Back in 2006 R.I.P.Aaron Swartz, a fellow Wikipedian, attempted to challenge the results of research presented by Jimbo Wales at Stanford – part of his standard talk. Wales revealed that over 50 per cent of the total number of edits in Wikipedia were made by the shocking 0.7% of users; while 73.4 per cent of all contributions, came from just 2% of them ... 1,400 people in all. The remaining edits came from "people who [were] contributing … a minor change of a fact or a minor spelling fix." Skeptical yet curious, Swartz asked himself: "So did the Gang of 500 actually write Wikipedia?" He performed his own quantitative research, analyzing not the number of edits (pride and joy of long-established users); but rather, the actual letters per individual volunteer added into the current body of selected articles amounting to their actual content value. The results were even more shocking. Study by Swartz has shown that, while the "insiders account for the vast majority of the edits," it was the occasional contributors who provided nearly all of the content value there. Swartz has alluded to the possibility that "newbie masses" may be the real life-blood of Wikipedia, not the "experts".
Some time earlier Larry Sanger suggested that Wikipedia should stick to its core group of hard working insiders. Swartz proclaimed exactly the opposite: "Wikipedians must jettison their elitism" and embrace the newbie masses with respect. He quoted Seth Anthony confirming his revelations. "The average content-adder – as Anthony commented – has less than 200 edits: much less, in many cases."
So did the newbie masses actually write Wikipedia? The fact is ... we're not supposed to know who the logged-in content-adders are. We can only speculate about their motives as if they were actual flesh and blood ... which they aren't. For once, the level of intellectual aggression in Wikipedia due to the presence of anonymity is exceedingly high. Some of the most common and most disturbing forms of behaviour include angry, vengeful, overstimulated reactions to criticism, assaultive language and poor impulse control; good enough reasons to be wary. The attempts to prohibit trolling failed at the onset of Wikipedia likely because in an Internet world trolling is good for traffic, and traffic is the real life-blood of Wikipedia.
The standard method of functioning; the Modus operandi of many entrenched "regulars" hasn't changed in years ... it has actually gotten worse. The utopian ideals of Wikipedia community constructed early on through options for instantaneous change, inadvertently solidified binary assumptions as well as the preexisting stereotypes, and – at the present time – often aggravate a combat mentality. By 2009 already, active accounts began to turn dormant by about 20,000 a month. In real life – wrote Danah Boyd then of MIT Media Lab – individual people constantly manipulate their own identities in order to perform functions incompatible by nature. They assume a party-time persona or the workplace persona or others, without being ‘inaccurate’ about their own true selves. "It is not uncommon for individuals to have multiple email addresses or phone numbers as a way of controlling access to them. Most people are not interested in consolidating all of their physical or virtual identities into one." In Wikipedia ... such behaviour is considered unacceptable.
The success of Wikipedia affects the mind with a sense of overwhelming grandeur. We are on the forefront of today's hottest web-based technologies. In his 2009 book The Wikipedia Revolution, Andrew Lih compared Wikipedia to an insect colony – commanded by stigmergy – built not by the will of anybody in particular and certainly not by consensus; but, by the participative instincts of humanity fuelled by Wikipedia's unlimited "undo's" coupled with article-histories revealing all "diffs" forever. Identifying the various types of database-providers cannot be reduced to simple dichotomies. Yet, the increasingly outdated policy/guidelines keep reducing all nuances of comparison into goodthink and crimethink, good old "insiders" and the evil-doers trying to stick it to the man. The multiple personalities of an online identity constitute one of the more remarkable shifts in online social norms. Wikipedia’s mopping crew has very few tools (and even fewer adequate ones) to address this phenomenon. Even though our sockpuppet policy permits the use of multiple accounts for various reasons; in practice, contributors are routinely penalized with no allegations of disruption. Free to vanish entirely, they are prohibited from trying to evade those who have harassed and smeared them in the past. No wonder, the number of registered accounts exceeds the number of active users at a ratio of 130 to 1 (insert). It is a symptom of an illness of anxiety almost impossible to compare with other similar projects.
ince the spring of 2006 I've written a number of articles for Wikipedia (see below) getting the chance to find out what would happen to them and also, how articles I contributed to were treated. I made a few conclusions, most of them negative. During the summer of 2007 I expanded the article on Kraków (my birthplace), with one hundred citations and two dozen new "daughter" articles (eight featured as DYKs). I nominated it for a Featured Article, as part of a concentrated effort to promote the City. However, the hostility exhibited by – get this – Polish and other European reviewers with issues of self-importance was almost vitriolic. Users who were familiar with Kraków gave vent to unreasonable demands inspired by their overexposure to the subject while deliberately disregarding accepted standards of good writing. Moreover, the subsequent deterioration of the article was so rapid, that I was forced to wash my hands of it altogether. I decided, enough was enough. I firmly believe in the conclusions drawn from a one-time experience without the need for being repetitive about it.
There are similarities between the methodological framework of Wikipedia and that of an earlier chat-room craze from several years ago. Both "open source formats" rely entirely on input from users who are hidden from scrutiny and whose participation is moderated by admins empowered with the ability to block them. The question is whether this portal can ever live up to its premise, with such high level of hostility aimed at the exceedingly small group of writers supplying actual "content value".
The most damning part of open source format is that, by design, our goal-oriented community is forced to accept otherwise unacceptable revisionist viewpoints providing that they're verifiable. Partisan groups turn to Wikipedia to endorse their prejudices. Content disputes escalate. The socio-political coverage of countries, where adults do not easily access English Wikipedia, is left to young fanatics who perpetuate chauvinism. Controversial subjects are despoiled with opinionated agendas imposed by self-appointed wardens in contempt of policy guidelines. Scholarly literature is replaced with biased propaganda. Google books are intentionally obfuscated to avoid politically inconvenient facts. Many controversial articles contradict the opinions expressed in leading encyclopedias and quieten the viewpoints of rational thinkers. – Their quasi stability is maintained with one-liners, signed by the same unrelenting monikers. The worst disruptors cause disciplinary sanctions against the not-so-calm voices of reason who oppose them. It is particularly heart-rending to observe European cities being battered by geopolitical irredentism, notable persons claimed and reclaimed, and the overwhelming majority of articles about the history of conflict inciting even more hatred. All this is done in the name of equality among anonymous editors some of whom would've never been allowed to contribute anything anywhere else outside of here. By the way, users with confrontational viewpoints are far more resilient than those editors who take interest in developing content. They get entertained by adverse reactions to their partisanship, and thrive on real-time Internet game playing with the peculiar quasi-encyclopedic twist.
The result is such that the interested parties are unable to withdraw without the sense of failure given that some countries and societies are under attack continuously. The illusion of the actual encyclopedia is the reason why concerned editors are forced to guard some articles permanently. Incidentally this is also why participating in the development of Wikipedia seems so addictive. There's the need to constantly guard ones own good name and check on every single edit related to it, from minute to minute.
There are corners of Wikipedia Main Space unbeknownst to the community of experienced editors physically unable to control the millions of constantly revised articles. Lower traffic entries stay vandalized for months. The quality of writing, away from public scrutiny is often atrocious, and the knowledge of formatting nonexistent. In the last few years Wikipedia has largely replaced the free webpage builders such as Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire; with editing access far more relaxed. Obscure articles are a travesty of special interest web tributes, which (in the old days at least) used to be fitted with Java applets for the uninformed. Some of these articles are so bad, that it is better to ignore them and turn away.
There is a positive side to Wikipedia as well. Even though vandalism, ignorance and bad faith edits resemble doodling in elementary-level textbooks, users who cause damage intentionally or otherwise, have to read what they change, and so they learn more, even if only by proxy. School children turn to Wikipedia in overwhelming numbers lured by search engine algorithms and self-empowering secrecy surrounding their age and aptitude. Students who choose to contribute, get a chance to work on improving their cognitive skills, regardless of the condition of affected articles.
^"The vast majority of Wikipedia contributors and editors are under the age of 25. Many of the administrators (senior editors) are in their teens. This has been established by a survey conducted in 2003 and in various recent interviews with Jimmy Wales." Sam Vaknin, Can Teenagers write an Encyclopedia?, September 26, 2007, by former United Press International Senior Business Correspondent. ^ "Search and Internet behavior data provide alarming insight into this powerful but volatile resource — alarming because one of the core groups of Wikipedia users are school children." Bill Tancer, Look Who's Using Wikipedia, Time Magazine in partnership with CNN, March 1, 2007, by general manager of global research at Hitwise.
In lieu of a Kraków-specific award, [Poeticbent], please accept The Polish Barnstar of National Merit, 2nd Class, for your outstanding and continued expansion of Poland-related articles in general, and Kraków-related articles in particular. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk 20:34, 21 April 2007 (UTC)
I, Tymek(talk), as of 18:18, 4 January 2008 (UTC), am awarding you, Poeticbent, this Barnstar in appreciation of you excellent work. Keep up the good job!
The Polish Barnstar of National Merit, 1st Class
I, Partisan1(talk), as of 12:00, 3 March2009 (UTC), am awarding you, Poeticbent, this Barnstar in appreciation of you excellent work. Keep up the good job!
The Barnstar of Peace
In much appreciation of your spotting a War and attempting to bring about Peace today, you are, with much pleasure, awarded this Barnstar for your even-handedness and fairness! --Ludvikus (talk) 19:37, 12 May 2008 (UTC)
The Christianity Barnstar
In praise of your excellent article on the life of Anna Borkowska. Ecoleetage (talk) 13:23, 5 August 2008 (UTC) "Thank you for bringing her deeply moving and truly inspirational story to Wikipedia."
Congratulations on your steady stream of well-researched Polish-related articles, in which more than 25 have appeared on the Main Page. You have done the community of the DYK and Polish editors proud! Well done! - Cheers, Mailer Diablo 03:00, 27 October 2008 (UTC)
The Purple Star
I, Piotrus, award Poeticbent this Purple Star, for wheathering many unjustified criticisms including mud-slinging during ArbCom, regular vandalism and slander of his real life persona as a notable Wikipedian. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 20:33, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
For all of your effort to accomplish 50 DYK articles, I hereby award you the 50 DYK Medal. Readers throughout the world have benefited from your generosity! Your efforts are appreciated. Royalbroil 04:39, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
I'm happy to see that I did the crediting on some of the articles that you worked on. Royalbroil 04:52, 18 June 2009 (UTC)
For Good Works on Kraków related articles
For Good Works on Kraków related articles Presented by SilkTork *YES! 12:39, 25 July 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for your artistic and poetic way, covering Poland's history, culture and people, but also naming "a symptom of an illness of anxiety" with a clear view, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 09:28, 3 May 2012 (UTC)
For your work to bring Treblinka extermination camp to Good Article status through a long review process. Thanks so much for contributing on this important topic! -- Khazar2 (talk) 12:31, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
I'd just like to commend you for your steady production of interesting, well-cited, and well-illustrated articles on Nazism and the Holocaust in Poland. Your hooky DYK nominations are exposing more readers to the atrocities, while building up the encyclopedia in a significant topic area. Keep up the great work! Yoninah (talk) 16:43, 14 September 2014 (UTC)
The Civility Barnstar
In appreciation and respect for your consistent ability to remain civil even in the most egregious situations. Your level-headedness and predisposition towards thinking through both the content and discussion of content issues is invaluable to the project. Iryna Harpy (talk) 03:39, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
I just stopped by to check you out after we both made edits to the same article. I ended up reading everything on your userpage. I'm amazed by your work and all the DYK's. Keep editing WP and be happy with your work! Accept this cheeseburger from me for all your efforts. —M@sssly✉ 05:50, 5 June 2015 (UTC)
The Barnstar of Diligence
For your scrutiny of content (WP:NPOV) and determination to get things right (WP:RS citing) for the betterment of Nazi Germany and World War II related articles I award you this barnstar. Cheers, Kierzek (talk) 03:14, 4 March 2016 (UTC)
Just two weeks short of celebrating a decade of contributions to the Wikipedia project I would like to recognise your contribution to the DYK project. 200 new or improved articles is a major achievement. Your contribution to military history is well noted and pulling out people like Frumka Płotnicka is an important donation to historical balance. Thanks from Wikipedia, the DYK project and me. Victuallers (talk) 17:18, 31 March 2016 (UTC)