Spontaneous Order Over Democracy

Marginal Revolution points out an interesting article about the culture of Wikipedia. I’m interested in the author’s point that while the community has open access for all users, contributions are hardly equal.

It turns out Wikipedia is not actually the project of many, but the project of just a few. It is a widespread misconception that all users contribute mutually and democratically to the site and that Wikipedia is the product of “collective intelligence.” The German Wikipedia has several hundred thousand registered users. But according to research carried out by sociologist Christian Stegbauer in Frankfurt, more than half of all users who register on the site never make changes to an article. Only 0.5 percent of all active users are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all editing. That’s a group of not even 2,000 people.

Lots of people overlook the difference between the collaboration inherent in a spontaneous order and the cohesion required by democratic action. This non-exclusive distinction goes a long way to explain the robustness of Wikipedia. Does anyone think Wiki would be as useful or as accurate (meta link!) if it were a completely egalitarian democracy?

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