Nick Carr (Rough Type) has an interesting comment about Wikipedia. Referring to an essay in yesterday’s Sunday Times by Noam Cohen, who likens Wikipedia to a city with features like ‘basic civility, trust, cultural acceptance and self-organizing qualities’, Carr points out that policing is an increasingly important feature of the popular online encyclopedia:

It’s the fact that Wikipedia has imposed editorial controls [on certain articles] … restricting who can edit them.

In other words, if you visit a noncontroversial Wikipedia article, like ‘Toothpick’, you are still allowed to edit it. But if you visit articles like ‘Barack Obama’, ‘Islam’, or ‘Sex’ you will find a ‘view source’ tab instead of the usual ‘edit this page’ tab. Trustful self-organisation has been replaced by editorial policing.

Interesting! I’ve never thought about this. So I made a rapid search for ‘Genetics’, ‘Medicine’, ‘Evolution’, ‘RNA’ and ‘DNA’. And guess what — ‘Genetics’, ‘Evolution’ and ‘DNA’ are apparently too contested to be open for bottom-up editing, while ‘Medicine’ and ‘RNA’ are seemingly uncontroversial (so far). See here:


To some extent this is self-evident. I’m not surprised there are thousands of wackos out there who love to infest the Wikipedia article on ‘Evolution’. But why ‘DNA’ and ‘Genetics’ — and not ‘RNA’?

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