Wikipedia:Formal organization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For Wikipedia's administration of editing, see Wikipedia:Editing environment.
For information on the administrative structure of Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Administration.

The formalities of Wikipedia administration are described, with links to the appropriate Wikipedia pages. This information can be helpful to Wikipedia contributors in understanding how Wikipedia is organized.

No attempt is made to evaluate whether Wikipedia is in fact governed in the way it claims to be governed, nor is any attempt made to evaluate the adequacy of this structure to meet the ever-changing demands upon an online encyclopedia. This discussion is based entirely upon the English language Wikipedia; its applicability to other language Wikipedias has not been examined.

For a discussion on the various user access levels, see Wikipedia:User access levels.


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 ~700[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. In July 2012 there were 14 active arbitrators identified, all of whom were administrators.[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] The Arbitration Committee "has no jurisdiction over official actions of the Wikimedia Foundation or its staff".[7]

An up-to-date count of all Wikipedia participants in each functional capacity is maintained at Wikipedia:Wikipedians.


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.[8] 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 or to prevent disruption of the project.[9] Blocks by an Administrator "must supply a clear and specific block reason that indicates why a user was blocked."[10] Although a reason for a block must be given, there is no formal requirement for advance notice. A number of templates for common explanations are available, and further explanation by the Admin is not required.

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",[11] while a block can be imposed by a single Administrator and prevents editing to some degree, large or small.[12] 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.[11] 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)'"[13]

Number of Wikipedians applying for Administrator privileges on English Wikipedia. (Data from Wikipedia.)

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 88 refusals and 52 acceptances as of 2011 (about a 3.4% increase in membership).

Administrators serve indefinitely, but can have their administrative status removed by Bureaucrats if the Arbitration Committee formally requests it.[14] "Throughout the history of the project, there has been a convention that adminship may be removed only in cases of clear abuse."[15] 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".[16]

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.[17] Of the approximately 1,526 Administrators empowered, 207 (or 13.5%) have declared themselves open to recall under circumstances devised by themselves.[18][19]

There is a provision for possible removal of inactive Administrators, but "if the user returns to Wikipedia, they may be resysopped by a bureaucrat without further discussion".[20]

Although attempts have been made to implement a community-based removal of Administrators,[21] none has ever been agreed upon.

Arbitration Committee

Average number of blocks/day each month in 2012. Data from English Wikipedia.
Requests by Wikipedians for formal full arbitration cases by year on English Wikipedia. Sanctions are imposed by other mechanisms as well. (Data from Wikipedia.)

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.

ArbCom has very wide latitude in adjudication, as indicated by the following freedoms: ArbCom is free to widen or to divert a case to any subject of their choosing.[22] They are empowered to rule preemptively based upon conjectures about the future.[23][24] Rulings need not follow guidelines and policies; deliberations are not based upon the "rule of law".[25][26] They are free to adopt opinion,[27] and are not required to assess "who said what in the past".[24]

Though disputes commonly arise over content, with the exception of topic bans the Arbitration Committee explicitly excludes all content issues from their deliberations and focuses upon disciplinary actions.[28]

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.[29]

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, or refusal to get the point, or interfering with consensus,[30] all forms of misconduct and therefore subject to discipline.

Aside from enforcing an end to disputes, the Arbitration Committee can expunge material from any form of usual access, or give specific users the ability to remove some types of edits from the revision history, for example, material considered defamatory.[31] These powers also can be exercised by Stewards of Wikimedia.[32]

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. Although nomination is subject only to rather broad criteria, in practice only Administrators have succeeded in being selected as Arbitrators.[33]

Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia is one of a dozen projects of Wikimedia,[34] an organization owned and operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.[35] Among the functionaries of Wikimedia are the Stewards[36] 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, view user information in cases of abuse, and so on; and the SysOps of the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki,[37] 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.[38] They are guided by the Stewards policy, and are elected.[39] Some indication of the control given to Stewards and System Administrators can be found on the Wikimedia web pages.[40]

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

References and notes

  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 2012-07-07. 
  4. ^ "List of administrators". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  5. ^ "Members: active arbitrators". Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  6. ^ For example, see the table in "Difference between bans and blocks". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  7. ^ "Jurisdiction". Wikipedia:Arbitration/Policy/Update and ratification. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  8. ^ "About RfB". Wikipedia:Requests for bureaucratship. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  9. ^ "Blocks should be preventative". Wikipedia:Blocking policy. Wikipedia. Retrieved Jan 6, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Notifying the blocked user". Wikipedia:Blocking policy. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  11. ^ a b "Decision to ban". Wikipedia:Banning policy. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ "§2. ArbCom Enforcement Motion". Case against editor: A Nobody. 14 March 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  14. ^ "Removal of permissions". Wikipedia:Bureaucrats. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  15. ^ "Past history". Wikipedia:Requests for de-adminship. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  16. ^ See also: "Wikipedia:Banning_policy – Reversal of bans". Wikipedia. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  17. ^ "Wikipedia:Requests for de-adminship". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  18. ^ "Category:Wikipedia administrators open to recall". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  19. ^ "Wikipedia:Administrators open to recall". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  20. ^ "Wikipedia:Administrators – Procedural removal for inactive administrators". Wikipedia. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  21. ^ 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 "Wikipedia:WikiProject Administrator/Five Problems with a Single Solution". Wikipedia. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  22. ^ "Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration". Retrieved 2012-05-31. all actions and general conduct, not merely the direct issue, may be taken into account 
  23. ^ "Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration". Retrieved 2012-06-07. Arbitrators focus on the risk and benefits for the future, not on past issues. 
  24. ^ a b "Arbitration is intended to serve Wikipedia". Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-07-07. ...the committee is more likely to consider if a user can change, or what restrictions would be of benefit to the project, than on who said what in the past 
  25. ^ "Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration". Retrieved 2012-05-31. Arbitration is not a court case  Recently changed to read: Arbitration is not a legal process
  26. ^ "Wikipedia:The rules are principles". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-10-21. The rules are principles, not laws, on Wikipedia. Policies and guidelines exist only as rough approximations... 
  27. ^ "Wikipedia:Arbitration/Guide to arbitration". Retrieved 2012-05-31. A person's general manner, past actions or incidents, and the impressions of them by reasonable people, may all be used to guide the Arbitrators. 
  28. ^ "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."
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ "Disruptive editors sometimes [use] several practices when disrupting articles:... Their edits are largely confined to talk-pages, such disruption may not directly harm an article, but it often prevents other editors from reaching consensus on how to improve an article." "Attempts to evade detection". Wikipedia:Disruptive editing. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Wikipedia:Oversight". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  32. ^ "Oversight policy". Wikimedia. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  33. ^ For example, in 2012 all 13 active ArbCom members were Administrators. See "Members: Active arbitrators". Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  34. ^ "Welcome to Wikimedia". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  35. ^ "Wikimedia Foundation home page". Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2011-12-07. 
  36. ^ "Stewards". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  37. ^ "System Administrators". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-05. 
  38. ^ "Steward handbook". Wikimedia. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  39. ^ See also this page, which lists the active Stewards.
  40. ^ "System administrators–System administrator actions". WikiMedia. 14 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 

General references

  • Phoebe Ayers; Charles Matthews; Ben Yates (2008). How Wikipedia works: and how you can be a part of it. No Starch Press. ISBN 159327176X.  A detailed discussion of how WP works by some believers in the project, including the arbitration processes. Some subsidiary web links are found here.
  • 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.
  • Andrew Lih (2009). The Wikipedia revolution: How a bunch of nobodies created the world's greatest encyclopedia. London: Aurum. ISBN 9781845134730.  Foreword by Jimmy Wales. An enthusiast's attempt at a history of Wikipedia, faulted for some gaffes by reviewers on Amazon.
  • Dan Woods; Peter Thoeny (2007). "Chapter 4: Using and improving the 800-pound gorilla of wikis, Wikipedia". Wikis for dummies. Wiley. pp. 81 ff. ISBN 0470043997.  A basic "how-to" manual for readers and first-time contributors.

See also

  • Wikipedia:FAQ/Administration
  • Editing environment - describes how Wikipedia is governed? What happens when content disputes 'boil over' into accusations of bad conduct?
  • Editorial discretion - discusses how common sense and Wikipedia policy dictates that editors must practice discretion regarding the proper inclusion of relevant and well-sourced content.
  • Editor integrity - discusses how editors have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of Wikipedia and respect intellectual property rights of the sources they draw upon when they create and improve encyclopedia pages.
  • The essence of Wikipedia – describes how Wikipedia is the harnessing of the collective intelligence and collaborative efforts of editors who hold opposing points of view, in an attempt to preserve all serious contributions which are reliably sourced.
  • The rules are principles - describes how policies and guidelines exist only as rough approximations of their underlying principles.
  • Wikipedia is a community - describes how there is nothing wrong with occasionally doing other things than writing the encyclopedia, and that community spirit is a positive thing.
  • Wikipedia is a volunteer service - discusses how editors on Wikipedia are mainly volunteers. Editors can contribute as much as they want, and however long they desire.
  • Wikimedia Foundation and ArbCom

External links

  • "Wikipedia power structure". Wikimedia. Retrieved 2011-12-26. 
  • Wikimedia research projects concerning Wiki activities

This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Wikipedia#Organization", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.

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