Wikipedia talk:For publicists publicizing a client's work
There are some key omissions in the article.
A paid editor may come here to add neutral information supported by reliable third party sources about a client, but not to promote them. Wikipedia does not permit promotion, whether about a company, an non-profit organization, or a cause. I and others editors ruthlessly remove promotional material when we find it, and I and all the other administrators here immediately delete articles that are exclusively promotional. However, factual information about an organization known for doing good work or producing good products will also of course intrinsically promote them, and that can be a desirable side effect. The only real way of learning the way we use the distinction is by careful observation of our discussions.
This article implies that it is safe to edit articles directly, or to create them as articles. However, this is not generally accepted here. To edit directly is therefore dangerous to both the paid editor and their client. We do not absolutely forbid the direct editing of articles by promotional editors, but we accept it very reluctantly. Most WPedians would probably absolutely ban it, except that in reality we have no way of preventing it while still permitting anonymous editing--and permitting anonymous editing is a very basic principle here.
The standard advice is to suggest edits on the talk page of the article, and to create new articles as drafts in user space or at WP:Articles for creation. That's the advice given by the most generally accepted page on the subject Wikipedia:Plain and simple conflict of interest guide. You will not go wrong if you follow the approach there, your client will have the benefit of your proper work, and you will have the benefit of acquiring a reputation as a responsible editor. At present in WP, anything else is very likely to lead to the edits being rejected, and to the company for which you edit losing reputation. It may even lead to a block on your editing for being a purely promotional editor. A purely promotional editor is one who seeks to promote a subject, not add encyclopedic information. It's perfectly OK to promote a subject, but not at WP. Our own reputation and usefulness in the world depends on being free from advertising or promotion. We're the only place in the world with open community editing of which this can be said, and the very fact that we have this reputation is , after all, why you've come here. If nobody paid us any serious attention, neither would your client.
I personally as an individual would also say that if you are absolutely sure that what you are doing is totally neutral, and soundly supported by very high quality third party sources, you might consider editing the article directly or even creating one--but I would never suggest someone attempt it without substantial prior experience, and awareness of the risks involved. The usual way to acquire this experience is to work first on other subjects of personal interest to you--and to do this first by correcting typographical errors and adding references, before starting to write substantial content. This is an unusual medium, and nobody writes naturally in our style: it must be learnt. Everywhere else in the world opinion is expected: here it is prohibited, and only the opinion of recognized reliable sources is accepted. Everywhere else in the world except in the most academic writing one can rely on giving a reasonable-sounding or using general sources: here everything must be attributed in an exact and specific manner to published sources that meet a restricted set of requirements , given at WP:Reliable sources.
The specific points in the essay are in my opinion accurate, though i would add a few more:
- It is not generally advisable to adopt a new username for each project; the reputation you acquire from your editing is an important asset.
- Sometimes disappointed customers or others with an implacable point of view will post strongly negative material. Never remove it yourself, but ask at the talk page or ask any administrator. Just as we do not permit promotion. we do not permit advocacy or abuse. If the matter is not resolved quickly, there is a mechanism WP:OTRS where selected highly responsible editors will deal with it confidentially.
- If a legal issue is involved, WP:OTRS is the best course to follow. Any genuine issue will be properly and rigorously handled, but you will be blocked if you suggest legal action elsewhere in WP.
- Never ask to know the identity of another editor, or use the real name of an editor who does not openly disclose it on their user page. We take anonymity very seriously.
- this is the English WP. It covers the world, but in English. The WPs for other languages have policies of their own; they are similar to our policies, but not identical. For example, many do not allow fair use of copyright material. DGG ( talk ) 22:31, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
- On the accusation that I am paid to edit Wikipedia, I am not. I have responded to that where you posted on my user talk page and at the schools group talk page. When I first read this topic, I thought you were using the generic you and, at first, did not realize you were charging me with a violation. Now I do, although I have also read your response. Apart from that, you raise interesting points.
- I'll think about these points and check them, because I want the essay I wrote to be both accurate and useful and am glad to edit it. I have some concerns, though.
- If we get too strict in an essay, it'll get ignored. Our system lets people edit before they've read policies and guidelines, never mind essays. I recently proposed amending a higher-level page and got push-back from an editor framing consensus because what's binding is, in their view, already massive.
- PR people often offer the ability to get a page up at little cost; as far as they know, they just edit in minutes and it's done. The essay shouldn't be stricter than the policies and guidelines are already. Instead, the essay should explain issues relative to what PR people are likely to think about, such as the posting of a single message across all media with somewhat minimal tailoring, which in our case can look like copyright violation and advertising. The essay should try to offer helpful actionable advice, so when they finish reading or skimming they're empowered in Wikipedia's favor and their own.
- We indeed must prevent advertising, because someone might be legally liable for violation of a right of publicity if a Wikipedia article is actually a disguised advertisement. Who's liable is less clear (I'm not a lawyer); I'm told it wouldn't be the Wikimedia Foundation, but in that case it almost certainly would be an editor, maybe various editors who collaborate on an article, some perhaps innocently. Now that the Foundation's servers have virtually moved from California to Virginia, perhaps substantively different laws apply. I plan to add to the essay's lead to caution against writing an ad.
- The essay hardly used promotion or like terminology, but the essay does speak of neutrality and balance, essentially addressing the same concept.
- Promoting a cause does not seem to be barred or even restricted by COI (WP:COI had only irrelevant uses of the string "cause"). Barring cause promotion contradicts Wikipedia's design. An article has to be neutral but an editor does not. Almost no Wikipedia editor is going to be neutral, and that includes those who do only copyediting or other neutral-seeming work. If we wanted editors to be neutral, for one thing we'd say so; but the neutrality policy is about articles and not editors, sources, or subjects. For another thing, we'd have to assign topics to editors either against their interests or randomly, and if we did very much of that we'd lose almost every editor we have, or we'd have to pay them. Once we start talking about a cause we could be talking about any article subject. The Pope would have a conflict of interest in editing an article about the Roman Catholic Church but an unemployed baptized devout Catholic probably does not have to declare a COI for either those articles or articles about competing faiths, and it's likely most religious-article editing is by editors who are adherents and competitors, and science articles are probably by editors who believe that science is valid or (occasionally) invalid, not by editors who are neutral about the validity of science.
- If a PR representative's goal is to show a posted page to a client and to show the Wikipedia domain in the browser's address bar, there's not much we can do. All the PR rep has to do is create offline, post at noon, flip a laptop to the client at 12:05, and accept the client's pleased look and payment, knowing if anything bad happens to the page after that the client probably won't notice and won't blame the PR office. This essay is most useful for the PR person whose interest on behalf of one client in Wikipedia is more long-term, and I think that's somewhat unusual. For a PR person to be doing much non-clientist editing is probably even rarer. To the PR staff, there's probably more consistent gain in managing a client's outbound Twitter stream.
- Whether one or more usernames is better is an open question. Institutions often shun controversy that doesn't help them, and expect their workers, executives, and consultants to do likewise with their personal lives. To preclude an editor's work on Wikipedia being a reputational problem for an employer, multiple usernames may be a solution. Your point about an editor's consistency, on the other hand, is also important, and to that we should also consider that some editors seem to have semi-anonymous usernames for purposes of haranguing editors or dodging responsibility. Thus, a case can be made either way for one or multiple usernames. Wikipedia may prefer single usernames for exactly the reason you suggest, but permits multiplicity.
- There's more I didn't add to the essay but could have. One institution had a website with a collection of news media articles about the institution. It was convenient, but I didn't take a chance that their online copies of the news stories might have been edited in their favor (presumably on the ground of deleting alleged errors), so I took only the bibliographic information so I could locate the articles in reliable databases, which I supplemented with noninstitutional research both into full texts of those articles and for other articles not listed by the institution. so I'd get all of the criticisms deserving of weight. I doubt PR people would treat their client with such caution and do what I did, and I didn't think that tactic would be accepted by PR folks. Instead, I addressed the issue of balance in other ways.
- Nick Levinson (talk) 17:57, 26 February 2013 (UTC) (Corrected a link, I hope: 18:02, 26 February 2013 (UTC))
- Some points above went unanswered in the rush to keep up with recent developments.
- You say that "Wikipedia does not permit promotion ... about ... a cause." Not so; it's entirely allowed, as I discussed above (although I recall another editor long ago also saying approximately it's not). But if you want to propose that cause-driven editors be subject to COI, consider a distinction between accurate and inaccurate editing, whether deliberate or accidental. An editor might believe that, in physics, string theory is worth developing and mostly solidly theorized but has faults that should be fixed. The editor would likely then be cause-driven by definition and, even so, could therefore edit to show both sides or only the positive side. The former could be motivated by a desire to get physicists to think more about the flaws and therefore to perfect the theory and, of course, that kind of editing is allowed. However, even the latter, editing to show only the positive, is equally allowed except in articles being created and as long as the editor is not deleting negative information that should stay, provided the article stays neutral. The editor could do neutral editing for an organization, too, but if the editor is paid by the organization then that editor risks being fired for reporting negatives. That risk of firing does not apply to causes. One Black entertainer in the U.S., formerly an oft-criticized sidekick to entertainer Howard Stern (I think no longer there), once said, approximately, that she had been fired from the Black race many times, but being disavowed even by leaders does not have the same power as being fired from an employer's payroll. That general distinction, and the weightier issue that almost all editing by people who choose what they'll edit or not is cause-driven, I think, will militate against COI being applicable to cause-driven editing, but if you think it's valid, propose it.
- You wrote above, "the only real way of learning the way we use the distinction [between "promotional material" that is deleted and "factual information about an organization known for doing good work or producing good products [that] will also of course intrinsically promote them" that is not deleted] is by careful observation of our discussions." I sometimes look at talk on matters I'm not involved in and learn something but often not much because one also has to look at various associated materials to understand context and I don't usually do that degree of research for matters minor to me. And Wikipedia is not designed for that, or there'd be better finding aids for talk posts on a point, such as synonymizing posts' words for classification. Wikipedia wants us to glean policies and guidelines from the policies and guidelines themselves. Since you find that the policies and guidelines are inadequate for understanding the distinction, I suggest you take the burden of seeking edits to the policies and guidelines so that what you, as admin, do is not only consistent with policies and guidelines but is also understandable by the rest of us editors reading the policies and guidelines. Until those edits appear by anyone's hand, I will go by the policies and guidelines as they are and rarely by talk posts in which I'm not involved, and that's true of most conscientious editors. Editors who send us links to educate us on how to edit almost never send links to talk topics, if they ever do.
- You wrote on my talk page, ".... I bas [sic] the advice on the current trend of discussions. I personally support direct editing, but it seems that almost nobody else does, and I do not feel it fair to give advice to people that is different from current practice." WP:COI supports some direct editing. If "almost nobody else" "support[s] direct editing", then WP:COI should be considered for amendment. Absent that, all of us should rely on WP:COI as it stands, not on the possibility of a future consensus for change.
- Nick Levinson (talk) 20:18, 2 March 2013 (UTC) (Clarified phrasing: 20:25, 2 March 2013 (UTC))
Hi Nick! I wanted to draw your attention to several resources we have and have been developing relating to this subject.
- WP:COI, the guideline for this subject
- WP:PSCOI, a one page introduction and how-to guide for COI editors
- WP:CO-OP, a WikiProject for assisting paid editors
- Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, a Facebook group composed of editors and public relations pros who try and work together and discuss issues
- WP:COI+ a proposal for a kind of PR/paid editor/COI editor certification and best practices protocol
There's been lots of discussion about this controversial issue and I'd like to bring you into it to further clarify and improve our guidance in this area. Cheers, Ocaasi t | c 19:09, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
- Interesting. I'll be a bit delayed in getting to it but it looks helpful. The first one, of course, is already in the article, but not all of them are. Nick Levinson (talk) 17:46, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
- Done. I added the links that were not already in except for the failed proposal. I'm dubious a failed proposal should get much notice given the purpose of the essay; presumably it failed because consensus disagreed with it, so including it would likely be confusing. I added the Facebook item because it was a link to an article in Wikipedia and thus presumably the Facebook page itself has been screened by other editors (I'm not on Facebook so I can't access that page). Thanks. Nick Levinson (talk) 20:31, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
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