Wikipedia un-wikis itself

From Wired Campus (“New Editing Process Hopes to Improve Wikipedia’s Accuracy”):

[A] new feature called “flagged revisions” will not allow posts on living people to be updated until “an experienced volunteer editor” approves the changes, The New York Times reports.

The New York Times suggests that

The change is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia’s leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.

Well, that’s an unfortunate intervention: it’s playing God with what was a (relatively) godless network (if that is possible), i.e. a stigmergic field (see “Novel Stigmergy Structures in the Internet”, which talks about several other “self-organizing multicellular digital structures”). What I know is: in a peer-to-peer distributed network architecture, the peers should be egalitarian (P↔P), not honorific (P/p).

Of course, Wikipedia was only ever relatively godless, because, as the NY Times reminds us,

That right [“that everyone has an equal right to edit entries”] was never absolute, and the policy changes are an extension of earlier struggles between control and openness. For example, certain popular or controversial pages, like the ones for the singer Britney Spears and for President Obama, are frequently “protected” or “semi-protected,” limiting who, if anyone, can edit the articles.

True indeed, but unfortunate—and indicative of the fact that Wikipedia never “embraced the chaos”: it kept it at arm’s length lest it catch something.

Or perhaps, as Ed Chi argues at Augmented Social Cognition (here and here), since the growth of Wikipedia hit a plateau in 2007-8, there has emerged “growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content, especially when the edits come from occasional editors,” i.e. desire for closure (or, more properly, to continuity and simplicity) has overtaken the openness to chaos (that is, to change and complexity).


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