Wiki: anarchic knowledge organization

There's an interesting article on wired about Wikipedia, the anarchic encyclopedia. It's on online work that anyone can edit. Doesn't that cause problems? Well yes and no. "Vandals" as they are called do try to make a mark. But anybody can place an article on a "watch list"; when it changes, they can find out easily and potentially revert the change if they don't like it.

Wikipedia has an innate capacity to heal itself. As a result, woefully outnumbered vandals often give up and leave. ... making changes is so simple that who prevails often comes down to who cares more. And hardcore Wikipedians care. A lot.

Wool logs on to Wikipedia at 6 each morning and works two hours before leaving for his day job developing education programs for a museum. When he gets back home around 6:30 pm, he hops back on Wikipedia for a few more hours. ... It's tempting to urge people like Wool ... to get a life. But imagine if they instead spent their free time walking through public parks, picking up garbage. We'd call them good citizens.

Many wiki "citizens" defeat most casual defacement by uncoordinated action opposing it. But some defacement is not casual... and so the process of government formation has started.

Still, even committed citizens sometimes aren't muscular enough to fend off determined bad guys. As Wikipedia has grown, Wales has been forced to impose some more centralized, policelike measures - to guard against 'edit warriors,' 'point-of-view warriors,' 'revert warriors,' and all those who have difficulty playing well with others. 'We try to be as open as we can,' Wales says, 'but some of these people are just impossible.' During last year's presidential election, Wikipedia had to lock both the George W. Bush and the John Kerry pages because of incessant vandalism and bickering. The Wikipedia front page, another target of attacks, is also protected.

If that suggests an emerging hierarchy in this bastion of egalitarian knowledge-gathering, so be it. The Wikipedia power pyramid looks like this: At the bottom are anonymous contributors, people who make a few edits and are identified only by their IP addresses. On the next level stand Wikipedia's myriad registered users around the globe, people who have chosen a screen name and make edits under that byline. Some of the most dedicated users try to reach the next level - administrator. Wikipedia's 400 administrators ... can delete articles, protect pages, and block IP addresses. Above this group are bureaucrats, who can crown administrators. The most privileged bureaucrats are stewards. And above stewards are developers, 57 superelites who can make direct changes to the Wikipedia software and database. There's also an arbitration committee that hears disputes and can ban bad users.

At the very top, with powers that range far beyond those of any mere Wikipedian mortal, is Wales, known to everyone in Wiki-world as Jimbo. He can do pretty much anything he wants - from locking pages to banning people to getting rid of developers. So vast are his powers that some began calling him 'the benevolent dictator.' But Wales bristled at that tag. So his minions assigned him a different, though no less imposing, label. 'Jimbo,' says Wikipedia administrator Mark Pellegrini, 'is the God-King.'

The God-King drives a Hyundai.
Chuckle. Good stuff. Order, and government, arises in anarchy. It's only when government turns monopolistic/coercive that it becomes the state and must be opposed by the moral man.

Anarchists have a many good examples these days arising online.