The 36 People Who Run Wikipedia

Stephen Lurie marvels at the organizational structure of wikipedia's volunteers using the rarified ranks of stewards as emblematic of the whole. Recommended by Pine on Wiki-research-l. medium


This weird, almost ungainly success has left Wikimedia, and the stewards who manage it, at the center of a political tug-of-war. Almost every political camp has tried to claim this unique work ethos as their own: After all, who wouldn’t want to take credit for the enormous success?

Libertarians and anarchists say it all works because the project lacks a central authority.

Capitalists boast about the laissez-faire dynamic and tendency toward equilibrium.

Socialists suggest that Wikimedia is an egalitarian model unaffected by capitalist incentives.


Clay Shirky has noted that wikipedia has been built with the "cognitive surplus" available in a rich world. Lurie is more impressed with the maintenance of the organizational structure. I worry that it is all transient as are most cultural accomplishments, just faster with computers.