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The way permissions are set-up on different wikis can vary, but the default MediaWiki installation has several different permissions available; most notably the sysop and bureaucrat permissions.
By default MediaWiki provides extra functionality to a group of trusted users called 'sysops' (or known more generally as 'administrators'). Most of the time this should go largely unnoticed by the normal users of a wiki community. Everyone can get involved in editing pages, and even undertaking drastic reorganization of the wiki. The extra powers of a sysop user are intended for use in settling disputes and preventing repeated vandalism.
Who are the sysops?
You can find out who the sysops are at Special:ListUsers/sysop.
What can a sysop do?
There are a number of extra features available to sysops. The key ones are as follows:
- Protecting and unprotecting pages, and editing protected pages
- 'Protecting' a page prevents normal users from editing the page at all. There are several reasons why a particular page might be protected. For more information see Help:Protected pages. For sysop information see Help:Protecting and unprotecting pages.
- Deleting pages, and undeleting.
- A page can be deleted semi-permanently, such that it is no longer available (even in the page histories) for normal users. Normal users do not have this power. For sysop information see Help:Deletion and undeletion
- Blocking a user or IP address, and unblocking them.
- Users can be blocked from the wiki. This is a useful way of keeping out persistent vandals. Users are identified by their registered user name, or by IP address, and can be blocked permanently, or just short length of time to give them a "cooling off" period. See Help:Blocking users.
- Patrolling, and seeing patrolled edits.
- This is a way of coordinating with other sysops, to ensure that every edit of the wiki has been checked over by a trusted user. See Help:Patrolled edits.
Another level of permissions within a default MediaWiki set-up, is the 'bureaucrat' group. By default bureaucrats can modify all users' user groups.
The main thing a bureaucrat can do, which 'sysop' cannot, is promote users to be sysops (and demote sysops to normal users). See Help:User rights and groups.