Wikiversity:Candidates for Custodianship/SB Johnny (Bureaucrat)
I've been thinking of doing this for a long time, but have held off because of my deep respect and love for respect for JWSchmidt. "Bureaucratship", like custodianship, has nothing to do with power or politics, but rather has to do with being trustworthy and having sound judgement. I also realize and understand that any time an "RFX" is brought before the community, the community cannot help but act as a political body, because we are, of course, voting. With that in mind, here is my "platform":
- Custodianship is not a big deal
- Rumor has it that Jimbo Wales's original thoughts about administratorship was that it should be "no big deal". I'm sure most of us are aware of how the pursuit of that ideal has failed (or perhaps even been forgotten) on Wikipedia, but I think that among all the Wikimedia Foundation wikis, we at Wikiversity stand the best chance of living up to it. Our system of mentorship has taken the politics out of the tools, and left them to be simply tools: all we ask of our custodians is that they be trustworty and that they only use the tools when it is appropriate or necessary to do so.
- As far as I'm concerned, every trusted user should be a custodian. Our community uses a wiki, where we all just fix problems when we see them. Correcting a spelling error or grammar mistake really isn't all that different from blocking a vandal... the only difference is that we want to get to know someone a bit before we let them block, delete, or protect. The worst case scenario is that someone suddenly goes wacky, but even then the Stewards are only an IRC ping away, and there's nothing one custodian can do that can't be just as easily undone by another custodian.
- Same goes for bureaucrats
- When we got started at Wikiversity, we has some conversations about what to call our sysops, because "Administrator" had come to be associated with power and heirarchy. "Custodian" was chosen because it's a hard word to associate with power. I suspect that the word "bureaucrat" might have been chosen for similar reasons: at least in the US, the term connotes someone who just pushes papers and follows policy. Again, "Bureaucrat" has come to mean something else entirely on Wikipedia, but again we can escape that if we act pre-emptively.
- I can assure you from my experience as a b'crat on Wikibooks that it's not an exciting "job". I've re-named quite a few accounts, promoted one bot and demoted another, and made one sysop. If you ignore the silly politics, the b'crats really only serve as the grease for the wheels (not even the greaser, just the grease!), and have absolutely no room to freely interpret or be creative, because the tools are only used when you're quite certain that the tools need using.
- Power corrupts, but power is only the perception of power
- While I'm not foolish enough to believe in politial anarchy (in the sense of "no heirarchy") in real life, I truly believe we can achieve that ideal as a community here. By encouraging all of our trusted users to become custodians, we can prevent the creation of an "Admin Caste". By giving the b'crat tools to anyone who feels the need for them, is willing to use them, and will obviously not misuse them, we can avoid creating the "Bureaucrat Caste". We should avoid castes at all costs: wikis work when those who are willing are enabled, period.
- I understand JWSchmidt's suspicion of power, because he has long been involved with Wikipedia and is all too familiar with its failings. However, I don't want to see those failings repeated here, and I feel strongly that his refusal to accept the tools --and the reasons for his refusal-- can only serve to import those bad old habits to our young and growing wiki. They're just tools.
- I also understand JWSchmidt's reluctance to have Checkuser tools and b'crat tools combined, but I don't agree with him. The two responsibilities do have a lot in common: above all both can only be effectively used by someone who has a passion for "reading the tea leaves" and having restraint: the b'crat tools require a dedication to understanding the community's will and using the tools when you're sure it's right, and the checkuser tools require an interest in following editing/vandalism patterns, and only using the tool when you need more evitence to connect the dots. Checkuser is by far the greater responsibility, and the only time I've ever used it in relationship to custodian candidates on Wikiversity was to check into a user who had (1) vandalized a prominent page in the Wikiversity namespace, (2) had a history of blocks and sockpuppetry on Wikipedia, and (3) was asking for a mentor for custodianship (I found no evidence of problems, but the candidate found no mentor in the end).
- I do agree with JWSchmidt that b'crats should have nothing to do with promoting people they are in a mentoring relationship, but for me that only means that we should have plenty of b'crats so that we can all recruit and encourage new users. I would never under any circumstances feel comfortable promoting someone I was offering to mentor, and I would hope all future b'crats would feel the same way about that.
- There's no time like the present to start a good habit
- I said at the start that I've been reluctant to open this "RFB" out of love and respect for JWSchmidt. I changed my mind because, frankly, my father died a few days ago, and the most immediate lesson for me is that it's better to breach the topic and do the right thing than it is to avoid uncomfortable conflicts. While it's certainly not the most important question I would have asked my father, one thing we're struggling with is what charity to ask people to donate to in his name. For me, without a doubt, it would be Wikiversity. I'm sure I'm not at all alone in holding Wikiversity and it's mission to be one of the most important things to me: this is my family too. I don't want the failings of Wikipedia to haunt us here when it comes to the misinterpretation of user priveledges as castes. I don't want any good contributor to ever want to help more, but be daunted by petty politics. I want everyone to feel free to contribute, to feel empowered, and to feel valued.
- JWSchmidt was my mentor, and in many ways still is. We are very cautious here about using sysop tools, and owe that to his guidance and almost constant presence over the first year of Wikiversity. The custodians of wikiversity really are just custodians: folks with the keys to the janitor's closet who pull out the mops when we see the need for them. I just think we need to go one step farther and make the tools even more mundane.
- I hope (in a very demanding way) that if I am accepted as a bureaucrat, JWSchmidt will accept the tools as well. I hope that my "platform" will set a precedent and help prevent petty politics from tainting our efforts to reach a community of equals, where any good contributor is given the opportunity to take on responsibility without fear. I hope my daughter will find the same open and supportive community I found here two summers ago (she's 4, so that will be some time from now). I hope we can be guided by hope for the best, rather than fear of the worst. I don't want to let things go awry because I'm afraid of offending my friend, so here I am requesting the b'crat tools.--SB_Johnny | talk 02:42, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
Questions and requests
- SB Johnny, All you have said above are no so much why you would want the bureaucrat's tools as reasons why you would not refuse them. :) But bureaucrats need to interpret the community consensus. How would you comment on the process (not the candidacy itself, but the process) of CountryMike's candidacy of custodianship? Do you think there was sufficient communication for a consensus to arrive? Hillgentleman|Talk 22:29, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
- Well, I wouldn't have closed that one because I had a rather strong opinion about it (not about CountryMike per se, but about a number of the underlying assumptions and theories being presented). Sebmol's summary was right on though, and I think done at the right time, because the fundamental question seemed to have been agreed upon, even if some of the new questions brought up in the process remained unanswered.
- Consensus on wikis is often hard to achieve and interpret, in part because it's rather novel to many users. My own experience with it comes mostly from being a quaker, but of course that's a rather different story. In a quaker context, we search for the "sense of the meeting", which is similar to the weighing of arguments. We also someimes need to cut off one discussion when it becomes quite tangential and needs to be made separate, and I think Sebmol did a good job sorting through that. The major differences lie in the "elders" (who are not elected among friends... it just becomes clear over time who they are), and the theological reasons behind the use of consensus (which might have a strong paralell in usergroups being "no big deal", but that's one of those tangents that would belong somewhere else :-)). Discussions of this nature on wikis are more of a hybrid between consensus and election, but I'm quite familiar with the process.
- As for my specific reasons for wanting the tools (rather then not refusing them), it's just that I feel I could use them helpfully from time to time and when the need arises. I also think it's good to maintain a critical mass of b'crats so that any b'crat can feel free to join a discussion, voice strong opinions, and then recuse themselves from performing the closure. Having people in the position who are well-entrenched in the community and know the personalities of those who regularly engage in policy discussion is important as well, as is being comfortable with "taking someone aside" to ask if they are willing to concede.--SB_Johnny | talk 01:56, 4 March 2008 (UTC)
- After a lot of thought, I support SB_Johnny’s candidacy for bureaucrat. The most critical things for any bureaucrat are respect for consensus, conflict management skills and an ability to be impartial, and quite honestly, I don’t really know what his skills are in this area. On the other hand, SB_Johnny’s extraordinarily wide sysop and bureaucrat experience on Wikimedia projects is a big plus, as is his record-holding level of contributions to Wikiversity content. In terms of the bigger picture, I would like to see sebmol retired from WV bureaucracy, and two appointments to take his place, with a minimum of 3 bureaucrats (see below for my other recommendation). --McCormack 16:50, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
- support: SB_Johnny is a good man for this job. And the additional tools will be a help here for his work. ----Erkan Yilmaz Wikiversity:Chat 18:55, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
- Support: SB_Johnny has made a large quantity of high quality contributions to this project, has earned the trust of the community, and has the enthusiasm and selfless dedication to move wikiversity forward. --mikeu talk 13:55, 4 March 2008 (UTC)
- I support SB_Johnny - he's running on a good (solid, but still humble) platform, and has done bucketloads for Wikiversity so far. I don't know how many bureaucrats Wikiversity needs (which has always been one of JWSchmidt's questions), but 2/3 more seem fine to me. (And I strongly defend Sebmol in maintaining his b'cratship - he's been by far the more effective b'crat of the two of us so far.) Cormaggio talk 20:00, 5 March 2008 (UTC)
- Support - As per others : ) --Remi 23:15, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
- Support - A fantastic interpretation of consensus making on the wiki; one that should be quoted in many places. Have always found SB to be a highly articulate and respectful participant and he runs a mean project there. Countrymike 07:39, 16 March 2008 (UTC)