Should Microsoft Pay for Wikipedia Edits?

Rick Jelliffe, a software engineer living in Sydney, Australia, publically said on his blog that he was offered payment by Microsoft (via e-mail) to edit certain entries on Wikipedia. CEO of XML tools company Topologi, Jelliffe said he will probably accept the contract regarding Wikipedia entries on competing document format standards: OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML). Microsoft stated the company was looking for someone "independent but friendly" for a couple of days to provide "more balance" regarding the document formats. Jelliffe said he rarely uses Microsoft products and instead of seeing himself as a Microsoft enthusiast, he believes he is a standards enthusiast.

The move has opened a heated debate about the ethics of companies recruiting someone to edit Wikipedia entries. What effect could such a payment have on the credibility of the site? The blog's comments range from those believing this isn't such a big deal to those believing Jellife's credibility has been destroyed. Wikipedia "tends not to look favorably in terms of conflict of interest, and paying someone is a conflict," says David Gerard, a volunteer spokesperson for Wikipedia. Jelliffe could potentially be blocked from contributing to the site by one of the 1000 volunteers on the English version of the site. Publicity people who update the Wikipedia page about companies they represent routinely get blocked from the site, Gerard says. Gerard believes that because of the attention of this particular case, users will pay particular attention and eliminate possible bias in entries edited by Jeliffe.

A representative from Microsoft's external press office in the UK could not confirm Jellife's blog entry.

News source: PC World

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11 Comments

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There's plenty of bias in Wikipedia anyway, you have to take some of it with a pinch of salt. I know a few articles that are tainted by zealots trying to spread their agenda instead of giving facts.

Wikipedia is stuffed with people writing entries from their own point of view and with bias, whether they are paid or not. I think the greater fool is the one who goes to Wikipedia believing that the information there is neutral ... or even factual! Where is the panel of pre-eminent specialists who review every entry to ensure accuracy and lack of bias? Oh! As the owners of the company if you do that you may have to pay them some of the fat revenue gained from web advertising instead of keeping it all for yourself!

majmac said,
I think the greater fool is the one who goes to Wikipedia believing that the information there is neutral ... or even factual!

Well now that MS is astroturfing Wikipedia there's really going to be nothing factual left about it. Pretty soon we'll see articles saying that Bill Gates invented the internet.

toadeater said,

Well now that MS is astroturfing Wikipedia there's really going to be nothing factual left about it. Pretty soon we'll see articles saying that Bill Gates invented the internet.

No, Al Gore invented the internet remember?

:cheeky:

I'm sure many people write wikipedia articles that relate to things they get paid for, I don't really see how this is different.

http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/01...ting_offer.html

"Just scanning quickly the Wikipedia entry for OOXML, I see one example straight away: The OOXML specification requires conforming implementations to accept and understand various legacy office applications . But the conformance section to the ISO standard (which is only about page four) specifies conformance in terms of being able to accept the grammar, use the standard semantics for the bits you implement, and document where you do something different. The bits you don’t implement are no-one’s business. So that entry is simply wrong. The same myth comes up in the form “You have to implement all 6000 pages or Microsoft will sue you.” Are we idiots?"

"A representative from Microsoft's external press office in the UK could not confirm Jellife’s blog entry."

They don't need to. The Microsoft person responsible was Doug Mahugh. He talked about it (well, more about the backlash from it, really) in his blog. Here is what he said he sent in the email to Rick Jelliffe:

"Wikipedia has an entry on Open XML that has a lot of slanted language, and we'd like for them to make it more objective but we feel that it would be best if a non-Microsoft person were the source of any corrections ... Would you have any interest or availability to do some of this kind of work? Your reputation as a leading voice in the XML community would carry a lot of credibility, so your name came up in a discussion of the Wikipedia situation today."
"Feel free to say anything at all on your blog about the process, about our communication with you on matters related to Open XML, or anything else. We don't need to "approve" anything you have to say, our goal is simply to get more informed voices into the debate ... feel free to state your own opinion."

Now, I am (by no means! ) a Microsoft supporter, but this is not a case of Microsoft, or of its employee, Mr. Mahugh, soliciting editing services for pay. He didn't ask for edits to any particular side of the discussion, just a factual review. He never offered nor implied compensation of any type.

It seems to me that Mr. Jellife read something into this that did not exist.

The rest is just a tempest in a teapot.