New York Times Magazine: All the News That’s Fit to Print Out. Nothing is easier than taking shots at Wikipedia, and its many mistakes (most often instances of deliberate vandalism) are schadenfreude’s most renewable resource. But given the chaotic way in which it works, the truly remarkable thing about Wikipedia as a news site is that it works as well as it does. And what makes it work is a relatively small group of hard-core devotees who will, the moment big news breaks, drop whatever they’re doing to take custody of the project and ensure its, for lack of a better term, quality control. Though Wikiculture cringes at the word “authority,” in a system where a small group of people has the ability to lock out the input of a much larger one, it’s pure semantics to call that small group’s authority by any other name.
This is an important article, in part because it demystifies a process that many folks have found beyond bizarre. But the authority the author describes is a different kind than the top-down authority of traditional work. For the most part, the people exercising the authority are able to do so by general agreement in the community, not by fiat.
Anyone can take the Wikipedia content and create something new from it, anytime he or she wants to try. Yet people return to it, not because they trust it absolutely but because they have more faith in the processes used to get close to the truth.