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Arbs gone wild

by Yerucham Turing & Eric Barbour

There are two elements which form the structural bedrock of Wikipedia, and which combine to cause an insoluble problem:

1. Wikipedia insists upon the principle of anonymous editing. This is considered sacrosanct, and it means that ultimately, no real-life person is responsible for the accuracy or veracity of article content.

2. On any controversial topic, a Wikipedia article is a battleground in which the contestants vie for control of content. The stakes are high; the winner may use that Wikipedia article as a soapbox for propaganda, which will shoot right to the top of a typical Google search. Officially, Wikipedia wishes that this were not the case, but wishes are not yet horses. The battle for control is settled by two criteria: “consensus” (which in practice means majority rule), and debates over policy (which in practice means gaming the system). Disputes are resolved, on a temporary basis, by bullying and sophistry, but the only lasting resolution is via the banning by Wikipedia administrators of one faction of the contestants, generally through the connivance of the other faction. The banned editors are generally not prepared to simply give up and find another hobby; many are psychologically addicted to Wikipedia as a MMORPG. There is an appeals process for banned editors, which has roughly the same success rate as attempts to build a perpetual-motion machine.

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These two elements combine to ensure that Wikipedia is dominated by what it calls “sockpuppetry“. Because of the “majority rule” feature, and because Wikipedia editors are not real-life individuals, but rather, “accounts,” the temptation to create more than one account in order to sway the “consensus” is a powerful one. Consequently, many Wikipedians become sockpuppeteers. And as well, many Wikipedians who

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