Turf Wars


Ah, Wikipedia: No true believer in the democratic promise of the Web can fail to gladden at the very mention of this grand experiment—the universal encyclopedia “anyone can edit”!—or fail to have noticed, by now, what a fucked-up little mockery of that promise it can sometimes be. If you’ve been keeping tabs at all, for instance, it won’t surprise you to learn that disaffected Wikipedia veterans have started a splinter site,, for airing “censored” Wikipedia articles and witty, excoriating analysis of the petty tyrannies and ugly infighting that thrive behind the scenes there. Nor should it surprise you that Wikipedia’s murky powers-that-be initially forbade any article about Wikitruth, invoking administrative privilege to delete the first such article within minutes of its posting. Hell, real insiders won’t even blink at the official reason for Wikitruth’s exclusion from what aspires to be, per Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales, “the sum of human knowledge”: Not libelous, not inflammatory, not even full of shit, the site was deemed, simply, “not notable.”

For the rest of us, of course, that needs some explaining. Not notable? Wikipedia hosts approximately three jillion full-page articles about local high schools, complete with alma mater lyrics, and it can’t make room for a critical look at its own practices? Perversely enough, though, “notability” has indeed become a byword for Wikipedia’s freelance fact police, who delete at will whatever they think might worsen the site’s smoldering reputation as a trivia dump. In practice, of course, this only aggravates the problem, filtering out any topic that doesn’t rate at least a few hundred Google hits—and consequently weighting the content toward Klingon grammar and other typical Web fodder. Can the Wikipedian hive-mind even recognize these internal contradictions? Will it self-correct in time to save Web democracy from itself? Maybe, but you might want to stay tuned to Wikitruth for the answers.