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Administrators are, or they should be, normal users. Any user, theoretically, can be nominated for, and elected as an administrator. Administrators however, have certain differences in ability from "normal users". Some people say they have "privledges", some people say they have "extra tools", and some people claim they have a few "restrictions lifted".
Administrators are produced through an RFA discussion, and are awarded their new title by a bureaucrat. However, the very existance of administrators gives rise to the administrator problem.
The Administrator ProblemEdit
the administrator problem is one of distinction. How distinct are administrators from ordinary users? How easily can one become the other? It should be reasonably easy to create an admin, but how easy is it to make an admin into a regular user again?
But even if it is easy to make one into the other, who decides that the transformation should happen, and based on what metric? Bureaucrats create and "uncreate" admins, but how much discretion can a bureaucrat use in the process?
Badge of honor: SysopEdit
Sysops are usually promoted via community consensus. After a long discussion, the community either is or is not in favor of the sysop, and a bureaucrat performs the promotion. And if one bureaucrat doesn't promote the candidate, another one will.
Sysops are judged by the community on a number of metrics, depending upon the voters involved. Some people might value a particular quality in a person, and may condemn them on equally particular qualities. Some users may quantify a candidate based on their edit count, or their activity in fighting vandalism. Some people like candidates who are active on VfD, or who are active in policy. Some users may like a candidate for no other reason then because they are friends. Either way, the voting for an admin is a terribly arbitrary process.
And it has to be. If the process weren't dependent on the whims of the users, it would be a built-in facet of the wikimedia software. After a certain time, and after jumping through certain hoops, a person would automatically be promoted. But this isn't the way it is: Admins need to pass metrics that are hard to quantify: they need to be "trusted", they need to be "Active", they need to be "helpful". And it turns out that if people think they are trusted, or active, or helpful, that's all that matters. So it boils down to a popularity contest of sorts, where the people who are generally liked are rewarded, and the people that are generally disliked are not.
And so adminship becomes a badge of honor: If people like you, you get the badge, and if people don't like you, you don't get the badge.
Admins as lifetime membersEdit
There are no concrete metrics either for when an admin should lose the privledges. Some people hotly contend that admins should only be de-badged due to flagrant abuse or misuse of the tools. A user who receives adminship, if they don't abuse them flamboyantly, simply keep them forever, whether they are needed, or used, or not. In essence, adminship is a lifetime membership, where there are no requirements other then "don't do anything really bad".
A solution to this admin problem is to instantiate a series of concrete metrics. And if the metrics aren't solidly concrete, they should still be well respected. Meta, for instance, requires that a user must have at least 100 edits on that project to be a candidate for adminship. Wikibooks, if we were going to institute a minimum, would probably require more then that. Can you imagine a person being well-known enough, and well-liked enough after 100 edits to become an admin?
People should display a need for administrator tools, and an understanding of how they are used to become candidates. Administrators who do not use their tools, or who are completely inactive at this project should not need to keep them. In short, adminship should neither be a badge of honor, nor a lifetime membership: adminship should be tools that are given when needed, and taken when not needed. An RFA shouldn't be a popularity contest, but instead a jury: to decide whether the professed need for the tools is accurate and genuine.
Admin = UserEdit
An admin is just a regular user, but they aren't always treated as such. The conversion from user to admin should be "no big deal", and the transition back should also be "no big deal". If a user is absent for a month, they should lose their administrative privledges. In essence, if you don't use it, you've displayed no particular need to have it at all. Now, this is not to be a punishment, and if an absent ex-admin returns, and wants to reapply for admin tools, they should be granted with a minimum of fuss.
As an example, consider an admin who has been away from wikibooks for two months. At the end of the first month his adminship was removed, and a month later, he returns. Now, when he comes back and finds that his admin rights are gone, he goes to reapply for them, and says "I've been gone for two months, for reason X, and I've returned to become an active wikibookian again. I would like to have my old admin powers back, because they will help me". Barring any immediate complaints, his powers should be restored.
Bureaucrat = UserEdit
A bureaucrat is also just an ordinary user, and the transition from bureaucrat to user should be easy and painless as well. If a person meets all the metrics to become an admin, and meets the additional trust and activity requirements, they should be allowed to become a bureaucrat. However, if a bureaucrat is absent and returns, they shouldn't necessarily become a bureaucrat again, because they have violated the trust from that second requirement: They were not available to the community and were not active members. However, they certainly should be able to become an admin again. Once an admin, they can display their trustworthiness and activity, and become a bureaucrat again through the normal channels.