Faith in numbers: Six more tech cults

These six sects of fanatical loyalists prove there is no end to passion in tech

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 3
Page 3 of 6

Tech cult No. 3: The High Priests of Wikipedia

Established: 2001

Gathering of the tribes: Wikimania, Wikimeets

Holy scriptures: The Wikipedia:FAQ

Patron saint: Jimmy Wales

Bizarre ritual: Endless arguments on the wiki's Talk pages

For internecine intrigue and power struggles, the Wikipedia makes the Vatican look like a coffee clatch. This seemingly informal encyclopedia that anyone can edit is in fact a wiki-ocracy where self-anointed experts vie for control.

Though the Wikipedia has more than 12 million registered users, its inner core consists of roughly 1,700 administrators who possess the ability to reject edits, lock down pages from further editing, and deem entire entries unworthy. But the real power lies in the Wikipedian equivalent of the College of Cardinals -- some 200 to 300 super-administrators who may banish transgressors for life and chart the wiki's strategy and direction, says Sam Vaknin, author of "Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited" and other books about personality disorders.

"This is not an informal network: It is completely rigid with a hierarchy, titles, job descriptions, remits, and responsibilities," he says. "By 2003, the Wikipedia had acquired all the hallmarks of a cult: hierarchy, arcane rules, paranoid insularity, intolerance of dissent, and a cosmic grandiose mission."

Gaining entry to the inner circle isn't easy. One rises into the hallowed ranks through editing massive numbers of articles and mastering the Wiki's labyrinthine rules, says Vaknin. Little wonder then, that the typical Wikipedian resembles a young monk: overwhelmingly male, unmarried, childless, under age 30, and, according to a 2009 study by Israeli psychologists, unusually grumpy and close-minded.

Question the Wiki's methods or reliability, and you are almost certain to get flamed by one of the Wiki faithful. Violate its code and you will be punished. Even Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales, the Wiki's flamboyant co-founder, relinquished some of his administrative rights after what some Wikipedians felt was his overzealous deletion of allegedly pornographic images from the site.

For his part, Wales says he wasn't forced to give up anything, and he takes issue with virtually everything Vaknin says.

"I've met more Wikipedia volunteers than anyone else in the world," he says. "They are kind, thoughtful, loving people who work really hard to try to make sure that Wikipedia is accurate. We have an open culture that is highly democratic and very tolerant of dissent and criticism."

See tech cult No. 4: The Temple of Drupal

1 2 3 4 5 6 Page 3
Page 3 of 6
How to choose a low-code development platform