MediaWiki Administrator's Handbook/Being a Project Leader

The process that made you an administrator on the MediaWiki project that you are working on has made you one of the most visible members of that community. Either you are starting out a brand new project, or you have been elected from your peers to take a larger role in moderating discussion.

Becoming an Administrator edit

Starting a Completely New Project edit

If you have decided to take the path of starting a completely new project from scratch, as the founding member you are usually given administrator rights to get things going right away, and often even more. This founding user is by definition the older person on the project.

Other sections of this book will deal with how to get a project to grow, especially just simply trying to get something started at all, but it is important to remember the implications of your position as the founder of a project. Generally your opinion is going to be strongly considered, and you have available to you the ability to take drastic steps in controlling the community... particularly if you also have direct access to the physical computer equipment that is running the project.

Keep in mind that most people will have a sort of reverence toward the founder, even if the founder decides to go into semi-retirement and leave the main organization of the community to other people. This is deserved in part because any on-line community only gets to where it is at because of the efforts of this founder. It takes quite a bit of effort to get something going in the first place, and with enough different websites around the world nobody is simply going to get to a website simply because it exists. This is in particular where the leadership principles come into place on a social level.

Often what is needed is simply a model example for what you as a founder want the project to look like. In the initial stages, you need to demonstrate leadership both by showing examples, and gently trying to remind people when inappropriate content is being added. How permissive or how abrasive you are toward new users is going to have a huge effect on the growth and popularity of the project, regardless of the merits of what you do or the quality of the content.

It is also important to realize that you can't be pleasing to everybody on every point. The most successful leaders will always have detractors and possibly out right enemies. The successful leader will know when they are being abusive and need to pull back, and when perhaps they have gone too far and created too many enemies that should be their friends. Unfortunately, the only real way to learn how to do that is simply experience and getting opportunities to practice leadership ideas.

Being Chosen by Your Peers edit

There are several ways that you can become an administrator, but most likely you have been chosen by being an outstanding contributor to the project. Often this selection is made through some sort of formal nomination process where other members of the community also have a chance to support your nomination in a sort of election. The exact process is something that is specific to the project you are working on, but you should take the nomination as a sign of recognition that you have already done an outstanding job.

In this situation, you are going to need to learn the policies and procedures of the project in a little more depth. This is not exactly an easy situation, and it is surprising how many policies that you didn't realize existed prior to becoming an administrator, even if you were a very active user previously.

Moderate, Don't Dominate edit

One aspect of becoming an administrator is that you are now a part of the group that is enforcing policies. If you have been vocal in the past, you need to tone down some of the arguments from the style you have used in the past, understanding that you need to help moderate the tone of the discussions you are involved with.

As a general philosophy, it would be wise to not immediately implement drastic changes to the project, especially in areas that require the extra privileges that come from being an administrator. Seek input from the other people involved in the project before you make any major changes, and implement community decisions even if it goes against your own personal opinion.

Also, don't hesitate to admit that you might be wrong occasionally. You will be making mistakes along the way as an administrator, especially if you are new to doing this sort of task. Discover the different ways you can communicate to the other users in your community, including Water Cooler type pages, e-mail, user talk pages, article discussion pages, project e-mail lists, phone numbers and instant message accounts.

Innovation and Project Development edit

One aspect of project leadership also takes on the social responsibility of project innovation and development. It is likely that there was always some task you felt wasn't being adequately dealt with in some manner before you became an administrator, and now you have the opportunity to try and fix things in a way you couldn't before.

Innovation might also take many forms. You can start new sections of your project, or try to fill in holes that weren't covered before. In addition, if you were elected to become an administrator it is likely that you have a small group of supporters already who are interested in what you are doing, and it is possible to help motivate those supporters to work together and get some things accomplished as well.