Wikipedia/Types of user accounts
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In a sense, on Wikipedia all users are equal: all people contributing to the project are expected to stick to the same rules, and when it comes time to discuss how to manage issues, all contributors have an equal voice. That said, there is a difference in what different contributors can do, and that is where this lesson comes into play.
Anyone editing without first creating an account is identified by their IP address. An IP address is a series of numbers which identify the network location of your computer. As such, IP editors loose a certain degree of privacy, as depending on the circumstances that IP address can be used to discover the country, city and potentially the location from which the contributor is accessing Wikipedia. Along with the reduction in privacy, IP addresses often change, and as a result it is difficult for someone editing without an account to build a reputation as a valued contributor.
In terms of editing, IP editors can edit any unprotected page. However, they are unable to create new pages or upload files, and their edits tend to be given special attention by those looking at recent changes.
New users are able to make changes to unprotected resources (which is the default status for the vast majority of pages), but are not able to edit protected resources or to upload files. By having an account, they are no longer identified by their IP address, which provides a greater degree of privacy. The single account name also makes it easier for contributors to build a positive reputation and relationships with other contributors.
The unified login (SUL) process permits users with an account to have a common username across all the Wikimedia Foundation projects. Thus the same username and password could be used to log into Wikiversity, Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikimedia Commons, to name but four of the projects.
After four days and 10 edits, most users with a user account is automatically autoconfirmed. This provides them with the ability to upload files, edit semi-protected pages and perform page moves.
There is no formal definition of an "established user", and they don't necessarily have any more rights than an autoconfirmed user. In practice, though, an established user is someone who has been around long enough, and who has done enough, to build up a bit of a reputation as a valued contributor. Established users may take on extra responsibilities, such as mentoring new editors, and they may gain extra user rights, such as rollback and auto patrolled, but the main advantage is that these are people who have been around for long enough to know how things work, understand policy, and who have demonstrated that they are able to work within Wikipedia's framework.
Administrators are, (as their name would suggest), responsible for administrative actions, such as blocking and unblocking accounts, deleting and restoring pages and files, and protecting and unprotecting content. As these tasks are both essential and open to misuse, custodians are carefully selected by the Wikipedia community. Administrators need to be trusted contributors who have demonstrated that they understand Wikiversity's policies and are able to interpret consensus accurately and consistently. As a result, the community has big expectations of administrators, such that it is expected that contributors have at least 6 months experience and over 2000 edits before applying for the role.
It is important to note that administrators may have extra tools that they can employ, but in terms of finding consensus they are no more able to direct debate than any other contributor. The administrator role is an important one, but determining policy, selecting administrators and engaging in debate are things that all contributors are encouraged to take part in as equal members of the community.
Bureaucrats are primarily responsible for three jobs: they determine consensus and decide whether or not to promote someone to administrator or bureaucrat; they can rename user accounts; and they can permit bots to operate. As with custodians, bureaucrats are expected to have a deep understanding of Wikipedia's processes, and are highly trusted members of the community.