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 employee's] concern that a Wikipedia article was hurting his company's business is a common one—the site has enormous reach, and the information it contains makes its way to nearly everyone, from consumers to policymakers to people Googling innocuous questions on their phones. Even minor changes in wording have the potential to influence public perception and, naturally, how millions of dollars are spent. What this means for marketers is that Wikipedia is yet another place to establish an online presence. But what this means for Wikipedia is much more complicated: How can a site run by volunteers inoculate itself against well-funded PR efforts? And how can those volunteers distinguish between information that’s trustworthy and information that’s suspect?
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 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
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:
||Wikipedia lost an insane amount of traffic in the past 3 months. And by insane I mean that the free encyclopedia site lost more than 250 million desktop visits in just 3 months!
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
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:
||Everytime I say the name "Rihmeek" in a post I get a billion comments saying I'm spelling his name wrong. Lol. Hmmmmm. Lemme get this straight, I should believe Wikipedia over his MOTHER, SISTER (@naboogie) AND HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE?????? 😂 yall gotta chill. #NoMoreCommentsAboutHisNAMEpls #TakeHisGirlWordForIt 😁😛😂 #StayOffWikipedia #YallReallyBeMad 😩😘😘😘😘😘😘😘
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.