Who really runs Wikipedia?

W.G.Ewald

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The Economist explains: Who really runs Wikipedia? | The Economist

Wikipedia advertises itself as a bias-free encyclopaedia which allows any internet denizen to contribute well-sourced facts or modify existing entries. In reality, however, the site has only about 35,000 English-language and 70,000 total active editors (as every contributor is known). With few exceptions, any visitor may edit the text of an entry so long as he follows the formatting, style and editorial form. Changes typically appear immediately, but modifications or entire entries may be rejected by other editors. That in turn may lead to consensus-driven votes and lengthy discussions. A common point of contention is whether a topic or person doesn't meet Wikipedia's detailed test for "notability". Editors who register an account, and who contribute regularly and in a manner that conforms to the nature of Wikipedia, gain implicit authority. Some editors become "administrators"—about 1,400 are at the moment—able to freeze or delete entries. Administrators have a big technical stick to ensure that when "edit wars" erupt or inappropriate changes are continuously applied, they can prod or truncheon users. Users may be banned or put under strictures, while administrators themselves can have their actions overridden by any of the 41 demiurges known as "stewards", a 12-member Olympian arbitration counsel, or the site's founder and chief deity, Jimmy Wales.

Given that no one is precisely in charge of anything, who has responsibility for the accuracy or intent of any given change, such as the shift of female novelists to a sub-category? The site tracks all changes to an obsessive degree, and also maintains for each page a "talk" section in which changes are discussed ad nauseam. In another article, Ms Filipacchi documented the seven editors who relocated women authors using the record of changes for both categories' entries. In the modifications to her entry and the "talk" section, one can see the disputes and annotation of modifications to her biography. Ultimately, then, Wikipedia's ostensible fairness relies on vigilance, and editors can mark articles and be notified if any change occurs. But a million unnoticed changes can take place without any authority or agreement other than the will of the editor to make the change.
 

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