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Gates closing on Wikipedia?

Four-day waiting period, lock-down on vandal-bait entries are signs that times are changing for Wikipedia.

Is Jimmy Wales starting to close the gates on purely democratic experiment that was Wikipedia? Apparently, the doors are closing on some of the entries, such as Albert Einstein, George Bush, Adolf Hitler and human rights (82 of them in all), according to the New York Times. Those entries are no longer available for editing.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia which has become so popular due to its accessibily and openness, has had to bulid in a few bureaucratic safeguards. The voluteer editors were called in due to "repeated vandalism or disputes over what should be said." There is also a four-day waiting period, meant to function something like the one imposed on gun buyers.

Although it appears that the true pluralistic nature of Wikipedia has been tarnished, the few protected entries are a fraction of the 1.2 million entries on the English-language site.

"Protection is a tool for quality control, but it hardly defines Wikipedia," Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder said. "What does define Wikipedia is the volunteer community and the open participation," said Wales.

There are about 1,000 core contributors to Wikipedia, many of whom are administrators on the site. Wikipedia is the Web's third-most-popular news and information source, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

"A lot of people think of Wikipedia as being 10 million people, each adding one sentence," Mr. Wales said. "But really the vast majority of work is done by this small core community."

The protections have their critics, however.

"As Wikipedia has tried to improve its quality, it's beginning to look more and more like an editorial structure," said Nicholas Carr, a technology writer who recently criticized Wikipedia on his blog. "To say that great work can be created by an army of amateurs with very little control is a distortion of what Wikipedia really is."

Protections and filters have always been a part of the Wikipedia. There is even a 14-member arbitration committee, which one contributor described as "the last resort" for disputes on Wikipedia.