Written by Nick Heer.

Wikipedia’s Secret Sauce

Dan Lewis, Now I Know:

A few minutes after my son made this observation, I noticed this thread on Twitter (from the fantastic “Depths of Wikipedia” account) that also marveled about how quickly Wikipedia’s editors updated the page. But unlike my son, the author of that thread also detailed how it happened. It’s a really interesting read in its own right, and you should probably spend a few minutes going through it. But I want to point out one thing she said, because it resonated with me: “A six-membered task force called WikiProject London Bridge cropped up to maintain the following articles. [A] reminder that everyone is doing this for free. They just think it’s fun and important.”

“They just think it’s fun and important.”

This “secret sauce”, as Lewis puts it, is Wikipedia’s blessing and curse. There are the half-dozen significant contributors who volunteered to make all these changes as quickly as possible because they just decided to. But the editors on Wikipedia do not reflect a generalized and fulsome view of the world. Its articles about computer science and mathematics are comprehensive, but articles about Indigenous communities in Canada, for example, are often not. Wikipedia is the sum of the biases of its user base. As impressive as it is for so many pages to be updated so quickly following Queen Elizabeth’s death — and it is very impressive — is is also reflective of editors’ interests and geography.