Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits

Ok, this is going too far. Now the Wikipedia founder guy is against Microsoft hiring a third party, neutral, source to edit slanted articles that bring their business and their technologies to bad light. The Wikipedia founder said that MS should have… written a whitepaper and post it in the… wikipedia forums instead. What?? How does that fix the slanted wikipedia articles? What MS did was pretty normal: they hired someone with knowledge of the matter to correct (not slant the other way) some articles. This sounds very reasonable to me, especially because Wikipedia matters these days so much — they are not a small site anymore. But, you know, when people hear that MS did that, they will go wild against them, without thinking that what they did was actually not immoral or against any rules.

6 Comments »

tante wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 8:52 AM PST:

I’ve written about this in my blog.

The bottom line is: If you hire someone, that person can never be considered “neutral”, he is the company’s proxy. Even if he thinks he’ll be neutral, whatever he writes will be seen as advertising, which would kinda make it pointless to buy another person’s good name.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 8:56 AM PST:

And what would be the alternative? Make the edits themselves and then get also bad press for doing so? In fact, I found it better that they tried to find a third party to do the job rather their own employees.


tante wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 9:28 AM PST:

The point is, that they _plan to_ edit it themselves. He’s paid by them, so he _is_ them.

If they had just send one of their engineers over and edit things in some way (with a trackable login that shows who he is – not anonymously) people would have known from where the information comes. There might have been some people on an Anti-MS-Crusade that would have tried to edit things back, but that is what discussions are for. If that engineer could provide facts, they would be incorporated while people still would not have the feeling of some hidden agendas.

Hiring a third person’s (in this special case good) name to attach the changes to just looks like you are dishonest. Like I wrote: I don’t doubt that the person wants to write as neutral as possible, but he’ll never get rid of the “MS hired him to do their PR” stench.

It all boils down to whether you believe in the wikipedia foundations. It’s based on the thought that you gain some kind of neutrality by letting everyone edit the text. If conflicts emerge, they are resolved in the discussion page. People can of course disagree but then what’s the point for editing wikipedia in the first place?

If you think that, just cause you are a certain company or person, your edits will be removed or ignored or whatever, you obviously don’t believe in the basics of Wikipedia. Just consider it a bad source then and leave it be. But neaking stuff in under a different name is just a bad idea.


Oliver Herold wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 9:37 AM PST:

Freedom is freedom without trade-offs.

>The problem I see is the pretended “neutrality”.

Do you see it anywhere in the Wikipedia? They’re trying to fulfill this claim, but they cannot guarantee it.

>What is problematic is that they hired a person with a good reputation to do edits for them, something we’d not have known if he had not blogged about it.

Where is the problem? Everyone is doing this and you don’t know his or her motivation.

I don’t see any problem with it. If it’s crap, someone will correct it. People like it to hate Microsoft, is this fair play in your opinion? I don’t think so.
It’s open, open for everyone – if there is any crap, someone will see it and delete it, correct it, comment it – whatever.
People make a fuss about nothing, again … and yes, I’m the one with the t-shirt “evil empire” ;)


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 9:53 AM PST:

I think our disagreement is not about the basics of the wikipedia, but as to how companies work. Companies don’t ask their engineers to fix wikipedia. They can’t justify that time as paying time for them. They simple hire, or outsource, or contract others to do “small jobs”. And this is what they did in this case. They found that their product and business was slanted, and because wikipedia is an open place, they simply outsourced the person who would edit back. While to some people this might sound immoral, I don’t think it is. It is just how companies work. It’s more of an HR/accounting/managing issue rather than a political one or an “immoral” one.

As for the guy with the stench, well, if he didn’t want the stench, he shouldn’t have blogged about it. I blog about a lot of things about my personal life that others don’t have the guts to do so too for example, but I am ready to take the heat for it.


tante wrote on January 25th, 2007 at 10:56 AM PST:


They found that their product and business was slanted, and because wikipedia is an open place, they simply outsourced the person who would edit back. While to some people this might sound immoral, I don’t think it is. It is just how companies work. It’s more of an HR/accounting/managing issue rather than a political one or an “immoral” one.

I do agree that they have every right to change the Wikipedia, that is the point of the whole free Encyclopedia thing.
The problem I see is the pretended “neutrality”. If they have him edit it officially “as a Microsoft representative”, I would not see a problem.
What is problematic is that they hired a person with a good reputation to do edits for them, something we’d not have known if he had not blogged about it.
I don’t know how good/bad/wrong/right the articles about ODF or OOXML are, I guess there might be a lot of stuff in there that needs cleaning and I do actually thing that Mr Jelliffe might be a person with the knowledge and skills to do so. I just think that he was contacted not because of his skill but because of his name.
If Microsoft really has the impression that edits their employees make to Wikipedia are not treated fair, that is a completely different matter, but just circumventing it is not an option.


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