The Free Encyclopaedia that Anyone can Edit: The Shifting Values of Wikipedia Editors

Kim Osman
Publication date: 
5 August 2014

Wikipedia is often held up as an example of the potential of the internet to foster open, free and non-commercial collaboration. However such discourses often conflate these values without recognising how they play out in reality in a peer-production community. As Wikipedia is evolving, it is an ideal time to examine these discourses and the tensions that exist between its initial ideals and the reality of commercial activity in the encyclopaedia. Through an analysis of three failed proposals to ban paid advocacy editing in the English language Wikipedia, this paper highlights the shift in values from the early editorial community that forked encyclopaedic content over the threat of commercialisation, to one that today values the freedom that allows anyone to edit the encyclopaedia.