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