We the People of Wikipedia—supporting policies and roles in an action-driven platform within social media

Since launching in 2001, Wikipedia has been a leader in user driven content. According to Brian Butler, Elisabeth Joyce, and Jacqueline Pike, the authors of “Don’t Look Now, But We’ve Created a Bureaucracy: The Nature and Roles of Policies and Rules in Wikipedia,” wiki’s are “capable of supporting a broader range of structures and activities than other collaborative platforms.”

I have learned from our basic communication theory courses that the organization’s ideology has a profound impact on the effectiveness of planning and how it is run. Wikipedia is a unique case study for organizational ideology. On the one hand, at its inception, it was launched as a task oriented culture of users. Task cultures thrive on team work, and while this atmosphere is strong for producing end results, these teams are so focused on getting the job done. In fact, one of the most official principal “Ignore all rules,” clearly states that, “If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia,ignore it.”

Wikipedia also demonstrates attributes of a person organization. The person organization exists primarily to serve the needs of its members. Decisions can only be made after the mutual consent of every member is reached. Wikis are sites that are founded on a collective infrastructure—they are “egalitarian, free, and unstructured.” The strength in the person organization is the camaraderie and solidarity once a decision is made. However, as illustrated by this article, the editors and administrators spend a great deal of time to come to an agreement on an entry…if they ever come to an agreement.

Authors, Butler et. al., draw on prior studies on rules and policies in organizations to “propose and apply a conceptual framework for understanding the natures and roles of policies in wikis.” In other words, we are examining the operations of Wikipedia, and how it is run through the lens of the role ideology. A role organization features a hierarchy of specialization run by rules and procedures. The organizations are “impersonal and rely on formalized rules and procedures to guide decision-making in a standardized…way.” The strength is that new and old users, editors, and administrators knows their “job” and can be held accountable. The weakness is that maintaining the rules, policies, and procedures is extremely time-consuming. Each participant can get so caught up in process that they lose sight of the big picture, and “experts” are territorial of their submissions.

The conclusions from this research suggest that the wiki’s true power is the flexible platform that allows for multifaceted organizational structures. I am particularly fascinated with the potential in organizational and public usability. Perhaps Wikipedia’s guidelines and policies should begin with,” We the people …”


Butler, B. Joyce, E. & Pike, J. Don’t Look Now, But We’ve Created a Bureaucracy: The Nature and Roles of Policies and Rules in Wikipedia.CHI 2008 Proceedings.

Furnman, Adrian and Barrie Gunter. Corporate Assessment: Auditing a Company’s Personality. New York, NY: Routledge, 1993, 97.

“Wikipedia:Ignore all rules.” Wikipedia. 19 June 2008  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Ignore_all_rules&gt;.

Hollingworth, J.E. Strategic Management: Essence, types, plans, and organizational ideologies Walker Building, Emerson College, Boston, MA. 29 January 2008.

Butler, B. Joyce, E. & Pike, J. Don’t Look Now, But We’ve Created a Bureaucracy: The Nature and Roles of Policies and Rules in Wikipedia.CHI 2008 Proceedings.

Butler, B. Joyce, E. & Pike, J. Don’t Look Now, But We’ve Created a Bureaucracy: The Nature and Roles of Policies and Rules in Wikipedia.CHI 2008 Proceedings.

Harris, David. CIMA Learning System 2007 Integrated Management. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006, 94.

Butler, B. Joyce, E. & Pike, J. Don’t Look Now, But We’ve Created a Bureaucracy: The Nature and Roles of Policies and Rules in Wikipedia.CHI 2008 Proceedings.

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About themacdoodle

Communications Manager, Creative Strategist, Community Builder, & Possibility Agent
This entry was posted in Professional Development, Social Media and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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