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Gregory Kohs
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Dr. Russell, I'm the founder of the world's first and longest-running paid Wikipedia editing service, MyWikiBiz (yes, there's a Wikipedia article about it). You wouldn't believe it, but my contributions and expertise made available to the "CREWE" group were rejected when Phil Gomes blocked my access to the group, because Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales entered a bogus report to Gomes that I was physically threatening Wales. It's a convenient way for Wales to censor critics of Wikipedia -- call them "stalkers" and play the victim card to the hilt. If you're wondering why Wikipedia has such a tumultuous relationship with the PR industry, look no further than Wales (who, ironically, just married a PR executive). Anyway, I thought you might find interesting two of my articles about gender bias on Wikipedia: http://www.examiner.com/article/wikipedia-biographies-favor-men http://www.examiner.com/article/number-of-women-going-down-on-wikipedia I am currently working on a review of 100 random Wikipedia articles about businesses, to evaluate both the editor who created each article, and the editor who contributed most to the article (sometimes one and the same person). I'm trying to decipher how many Wikipedia articles about businesses have been launched by, or predominantly edited by, persons with a conflict of interest regarding the subject. Care to take a guess at how the data is stacking up?
Toggle Commented Nov 29, 2012 on Public relations history on Wikipedia at Teaching PR
1 reply
Since Wales said nobody's put forward a cogent argument for PR firms directly editing Wikipedia articles (which is ridiculously untrue), let me present a parable that I hope even Wales can understand: Suppose you're a PR firm, and your client is a respected fast food restaurant chain. One of the chain's hundreds of franchises just terminated the employment of a 19-year-old community college student who was consistently late to work and had two customer complaints about his rudeness. This pink-slipped employee is also a Wikipedia administrator, but he doesn't have to disclose to anyone on Wikipedia who he is, where he used to work, or anything of the sort. And, he never disclosed to his former employer that he was a Wiki whiz. Guess what? This administrator now takes it upon himself to modify the Wikipedia article about his former employer, such that he finds every single bit of mainstream and regional press that ever had a negative thing to say about the restaurant, and he adds it to Wikipedia. Where a "Criticisms and Controversies" section in the Wikipedia article didn't exist, it now constitutes 60% of the article. Does this administrator have what Wikipedia defines as "a conflict of interest"? Nope! Not a bit -- because he does not stand to gain financially from his editing Wikipedia about the former employer. No foul here! The PR firm begins to question the "balance" of the article, using only the "Talk" page, of course, but young admin man simply e-mails a few of his friends (also high-volume Wikipedia editors), and they counteract the complaint with multi-voiced assurances that these "reliably sourced criticisms" of the company are free knowledge and must be shared. So, the PR firm begins to edit the article to increase some of the content about the accomplishments and community service commitments of the restaurant. Now the admin calls for a "CheckUser" search on the IP address of the "new" editor who is "blatantly" puffing up the article with "spam" and "POV pushing". The CheckUser determines that the IP traces to the headquarters of a PR firm that is known to serve the restaurant as a client. Next thing you know, Mister Administrator is anonymously sending a news tip to the New York Times, showing how the restaurant is trying to "bias" their Wikipedia page. A story comes out in the Times two days later. The PR firm then complains to Jimmy Wales about what had transpired, but Jimmy sees this as a dispute between a "trusted, long-time Wikipedian" and a "corporate PR hack trying to infiltrate Wikipedia with promotional advocacy", so guess whose side Jimbo aligns with? As a paid editor of both first and last resort, I have heard literally more than a dozen stories like this from exasperated clients who turn to me for advice and assistance with Wikipedia disaster situations -- almost always not of the ethical company's "fault", but rather a crisis of reputation generated by one or two persistent and pseudonymous "long-time Wikipedians". A Wikipedia article about even a slightly controversial subject is like a football game, where one side is the "pro / favorable" subject team, and the other side is the "con / critical" subject team. The only thing is, the "con / critical" team might have a couple of players whose dad and uncle are referees in the game; and the "pro / favorable" team has a very ethical cornerback, middle linebacker, and safety trying to play by this very peculiar rule set up by the referees -- that because these players are wearing small sponsorship patches on their uniforms, they have to ask the referees for permission before tackling any player on the "con" team. It's a ridiculous situation that has been allowed to develop and fester on Wikipedia, and the Wikimedia Foundation should be ashamed of its juvenile approach to "fairness" on such an important reference resource as Wikipedia.
David King, I don't know why you are confused about me. (By the way, the name of my site is "MyWikiBiz", and I don't know how anyone "scrambles" an IP address.) You may be confusing my Wikipedia paid editing service of August/September 2006 with my Wikipedia editing service of 2007 and onward. The 2006 approach was to write freely-licensed articles on my own site, then see if unaffiliated Wikipedians would copy them into Wikipedia. That's what happened with an article about Arch Coal. Jimmy Wales scuttled the article on Wikipedia that had been imported by a long-standing and respected Wikipedian. Wales insulted my work and insulted the discretion of the unpaid and unaffiliated editor who ported it into Wikipedia. Then another Wikipedia administrator plagiarized my content, re-entered it into Wikipedia and claimed it as his own work, deleting the original version, so that it would be impossible for any non-admin to make the comparison and spot the plagiarism. I asked Wales for two years to address this act of fraud, and he took the whole two years before righting the wrong. Sorry, but in two years' time, I learned plenty of disturbing and disgusting things about how Wikipedia's "community" handles ethics... so I parted ways with the "publish elsewhere, let someone else copy into Wikipedia" technique. Editing directly works much better, and Wikipedia is improved in the process, because I treat content with an ethical resolve that few "Wikipedians" can match. Note that Wales above says that "false claims above by some paid editors" have been made. I'm wondering if he can point out the exact falsehoods in particular? Or, is it easier for him to make his defamatory remark and then jet off to his next paid-travel, paid-lodging, paid-speaking gig about Wikipedia?
John Cass is right. I am the founder of the original "paid Wikipedia editing" enterprise. Jimmy Wales' comments in 2006 about paid editing were directed at me. My plan was to edit under terms of full disclosure, seeking the "volunteer" community's review and editorial revision of all of my paid content -- the bright, disinfecting sunlight that Wikipedia truly needs. Wales didn't want that. He insisted that my publishing take pace "off site". So, I acquiesced, and other Wikipedians began importing my work into Wikipedia, but sometimes without proper attribution -- a problem I had already predicted to Wales would happen. He didn't give a shit about attribution; he cared only about appearances. After about two months, Wales went bananas and summarily deleted a page I told him I had written (about Arch Coal, and not even for payment, as this was a test of Wales, actually). He called it "PR puff" and "unacceptable". Then the Wikipedia community looked at the article, and they felt it was rather okay, actually. Guess what happened? An administrator with a grudge against me plagiarized the Arch Coal article I had written, moving a few words around to make it look "new", then declared that he had written it "ab initio", even though typographic artifacts from my article still appeared in "his" article. I complained for two years about this abomination to Wales, while also learning more and more about his despicable personal character, and when he finally apologized to me... he did so on the barely-read "Talk" page of the Arch Coal article. I'll continue to follow the "underground" paid editing model, until Wikipedia's community can prove to me that they speak for an equal place at the table for PR, and not simply parroting whatever Jimmy Wales says is "the law".
So, you consider libel an important and protected part of the "marketplace of ideas"? I wonder what sort of things I could dig up and distort about Paul Alan Levy. I would hope that Public Citizen would then protect my right to say these defamatory things anonymously, right Paul?
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