Wickedpedia: The dark side of Wikipedia

Summary:Behind the Web site, Wikipedia stories are being manipulated for cash and written and edited by insiders without a clue while outside experts are ignored.

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Wikipedia looks less trustworthy by the day.

Do a Web search on any popular product, event, company, person, whatever. What's the first site that shows up? Chances are it's Wikipedia. For better or for worse, people assume that anything they find in Wikipedia is Gospel truth. That's very foolish. It now seems that some of Wikipedia's writers and editors have sold out the truth for their own gains.

As reported by Violet Blue, two Wikipedia insiders, Roger Bamkin and Max Klein, have allegedly written, edited, and placed Wikipedia articles for paying clients.

The facts appear damning. Klein's consulting business untrikiwiki comes right out and states: “A positive Wikipedia article is invaluable SEO: it's almost guaranteed to be a top three Google hit. Surprisingly this benefit of writing for Wikipedia is underutilized, but relates exactly the lack of true expertise in the field. ... WE HAVE THE EXPERTISE NEEDED to navigate the complex maze surrounding 'conflict of interest' editing on Wikipedia. With more than eight years of experience, over 10,000 edits, and countless community connections we offer holistic Wikipedia services.”

Oh yeah, that sure sounds like a Wikipedia editor and not a shill. Since the scandal broke, Klein has tried to spin his business, “We’ve never made a single edit for which we had a conflict of interest on Wikipedia – ever. Although we have advertised such a service, we’ve not aggressively pursued it – and we have not accepted any clients interested in on-Wikipedia work.” So, Klein advertises a service in ALL CAPS in true spammish fashion, but he's never done it? Interesting.

He went on, “We believe – strongly – that there’s nothing inherently wrong with accepting for-profit engagements that involve contributing to Wikipedia, as long as it’s approached in a transparent and ethical fashion.” Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder would appear to disagree: Wales wrote in 2009  that “It is not ok with me that anyone ever set up a service selling their services as a Wikipedia editor, administrator, bureaucrat, etc. I will personally block any cases that I am shown.”

Bamkin has since resigned as a Wikimedia UK trustee . Klein is still listed as a Wikpedian in Residence for OCLC Research. The Wikipedia internal conflict over whether their actions should be condemned or whether the accusations are unfair attacks from outsiders continues in the site's discussions forums. The mere fact that many Wikipedia insiders are unable to see the problems speaks volumes.

For years, Wikipedia has danced around scandals about its reliability and transparency. The worst example of this, before this current scandal, was when a major Wikipedia site administrator and employee called Essjay, who claimed to be “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph. D. in theology and a degree in canon law,” was proven to be a high-school dropout. Wales first defended him but then distanced himself.

Aside from the scandals, Wikipedia's unique combination of self-righteousness and know-it-allism has long led it to deny experts from outside its closed circle from writing and editing stories. The most egregious recent example was when Wikipedia's editors wouldn't correct an entry about a novel by famous American author Philip Roth when the writer himself reported the error.

In a New Yorker article Roth explained, that he had asked for a serious misstatement about his novel “The Human Stain.” be removed. I'll let Mr. Roth explain what happened next:

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”

So there you have Wikipedia in all its glory: Touched with corruption, employing fakes, and so sure of its own correctness that it won't listen to the real experts. Have fun faking up your reports from Wikipedia articles kids!

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Topics: Social Enterprise, Censorship, Networking, Tech Industry

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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