In some ways, I'm probably the worst person to write this as my user rights requests all sailed though fine... However I've seen a lot of user rights votes, and I've been asked to opine on many of them, so I thought I'd collect my thoughts on how to run for one of the elected positions - and if you should run at all.
Do you really want the job? Really?
There's a big misocnception about the "administrative" ranks (and by that I include the mods too), that its some sort of "reward" for people who do well, or people who get in with the cool crowd. Hate to burst your bubble there, but its none of those things.
An admin/mod request is in effect a request to do more work. Work for which you will not be paid. You might recieve some kudos every now and then, but equally you can expect some controversy and critisicsm too.
It isnt a ticket to the VIP club.
Before running, ask yourself do you really need the toolset? One of the best - if not the actual best - reason to run for anything is because you've identified a job that needs to be done, and want to be the one to do it.
Could you do the job?
Could you ban someone?
Consider the following situation. You've got chat mod powers and are the only chatmod on. A person comes on who's username you don't recognise, but has a troll icon for an avatar. After a few lines of general chat they then proceed to link a picture. Being a good mod, its your job to click on the picutre, and you the picture is a case of extreme fetish pornography that goes past the realm of good taste - so much so its probably illegal, and most would consider it sick... What do you do.
Basically there are two real options here, kick or ban. I'm trying to get across the idea that this pic is so bad, a ban is the only reasonalbe option.
Now lets change it up. Its not some random troll you never heard of, its your best friend on chat. What do you do
Whatever answer you decided for the last one, I hope its the same here, and I hope both are leaning towards a ban.
Think about this all for a moment. If you were a chat mod, and you had to discapline a friend, could you do it? Would you be willing to put your friendship at risk to enforce the rules?
If you answered "Um", thats a good start.
Moderating without banning
I think the most important thing any rank with ban rights does is not ban people.
You might have heard of the terms "reactive" policing, and "preventative" policing. Reactive policing is probably what you think about most when you think about what the police do - if you're house gets robbed they come around and get evidence, and hopefully the crook, etc - policing happens after the event. The chat example above is a great example of reactive policing.
Preventative policing is much more important in my view. It stops people from breaking the rules and/or getting banned in the first place. Part of this is justr having a cop on the beat - many trolls if they come into the chatroom and see there's an active mod ready to boot them will walk straight out knowing they wont get their kicks.
Another form of preventatitive policing is chat rule 9 - the ability for a mod to shut down a debate if things are going bad. This is one of the hardest rules for a chatmod to enforce; think about the following scenarios:
- When using rule 9 you have to balance "free speech" with "not getting people banned". Working out exactly when to do it is tough, would you be willing to shut it down? How would you know when enough is enough?
- If its a lively debate, you might have actually been enjoying participating.... You have to be ready to do a 180 degree turn at any time from "chat mode" into "mod mode". That might mean deleting your almost-complete argument demolishing the other sides points ebcause someone (who was perhaps on your side) went right ahead and said something stupid. Would you be able to stop yourself like that?
- Using, and sometimes not using, rule 9 opens you up to critiscism - some might wonder if your decision to stop the conversation might be based on some personal bias of your own. How would you handle that?
Preventative policing is also a big part of the wiki-admin/moderators job. Its communicating with those who make good faith edits to encourage them to continue editing, but in the right way. Do you have the skills to do that?
Is there a job open?
Most of you know with the exception of the Burecrat position, I do not subscribe to the proposition that there can be too many mods/admins. If you've all got the skills and are trustworthy enough I have no problem with every regular on the wiki being an admin in principle (whether or not you're up to the job is another question).
However, as most of you know, there's a lot of people out there who disagree with this view. This is the reality you're going to have to play with. You need to be prepared to prove to those who feel that there are "too many" that there is a gap.
At the moment, I think we have a real desperate need for admins who are extremely knowledgable about wiki code, templates, and running bots. If you're looking to move up and want to make yourself useful, get a bot and work out how to make it work and you'll be halfway there.
For the rest of you, be prepared to fight. You will need to come to the request with proof that there is a need. Look for the following:
- If you're looking for chatmod rights, you need to be able to prove that more mods are needed. Come with times and dates where there werent enough mods, or a temp mod was appointed, or someone had to be called in off the wiki, etc. If you know a mod is choosing to stay late because they're the only mod on, mention it.
- With Wikiside rights, same applies. Point to times where there arent enough people watching recent changes, or when vandals are going unbanned for some time.
- Going back to the admin need I pointed earlier, look for holes in the current admin teams skill sets that need to be filled.
Are you the man/woman for the job?
An exceptional candidate can get away without proving there is a need. But even the best candidate cannot get away without proving that they're the person for the job.
My personal theory with moving up the ranks is to wait until you get sick of people suggesting you should run. If lots of people are asking you to do it, it means you must have the skills.
I know a lot of you are teens, and don't have a lot of experience in written job applications, but this is going to be good practice for when you get out in the adult workforce. You'll be expected to write responses to formal "selection criteria" if you want the job... a few bullet points won't cut it, it might result in us recruiting someone else to fill the job you went to the effort of proving exists.
For every point where you've established a need you now need to prove to us that you are the person to fill that need. You have to tell us why YOU are the best person to meet all of those points.
Don't leave out or ignore any trouble/"bad history" you've had. Although if you have this you will have to do more you can actually turn this to your advantage. If you were banned for something write "Yes, when I was younger I was banned for XYZ, however I grew up and learned a lot, and this is evidenced by me going on to do ZYX"; sure, it wont convince everyone but if you don't address it first, then someone else is going to bring it up - and you wont be able to control the circumstances in whcih this happens. Take the wind out of your critics sails by rasing it first, and then mitigate it by showing us how you've grown from it and how we know you wont do it again.
Bring evidence. Show us your successess and shout about them. If you don't sell yourself noone else will. Again, when you head into the workforce, you'll need to be able to do this at interview and in the application process.
So in conclusion, before running for anything ask yourself:
- Do you really want the job?
- Why you want it?
- Could you actually do the job, without fear or favour?
- Can you live with the pressure of having to be able to justify your actions if needed?
- Is there a job open?
- If there is a job open, why are you the best person to fill it?
- Have you addressed any expected critisicsm?