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Former WMF board member creates "Wikipedia Corporate Index" for Fleishman-Hillard PR agency

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By Andreas Kolbe

On 13 February 2013, PR Report, the German sister publication of PR Week, published an article announcing that PR agency Fleishman-Hillard was offering a new analysis tool enabling companies to assess their articles in the German-language Wikipedia: the Wikipedia Corporate Index (WCI).

The free analysis tool was developed by a team led by Arne Klempert, Director Digital at Fleishman-Hillard Germany, who also served as a member of the Wikimedia Foundation board from May 2009 to July 2012. According to PR Report, the tool is designed to help PR professionals improve the way their company is described in Wikipedia—as well as to make transparent how well competitors are presented. Klempert said he wants to give PR professionals "a deeper understanding of how Wikipedia works, and the quality indicators for company articles in Wikipedia". An English-language article on Fleishman-Hillard's German website explains—

The WCI covers approximately 15,000 company entries in the German-language Wikipedia, evaluating about 40 article characteristics categorised in four areas: authors and edits, content and structure, links, and page views.

Klempert also wrote an article published by German PC Magazin last year, now reproduced in slightly altered form on the WCI website, advising companies on how best to edit Wikipedia. He noted that some Wikipedians categorically reject the involvement of company representatives, and said that this attitude is particularly marked in the English-language Wikipedia, while the German-language Wikipedia is more open to paid editors.

Klempert said company representatives could always use the discussion page and above all should edit transparently, identifying themselves, and should not try to change an article in one fell swoop—such changes would usually be reverted. Instead, they should start with small, non-critical changes to their article, demonstrating to editors that they understand the principles of Wikipedia collaboration. This included such things as updating company data, or providing images to be used as illustrations. Klempert also advised companies to monitor their own articles, to anticipate communication crises and be able to prepare for press enquiries.

According to the Kurier, a German-language Wikimedia news outlet that is somewhat analogous to the Signpost, a Wikipedia Corporate Index for the English-language Wikipedia is in the planning stages at Fleishman-Hillard. The version for the German-language Wikipedia has been nominated for a special PR Report award in the category "research, analysis and evaluation".

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With a couple of exceptions, these are all stories on paid editing/COI editing. It's clearly time to get site-wide rules on this and make precisely clear to everybody what's allowed and what's not allowed. And then enforce those rules. Otherwise we'll become as commercial as Facebook. Not even the PR folks want that - it's only good for them to post their stuff here if Wikipedia has some credibility. Smallbones(smalltalk) 06:09, 28 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I'm a bit astonished that the enormous(ly) critical discussion on this Index in the German Kurier has not been mentioned at all: de:Wikipedia_Diskussion:Kurier#Wikipedia_Corporate_Index. With this information in mind, the Signpost article sounds a bit like an unreflected advertisement of this Index. I'm not sure if you wanted to intend this. —DerHexer (Talk) 23:49, 28 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Absolutely not, and I am grateful to you for bringing it up. The discussions in de:WP have indeed been voluminous, with "Bought articles: No thank you" sticker images produced and the suggestion made that outgoing Wikimedia board members should be barred for three years from commercial involvement in Wikipedia-related matters, among many other things. Pavel Richter, the head of Wikimedia Germany, defended Arne on the other hand. Perhaps in this case a brief reference to the copious discussions over on de:WP would have been warranted, but the brief for the "In the Media" part of the Signpost is really to review and neutrally summarise media coverage rather than related community discussion. Andreas JN466 01:11, 1 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
At least refering to the discussion would have been senseful imo, esp. since the Kurier was mentioned anyway. Cheers, —DerHexer (Talk) 23:23, 1 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I take your point. There was actually also a critical piece in the Kurier itself, right underneath the main article, and not just on the Kurier's discussion page. Then again, most Signpost readers don't read German. :/ There is also currently an informal poll on paid editing in the German Wikipedia; at present there is a two-thirds majority for the view that "only content counts", regardless of who adds it and whether they're paid or not. Cheers. Andreas JN466 23:42, 1 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
We also noted this in last week's NAN. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 23:20, 2 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Well, it shouldn't be controversial, really. If the effect of the tool is to "improve [not just 'alter'] the way their company is described in Wikipedia", then by the law of averages 50% of the time the improvement will make the company come off worse. Right? You know: "Our article is OK, but according to the analysis tool there's really not enough coverage of our polluting those orphanages' water supplies -- lets fix that!" and so forth.
Oh, wait. Herostratus (talk) 11:05, 4 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

As for Sarah Stierch's comments off-wiki, yeah! Wikipedia is stange and scary! To me, six years ago, not so much, since the wierdness and scaryness developed gradually during my participation, but newbie User:Thomas Craven discusses this topic well. His "Puzzleocracy" comment is part of it. We don't want people to think that we'll WP:BITE them if they trip over one of our complex guidelines, nerdy customs etc, but they do get barked at, partly by bots and partly by my fellow old-timers who are too darn eager to defend the gates from hordes of barbarians. Jim.henderson (talk) 18:20, 2 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]

It doesn't seem like anything nefarious is intended, but I think sometimes PRs interpret what "works" as being what's ethical and right, when the two are not necessarily synonymous. There is this theme for example that we saw in CIPR's work as well that making the edits in small chunks is somehow better than doing a lot at once, even if the edits are the same, just done incrementally. In another case I saw a PR share their "tip" that if you edit in other places first, your edits are less likely to be contested, which is really just dodging COI detection. Some PRs disclose on a Talk page that nobody is watching, then make overtly bad, self-serving edits on a page nobody is watching - is this ok and ethical because there was disclosure? CorporateM (Talk) 18:38, 4 March 2013 (UTC) (PR guys and frequent COI contributor)[reply]


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