The popular rap on Wikipedia, the world’s must used information source, and one of the treasures and marvels of the web, is that it is democratic. Anyone can edit and add or subtract. But for those in the know, the reality is different. The iron law of oligarchy takes over. An outsider can’t in fact edit anything, anytime. The changes have to stick, and to get them to stick you have to justify the change in the talk page, and this is where the the battles truly take place. Disputes are resolved by editors.
I was thinking about this in light of Climategate. Here we have what is probably the most successful attempt ever to game the Wikipedia system. UK scientist William Connelley spend his every waking hour as a dedicated wikipedia editor and successfully kept the lid on contrary views.
Lawrence Solomon describes what he did:
All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.
The Medieval Warm Period disappeared, as did criticism of the global warming orthodoxy. With the release of the Climategate Emails, the disappearing trick has been exposed.