashion to undo or redo the action. With very few exceptions, once an administrative action has been reverted, it should not be restored without consensus.Do not repeat a reversed administrative action when you know that another administrator opposes it. Do not continue a chain of administrative reversals without discussion. Resolve administrative disputes by discussion.
Wheel warring usually results in an immediate request for arbitration. Sanctions for wheel warring have varied from reprimands and cautions, to temporary blocks, to desysopping, even for first-time incidents. There have been several relevant arbitration cases on the subject of wheel-warring. The phrase was also used historically for an administrator improperly reversing some kinds of very formal action.
Wikipedia works on the spirit of consensus; disputes should be settled through civil discussion rather than power struggles. There are few issues so critical that fighting is better than discussion, or worth losing your own good standing for. If you feel the urge to wheel war, try these alternatives:
There are a few exceptional circumstances to this general principle. (Note: these are one-way exceptions.)
If an administrator abuses administrative rights, these rights may be removed by a ruling of the Arbitration Committee. At their discretion, lesser penalties may also be assessed against problematic administrators, including the restriction of their use of certain functions or placement on administrative probation. The technical ability to remove the administrator user right from an account is granted to the bureaucrat, steward, and founder user groups (see Special:ListGroupRights). In emergency situations where local users are unable or unavailable to act, stewards are permitted by the global rights policy to protect the best interests of Wikipedia by removing administrative permissions or globally locking accounts and advising the Arbitration Committee after the fact.
There have been several procedures suggested for a community-based desysop process, but none of them has achieved consensus. Some administrators will voluntarily stand for reconfirmation under certain circumstances; see #Administrator recall. Users may use dispute resolution to request comment on an administrator's suitability.
Administrators who have made neither edits nor administrative actions for at least 12 months may be desysopped. This desysopping is reversible in some cases (see #Restoration of adminship) and never considered a reflection on the user's use of, or rights to, the admin tools. The admin must be contacted on their user talk page and via email (if possible) one month before the request for desysopping and again several days before the desysopping goes into effect. Desysopping on inactivity grounds should be handled by English Wikipedia bureaucrats. The summary in the user rights log should make it clear that the desysopping is purely procedural.
Administrators may request that their access to administrative tools be removed at Wikipedia:Bureaucrats' noticeboard.
In most cases, disputes with administrators should be resolved with the normal dispute resolution process. If the dispute reflects seriously on a user's administrative capacity (blatant misuse of administrative tools, gross or persistent misjudgment or conduct issues), or dialog fails, then the following steps are available:
Some administrators place themselves "open to recall", whereby they pledge to voluntarily step down if specified criteria are met. The specific criteria are set by each administrator for themselves, and usually detailed in their userspace. The process is entirely voluntary and administrators may change their criteria at any time, or decline to adhere to previously made recall pledges.
This is an involuntary process. Generally, the Arbitration Committee requires that other steps of dispute resolution are tried before it intervenes in a dispute, such as raising the issue at Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. However, if the matter is serious enough, the Arbitration Committee may intervene early on. Remedies that may be imposed, at the discretion of the Committee, include warnings, admonishments, restrictions, and removal of administrator privileges.
Former administrators may re-request adminship subsequent to voluntary removal or removal due to inactivity. Adminship is granted unless one of these situations applies:
Former administrators may request restoration of administrator status by placing a request at Wikipedia:Bureaucrats' noticeboard. There is a standard 24-hour review period before the request may be actioned by a bureaucrat according to resysop procedures. The change is recorded at the list of resysopped users.
Before restoring the administrator flag, a bureaucrat should be reasonably convinced that the user has returned to activity or intends to return to activity as an editor. Should there be doubt concerning the suitability for restoration of the administrator permission, the restoration shall be delayed until sufficient discussion has occurred and a consensus established through a discussion among bureaucrats.
In the very early days of Wikipedia, only Bomis employees were administrators, as the server password was required to make any administrative changes. The idea of an administrator role was proposed in late 2001 during the development of the first version of MediaWiki. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales directly appointed the first administrators in February 2002.
Under the role-based access control currently used, individual accounts are marked with the special roles they may play; these roles in turn determine any special tools they may access. Administrators were not intended to develop into a special subgroup. Rather, administrators should be a part of the community like other editors. Anyone can perform most maintenance and administration tasks on Wikipedia without the specific technical functions granted to administrators. An often paraphrased comment about the title and process of adminship was made by Wales in February 2003—referred to as "sysops" here:
I think perhaps I'll go through semi-willy-nilly and make a bunch of people who have been around for awhile sysops. I want to dispel the aura of "authority" around the position. It's merely a technical matter that the powers given to sysops are not given out to everyone.
I don't like that there's the apparent feeling here that being granted sysop status is a really special thing.
Stated simply, while the correct use of the tools and appropriate conduct should be considered important, merely "being an administrator" should not be.
As Wikipedia's worldwide cultural impact and visibility grew, and as the community grew with it, the role of administrators evolved and standards for adminship rose. Given the lengthy procedures required to remove administrative access, which often include attempts to resolve the dispute prior to arbitration, the community carefully scrutinizes requests for adminship.