Tending an open door

The online community-edited encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become "the web's third-most-popular news and information source" (beating CNN and Yahoo News, according to Nielsen NetRatings, via NYT). Wikipedia also serves as a symbol for those who like to champion the reason of dynamic order over top-down systems, inevitably refrencing not only technology and the web but also politics and government. Whatever one's interest with Wikipedia, a threatening title in yesterday's NYT doesn't sit well--except perhaps for nay-sayers of editor-free collaborations en masse: "Growing Wikipedia Revises Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy".

Wikipedia, owned by millions but tended by a smaller community near a thousand, now responds to a small rash of high-profile accusations of inaccuracy by creating small, temporary restrictions to its open door. Actually, the policy changes seem like minimally intrusive, reasonable safeguards; for frequently vandalized entries, users must be registered with Wikipedia a minimum of four days to edit.

What might become less innocuous is the bureaucracy that Wikipedia is building, as the Times suggests; "It has a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control, delete unsuitable articles and protect those that are vulnerable to vandalism."

While it is still clear that Wikipedia's core is dominated by free-wheeling individuals invested in the idea of dynamic social editing, now might be the time to implement a policy that protects Wikipedia from its garden keepers. It may not be necessary now, but inevitably, bureaucracy perpetuates. And the future will only bring more 'high-profile' exceptions to Wiki's overall quality that creates an excuse (a seemingly hapless quandary) wherein editorial hands are needed. Better to create explicit protections on an open well to the red pen now, when it's founder Jimmy Wales is still alive, kicking and actively stating to the
Times, "What does define Wikipedia is the volunteer community and the open participation." Because, with any luck the wildly successful open-editorial phenomenon that is Wikipedia will far outlive its founder.