Gravatar
Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

How to Ethically Update Wikipedia

 

An article was published today on Search Engine Land called “SEO Tips & Tactics From a Wikipedia Insider” and it has to be one of the most interesting and best written articles I have seen in a while. The article was written by a lady by the name of Durova who is “a Wikipedia administrator who confronts some of the site’s most disruptive editors. She uses a pen name to avoid harassment in real life.” (this is a snippet from the bio at the bottom of the article)

The article is about how, in some cases, a marketer can work with Wikipedia in an ethical manner while still emphasizing an online presence. The tips are great and obviously well thought out but I found the most fascinating to be Durova’s examples of how underestimating Wikipedia can be a dangerous business. In her examples she notes how the transparent nature of Wikipedia has caught anonymous users on government-based IP addresses editing political Wikipedia profiles to delete unflattering content.

For example, Durova cites how the Wikipedia listing of Tennessee state politicians Matthew Hill and David Davis was edited to remove the information that they had both accepted contributions from pharmaceutical companies. According to Durova, the IP address used to make the edits came from a congressional computer. The best part of Wikipedia is that, much to the chagrin of the illicit editor, each of these edits are publicly available – transparent indeed! Here are the official edit pages: Matthew Hill edit 1, Matthew Hill edit 2, David Davis edit 1, David Davis edit 2. In each case, Durova noted, “none of those inappropriate edits remained in Wikipedia’s live version very long. Site volunteers reverted most of them one minute after implementation; the longest endured for nineteen minutes.”

The example above is a great example why being ethical with Wikipedia is really the only way to go – anything less is likely to come right back at you.

If you plan on editing on Wikipedia at all be sure to read the full article at Search Engine Land and take note of Durova’s great tips for working with, rather than against Wikipedia.


16 Responses to “How to Ethically Update Wikipedia”

  1. Durova

    Thank you very much for your comments. I hope to follow up with other pieces that are both informative and entertaining.

  2. Durova

    Thank you very much for your comments. I hope to follow up with other pieces that are both informative and entertaining.

  3. Gregory Kohs

    May I be the first to ask, “Why is everyone blindly swallowing the notion that it is acceptable for an ENCYCLOPEDIA to include picayune information about a politician accepting a donation from a pharmaceutical operation?” I thought encyclopedias were supposed to distill information, not vomit it.

    Answer: Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia. It is a blog disguised as an encyclopedia, controlled by a limited number of people with admin tools who have particular axes to grind about living people with real names, all while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

    Durova wrote an interesting article, but only the wise few will read between the lines and see that she’s as much a part of the problem as a couple of politicians sanitizing “their” articles.

  4. Anonymous

    Durova’s comments are good advice if and only if you understand some basic facts about Wikipedia.

    When you put your company in Wikipedia, you do essentially two things. You put the name of your company up for comment to anyone and everyone – much in the manner of a blog, as Greg says. And two, you enter a world which has its own laws, its own organized rule-enforcement squad, comprised of people who spend most hours of most days online policing the site. The latter point is imperative to comprehend, as running afoul of this group can have deleterious consequences for your business.

    Durova’s advice is wise if you choose to take the risk and put the reputation of your business in the hands of teenagers (most Wikipedia administrators are between 15-19 years old) and a smaller group of older people, many of whom aren’t the easiest to get on with.

    Durova’s advice to openly declare your intentions as COI (conflict of interest) in her article sound good – but like much of Wikipedia, the intentions are good in the script of the rules, but the proof of the “pudding” in implementation often winds up “on the faces” of the business people who naiively trusted Wikipedia to be a professional and business-friendly place. It isn’t that.

    Use Wikipedia as a platform? Sounds good. But be forwarned. The woman who wrote that article has had a hand in causing much havoc with good faith users, apparently for spite.

    So if you take the risk – I would suggest you not only follow her rules, but prepare to affix your lips to her rear end. That’s the game, if you want to play it. Just don’t get tired of kissing.

  5. Anonymous

    Durova’s comments are good advice if and only if you understand some basic facts about Wikipedia.

    When you put your company in Wikipedia, you do essentially two things. You put the name of your company up for comment to anyone and everyone – much in the manner of a blog, as Greg says. And two, you enter a world which has its own laws, its own organized rule-enforcement squad, comprised of people who spend most hours of most days online policing the site. The latter point is imperative to comprehend, as running afoul of this group can have deleterious consequences for your business.

    Durova’s advice is wise if you choose to take the risk and put the reputation of your business in the hands of teenagers (most Wikipedia administrators are between 15-19 years old) and a smaller group of older people, many of whom aren’t the easiest to get on with.

    Durova’s advice to openly declare your intentions as COI (conflict of interest) in her article sound good – but like much of Wikipedia, the intentions are good in the script of the rules, but the proof of the “pudding” in implementation often winds up “on the faces” of the business people who naiively trusted Wikipedia to be a professional and business-friendly place. It isn’t that.

    Use Wikipedia as a platform? Sounds good. But be forwarned. The woman who wrote that article has had a hand in causing much havoc with good faith users, apparently for spite.

    So if you take the risk – I would suggest you not only follow her rules, but prepare to affix your lips to her rear end. That’s the game, if you want to play it. Just don’t get tired of kissing.

  6. Melvin Purvis

    It should be noted here that the congressional press secretary for U.S. Representative David Davis is Timothy Hill — the brother of Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill.

    Doesn’t federal law criminalize utilizing federal tax dollars for such blatan political activity by an active federal employee of the U.S. Congress? Does this information need to be forwarded to a U.S. District Attorney…?

  7. Durova

    To Melvin Purvis, I have no particular objection to that. The U.S. House of Representatives IP configuration is set up so that I can’t track which particular office an edit originated from. It may be possible for their IT department to sort that out if they were subpoenaed. There are 435 representatives and a lot of staffers, so I’m not sure whether that suspicion, substantial as it is, would be conclusive.

    And regarding another commenter, I am a voluntary participant in a program called “administrators open to recall.” That means I’ll stand for reconfirmation of sysop status if half a dozen Wikipedians in good standing request it. Nobody’s ever initiated such a request. My candidacy for administratorship passed on an 81-0-1 vote (one neutral short of unanimous). So the community has expressed its confidence. I do, however, specialize in investigations and dispute resolution. So some sitebanned individuals sometimes turn up elsewhere on the Web with complaints.

  8. Gregory Kohs

    If you and other cabal-like administrators keep banning your opponents, one by one, from the community, it is no wonder that these lopsided “votes” appear to show consensus support.

  9. Anthony Mangia

    The idea that politicians shouldn’t be able to edit Wikipedia, or should have to feel bad or ashamed at editing it, seems anti-thetical to all that Wikipedia claims to stand for. You’d figure a politician to be the absolute best authority on himself – why wouldn’t we want that person contributing their expertise to the encyclopedia?

    My real qualm with Wikipedia editors is that they are very quick to pull the trigger. I feel that they don’t thoroughly or properly research edits before they shoot them down – they merely look for conflicts of interest and revert away. In the SEO world today, we all know that content is king. Because of this, alot of very legitimate e-commerce websites are making it a priority to offer excellent and helpful content and become the experts and authorities in their industry. Yet still, links to e-commerce sites on Wikipedia articles are deleted quickly and without discretion. We need more Wikipedia editors that can discern between good links and bad links, regardless of who created them. With the NOFOLLOW tags in use at Wikipedia, editors should certainly be much less hesitant to delete a link to content on an e-commerce site if that content is quality. I see very little difference between a link to content on an e-commerce site and link to content on a non-e-commerce site that contains advertisements: someone’s getting a piece of the pie, no matter how good their intentions are.

  10. Melvin Purvis

    I am thinking that there are valid reasons for some government employees to ethically edit Wikipedia articles when in compliance to the user agreements and not in voilation of any state or U.S. federal law (e.g.: state park employees contributing addition text and image files to increase the quality and content of the Wikipedia article where they are employeed).

    Wikipedia users and administrators should come to regard the problems with Members of the U.S. Congress or their staffers vandalizing Wikipedia article — as in the abovemention case of U.S. Rep. David Davis’ press secretary Timothy Hill — as also being acts of political campaign activity from congressional offices and utilizing assets of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate.

    In the case of the Hill-Wikipedia vandalism, he is clearly violating two U.S. House Ethics Rules with the force of federal law:

    Highlights of theHouse Ethics Rules
    http://www.house.gov/ethics/HighlightsMay2007.htm#_Toc169946664
    Campaign Activities

    [...]

    * No campaign activities allowed in any congressional office or room (including district offices)

    * No use of congressional office resources (including equipment, supplies, or files) for any campaign purpose

    Furthermore, should this matter go before the U.S. House Ethics Committee, Mr. Davis could also find himself in some big trouble as well:

    ETHICS MANUAL Chapter 5 STAFF RIGHTS AND DUTIES

    “In addition to congressional ethical standards and rulings, legal implications arise if salaries are claimed from public appropriations for individuals performing nonofficial, campaign services on behalf of a
    Member. As noted above, a Member may be held criminally liable for fraud against the Government for compensating individuals from public moneys for campaign services. (FOOTNOTE 76) In this connection, in 1979, a
    former Member of the House of Representatives pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion for having placed on his congressional payroll 11 persons who were operating and staffing various reelection campaign headquarters. (FOOTNOTE 77)”.

    So this Hill-Wikipedia vandalism is more complicated about the Congressman and his staff doublespeaking about “edits”, “mistakes”, or “missteps” — what is more important is that these actions are involation of U.S. House (and Senate) Rules…

  11. Anonymous

    I have encountered wikipedia & wikinews to be bias, self controlling, and serving. They don't allow my article (legitimate news, having filed a lawsuit) to be editor or posted. Furthermore this is because a company who uses wikipedia for their own promotional press releases and such. I have written letters of complaint, and having documented double standards and wiki's own editors /administrators openly breaking their own written polices. They do this to delete anything that don't want to upset a company who evidently is connected to some via stock or other. When I sent documenting details, they, again, block me and pull down all "talk". I believe that wikipedia and wikinews is like a gang, where they allow their own runts and gangs to take stories and build up wiki-searchable engine, so that they ultimately can profit, while putting legit companies out of business. They use double standards and various tricks and blocking to have total control of their so-called free & open site.

  12. Z

    “most Wikipedia administrators are between 15-19 years old”

    [citation needed] :)

  13. Ross Dunn

    ROFL!

  14. Elois Bantz

    That’s what I’m talking bout!

  15. Clark Baker

    After 30 years and thousands of cases, I know enough about “complex investigations” to know that Durova is either naive or deliberately acquiescent to the corporate propaganda that permeates WikiPedia. It is not a credible source.

    Clark Baker (LAPD ret)
    Principal Investigator, OMSJ

  16. Laura

    I totally agree that Wikipedia is not a credible source.

Leave a Reply

Google Adwords Certified Partner Member of SEO Consultants Directory EMarketing Association