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What can we learn from the “Dangerous Panda” saga?

By Hersch

Yo ho, yo ho, an admin’s life for me!

At Wikipedia, the administrators or “admins” constitute a privileged caste, a nomenklatura (with 1382 members, at last count, although most are currently inactive) that is beyond the reach of Wikipedia’s normal summary justice. Savvy contestants at Wikipedia will often devote the first year or two of Wikipedia activity to thankless drone work, in hopes it will have the effect of racking up brownie points with “the community” — because if an editor can make enough friends and allies to become an admin, his or her ability to pursue an activist agenda will be dramatically enhanced.

To become an admin, the contestant must file a Request for Adminship. The relevant policy page says the following:

There are no official prerequisites for adminship, other than having an account and being trusted by other editors, but the likelihood of passing without being able to show significant contributions to the encyclopedia are low. The community looks for a variety of factors in candidates; discussion can be intense. For examples of what the community is looking for, one could review some successful and some unsuccessful RfAs.

If the contestant is successful in getting the nod from The Community, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. “Adminship” is a lifetime appointment; revocation of the title is as rare as a Liberty Head nickel. Violations of Wikipedia policy, or similar offenses which would get a normal editor banned in a heartbeat, are routinely overlooked when the perpetrator is an admin. Conversely, if an editor presents an obstacle to an admin’s activist agenda, the admin can ban that editor using the flimsiest of pretexts, or no pretext at all. One admin who has a great many such notches on his belt is Bwilkins, who at some

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