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Q&A on Public Relations and Wikipedia
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The Atlantic examined "The Covert World of People Trying to Edit Wikipedia—for Pay".

The article first discusses medical editing and the experiences of Dr. James Heilman (Doc James), a Canadian physician who is currently on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. (Heilman discussed his opinions on paid editing in a Signpost op-ed earlier this year.) In 2013, Heilman was editing the Wikipedia article for kyphoplasty, a popular back procedure of disputed effectiveness. When Heilman reverted changes to the article that he thought were not "supported by existing research", he found himself drawn into a contentious debate with employees of Medtronic, a medical equipment company which sells a kyphoplasty kit. He was emailed by a physician who was a consultant for Medtronic and the resulting email thread was cc:ed to over 300 others, including one of Heilman's medical school professors. Heilman was intimidated by the contact. Elsewhere, he wrote "having 'representatives' from an 28 billion USD company email 300 of your colleagues to inform them how misguided you are is disconcerting."

The Atlantic puts this incident in the context of the conflicts between the motivations of company employees and volunteer editors.

The Atlantic writes that these issues are exacerbated by the shrinking ranks of active editors, the small number of administrators, and the growing number of articles. Heilman told The Atlantic that undisclosed advocacy edits "often distract the core community of editors away from more important topics." The Atlantic notes that Wikipedia's wide reach makes these issues important ones. According to Wikipedia's medical articles likely have a larger readership than WebMD and are used by 50-70 percent of doctors. Wikipedia information has even turned up in medical books themselves. As recounted by Heilman in the Signpost earlier this year, Wikipedia was plagiarized by a contributor to an Oxford University Press medical textbook.

The Atlantic discusses what public relations companies are and are not doing. It mentions in passing the 2014 pledge by a number of PR firms to adhere to Wikipedia's terms of use by disclosing their conflict of interest. (William Beutler (WWB), a paid editor who spearheaded that effort and wrote an op-ed in the Signpost about paid editing last month, called that a "big missed opportunity".) Despite this, undisclosed advocacy editing persists, ranging from the high profile, such as this summer's Sunshine Sachs controversy (see previous Signpost coverage), to the low profile, like the abundant ads on Elance advertising the services of Wikipedia editors and even administrators. Patrick Taylor, one of the duo at the head of Wiki-PR, which was blocked from editing Wikipedia for operating an army of sockpuppets (see the Signpost's Wiki-PR series), told The Atlantic that "Undisclosed paid editing, especially on the part of the largest PR firms, is rampant on Wikipedia."

The Atlantic talked with two paid editors, Gregory Kohs, founder of MyWikiBiz and longtime Wikipedia critic, and Mike Wood, who runs Legalmorning. The Atlantic failed to note that both have been banned from Wikipedia for policy violations. Both refuse to disclose their advocacy editing and claimed to The Atlantic that they did so because of Jimmy Wales, an odd, self-serving justification. Wood said "As soon as Jimmy Wales adheres to Wikipedia guidelines, I will adhere to Wikipedia guidelines," though the only specific act of Wales cited by The Atlantic was Wales editing his own Wikipedia article back in 2005. (Aug. 11)

Wikipedia traffic from Google drops 250 million visits

The last three months of Wikipedia traffic, from the August 2015 WMF Metrics & Activities Meeting

Business Insider reports that Wikipedia traffic from the search engine Google has experienced a significant drop. It recounts analysis from a July 28 blog post by Roy Hinkins, head of search engine optimization for SimilarWeb, a web analytics company. Hinkins writes:

Business Insider speculates that the drop is due to Google's growing "preference for inserting its own content above the content of other non-Google web sites, even when those sites may be better resources than Google itself", though it notes " there is no evidence that Wikipedia's traffic loss is due to Google".

The drop in traffic was noted at the Wikimedia Foundation August Metrics & Activities meeting (see graphic at right), though the meeting did not discuss a potential cause. Elsewhere, a number of experienced editors are attributing the drop to the normal summer decrease in Wikipedia traffic. (Aug. 12)

Nicki Minaj complains about her boyfriend's Wikipedia article

Nicki Minaj is displeased

Music news outlets noted that singer Nicki Minaj took to Instagram, where she has 31.2 million followers, to complain about the Wikipedia article for her boyfriend, rapper Meek Mill. Whenever she posted Mill's birth name, Rihmeek, she was inundated with complaints and mockery on social media for "misspelling" his name, because his Wikipedia article spelled it "Rahmeek". She posted a picture of herself with Mill and his family and wrote:

Neither Minaj nor the media outlets noted that the incorrect spelling in Meek's Wikipedia article was cited to a biography page on the website of his own record label, Roc Nation, where the error remains. (Aug. 8)

Editor's note: Emoticons in the above quote may not be visible on all computers.

Peter Dinklage is amused

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  • Roc Nation appears to have fixed their typo. - Dravecky (talk) 05:50, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • How many times does the Daily Mail have to publish bad (and often purposely fabricated) information before we stop allowing it as a source? --Guy Macon (talk) 10:35, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • "a number of experienced editors are attributing the drop to the normal summer decrease in Wikipedia traffic" .. if that was true we should also see a similar drop in mobile. -- GreenC 13:03, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
    Not necessarily. I always assumed lower traffic in the summer (and a spike in vandalism in the Fall) was due to young people whose primary access to the internet is via their school. Mobile users generally have their own devices. ~ Ningauble (talk) 14:42, 15 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Google is specifically using a "micro-Wikipedia" <g> for searches - many folks just want date of birth, death, and a celebrity overview - rather than the generally hard-to-read (see articles on "readability of Wikipedia"), massive articles (the vast majority of future users will use mobiles or tablets) which all-too-often dominate Wikipedia. I commented a long time ago about this inevitable phenomenon, but no one noticed <+g>. Expect Google-driven traffic to go down substantially more in future.
(from the cited article) "The problem is that a few months ago that click might have gone to Wikipedia. And in fact the info in the Google box is drawn from Wikipedia. So on the one hand, this is good for Wikipedia (its info is featured prominently and the box does give Wikipedia a link). But on the other, Wikipedia thrives on clicks and this box is designed to save you from actually clicking through if you only need the bare bones info." Collect (talk) 15:33, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
In what way does Wikipedia thrive on clicks? As far as I can see there is zero downside if someone gets the same information directly from Google and it answers their question. --Guy Macon (talk) 17:01, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
That was not my claim. It is a quote from an article which I certainly did not write, so your question should be addressed to the person who wrote the article. Cheers. Collect (talk) 17:20, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
The downside is that if fewer people come to wikipedia, fewer people become editors. Gamaliel (talk) 17:28, 14 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I think an attribution is missing from the paragraph after the quote in the first story.
According to Wikipedia's medical articles likely have a larger readership than WebMD and are used by 50-70 percent of doctors.
Shouldn't it be "According to (someone), Wikipedia's medical articles..."? AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 01:25, 17 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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