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The goal of these questions is to tell a story, your story. Please feel free to share instinctual answers as well as considered commentary, any tensions you feel about issues, or neat anecdotes that will help another editor see through your eyes.


What got you started on Wikipedia? What has made you stay around so long?

It was in 2004, when comments elsewhere led me to discover that the coverage of science fiction fandom and fanzines was inadequate and incorrect. From there, by the old "browsing randomly through the encylopedia" syndrome, I discovered other areas where I could help improve this global project, and provide further information to the world: how cool is that!

When did paid advocacy come onto your radar as a problem?

From the beginning, it was obvious that some people were just trying to use Wikipedia to sell something.

What motivated you to join WikiProject Paid Advocacy Watch?

To provide another set of eyes, as we say, in an area where we are always going to be vulnerable.

What would you say about the relationship between Wikiproject Cooperation and Paid Advocacy Watch? How are they different? Can they work together?

Cooperation is much more trusting, more naïve in its approach to paid editing and paid editors; whereas PAW is more skeptical, if not downright cynical.

Do you think it should be policy that paid COI editors declare their conflict of interest?

Hell, yeah!

How do you feel about the 'Bright Line,' the policy proposal supported by Jimmy Wales that paid editors never make direct changes to articles?

It seems like the necessary minimum, a good place to start; with the obvious caveat that reversion of vandalism (and I mean real vandalism, not "we don't want that story publicized") is not a problem.


PR professionals from CREWE are complaining about the response times on Talk pages. Do you think Wikipedia needs to do something to better accommodate them?

No. Wikipedia does not exist as a convenience for them and their bosses. Why should they be privileged above anybody else? Most of the whiners don't bother to learn how we work, and seem unable or unwilling to do so. How complicated is it to post a {{helpme}} tag?

Do you think PR people can be good Wikipedia editors? How often? Can their Talk page contribution improve articles? How likely are they to make Wikipedia better?

Many of them are intelligent human beings, and could contribute to this project in other fields, if they wanted to: but not in the area where they are acting as hirelings. Their remarks in talk pages, when genuinely intended to improve the article from an NPOV and accompanied by proper disclosure of COI, can be valuable, and should always be welcomed. A more accurate Wikipedia is a better Wikipedia: never forget that. On the other hand: there is something about that trade that seems to kill the part of a human being's mind that says, "Wait a minute: that's not really true or accurate!", or at least numbs it. Of course, in modern Western society, where people are raised on a non-stop diet of advertising, that part of human judgement seems to have pretty much atrophied in general: look at what passes for political discourse!

How do you think the community's views on paid editing have evolved since 2006, when it first became a known practice?

I'm not sure how much they have, really. I think a few of the older editors (I won't name names) have been burned by assuming good faith on the part of editors who turned out to be cynically manipulating our trust and openness. We've certainly burned up a lot of pixels talking about it, though. (I'm not sure of that 2006 date, by the way - [citation needed].)

Do you think paid editing could ever be completely stopped? Is that your ideal outcome?

It certainly can't, without changing our model beyond recognizability or utility. It would be my ideal, I guess, that only those genuinely seeking to make this project more accurate were to edit; but we can't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

What is Paid Advocacy Watch working on now?

I don't watch it that sedulously, so I can't say off the top of my head.

The article I contributed to about CREWE is at the top of Paid Advocacy Watch's list to be checked for paid advocacy. Does this mean you have concerns about the article?

Well, duh! There is no industry more obsessed about its own image than the PR industry: look at the spammy articles about PR agencies, the way they hand out little statuettes and plaques to each other, the way they obsess with rankings and billings, etc. It would be beyond belief that the more ethically-challenged members of that trade would not be tempted, at least, to shade the nuances, to "give the truth scope".


What's your favorite quote or piece of advice about working on Wikipedia?

My own line about doing New Page Patrol and COI watch: "[D]rinking from the Magic Firehose of Sewage"!

Do you think Wikipedia is accountable for being accurate? What is your response to the survey saying that 60 percent of PR professionals claim there are errors on their clients' Wikipedia page. Does this justify editing privileges?

1) Of course we are accountable for accuracy, in all four million articles. 2) The survey, biased though it was, didn't say that, and I'm tired of the Big Lie tactics which are responsible for deliberately spreading the disinformation that it did. Always read the source documents, not the spindoctors' reports about them.

With the Conflict of Interest Noticeboard, Wikiproject Cooperation's Paid Editor Help board, and {edit requests}, do you think there's a need for another or a single centralized place for paid editors to seek assistance and feedback?

I think we are already bending over backwards to accommodate them. As Jimbo recently wrote on his own talk page, "For all the nonsense posted here and there by people who are soft on PR firms / paid advocates that bad things would happen if they aren't allowed to edit Wikipedia directly, there are essentially zero cases of legitimate problems that can't be resolved quite easily by doing the right thing in the first place.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:40, 21 July 2012 (UTC)"

Do you think editors motivated by professional or monetary gains taints Wikipedia's nobility and independence? you need to fix either "editors" or "taints"

No more than ideological cranks and single-issue fanatics; but that is quite a lot. The thing about mercenary editors is that they are paid (very well, in some cases) to do this full-time, and to persist in trying to sneak across the line and plant their distortions and spam; whereas those watching the borders for raids are more like me, a clerical worker working on his lunch break and weekends, who couldn't even afford to go to Wikimania when it was held in his own country!

Do you think paid COI editing is a natural part of the encyclopedia's evolution or a grave threat to its future?


If you personally could make money from working on Wikipedia in some capacity, either as a paid editor, a freelance writer, or a consultant, would you ever consider it?

Only if I abandoned the pleasure and duty of being a legitimate Wikipedian; which means you'd have to pay me a damned good salary with a solid contract in order for me to make that heartbreaking choice. I have nothing against being a paid writer: I am already a freelance writer, have been for over a quarter of a century; and if I were paid professional rates for what I do here, I could retire from my day job. Instead, I do it for the joy of adding to the sum of readily-available human knowledge.

What's your favorite piece of advice about editing Wikipedia?

"If you do not want your writing to be edited, used, and redistributed at will, then do not submit it here."

From my talk page[edit]

was there anything you wanted to add about your personal COI efforts, such as at COI/N? Maybe a story about an article you cleaned up...?

I really like helping the noobs who honestly don't understand why what they are doing is wrong, but whose topic is genuinely notable and does need an article. Most of these, of course, are non-profits rather than corporations. On the other hand, sometimes I'm really distressed when I have to be the big ol' meanie and tell somebody that their topic just isn't for Wikipedia. The latter, unfortunately, includes the Irish dance troupe my wife and daughter have both danced with: I had to reject an article about it, because it failed to establish notability and lacked reliable sources! I'd love to see a new one written, but I'm not about to touch that myself. --Orange Mike | Talk 22:17, 21 July 2012 (UTC)