Who writes Wikipedia? Are they paid? I get asked this question at least once a week. While most Wikipedia editors work for free, some get paid. Professional Wikipedia writers fall into five categories;
Professional Wikipedia writer? Or just and overly keen content writer? Meet the SPAs
In my experience, single-purpose accounts (SPAs) or IP addresses are effective when used correctly. However, most operators of SPAs misuse them. More often than not, SPAs are over-enthusiastic junior copywriters. Eager to impress, always making a mess. Worryingly, it is often a senior member of their company who has asked them to create a company Wikipedia page. Or, edit a company Wikipedia profile. SPAs are professional Wikipedia writers in the sense that they have skin in the game. But, they are comfortably incompetent.
SPAs know that anyone can edit Wikipedia. Often, that’s as far as their platform knowledge goes. Most SPAs make the school person error of using their name or their organisation’s name for their Wikipedia username.
Wikipedia takes an egalitarian approach to content creation. So, contrary to popular belief SPAs can create Wikipedia pages that stick. They can also make Wikipedia edits that stick. Sadly, SPA users rarely take the time to learn important concepts. For example, notability, verifiability or neutral point of view. Often they try to create the same page over and over again, oblivious to their mistakes. Don’t be this “professional Wikipedia writer”.
PR agencies attempting professional Wikipedia writing at their client’s request.
Typically, high profile businesses and individuals will keep PR agencies on a retainer. The client will ask the agency to write a Wikipedia page about the company. Or, edit an existing Wikipedia profile. Inevitably, the savvy PR agency will delegate the task to a junior copywriter. The junior copywriter then tries to comprehend the encyclopaedia’s guidelines by reading entries about their competitors. Sometimes, a competitor’s entry will be low-quality stubs or start class articles. Sadly, the junior will undertake editing with a distorted perception of Wikipedia’s content policies. Moreover, most will be unaware of Wikipedia’s conflict of interest rules. Enthusiastically, they will dip their toe in, only to have it bitten off.
Where do agencies go to hire professional Wikipedia writers? Freelance sites
This is the part where PR agencies usually make the mother of all Wikipedia hiring mistakes. They turn to a freelance site. Eagerly, they will Google pro wiki writer or company Wiki profile or professional Wikipedia writer. A certain freelance site will appear at the top of the search. Freelance sites appeal to agencies. They can auction the project to the lowest bidder and pocket the difference. They will reveal their client to as many freelancers as possible. Additionally, they might share their “wiki copy” with several freelancers who will share it with Wikipedia. However, their copy will not comply with Wikipedia’s content policies. Copy is text written for advertising purposes. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia. Therefore, advertising copy does not belong on Wikipedia. Consequentially, copywriters are not professional Wikipedia writers.
The agency will set wildly unrealistic expectations. The client will believe that they are placing a long-form advert on the busiest and most trusted knowledge outlet. Realistically, any content the freelancer places on Wikipedia will require heavy moderation to remain there.
Yet, most professional Wikipedia writers start on freelance sites. Most of us come from content writing backgrounds. Usually struggling to pay the bills. Consequently, taking any work we can get. Subsequently, stumbling into paid Wikipedia writing and editing. Many freelance Wikipedia writers quit in the first six months. However, those that remain become one of three things. Black hats, white hats or, in my case, a grey hat.
Wikipedia’s blackhat writers: the platform’s reprobates
Blackhats are the poster children for bad behaviour – William BeutlerWikipedia @ 20, page 80, The MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusettes, Editors Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner
Beutler, a white hat wrote the above quote. We’ll get to whitehats in a minute. But to understand what a white hat is, first we must learn about the black hats. Black hats either work independently or as part of a larger reputation management company or dodgy PR firm. They use cybersecurity tools like VPNs and tracker blockers to create multiple accounts on the platform, which Wikipedia doesn’t like. However, to get anywhere as a paid editor one must master the technical and sociopsychological skills required to build effective accounts. From what I’ve observed most blackhats aren’t very good at this.
The worst of the worst – Upwork’s professional Wikipedia writers
Wikipedia writers that figure out sockpuppetry do untold damage to the encyclopaedia. Users, Mer-C, GSS, Praxidicae and General Notability are master accounts for a network of blackhats based in Mumbai, India. They use their master accounts to make life difficult for good faith paid editors whilst using their sockpuppets to flood the encyclopaedia with sub-par articles and promotional material. However, it is the aggressive tactics that they use to secure clients that do the most damage.
The blackhats will nominate pages for deletion then get in touch with the page’s subjects offering to save the page from deletion. They will decline draft submissions then contact the subject of the draft and offer to publish the page for a nominal fee. Additionally, they are hostile and rude to almost everyone. Seemingly, they are immune to Wikipedia’s new code of conduct. Their disruptive behaviour perpetuates the stereotype that all Wikipedians are rude, nasty people. The Mumbai mafia prevents legitimate pages about notable subjects from seeing the light of day. Moreover, many of these blackhat gangs, based in India or their neighbours to the north employ children to do their dirty work for them.
Because English is not the first of your typical blackhat they have no editorial judgement. A blackhat will post whatever you ask them to post whether it’s true or not. Most of the time, Wikipedia’s community will self-correct misinformation. However, the gangs abuse their master accounts. Praxidicae, GSS and Mer-C are all blackhats. These cyberthugs harass good faith editors attempting to correct misinformation. Essentially, these individuals have no conscience and no concern for Wikipedia or the free knowledge movement outside of their financial incentives.
White hat professional Wikipedia writers
On the face of it, white hats sound like angels. Or, Boy-scouts. Possibly, both. However, they don’t edit entries about their client’s directly. Instead, they post edit suggestions on talk pages or submit new pages as drafts. Yet, delve into the history of professional Wikipedia writing and you’ll discover that the first white-hats were Wikipedians who also worked in PR and rigged the game so that they could leverage their contacts within Wikipedia’s community. However, white hats arguably cause as much trouble as black hats. I say this because white hats usually rely on a technique known as wiki-lawyering.
Wiki-lawyering is essentially the weaponisation of Wikipedia’s bureaucracy to achieve their client’s aims. However, wiki-lawyering wastes hours of volunteer time. Moreover, it seldomly achieves any of the client’s aims. Also, just because a white hat follows the rules it does not mean they have the encyclopaedia’s best interests at heart. Essentially, just because a Wikipedia writer claims that they are a white hat it does not mean that they are ethical.
White hats typically bamboozle volunteer Wikipedia writers with walls of text and rediculous edit requests at their clients behest. Arguably, white hats are more disruptive than black hats.
However, an alternative exists.
Grey hat professional wikipedia writers- aka the WikiNative approach
Contrary to popular belief I am not a black hat. I retain editorial control, whereas a black hat will write anything their client tells them too. Adversely, I am not a white hat. The reason is, I do not disclose my conflict of interest and I operate multiple accounts. However, when I log onto Wikipedia I put the needs of the platform before the needs of my clients. Therefore, I am a grey-hat. I use black hat techniques to achieve
I don’t add promotional content. Nor do I remove reliably sourced content. Instead, I give my clients the opportunity to work with a genuine Wikipedia editor that understands the platform. Although I don’t disclose my conflict of interest I don’t disrupt Wikipedia or fight edit wars on my client’s behalf. Instead, I seek favourable outcomes for my clients by aligning their article’s point of view in line with Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy. I make sure any statements, positive or negative are sourced correctly. Importantly, unlike blackhats or whitehats, I don’t leave any fingerprints.
If you would like to learn more about my approach then don’t hesitate to book me for a one-hour consultation or a two-hour notability assessment. If you are wondering how much it costs to hire a professional Wikipedia writer, check out my menu.