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June 10, 2005

The Authority Debate: A Chronological Link List
Anti-Elitism in Wikipedia


Sanger, Larry. “Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism.“ Kuro5hin. 31 Dec. 2004. 10 June 2005.

Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia and an ex-employee, discusses issues that he feels impede Wikipedia’s current and future success. The root problem, he says, is a policy of anti-elitism, or lack of respect for expertise. He identifies two contributing factors:

This perception, which may or may not mirror reality, results in lack of support from the Academy and the public. Sanger reinforces the claim that Wikipedia's product is uneven, and suggests that this is largely due to anti-elitism. An example he uses is the article posted by two experts that is then “hacked to bits by the hoi polloi” who make later edits to the article without respect to the expertise of the original authors. While the premise of Wikipedia is that errors and gaps will be fixed over time, Sanger suggests that something should be done to “guarantee a reputation for reliability.”Sanger no longer participates in Wikipedia because of the uncollegial atmosphere fostered by policies of tolerance for trolls. He suggests that other experts shun the project because they do not want to deal with rudeness and disrespect. Less tolerance for disruption would create a more welcoming atmosphere that would draw in subject matter experts.

It’s been suggested that Sanger’s opinions are at odds with Wikipedia’s policy of “radical openness.” In his conclusion, Sanger says they are not, and that openess does not require disrespect. He doubts that his suggestions will be implemented at Wikipedia, and supposes that a project fork will eventually occur so that a vetted version of Wikipedia can be developed.


Shirky, Clay. “K5 Article on Wikipedia Anti-Elitism”. Many 2 Many. 3 Jan. 2005. 10 June 2005.

In response to the Sanger piece, Shirky claims that Wikipedia’s anti-elitism is a feature, not a flaw. He responds to Sanger point-by-point:

He ends with the warning that Wikipedia and Britannica are not comparable, but are different things entirely. Wikipedia, as a real-time open application, is capable of things that Britannica is not, and vice versa. In five years, he claims, Wikipedia will be “essential infrastructure.”

(Same-day link post at BoingBoing.)

Posted by kenne329 at June 10, 2005 1:54 PM | Authority | Blog Posts | Webzines | Wikipedia