Wikipedia is frequently touted as a marvel of collaboration, a model of peer production. But it may be more instructive as a laboratory of pathologies of social interaction.
. . . . .The combination of feuds and relentless focus on negatives associated with Wikipedia creates an obsession by some devoted Wikipedians about the evils visited upon them.
. . . . This toxic mix of paranoia, fear of infiltrators and a social system where status can be acquired by fighting off threats (real or imagined) exploded recently into a governance scandal familiar to any observer of bureaucratic politics. A prominent Wikipedia administrator unilaterally revoked the account of a highly regarded contributor. When questioned, the response claimed the evidence was too sensitive to be released to the public, but had been vetted at the highest levels. Shortly after, the administrator reversed the action, apologising and citing new information.
. . . . For all Jimmy Wales's self-promotion regarding his supposed ability to build good communities, it's apparent his skill is instead in knowing how to sell a dysfunctional community effectively. One subtext of the Wikipedia hype is that businesses can harvest an eager pool of free labour, disposable volunteers who will donate effort for the sheer joy of it. The fantasy is somewhat akin to Santa's workshop, where little elves work happily away for wages of a glass of milk and a cookie. Whereas the reality is closer to an exploitative cult running on sweatshop labour.
Seth Finkelstein, the author of the above article, has a blog with a lot of anti-Wikipedia articles. One article says,
It's hard to convey to the acolytes within the cult of Wikipedia how petty and in fact, downright creepy, it can appear to outsiders. At this point more sane Wikipedia administrators will pop up and say it's just a few bad apples, the other admins will keep them in check. And my reply there is that still reveals a pretty disturbing sociological aspect of Wikipedia. Especially one that might give pause to the impulse to proclaim lots of experts should work for free to increase its power and respectability (and notably also increasing the capability of small cliques of Wikipedia admins to engage in political vendettas).
"More sane" is relative -- no sane person would work for Wikipedia.
A 5-17-07 article in The Guardian says,
Search at Google.com on evolution or Iraq or Aids or Gordon Brown, and the same site will appear at the top of the list of results: Wikipedia. Alter your search into one for John Keats or Muhammad Ali or Christianity or platypus or loneliness, and the same thing will happen. Pacific Ocean? Wikipedia. Catherine de Medici? Wikipedia. Human brain? Wikipedia.
. . . more and more of our time online is being spent at an ever-smaller number of megasites. The wilds of the internet are being carved up among a handful of vast information plantations.
. . . .Web statistics tell the tale. The blogger Richard MacManus recently examined trends in online traffic over the past five years. He found that between the end of 2001 and the end of last year, the number of Internet domains expanded by more than 75%, from 2.9m to 5.1m. At the same time, however, the dominance of the most popular domains grew substantially. At the end of 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31% of all the pages viewed on the net. By the end of last year, the top 10 accounted for fully 40% of page views. There are more destinations online, but we seem to be visiting fewer of them.
. . . On the internet, the big get bigger. It wasn't supposed to be like that. When the web arrived in the early 1990s, it was heralded as a liberating force that would free us from the confines of gated communities like AOL and Compuserve. The internet was supposed to be an open, democratic medium, an information bazaar putting individuals on the same footing as big companies.
Lawrence Solomon, a journalist I quoted previously, wrote in the National Review,
Ever wonder how Al Gore, the United Nations, and company continue to get away with their claim of a “scientific consensus” confirming their doomsday view of global warming? Look no farther than Wikipedia for a stunning example of how the global-warming propaganda machine works.
As you (or your kids) probably know, Wikipedia is now the most widely used and influential reference source on the Internet and therefore in the world, with more than 50 million unique visitors a month.
In theory Wikipedia is a “people’s encyclopedia” written and edited by the people who read it — anyone with an Internet connection. So on controversial topics, one might expect to see a broad range of opinion.
Not on global warming. On global warming we get consensus, Gore-style: a consensus forged by censorship, intimidation, and deceit.
. . . . Turns out that on Wikipedia some folks are more equal than others. Kim Dabelstein Petersen is a Wikipedia “editor” who seems to devote a large part of his life to editing reams and reams of Wikipedia pages to pump the assertions of global-warming alarmists and deprecate or make disappear the arguments of skeptics.
. . . . .Now Petersen is merely a Wikipedia “editor.” Holding the far more prestigious and powerful position of “administrator” is William Connolley.
. . . . . by virtue of his power at Wikipedia, Connolley, a ruthless enforcer of the doomsday consensus, may be the world’s most influential person in the global warming debate after Al Gore.
. . . . . Wikipedia is full of rules that editors are supposed to follow, and it has a code of civility. Those rules and codes don’t apply to Connolley, or to those he favors.
. . . ..Nor are Wikipedia’s ideological biases limited to global warming. As an environmentalist I find myself with allies and adversaries on both sides of the aisle, Left and Right. But there is no doubt where Wikipedia stands: firmly on the Left. Try out Wikipedia’s entries on say, Roe v. Wade or Intelligent Design, and you will see that Wikipedia is the people’s encyclopedia only if those people are not conservatives.
Here is a list of websites that are critical of Wikipedia. Here is a long webpage condemning Wikipedia.
Labels: Wikipedia (new #2)