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Wikipedia News

The Rise of Paid Wikipedia Consulting 85

jfruh writes "Roger Bamkin is a director at Wikimedia UK; he also is on retainer for the government of the British territory of Gibraltar, and has nominated and approved Gibraltar-related articles for the "Did You Know" box on the Wikipedia front page. Maximilian Klein runs a business called UntrikiWiki, and advertises his services by saying "A positive Wikipedia article is invaluable SEO." Are such users violating the spirit of what Wikipedia is about? Or should we trust that the wisdom of crowds will offset obvious shilling?"
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The Rise of Paid Wikipedia Consulting

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  • Do you think (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kiriath ( 2670145 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:05PM (#41395019)

    That this is the first time in history you have been able to pay to have the 'history books' 'doctored'?

    • Re:Do you think (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:40PM (#41395195)
      I'm sure that Encyclopedia Britanica has an "alter encyclopedia entry" item in their shopping cart too.

      I don't think it's so much that this is the first time in history that history can be bought. It's probably more of a discussion on the price.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        yeah, but at that point wiki-foundation or whatever should just go ahead and charge for it as an entity and stop the "we are a nonprofit with no corporate overloards so please give us money" yearly charity drives. This degrades the integrity of the site just the same if not worse, because it survives on public donations to keep the servers running, then allows the already oft-bitched about moderators to sell what amounts to ad space for personal profit when they are in between talk page flame wars, online

  • Ultimately somebody is going to edit the article to add the real story. The business model is as good as saying "We'll give you a good starting article".

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      It might even help get some decent articles started in some areas. Maybe we should convince various countries that they're falling behind Gibraltar—they, too, need to start paying people to write informative Wikipedia articles on their towns, cities, and historical sites.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:42PM (#41395207)

      That depends on if he has clients agree to a budget that includes bribes for other editors, admins, and additional sockpuppets and massive numbers of IP addresses, to ensure that the "consensus" of any editing discussion is in favor of the client.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:00PM (#41395329)

      Why are we assuming that someone being paid to author something well, or clean up articles, must necessarily be in the business of lying?

      It's entirely possible that the guy just gets paid to know what will and won't likely be removed. He'd know you have to cite sources, and can't just make shit up. He knows that garbage is going to get removed and the remaining edits will be suspect. He can also probably put together a readable sentence.

      So, so long as they're working within the framework of rules... I don't see a problem at all. If they become a problem, it'll get dealt with.

      • The assumption is easy to make because corruption always occurs when there is money involved. If it's still mostly legitimate now, it is only a matter of time before it descends into payment for changing articles to omit negative facts and insert lies which are positive to the client. The problem with waiting until it becomes a problem (assuming it isn't one already) is by that point it is usually too late.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:10PM (#41395045)

    I have been paid to write articles and pitch them to many magazines just to create published sources that are then used to force wikipedia articles in a certain direction with sources. Specifically, I wrote about Quantum Fiction (which has a crazy misogynist edit history) and my article is getting published in a real magazine, at the end of this week. As soon as it appears, it will be used to further the edit war on the Quantum Fiction page.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      It was posted by samzenpus. That means at least half the time it's guaranteed to be a dupe. One can only hope dice will finally enforce some actual standards on these flunkies who claim to be "editors".

      • It was posted by samzenpus. That means at least half the time it's guaranteed to be a dupe. One can only hope dice will finally enforce some actual standards on these flunkies who claim to be "editors".

        Maybe we could bribe a Wikipedia editor to help.

      • Re:Dupe? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:38PM (#41395179)

        Lies!!! Look at what it says on Wikipedia!

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

        The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia's general notability guideline. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted. (September 2012)

        samzenpus is a well-respected Slashdot [] editor. He is renowned for his careful editing and focus on quality control []. [citation needed]

        This biographical article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

    • Re:Dupe? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:04PM (#41395355)

      When you spot a dupe you're not supposed to complain or even point it out; you're supposed to find the old article and repost the top rated comments under your own name, for a bit of easy instant karma.

      • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
        When you spot a dupe you're not supposed to complain or even point it out; you're supposed to find the old article and repost the top rated comments under your own name, for a bit of easy instant karma. ...oh, wait, from the _old_ article! Sorry, missed that part. I'll have to go look for some other comments to steal now.
  • I vote these people should be drawn and quartered. Same with the vandals.
  • And what of Jimmy Wales? He has become VERY wealthy as a direct result of his association with Wikipedia. Sure, he draws a "nominal" check from Wikipedia itself, but on the Yakety-Yak circuit, it'll cost you 50k to have The Great Man speak at your Wikipedia worship service.

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:34PM (#41395155)

      And? Larry Wall makes most of his money from his books - does that make Perl just some big scheme so he can sell books?

      Neil Gaiman charges in the range of $50K to speak - not because he wants to make a lot of money (he donates much of it to charity), but because there's a very limited supply of him and a very high demand for him to speak.

      And moreover, what effect do Wales's talks have on Wikipedia? Perhaps some indirect one, in that he could drive people either towards or away from Wikipedia, but he'd be doing that whether he gets paid for it or not.

      The question here is whether being paid to edit Wikipedia by an entity with a vested interest in creating bias is ethical. My own stance (detailed below, in "Difference between adding and subtracting") is "sometimes", but I recognize that some will argue either "always" or "never". But the question is definitely not "is making money based off your personal experiences wrt Wikipedia ethical".

    • As long as it keeps him from ruining Wikipedia, it's all good. He can talk to anyone he wants, and they can pay him whatever they want.

      Frankly I'd really like to know who is on this speaking circuit thing. I am sure I would not pay $5 to go hear Jimmy Wales talk, who exactly is paying him?
    • by g8oz ( 144003 )

      Wrong! Wales became rich from trading options BEFORE starting Wikipedia/Nupedia

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:24PM (#41395101)

    There's a difference between "promoting the good" and "hiding the bad".

    You want to edit your country's (or corporation's, or religion's, or even your own personal) article to add sections about the lovely lakes, the wonderful telephone system, the many interesting furry animals, including the majestic moose, go right ahead. Obviously, you can't just make shit up (fact: Tuvalu is the world leader in nuclear fusion research[citation needed]), but there's nothing wrong with adding facts to the article. And yes, if you go completely overboard with it, writing a novel's worth of praise for the architecture, the geological features, the thriving and innovative independent film industry, it's going to get trimmed down even if it's completely unbiased (more so if it is).

    But if you try to hide the undesirable things that are true, you can fuck right the hell off. If there's something about you that you don't want people to know, you probably shouldn't be doing it (doesn't apply *as* much to personal articles - it still applies in many cases, but not in many others). If you don't want people to find out about your ruthless secret police, or your massive sex trafficking biz, or your widespread pollution, you should try stopping those things rather than pay someone to edit Wikipedia to hide those facts. Because not only will editing Wikipedia *not* *work* (people will revert it right back), but it will add "tried to hide the truth from the Internet" to your list of crimes. Which is a pretty shameful, both in "you did something bad" and in "you did something bad that was petty and ultimately meaningless" - it makes you both evil, and a pretty low class of evil at that.

    • Gibralter has ruthless secret sex polution from their massive police? What are they hiding, that the rock had a slippage a few years back and doesn't exactly match the Mutual of Omaha logo anymore?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's a difference between "promoting the good" and "hiding the bad".

      Not really. Free speech can be compromised just as much by too much noise as too little message. Readers do not have infinite time and if important facts are obscured by irrelevant facts this is is every bit as bad as important facts not being published at all or important facts being obscured by half-truths and/or lies.

      but there's nothing wrong with adding facts to the article.

      There is when unimportant facts obscure important facts.

      • by colesw ( 951825 )

        And who is to say what is an important fact?

        Someone interested in geological formations would obviously find those facts important. Someone interested in the wild life of the area could be very interested to know what type of moose your country has while doing a project.

        This is the problem with a bias free publication, because just by omitting unimportant facts you are generating bias no matter what you would like the internet to believe.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You want to edit your country's (or corporation's, or religion's, or even your own personal) article to add sections about the lovely lakes, the wonderful telephone system, the many interesting furry animals, including the majestic moose, go right ahead.

      A møøse once bit my sister, you insensitive clod.

    • What does work more effectively on Wikipedia is "promoting the bad" by using weak sources or completely mus-representing, or making up, what the sources say (whoever checks a reference is being used properly for a relatively unknown organisation anyway) and "hiding the good". This is because people are generally more sensitised to shilling, probably because it happens more often, than they are to a psychopath owning an article.
  • Both (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:33PM (#41395141) Homepage

    Are such users violating the spirit of what Wikipedia is about? Or should we trust that the wisdom of crowds will offset obvious shilling?

    Both. Wikipedia is not a paid content service, paid content is a clear violation. The wisdom of the crowds is now, has always been, and will always be a critical line of defense against disinformation. The conflict between well-informed citizens and those who would distort information has been going on for millennia. There's a whole lot of fancy new weapons in the game, but it's the same game.

    Here's one of the most fundamental rules of dynamically unstable systems with lots of new weapons: Arm yourself or be subjugated. If you believe in truth, justice, and The American Way(*), detecting and outing shills is a fine way to serve your fellow man. Say what you will of human nature -- maybe we're all for sale, but the bad guys can't afford to buy us all. The not-paid-off people massively outnumber the shills. And if they do find a way to buy us all off, we can totally throw a rager with the money.

    * in the starry-eyed Superman sense, not necessarily the current observed sense

  • by Anonymous Coward

    IMHO, you can work for WikiPedia, or you can be a publicity shill. Not both.

    Both of these people should be fired from WikiPedia and all related companies, and the remaining staff should be required to provide a legal undertaking that they will declare any conflict of interest and accept the consequences.

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <> on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @11:16PM (#41395425)

    These services are called "perception management" and they operate under public relations and other marketing labels. This kind of thing has been going on for Centuries, hell the original name of Greenland was a "perception management" name given to attract settlers (Greenland has far more Ice than Iceland). Why is this portrayed as a new kind of thing?

    Name any public website you can think of, Amazon, Twitter, Slashdot, Wikipedia or any other. There are companies that monitor those websites and respond to with accounts that are saved just for those purposes. These accounts can be rented out by thousands or tens of thousands. It's dishonest and it is something that websites have had to battle for years.

    Articles about exposing professional shills have appeared and been covered extensively on the Atlantic, Wired, Slashdot, and a number of other sites I can think of in recent memory.

    I think the more interesting technology piece on this would be to cover how websites go about detecting and burying shill accounts. It's really just a form of spam, and the war on shill accounts will likely mirror the war on spam in every regard. It's just something you have to watch out for.

  • Everyone else seems to trust that the wisdom of crowds will correct things, so I figure I might as well too.
  • How much do i have to pay to get a complementing article about an fifth force between neutrinos in physics [].
  • Politicians, too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @02:02AM (#41396089) Homepage
    Political parties have been paying consultants to write and maintain positive Wikipedia entries on their minor politicians for years. [citation needed]
  • "Wisdom of crowds" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Thursday September 20, 2012 @04:15AM (#41396585) Homepage

    Possibly used to apply to Wikipedia 6 or 7 years ago. Then its rise in popularity caused trolling and political shilling to become more attractive, libel lawsuits for living person biographies to become a danger, and an increasing obsession with "notability" (ie. having spawned at least one internet meme) to develop. Preventing the former and enforcing the latter required a tight and locked down command structure. Any moderately popular article is locked to anonymous edits now.

    That means Wikipedia is no longer dependent on the wisdom of crowds, but the incorruptibility of its management and directorial staff.


    • by Anonymous Coward

      now just to see what the "incorruptibility", objectivity and political independence of wikipedia staff really means, I suggest to take a look at the wikipedia entry ""Imperialism" and have a long laugh..

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      Even most "locked" articles are still edited by crowds, just somewhat smaller crowds. When an article's locked to anonymous edits, it just means that you need a Wikipedia account to edit it. But literally hundreds of thousands of people have Wikipedia accounts; it's not like some exclusive club you have to apply to join.

      • For many topics, if we're talking about effective edits which will not attract instantaneous reversion by an Editor, yeah, it's a damn small exclusive club.

        It's kind of the opposite of the problem as TFA's: in the cited example, they bought their entry into the clique, but in this case, you join the cabal by integration with the hivemind.

        I guess it's the same problem, if you boil it down: it's an insider's job. Even logged-in contributors are second-class citizens.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wikipedia is about truth. If Wikipedia was about spin, everybody would edit Wikipedia to spin their companies, art, or biographical pages - and Wikipedia would lose all of its prestige and reliability.
    The Wikimedia UK issue (better covered on Slashdots post "Wikipedia Scandal: High Profile Users Allegedly Involved In Paid-Editing") is the kind of issue that Wikipedia cannot stand, for it threats all the reliability achieved over the years - and because of that, is expected for Wikipedia to react and clean

  • It was only a matter of time before Wikipedia became yet another marketing platform designed to sell you something.

  • Wikipedia was a non-working idea from the ground up. It never could possibly work and the way it's designed would always have problems. You can't take something with that many blatant flaws and make it work. This isn't going to go away.
  • The reasons lying is bad are obvious. Sometimes liars get caught, sometimes not depends on the situation.

    Shilling is about starting a relationship with one of two companies (even if one is yourself). Lying at a strategic time can make all the difference.
  • History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
    - Winston Churchill

  • Do you really think wikipedia is unbiased currently?

    Just read companies or their product's wikipedia pages or pages about schizophrenia (nobody has never measured any chemical imbalance in such "disease") or read pages about popular tourism destinations or english pages about muslisms or al-qaida or pages about "toxic" substances and "good" medicines.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr