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Learning to Speak in Wikipedia's Language: Public Relations and the Free Encyclopedia

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An overview of the history and relationship between Wikipedia and Public Relations, with an eye towards surfacing best practices and constructive collaboration.

An overview of the history and relationship between Wikipedia and Public Relations, with an eye towards surfacing best practices and constructive collaboration.

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  • Welcome. The title of today’s talk is Speaking Different Languages? Corporate Communications and Wikipedia. I’m going to discuss how these two cultures view the world and interact, how Wikipedia works, why it matters, and how to work with it better.
  • I’d like to start with a brief survey (some market research if you will). How many of you have heard of Wikipedia? Seen it come up in a Google search? Read an article for your personal use? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Read a Talk/Discussion page? Received a message from another editor? Used Wikipedia for researching a company or client? Have a client with a Wikipedia page about their key figures, their brand, their products, their organization, or their competitors? Noted an inaccuracy, incompleteness, or bias in one of those articles? Edited one of those articles? Received negative feedback (or reverts) about your edits? Received positive feedback or engaged in discussion about edits? Want you to write down one question that you are burning to have answered, or just curious about. Tell me if this presentation answered it.
  • I do this for free, for fun. I like interacting with the community and making it better. The first advice, and probably the best advice, which editors hear is to ‘Be Bold’. That’s been my approach, and I’ve tried to see problems in the community and fix them with dedication and passion. It’s addictive.
  • The mission of Wikipedia. This is a radical idea. It is working.
  • Big. Huge. Massive.
  • This is a global project. There is not just one Wikipedia. The mission of sharing the sum of all human knowledge in their own language. Some countries Wikipedia is the only encyclopedia in existence for their culture or language.
  • Note that the 1507 administrators on English Wikipedia are just over 1% of active editors and under a 1000th of a percent of registered users. The community basically runs itself, with a little help from administrators and facilitation from the parent non-profit, the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Much to the chagrin of SEO professionals, Wikipedia’s Google rankings consistently outperform all but a few search results. SEO folks claim Google has rigged the game, but Wikipedia responds that targeted, high quality content is the real reason.
  • What if one of these were your clients? Would you know how to manage their Wikipedia article?
  • Brittanica disputed the findings: http://corporate.britannica.com/britannica_nature_response.pdf. More people trying to make the encyclopedia better than worse. Over time, it tends towards comprehensiveness and accuracy, although at any given time its reliability is not assured.
  • Anonymous, volunteer, crowd-sourced project. How do paid editors fit into that picture?
  • A joke about Wikipedia that is a humorous as it is true.
  • Not everyone can edit everything, but the core of the sight remains shockingly open. Wikipedia follows the maxim, “With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” We tend to solve problems through mass attention or automation rather than outright prohibitions. Something to ponder, how do we know a source is reliable? We report what others have already reported; that’s what an encyclopedia is: a reliable, neutral summarizer. It is free for anyone to use, reuse, modify, repurpose, or even sell.
  • We don’t do mere definitions, new research, advertising or activism, mere copying of others content, personal opinions or networking, indexes of information, how-to’s, speculation about the future, unrefined coverage of breaking news events, random facts, anyone’s sanitized version of events.
  • It’s a self-organized, consensus-seeking, civil, voluntary community. It has rules, but the rules exist only to achieve the goal of a better encyclopedia, and can be ignored if they are hindering that. It seeks agreement, not votes. It requires cooperation and collaboration from people with differing views. Paid editors may be required to edit. How do they fit in?
  • Three core content policies. You should know these acronyms by heart.
  • Balance is the essence of neutrality. Wikipedia has no opinion on any issue or controversy. We report what others have reported.
  • You can’t make this stuff up. We’re not equipped to evaluate ‘truth’, though we aim for accuracy. What happens if reliable sources are wrong? What happens if there are no reliable sources for the opposing side of a debate?
  • Keep your own opinions out of it. You can’t do novel research.
  • Be nice. Talk it out. Seek consensus.
  • Be nice. Talk it out. Seek consensus.
  • Strategic. Does that conflict with neutrality?
  • How do advocacy and loyalty interact with honesty, independence, and fairness? Can a loyal advocate be neutral?
  • In 2007 a computer science graduate student name Virgin Griffith published WikiScanner, a tool which combined the ip addresses of Wikipedia of unregistered editors with known Corporate and Government databases. The matches revealed that individuals, organizations, companies, and nations were editing the articles about themselves, their products, and their competitors.
  • Do you want to be added to the list? Would your client fire you over a gaffe? Do you want Wikipedia to be a source of benefit or another area for damage control.
  • Bell Pottinger, one of London’s leading PR firms was caught editing the articles of its clients on the sly. One of the most persuasive arguments made by PR professionals and paid editors is that there is a role for them to correct bias, inaccuracies, and libel about their clients.
  • Some PR professionals follow ethical guidelines. How do we engage those individuals while also dealing with those who do not?
  • Hard enough to be neutral when you don’t have a boss or a client pressuring you or paying you. Neutrality is not always a conscious process and is often influenced by circumstance. One of the best reasons to acknowledge you have a COI is to become aware of your own bias, so you can avoid its influence. There is room for biased editors on Wikipedia, and there’s an old saw about enough people pushing on a flagpole from different directions will eventually get it to stand straight.
  • Jimmy Wales stance has always been that paid editors don’t belong on Wikipedia and should never edit articles directly. Something to consider: Is Jimmy Wales’ stance the actual policy?
  • An embarrassing juxtaposition. Since the incident, Wales has refrained from editing his own articles. Policy was different then (WP:COI was Vanity). Not to paint him as a hypocrite, but to emphasize that editing articles about ones self, company, clients, or interests is both tempting and riddled with challenges.
  • What is a conflict of interest?
  • Everyone has biases, some people are paid to advance theirs. Don’t promote, report.
  • In the past, paid editors were blocked on site. This was Jimmy Wales position. In 2006 the COI guideline was created. In 2009 the community held a “Request for Comment”. There were many people who supported officially prohibiting paid editors, but there were many who disagreed. The discussion closed with ‘no consensus’, meaning the previously existing guideline remained intact.
  • Although there are diehards who will not deal with anyone that has a COI, the reality is that there are many editors who participate in Wikipedia with clear, unequivocal, glaring conflicts of interest, and many of them do so productively and add to the discussion. ‘How’ you edit is more important than ‘who’ edits.
  • Best practices.
  • One person, one account.
  • Say who you are. Be treated with respect.
  • Articles require significant coverage in independent, published, reliable sources.
  • Companies have reams of proprietary literature. That is not considered a good source, because it’s not independent.
  • Writing for the enemy.
  • Don’t use Wikipedia to promote.
  • Once something is live on Wikipedia, it’s visible to the entire world and recorded forever. Do you really want to publish without getting someone else’s opinion?
  • We don’t have a corporate policy similar to BLP policy. Is that a bias or gap in Wikipedia policy?
  • Expand beyond your narrow interests. Read some articles you care about. Leave a comment on the talk page. Fix a typo. Reword a sentence. Find a source. Add some info. Get help from experienced COI editors and COI facilitators. Participate in the discussion on policy, best practices, and outstanding problems.
  • If you follow those best practices, you should be treated with kindness and respect and have a positive experience. Here’s what to do if things get off on the wrong track.
  • Also can be emailed to you, if enabled
  • Put your PR skills to use. Generate valuable press coverage. Then we can write about the subject.
  • What’s minor? Spelling, grammar, factual inaccuracies. What’s major, anything likely to be challenged, controversies, removing negative information, adding positive information, editing a competitor’s article.
  • Page protection is not preemptive or preventative. It’s only used where a demonstrated history of vandalism is present. Pending changes was an idea to require edits to certain articles to be reviewed first, but it failed to gain consensus for continued use after a trial run.

Transcript

  • 1. Learning to Speak inWikipedia’s Language Public Relations and The Free Encyclopedia
  • 2. [market research]
  • 3. Who am I?
  • 4. Jake OrlowitzVolunteer editorOcaasi on Wikipedia3 years20,000 edits15 articles created with over 150,000 viewsMonitor Group, Occidental Petroleum, US Gov.The Wikipedia AdventurePlain and simple conflict of interest guide
  • 5. Wikipedia is a massive and increasingly influentialglobal presence: PR professionals should be aware of itand view it as a critical medium in their communicationportfolio.
  • 6. Wikipedia is a massive and increasingly influentialglobal presence: PR professionals should be aware of itand view it as a critical medium in their communicationportfolio.The historical conflict between PR and Wikipedia canbe resolved with a proper understanding of the twocultures’ roles and processes.
  • 7. Wikipedia is a massive and increasingly influentialglobal presence: PR professionals should be aware of itand view it as a critical medium in their communicationportfolio.The historical conflict between PR and Wikipedia canbe resolved with a proper understanding of the twocultures’ roles and processes.PR professionals can save themselves countless hoursof frustration by learning the best practices for editing.
  • 8. Imagine a world in which everysingle person on the planet is givenfree access to the sum of all human knowledge.
  • 9. Wikipedia is important.
  • 10. 8 billion words in 21 million articles285 language editions
  • 11. 3,875,474 articles, 26,301,442 pages50 times larger than Microsoft Encartas2002 Deluxe edition517,319,601 edits, 250,000 per day794,530 uploaded files16,284,081 registered users147,203 active in the last 30 days1,507 administrators.
  • 12. Why you should care.
  • 13. Alexa rank: #6 in the world in web traffic2.7 billion pageviews, in the US, monthly#1 most influential website in blog mentions30-50% on first page of Google searches
  • 14. In January 2012 alone Krispy Kreme: viewed 25,119 BP: 75,014 Pepsi: 105,766 Walmart: 155,171 Lady Gaga: 1,101,475
  • 15. What if these were one of your clients?
  • 16. Wikipedia is trusted.
  • 17. Nature:Wikipedia came close to the level of accuracy inEncyclopædia Britannica.Other studies:Compared Wikipedia to professional and peer-reviewed sources and found that Wikipediasdepth and coverage were of a high standard.
  • 18. How Wikipedia works.
  • 19. “I say that our revolution is like Wikipedia. Everyone is contributing content. small pieces, bits and pieces.We drew this whole picture of a revolution no one is the hero in that picture."--Wael Ghonim, in 2011 on the overthrow of Mubarak
  • 20. “The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.”
  • 21. What Wikipedia is.
  • 22. The free encyclopedia that anyonecan edit, whose mission is tosummarize published reliablesources.
  • 23. What Wikipedia is not.
  • 24. a dictionarya publisher of original thoughta soapbox or means of promotiona mirrora blog or social networka directorya manuala crystal balla newspaperan indiscriminate collectioncensored
  • 25. The Wikipedia community.
  • 26. NOT ISanarchy self-organizeddemocracy consensus-seekingbureaucracy practicalbattleground cooperativecompulsory voluntary
  • 27. The Core Policies.
  • 28. Neutral Point of View (NPOV)
  • 29. Articles mustnt take sides, but shouldexplain the sides, fairly, proportionatelyand without bias
  • 30. Verifiability (V)
  • 31. Can another editor check the source?Verifiability not truthCite reliable sources if challenged or likelyto be challenged
  • 32. Original Research (OR)
  • 33. For which no reliable, published sources existAnalysis or synthesis of published material thatserves to advance a position
  • 34. Civility(CIVIL)
  • 35. Consideration and respectFocus on improving the encyclopediaBehave politely, calmly and reasonablyDo not ignore the positions of others
  • 36. What is Public Relations?
  • 37. “Public relations is a strategiccommunication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” --PRSA definition
  • 38. What does ethical public relations entail?
  • 39. AdvocacyHonestyExpertiseIndependenceLoyaltyFairness
  • 40. Advocacy Honesty IndependenceLoyalty Fairness
  • 41. The History of Paid Editing.
  • 42. MyWikiBiz, Microsoft, the Vatican, the CIA, the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation, the US Democratic Partys Congressional CampaignCommittee, the US Republican Party, Britains Labour Party, BritainsConservative Party, the Canadian government, Industry Canada, theDepartment of Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Defence in Australia, theUnited Nations, the US Senate, the US Department of HomelandSecurity, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Montana SenatorConrad Burns, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, the Israeli government, ExxonMobil, Walmart, AstraZeneca, Diebold, Dow Chemical, Disney, Dell,Anheuser-Busch, Nestle, Pepsi, Boeing, Sony Computer Entertainment,EA, SCO Group, MySpace, Pfizer, Raytheon, DuPont, Anglican andCatholic churches, the Church of Scientology, the World HarvestChurch, Amnesty International, the Discovery Channel, Fox News, CBS,the Washington Post, the National Rifle Association, NewsInternational, Al Jazeera, Bob Jones University, Ohio State University,Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications, Anheuser-Busch InBev, StellaArtois, Newt Gingrich, United Kingdom Parliament…
  • 43. MyWikiBiz, Microsoft, the Vatican, the CIA, the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation, the US Democratic Partys Congressional CampaignCommittee, the US Republican Party, Britains Labour Party, BritainsConservative Party, the Canadian government, Industry Canada, theDepartment of Prime Minister, Cabinet, and Defence in Australia, theUnited Nations, the US Senate, the US Department of HomelandSecurity, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Montana SenatorConrad Burns, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, the Israeli government, ExxonMobil, Walmart, AstraZeneca, Diebold, Dow Chemical, Disney, Dell,Anheuser-Busch, Nestle, Pepsi, Boeing, Sony Computer Entertainment,EA, SCO Group, MySpace, Pfizer, Raytheon, DuPont, Anglican andCatholic churches, the Church of Scientology, the World HarvestChurch, Amnesty International, the Discovery Channel, Fox News, CBS,the Washington Post, the National Rifle Association, NewsInternational, Al Jazeera, Bob Jones University, Ohio State University,Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications, Anheuser-Busch InBev, StellaArtois, Newt Gingrich, United Kingdom Parliament…
  • 44. Those are only the ones that made the news.
  • 45. Why paid editing matters.
  • 46. Real world consequencesExtreme media embarrassmentPublic forumFrequently reported in the media
  • 47. Significant public backlashEmbarrassing PRRisk of alienating clientsTaints Wikipedia’s reputation
  • 48. Arguments in favor of paid editing.
  • 49. “You can destroy someonesreputation in one minute and it will take years to rebuild.” -- Lord Bell, head of Bell Pottinger
  • 50. Responsibility to be accurateCan do real harmPR pros have time, access, and competenceDifferent point of view
  • 51. Arguments against paid editing.
  • 52. "It is difficult to get a man tounderstand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." --Upton Sinclair
  • 53. History of non-neutral editsAccountable to employers, responsibility tomake profitWhitewash negative and promote positiveNeutrality is difficult
  • 54. “Paid advocates do not make good editors. They insert puffery and spin. That is what paid advocates do.”–Jimmy Wales, in 2012 responding to Phil Gomes
  • 55. “People shouldnt do it, including me. Staying objective is difficult. You really want to set it straight.”--Jimmy Wales, in 2005 on editing his own article
  • 56. “Wikipedians have a problem with our profession Unfortunately been earned. We cant change this overnight We can make a difference.” --Jane Wilson, head of CIPR
  • 57. “Responsible and respectful.Acting in their clients best interests. A two-way street.Do not believe that to be the case.” --Gerald Corbett, head of PRSA
  • 58. What is a Conflict of Interest? (COI)
  • 59. An incompatibility between the aim ofWikipedia, which is to produce a neutral,reliably sourced encyclopedia, and the aims ofan individual editor
  • 60. Do not promote your own interests or those ofother individuals, companies, or groupsDo not write about these things unless you arecertain that a neutral editor would agree thatyour edits improve Wikipedia
  • 61. Can you edit with a COI?
  • 62. COI editing is strongly discouraged.
  • 63. Participation from COI editors is welcome.
  • 64. COI editing done right. (Best Practices)
  • 65. Register with an independent username. Represents you as an individual One person, one account
  • 66. Disclose your conflict of interest. Be transparent Gain the communitys trust, Get help Avoid embarrassment
  • 67. What does a COI declaration look like?
  • 68. I would like to disclose here that these contributions are made on behalf of Monitor Group and in consultation with them, and I intend to follow all of Wikipedias guidelines.On any pages where I look for assistance, I will be sureto disclose my relationship to Monitor in the interests of transparency. --CanalPark (talk) 22:12, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
  • 69. I work for Interprose Public Relations. While we do not intend to directly edit our clients Wikipedia entries, we are happy to act as a resource for the editing community by providing factual, non-advertorial information and accompanying third-party citations. --Mdrozdowski (talk) 15:28, 2 July 2010 (UTC)
  • 70. Read the notability guideline. Not every subject In-depth, significant coverage from published, reliable, independent sources
  • 71. Sources, sources, sources. Use: newspapers, magazines, books, trades, websites, tv, radio, journals; with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy Avoid: self-published blogs, press releases, and sources with a direct connection to the subject
  • 72. Article sentence.<ref> … </ref>
  • 73. Barack Obama is the Presidentof the United States.<ref>Blitzer,Wolf. “Obama Inaugurated”. CNN.January, 2008. Retrieved March 2012.http://www.cnn.com/Obama-inauguration</ref>
  • 74. Neutralize your conflict of interest. Write without bias So your biggest competitor would think it was fair and balanced So its impossible to tell that someone who works for the company wrote it
  • 75. Avoid advertising or promotion. Inform and reference, not promote or sell Not commercial, not marketing
  • 76. Start with a draft. New article wizard Userspace draft Article’s Talk page
  • 77. Have other editors review your work. Ask for feedback Talk page, Live help channel , Conflict of interest noticeboard, Paid Editor Help {{subst:submit}} for new article drafts {{requested edit}} for existing articles
  • 78. Dont make direct edits to live articles. * The safest way Especially for controversial information Instead, propose drafts and let others make the changes
  • 79. Dont use other articles as excuses. Do not use them as justification Make your own content better Then it will last
  • 80. Dont rush. Months, years, and decades Seek the communitys feedback Articles about living people come first Negative and unsourced information goes
  • 81. Join the community. WikiProject Cooperation Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement (CREWE) The Signpost
  • 82. What to do if something goes wrong.
  • 83. If your article was deleted. Understand and fix the issues Talk to the administrator, ~~~~ Deletion Review Userspace copy
  • 84. If no good sources exist for your article. Do more research Reference Desk Ask good sources to write about it Wait and try again
  • 85. If someone is editing your article. Nobody owns an article Engage others in civil and constructive dialogue
  • 86. If theres a mistake in your article. Minor… fix it yourself Major… seek input from other editors, let them do it
  • 87. If someone is vandalizing your article. Revert obvious vandalism yourself Intentionally destructive changes For significant changes, discuss it with other editors first Page protection
  • 88. If you want to make changes to an article. {{Edit request}} on the Talk page using WikiProject Cooperation’s Paid Editor Help Conflict of Interest noticeboard
  • 89. If you disagree strongly with other editors. Stay civil Read the relevant policies Seek the input of other uninvolved editors Use the dispute resolution process
  • 90. If you requested feedback but havent receiveda timely response. Be transparent about your COI Talk pages, COI noticeboard, Admin noticeboard, Paid Editor Help info@wikipedia.org
  • 91. If your account was blocked. Stay calm Ask the administrator Appeal the block , {{unblock}} Acknowledge if you made a mistake, and correct it
  • 92. If youre overwhelmed by Wikipedias interfaceand policies. Take your time Ask for help – Help Desk, live chat , search WP: and Help: We’re here to assist you
  • 93. What does the future hold?
  • 94. Wikipedia mattersPR and Wikipedia can work togetherYou can use Wikipedia effectively
  • 95. Imagine a world in which every singleperson on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
  • 96. Thats our commitment.
  • 97. You can help.
  • 98. Links• A free, online copy of this presentation http://goo.gl/8LsKW• The Wikipedia guideline on COI editing http://enwp.org/WP:COI• The Plain and simple conflict of interest guide http://enwp.org/WP:PSCOI• WikiProject Cooperation http://enwp.org/WP:COOPERATION• Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, CREWE http://www.facebook.com/groups/crewe.group• The history of COI editing on Wikipedia http://enwp.org/COI_editing_on_Wikipedia
  • 99. QuestionsIs it more efficient to just edit in secret?Does Wikipedia care about the truth?Are paid editors treated more unfairly than unpaid advocates?Does Wikipedia protect living people more than corporations?Is Jimmy Wales’ stance stronger than the actual policy?What do you do if a reliable source is wrong?Are PR ethics in conflict with Wikipedia policies?Are the interests of the client the same as the interests of the encyclopedia?Is the client’s interest to avoid embarrassment or fix articles? Is there a COI inworking on the encyclopedia for profit?Is it deceptive to make changes without disclosure?How do we engage ethical PR editors while dealing unethical ones?
  • 100. This presentation is licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0.It is free for anyone to use, reuse, modify, repurpose, or sell, provided attribution is given to its creator, who in this case is Wikipedia editor Ocaasi relying on texts taken directly from Wikipedia, and a variety of internet sources.