Wikipedia has become an increasingly organized bureacracy, with rules and norms that are more complex and performance according to studies presented in the last year by Robert Kraut and his students (Taking up the mop, Identifying Future Wikipedian Administrators and Don’t look now but we have created a bureaucracy ). The news that Wikipedia has become more organized and structured should be no surprise. It is news, however, for those who believed or propmoted the ideological vision that Wikipedia and/or virtual communities are anarchist/alternative spaces. With stricter and more tightly enforced “performance” criteria for recruiting members in the ultra-select group of “administrators”, which currently are about 1,700 of a total of 10,000,000 registered users (as of today), it looks like Robert Michels’ iron law of oligarchy needs to be revised again.
According to the [paper], diversity of editing—and in particular, edits to Wikipedia policy pages, WikiProjects, and article talk pages—are the strongest indicators of likely success at RfA. Every 1000 edits to articles increases the probability of success by 1.8%, while edits to Wikipedia policy pages or WikiProjects have about ten times that effect. Every 1000 article talk edits boosts a candidates chances by 6.3%, while excessive userpage, user talk, and deletion discussion edits actually decrease chances for success. Comparing changes in the weighting of the model’s factors from the pre-2006 period to the 2006-2007 period, the authors conclude that “the community as a whole is beginning to prioritize policymaking and organization experience over simple article-level coordination” when it comes to selecting administrators.
Another contribution to the conference
, by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes the roles of rules and policies on Wikipedia. The authors conclude that, despite the reputation of wikis as venues for “peer-based, nonhierarchical, non-bureaucratic, emergent, complex, and communal” work, the key feature of wikis is that they “allow for, and in fact facilitate, the creation of policies and procedures that serve a wide variety of functions.”