Mako-Hill, a grad student at the MIT Media Lab, who gave a presentation called "Toward a Definition of Freedom," is critical. “I think his lecture was rhetorical, warped, and a-historical — the 21st century is ‘weird?’ He doesn’t make much sense if you go and look at it.”

Anybody can edit
2:00 pm — We're chatting with volunteer Scott Douglas, 47, of New York City, whose job it is to stand at the front of the building and guide lost Wikis to their destinations. He's racked up about a thousand edits on the page and claims to spend no more than an hour a day on the site. His favorite subjects: military history and Dungeons and Dragons. We get on the topic of the lengthy Star Trek pages on the site and how pages dealing with the arts tend to be much thinner. A guy nearby chimes in, "I'm the one you’re referring to!" His name is Paul Pasquerella and he claims not to be a computer person. Discovering the site two years ago, Pasquerella spends most of his time sprucing up of music entries like the "Kind Of Blue" page. He complains that much of his work on that page was stripped by disapproving fans of the jazz legend. "The advantage of Wikipedia is that anybody can edit and the disadvantage is that anybody can edit."

We scoot over to where Colorado State grad student Seth Anthony is discussing contribution patterns among Wikipedians. He argues that long-time users have gravitated toward non-content editing, while newbies have been responsible for much of the actual substantive work being done. Pasquerella's hand shoots up at the back, and he's off : "I'm the one you're talking about," he says. How many times has this guy used this line? He starts in with his problems editing the "Kind Of Blue" Page.

Don’t be a dick
5:00— “The wiki is not for everyone,” says James Forrester, one of 15 members of the arbitration committee, a last court of appeals for disputes between users. The committee sees about 6 and 2/3 cases per month, from rampant vandals to well-meaning screw-ups.

Evidently, the wiki was not for Plautus, one of the more notorious vandals who now has a sub-page cataloging his edits —mostly conspiracy theory jibberish along the lines of: 

“The Hubble Space Telescope is an orbiting, death ray laser.” 

“Einstein was an unrepentant plagiarist, who got all of his best ideas by stealing them out of patent applications while he was a clerk in Switzerland.”  

Or, best of all, he blanked the black hole’s article with the edit summary “Black holes are a myth, like God.” 

Other cases run the gamut, but they are not getting any fewer or easier to decide: Arbitration Committee member Mark Pelligrini says in a pained voice that the number of cases decided each month has been going up steadily.  

The committee’s role is an interesting one. They generally mediate between editors in the case of a dispute, but they do not like to refer to themselves as a court and, they say, they do not deal with content issues or set precedent.  

What, exactly, do they do?  

“We’re not here to judge users in their own right. It’s not whether they are good or bad…but it’s more about effective and ineffective behaviors,” says Forrester. 

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Related: Free culture: what it is, why it matters, Wikimania 2006 hits Cambridge, Stealing culture, More more >
  Topics: Ultimate Lists , Internet, Science and Technology, Vandalism,  More more >
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