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    I believe in Wikipedia's Five Pillars. I try to find the best sources I can (per WP:RS and WP:MEDRS) for articles I work on, I read them, and strive to write WP:NPOV content based on them.

    I work a lot here on articles related to health; I work some on religious topics, and on a smattering of other things. I've been around since 2008 and had made about 150,000 edits as of January 2018 (overall contribs)

    I had a Twitter impersonator -- this was not my account.

    If you would like to email me, you can reach me at jytdogwiki at gmail. Accept no substitutes!

    Some things that are useful

    Wikipedia is a laboratory of human behavior:

    Remember to keep first sentences simple. That stemmed from this AN thread, which led to this which led to this, where we got rid of only some of it. For the remainder, there was all of the following crap (there is more than this, actually):

    This is being sort of resolved with a "short description" template, Template:Short description being manually populated by en-WP editors, per this RfC. How the WMF will use that, is of course another question.

    Some outside-of-en-WP stuff


    I drafted an essay about why WP:MEDRS exists that was moved to mainspace in August 2015 and improved some by others. I hope you find it useful; please feel free to improve it! (it is too long!) It is here: WP:Why MEDRS?

    I also wrote User:Jytdog/How to try to provide a narrative, very practical map to how this place is set up and how it works.


    • On Bullshit is... timely. Some quotes!
      • "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves."
      • "Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."
    • Data via SwearTrek

    Assuming good faith

    New York City. Imagine if there were no locks on any door, and no guards either. Walk right on in; do what you want.

    Welcome to Wikipedia, one of the hottest properties on the internet, where we assume good faith, and anyone can edit.

    But somehow it works. Kind of.

    On the other hand, have you ever stepped in dog shit on the side walk?

    Advocacy editing in Wikipedia is dogshit on the sidewalk. People can do that... we are wide open. Aren't we. We really do assume good faith in being so open. That good faith gets abused all the time. But people do walk their dogs and clean up after themselves. Surprisingly often. The good faith is often justified.

    My very first edit back in 2008 was the result of such an unpleasant dogshit surprise. I had been reading intently, trying to understand exactly what a "turnkey system" is, when, splat -- Turn-Key is also known as a Real Estate service delivered by Colliers Corporate Solutions that allows companies to focus on their core compentencies while the complex opening of thier "retail" locations is managed by a single point of contact. Visit Colliers to see more details. Yes that is a spam link, and yes those are typos. Wretched. It pulled me totally out of reading and made me wonder "How do I get rid of this so nobody else has to be exposed to this?". So I created an account, and I fixed it.

    NPOV part 1: secondary sources

    I haven't found anyplace where this is stated in one place, so wanted to pull together my perspective on this. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is not a newspaper (we are in no hurry, we don't have to report the latest and best). It is not a journal or a book, pulling together all the primary sources into a coherent picture—that is what scientists and other scholars do in review articles in journals and what historians do in their books.

    Our mission is to summarize accepted knowledge. Summarize.... accepted knowledge. (See WP:NOTEVERYTHING, which is policy) We are all editors. Our role is to read and understand the reliable secondary and tertiary sources, in which experts have pulled the basic research together into a coherent picture, and summarize and compile what those sources say, in clear English that any reader with a decent education can understand.

    This is really fundamental to how this place actually works - we don't have competing "experts" here arguing about their interpretation of primary sources, or arguing over which primary source is most important or relevant. We avoid all that -- and this community of anonymous volunteers can actually function -- because we rely on published secondary sources that gather up and define "accepted knowledge" for us. The epistemology of Wikipedia is that we find accepted knowledge in the places where our knowledge-generating institutions put it. The higher you go up the institutional ladder, the more reliable the source. We want to use the most reliable sources we can, in order to achieve the mission as best we can.

    So please always look for secondary sources, and don't reach for primary sources. And for secondary sources, think "New York Times" not "Daily Mail" for general content. Think "literature review in the BMJ or "statement by NICE" for content about health.

    So whatever you are writing about, please don't start with primary sources and other self-published sources. Start with independent, secondary sources. If you need to turn to press releases, regulatory filings, or a company or personal website in order to fill in some gaps that are pointed to by the secondary sources (like.. exactly what date something happened, which might only be available in a press release), that's fine. But building whole articles, or whole sections, from an organization's website or press releases, is a recipe for content that will fail to meet WP:NPOV (but will be great PR).

    In topics I work in (especially articles related to health) I find that editors who want to cite primary sources and create extensive content based on them fall in one of three buckets.

    • Sometimes they are scientists, who treat Wikipedia articles like they themselves are literature reviews and want to synthesize a story from primary sources. But articles here are encyclopedia articles, which is a different genre. Each article is meant to be "a summary of accepted knowledge regarding its subject" (emphasis added). (see WP:NOT; WP:EXPERT also has some good discussion of this)
    • Sometimes they are everyday people, who don't understand that the scientific literature is where science happens - it is where scientists talk to each other. (And the literature in other fields is where scholars in those fields talk to one another) The scientific literature in particular is not intended for the general public, really. The internet has made it more available to the public, as has the open access movement. Both are a mixed blessing. The downside is that everyday people take research papers out of the context of the ongoing and always-developing discussion among scientists, and take individual papers as some kind of gospel truth, when each paper is really just a stepping stone (sometimes a false one) as we (humanity) apply the scientific method to understanding the world around us. Nonscientists don't know that many research articles in biology turn out to be dead ends, or unreplicable, or even withdrawn. (See Announcement: Reducing our irreproducibility from Nature, for example, which came after this and this were published). It is not that a review article somehow reaches backward in time and magically makes a research article more or less reliable; it is that you and i cannot know what research article will turn out to be replicable and/or accepted and built on by the relevant field, and which will not. Reviews tell us that. Here is an example of what we should not be doing. Remember that scientist who published work showing that if you shake cells (really!) you could turn them into stem cells? There was huge media hype around that. And yep, people rushed to add content based on the hyped primary source to WP. (Note the edit date, and the date the paper came out) only to delete it later when the paper was retracted. (We actually have a whole article on that mess Stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) We should not be jerking the public around like that. There is no reason to do that - we have no deadline here.
    • Sometimes editors wanting to use primary sources are agenda-driven — there is something in the real world that is very important to them, and they want that idea expressed in WP and given strong WP:WEIGHT. In the very act of doing that — in selecting a given primary source and giving it a lot of weight (or any weight at all, actually) — they are performing original research. It is sometimes hard to get people to see this.

    Who knows why people make edits like this, based on a primary source, hyping the people who did the work, and simply wrong? (The first actual test for humans published three years earlier)

    Wikipedia is not about what you think is important, right now, nor even what the media is hyping today. It is about what we know, as expressed in reliable sources. It is so hard for people to differentiate what they see and what they "know" from what humanity — as expressed by experts in a given field — knows.

    It is hard for people to think like scholars, with discipline, and actually listen to and be taught by reliable secondary sources instead of being driven by their own passions, or acting like barroom philosophers who shoot from the hip, or letting media hype drive them.

    NPOV depends mightily upon editors' grasp of secondary sources. We have to find good ones - recent ones - and absorb them, and see what the mainstream positions are in the field, what are "significant minority opinions", and what views are just plain WP:FRINGE. We have to let the best sources teach us. And yes, it takes commitment - both in time, and to the values of Wikipedia - to really try to find the best secondary sources, access them, absorb them, and learn from them how to distribute WEIGHT in a Wikipedia article. yep.

    What makes this even more challenging is that because this is a volunteer project, Wikipedia editors often come here and stay here due to some passion. This passion is a double-edged sword. It drives engagement and the creation of content but too often brings with it advocacy for one position or another. This is a quandary. The discipline of studying secondary sources and editing content based on those sources, in putting egos aside and letting the secondary sources speak, is the key that saves Wikipedia from our personal, limited perspectives.

    If you have inserted content into an article based on a primary source and I have deleted it, it is not because I disagree with the content. The content has nothing to do with it. The issue is that we as editors cannot perform the original research to select a given primary source over other primary sources (that say different things) and assign any weight to it at all.

    • While WP:OR allows primary sources to be used, it is "only with care, because it is easy to misuse them";
    • WP:NPOV says "Neutrality assigns weight to viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are relatively equal in prominence, describe both approaches and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint."
    • WP:VERIFY, in a section called "Original Research", says "Base articles largely on reliable secondary sources. While primary sources are appropriate in some cases, relying on them can be problematic. For more information, see the Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources section of the NOR policy, and the Misuse of primary sources section of the BLP policy."

    The call to use secondary sources is deep in the guts of Wikipedia. This is a meta-issue — a question of what it means to be an editor on Wikipedia.

    NPOV part 2: COI and advocacy in Wikipedia

    Along with my editing, I work on clearing advocacy out of articles, and at the Conflict of interest Noticeboard ("COIN"), trying to help deal with Conflict-of-interest editing on Wikipedia.

    Strictly speaking there is only one force that drives editors to violate the WP:NPOV and WP:NOTADVOCACY policies, and that is advocacy - namely using (really abusing) Wikipedia as a vehicle to promote or denigrate something (a person, a product, a company or institution, an idea...whatever).

    It is pretty easy to tell by reading an article with WP's mission in mind (and with with awareness of the policies and guidelines through which the editing community realizes the mission), if an advocate has had a big influence on it. There will be colorful language (puffery or denigrating), and an overall positive or negative tone. One or more aspects may have way too much or too little weight in line with the tone. There will generally be unsourced content, and sources that are present will be poor (press releases, blogs, etc), or even fake. When you look at the editing history of an article like that, you often find that one or more single purpose accounts have been working on it. (Our articles about universities and their faculty are generally terrible and rife with advocacy editing, much of it undisclosed paid editing by university employees but some from students or alumni. We even have an essay just for those folks at WP:BOOSTER.)

    The question here is why. Is the person "just" a fan or hater, or are they maybe the subject of the article, or a friend (or enemy), or are they an employee of a relevant company or institution, or of a PR agency? These are appropriate questions when one encounters POV editing. But they need to be real questions. (more on below, in the "How I try to help manage COI in WP subsection below)

    But generally we make a distinction within WP, between fans/haters (whom we just call "advocates"), and people with what we define as as a COI. (Please note that I said "generally" because if an editor is a hater of a person, the policy WP:BLPCOI applies (you cannot use WP to carry on a real world dispute with someone in Wikipedia), and the WP:COISELF part of the COI guideline apples to any external personal relationship, including writing about yourself.)

    In Wikipedia, you are editing under a COI if you write about yourself, your friends (or enemies) or family, or your employer or school, or your employer's products, or your real-world whatever, or you are a freelancer or work for a PR agency and are working on behalf of a client. All of those kinds of external relationships create a COI in Wikipedia, when a person works on the topics where they have a COI. Can a person with a COI, edit in a neutral way, with great sourcing, etc? Of course they can - many things are possible. However, humans being human, most often editors working under a COI edit as advocates. This is especially true for editors who work for PR agencies or who are freelancers working on articles for clients. We call editors like that, as well as company or university employees who are instructed to "buff up" some article, -- "paid advocates", or "paid editors".

    There are editors in Wikipedia who are gravely concerned about the corrupting influence of paid editing in WP. There is reason be concerned - it happens. No one knows how much, as there is no data on this, and no one knows what corrupts Wikipedia more, paid advocacy or unpaid advocacy.

    It is really hard for the community to manage people who are just fans or haters - and topics where there are big controversies in the real world tend to end up at WP:Arbcom.

    But it is clear, that conflict of interest is an issue for any knowledge-producing and knowledge-presenting organization, and WP is definitely one of them. We have a responsibility to manage the COI of editors who are part of the community.

    The big tension in WP

    As I said above, COI is created by associations and activities that people have outside of Wikipedia, such that editors have some actual interest - some connection with a person or organization outside of WP - that conflicts with Wikipedia's mission to present reliable, neutral information to the public. Really managing COI, would require the community to delve into those associations and activities.

    However, there is a stark tension between that, and a whole nexus of stuff deep in the guts of WP. Namely:

    • the other part of the mission of WP, to be "an encyclopedia that anyone can edit"
    • the closely associated anonymity (pseudonymity, really) that we permit editors to have (protected by WP:OUTING which is strictly enforced here)
    • the focus on behavior, content, and sources (not contributors) (protected by the no personal attacks policy and guided by the talk page guidelines)
    • in other words -- the fundamental principle here that it doesn't matter who you are here - what matters is what you do here.

    The nexus of all that, is what makes WP the radical experiment that it is - it makes this "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit".

    This tension between a strong desire to manage COI editing, and the "content not contributor" nexus, is why the community has failed to reach consensus to make our guidance document on COI into a policy and not just a guideline, as it is now. It is why, even after the Banc de Binary scandal and the Wiki-PR scandal, the community had no less than five proposals to ban paid editing and every one of them failed to reach consensus. (If you want to read the failed proposals, you can find them in the "Further reading" section of the COI editing in WP article. If you do, really try to listen to what both sides are saying. The tension I am describing is very easy to see.)

    Additionally, there are RW concerns with making claims about editors' outside associations - and especially taking action based on those claims. In some parts of the world, libel and slander cases are not difficult to bring and responsible parties like members of Arbcom ~could~ be financially responsible for defending themselves in court, and ~could~ be held personally/financially responsible for decisions they make.

    As a result of the community's failure to act (at least that is how I explain what follows), the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia and other Wiki-projects, updated the Terms of Use to make it a requirement that paid editors disclose their "employer, client, and affiliation", and that they follow community policies and guidelines (which would mean our COI guideline). This community has struggled with how to implement that.

    Arbcom's stance on these issue has generally been rooted in the "content not contributor" nexus; this makes sense as Arbcom should judge things based on the community's core values, and this is very core. However, along with te rest of the community Arbcom has been evolving to also express the value of protecting our content's integrity and the problems caused by unmanaged COI.

    In the February 2015 decision, Wifione (about an admin who was found to be socking and long-term POV pushing, and who was ~probably~ editing for pay), the committee stated as a principle:

    The Committee has no mandate to sanction editors for paid editing as it is not prohibited by site policies. The arbitration policy prevents the Committee from creating new policy by fiat. The Committee does have, however, a longstanding mandate to deal with activities often associated with paid editing—POV-pushing, misrepresentation of sources, and sometimes sockpuppetry—through the application of existing policy.

    In January 2017, in response to a WMF Legal Department statement about paid editing and OUTING posted earlier that month, which suggested a loosening of OUTING protections for paid editors or people who are apparently paid editors, Arbcom posted a statement in which it fiercely upheld the values of privacy and protection from harassment as described in the harassment policy, and opposed any loosening of the OUTING policy.

    In the January 2018 decision, Conduct of Mister Wiki editors (about the conduct of an admin who was editing for pay, and disclosed it but was found to have done things to evade review of their paid edits) the committee stated as a principle:

    Because Wikipedia is intended to be written from a neutral point of view, it is necessary that conflicts of interest are properly disclosed, and articles or edits by conflicted editors are reasonably available for review by others. Editors are expected to comply with both the purpose and intent of the applicable policies, as well as their literal wording.

    So you see, the tension remains between maintaining our comittment to "content not contributor" and managing COI. So what to do? I don't see the community coming to any Big Solutions any time soon. So we just need to work on the ground, editor by editor and edit by edit, as always. See my approach below.

    But first, it useful to walk through some of the issues involved in paid editing, that everybody should be clear about:

    • Paid editors are still editors; as people with editing privileges, they have the concomitant responsibility to aim for the mission of WP to be resource for learning (not a vehicle for promotion) and must follow all the policies and guidelines. Just following the PAID policy (disclosing, and putting paid edits through prior peer review instead of editing directly) is not enough. A paid editor who only advocates for promotional content about their client or employer (or to remove well-sourced negative content, or to erase history and focus only on what is current, seeking to make the page in WP a proxy for the organization's website), is WP:NOTHERE to build an encyclopedia.
    • Paid editors exploit Wikipedia and the volunteer community, and it is worth taking some time to walk through this.
    "Exploit" as a verb means, 1) "to utilize, especially for profit; turn to practical account. 2. to use selfishly for one's own ends" (
    Wikipedia is what it is -- this resource that zillions of people come to read every day -- because of zillions of volunteer hours of work. These hours and hours of work, were donated by people inspired by the values of Wikipedia and its mission. Where Wikipedia has excellent content, it is the product of... well, love. A truly and deeply good thing, created for free, to be used for free.
    Because Wikipedia gets all these eyeballs, people mistakenly want to use Wikipedia for promotion. And the whole economy of paid editing, exploits that mistaken desire, and the value created by the volunteer community. This is not a moral judgement (!) - these are simply the facts of the matter. There are three levels of exploitation in all paid editing:
    1. promotion of the client here in WP, based on the existing eyeball-drawing value of WP which has been created by the volunteer community
    2. personal enrichment of the paid editor
    3. the time of the volunteer community, dealing with the paid editor's contributions, and dealing with the paid editor him- or herself, if behavioral issues arise. (this is always going on, but can become really significant, with stuff like Orangemoody and sock farms like Wiki-PR)
    People handle that exploitation in various ways, and with various levels of awareness.
    • On the paid editing side, some paid editors are oblivious to this foundation of exploitation, and quite arrogantly make demands of the volunteer community or proclaim their "rights" in ways that are.... just hard to read and watch. Some -- a few -- paid editors are actually clueful, and are very non-aggressive and respectful of this underlying foundation. Most of course, fall in the messy middle.
    • On the volunteer side, some people hate the fact that people abuse Wikipedia for promotion and that some people are here to make money. Others don't care, at all, and look only at whether an editor (any editor) adds useful content to Wikipedia or not. Most of the editing community is kind of queasy.
    • Another way to think about the exploitation issue, is to consider Wikipedia, as a public good, as something like a national forest, or a river.
    There are actually ways that everybody is OK with people making money off public goods like national forests or rivers. There are concessions granted for controlled logging, for example, and people have businesses like tube rides or the like on rivers. The public wants that kind of stuff well-regulated so it doesn't destroy the public good or overwhelm it with commercialism, and want licenses granted fairly... but the general principle there is something most people agree to.
    But what about dumping industrial waste in a national park, or into a river? Pretty much every person sees that as horrendous. And most (not all) paid editors' editing, is raw promotionalism full of spam; industrial waste.
    Turning back to the paid editing thing -- there is actually a kind of regulated process here for that. Paid editors need to disclose, and should not edit directly, but should rather put edits through peer review before they are added to Wikipedia.
    But there is a whole "black market" for paid editing, where people create SOCK accounts, not disclosing that they are editing for pay, and directly add content about their clients to Wikipedia.
    These people are like waste management companies that sell services cheaply to other companies, and then dump the garbage they collect into national parks or rivers. (Think about it - it takes way more skill and connections, not to mention time and money - to get the New York Times to cooperate in a PR exercise. But anybody with a computer and a bit of know-how can add stuff to Wikipedia; getting PROMO in Wikipedia is cheap. This is what paid editors are selling - cheap PR.)
    Or they are like consultants who advise companies how to avoid environmental regulation, so they can keep dumping toxic waste into rivers.
    Right? In both cases, people are abusing the public good to make money for themselves, and playing on misguided desires of clients to get what they want, cheaply.
    Wikipedia volunteers spend a significant amount of time cleaning up pollution that has been dumped into Wikipedia.
    The WMF doesn't like to talk about that, as it highlights a bad thing, but it is some of the most important work the editing community does.
    • Even people who edit for pay who follow PAID, depend on the volunteer community to get their edits into Wikipedia, and to maintain them. This is a really important thing for everybody to keep in mind. There is exploitation even here.
    • Paid editors should be non-aggressive; please be aware that you are asking other people to donate time so that you, individually, can make money.
    • Volunteers should be aware that any paid editor you are working with, is making money based on your time. That is not a reason to abuse paid editors (it is never a good thing to abuse anybody right?). Please keep the content in focus. Sometimes paid editors can bring useful content suggestions, and if they do, this can benefit the project. But be wary of paid editor's proposals and review them with COI in mind - these proposals are ~likely~ to be promotional and are ~likely~ to omit negative things.
    And of course please don't let the engagement become a time suck for you. If a paid editor gets too aggressive, please remind them clearly and nicely that they are essentially exploiting the volunteer community and should cool it.
    • In my view, it is possible to do paid editing ethically, and to contribute real value to the project without being a detriment. But to pull that off, the paid editor needs to be clueful about Wikipedia and the editing community and really committed to the mission and our values. The paid editor also needs to be very self-aware, needs to operate with extraordinary self-control. This set of qualities is rare. But I have encountered people like this! I am always hopeful that paid editors can learn this stuff. But in my experience, most paid editors' presence in Wikipedia is detrimental (harming our content and draining volunteer time cleaning up after them, and dealing with them) and the reason is that they lack some or all of these things, and are not even much interested in them.

    Eliminating COI and managing COI

    Everybody in WP wants content that is NPOV and well sourced. Everybody agrees that editors with a COI tend to be biased. Views diverge strongly from that point, about what to do.

    There are two main approaches to dealing with COI - eliminating it, and managing it.

    With regard to my own external interests, I have disclosed my COI and have said that I will not edit content where I have a COI, and I don't - I don't put myself in a situation where I am in conflict between the mission of WP and my outside interests. I have eliminated the conflict. My sense (and my hope) is that this is what most WP editors do. Each of us has interests in the real world and WP is so big that there is probably no one who edits here, who wouldn't be in conflict on some article.

    There are people in the community who have wanted to somehow eliminate conflicted editing by policy or by some other "top down" method. But per the section above, about the tension between privacy and integrity, that is impossible to do in WP. To eliminate COI from the top down, editors would have to disclose their real world identity to someone, and their external interests, and we would need to have some software process that would block editors from editing content where they have a COI. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

    Other efforts to reduce COI editing (an approach to eliminating it) have been to try to work with sites like Elance to get them to disallow posting freelancing jobs for editing Wikipedia. We have gotten some traction there, but it is spotty.

    The other approach is to "manage" COI. This is widely done in the real world, and the two steps for managing COI in the RW are disclosure and peer review. More on this below.

    How I try to help manage COI in WP

    The approach I have arrived at after a bunch of trial and error, is in a framework of "management", which is something that I think everybody in WP could get behind. The concept of "managing COI" is widely used in academia and elsewhere. In any kind of management situation, you get the best results by educating people about what you want, and giving them the tools to do what you want.

    I just want to underline that. Putting a COI notification on an editor's talk page, or tagging an article, is not really educating anyone. Many conflicted editors I work with have no idea about COI but as I talk with them, the lights go on, and they get it. (Many of them - not all). Most everybody comes to WP due to some passion or some conflict. If we want to grow the community (and we do), educating folks is really important. It is labor intensive, but important.

    When I encounter edits that make a COI seem likely (it always starts and ends with content -- it is the person's edits that raise a flag of what we call "apparent COI"), I first look to see if the editor has disclosed any COI formally (which is rare) or if they have written something on a talk page or in an edit note, where they disclose some relationship. I also look at their pattern of editing, to see if the pattern tells some clear story (like they are a WP:SPA for X and write promotionally about it, or if their editing is about a random set of people and companies, and generally promotional and badly sourced, which are hallmarks of a freelancer).

    Then I approach the editor who made the edits, and explain the importance of preserving the integrity of WP content, and if I have found some disclosure, I explain that they have a COI in WP and what that means. If I have found no disclosure, I ask the editor to disclose any connection they have with the subject of the article (and I note that they don't have to disclose personal information per OUTING, just the relationship). When I ask, the question is authentic. I do not know, and I cannot know, what external relationships an editor might have, unless he or she discloses it. In conversation, I draw out a disclosure. Once that is done, I ask them to follow our "peer review" process. In other words, if they want to create an article, they should submit it through AfC, and if they want to change content to an existing article, they should submit a suggestion on the article Talk page using the {{request edit}} template/tool.

    Sometimes people's responses in dialogue make it clear (believably) that they have no COI, but really are just fans (or haters) - that they are editing here as advocates. If that happens, I ask them to read WP:SPA, the WP:ADVOCACY essay (which is really good), and the WP:PROMO policy, and ask them to try to be more neutral. If someone is an expert and doesn't quite get how WP works (and especially if they were adding a bunch of citations to their own work to articles) I point them to WP:EXPERT which is also very helpful. And in all this, I ask them for responses, and to ask me if they have questions. I try to generate an actual dialogue. That is how education happens.

    I'll add here that sometimes these discussions go well, and sometimes they go badly. When they go badly, it could be that I was having an off day and was too harsh, or that the editor reacts defensively and can't get past that, or some combination. Humans are messy, and dealing with COI issues in WP is especially messy. But generally discussions go well.

    This is a management approach to the issue. Most COI editors are happy to understand the process and say they will comply, and I generally find them complying. (I keep semi-template language here that I use when I approach people. Please feel free to use it - it is just my sandbox so is messy, sorry)

    I take the same approach with anybody who has an apparent COI at the beginning of the process, and it flows the same way regardless of the kind of COI they turn out to have, if they have one.

    In my experience, contract editors are more difficult. They tend to hide and when approached, tend to lie more. Thinking about where they are coming from, this makes sense, as their income is dependent on their editing here (unlike a company employee who probably has lots of other things they do at the company) and following the COI management process puts their income at risk; the disclosure leads to scrutiny and possibly deletion of their contributions, and the peer review process makes things less efficient and less predictable (both of which, from their perspective, mess up their business model).

    Many paid editors come with a sense of entitlement, thinking they have a "right" to edit and feeling unhappy and aggrieved with scrutiny and suspicion. Sometimes, more education - explaining the context more - helps. When I explain what Wikipedia actually is (per WP:NOT), that editing WP is not a right, but a privilege (freely offered to all, but that can be restricted or lost), and the history of paid editing scandals, and really emphasize the importance of not shitting in your own backyard (in the sense that biased content harms the credibility of Wikipedia, and if the public loses trust in WP, the very reason that the paid editor wants to get content into WP will vanish, as fewer and fewer people will consult it), sometimes they "get it", and stop complaining and start complying. Sometimes. When they do, offering them the {{paid}} template is a simple tool to help them disclose per the ToU.

    But even so, many paid editors have short term vision and goals, and want to get their edits done and get paid. These are the situations that require a pivot from a management approach to an enforcement approach. For these editors, the COI cannot be managed, but needs to eliminated. We do this by removing editing privileges, completely or in part.

    In the Wikipedia that actually exists, the enforcement approach is difficult, due to OUTING and the support for paid editing in some quarters, which makes it unwise to be too aggressive in taking admin actions without a very solid basis (admin actions should of course always have a solid basis, but admin actions around paid editing will likely be scrutinized in light of the controversy and strong feelings) The advantage of having gone through everything I describe above, is that sometimes when a paid editor is finally resistant - sometimes - he or she actually discloses that he or she has edited for pay, without making a full disclosure per the ToU. In those cases, the enforcement of the ToU is simple, and there are growing number of admins who will block for clear violations of the ToU. In cases where they haven't disclosed editing for pay, enforcement requires time and work, gathering diffs and presenting a case.

    Either way, in my experience, managing COI editors, contract or otherwise, takes a bunch of work, and the "enforcement approach" is generally only something that is useful to deploy at the end of the process, when the COI cannot be managed, but must be eliminated. Sometimes the work that has already been done makes that easy; other times it requires a bunch more work gathering diffs.

    With regard to editors who really appear to have a COI, but deny it when asked (like Wifione) - or who are advocates (aka POV-pushers) - at the end of the day, if they are indeed warping Wikipedia, that is going to be evident in their editing. (Right? If they actually warped WP, it will be there to see, with diffs to be had) You will be able to see them deleting well-sourced content that is opposed to their interests, and adding only content and sources that favor their interests. You can see this in the evidence page of the Wifione case, here. So the case to bring, is an NPOV-violation case. Most of the evidence in the Wifione case was prior to February 2013. The case could have been settled two years before it was, based on that evidence. I don't know why (and I really don't) it wasn't brought sooner. Politics? Someone just didn't think of it? Don't know. But we have the model now. I have tried to bring a case or two like this, and will continue to try. This is the only viable way to deal with concerns about editors like this.


    This is based on the letter and in some places just the spirit of the WP:COI guideline and WP:PAID policy. The specific section of the COI guideline is here, btw, which I urge folks to review if they haven't, including the link to Meta from there.

    • On paid editing generally:
      1. Anybody who is paid to edit, should disclose that at their Userpage (listing employers, clients, and articles worked on) and locally (at the talk page of whatever article they work on for pay, and in any discussion like DYK or featured pictures, with respect to content they generated for pay)
      2. Editing for pay is generally considered as causing two kinds of conflict of interest.
        With regard to content, the paid editor has a client, which has its own interests, and the paid editor generally wants to keep getting paid so is generally going to be loathe to add any negative content about their client. COI on content is always local to an article or topic.
        with regard to policies and guidelines, and especially guidance about COI and paid editing or closely related things like tags and their removal, somebody who edits for pay has a rather obvious COI with regard to their personal finances and what these documents say they can and cannot do in Wikipedia.
      3. Generally, the community manages COI (including that generated by people being paid to edit) by asking people to disclose, and to not edit directly but rather by submitting things for other people to review and implement, where they have a COI, are paid, etc.
    • My general perspective is that paid editors who act in good faith have a place in the community. The activity itself isn't intrinsically "evil" nor are people who do it. We can get great content from them, and they can be non-disruptive members of the community -- but it is so important that they be clueful, self-aware, and self-restrained. That is rare; paid editing is actually really hard to do well, and few people can pull it off with regard to content and with regard to behavior.
    • So how does all that apply to GLAM?
      1. From a structural perspective, GLAM is a kind of paid editing. The editor is getting personal income. The employer/host has its own interests. In the case of GLAM, there are aspects where the host's mission and WP's mission are aligned, which is what makes GLAM different from commercial paid editing. GLAM can be beautiful thing - a win/win for WP and for the host, and a win for the editor, who also gets personal income.
      2. GLAM participants should disclose their GLAM activities at their Userpage and locally.
      3. With regard to content, and COI is always local to an article or topic:
        1. As long as the GLAM participant is using the institution's resources to support WP content (e.g adding pictures or references), we don't ask them to put things through prior review. This, and precisely this, is where we cut GLAM editors slack, because the host's interests and Wikipedia's interests are aligned enough.
        2. In my view, if a GLAM participant starts editing content about their host (and this would include for example faculty or staff or programs of the host) they are conflicted, and they should put that through prior review. Content about the host is where the risk of promoting the host gets high and that risk should be managed with prior review.
      4. With regard to policies and guidelines, a GLAM participant should never directly edit policies, guidelines, templates etc that directly concern their activities as a paid editor as long as they are still doing that (or intend to keep doing it, if they are between GLAM gigs).
      5. In general, GLAM editors should be acutely aware of their conflicts of interests, and of the slack they are cut. They should also be mindful of the reputation and status of GLAM programs generally and the interesting way they fit in the universe of activities within the WP editing community.

    Self-initiated COI Investigation

    I initiated a COI investigation of myself with regard to ag biotech, articles concerning which are often contentious, and in discussion of which COI charges can fly too easily: results are here. (diff)

    Here is what happened there. Via email with an oversighter, I disclosed my real life identity and what i do for a living, my life story, and my work history, and we had some discussion about that. The oversighter with whom I emailed evaluated all that (and based on what he wrote, did some research on his own based on what i told him) and found no COI for anything related to ag biotech. I did not mention editing for pay, as I have never done that. I was not asked if I edit for pay and we did not discuss that. In case I have never said it before (it is hard to believe I haven't with all the hammering I have gotten): i have never been paid, or received any consideration of any kind, for anything I do in Wikipedia, nor have I expected to, nor do I expect to, nor have I ever agreed to. I edit here purely as a volunteer; it has never been, and is not, part of my day job nor any paid work nor any volunteer work i do outside of my day job. I have tried to make that as broad and clear as possible - I am not a paid editor. I have no COI for ag biotech.

    If you care, i explained how i got interested in ag biotech on an older version of this page, which you can see here.

    I ask myself the questions in WP:Tendentious editing all the time. I cringe sometimes, but overall, I think I am clean. We are all human, and I have made mistakes. When I have, and have seen them, I have acknowledged them and done what I could to apologize and correct them. The goal of my work here is to create a great encyclopedia per the five pillars.

    Privileges removed

    I was "indefinitely topic-banned from all pages relating to genetically modified organisms and agricultural chemicals, broadly interpreted"; I was "admonished for their poor civility in relation to the locus of this case", and an interaction ban was imposed with another user. The TBAN was made appealable in 12 months.

    Privileges removed then restored

    • On 27 June 2016 I was blocked for violating WP:OUTING in the course of doing COI work, and that block was lifted on 8 August 2016 with an indefinite ban from discussing any COI of editors (see unblock notice for details), which was appealable in six months and every six months thereafter. I appealed in February 2017 and the TBAN was lifted. ARCA discussion is here; notice given to me here.


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