I didn’t know I had a Wikipedia entry until about a year ago. I discovered it by googling my name — a vice that I’m sure most writers indulge in, some more than others. I tried to abstain, or, at least, not indulge too often, but the temptation to go back and see how the entry was evolving was — is — a bit too much for me to resist. Because, for those who don’t know about Wikipedia, anyone is free to edit and re-edit entries: they are also free to create new ones, to add and subtract, in a cybernetic demonstration of the Hayekian theory of spontaneous order. Entries are changed as knowledge develops. and new facts are discovered.
That was how I came to witness the “edit wars” waged on the territory of my entry. Go here to see the long history of that sometimes bitter conflict, an epic battle carried out by such Wiki-warriors as “WillbeBack,” “Huysmanns,” “Darth Jesus,” and a host of others too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say that some — most — editors were constructive: that is, they worked to refine and expand my entry, adding new biographical details and describing my work and ideas, rather than editorializing. Wikipedia has strict rules about that: it is the great sin of POV (pushing a Point of View), and repeated instances can result in the suspension or even explusion of the miscreant from the realm of encyclopedic knowledge that is Wikipedia.
An “edit war” occurs when there is a dispute that goes back and forth, with rival factions battling for hegemony: in such cases, when even a persistent minority-of-one can vandalize an entry at will, an entry is locked down, frozen, so that only registered Wikipedia members can edit it — and a close watch is kept on the premises for any sign of POV-pushing.
My entry has been locked down twice in the past two days, on account of the persistent efforts of two — or possibly just one — “editor.” Here‘s an example of their vandalism: it’s always the same old smears, mindlessly excreted like a foul odor on a bus. What’s interesting is the efforts of the mainstream Wikipedians — the majority that cares about expanding and preserving the record of human knowledge – to fight off and restrain the fanatics. Spontaneous order works. Wikipedia works.