Would anyone be willing to share with me his or her experience editing or creating Wikipedia entries. My first paper argues that Wikipedia's hierarchy and increasingly complex set of rules have exclusionary consequences that detract from its "openness" and "anarchism." If you're interested in helping out, here are a few questions:
(1) If you tried to create an entry, was it accepted or deleted? If it was deleted, did you communicate with any Wikipedia administrator(s) regarding why your entry was rejected?
(2) If you edited or attempted to edit an entry, did you encounter any obstacles to editing the entry? If you made an edit, was it accepted or rejected? If it was rejected, do you know why it was rejected? If it was rejected, did you challenge this ruling? If so, what was that process like?
(3) Based on your experiences with Wikipedia, do you feel that edits are accepted or rejected on an objective basis? Why do you feel this why? Does this make you more or less likely to try to edit or create an entry in the future?
(4) Have you noticed any changes in the process of editing or creating an entry since you first started using Wikipedia? If so, how would you describe these changes?
(5) Have you ever been interested in creating or editing a Wikipedia entry but were discouraged by the technical know-how or time investment (beyond actually composing the entry or the edits) needed to do so? If so, can you be specific about what discouraged you? If you were not discouraged, can you describe what made creating/editing easy, user-friendly, etc.?
(6) Any other observations or thoughts would be much appreciated.
Feel free to comment here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- MatthewLadner - 03 Dec 2011
Several years ago, I tried to revise an entry on a baseball article. The process went smoothly for me and Wikipedia accepted my revisions. They in fact had no requirements at all. Nonetheless, after some while, I checked back and it seemed that someone else or Wikipedia itself had changed what I had written. The changes were not factually incorrect but detracted a bit from my writing style. I think that led me to just shrug, be glad to have contributed to knowledge online, and ignore it all. I think that having others easily modify what I had written was a slight disincentive from further contributing to Wikipedia. Hope this helps.
-- ThomasHou - 05 Dec 2011
I am the proud author of this brief article on Summers v. Earth Island Institute, a case I commented on in my note. Someone came along a few months later and added some category tags to it.
Reading your piece, I have the sense that there might be definitional issues involved. I think a point motivating Eben's comments is that anarchism is not necessarily synonymous with a lack of organization. The term anarchy, like privacy, has been used with a very wide range of meanings. In your opening sentences, you equate anarchism with "production without property rights," an association Eben might have made in class at some point (or not, I'm not sure). However, I think the equation is too simplistic. What about a Stalinist society in which there are no property rights? Is this anarchist? I don't think so.
More broadly, I think the "is Wikipedia anarchist"/"what is anarchism" issue cluster is somewhat orthogonal to what I take to be your main point. As I read it, your main interest is more like "has Wikpedia become too bureaucratized/hierarchical to do its job well?" That's a question that can be, in a straightforward manner, tested against evidence. I don't think you need to get into the definitional quagmire of whether it qualifies as anarchist or not.
Instead, I think what you would need to do is define some metrics and apply them. What is that Wikipedia should be doing? How good is it at doing that thing? Is there evidence that "X or Y added procedure" has decreased the ability of Wikipedia to do the things it should be doing?
-- DevinMcDougall - 06 Dec 2011
Would it help to know that the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, does not exercise editorial control over the content? This is both for legal and philosophical lessons. When I worked at the Wikimedia Foundation two summers ago, we used to get complaints all the time similar to the concerns you've noted. Most of the time, we would just direct the complaints to the community, which collectively edits Wikipedia. If anyone's entry was deleted, it was due to a moderator's judgment and that moderator is part of the community. The moderator hierarchy is democratic.
Regarding whether people are dissuaded by the technical investment to create articles, this is a main concern of the Foundation and it is actively working to improve the user experience.
I think the interesting thread of your discussion is whether editors feel a sense of ownership over their articles and whether that ownership interferes with their objectivism when it comes to new edits. The bottom of the Community Portal lists several guides for how to deal with communal editing etiquette.
-- AaronChan - 06 Dec 2011
I tried to create an article for the startup company I used to work for, BigTent. Even though I only published objectively verifiable information (e.g., listing many other similar Web sites as alternatives), it was flagged as promotional/non-notable content and deleted after a week. The article itself was very barebones because our company got limited press coverage, so there were fewer possible links to add. In the end, it seems we could have landed a free Wiki entry if we had paid for more of a PR blitz.
-- MiaLee - 09 Dec 2011