Monday, February 12, 2007


From WikiEN-l: "Admin burnout"

This is the title of a thread in this month's mailing list. Since I was feeling better today I read most of it (I'm trying to get back into the rhythm of Wikipedia), but I must have over-exerted myself because I've been feeling a little nauseous for the last few hours and haven't finished it. So my following comments are based on my incomplete reading.

First, the conversation keeps drifting away from the problem -- that there are a number of Admins who try to do too much, get frustrated and burn out -- or related problems -- such as the whole Admin process has grown into a bizarre gauntlet that few current Admins could pass -- into a series of recitation of personal affirmations. I'm not simply being snarky: this thread, in a way, approaches a tragedy. I feel that here and there in the discussion pieces of the answer have appeared; but few participating in the thread are looking for an answer, so these insights are in danger of being lost. (And I'm frustrated by my health because I want to sift through these posts and find the useful ones, so they wouldn't be lost.)

Second, although I've often thought about simplifying the entire process of appointing Admins (where I keep giving up is formulating a simple check on the process to keep the troublemakers out), I feel the simplest solution we could apply right now is to get Wikipedians with the Admin bit to relax: burn out comes from unrelieved pressure to keep up a certain amount or quality of work, to stop a certain number of vandals or block so many troublemakers. Just because someone has the keys to the janitor's closet, that person doesn't need to carry the mop everywhere with her or him. An Admin ought to feel good about spending an occasional day just writing articles and leaving the Admin chores to someone else. Instead of all of this insistence on experience in every Wikipedia forum, people ought to ask questions about whether the person can pace themselves.

Maybe I ought to start participating in the Admin selection process once again. I stopped a couple of years ago because the Wikipedia community had grown to the point where I didn't know many of the candidates well enough opine about their fitness to be Admins, and I left that chore to other Wikipedians, comfortable that no bad choices would slip through. (In the first year or two I was with Wikipedia, there were a few people who were not only bad choices, they were worse than any Admins some might consider bad choices.) If I did start participating again, it would be in a simple manner: I'd ask candidates if they would ever take a day off from Admin duties, forget about the vandals, spammers and troublemakers, and just improve the content of Wikipedia? Those who answered no, I'd vote against and explain why (this person takes the duties too seriously and will burn out); those who answered yes to this question -- and otherwise showed a reasonable amount of common sense -- I'd vote for.




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