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Wiki-PR's extensive network of clandestine paid advocacy exposed

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By The ed17
"Let the largest Wikipedia research firm help you claim your top spot in Google search results. ... We build, manage, and translate Wikipedia pages for over 12,000 people and companies." (Wiki-PR's main page)

An investigation by the English Wikipedia community into suspicious edits and sockpuppet activity has led to astonishing revelations that Wiki-PR, a multi-million-dollar US-based company, has created, edited, or maintained several thousand Wikipedia articles for paying clients using a sophisticated array of concealed user accounts. They have managed to do so by violating several Wikipedia policies and guidelines, including those concerning conflict of interest in paid advocacy—when an individual accepts money to promote a person, organization, or product on Wikipedia—and sockpuppetry.

The investigation was likened by one external commentator to the unearthing of a "sockpuppet army"

Wiki-PR was founded in February 2011, with a physical office at 1550 Bryant St, San Francisco; the office has since moved to Texas. According to the company's web pages, it employs around 25 in-house staff, most of them in sales, and contracts remote and freelance employees like Puneet S., through separate online staffing companies such as oDesk and Elance that recruit remote workers. Wiki-PR's site includes an upbeat statement of its wish to hire potential writers, a desire repeated on Twitter by its VP of sales—biker and outdoors enthusiast Adam Masonbrink—who also wants to expand his team of sales reps. These contractors are not well paid, given the evidence in an admission of the role played by one and an anonymous $9-an-hour submission for the company on the job and career site Glassdoor.

Wiki-PR's website lists five services, including crisis editing (to help companies "navigate contentious situations" without having to "worry about being libeled on Wikipedia") and page translation (which advertises that they can translate articles into 270 languages, a number possibly based on an outdated version of the list of Wikipedias).

While the company claims that "a professional Wikipedia editor will consult you on Wikipedia standards to ensure your page stands up to the scrutiny of the Wikipedia community", the community has judged many of their article subjects to be non-notable, resulting in article deletion. To increase their customer base the company has sent thousands of unsolicited emails, one of which was revealed on Wikipedia in September 2012:

Hi SiteTruth Team,
Shouldn't SiteTruth have a full-length, professional page on Wikipedia? creates full-length, professional Wikipedia pages. We have software tools to manage your page in real-time.
Would you like more information? Please reply by email or provide your contact number. It will be worthwhile. A full-length, professionally written Wikipedia page will drive sales and inform your clients about what you do best.
Your competitors are getting on Wikipedia. Shouldn't you be on Wikipedia, too?

As one disgruntled Wiki-PR employee is reported as writing: "The warning flag was when I was told not to mention Elance or work for hire." Those who work for Wiki-PR have indeed gone to extensive lengths to hide their activities on Wikipedia. This has included altering their habitual behavioral patterns, frequently changing their IP addresses (apparently to avoid being caught by the "checkuser" tool), and bypassing the normal gatekeeping process by which editors police new submissions to the English Wikipedia. One practice appears to exploit a loophole by creating a new page as a user subpage before moving it into the mainspace, where Wikipedia's regular articles are located. This "bug" was actually first reported in 2007 with the prescient warning: "creating articles in userspace before moving them into mainspace seems to me a sneaky way of avoiding scrutiny from newpage patrollers." Checkuser has also been sidestepped through the company's use of remote and freelance employees, who can operate from a large number of IP ranges.

Wikipedia's long-term abuse file on Wiki-PR, named Morning277 after the first discovered account, shows that the company's employees have created and used a staggering 323 accounts, with another 84 suspected. Their clients are just as diverse: Wiki-PR's Adam Masonbrink announced on Twitter just weeks ago that the company's newest clients included and Viacom, while a source familiar with the Wikipedia investigation told the Signpost that two music bands—Imagine Dragons, of "Radioactive" fame, and Fictionist—have contracted with Wiki-PR to maintain their articles. Our source also claimed that the company has had at least one in-person meeting with the multinational retail corporation Walmart, though we must emphasize that there is no evidence to suggest that Walmart has already used Wiki-PR's services. Other companies, organizations, and people listed in the public file include US Federal Contractor Registration, Inflection, The Wikileaks Party, and Adeyemi Ajao; Silicon Valley companies, their senior employees, and small financial institutions also feature in the file.

When Wiki-PR was in its infancy in 2011, it charged clients around $500 to write a Wikipedia article; today, it charges around $2000 or more per article, depending on the size of the client, with a monthly fee of $99 if the customer wants Wiki-PR to police new edits to an article. The raw arithmetic suggests that this is, or could be, a highly profitable concern: using a degree of speculation, the Signpost calculates that 2000 clients with only one article each at current rates would yield $4M in revenue; similarly, if all clients took up the article-policing service, this would provide a revenue stream of about $200,000 a month. However, the same source close to the community investigation confirmed that upwards of 12,000 articles may be involved; the revenue stream could thus be considerably more than indicated by these calculations.

Wiki-PR did not respond to the Signpost's telephone enquiry.


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More articles

These allegations were first publicized by Simon Owens of the technology website Daily Dot, whose reporting and investigation were done entirely separate from the Signpost. Owens reported that various Wikipedia editors, including DocTree, Rybec, and Dennis Brown, were involved in "the battle to destroy Wikipedia's biggest sockpuppet army". Owens emailed a "few dozen" companies who had articles that were created under the sock accounts, and received four replies. All declined to be named directly but told him that "they hired a company called Wiki-PR to make pages for them".

The replies to the Daily Dot, although a small sample, expressed dissatisfaction and surprise at the service. One client told Owens that after they noticed their page was deleted, they emailed Wiki-PR, only to receive a response that was "obviously a lie". These deletions were blamed on notability and activist volunteer administrators; the clients claimed they were never aware that Wiki-PR was breaching Wikipedia's policies to create the articles. Problems with these articles were far from limited to notability—for example, references to external websites were frequently misleadingly labeled to obscure their true origins. Links to CNN's iReport and Yahoo's Voices, their citizen journalism arms, were in at least one case labeled to appear official "CNN" or "Yahoo" sites, revealed as fraudulent only when the targets were directly audited. According to Owens:

After being told of the Daily Dot's exposé of Wiki-PR, Jimmy Wales responded on his talk page, "Incredible. I've been hearing rumblings about this for a few days, and I'm very eager that we pursue this with maximum effect."

PR professionals weigh in

Historically, there has been a stormy relationship between PR professionals and Wikipedia editors, with Jimmy Wales being a vocal advocate for a "bright line" to forbid paid editing of Wikipedia. In this case there seems to be widespread agreement in professional PR ranks that Wiki-PR stepped over an ethical line.

In reaction to the Daily Dot piece, Phil Gomes, senior vice president for the public relations firm Edelman and founder of CREWE (Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement), expressed his dismay at Wiki-PR’s actions:

CREWE operates as a Facebook group consisting of PR professionals and Wikipedia editors who discuss critical issues concerning PR and the editing of Wikipedia articles. Gomes has been vocal in the past about avoiding Wiki-PR's strategies, stating that it is imperative the PR industry "demonstrate by cooperation and good behavior that it can work with the Wikipedia community instead of taking the quick, easy-fix route." He was a major contributor to the development of a freely licensed flowchart that teaches PR firms how to avoid direct editing of articles in favor of community engagement.

Gomes' co-authored flowchart guides PR firms as they navigate Wikipedia's complex rules

The prominent British PRs body, CIPR, gave strong guidance in this area in June 2012 when it published a Wikipedia Best Practices Guidance "document" (PDF).. This guide warns against clandestine editing by companies (see Signpost coverage): "There is another interpretation of public relations, commonly referred to as "spin". If this is your mode of operation then you are urged to steer clear of Wikipedia altogether in the performance of your job … You are reminded that 'dark arts' are the antithesis of best practice public relations. Intentional deceit and anonymous or incognito activities are breaches of professional codes of conduct."

While PR industry groups like CIPR have put considerable time and effort into developing such guidelines, they have proved to be no match for the desire to harvest big profits from this volunteer site.

Alex Konanykhin of rejects not only Jimmy Wales' zero-tolerance "bright-line rule", but does not reveal his relationships with clients on Wikipedia because "that would expose our clients to being unfairly targeted by anti-commerce jihadists." In recent days, he has been an unabashed defender of his firm's editing activities in the CREWE group.

Previous coverage of paid advocacy

Efforts at paid advocacy have been greatly frowned on by the Wikimedia community, but have received support from some editors. The Signpost has reported on the evolution of the phenomenon over the past seven years. The genesis of paid advocacy is usually traced to Gregory Kohs, who founded a company (MyWikiBiz) with the express purpose of creating and editing Wikipedia articles on behalf of paying corporations. As the Signpost reported in 2006, he offered to write articles for between US$49 and $99, assuming the company met his own eligibility guidelines, which were based on those of Wikipedia. Soon after, Kohs was brought before the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee and blocked by Jimmy Wales, the site's co-founder.

The Signpost has covered issues such as Microsoft's attempt to monitor articles and "diploma mills" in 2007, the Nichalp/Zithan case in 2009, and a PR firm's edits ("The Bell Pottinger affair") in 2011. Paid advocacy received its most substantial treatment in 2012 with a series of interviews with paid editing supporters, a skeptic, and Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. On the site itself, a full conflict of interest guideline was developed in response to the perceived threat of paid editing.

The Signpost's "In the media" writer, Jayen466, reports that the story has been picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and the German internet portal ( "Sleepers in Wikipedia: admins on the payroll?")—a tea-leaf-gazing feature that partly translates the Daily Dot coverage and partly provides commentary on what they describe as admins' temptation to make money from their position.

On the German Wikipedia, a major vote has been started as part of a paid €80,000 study on Wikimedia projects by Dirk Franke (Southpark), funded by the German chapter. Many editors of the German Wikipedia have opposed the request because Franke is being paid for it.

Tony1, Kevin Gorman, and Andrew Lih assisted in researching, writing, and editing this story.

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Nitpick: why do Signpost articles not show external links as such but as plainlinks? Maybe a div in Wikipedia:Signpost/Template:Signpost-article-start needs closing? -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:40, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks for the comment. As the Signpost includes many more external links than normal Wikipedia articles, our pieces have been formatted like this for years so that there isn't a forest of external link notations throughout the text. Regards, Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 13:43, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

It's a bit unclear from the article what the community's reaction is. What are we doing about it? Are there going to be IP blocks? an ArbCom case? SPat talk 14:29, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

wow. I had no idea the scope of the abuse stemming from the newpages bug. We really need to fix that. Bawolff (talk) 15:12, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Try Special:NewPagesFeed. It doesn't suffer from the new pages bug. Kaldari (talk) 09:10, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Adding to the list of previous coverage: Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2009-06-15/News_and_notes#Paid editing (the Nichalp/Zithan case). Regards, HaeB (talk) 15:22, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Tilman, thanks, added. Tony (talk) 15:34, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • OK, I'm going to set the cat among the pigeons for a moment. Obviously Wiki-PR's behaviour is disgraceful, and really they must have known that they were violating Wikipedia's norms in doing it. But I think they're a symptom of a much broader disease. People (and big, successful, easily notable companies run by intelligent people) don't know how to engage with Wikipedia. There's no simple process for requesting an article; AfC last time I looked was horribly backlogged and submissions that would easily survive AfD were being arbitrarily rejected (though what reviewers there were were doing their best), and WP:RA is mostly a pile of links and not much happens there (it's well-intentioned and a good idea, but there's no mechanism for interacting with the people making the suggestions). Add to that the inconsistent and often combative approach to editors with a conflict of interest and Wikipedians' tendency to dismiss enquiries with instructions like "read WP:COI" rather than engage in discussion, and it's no wonder that people feel they have no other option but to pay unscrupulous people like Wiki-PR to create and monitor articles for them. If we had a proper process for working with notable subjects who want an article but want to comply with our policies and norms, there would be no market for these kinds of companies. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 16:52, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    • How could we possibly manage that when we have such loose notability standards that many millions of people qualify for an article? There are over 600,000 active tenured professors in the US that pretty much get automatic notability, not even counting the retired ones, which probably brings us to 1 million articles, just for "notable" professors. And that's just the US. World wide, there's probably several more million "notable" professors. FIFA says there's 113,000 active registered professional soccer players world-wide... those get automatic notability too, regardless of whether a source anywhere other than a raw statistic book cared to write about them. And they get automatic notability forever, so lets just say at least 1 million more people who have ever played soccer professionally even once. And that's just one sport. I don't think I'd be far off to guess that our current notability standards qualify at least 25-100 million people as "notable".
    • Until we get some sanity in our notability standards and require actual secondary-source biographical coverage to exist, not just some proof of accomplishment, we are only going to face larger and larger problems. Gigs (talk) 18:23, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I don't know about soccer players, but a quick look at Wikipedia:Notability (academics)#Criteria shows that tenure is not one of them. An academic actually has to be "noted". StarryGrandma (talk) 22:58, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
StarryGrandma is right, is actually very difficult for a professor/academic to qualify as "notable" on Wikipedia. They can't just have tenure and be published, they have to be ground-breaking in their field, do extraordinary work or have mainstream media coverage of their work (which is fairly uncommon). Compare that to actors, who can be notable from a few minor roles in TV episodes or I understand it, even one appearance in a professional sport game/match/tournament qualifies them as notable (and plenty of amateurs have articles, as well). I'd guess that maybe 1% of all academics are seen to be notable on WP, probably even less from non-English speaking countries. I really don't believe that "many millions of people qualify for an article" with the current level of standards and scrutiny. Liz Read! Talk! 15:51, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Yet Gigs has a very valid point, probably best understood if we approach the issue another way. Define a notable person as someone whose actions or ideas are very influential, & we have articles on only the most influential people. (And, for sake of argument, let's assume we have defined "influential" so to include important poiitical leaders & scientific researchers, while excluding a fictional obnoxious kid who annoys everyone in the local neighborhood park.) So just how large should this number of influential people be? 1% of the world's population? 0.1%? 0.01%? According to World population, there are 6.69 billion people currently alive: 1% of this total would give us 67 million notable people, 0.1% 6.7 million, & 0.01% would give us 669,000 people. And then there are dead people, who are a number roughly equal to the number of living people, IIRC. So even with our current levels, there are millions of people who qualify. (Time to write more articles, I guess...) -- llywrch (talk) 19:39, 14 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
It doesn't seem that valid. In principle, if millions of people are genuinely notable, we should create millions of articles to match (as an aspirational goal, I should stress). In practice, I doubt all of those millions are going to be actively requesting articles, especially the dead ones. The main thing I take out of this is that the bar for academic notability should be lowered. - AdamBMorgan (talk) 02:48, 22 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I agree. Notability for professional soccer player isn't high enough. Academic notability should be lowered: a notable university professor, gets college education, an univ. education, a PhD, a Post-Doc, a habilitation, writes a pile of scientific papers (around half a meter high or more) and is a member of a international sciencific board affiliated indirectly to the International Council for Science. --Chris.urs-o (talk) 07:34, 27 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

How is creating articles in a user subpage and moving to mainspace a "loophole"?? It's actually a suggested method at Wikipedia:Creating_an_article. NE Ent 02:04, 19 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

It avoids Special:NewPages and is therefore never checked by the new page patrollers. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 02:35, 19 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Serious response by WMF needed

This looks like the tip of the iceberg to me. As far as I can tell, almost all editors are against paid undisclosed advertising and associated practices on Wikipedia, with the only opposition to clear policies and practices on this coming from interested parties. After all, undisclosed advertising is against the law in the US and we need to take serious action against it.

The WMF should take several actions against undisclosed advertising by paid editors, as soon as possible. These might include:

  • Reporting this incident to the FTC. The law on undisclosed advertising has been broken and the FTC is the policeman.
  • Banning all owners, employees and contractors of Wiki-PR from the site, whether we can identify the user names or not.
  • Making a serious private investigation into Wiki-PR to determine the extent of the particular problems caused by them. Volunteers can only do so much. Wiki-PR has left a trail of dissatisfied clients and misinformed and unpaid editors as well as public advertising for their "services." This private investigation should include both publicly available input as well as confidentially gathered input, and public conclusions. No way can we sweep this under the rug. I'll just note that one of the volunteer investigators noted above has said that he would leave Wikipedia because of the frustrations involved in the case.
  • Taking legal action against Wiki-PR, e.g. for defamation of Wikipedia by claiming in their ads that Wikipedia Administrators are on their staff. I am not a lawyer, so of course potential actions should be considered by legal experts, but I'm sure that aggressive legal action should be considered by the board.
  • Formulating policy for all WMF sites, e.g. in the terms of use, that would clearly inform all potential undisclosed advertisers that anything like this is prohibited and that legal action might be taken against them.
  • Laying out basics for policy on individual project's prohibitions on paid editing. After the individual encyclopedias and other projects formulate these policies, I believe that they should be voted on in a format similar to the voting for arbcom or the board seats. The RfC format for making this type of policy clearly fails here - only a few hundred editors, at most, can wade through the extensive verbiage on the RfC page, and a determined small group can always muddle the issues, make the process as unpleasant as possible, and keep the RfC from accomplishing anything.

If the WMF does not take these or similar actions, it will only encourage paid advocacy and undisclosed advertising on WMF projects. PR folks will say "they had a obvious clear case of extensive abuse, and all they did was block a few accounts. Looks like they are open for business-as-usual." Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:46, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I'm in agreement about reporting this to the FTC. Can someone weigh in on why this hasn't been done, it's potential impact, or if it has already been done? Perhaps User:Geoffbrigham? --Jackson Peebles (talk) 18:31, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
What's the FTC, for those of us not from the US (I'm assuming from the context that it's a US-specific thing?)? HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 16:55, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Federal Trade Commission
Smallbones(smalltalk) 17:36, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I'd point people to the Wikipedia Weekly podcast we recorded on Tuesday, which discussed the FTC and what the WMF could do in this area. You can skip to 23 minutes into the podcast to hear the exact segment where we talked about it. Youtube video of Wikipedia Weekly episode #103 -- Fuzheado | Talk 19:00, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
@Smallbones and Jackson Peebles: There are a variety of ways the Wikimedia Foundation and the community can work together on this issue. Geoff and the Legal team are aware of current events, and staying on top of the issue. But there are also other problem areas that need to be addressed on the topic of paid editing and article creation. Those include the somewhat murky state of policy on this incident (where does the effectiveness of SPI and sockpuppetry policy end, and the COI guideline begin?), and technical limitations. T14363 is a critical one mentioned in the Signpost article, and it's not the only method we could use to help detect skullduggery on the part of paid agents not acting inline with community policy and guidelines. In short: yes, the Foundation can possibly do things on this issue, but the responsibility is very much shared with the community, as the primary stewards of English Wikipedia content and social policy. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 23:52, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
As Steven (WMF) says, WMF Legal, along with Community Advocacy, is looking into the issue (and has been for a few weeks). Because it is a serious legal matter, I'm afraid we can't currently comment more on it in public at this time. -LVilla (WMF) (talk) 00:53, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Looking into it in secret!! I've been publicly urging Legal to look into this for ages, and been stonewalled since May! [1] [2] [3][4] --Elvey (talk) 21:50, 19 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

This is a great article. Thanks, Signpost! Please do let us know what enforcement action is taken. Also, can you include an article next week on the status, if any, of the investigation into supposedly agenda-pushing or paid admins? -- Ssilvers (talk) 18:48, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Reply from

My quotation, used above in the article, can be easily misinterpreted. At we are appalled by the tactics reportedly used by Wiki-PR. We provide Wikipedia visibility services ONLY to notable companies an individuals, and strictly abide by Wikipedia content rules. We consider Wikipedia to be one of the greatest achievements of the Internet Age, respect its founders and volunteers, and only critique policies which we see to be endangering Wikipedia's ongoing success. My compete statement at CREWE can be seen at AKonanykhin (talk) 17:09, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

What is there to misinterpret? There are PR people who work within the community with transparency. There are people like you who try to hide their activities. Our goal has never been to write "problem free articles", especially not when the problem you want to fix are not editorial problems, but PR problems for your clients. Gigs (talk) 18:01, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Gigs, We've been very open about our work and our code of ethics since launching in 2010 - see the media coverage there. As for client disclosure, I find it unethical. Here's why:

[Copyvio from removed. DO NOT RESTORE. MER-C 10:38, 19 October 2013 (UTC)][reply]

AKonanykhin (talk) 18:28, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I think it's amusing that the head of a firm selling editing expertise (a) clearly intends to break his post into paragraphs, but doesn't know how (see the original wikisource for this section here); and (b) writes in English well below the level for which a corporate client concerned for its reputation would pay e.g. wait in vane — instead of using commercial model — facilitating business of our clients — our clients would be discriminated upon — We believe that Wikimedia request is designed. EEng (talk) 03:33, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Really? A formatting flame? From someone who ignores Wikipedia:Indentation? (I fixed his indentation, which omitted ":" indent characters, and yours, which added eleven of them instead of of one.) Can we please keep our comments substantive? --Guy Macon (talk) 05:31, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I over-indented my comment to make it clear that that it was later-added, out of the already established flow of discussion. I've restored my original indentation, and removed your fix of AKonanykhin's lack of paragraph breaking -- it's not a flame to point out that someone lecturing on how WP ought to work obviously has no experience with how it currently works. Nor is it a flame to point out the he or she is only passably literate, given his or her line of business. EEng (talk) 05:54, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
And I corrected your improper indentation -- again. You purposely re-added AKonanykhin's indentation error after I fixed it per WP:TPOC, a clear example of WP:POINT. Nowhere in WP:INDENT is "overindenting to warn that they are a later-added branch from main flow" allowed. You are giving your replies extra emphasis over other editor's replies by indenting them an extra 11 (!) levels. Wikipedia:Indentation and Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines are quite clear on this: "The use of normal indentation is a behavioural guideline that editors are expected to follow. Such guidelines may be enforced by administrative action, especially when other editors have been unable to persuade an individual to abide by them. The guideline should never be used to bite newcomers who don't know how to indent properly, but experienced users are expected to comply with it, to facilitate threaded discussion on talk pages." You are being disruptive. If you continue doing this, we are going to end up an WP:ANI. --Guy Macon (talk) 17:47, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Sorry if display of my 11 (!) indents reawakened feelings of emphasis envy (though the reason I indented has nothing to do with adding emphasis). Again, your "correction" to various posts' indentation confuses who was replying to whom, so I've uncorrected again (and I've put again in bold!) though with two changes: I retained your correction of Mr. WikiExpert's inability to break paragraphs, and reduced the indentation of my interjection. Why don't you wait and see if anyone other than you objects? EEng (talk) 22:48, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
That's not how ethics works, and you didn't need to paste your post from facebook to here. That's like saying it's unthical to have a speed limit while driving, because the people who break the law can drive as fast as they want, so it would be discriminatory against people who follow the law. You've really developed some convoluted logic to rationalize your behavior. Gigs (talk) 18:32, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Think of it this way: when murder is criminalized, only criminals will murder. That makes sense, doesn't it? EEng (talk) 03:33, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Correct me if I'm wrong. AKonanykhin argues that Wikipedia is unethical for accepting unpaid editorial contributions from volunteers, and that it is unethical for Wikipedia to accept voluntary monetary contributions rather than take paid ads. Reality check: what's wrong with people voluntarily getting together to try to give every single person on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge, without the potentially corrupting influence of both paid and unpaid (and undisclosed) advertising?
If AKonanykhin thinks this is wrong, I suspect he and his employees completely misunderstand Wikipedia and all its rules. They likely break the rules on a regular basis simply because they do not understand the logic behind the rules. And they will argue ad naseum against any restrictions against paid advocacy on RfCs and policy discussions. Time just to tell these folks that they are not wanted here. Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:57, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
No. We ask people to leave because of what they do, not what we think they will do in the future. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:31, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Re: "COI disclosure would be UNETHICAL as it would prejudice our clients, exposing them to unfair persecution by Wikimedia, which founder had repeatedly pledged to ban Wikipedia accounts of all paid editors"; Nonsense. Utter hogwash. I work with ethical COI editors on a regular basis. See User talk:Guy Macon/Archive 2#Your help? for an example. Nobody has ever retaliated against me, against the COI editor, or against the article. (If they did, they would get a quick lesson about what behavior gets you blocked). --Guy Macon (talk) 09:17, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Re: "Nobody has ever retaliated against me" -- I'm happy for you. Our experience has not been so rosy. As recently as this week, Wikimedia manager / Wikipedia admin threatened us with "summarily deletion" of ALL of our contributions -- without having seen even a single one: The aggressive and narrow-minded tone he used left no doubt of his sincerity. A week prior to it Jimmy Wales called me and my clients (to him unknown) "utterly unethical" for doing paid editing. He too, did not see any of our edits; rather he was attacking us on the principle. It was related to my critique of his position where he pledged "Those in favor of [Wikipedia becoming commercial] will be banned", see I call such aggressiveness "jihadism" or "crusade" and will not expose my clients to the related risks. It would be unfair and unethical. AKonanykhin (talk) 19:04, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
You misquoted Jimmy Wales. He said "This notion is completely nonsense, top to bottom. Wikipedia is not going commercial, and I will not stand for people turning Wikipedia into a highly biased 'pay for play' model. Those in favor of it will be banned, as needed." (emphasis added.) those last two words are important. Go ahead and advocate Wikipedia going commercial if you want, and if anyone -- even Jimmy Wales -- bans you for that alone, I and a bunch of folks like me will get the ban removed (and possibly that person desysoped). What you can't do is violate the community consensus against not disclosing your COI editing. Do that, and we will find and block the accounts you use, we will find and roll back all of the edits you make, and we will spread the word that anyone who hires someone who does what you do is wasting their money and violating our rules. What they choose to do to get their money back is up to them. Meanwhile, the real ethical COI editors will continue disclosing who they are and will continue asking editors like me to review their work and post it only if we agree that it is unbiased and encyclopedic, and they will continue to be able to say -- correctly -- that the Wikipedia community supports what they are doing. Your business model is destined to fail. Try not to be too annoying as you crash and burn, OK? --Guy Macon (talk) 06:01, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
"Wikipedia IS a marketing tool, the most important one in online visibility" quoting AK again. He also believes that he should be given "customer support". Note that I restated AK's remarks made above more clearly as "Wikipedia is unethical for accepting unpaid editorial contributions from volunteers, and that it is unethical for Wikipedia to accept voluntary monetary contributions rather than take paid ads," and I wrote "correct me if I'm wrong." AK has not corrected this, he accepts that this is a fair summary of what he said above. AK has no clue as to what Wikipedia is about. Almost any edit he makes is bound to break our rules. Ban him. Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:49, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
No. We ask people to leave because of what they do, not what we think they will do in the future or because they expressed an unpopular opinion. I think his claims of fearing retaliation are really just excuses for avoiding scrutiny, but your comment just gives him ammunition. --Guy Macon (talk) 05:31, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Dear Wikipedia community, it appears that my replies above have been seen as insensitive to those that are passionately against paid editing or truly believe in COI disclosure as a solution to systemic paid advocacy problems on Wikipedia--and we definitely support trying to make Wikipedia a better place. I understand this better now, and want you to know that I am open to your ideas about what could improve our business and respect those that believe it should not be there at all. It was not my intention to hurt anyone's feelings or to cause a lot of drama. I am open to discussion about the practices of WikiExperts with all those above. AKonanykhin (talk) 16:37, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Gotta love the claim that AKonanykhin gives, that divulging the name of clients is a copyvio! That has to be the greatest leap of the imagination in regards to copyright law in human history! All that AKonanykhin has succeeded in doing is proving an innate inability to comprehend what a COI is and why disclosure avoids a claim of COI when articles are reviewed. Oh well, now it is a matter for the lawyers to sort out, hopefully with TOS terms that include civil penalties.Wzrd1 (talk) 18:35, 16 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'll just note that WikiExperts, its employees and contractors, etc. have now been banned by the community at WP:AN (for about a full day now). I did check the website and they are still offering their editing services on Wikipedia to clients. Among the gems on that site is the following quote, “'If you’re not on Wikipedia, you don’t exist,' tells Alex Konanykhin" [5] Smallbones(smalltalk) 02:05, 18 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Bright line rule

As a result of this discussion I have proposed that Jimbo Wale's "Bright line rule" be officially made part of Wikipedia policy at WP:NOT Please see Wikipedia talk:What Wikipedia is not#Bright line rule for my discussion of the change I made at WP:NOT. (My proposed change was reverted twice within two minutes, so I'm not sure the change will still be there). Smallbones(smalltalk) 00:08, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

That would be practical if enforceable; but it's not. That is why many editors suggest that disclosure, scrutiny, and regulation are the way to protect the project in this respect. Otherwise, head in the sand, and this coverage at least shows how easy it is to get away with it. Tony (talk) 04:42, 13 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Coverage of paid editing (advocacy) within WP:COI

The statement "... a full conflict of interest guideline was developed in response to the perceived threat of paid editing." is, to my mind, unclear, particularly for a (current) guideline that began solely focused on "vanity" biographical pages. Something like this would be better: " ... the conflict of interest guideline was significantly expanded in 2012 to more fully respond to the perceived problems of paid advocacy."

(That suggested wording is based on a comparison of the guideline at the end of 2011 version versus the version at the end of 2012. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 19:47, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]


I note that the article mentions the guide for paid editing but appears to miss the background of this document being created in long term partnership with Wikimedia UK. Though drafted in cooperation with members of the UK chapter and supported by Wikimedia UK, the document is draft and has yet to be agreed with the English Wikipedia community, which is the only Wikimedia project it addresses. With regard to current sock puppet investigations and assertions about who might be working with PR agencies, it is worth comparing any names to the public list of 10,500 CIPR members (which include a large proportion of global affiliates), this flat list may be handy, as CIPR has an excellent complaints process with a Professional Practices Committee which has a duty to enforce their code of conduct, including the guidelines for paid editing of Wikipedia. Various detailed discussions about this case and the WMUK Secretary's on-going conflict of loyalties by becoming the CEO of CIPR are available at the WMUK Water cooler. -- (talk) 15:50, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Search engines can help us out here

If major search engines wouldn't give so much weight to newly-created articles, it would remove a lot of the motivation to use game Wikipedia like this. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 20:37, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I'm not sure that would change the dynamic much. Eventually, Wikipedia winds up at the top of the SERP so it doesn't matter if it's within minutes or days. There's plenty of incentive to make sure the #5 most visited web site in the world contains what you want people to see. -- Fuzheado | Talk 16:38, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
A page that is deleted before it rises in the ranks will not rise in the ranks. By tweaking the ranks to not give a "Wikipedia premium" to pages until either they get a lot of traffic, they get a lot of inbound "quality" links from outside Wikipedia, or until they've been around awhile without being deleted or tagged for notability- or promotion-related templates, search engines can help out by making the writing of spammy articles or of articles on non-notable topics not financially lucrative. In short: Let the cream slowly rise to the top, and dump the spoiled milk before it can raise a stink. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 18:46, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
We'd need a lot more PR aware patrollers to have any realistic chance of nabbing a sizable fraction of PR spam before it has been around long enough to pick up some Google-fu. It also wouldn't deal with the problem of widescale PR editing of higher profile organizations. Imagine Dragons and Viacom are both named in the article, and I am anticipating a story coming out on Monday will likely name many more. Imagine Dragons is only a mid-level famous band, but Viacom has a market cap of $1.4b. Kevin Gorman (talk) 20:31, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
It may boil down to encouraging search engines to treat each Wikipedia page as if it were a stand-alone entity, offering special "positive" treatment only for pages that are GA, A-Class, or FA, or if they have been linked to from a locked-down, curated "prestigious" place such as the Main Page. In other words, treating most articles the same as if they were on a non-famous web site, but with the same incoming non-Wikipedia links. Search engines would also have to discount or not count "pro forma" incoming Wikipedia links from web sites that routinely link to related Wikipedia articles if they exist. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 21:50, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
ITN and DYK aren't really vetted terribly well for longer than the period of time they are on the main page for. We also have a lot of awfully good - or at least more useful than anything else on the frontpage of google - articles that are not GA, A-Class, or FA, partly because not everyone bothers to get their stuff ranked or formally assessed. Some of the articles I've worked on are the most accurate and comprehensive resources available online about their topics, without having a formal class. I don't think this would be a great solution to the problem, either. In the long run I think we're going to need to come up with a system where paid editing is accepted in some transparent, monitored form that produces results in a reasonable period of time; otherwise I think we are likely to just see another WikiPR pop up soon after this one dies. (I did some of the research that led to this article, and have been working with a journalist to look in to them further since. Some of the stuff he's turned up has been bigger than I was expecting; WikiPR has not been a harmless firm producing a few non-notable pages, as a drastic understatement.) Kevin Gorman (talk) 22:07, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
David: You seem to be implying Google puts its thumb on the scale to overweight Wikipedia articles simply because they're from Wikipedia. Do you have any basis for that conclusion? Google claims their PageRank algorithm is their algorithm and that Wikipedia is not artificially ranked higher. It may get a special feed to discover creations faster than normal spidering, but that's a different issue. -- Fuzheado | Talk 14:09, 14 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

"New page bug"

The "new page bug" can be fixed by having all newly-moved pages be treated as if they were new. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs) 20:37, 11 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

The "new page bug" doesn't affect Special:NewPagesFeed, but sadly none of the page patrollers seem to use it. Kaldari (talk) 08:16, 12 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I personally see the notion of working on articles in a personal space as an a priori attempt to fool patrollers as insulting. In Russian Wikipedia I definitely prefer finishing the articles in my personal space before showing the ready product to the general public, instead of throwing a miserable half-baked stub to the main space topped with a lame template {{In use}}. Now it turns out that my respect to readers is generally considered a subterfuge? Unbelievable. --Deinocheirus (talk) 22:58, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
One of Wiki-PR's e-lance contractors told us they were explicitly instructed to start pages in personal space because doing so avoided NPP (I was one of the editors and researchers for this piece.) Context is worth considering before becoming outraged about something. Kevin Gorman (talk) 23:31, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Well, I would suggest starting with adding this context to the Signpost publication we are discussing here. Right now it essentially says that anyone who creates article in his or her personal space "avoids scrutiny" and "uses loopholes". If this is NOT a practice globally considered as destructive then the publication has to be explicit about it. --Deinocheirus (talk) 17:01, 29 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

How Much is Wikipedia Worth?

Let's assume just for fun that we sold Wikipedia for $6,600,000,000 and distributed the money to the editors. There are various ways the loot could be divided.

So far we have made 655,271,926 edits. If we distributed that 6.6 billion dollars by edit, you would get ten cents for every edit you have made. Our top 100 editors would get between $132,234 and $14,449.

We have created 31,277,369 pages fo all kinds. That's $211 per page created.

We have 19,858,961 registered users. That's $332 per registered user.

We have created 4,346,517 articles. That's $1,518 per article created.

We have 127,156 active editors. That's $51,905 per active editor.

We have 1,431 administrators. That's $4,612,159 per administrator.

Or we could use it to fund the US government for a third of a day.[6] :( --Guy Macon (talk) 21:23, 10 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Advertising agencies

Articles about advertising agency or product placement firms have long been problematic, the temptation for these companies to WP:COI edit their own entries is huge. I recall long-running problems with a set of (originally three) autobiographical articles for an Adam Kluger of The Kluger Agency as one example - he'd try to self-promote on Wikipedia (sometimes using hotel-room wifi as a source of anon-IP addresses) and then get really upset whenever the articles were edited to say who was providing the payola to include their wares in music videos and how much money was at stake. I suppose this is to be expected from a class of business in business to pass advertising off as content, but it might be worth keeping an eye on ad agency articles in general as the same WP:COI editors there might be hitting other pages - such as corporate clients or musical acts. K7L (talk) 22:13, 14 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Solving the problem of corporate articles (on both companies and non-profit organizations, which are equally problematic)

Step one,which does not compromise our other policies:

(a)If we had abstract standards of size or other quantifiable factors that justified an article instead of relying on the easily manipulable GNG, we would be able to deal with unjustified requests for articles. (Easily manipulable, because almost all reporting in this field is contaminated by press releases to the extent that makes a mockery of our standards for what is or is not a reliable source for notability)
(b) If we had definite and enforceable standards for what is and is not permissible content, with the amount of detail varying by the size of the organization,we would be able to deal with promotional content. If the basic portions could be handled by bots, it would make the other parts easier.

Step two:

The protection against manipulation of content is patrolled edits. I dislike patrolled edits, which I find interfere with the ability of easily see the progress of an article, but I will learn to work with them if necessary. I consider them a partial compromise with the principle than anyone can edit,by limiting approved edits to an approved list of editors, but we have learned that such a compromise is in some case unavoidable.

Step three:

The only truly adequate protection against being used for promotion is to require the positive identification of all contributors, with a waiver being available for those working on some topics or from some countries, in the same manner as we permit in some cases editing from open proxies. This is definitely a major compromise with the principle of a free encyclopedia in many respects, but if we cannot control advertising, we are useless as an encyclopedia altogether. Ultimately, I see no other alternative, and I thin we will either come to this, or descend into a vehicle for publicity. DGG ( talk ) 03:18, 19 September 2014 (UTC)[reply]


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