Nevertheless, the wiki approach has also led to several faux pas and problems. In 2005, a Wikipedia article linked former newspaper editor and publisher John Seigenthaler Sr. to the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy. Seigenthaler, who served as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, went ballistic. Instead of simply changing the Wikipedia entry - which had appeared from May through October - he penned an editorial for USA Today about the "flawed and irresponsible research tool" and his frustration at not being able to identify the anonymous poster. Editors quickly corrected the bio, and a sleuthing book indexer from Texas eventually identified the culprit.

Another high-profile incident occurred last December, when Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ who helped pioneer podcasting, confessed that he had deleted references to rival innovators. That led to charges of "vanity editing." Meanwhile, a summer intern for seven-term Massachusetts Congressman Martin T. Meehan altered his profile to remove an old promise that he would limit his service to four terms. Even Wales has gotten into the act, tweaking his Wikipedia bio at least 18 times - an act that Wired magazine referred to as "immature behavior."

Criticism and accusations don't seem to faze Wales. The way he sees it, building Wikipedia doesn't happen overnight - and he is learning on the fly. "We're constantly tweaking and changing to improve the way we manage the process," he says. "While I think the quality of the content is pretty good, I'm cautious about bragging about it, because it's not as good as it should be or will be." In fact, the Seigenthaler incident coincided with changes Wikipedia made to require that new contributors register before submitting articles. It also locked some articles that attract vandalism, yet it still allows open editing by contributors who have editing experience.