The Wik-elites

Nicholas Ciarelli demystifies the democratic view of Wikipedia:

"The idea that a lot of people have of Wikipedia is that it's some emergent phenomenonthe wisdom of crowds, swarm intelligence, that sort of thing… like we're a lot of ants, working in an anthill," Jimmy Wales, the site's co-founder, has said. "It's kind of a neat analogy, but it turns out it's actually not much true." Wales examined the numbers several years ago and was surprised to learn that the most active 2 percent of users had performed nearly 75 percent of the edits on the site. [...] This clique of users enforces Wikipedia's bewildering list of rulespolicies covering neutrality, verifiability, and naming conventions, among other areas. It's not difficult for newcomers to run afoul of these regulations when they try to edit an article.

At the same time, these administrators undoubtedly play a critical role in maintaining Wikipedia's professionalism, volunteering untold hours to clean up vandalism and improve the quality of articles. And their apparent distrust of newcomers is not entirely without merit. "They're reflexively suspicious of everyone from watching people attack Wikipedia over all the years," says Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University who sits on the advisory board for the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs Wikipedia. "If everyone who works at Britannica were fired, the encyclopedia would become out of date and less useful over time as new articles weren't added, and old ones weren't updated, and would become considerably less valuable over time. But if everyone who really cares about defending Wikipedia didn't log in this week, it would be gone by Thursday."