Wikipedia is "a rancorous, sexist, elitist, stupidly bureaucratic mess"
David Auerbach (Auerbachkeller) wrote in Slate that Wikipedia is "a rancorous, sexist, elitist, stupidly bureaucratic mess" (December 11). While Auerbach praises Wikipedia, calling it "amazing", a "seminal" work, and comparing it in importance to the 18th century French Encyclopédie, he also writes that the online encyclopedia has developed a Kafkaesque bureaucracy full of "ugly and bitter" personalities that is inhospitable to women and new editors. Commenting on the "legalistic anarchy" that is the English Wikipedia's governance, he writes "I am not exaggerating when I say it is the closest thing to Kafka's The Trial I have ever witnessed."
Auerbach contrasts "The Unblockables, a class of abrasive editors who can get away with murder because they have enough of a fan club within Wikipedia", and new editors, who sometimes receive a "hostile welcome" and are accused of being a single-purpose account. Auerbach links the latter to the decline in the number of active editors, which he says increases the pressure to retain productive editors, even those who engage in problematic behavior, behavior which alienates new editors and increases even further the pressure to retain existing ones.
Auerbach expresses doubt that Wikipedia will be able to address these issues from within, citing Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit), author of the recent book Common Knowledge: An Ethnography of Wikipedia (see Signpostbook review), who told Auerbach that "Wikipedians are allergic to all forms of control." Auerbach concludes:
It's ultimately up to the site's editors to choose to learn to temper their fortress mentality, get more outside eyes and ears, listen to the most moderate and reflective among them, and perhaps even entertain the idea that they might sometimes be wrong. Wikipedia's future may depend on it.
A galaxy of Wikipedia: The Creators Projectreports (December 8) on WikiGalaxy, a Google Chrome Experiment created by Owen Cornec, a graduate engineering student in Paris. WikiGalaxy is an interactive map of 10,000 Wikipedia articles where the user can click through a visual representation of a nebula.
Awards season: The Khaleej Times (December 8) and Gulf News (December 7) report that Tim Berners-Lee and Jimmy Wales received the first Knowledge Award, accompanied by a one million dollar cash prize, at the first Knowledge Conference, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai.