This document describes a type of account that is both prohibited and encouraged by current Commons policy, which gives contradictory guidance both that an account must belong to a single person and that they can be shared among organizations.
A role account is an account that is not associated with a particular person, but with an office, position, or task. Those doing the task use the account only to do the task. The operators of the account may have other accounts for other work.
The most common use of role accounts is professional use by representatives of organizations who come to Wikimedia projects to share content provided by that organization. Wikimedia projects have historically sought to encourage individual participation and discourage organizations from mingling with the community. This is because of a history of failed interactions between community volunteers and paid staff. Paid staff are welcome to try to engage with the Wikimedia community and contribute content, but please be aware that guidelines including this one are not well developed, not accepted by many people in the Wikimedia community, and are widely viewed as uncertain and likely to change in the usual Wikimedia way.
Role accounts are both encouraged and prohibited by conflicting policies. There is no clear guidance available on how to operate one. This page only presents available information without giving advice on the best practice.
Background on user identification in Wikimedia projects
Commons:Username policy is the policy which generally defines what sorts of usernames are acceptable in Wikimedia Commons. That policy does not offer clear guidance on usernames for role accounts. This page presents available information on that aspect of username policy.
It is permissible for anyone to identify themselves as an individual with an affiliation with an organization. In this case, the actual account name is less important than identifying the affiliation on one's own user page. The best available guidance for user pages on Wikimedia Commons is at Commons:User pages. Further guidance in additional languages may be found at meta:Help:User page.
There is no standard process for "account verification" in Wikimedia Commons. German language users may explore experimental support for account verification with the system at de:Wikipedia:Benutzerverifizierung. Some organizations have used this system to confirm the identity of their Wikimedia accounts.
Models for role accounts
The following models for role accounts are in use in Wikimedia Commons. Among tens of millions of accounts, probably not more than a few hundred at most exist of all of these together.
- For organization, permanent use by a single person
- For organization and personal use, permanent use by a single person
- For organization, use by a single person but passed on to another person after some time
- For organization, use by multiple people at any time
- For personal use, typically when a single contributor is using automated software in an account for that purpose (see Commons:Bots - this is the least controversial sort of "role account" and unrelated to organizational use)
The practice at other media websites might be compared to the practice in Wikimedia Commons. Almost everywhere except in Wikimedia Commons, including with Facebook, Twitter, and almost any other community website, image contribution is usually done with a role account that is
- For organization, use by multiple people at any time
Permanent use by a single person
The Wikimedia Commons community supports the creation of Wikimedia accounts for permanent use by one single person, including when the account is made for a single person affiliated with an organization. In this case, the account name should not suggest that the operator is acting as the organization. Instead, the account name might indicate that the user is a representative of the organization in Wikimedia projects. Alternatively, the account name may not mention the organization at all, but instead, the user may indicate an organizational affiliation by posting their own explanation on their own userpage.
Suppose that the Metropolitan Museum of Science had staff person named Sita who needed a Wikipedia account to contribute content to Wikimedia projects. Sita may or may not wish to share her real name, and either way is permissible, just so long as there is true disclosure of the organizational affiliation. Acceptable account names for that person at that organization might be any of the following -
- User:Sita at Metropolitan Museum of Science
- User:Sita (MMS)
Use by an organization
The Wikimedia Commons community both supports and prohibits organizations to have a single Wikimedia Commons account for an organization. There is no logical sense to this. Organizations which do this negotiate their own status with individual Wikimedia Commons community members outside of any accepted guidelines. Such accounts might be banned or approved, and other equivalent accounts may get the opposite experience.
An organization account will typically have the name of the organization.
In this case, the account named "Metropolitan Museum of Science" is used by whichever staff person is doing a Wikimedia project.
- User:Metropolitan Museum of Science
No role account
An alternative to using a role account is not using a role account, and instead using a typical personal Wikipedia account. There is no requirement for an organization to use role accounts. The costs and benefits for using role accounts are not well defined. Some representatives of organizations do organizational business through their personal Wikimedia accounts.