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Microsoft's Wikipedia Debacle

WikipediaEveryone is apparently up in arms about Microsoft's Wikipedia scandal.  I don't get it.  Sure, I can see where paid posts can create problems, but isn't that just part of the risk of having such an open, community-driven resource?  Everyone is free to contribute, edit, etc., so why should paid posts be eliminated?  Isn't the community also there to help police itself?

If you're really going to diligently try to eliminate this sort of activity, where do you draw the line?  It's apparently taboo to hire someone to write or edit an entry so that it's more in line with your company's point of view.  So Microsoft can't pay me a flat fee to do the job.  Does that mean that a Microsoft employee is also forbidden from doing it?  If so, does that then mean all Microsoft employees are forbidden to touch any Wikipedia entry that has anything to do with Microsoft?  Gee, when does the book-burning rally start?...

P.S. -- Let it be noted that (for perhaps the first time on this blog) I'm not piling onto Microsoft regarding an issue they're taking a lot of heat from everyone else on...

Comments

Kent Larsen

I don't know, Joe. I can see a possible problem.

When does it get to the point that whoever has the most money can control what a wikipedia entry says? And how do you keep that from happening?

Microsoft's efforts may not be doing that yet, but I think the worrry is there.

Its especially worrying in the case of a company like Microsoft that is so large and has such deep pockets and is so controversial.

Prohibiting "paid" entries may not be the answer, but then how do you prevent a "he who has the gold makes the rules" situation?

Heather Flanagan

I wanted to show you a video I made at the Microsoft Alumni Network's "After the holidays party". I think Microsoft makes an interesting anthropological subject:

http://pugettown.wordpress.com/2007/01/23/is-there-life-after-microsoft/

Joe Wikert

Hi Kent. I hear you, but how do you totally prevent that sort of activity? Can anyone say for sure that the wikipedia today is completely barren of any sort of paid content? Let's also not forget there are other ways to influence people besides cold hard cash. The possibilities are endless and I really don't see how this can be prevented. Sure, the most obvious cases can be brought to a halt, as happened with this Microsoft one, but perhaps that just causes more organizations to be more secretive about their efforts to influence the content.

k c bhatt

I think blogs will influence the book publishing industry a great deal.

Kay Stoner

How *do* we keep this from happening? By offering other sources of income for their work. How 'bout if the folks who want the 'net to stay free of these kinds of "bribes", go ahead and patronize some of the advertisers on the sites run by indie folks? It can cost relatively little, yet we'll be supporting the people who keep this thing called the online community alive and viable.

As we've all learned in the past 10+ years of really active online busy-ness, the web doesn't pay for itself!

Money has to come from somewhere, and if independent-minded folks don't pony up to help support the medium we love so much, how can we expect to prevent large-scale commercialization... not to mention "bribes" to bloggers (penniless and otherwise)?

I think this highlights one of the persistent issues that dogs the online "creative class" -- how to support yourself and your work in the face of a widespread everything-must-be-free 'net culture bias. A friend of mine runs a very successful interior design blog, and she's run into commercial conundrums, when she's accepted paid advertising from folks to whom she gave favorable reviews. It had the appearance of "pay for play", and she got roasted for it, but it was actually a case of mutual admiration and mutual support.

She's gotta pay the bills, and she's really worked her tail off to build up her readership, so if she's in a position to earn some $$$ at her passion, why not? Of course, a disclaimer is a helpful addition to the blog sidebar, but at the core, I think a lot of online denizens need to come to terms with the economic realities of this work. Either pitch in and help people pay their electric bills, or ease up on the condemnation of someone else "helping out" -- even if it is M$FT.

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