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Vice on Wiki-PR's paid advocacy; Featured list elections begin

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By The ed17 and Jayen466

Wiki-PR conducting "a concerted attack" on Wikipedia

Media coverage of Wiki-PR continued this week with a feature story by Martin Robbins in the British edition of Vice magazine. Wiki-PR is the multi-million-dollar US-based company that has broken several policies and guidelines on the English Wikipedia in its quest to create and maintain thousands of articles for paying clients. Robbins writes that in recent months:

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Vice repeated the Signpost's discovery last week of a tweet from Wiki-PR's Vice President of Sales, Adam Masonbrink, announcing Viacom and as clients. (Interestingly, accessibility to the tweet was barred shortly after the publication of last week's edition, but had been captured by the Signpost in a screenshot.) Viacom is a global conglomerate of media companies, operating "approximately 170 networks reaching approximately 700 million subscribers in 160 countries" according to its Wikipedia article; is a website that gives users discounted rates on trips and hotel bookings. Its stock is one of the few that retails at more than US$1000 per share.

This flowchart guides PR firms on the correct path as they navigate Wikipedia's complex rules; Wiki-PR took a different route

Robbins obtained responses from several of Wiki-PR's clients. told him that "We are using them to help us get all of our brands a presence because I don’t have the resources internally to otherwise manage". Emad Rahim, the Dean of the College of Business and Management at Colorado Technical University, blasted the company in emails to Vice after a disastrous series of events surrounding his article.

Special:Undelete/Emad Rahim, which is visible only to Wikipedia administrators, reveals that the now-blocked Jaleel487 created Rahim's page in Wiki-PR's typical fashion: by exploiting a "bug" publicized by the Signpost last week. When a Wiki-PR employee created the initial draft on 6 July as a user subpage before moving it into the article space the next day, they bypassed the gatekeeping new page patrol. A different Wiki-PR employee added a picture on 12 July, which was only deleted after this article was published.

Unfortunately for Wiki-PR and Rahim, DGG noticed the new page on 15 July and quickly nominated it for deletion. Seven days and three comments later, it was gone.

Rahim told Vice that he emailed Wiki-PR on 17 July, just after seeing the notice of possible deletion. Michael French, the company's CEO, curtly replied, "You're covered by Page Management. Not to worry. Thank you for your patience with the encyclopedic process." After it was deleted, French told Rahim that his page would be re-created shortly. When Rahim presciently asked what would stop Wikipedians from deleting it a second time, French replied "it wasn't rejected. It was approved and went live. ... Your page was vandalised."

This re-creation consisted of one sentence. Rahim's US$1500 investment ended in a 30-word stub—or, seen another way, $50 per word. Rahim's article was deleted again after this article was published.

These responses are a small sample of the total number available—around 60 companies and individuals contacted by Robbins did not reply to his request for comment. These included Wiki-PR and Wikipedia's co-founder Jimmy Wales, despite commenting last week that "I'm very eager that we pursue this with maximum effect".

The Vice article included a significant amount of information from a former Wiki-PR employee, and also from Kevin Gorman, a Wikipedian with several thousand edits.

The Wikimedia Foundation contributed a surprisingly bland statement, given the depth of the problem. Saying that they were "monitoring" the issue, the Foundation advised that entities and people should not "edit their own Wikipedia pages or hire other organisations to do so for them. Editing Wikipedia articles through sockpuppets or where there is a conflict of interest isn't in the spirit of Wikipedia and can have unintended consequences for those organisations."

Robbins was able to obtain a much stronger statement from the president of the Washington DC chapter, James Hare, who called the case "heinous" and continued: "[you should] be transparent about who you are and who you work for. Wiki-PR acted in gross violation of this basic community expectation, and I regret that volunteer administrators will have to clean up after them."

The Wiki-PR saga attracted further international coverage from such publications as Boing Boing (US), Calcalist (Israel), Der Standard (Austria), Heise (Germany) and Kaldata (Bulgaria).

An experimental request to purchase Wiki-PR's Wikipedia service, which the Signpost emailed through the company's standard website facility more than a week ago, has gone unanswered.

This article has been updated to reflect the following changes: two Wikipedia pages, Emad Rahim and File:Emad Rahim.jpg, were deleted after publication.

This week, a vote to select two new delegates for the featured list candidates process has started. The nominations period of the elections closed on 14 October, and saw six Wikipedians, all familiar with the featured lists process, put their names on the table. Only two will be chosen to join the current team when elections end on 31 October.

Six candidates put forward their names:

Featured list candidates (commonly referred to as FLC) is a consensus-based process where users evaluate the quality of lists against the featured list criteria and thus support or oppose the list to reach featured status. Before supporting or opposing a list, reviewers usually hold a lengthy and detailed discussion with the nominator, usually the major contributor, to address all issues a list could have before becoming featured. The process was established in 2005 and has produced more than 3,000 featured lists since then.

The responsibility to evaluate consensus and, accordingly, promote nominations lies on the shoulders of the directors and the delegates. They are also tasked with keeping order and maintenance of all FLC pages and subpages, as well as taking care of the lists nominated to have their featured status removed (known as Featured list removal candidates, or FLRC), and to report new featured lists to the community, among others. The director also has the responsibility of scheduling Today's featured lists, which appear every Monday on the Main Page.

2013's elections mark the second time such an event has been held at FLC. Usually, new delegates are appointed individually after a short community consultation held on the FLC talk page, and after approval of current delegates and directors. However, after the recent resignations of Dabomb87 and The Rambling Man, and the unavailability of current delegate NapHit (who is on a long-term trip to Australia), the FLC team has experienced a need for new hands.

The first delegate elections were held in 2009, and resulted in Dabomb87 and Giants2008 being promoted to directors. At that time, Matthewedwards, The Rambling Man and iMatthew were the only editors serving as delegates/directors. As of today, Giants2008 and Hahc21 are covering the FLC duties, but a shortage might arise if either go inactive.

The main reason for the 2013 elections, according to Hahc21, is to avoid a shortage of delegates and guarantee that the FLC process is kept as smooth as possible.

In brief

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You know part of me, a small part, wishes we could delete and salt the articles of all of the Wiki-PR's clients (just a few months or so) but I know that would be inappropriate.

No measures that Wikipedia could enforce or the vigilance of volunteer Editor has the same strength of Wiki-Pr acquiring a bad reputation for not delivering what was paid for. It only takes a few spectacular fails. Liz Read! Talk! 22:16, 18 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Why in God's name would you pay someone else to work on Wikipedia article when you could spend a week or two doing it yourselves - correctly, the first time around - and save a four figure sum? Are people so damn lazy these days they can not even type anymore without hiring someone specifically inclined to do that? Sheesh... TomStar81 (Talk) 06:28, 19 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Because WP editing—the rules, the policies, the culture, even the syntax—are daunting to outsiders. A particular specialisation lies in maximising the PR value of articles on companies et al. These commercial opportunities (temptations, if you like) arise from the way WP has evolved; ironically, the very enabling of effective crowd-sourcing requires complexity and impenetrability, restricting the freedom of crowd-sourcing.

These are good reasons to take the bull by the horns, as the German WP has done, and set up a system of open registration for company and professional PR editors. I believe de.WP has about 500 such accounts, and they are watched wherever they go. It's not ideal, but it's more practical than what we have now. Tony (talk) 10:37, 19 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Regarding the latter paragraph (openly register them and keep an eye on them; not ideal but better than not): I believe that's where the future ought to lie for all WPs, regarding this topic. — ¾-10 16:39, 26 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I agree. Good faith editing should be separated from propaganda lies. --Chris.urs-o (talk) 08:21, 27 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I can't help comparing it to Prohibition. You have some human behavior that you'd like to prevent by simply declaring, "You're not allowed to do that." Well, that just drives it underground and puts criminally inclined shysters and cons in charge of it—but it doesn't prevent it. Perhaps better to get it out in the open and keep watch over it. I realize that this concept doesn't apply to everything in life, but so far it strikes me as aptly applying to paid editing of WP. — ¾-10 02:26, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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