[Home]SocialApathy

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On a wiki, all pages may be edited at any time. Naively, one may suppose that this opens pages to be edited all the time, as if PageChurn was inevitable. This belief underlies the basis for WikiPedia's sense of authority, which in term is expressed through their NeutralPointOfView policy. They believe that if an article has a problem, someone will fix it, just as EricRaymond expressed (incorrectly) the benefit of OpenSource is that there are more eyeballs looking for bugs.

In reality, though, many pages are relatively static on most wikis. Changing pages requires effort and action on the behalf of potential editors, and thus they must be motivated (compare DefendAgainstPassion). But for many pages, people do not want to expend the effort to change them. People sense the page is good enough or too contentious to edit or owned by a particularly egoful author or over their heads. Either way, the page ceases to be active and it whithers.

The absolutely worst case scenario for the NeutralPointOfView editorial position is a lack of interest in a page. If only one person is interested in a topic, PeerReview of that page will be cursory and superficial. If everyone agrees with the content on the page, the validity of the page will be weak. Only the pages with HealthyConflict are likely to evolve through some Darwinian-like process towards high quality. This has been shown to be the same in academia where departments with high conflict between faculty tend to generate the best work, whereas those with the greatest agreement between faculty stagnate.

Wikipedia itself often showcases pages like WikiPedia:Islam and WikiPedia:terrorism as examples of high quality articles, and in truth they are. But those pages have acquired the greatest scrutiny because there are opposing stakeholders that do not or cannot trust the other stakeholders to represent their positions faithfully, and it matters that their positions are represented faithfully. Pages on the other hand where the primary author more or less represents the mainstream and the issues are not particularly important do not gain the same level of attention.

While this is the case with all things, it's important to note that articles may not improve over time naturally through some sort of RatchetEffect?. The NeutralPointOfView desperately hinges on the very point that no one disagrees with the text, and thus if that bar for disagreement is very low (as in no one cares) then the page will remain low quality.


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