First the core norms are established by the community’s founding members. Gradually, they become more abstract and universal—a way of rationalizing the institution. “They function less to regulate behavior and more to justify the system and give it a sense of legitimacy,” said DeDeo.
So instead of the pragmatic “Don’t type in all caps,” the norm becomes “Be civil.” Eventually these core norms achieve an almost myth-like status. And inevitably, they begin to conflict with each other.
Yet attempts to resolve such conflicts are rare: instead, you get the emergence of tribalism. For some Wikipedia users, the most important aspect of the community is collaboration and mutual respect. Others value providing verifiable neutral information, or view Wikipedia as kind of a “Noah’s ark” repository of information should civilization collapse. Those obsessed with content policy may think the most important aspect of Wikipedia is that it is open and shared freely.
That’s the opposite of what DeDeo expected when he and Heaberlin started the project. He thought that once the initial core norms were established, eventually everyone would come together as a society all at once—a social network nucleation event. Instead, “The early users laid down these seeds, everybody clustered around them, but the seeds were in different neighborhoods,” he said. “And over time, those seeds got pulled apart from each other.” (Source)