Wikipedia uses the "wisdom of crowds" concept which postulates that scores of non experts do a better job writing an article than a single expert. It is probably true. Most experts are busy people and do not have time to write, edit and protect from vandals more than one million articles.
Any social media website (and Wikipedia is one of them) has a relatively small number of devoted users who keep the project going and do the bulk of contributions. For Wikipedia, these users are about 500 and they are called administrators. They are in charge of keeping the encyclopedia what is supposed to be -- an encyclopedia -- and not a self-promotion tool.
What happens when administrators disagree with regular contributors? Edit war. There are revisions and versions changed back and forth until sometimes users are even locked-out of "Wikipedia land."
How is this related to medicine?
According to a recent Medscape editorial, "Wikipedia is the future of medicine, and it's good." There is a Clinical Medicine project on Wikipedia which one day may become the most comprehensive medical textbook. Dean Guistini of UBC Academic Search - Google Scholar Blog also started a wiki at University of British Columbia.
I was reading the Wikipedia article about Polycythemia and since I had an illustrative typical case of secondary polycythemia on ClinicalCases.org, I decided to add it in the "External Links" section at the bottom of the page. That was a well-intentioned and innocent addition, I thought. One of the administrators, JFW, disagreed, called my little effort "advertisement" and deleted the link. We discussed it at the talk page and since I tremendously respect people who take care of the world's largest encyclopedia (for free), I just moved on.
Some people are tougher to deal with though. One hair-transplant surgeon is having fierce fights on his talk page regarding his contributions to Wikipedia which are dubbed by some administrators "commercial" and "promotional." If you have 4-5 minutes, I would recommend reading the whole page to get a feel of what an edit war looks like:
Administrator:There is (was?) also a Wikipedia page about one of the medical bloggers, Summer Sethi, which was labeled for deletion as a "vanity page":
Welcome to Wikipedia. We invite everyone to contribute constructively to our encyclopedia. Take a look at the welcome page if you would like to learn more about contributing. However, unconstructive edits, such as your changes to the Raymond V. Damadian page, are considered vandalism, and if you continue in this manner you may be blocked from editing without further warning. Please stop, and consider improving rather than damaging the hard work of others. Thank you. Talk: Administrator.
Unconstructive edits, vandalism? nonsense. The page on Raymon V Damadian contains numerous factual errors and much evident confusion about the technology which I was just attempting to correct. I'm and MD PhD who was there when all this stuff was going on. Even published papers in the field and know many of the princopals. See my comments at. Talk:Raymond V. Damadian.
Strong delete: Wikipedia is not a resume or publication list. There are perhaps thousands of other medical researchers with similar publications, nothing shows why this person is any more notable than them. --Ragib 23:59, 2 September 2006 (UTC)The Full-body scan article is another example of a disagreement between contributors and administrators.
A fine line
Administrators like JFW and Samir are the backbone of the Clinical Medicine project in Wikipedia. Their job is to keep the vandals and self-promotion types out of the encyclopedia. If you make contributing too difficult though, "regular guys" may just go somewhere else.
Wikis in Plain English References: Who Edits Wikipedia? Philipp Lenssen. Raw Thought: Who Writes Wikipedia? Aaron Swartz. Wikipedia:Lamest edit wars, via Yahoo picks. Make the Largest Encyclopedia in the World Better. I already did (I hope) Related: Why Slate is Wrong About “the myth of Web 2.0 democracy” DavidRothman. net, 02/2008. Wikipedia: A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion (review article)
MT @giustini: How does Wikipedia treat health and medicine topics, see my overview of the literature http://t.co/Rzkd2dEM47