Wikipedia:Formal organization

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Who does what on Wikipedia? This article describes the formalities of Wikipedia administration with links to the appropriate WP articles describing its organization. That information can be helpful to WP contributors in understanding how WP is organized.

This discussion is based entirely upon documentation from the English language version of Wikipedia. Its applicability to other language versions has not been examined. As noted here: Wikipedia may be cited with caution as a primary source of information on itself, such as in articles about itself.


The contributors or editors of Wikipedia participate subject to a number of policies and guidelines governing behavior and content. These rules are supervised by various authorities: Jimmy Wales, nominally in a position of ultimate authority, although he has deferred in most instances to the leadership of Wikipedia,[1][2] the ~34[3] present Bureaucrats or Crats, the ~740[4] active Administrators or Admins, and another group called the Arbitration Committee or ArbCom with 15-18 members or Arbs, depending upon the rules adopted each year. There were 15 active Arbitrators in 2011.[5] The Wikimedia Foundation or its designated agents also have authority to impose bans against IP addresses for pages, topics, or the entire site.[6]


Bureaucrats or Crats are a category introduced in 2004, and have only a few limited activities. Among these, they may remove Administrators and Bureaucrats if so instructed by the Arbitration Committee, and appoint Administrators and Bureaucrats following a selection procedure. Selection follows a discussion process, Bureaucrats decide what criteria constitute a "consensus" upon appointment, at the end of which a Bureaucrat reviews the situation to see whether there is a "consensus". For appointment of Bureaucrats, consensus must exceed ~85%, but final judgment is one of Bureaucrat discretion.[7] As a result, Bureaucrats have almost complete control over appointment of new Bureaucrats. The number of newly appointed Bureaucrats has steadily declined over the years, with only two successful candidacies in 2011. Bureaucrats serve indefinitely.


The activities of Administrators or Admins are described in a how-to guide instructing Administrators on the use of their powers. One authority is the ability to block users, IP addresses or IP address ranges to enforce bans.

There is a distinction between a ban and a block. One difference is that, unless imposed directly by Jimmy Wales or the Wikimedia Foundation, a ban requires "consensus",[8] while a block can be imposed by a single Administrator and prevents editing to some degree, large or small.[9] Another difference is that a ban is a formal warning outlining restrictions under which a contributor may edit without sanction but, unlike a block, does not impose such restrictions directly. Enforcement occurs should it happen that an individual Administrator judges the ban has been violated. Upon that conclusion, without further consultation, that Administrator can impose sanctions suggested in the ban to enforce that ban.[8] If such action results in a block, "Unblocking will almost never be acceptable when the block is explicitly enforcing an active Arbitration remedy and there is not ArbCom authorization or 'a clear, substantial, and active consensus of uninvolved editors at a community discussion noticeboard (such as Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard or Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents)'"[10]

Another activity of Administrators is the granting of permissions to contributors to augment their editing capabilities.

The nomination and selection of Administrators is supervised by Bureaucrats, who decide whether, in their opinion, a candidate has garnered sufficient support in the discussion of a candidacy, a process like that for appointing Bureaucrats. A "consensus" exceeding ~70% is required, but the judgement of Bureaucrats is the deciding factor. A list of unsuccessful requests shows the number of refusals peaked at 543 in 2006 with 353 acceptances, and has steadily declined since as the number of applicants has dropped off, with only 155 refusals and 75 acceptances in 2010, and 75 refusals and 46 acceptances as of end of October 2011.

Administrators serve indefinitely, but can be disbarred by Bureaucrats if the Arbitration Committee formally requests it.[11] "Throughout the history of the project, there has been a convention that adminship may be removed only in cases of clear abuse."[12] A possible exception to the "clear abuse" criterion is the Restriction on arbitration enforcement activity, which appropriates to the Arbitration Committee the power to limit an Administrator's activities whenever the Arbitration Committee deems that Administrator "consistently make[s] questionable enforcement administrative actions." and to decommission the Administrator if they override another Administrator's actions without the Arbitration Committee's written authorization or "clear, substantial, and active consensus of uninvolved editors".[13]

As of 2009 there had been 47 removals during the history of WP, and following 2009 no public record has been maintained of these actions.[14] Of the approximately 1,526 Administrators empowered, 207 (or 13.5%) have declared themselves open to recall under circumstances devised by themselves.[15][16] There is a provision for possible removal of inactive Administrators.[17]

Although attempts have been made to implement a community-based removal of Administrators,[18] none ever has been agreed upon.

Arbitration Committee[edit]

Members of the Arbitration Committee (referred to as ArbCom), or Arbs, act in concert or in sub-groups to impose binding solutions to conduct disputes the community has been unable to resolve, mainly by imposing, or defining violations under which they will impose, bans and blocks upon users' IP addresses. Though disputes commonly arise over content, the Arbitration Committee explicitly excludes all content issues from their deliberations and focuses upon disciplinary actions.[19]

The difference between edit warring as disruptive behavior and as an attempt to straighten out what an article says may depend upon who is considering the issue.[20]

Although edit warring in principle refers to Main-page editing, in practice it is considered disruptive to argue too much on the Talk page as well, and extended discussion may be viewed as tendentious editing, a form of misconduct and therefore subject to discipline.

Aside from enforcing an end to disputes, the Arbitration Committee can give specific users the ability to remove some types of edits from the revision history, for example, material considered defamatory.[21] The Arbitration Committee can request Bureaucrats to exercise de-Adminship under the circumstances described under Administrators.

Arbitrators are elected annually in one-year or overlapping two-year terms, and also can be appointed directly by Wales or the Wikimedia Foundation. The election rules are debated each year.

Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

Wikipedia is one of a dozen projects of Wikimedia,[22] an organization owned and operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.[23] Among the functionaries of Wikimedia are the Stewards[24] of the Wikimedia wikis who have complete access to the wiki interface on all Wikimedia wikis, including the ability to change any and all user rights and groups; and the SysOps of the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki,[25] who manage and maintain the Wikimedia Foundation servers. The tools used by the Stewards in exercising control over the wikis of Wikimedia are described in a handbook.[26] Some indication of the control given to Stewards and System Administrators can be found on the Wikimedia web pages.[25]

The overall control is by the ten-member Wikimedia Board of Trustees of whom Jimmy Wales is Chairman Emeritus. The present membership is found here.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Wikipedia:Banning policy – Appeals and discussions". Wikipedia. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. While any arbitration decision may be nominally appealed to Jimbo Wales, it is exceedingly unusual for him to intervene.
  2. ^ Jimmy Wales (2002). "Wikipedia Governance". WikiMedia. Retrieved 2011-12-04. Final policy decisions are up to me, as always. But the license provides a strong counter-balance to my power...I must listen carefully to all elements of the community, and make decisions that are satisfactory to the best interests of the encyclopedia as a whole.
  3. ^ "Bureaucrats: current bureacrats". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
  4. ^ "List of administrators". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
  5. ^ "Members: active members". Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
  6. ^ For example, see the table in "Difference between bans and blocks". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-11-02.
  7. ^ "About RfB". Wikipedia:Requests for bureaucratship. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  8. ^ a b "Decision to ban". Wikipedia:Banning policy. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-03.
  9. ^ The distinction is between a ruling and its enforcement. "Blocking should not be confused with banning, a formal retraction of editing privileges on all or part of Wikipedia. Blocks disable a user's ability to edit pages; bans do not. However, users who breach a ban (edit while banned) are likely to be blocked to enforce the ban on them." Although a block can prevent editing of the entire site, a blocked editor is not "banned" from the site and remains a member of the community. See "Wikipedia:Banning policy – Difference between bans and blocks". Wikipedia. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  10. ^ "§2. ArbCom Enforcement Motion". Case against editor: A Nobody. 14 March 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-04. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  11. ^ "Removal of permissions". Wikipedia:Bureaucrats. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  12. ^ "Past history". Wikipedia:Requests for de-adminship. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  13. ^ See also: "Wikipedia:Banning_policy – Reversal of bans". Wikipedia. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  14. ^ "Wikipedia:Requests for de-adminship". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  15. ^ "Category:Wikipedia administrators open to recall". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  16. ^ "Wikipedia:Administrators open to recall". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-01.
  17. ^ "Wikipedia:Administrators – Procedural removal for inactive administrators". Wikipedia. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  18. ^ For example, "Wikipedia:Community de-adminship/RfC". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-20. See also these discussions: "Wikipedia:WikiProject Administrator/Admin Recall". Wikipedia. 22 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. and also Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'Module:Citation/CS1/Suggestions' not found.
  19. ^ "Conduct and content disputes". Wikipedia:WikiProject Arbitration Enforcement/Standards and principles. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-25. "...arbitration enforcement is set up only to address user conduct problems, not disputes about content."
  20. ^ Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, Ben Yates (2008). How Wikipedia works: and how you can be a part of it. No Starch Press. p. 403. ISBN 159327176X.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "Wikipedia:Oversight". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  22. ^ Wikimedia "Welcome to Wikimedia" Check |url= value (help). Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  23. ^ Wikimedia Foundation "Wikimedia Foundation home page" Check |url= value (help). Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
  24. ^ "Stewards". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  25. ^ a b "System Administrators". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05. Invalid <ref> tag; name "SysOp" defined multiple times with different content
  26. ^ "Steward handbook". Wikimedia. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-03.

General references[edit]

  • John Broughton (2008). Wikipedia: the missing manual. O'Reilly Media, Inc. ISBN 0596515162. A "how-to" manual that besides mechanics of use, includes sections on dispute resolution over both content (Chapter 10: Resolving content disputes) and personal attacks (Chapter 11: Handling incivility and personal attacks). This book is available on WP as the article Help: Wikipedia: The Missing Manual.
  • Dan Woods, Peter Thoeny (2007). "Chapter 4: Using and improving the 800-pound gorilla of wikis, Wikipedia". Wikis for dummies. Wiley. pp. pp. 81 ff. ISBN 0470043997. |page(s)= has extra text (help) A basic "how-to" manual for readers and first-time contributors.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]