Three reasons why companies should hire a Wikipedia specialist


admin - March 13, 2020 - 0 comments

From the outside looking in, editing your company’s Wikipedia page may seem like a walk in the park. Just switch to the visual editor, smash out the content and click publish, just like any other content management system. Right? Wrong. In theory, anyone can edit Wikipedia, and if you have an account over four days old with no fewer than ten edits, you can upload a page directly to the encyclopaedia. However, I strongly suggest letting a Wikipedia specialist write and upload content for the following reasons.

Wikitext: also known as code

There are two ways to create and edit pages on Wikipedia. Visually or using Wikitext. Wikitext is the mark-up language that Wikipedia uses, it’s similar to HTML, but like any language, it takes most people a bit of time to pick up. A Wikipedia specialist should be proficient in Wikitext. It’s not simple, but it’s not hard either. Before coding the page, the specialist should also be happy to deliver the content as a Word document for ease of collaboration.

Businesses should avoid making visual edits at all costs. Wikipedia’s visual editor may look appealing; if you’re familiar with WordPress or similar content management systems, then you’ll get along with it. However, many of Wikipedia’s most influential community members view visual edits with suspicion as it’s introduction was accompanied by a proliferation in undisclosed paid editing and covert advertising, which brings me nicely to my next point.

Wikipedia’s culture

Wikipedia is one of the internet’s oldest online communities. Its members champion a type of digital utopianism, which while common in the early days of the internet is not present in other online communities. While Wikipedia is not supposed to have a political agender, its users are typically left leaning and view businesses as an existential threat to the “neutrality” of the platform’s content.

Following a string of high profile paid-editing cases in the 00s, Wikipedia introduced their policy for editors with a conflict of interest. Under the system, Wikipedia editors whether working for the company or making edits on behalf of a company are supposed to declare a conflict of interest and not edit their client’s pages directly. Instead, paid editors are supposed to leave edit suggestions on their client’s talk pages for unconflicted volunteer editors to review and implement if they see fit.

However, most of Wikipedia’s volunteers do not recognise this policy. They will not assist paid editors as a matter of principle. Most volunteers will do the opposite of what companies ask them to do and use Wikipedia’s many policies and guidelines to justify their antisocial behaviour. One disclosed paid editor did have some success using this technique, but following an article that appeared about him in the Huffington Post last year the community turned on him with this article in the Signpost triggering a slew of heated debate. Furthermore, several pages which he made for high profile clients such as Facebook’s Caryn Marooney were either nominated for deletion or in Marooney’s case redirected.

Due to the hostility which Wikipedia’s community shows towards paid editors, I do not recommend following Wikipedia’s policy for paid editing as you will not get your desired outcome. Instead, I recommend using someone who knows the rules, knows the telltale signs of paid editing and can avoid the mistakes that financially connected editors usually make.

Legal ramifications

As I previously mentioned editing Wikipedia with a conflict of interest violates Wikipedia’s terms of use. However, it is not illegal to edit Wikipedia with a conflict of interest. I have built a legitimate career out of it, and HMRC is more than happy to take their share of my earnings. What is illegal, however, is posting content that promotes or advertises a subject without clearly labelling it as paid or sponsored content. Wikipedia is a not-for-profit website and therefore has no mechanism for businesses to submit paid or sponsored content.

If Wikipedia’s editor’s spot paid or promotionally worded content, they will either remove it. If the page is in the public interest, they may just tag the material as a paid edit. They do this so that they don’t get into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission over covert advertising on their platform. It is worth noting that so far, due to Wikipedia’s ability to police its platform the FTC has not prosecuted anyone for covert advertising on the encyclopaedia.

However, the Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit who look after Wikipedia’s donations and servers) are considering taking legal action against the American paid editing and reputation management company Status Labs. To avoid a similar fate, Wikipedia specialists should not post anything that resembles an advert. I will not do anything that a volunteer wouldn’t do, and I will take extra care to follow Wikipedia’s content policies to a tee. Even if obeying Wikipedia’s content policies costs me a few unscrupulous pushy clients, that is the price I am willing to pay. In my experience, those who respect Wikipedia and treat it as an encyclopaedia get a much better outcome.

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