User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 83

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The preference for volume over quality

Jimbo is it true that, "[b]y policy and precedent, it is better to have a low quality article about a notable topic than not to have the article at all?" I keep on running into that POV over and over again (quoted here from the high school notability discussion that is ongoing) and it quite frankly makes me wonder if I'm in the right place. I thought we were trying to write an encyclopedia, the kind of source that people can trust, but I keep hearing people saying that quality is supposed to take a back seat to quantity. Is that the project you envisioned? If it is, I am indeed in the wrong place. Thanks.Griswaldo (talk) 17:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

It probably depends on what people mean by "low quality". If an article is low quality because it is incomplete or missing information, then I think that is better than not having an article at all. If an article is low quality because it is wildly inaccurate, overtly promotional, etc. then I think it would be better to not have an article at all. -- Ed (Edgar181) 17:44, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
In broad outlines, at least, I agree. Some bad articles should be deleted, even if in theory they could be improved. And some bad articles should be kept and improved. I'm a big fan of dated tagging - if an article seems sort of ok but needs more sources, then tag it. And if we see in due course that it isn't getting fixed, then delete it.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 06:21, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Griswaldo and I have frequently disagreed on talk pages of admittedly controversial articles, but on this point I agree completely.
An article presented to the world as a half-arsed attempt at speedily increasing a contributor’s edit count, private agenda, or just plain sloppiness is a bad reflection on Wikipedia and fuel for external comment that this encyclopaedia is not to be trusted/relied on.
The question of quality goes not only to matters like incomplete (and therefore possibly biased) information, or inaccuracy. It also concerns the prominent reliance on too few sources for many articles, making some read like hasty high-school cribbing/regurgitation efforts. Another issue is the proliferation of sub-articles (with an eye to edit count and agenda again?), which makes discussion of potentially contentious issues difficult, possibly by design.
So, while elegant wording possibly takes second place to resolving content and sourcing issues, in too many cases (yes, my point of view) this means that articles presented to the world as Wikipedia’s authoritative treatment on a topic are very badly written, ambiguous, contradictory of related and sub-articles, and potentially inaccurate by reason of haste or design.
I have seen discussions proposing a sandbox requirement for new articles so they aren’t published to the world until they meet some minimum standards, and I’ve seen much discussion of what those minimum requirements should be. I have no magic pudding solution, but my personal experience of ‘using’ (rather than editing) Wikipedia articles is that ambiguous wording, patently biased information, or obvious lacunae in the subject matter put me off, and the prospect of spending months of time and effort as an editor dicking around with egos, agenda editors, and those who game the rules (for whatever reasons) becomes less and less attractive; in the meantime some of these articles remain less than admirable, apparently in perpetuity.
My professional experience includes the awareness that other respectable encyclopaedic publications impose a peer review requirement BEFORE an article or chapter is published. It is my view that Wikipedia is a sufficiently mature endeavour by now not to require instantaneous publication of articles, and sufficiently criticised by external commentators about reliability and accuracy for a peer review requirement to start looking like a good idea.
I would also add that while edit counts, regardless of quality requirements, garner people ‘Wikistatus’, many editors will meet those minimum requirements only. What gets rewarded gets done. What doesn’t get rewarded, like, perhaps, Griswaldo’s attempts in talk pages to discuss changes, reliability of sources, point of view debates, etc, quite often doesn’t get the attention or reward necessary to produce a quality product or end-user experience. (Just because I frequently disagree with Griswaldo doesn’t mean I don’t have regard for her/his methodology or commitment.)
Given the prominence of this talk page, is there anyone here who knows whether the debate about lifting the quality of articles is a debate still extant in another forum concerned with doing something about it, not just rehashing old discussions? Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 23:30, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree Peter. A very radical solution though would be to move all articles which haven't been reviewed to the wikipedia space and to only accept them in the encyclopedia once written properly. The problem there is that there is a tendency for popular culture and sport to have more people working on them. Ideally our encyclopedia would ONLY be full of good, reviewed articles. In regards to myself though you are wrong about stub building. I've created more lesser quality stubs than anybody on this website and I genuinely could not care less about edit count or article count and my intentions are constructive in the long term. At the same time I am also as keen as anybody that we dramatically increase our number of Good articles but different areas of the encyclopedia need different work, from grunt work to just simply copy editing. And I would have to say that my stub building likely reduces my "wiki status" and people can make wrong assumptions about my purpose or about me as an editor. Given that there are very few editors actively seeking out new topics or matching our categories with those on other wikipedias where coverage is likely better, if there are a lot of missing articles I tend to stub them and at least try to get english wikipedia working towards covering them. Given that i haven't the time to write every article I think its important that we at least try to address systematic bias. For instance I've copied categories from Vietnam wikipedia into a list and started stubbing articles on rivers and have created geography categories by Spanish province in an effort to try to transfer the coverage on Spanish wikipedia into English. But I can't do it alone as its too time consuming. My ultimate goal of course is for both quantity and quality. Sometimes though if I consider the topics very notable I think it is important we at least recognize the subject than completely ignore it and try to encourage their growth. So in those cases I think it is constructive to create stubs. But I can definitely also see the view that wikipedia should only contain reviewed good articles. Of course many unreviewed articles are very valuable to many people but it would certainly improve our credibility. The random article is pretty dismal and you know if you browse through a category the chances are the articles will either be a stub, poorly sourced or needing a major rewrite.♦ Dr. Blofeld 09:11, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I can't fault your logic, Dr Bloefeld. Wikipedia is simply too large for any one person or group to do everything that needs to be done. That implies that every editor has to pick personal priorities to get anything done at all. My comment, though, did assume a broad, policy view and I did not intend to disparage the work of any particular editors. I do sometimes despair when I read articles whose quality is undermined by editors gaming the system to push an agenda, or even entirely sincere editors unwilling to put article quality above personal differences. Let me conclude by saying I've never been remotely tempted to ditch one of your stubs. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 13:04, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

What constitutes paid advocacy?

I think if it is a bannable offense the community deserves a clear and specific definition. (talk) 16:07, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Why? So people can game it? "I know it when I see it" is the pragmatic standard most of our policies use, whether it's written or unwritten. Gigs (talk) 21:30, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
What's easier to game, a "clear and specific definition" or a vague and arbitrary "I know it when I see it"? What if you see it, but I don't? One can almost always find somebody to see it one way, and one can almost always find somebody to see it another.Volunteer Marek (talk) 22:53, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
No, not so people can game it. So that I (for one) understand exactly what he means by "advocacy." The WP:DUCK example fails because the definition of a duck is clear and specific. If "paid advocacy" were as concretely defined as "duck," I'd know it when I saw it too. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 23:44, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd also add that while someone like Potter Stewart may be able "to know it when he sees it", most people are not Potter Stewart, don't have his judgement, or experience and actually they usually don't know it, and don't see it. It's this kind of hubris that causes half the problems.Volunteer Marek (talk) 12:39, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see the problem with taking what Jimmy Wales is saying and putting it into a formal policy. Better still, perhaps the WMF can incorporate that into its principles for all Wiki projects, if such a thing is possible. ScottyBerg (talk) 17:28, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Done Gigs (talk) 18:13, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
That's a good start, though I think the definition could be made broader. ScottyBerg (talk) 18:31, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I would hesitate to make it too broad (at least at first), that's what's bogged down discussions in the past. There's lots of undesirable COI editing, but paid advocacy on behalf of third parties is the low hanging fruit that we keep missing because of a desire to make a more encompassing policy. Gigs (talk) 18:39, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I guess I would fail to see a distinction between advocacy for a third party or for one's own employer. ScottyBerg (talk) 18:50, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Has anyone noticed we already have Wikipedia:Advocacy? I feel that whether the advocacy is paid or not is as irrelevant on whether someone with a WP:COI has a financial or other interest; it is the principle that (in these cases) has been determined to be against Wikipedia's mission, and not in what drives it. LessHeard vanU (talk) 23:11, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Whether it is paid or not is absolutely relevant. Ongoing commercial operations to corrupt Wikipedia for PR spin purposes represent a unique threat to our credibility. It's the difference between commercial spam and your father in law sending you unwanted chain emails. Gigs (talk) 13:54, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

RfC on tendentious editing of policy at Wikipedia:Verifiability started

I have started an RfC on tendentious editing of policy Wikipedia:Verifiability with the view to impose community sanctions, this is the summary:

There is a lot of contention around WP:V, and the policy has been placed under protection because of edit warring. Since this is a core policy, such behavior is to be dealt with seriously by the community. The goal of this RfC is to get the policy placed under community sanctions as described below. These sanctions would apply to all editors in this topic area. The goal is to protect a core policy from tendentious editing, and to provide an environment that leads to positive improvement of the policy. This RfC is not intended to endorse the current version of the policy, and supporting this RfC cannot be considered as such, rather it addressed serious concerns with editor behavior in the talk pages and serious edit warring in the actual policy. It includes a general amnesty for involved editors, providing a clean slate from which better practices can emerge.

The RfC is here: Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability#RfC: Tendentious editing of policy Wikipedia:Verifiability

Since this is an issue that often comes up in this talk page, and you have actually often commented on Verifiability, I thought I would notify the community here as this is a 1 centijimbo area.

To all you wikijaguars, please participate and comment.--Cerejota (talk) 23:20, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Of course, the major violators and their meatpuppets (and a view of good faith people) make it seem like that. But there is a reason RfCs last longer.--Cerejota (talk) 19:02, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • In this diff, Jimbo closed a discussion on his own talk page. And you've just reverted him.—S Marshall T/C 19:18, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
And?--Cerejota (talk) 20:07, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Have you confused Jimbo's talk page with a general noticeboard?—S Marshall T/C 20:17, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Nope, I simply recognize the role it plays in the community - to claim this talk page is simply a talk page is disingenuous and belittles its importance to the community (many a policy or guideline was born here, many an admin or bureaucrat was made so here). However, I find it interesting it is you who objects, as one of the people who has been WP:OWNing WP:V. Jimbo might be brilliant and visionary in the big picture stuff, but experience shows that often he is not entirely correct on the details. For example, declaring a process as snowballing after only a day in is a bit extreme - considering the opposition to sanctions comes mostly from people who would be sanctioned, such as yourself. I do take his point well, which is let the discussion flow naturally, but I think he misses the point that it is impossible, thank to people like yourself, to make any productive conversation happen, because every time a proposal comes on board, three people vote, then anew proposal comes on board, then edit warring starts. Its a disgrace that has to stop. WP:V is not Pokemon, it is a really important part of what we are. --Cerejota (talk) 20:41, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Users should check what they are deleting

Closing this because it doesn't seem to have to do with me, but the original poster can reinstate if I really need to look into it
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.


I deleted your page based on Wikipedia's speedy deletion policy while cleaning out speedy deletion nominations. Then, you came by my user page or talk page to leave me a message and to ask why I deleted your page. First let me assure you that I was not, in fact, the one who nominated your hard work to be filed in the digital dustbin--that honor belongs to the New Page Patroller who brought my attention to it. That user, unless also an admin, cannot undelete your page. Although I am capable (and willing!) to undelete your page, you need to continue reading below to find out why I agreed to delete it in the first place.

— The user that after deleting an article says he did not. (talk) 21:39, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure I see your point here. What you're linking to/quoting is Alexf's standard explanation for why he deletes articles through speedy deletion and how a user can avoid having their articles deleted in the future. What is your issue with this statement/page? either way (talk) 21:47, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Or, another way. "Hi, I am the tow truck guy who impounded your vehicle. If you want to know why I towed your vehicle away, it is because it had been ticketed. If you want to know why it was ticketed, you need to ask the guy who issued the ticket. I can release your vehicle, sure... once the ticket guy says I can. Have a nice day." Admins who delete upon seeing a valid speedy rationale, or an expired WP:PROD, are functionaries only - which I believe is the basis of Alexf's notice. LessHeard vanU (talk) 23:22, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Huh? Am I missing something here? Or this this just a waste of everybody's time? And why here and not at an admin noticeboard? Assuming there was something to complain about in the first place. Baffled. -- Alexf(talk) 23:42, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Div-tags cause formatting problems in IE7 or IE8

Back to the technical problems of too many div-tags ("<div>") in pages. I just remembered that using a div section around an infobox can cause older browsers to leave huge text-gaps above an image, such as with infobox {{Taxobox}}. This is an issue to beware with an IE7 browser (and perhaps IE8), and fortunately, there are simple tricks to avoid the problem. I am just mentioning the issue, here, to confirm how, beyond the puzzlement of seeing the extra <div>...</div>, it can actually generate conflicts in WP:Accessibility formatting of text in older browsers. So, beyond confusing newcomers, the extra div-tags can cause large gaps on older browsers in small libraries, or hotel Internet rooms, and other "third-world" browsers. In other words, you were right that div-tags are trouble. -Wikid77 08:23, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Notability of High Schools

While I am certainly not going to recommend a revert of your re-addition of the notability tag to Salmon High School, could you please review my remarks on the talk page of the article? I have just been going off of what consensus has been since I joined in February. Perhaps a new policy could actually be created/implemented one way or the other. Ryan Vesey Review me! 05:41, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I just commented on the talk page and am happy to discuss it further. I'm also thinking about editing that essay, which I think is just wrong. It would be overwhelmingly voted down if proposed as policy.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 05:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I have commented on the talk page of the article. In addition, I believe the notability tag can now be removed from that article. Ryan Vesey Review me! 06:04, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I see what you mean about the essay. A cyclical routine has been created. The essay talks about why editors !vote keep for high schools and editors !vote keep for high schools because of the essay. Ryan Vesey Review me! 06:15, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think the point that you added has a basis in current consensus (I agree with your position, but I think we are in the minority). I don't think a single verified high school has been deleted at AfD in years. Of course consensus can (and, in my opinion, should) change, but the way consensus at AfD works is that if a high school is verified by a reliable source, then the AfD will close as "keep" (and, most likely, the nominator get slapped by a trout). ThemFromSpace 06:21, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
What about a salmon? ;) Ryan Vesey Review me! 06:22, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Just as a question on notability. What is the basis that every College/University deserves an article? There are many small technical colleges with little information. Check out Teacher's Training College of Kruševac. The high school in my town has much more information than that. Ryan Vesey Review me! 06:25, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Schools have documented news/book notability: I think the point is still to know the school/college is mentioned in WP:RS sources, so that not every "village classroom" gets an article. However, ironically, because village schools are relatively rare, they are very likely to be notable from coverage in demographic documents or United Nations reports, etc. But, at least, people should not be inventing the "School of What's Happening Now" as a WP:HOAX, WP:SOAPBOX, or WP:COI for a private-school ploy to use WP as an advert for their school. I would still trust if an editor wrote, unsourced, how their innercity school shared a stadium with other nearby schools, rotating home/away games to allow each to have "Friday night football" but the school should not be a small corporation using WP to place ads. -Wikid77 08:52, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Unless such information about sharing a stadium, etc, can be sourced, it has no business in Wikipedia. It's not about trusting or not trusting, it's about what it means to be a quality reference work.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 09:11, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I happen to agree that High Schools are not inherently notable, but I think I should point out the reason for confusion is that people took something Jimbo said[1] and ran with it. It lead to these guidelines and the fact that High Schools are exempt from WP:CSD#A7 (discusions here). Now, the encylcopedia is a very different place than it was in 2003, but I just thought I'd re-iterate the background. WormTT · (talk) 10:12, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I watchlist a lot of high schools, maybe a hundred or two. They are cesspools areas of concern. Constant vandalism, tons of unsourced claims about the prowess of the sports teams, lists of clubs, copyvio'ed alma maters, copyvio'ed material from the school website (school and college articles are the worst for plagiarism -go figure), and totally unsourced lists of notable alumni that have to be patrolled for people who are claimed to have gone into gay porn, or district managers of paper companies. Whatever decisions mandated that all high schools are notable did a great disservice to the project. They are among the most problematic parts of Wikipedia.   Will Beback  talk  10:17, 25 August 2011 (UTC) revised 12:17, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think there is any such consensus. I hope you'll join me in improving Wikipedia:Notability (high schools), which is an essay which may have persuaded people falsely otherwise. The truth is that most high schools are not notable.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 10:44, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I've certainly watchlisted it, and will attempt to chime in when I've got a bit of time. WormTT · (talk) 10:48, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm going to pretty strongly disagree with your statement that there is no consensus on the issue--the argument you make in the essay is that because we don't have articles on most high schools there is no consensus that we should. Instead I'd argue that it's just because we haven't gotten to them all yet. The way to judge consensus on the issue has to be to see how high school articles have fared in the past. I've personally not seen a high school article deleted in the last 3 years and I think I've only seen 1 or 2 merged. There have been dozens, if not more, kept. Consensus has been pretty clear thus far and I don't see any evidence that there is a significant group that believes otherwise. Hobit (talk) 11:02, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I respectfully disagree. Many people believe that these are extremely problematic articles, see the discussion above from Will Beback. There is no consensus that these articles are exempt from normal notability policy.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:12, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I won't dispute that they are problematical articles, one of the risk words I patrol is Pubic and you'd be unamazed at the number of schools that think we are so short of cash that it would help us save a few electrons by removing the first l from "Public School". But as for notability, I'd assumed the consensus was more that any High School is bound to have generated sufficient coverage to pass the GNG if we did but look. ϢereSpielChequers 11:24, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Once again the fixation on existence of sources seems to be a problem. The sources that theoretically establish notability of a high school are of no use for us if you have to go physically to the newspaper archive of a little town to find them, and nobody is willing to do that. There is a very similar problem with WP:ACADEMIC, by the way. On the other hand we sometimes have to IAR keep well-written articles on topics that are encyclopedic beyond doubt but for some reason fail the formal notability criteria. Hans Adler 11:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I have some sympathy for Will Beback's viewpoint, having dealt with quite a lot of this sort of vandalism and unsourced cruft-additions on schools articles myself. However, I really don't think it's as bad as he suggests; only a few days ago, I reverted an IP's alumnus-addition, templated the IP and demanded a source, and the IP duly provided one. Positive result. (Ignore, for now, the fact that the alumnus shouldn't be there as a redlink anyway). Schools articles do get a lot of vandalism, and are, mostly, in an appalling state, with few or no references. However, so are many BLPs, many articles on companies, and so on.
Sportspeople and small settlements, as I understand it, get some of the same "protection from notability requirements" that schools are perceived as having had, and many of those articles have problems just as bad (think of the cases where a minor sportsperson gets a controversial conviction and becomes a BLP problem; or a very minor sportsperson BLP gets vandalised and no-one is watchlisting it so the vandalism stays in for years; or a sportsperson makes a blunder in an important game and there's a hail of BLP-infringing vandalism). People have been enforcing the suggested ban on mass creation of articles on high schools, but seemingly mass creation of articles on small or very small settlements still takes place occasionally; and it's been discussed on this talkpage before, how many of those articles end up being full of complete garbage. (And anyway, is a settlement with 40 people in it, so much more automatically notable than a school with over 2000 people in it?)
I really don't see that high school articles are a crisis area; they are merely a generally low-quality area. And I think the majority of people really do think that the current approach is the best way of handling a difficult situation. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 11:33, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I do, as with any company or corporation out there. I'm certain that there are school district officials who whitewash articles about their schools, just as we know there are corporate officials out there who whitewash articles about their corporations. If I go to Special:UnwatchedPages, I'm sure I will see many school articles on that list, so who knows what is going on there?
This comes back to my point regarding the main topic at hand, which is verifiability: Just because we know there are various parts of Wikipedia that are not reliable, that does not mean that we should not try to make those parts reliable, nor should we expect the general public to accept such parts as unreliable. The reality is that the public still accepts Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information – whether or not its information may be right or wrong. At least I still hear, on an almost daily basis, people who say "go to Wikipedia" or similar to look up stuff related to my conversations with others. –MuZemike 15:29, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
  • There is no doubt whatsoever that for a long time it has been widely accepted that high schools are automatically notable. This has been accepted in goodness knows how many AfD discussions. I have therefore taken the view that, rightly or wrongly, consensus supports that position. However, prompted by this discussion, I have thought about the question again, and I am not so sure. The line "high schools are automatically notable" is by no means universally accepted, and is very frequently questioned, and often, even when an AfD has closed as "keep, because consensus is that high schools are automatically notable", there has been one or more editors that have clearly been unhappy with that situation. Indeed, I am not sure whether there are actually more editors who think that all high schools should be regarded as notable than those who think not: it may just be that there are more who believe that that is what most others believe, and say "keep" because they believe that is the accepted consensus, rather than because they support that view themselves. There is a good deal of truth in Ryan Vesey's point above about the circularity of the situation: essay says a high school is automatically notable because that's what AfDs decide, but AfDs go that way because the essay says so (and it is not only that essay, but other sources too). The link that Worm That Turned has given above to what Jimbo said in 2003 is very interesting. I don't know how true it is that that was the origin of this "all high schools can have articles" line, but whether it was or not, it seems to me that Wikipedia:WikiProject Schools/Article guidelines misrepresents what Jimbo said, by quoting out of context. Jimbo went on to say "That's true *even if* we'd react differently to a ton of one-liners mass-imported saying nothing more than 'Randolph School is a private school in Huntsville, Alabama, US' and 'Indian Springs is a private school in Birmingham, Alabama, US' and on and on and on, ad nauseum. The argument 'what if someone did this particular thing 100,000 times' is not a valid argument against letting them do it a few times." Well, we now actually are in the situation where a lot of people write trivial articles that say little more (or in some cases no more) than that a school exists, and "automatic notability" is invoked to keep them. Thus the remarks Jimbo made in 2003 explicitly do not apply to the present situation. It seems to me that the notion "all high schools are notable" comes from the image of a typical high school that most editors in the USA have, and to a lesser extent in some other countries, such as the UK. In the USA a "High School" is commonly a pretty large institution, run by some sort of local government, often very prominent in its local community. I can quite see why anyone thinking of schools of that kind thinks "of course they are notable, and it's pointless forcing people to produce sources to show that it is." However, not all high schools or secondary schools are like that. I know of very small and insignificant private secondary schools that certainly don't satisfy any of Wikipedia's notability guidelines, and in many parts of the world a lot of secondary schools are small and non-notable. WereSpielChequers says "the consensus was more that any High School is bound to have generated sufficient coverage to pass the GNG if we did but look", but that is not necessarily true of all types of high school in all parts of the world. It also seems to me to be illogical to use that argument in a case where several editors have looked and failed to find such coverage. Will Beback is only too right about the character of school articles: a very larger proportion of them are spam, essentially use of Wikipedia to publish prospectuses and advertising brochures. While that is not a proof of non-notability, it is certainly a reason for not being happy about a principle which makes it harder to delete them. All in all, these considerations encourage me to think it may well be time to reconsider the widely accepted view that "consensus is that high schools are inherently notable". Finally, Demiurge1000's comparisons with articles on other subjects, such as "is a settlement with 40 people in it, so much more automatically notable than a school with over 2000 people in it" is completely irrelevant, for WP:OTHERSTUFF reasons. (My own view is that a settlement with 40 people in it is almost always not notable, but that is equally irrelevant.) Also, thanks to an edit conflict, Demiurge1000 has confirmed one of the points I made above before I could post it: 2000 may be a typical size for a high school in the USA, but it certainly isn't where I live, and the issue is whether all high schools are automatically notable, not whether typical public high schools in the USA are automatically notable. JamesBWatson (talk) 11:44, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • It's not WP:OTHERSTUFF to respond to an assertion that a particular type of article is "among the most problematic parts of Wikipedia" by pointing out that other parts are in fact equally problematic or more problematic. It addresses the point being made. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 11:51, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • The flipside of consensus being that sources will usually be there if we did but look is that if someone looks and draws a blank or near blank then a deletion nomination might well succeed. As for settlements that currently only have 40 people, it depends on where in the world you are. Many such English rural villages are the near ghosts of once thriving communities whose notability is assured regardless of the events of the last couple of centuries. ϢereSpielChequers 12:00, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • The post quoted at WP:WPSCH/AG#N was too long to include in full, and so was cut down to the key points only, with parts skipped indicated with dots. A link to the original post is provided for anyone to view it in full. I did not add the quote originally, but I did change it from a paraphrase to an actual quote. If anyone thinks a better summary can be provided, they are free to edit it and do so. On the whole, I wouldn't object to removing it completely since it is outdated and gives the impression of argumentum ad Jimbonem. CT Cooper · talk 12:32, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
      • I'd say it should be removed completely. As noted above by someone else, it's been misinterpreted. But in any event, it's very out of date.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 15:31, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
        • I have removed it. CT Cooper · talk 15:59, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Comment Notability can be in the eye of the beholder. If most Wikipedians are young, then of course their school is very important/notable to them and they will dig up any trivia possible to meet the threshold. We have Lists as well as Categories for a reason. If a school's article if only a couple of lines long, if belongs in a List unless or until there's more information. That allows for a Redirect to be created for the school's name, so no school would be truly left out of Wikipedia. (talk) 15:44, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I think the school mascot for a hypothetical school ought to be Schrödinger's cat. -- Avanu (talk) 15:53, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

  • For what it's worth, here are some recent AfDs that have all been kept, all citing or textually reproducing WP:NHS:
While I'm not opposed to reviewing this essay, I don't see why there is such dismissal of the consensus by editors as unimportant. If there is "no consensus" that High Schools are typically notable, how come we don't see more editors challenging WP:NHS in AfDs? I have yet to encounter any substantial challenge of WP:NHS in an AfD. If there was truly no consensus on the matter, I would expect more challenges to use of the WP:NHS essay. I, Jethrobot drop me a line (note: not a bot!) 04:08, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Slight divergence from the overall topic

We are focusing right now on the notability of High Schools in general, but I would like to quick ask about the inclusion of good articles about High Schools. Lets say an article is written about High School X. The article is well sourced; however, all of the sources come from a)The webpage of the school b)The local newspaper and c)The local newspaper of a rival school. The article lays out information including the administration, sports and other extracurriculars, rivalries with other schools, and maybe some school traditions or notable events (the usual bomb threats/hit lists found etc.). Again, everything in the article is sourced and for the current example we can assume that boosterism is minor or included using quotes. Should this school be included? Ryan Vesey Review me! 15:47, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I think that's fine, although maintenance and vandalism issues are a factor. What isn't fine is the exact same article with claims that have no sources. If the claims are not negative and damaging, then there is less urgency (from a BLP perspective) about removing them, and so I would advocate a quick look for sources and a dated citation needed tag first, and then deletion of the unsourced material after a period of time.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 15:51, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I have no problem with consensus if it does allow articles like this. I know there are many school articles who use Wikipedia as a personal web page, but I don't want the good quality articles to get thrown out with the bad ones. Ryan Vesey Review me! 15:57, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I am a frequent contributor to school articles, mostly in South West England but also elsewhere if something interesting crops up in the AfD list or the schools wikiproject. I have seen a lot of the problems described here - one line stubs with no assertion of notability, unreferenced articles, puff-pieces, whitewashed articles, etc. If it is true that high schools are not automatically notable, and for one I would welcome that, then what would be really useful is clear set of high school notability guidelines within WikiProject Schools. As I see it, the quicker we agree on the default position, the quicker we can set about developing consensus on those guidelines by which all high school articles can be judged - and in turn set about cleaning up some of the real crap that is long overdue but has been protected from deletion because of the assertion that high schools are notable. --Simple Bob a.k.a. The Spaminator (Talk) 17:03, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Comment: In hundreds of high school afds since 2005, almost none have been deleted. There's no better barometer of what consensus has been.--Milowenttalkblp-r 17:26, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • I agree with you; however, I am beginning to like some of the new thought that is forming. That well written/well sourced articles on High Schools are notable. If an article on a high school cannot be well-written and well-sourced prior to the end of an AFD, it should be deleted. Ryan Vesey Review me! 17:41, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
      • One thing that would help is if adding one of these tags automagically notified everyone who had ever worked on the article, and perhaps those signed up for any Project or Subproject the article falls into, such as the town or region. I think this is currently done manually, if at all. No one wants constant spam, but a one-week AfD implies more time spent checking than editing. (talk) 18:09, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
        • I don't object to a new discussion on the topic, after all consensus does change. But to claim that the massive % of AFDs that result in a keep doesn't demonstrate a consensus is, well, a bit daft. It's clearly a historical outcome and it's also pretty darn clear that any high school is going to have significant coverage. Everyone has won a state championship in something. Every school has had a notable event occur at it that sees state-wide or wider coverage. And the construction of every school sees coverage. (feel free to replace "every" with "99%+"). They are all going to meet WP:N if we look hard enough. Hobit (talk) 18:48, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
          • Most high schools would be notable even if sources were only in print. But AfDs often don't go the way they should. On one AfD I had to state over and over that "while everyone agrees that this subject should be notable, no one can find a source." That seems to be the reason for keeping a lot of obscure articles on books, entertainment, high schools (or in my example a religious sect [2]). Some things "ought to be" notable- but remain unsourced in actual fact. I don't think that's good enough. But there should be some way to notify editors that potentially helpful information has been removed. BeCritical__Talk 19:24, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
            • Hobit, I would look forward to watching what the students at the non-notable 1% would decide to do in order to make their school notable and well-covered at least statewide. I have my doubts the principal, teachers and parents would feel the same way. (talk) 19:33, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • IMO, the problem with all of those AFD keeps is that high schools have become notable for being notable. I haven't paid much attention to AFD in a couple years, but back in the day, pretty much the entire reason for keep in most AFDs was the assumption that a high school was inherently notable. As someone who disagreed with that position, I quickly realized that offering a dissenting opinion was a waste of time. Resolute 00:09, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
  • All time spent at AfD is administrative overhead that should be minimized and avoided if possible. Having a bright line rule based on history here makes the handling of these AfDs very easy, scrutizing every high school article individually drains valuable resources that should go into creating and improving other articles. Now if Ryan Vesey and Becritical pledge to spend one hour researching every high school AfD for the next ten years, that might be different, but in my experience not many editors participate in these afds and we could end up with a lack of consistency with no discernable benefit if we make a change in standards. Likely, almost all high school articles will still be kept but much more admin overhead will be spent reaching that result, which is not efficient or logical. Anyone with free time is encouraged to come to Wikipedia:Unreferenced BLP Rescue where we have reduced the backlog of unreferenced BLPs from approx 25,000 to under 1,000 in the past year, come be a part of something meaningful, even if your old rival high school is a cesspool that never amounted to anything.--Milowenttalkblp-r 19:41, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
    • We should be spending our resources ensuring that all of our articles are fully kept up to our standards. School articles aren't any different, nor should they be avoided in favor of more important topics (many school articles are BLP magnets and attract unwatched vandalism; they need all the attention we can give). ThemFromSpace 19:49, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
      • The AfD process is terribly burdensome. Jimbo said above he thinks that many ought to be deleted, but I personally don't think there is a problem with leaving OR stubs when the subject might be notable. It's when there is a lot of unsourced info that we have the problem. The thing with these school articles is that most likely no-one is ever going to improve them much. Not every article can win the lottery of being randomly selected as an example in one of WP's internal discussions. That's why I went and stubbed the (already tagged/challenged) ones that looked like OR or at least were unverified. BeCritical__Talk 20:18, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I have had around 600 schools on my watchlist for the last 3 years or so. Will Beback's comments appear (at least to me) to be more driven by emotion than reality. In response to Hobit's claims, I would say the figures are far more than '1 or 2' or 'dozens', perhaps even several zeros need to be added to the numbers. While I firmly believe that it is an error to suggest that schools may be among our most problematic articles, Worm and Demiurge1000 both make some valid observations. The strongest and most accurate assessment of the situation comes in the long post from JamesBWatson which I hope that everyone here will have taken the trouble to read in full. James's comment echoes my position and leaves me still in notability no man's land; I am personally not worried whether schools are notable or not, and all I want to do as a busy WP:WPSCH participant, and admin with a deletion button, is to have a clearly defined policy to implement. I'm sure that most of us who work on school AfDs are tired of having to second-guess an unwritten policy/precedent and I thoroughly support :Simple Bob's sentiment. Now that Jimbo has explained his current position regarding his original 2003 statement , perhaps we can hold an RfC that will reach a consensus and then draft that proper policy. One way or the other . Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 20:18, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Of those 600 school articles you watch, how many are based on secondary sources?   Will Beback  talk  22:54, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I have accumulated a number of around 600 random school articles on my watchlist, and it's only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of school pages we have here. Apart from the ones I created myself or helped to GA, they are ones I have repaired, expanded, added infoboxes and images, categorised, referenced, saved from deletion., and kept free of vandalism and puff. I've already stated that I don't have any personal preference one way or the other which way an eventual consensus might go for notability for schools - I just think it would be a very good idea for all this to be clarified once and for all, so that we have some clear rules and recommendations to work to that are officially accepted by the community. Where is the relevance of your question to that? Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 00:40, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
My point is that all Wikipedia articles should be based on secondary sources. If we're creating articles for which there are no significant secondary sources then we're violating core content policies. Many, perhaps most, high school articles have no secondary sources for much more than an occasional sports report or scandal. Here's a typical example. Ponderosa High School   Will Beback  talk  02:03, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to second Will Beback's sentiment; I have had quite a number of high schools on my watchlist (any Recent Changes Patroller will inevitably come upon them). While I think it would be wrong to say that the majority of edits to them are vandalism, I think it would be accurate to say that the majority of edits to them are unsourced, POV, or incorporate excessive WP:NOT content (like a list of every time team X made the regional playoffs, or a list of all of the AP classes at the school). However, I don't think that this has a real bearing on whether or not the schools are/should be default notable, because we don't consider how highly targeted an article is for bad edits when we decide whether or not to keep an article (with the possible exception of some list articles).
Having said that though, maybe the best option for forward progress would be a centralized discussion (Village pump?) on whether or not the current consensus is that high schools should have default notability. Then, the results of that discussion can help inform us whether we should promote WP:NHS to guideline status or rewrite it and clearly indicate it's a historical/non-consensus essay. Like many other editors, I currently accept that the consensus is that all high schools are inherently notable, because that's what I've been told, but I question whether, if actually asked, this consensus would emerge as correct. The problem, of course, is that we're really just debating that fundamental question of whether our lack of a deadline means that we should include things that may possibly be verified for long periods of time, or whether the lack of deadline means that we should wait on these articles until such time as the sources have already been found, so I'm not sure that we'll get a useful result from such a discussion. Qwyrxian (talk) 02:07, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I think the much bigger problem is the hundreds/thousands of elementary/primary schools that have artciles about them and I would love to see a policy that they were default not notable, with clear criteria to show what would make them notable. For instance, does notability of alumni make a school notable? Fmph (talk) 08:53, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:INHERIT Agathoclea (talk) 09:03, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
More than anything, being noted makes a topic notable. Anytime we make a rule which diverges from that we're likely to end up with a bunch of under-sourced articles. When we write about other organizations we require that there be a minimum of sources. Somehow a special exception has been cut out for high schools, but it is inconsistent with how we treat other organizations.
Qwyrxian is right that school articles often contain too much poorly sourced trivia. The Schools project may be too focused on keeping every article and not focused enough on making sure that all of those articles meet basic standards. Some of the problems with school articles could be addressed with a big cleanup project. But the notability issue should be settled first.   Will Beback  talk  09:21, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
But WP:INHERIT is yet another essay, and one that is regularly ignored on article pages. A clear policy or guideline that says elementary schools are not notable unless .... would be hugely helpful. Fmph (talk) 09:51, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I agree with Fmph.

That being said, my contribution to this little discussion is that schools do end up being mentioned in various sources, either as the alma mater of so-and-so or where such-and-such happened, or what have you. There are a lot of crappy school articles out there, but it doesn't mean that these articles can't (or won't) be improved. But I think that they're a minority (maybe a large minority) of school articles (judging from the however many Australian schools in my watchlist). Can I suggest, though, that instead of pursuing a kill-on-sight policy with school articles where at least the existence of the school is verifiable that they be userfied/projectified until someone can get through and source them up properly? User:Danjel/Coomera_State_Primary_School is a good example of a school that is probably noteworthy, and can be improved (and will be as soon as I have a moment to do it). ˜danjel [ talk | contribs ] 13:44, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

My view FWIW, crossposted from Wikipedia talk:Notability (high schools): It is more accurate to say that there is a presumption that high schools/secondary schools (whatever one chooses to call them) are notable. It is a presumption on the basis that the school has probably received an appropriate level of coverage in reliable sources to meet WP:GNG. That presumption is rebuttable (and hence the article should be deleted) if no such coverage can be found and cited. The key issue here is that nothing gets a free pass on notability. Notability is only established by reference to significant coverage in reliable sources and if such coverage does not exist, the subject of the article is not notable. – ukexpat (talk) 16:38, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

What if there is no consensus?

Putting aside the issue itself, what if there truly is NO consensus? Wikipedia guidelines, policies, practices, whatever you wish to call, seem to assume that there is, or eventually will be, a consensus on any given point. What if this is simply not the case? What if, using this subject as an example, one-third of interested editors believe that high schools are inherently notable, one-third believe that by default they are NON-notable, and one-third have no opinion on whether they are generally notable or non-notable and just take each case on an individual basis? (The three ideas and the numbers are just examples, I realize there are gradations in between and perhaps outside of these easily described positions, and I am not saying those are the proportions of editors in each group. But there are certainly AT LEAST those three positions, and I don't believe there is anywhere near a "consensus" (however defined) for any of them; in fact, I would be very surprised if there were even a majority for any of them.) What then? Do we talk about it and debate it forever? (It seems like we already have; this was a "hot issue" when I became an editor six years ago, and it is a hot issue now, so the likelihood that it is ever going to be resolved seems pretty slim.) Do we have people putting in and taking out paragraphs and nutshells from essays, or creating competing essays, until the end of time? Do we leave it for the AfD process, where the fate of each individual article depends in large part on who shows up? The AfD process on issues like this, where there really does not seem to be a consensus as to notability in general, reminds me of the Wild West -- no "law," no real policy, no real authority, just whoever is quickest on the draw and brings more people to the gunfight wins. There has to be a better way. What is it? Binding votes, majority wins? "ContentCom"? Something else? I don't know what the answer should be, and just as there probably is no consensus on the subject-matter itself, there probably would be no consensus on a method for dealing with it. Perhaps the last sound ever made by humans on Earth, before the Sun swallows up the planet, will be the sound of people edit-warring over whether there should be an article on East Side High. (Hm, maybe I've finally found the idea for the science fiction novel I'm going to write someday.) Neutron (talk) 22:24, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

.............Um...............yeah. BeCritical__Talk 23:04, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Continue with case-by-case decisions: Where there is no consensus to write a decisive guideline (or policy), then the decisions would continue being made on a case-by-case basis. Hence, the notability of each specific school should be determined, as to whether that particular school gets a separate article or gets an entry in the list "Top 90 schools in Anytownville". Remember, there are those 2 main levels of notability: as a notable entry in a list (or inside another article), or individual notability to have a separate article. For multiple essays about the debates, then later, repetitive essays could be merged into the earlier essays. However, in the future, I suspect there will be a WP "notability tool" which counts the major sources (and how many times a topic is mentioned in each source) to suggest the notability level of a specific topic. Meanwhile, please do not be frustrated that debates continue for years, because in the world at large, some debates have continued for decades or centuries (such as: Is quantum mechanics an explanation of reality, or just a math-trick which matches the data? Are positive near-death experiences a trip to a heavenly world, or just hallucinations of ICU psychosis?). -Wikid77 15:50, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
      • It would make more sense for each HS article to begin as a section in the associated town's article. If and when length issues arise, it can be split off. We're putting the cart before the horse here, imo, and it's not limited to school articles. As I keep asking, and keep being ignored, why the dogged determination to have so many separate articles, other than as an ego trip in the search engines? Is the purpose of Wikipedia to provide trivia-filled (to puff up their size) articles about minor topics which rank first when googling? Is each town article to be split off into a dozen separate articles about each church, each mayor, various school boards, each club or organization, each small business, each recreational facility - all because those have been covered by some local newspapers? Makes as much (non)sense. (talk) 14:20, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
        Amen. Hans Adler 14:24, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
      • I'm for the above, even if it would require a fairly major reworking of many school articles and a degree of merger/cooperation between WP:GEOGRAPHY and WP:WPSCHOOLS. ˜danjel [ talk | contribs ] 05:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I was perhaps one of the people who helped establish the current practice that we dod not delete articles on high schools. I did not initially think so--when I joined 4 years ago there were many debates on individual schools, and I joined in many of them, sometimes supporting inclusion, sometimes opposing it (I am not inclusionist about local institutions, and this was just a part of my general feeling about them) . In almost every case, if someone put in the necessary work, it was possible to find material that meth the GNG. It really went to no purpose--it was detracting from other activity at AfD, and was not really helping the encyclopedia It's true that HS articles get defaced frequently, but the ones that get defaced the most frequently are the most notable of them. Now, an important part of the decision to include high schools, was the corresponding decision not to include schools of lower level except when some special reason for notability had been established. (those debates were even more tiresome, because it was much harder to find materials). If we remove the compromise in one direction, we shall probably find we have removed it in the other and people will start fighting for junior high and elementary schools, instead of letting them be calmly merged.. In fact, I think the criteria we are using for including them are too broad at present, but I will always go along with a compromise. I wish we had such compromises for more subject areas.
In reply to the anon just above, at present high schools is the only exception, and the only one there should be. Others get in sometimes, even if not-notable, because the results at AfD on articles that are not very heavily watch are a matter of chance. That's one of the key reasons I favor decided by abstract of blanket criteria. A certain degree of uniformity is the mark of a responsible publication, and I hope all of us agree we should be moving in that direction.
I would certainly like to see a decrease of the emphasis on individual articles. Unfortunately, because of the way Google indexes, having an article rather than a section makes a very big difference in the visibility of the article, so it is not unreasonable for people to care as strongly that what they are interested in gets an article. But there's a more important internal reason--inconsistent as AfD is, it's the only process we have for community deliberation about article content that actually is visible. Material in sections of an article tends to shrink gradually, and a paragraph about a school tends to shrink to just a name on a list, giving very little information. We cannot solve this problem except for the most popular articles where many people keep track of them. DGG ( talk ) 00:37, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
It is unreasonable, unless your goal is to actively discourage those who are here to create an excellent encyclopedia, not Google food or ego trips. And no, material in article sections does not tend to shrink. It tends to grow, which is why some sections eventually get split off into separate articles. (talk) 16:39, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
people come to find information. Wikipedia was never intended as a scholarly encyclopedia, and given the way it is edited, is not likely to ever be one. Even in the condensation of articles on elementary schools to a list, often what information there is gets destroyed , except for the bare name. With articles on fictional characters, it usually happens. When people don't like articles of a certain type of content, they usually don't like having the content at all. As for Google, our relationship is a mutually beneficial mutualism. We benefit from people searching there who come here; they benefit from the existence of some actually useful content near the top of a google search. As for ego trips, people generally look for things they are familiar at first; I wonder what it says about my college.high school/home town/neighborhood? are questions which everyone tries early on in their Wikipedia experience. And often they realize, I can do better than this, and start to contribute about things with which they are familiar. DGG ( talk ) 13:55, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Reading through this, I kinda agree with both sides here. It's true that many people start by looking for information on things they know (and high schools are of course high on the list), which makes it a good idea to keep such information; however, I also know from Indian village articles I've seen on NPP what can happen when pages aren't being watched. I like the idea of having a town's school be a part of the town's article and spinning it off if the school section becomes too large relative to the main article. For those schools that would fit well as a paragraph or two in the town's article, I think having the school's name as a redirect to the relevant paragraph(s) would be good; I think redirects show up on on Google searches pointing to their targets. That way, people will find the information they're looking for and we won't have a huge swath of barely-watched articles. It's the Middle Way solution of sorts; though I personally prefer Carvaka philosophy to Buddhism, the Middle Way does have its appeal at times. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 19:53, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
This is an issue where common sense, flexibility conjoined with existing policy, and an occasional consensus will necessarily govern each situation on a case by case basis. For example the town where I live has several high schools and you certainly couldn't dedicate a paragraph to each. My76Strat (talk) 20:05, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I occasionally forget not everyone lives in a town of 6000; the missing link in my idea would be to have a separate article (e.g. High schools in Derby, Connecticut, or whatever the right terminology is for the country) with a paragraph or two on each school. Just a spur-of-the-moment thought, though; improve upon it/discard it as you see fit. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 20:10, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

AfD redefine

I think Articles for Deletion is a perfectly valid name, and I don't agree with the idea that we should stop deleting bad articles in order to attract more editors. Attracting editors has to come with a purpose
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Based on some earlier discussions, how about changing WP:Articles for Deletion into WP:Articles for Discussion? It's difficult to Assume Good Faith when an article creator is immediately put on the defensive by someone labeling their work as a totally useless waste of time. Which is how it comes across, however it is intended (which varies). I'm not talking about gibberish or anything which falls under Speedy Deletion, but good-faith contributions. All gardeners know that weeds can be flowers in the wrong location. As I've said before, something can be notable, but that doesn't mean it should have its own article. Supposedly, AfDs can recommend merges. In practice, the name AfD does not suggest that. In practice, even when merges are suggested they become deletions and redirects. No history is kept, nor does the Admin making the decision bother to merge the material, nor give the creator any time to do the merge. The decision is made, the deletion is done, and the creator is politely lectured that it's his/her own fault s/he didn't create a backup. And we wonder why new people get so frustrated they quit in disgust. So. Let's change the process to Articles for Discussion, and put the focus on the material itself. First, if the material (as opposed to the article) is notable. Second, if it needs more or better references. Third, where it belongs in Wikipedia, whether as its own article or part of another. That would be an Assume Good Faith approach, as opposed to what I see happening now. With all due respect, civility doesn't disappear when people believe the playing field is flat and level and they're being given a fair shot at collaborating with others who wish them well. It disappears when people believe they're being unfairly attacked, whether it's in guideline-compliant language or not, by nuns with rulers ready to rap knuckles for the smallest infraction. Or so I've heard. ;-) If something is seen to be unfair, it doesn't much matter how it's said. If it is seen to be fair and sensible, it doesn't much matter how that's said, either. (talk) 17:32, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

This has been suggested numerous much so that it is listed at the "perennial requests" page, Wikipedia:Perennial proposals#Rename AFD...but has never attracted the support of the community. Tarc (talk) 17:56, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I didn't know about that page, so thanks for the link. However, that's not what it actually says about renaming AfD: This proposal was favorably received in 2009, but technical difficulties and inertia prevented the change. I find that difficult to believe, but there it is. I do know that Wikipedia editor numbers have been declining since 2007, yet nothing but the smallest tweaks have been made to address the reasons behind the most frequent complaint, which is the attitude towards contributions: Instead of looking for a way to use contributions usefully, the goal appears to be to find some WP:Anything as a reason to revert or delete. Doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result isn't the best strategy. Determine and treat the problem, and don't assume a band-aid is all that's necessary. (talk) 20:50, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. Maybe it's worth re-proposing. Wxidea (talk) 21:06, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Other venues that have been renamed from "deletion" to "discussion" (such as for categories and templates also serve as the primary venues for proposing mergers or other non-deletion outcomes. So in those cases renaming more accurately reflected the function of the venue. While other outcomes are possible from a deletion proposal, AFD is still primarily a place to discuss deletion of a page, and there are different venues to propose mergers and such. So renaming it seems more like an exercise in euphemism than an improvement. --RL0919 (talk) 21:12, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
The summary there is quite correct. We basically had consensus to rename it in 2009, but the actual change was met with passive resistance and ambivalence. The only policy page that was updated to reflect the new name that I'm aware of was WP:SK, and I reverted those changes once it became clear that the new name was not being accepted, even though I supported the idea of renaming it initially. Gigs (talk) 21:33, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Sampling a few recent log pages, the proportion of redirect or merge closes is about 10%.That's a non trivial number, and with a little more encouragement some of the non-cnsensus closes could have been handled similarly. The change is more than a euphemism-- rename would help encourage people to consider the options. DGG ( talk ) 00:06, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Comment There's a difference between a merge request resulting from two people unknowingly creating separate articles about the same person, and a merge request regarding a new article which may or may not be belong as part of another article. The second takes input, research and discussion to determine what should be done (AfD). The first is a no-brainer, and tagging each article for a merge, as we're supposed to do currently, makes more sense than going through an AfD. (talk) 01:11, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Keep AfD/Merge separate to help save revisions and spot frivilous AfDs: By renaming as "AfDiscussion", then things could get worse. Currently, many articles should be tagged to discuss merging, long before any talk of deletion (as WP:AfD). By keeping the 2 processes as separate, then it is easier to track attempted deletions versus mergers, and to tally a hostile trend of "frivolous AfDs" (excess deletions), and then take sanctions against people who waste our time by flooding the AfD lists. Of course, the climate would need to change to issue sanctions against troublesome people sending good articles to AfD. In the wise days of the Code of Hammurabi, any liars who falsely accused everyone of theft or murder, got themselves punished with the flipped equivalent sentence for theft or murder, scaled to reflect the social status of the person being accused. WP needs to issue strong sentences, such as: anyone who gets deletion-happy would be sentenced to add 10 reliable-sources to 100 (or 500?) often-read poor articles. (That would reflect the flipped-sentence, where people would be directed to save many articles rather than sweep numerous articles into AfD deletion.) There would be far fewer frivolous accusations. The same should be done at WP:ANI, to deter liars there.
    However, if the current processes were combined into an Articles-for-Discussion process, then more mergers would be in danger of being deleted, where most editors could not retrieve the old revisions to merge the deleted-article text into other articles. By checking the current probability for deletion at AfD, most certainly, more articles would get deleted rather than properly merged. It would be very dangerous to funnel more articles into an "AfX" process. Also, the extreme danger of deletion can be viewed in the template-discussions (WP:TfD), which result in numerous quick deletions, with little chance to save the deleted template revisions. Hence, the solution is not to "rename" AfDs to include discussion, but rather, to insist on merger discussions beforehand, as in: "This is an AfD: the link to mandatory prior merger-talk is here." Make non-deletion discussions a mandatory prerequisite step, before allowing most AfDs. -Wikid77 04:31, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm disappointed you so misunderstood the proposal. (talk) 13:50, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't think he did. While I agree there needs to be some changes, even a rename, of this process, the point is that this is not why editors are kept away, or at least not such an important reason that this is why change should happen. If you cannot survive having your first article deleted, you probably shouldn't be editing wikipedia - because that is part and parcel of the process. More importantly, this Wikipedia:Perennial proposals#Rename AFD shows you why this conversation is pretty much unproductive. For better or for worse, this process will not change until the editors who are heavily involved with it (which span the gamut from deletionists to inclusionists and in-betweeners) think it is broken enough - and they don't seem to think so, and if they do, it is in ways that cannot be developed to a consensus. So this is a bit of horsemeat, which is the point I think you misunderstood.--Cerejota (talk) 20:48, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I consider it highly insulting for either of you to claim I don't want bad articles to be deleted. What's disappointing is to see the two of you jumping to such an absurd conclusion, obviously not based on what I proposed. You've made up your mind, I won't confuse you with facts. (talk) 22:03, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • More articles along the Grand Canyon: Let me clarify with an analogy. There is a current danger, with some articles walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon, that some accidentally fall off and get deleted, so the proposed solution is to have more articles walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon, as a safer method? I hope that clarifies why other article disputes, such as mergers, are discussed in talk-pages, rather than all at WP:AfD. -Wikid77 23:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Please don't continue to confuse what actually happens with what you would like to happen. Many possible mergers are not being discussed in the talk pages, as other discussions here have established. They aren't even being considered. Instead, articles are tagged for deletion and the discussion then splits between those who want them deleted and those who desperately scramble around trying to find any sort of justification that they are 'notable' and can be expanded. For example, look at the discussions on high schools. When we end up with such trivia as the grade point average required to graduate, in this attempt to expand the article, I'd say some effort is being misdirected, and misdirected in response to the 'system' currently in place. Is anyone suggesting they be merged with the town? No, not even Admins who should (presumably) know enough to identify and suggest this possibility. Instead, we end up with one of two results, neither of which is satisfactory. Wikipedia has town articles with no mention of schools. The school articles are either deleted or (often) absurd collections of minor factoids which would be true of any high school in the state. Contributors aren't learning where their efforts might be helpful in the sense of the big picture of an encyclopedia. (And note that high schools are only one example of this.) Why do you keep insisting this is A Good Thing? (I hear Dr. Pangloss cheering in the background.) I realize none of you are required to acknowledge reality. You are free to continue to cover your eyes and ears and pretend none of this happens and the system is working perfectly well in this best of all possible worlds. It's not. Instead, you take the time to create a ridiculous straw man argument and then blame me for its idiocy. Of course I find that irritating and insulting - who wouldn't? (talk) 16:41, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

A New Question about PR Firms and Wikipedia

Jimbo (or anyone else who may know), have there been prior cases of PR firms submitting proposed edits to talk pages? Have there been prior cases of PR firms submitting new articles somewhere? ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 07:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Many reasonable people who have a clear COI if they were to directly edit articles propose material for articles on the talk pages. Where the material is utile, it generally gets used. Where it is PR puff, it generally does not get used. If I recall correctly, Jimbo has no problem with that. The problem occurs when that intermediate step is bypassed - and that is where the clear consensus on Wiipedia is that such bypassing is completely improper. Cheers. Collect (talk) 11:28, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for your reply. I'm asking in regards to a news story I'm writing for a local publication: Is there documentary evidence that any public relations firm has ever submitted proposed edits to a talk page? ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:34, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
It's safe to say there is.... but finding it may take time. Here is a good place to start Jebus989 10:38, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Well no, there's no COI if they submit to a talk page and let an uninvolved editor decide to move the content to mainspace. I'm asking if there's documentary evidence that a PR firm has ever done it "the right way." ɳorɑfʈ Talk!
The chance of a company coming in and getting it right first time is pretty slim. Presumably looking through those articles will show up some PR usernames, which you could then follow up, but it sounds like you're waiting for someone else to do the research for you. Maybe there's someone out there who remembers a high-profile example... Jebus989 11:54, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Ok I cave, here's one by Gepa (talk · contribs). It was really easy to find, try: searching talk page for PR etc. or searching the COI/N archives Jebus989 12:03, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
In answer to Noraft's second question above, I remember one case, not high profile, where an agency submitted an article to WP:AfC. User:Sneakattackmedia submitted Wikipedia talk:Articles for creation/Mary Bragg. The website of Sneak Attack Media mentioned the subject of the article as one of their clients. The article was never accepted, and would probably be deleted under WP:CSD#A7 if it was moved into article space. Quasihuman | Talk 12:22, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Award of WikiLove Carrots

Carrots.JPG WikiLove Carrots Award of WikiLove Carrots
Because we neither transcription monkeys nor truth rabbits, but humans with a passion to collect all human knowledge... Cerejota (talk) 20:11, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Paid advocacy

If you have time, please take a look at Wikipedia:Paid advocacy to ensure that what is written there jibes with what you consider banned behavior. Gigs (talk) 20:46, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Follow up

As a result of this discussion, we are developing a grassroots proposal. Of course your input is welcome, and we already intend to incorporate your suggestions from the thread. By all means you, and the watchers of this page who have input, BRD is the way to add your suggestions. We intend to get this done right. All help is appreciated. Thanks - My76Strat (talk) 04:25, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Labor Day Weekend

Enjoy the last major holiday of the summer, but we will be back next week with more disturbing issues! -Wikid77 12:42, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

A story from the early days of the web

(This ended up being a bit of a mini-essay, but it's worth being really clear about my position here.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:53, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

This is just a story related to the discussion of paid editing, up above.

In the pre-Google days there was great competition between Yahoo and Altavista and several others. One of the questions out there was the question of algorithmic search versus human curated directories. Algorithmic search won out for the most part, in the long run, but my story is not about that.

Yahoo hired teams of editors to review websites and list them in their directory. I don't remember now exactly how many people this was, but I think it safe to say it was in the hundreds. These editors could find websites any old way, of course, and include whatever in their judgment was worth including, but there was also the possibility of submitting your site to Yahoo.

Yahoo at the time was incredibly powerful and so of course the submission queue was voluminous - to the point that it was nearly useless.

Someone at Yahoo then had the idea of "paid submission". It still exists today. It costs $299 annually(!) for most sites, $600 annually for "adult content and/or services".

Yahoo insisted that paying for expedited review of your website was not a compromise on the editorial neutrality of the directory. But the public perception was very strongly negative.

Once they took that step, the obvious incentive structure means that it's in Yahoo's interest to give a favorable review. Let's say I have a movie website, and I pay to get one page of it reviewed by Yahoo. If that page is rejected, I won't submit again. If my page about Clint Eastwood is accepted, and the amount of traffic I receive is worth it, I'll pay again and again. Maybe I'll submit 1000 pages, and pay $300,000. That's real money.

Acceptance of a really crappy page might be bad for Yahoo, of course, but notice that the cost/benefit analysis has shifted for Yahoo. They have a strong financial incentive to list my site as long as I don't do more than $300,000 per year in damage to the Yahoo brand.

Yahoo liked to insist that this wouldn't happen, but the public trust in Yahoo was diminished. Today, of course, Yahoo is no longer regarded as a dominant leader, and I think that shortsighted moves like this are a big part of the reason why. (That algorithmic search turned out to be the right answer in most cases is of course also a part of it.)

If you want to buy Google today, well the total market value of the stock is 174 billion. Yahoo, one tenth of that at 17.4 billion.

Now let's apply this line of thought to newspapers. We all know that newspapers make money from advertising, and that quality newspapers do take steps to isolate the editorial department from the advertising department. It's not perfect, but the system does mostly work.

Now imagine that the New York Times announced a program. For a $10,000 fee, you can pay them to send around a reporter to write a story about you. Imagine that it is claimed that this is no guarantee of the story actually being published. It still has to go through the normal processes and procedures, it is said. How would that impact the credibility of the newspaper?

My view is that it would be incredibly destructive. As per what I outlined above, simple financial incentives suggest that large companies would give it a try a few times, and if it resulted in favorable coverage they wouldn't have gotten, they'd do it again and again. And if it was a waste of money, they wouldn't do it again.

With advertising we worry about the indirect influence of the money on the editorial staff. That's problematic enough. But when connection between pay and getting coverage is made direct in this fashion - bleh.

Now imagine that you're a member of the general public and you read a story in the newspaper about Wikipedia. Two possible story lines. In one version, it's "Wikipedia announces paid submission program" - in a sudden change of heart and policy, Wikipedia has decided to allow a formal program whereby experienced Wikipedia editors are paid by PR companies to write articles for Wikipedia. Oh no, we insist, nothing changes about our editorial policies, of course not. People would rightly be deeply concerned about that. Suddenly people would read articles in Wikipedia and wonder - how tainted is this by the formal acceptance of Wikipedians being paid to write on behalf of companies? In the other version, it's "Wikipedia reiterates its stance against PR firms editing Wikipedia". The story is that Wikipedia editors have firmly rejected the concept of allowing people to come into Wikipedia as paid advocates to edit articles, due to the wrongness of the financial incentives, and the blurring of the passionate pursuit of the truth that has been a hallmark of the Wikipedia community.

For me, this has been, and continues to be, an absolute principle. Paid advocacy is banned from Wikipedia.

The objections that are often raised are not remotely compelling. Claiming that banning it only pushes it underground doesn't make sense, as there seems to be virtually no evidence for it. Most responsible PR firms understand that editing Wikipedia on behalf of clients is forbidden, and they have rules in place internally to prohibit it. Of course, this is a big place, and everything goes on to some extent - the goal is not to achieve perfection, but to have the right principles in place.

Another response to this objection is that it ignores that PR firms have a perfectly valid way to interact with Wikipedia, well-respected by the community, totally above-board and ethical. And that's to post to the talk page, declaring your conflict of interest, and asking people to take another look at something. That's the ethical approach, and it works. It completely prevents the question of whether or not what ends up in Wikipedia ended up that way because the Wikipedians themselves are corrupt.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:52, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps then, we ourselves should be offering more incentives to editors ourselves to discourage editors working for other parties and to focus purely on what we want people to get written? Maybe if we embraced an open reward system ourselves and raised annual funding for a monthly prize system it would marginalize external paid editing. Of course corruption will always exist on here but maybe if we ourselves made editing more alluring to editors.. Ultimately we desire to produce an encyclopedia of the highest possible quality, but most people ask, what do I have to gain to contributing to this?♦ Dr. Blofeld 12:35, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Thanks for being detailed on your thoughts! I have a couple of my own points in response, though. Firstly it feels a lot like you are building a strawman situation in the paragraph that begins; Now imagine that you're a member of the general public and you read a story in the newspaper about Wikipedia. Neither situation is very likely :) The first is unlikely because there is no way a paid submission process would be accepted by the community, whereas people being paid to do their normal editing is a lot less frowned on (if done ethically). You've cast the issue as a black/white situation - which never really applies in reality :)
To look at your example r.e. Yahoo - this doesn't really equate because it is not Wikipedia benefiting from the monetary exchange. So there is little chance of it undermining our editorial procedures. If Wikipedia rejects material someone was paid to write, that is the writers problem to resolve with whoever paid them! :) Indeed it is in our interests to be extra critical of paid editing because it means that it helps keep it ethical.
Another problem is blaming such a move for Yahoo's decline... Google has, itself, a paid promotions program; the difference is that it is carefully made obvious to the user - and through that avenue is made more ethical. So rather than "Yahoo had paid submissions, and it helped kill them. Google does not, and it helped make them" the situation rather is "Google figured out how to do paid listings that work".
Lets look at the Newspaper example in another way. A PR firm pays an unpaid contributor to the NYT to write an article and submit it to editorial. So now the NYT editorial has no particular reason to accept or reject the material over something the contributor might normally submit. If it comes across as promotional they reject it.
Now I understand, and agree with, the argument that paid editing could lead to problems - people trying to advocate, break the rules or subvert the editorial process. Whether it is explicitly banned or not doesn't really change that risk. On the other hand there are benefits to paid editing - such as articles getting improved where normally they would not!
What about this hypothetical scenario; a foo research unit at a university decides that Wikipedia's coverage of the broader foo topic is not good. So they employ a couple of professional writers to improve the content. Is this a problem? Why? What if it was a foo research company (and the content was not promotional)?
Time and again it is agreed in the community that it is the outcome that is best judged - so if the outcome is good article content, I don't think any complaint will be raised :) --Errant (chat!) 12:42, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
ErrantX, you are right and wrong in your critique of what I have written. You are right that there is a disanalogy between the Yahoo case and the New York Times hypothetical, versus the Wikipedia paid advocate case. The difference is that Yahoo, Inc., and the New York Times, Inc. would benefit, not the actual writers. I submit though, that this is actually a point in *favor* of my position. You can recast my examples and imagine if the NYT or Yahoo announced that they have eliminated rules on authors/editors accepting money from the subjects of their articles. Imagine the editor in Chief of the New York Times saying "Yes, noted technology author Noam Cohen is now allowed to accept money directly from the companies he reports on, but don't worry, the integrity of his reporting will not change." Disaster. So, yes, my examples were designed to show how bad an idea this is, but an even closer analogy shows that in the Wikipedia paid advocate case, it's actually a great deal worse.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:06, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
You still haven't really explained how this damages Wikipedia though. I get that your main objection is that it might (and I point out "might") undermine an editors credibility and neutrality (i.e. they treat the article differently). But that doesn't necessarily equate to undermining the editorial integrity of Wikipedia. The vast majority (i.e. everyone but one...) is not being paid to improve that article. So have no vested interest in keeping any unacceptable content (or the whole article).
The problem of advocacy editing is not one tied purely to paid editing - it is an inherent problem that exists even amongst editors not being paid! I suggest that this is an example of "Correlation does not imply causation"; that just because some paid editors have been banned for advocacy does not mean that all paid editing causes advocacy :) --Errant (chat!) 17:00, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Your point would be valid if and only if the PR firm submitted content to an "inbox" at Wikipedia from which anonymous editors could choose to add the relevant reliably sourced material to articles, or to simply ignore the press releases (for that is what such material would be), thus removing any incentive for Wikipedia to transform into Paypedia(tm). Wikipedia, in fact, currently allows (even encourages) thouse with a COI to offer such material on article talk pages. What WP does not allow is for that intermediate step to be elided. I suggest Mr. Wales' take on all of this is correct. Cheers. Collect (talk) 12:48, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Who mentioned press releases? That doesn't make a lot of sense TBH. If someone offered me $100 to take a look at their biography as part of my normal editing activities I'd be happy to do so, and don't see any issues there (and I don't think the editing community does either). --Errant (chat!) 13:18, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I have a huge problem with that, and I'm disappointed that you could even imagine that would be acceptable behavior. It's deeply unethical to do something like that. I think you are very wrong about what the editing community thinks about that. I want you to imagine this: suppose it were revealed that a local newspaper reporter was accepting $100 bribes to "take a look at" local businesses with a view to writing about them for the business section of the paper. It's disgusting.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:19, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
In fact, this happens all the time, although the notional $100 is in the form of free trips, meals, gifts and the like. The key is that the good PR company knows that all they are buying is the reporter's "look", and that no favourable coverage is guaranteed; they're just raising their chances of getting it by rising to the top of the pile of companies awaiting "looks". Barnabypage (talk) 11:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm not so sure that is a good comparison; perhaps a better one (for this specific scenario) would be: a company is being written about for the business section of a local paper. The content that will be published isn't very good, or is incomplete, so they pay a local reporter to take a look and complete the material. Is that a bribe? Anyway, I don't think setting up hypothetical comparisons is a good way to judge how it might be viewed; I'm not finding any of them very compelling (but I guess I am unethical and compromised, so I wouldn't ;)). It feels very high handed to say "thou shalt only edit in your spare time". How about this scenario (one that has happened...) - an employer notices that the subject area the company works in is lacking on Wikipedia, so he suggests to an employee, who he knows used to be a Wiki editor, he might like to spend some spare company time improving the content. Oh noes! Highly unethical... but you got a good article out of it, and I ended up sticking back and adding tens of thousands more edits. This, perhaps, is why the whole "ye unethical lot" thing seems to be a high horse to me... Never mind, if your disgusted by me perhaps I will not bother ;) --Errant (chat!) 16:49, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Open Access Journals might be of relevance in this context. --Rosentod (talk) 13:11, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Mr Wales, I am curious about a point raised in another discussion that may be relevant here, and to Errant's comment above: if the relevant Wikipedia principles, particularly verifiability, neutral point of view and due adherence to discussion, scrutiny and consensus in talk pages were not injured by a paid contributor, would a paid copywriter, acting as an advocate for a paying client, actually be in breach of any principle other than being a paid advocate? For the record: I oppose paid advocacy forming part of an encyclopaedia, but, as far as I can see, the broader question remains unresolved, and I have some sympathy for Errant's view that being a paid editor isn't always the same as being a paid advocate. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 13:27, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
FWIW the issue I take is with equating "paid advocate" with "paid editor" - being paid, and advocacy are separate issues. You can be an advocate w/o being paid (and we have wide issues with this!). And I argue you can be paid w/o being an advocate (i.e. Wikimedia in Residence programs). --Errant (chat!) 13:33, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Agreed Errant, somebody paid to write a neutral high quality featured article or something which meets all content requirements cannot be painted with the same brush as somebody paid to advocate/advertise something, present lies and mistruths or to intentionally vandalize the reputation of a rival or something. The difference must be noted, even if you disagree with all paid editing.♦ Dr. Blofeld 13:43, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Using the Yahoo directory as an analogy implies Jimbo wants Wikipedia to be the AOL/Open Directory Project of encyclopedias, whose path it does seem to be following in many ways, and not necessarily in good ways. On this particular issue, I would limit any businesses or groups, whose success depends on a particular view being promulgated, to the Talk pages. I would encourage groups such as the Sunlight Foundation (I note Jimbo is an advisor), universities (keeping an skeptical eye on research paid for by a business), the respected media (no tabloids) and similar, to contribute. These contributors should disclose any such affiliations on their user pages in the interests of transparency, but imo they could improve articles by providing material and/or External links to their own often extensive research and reports which they keep current. Wikipedia's been frightening them off, and I don't understand the point of that. (talk) 13:48, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Although I understand and am slightly familiar with the story that Jimbo presents it is a very specific case among many for and against the idea of paid editing. Using myself as an example I have never taken one cent for my activities. However, it is widely known even from the highest levels of my leadership that I am very active in Wikipedia and from this I am frequently asked about things like how to "clean up" an article, how to create one, various activities and functions of how things work, how information is gathered, etc. Now, although I do not take any money for this, I would be lying if I say that I thought I wasn't being compensated at all. But my compensation comes in the form of accolaids and acknowledement from my leadership knowing my abilities and being familiar that I have a skillset (the ability to Navigate and interpret policy, rules and guidelines of one of the worlds leading websites, Wikipedia). Do I take money for it no, but I also cannot in all honesty, say that it hasn't been a factor in appraisals of perfomrance at work. Should I be banned for this type of behavior? For profiting from the knowledge I have gained? I suggest not. But by the letter of the law I should be. I only suggest that there is a gray area of "compensatory editing" that cannot be acknowledged by an extreme feelings that all forms of paid editing are bad or that we should opend the gates to all forms of compensatory editing. There is a middle ground that I think we can safely get too that will be benficial for all. --Kumioko (talk) 16:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it's wrong to imagine that there's a gray area here. And you are absolutely wrong about what the "letter of the law" says. Let me take two elements of what you have said. First, you talk about tangential benefits from working in Wikipedia, and second let's talk about the difference between that and advocacy.
For the first, let's again return to the case of an ethical reporter for a major and reputable newspaper, say the New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. These reporters are generally forbidden from accepting gifts or compensation for the people they write about. For financial reporters, there can be even tighter restrictions around what they invest in personally, etc. This is considered proper ethical behavior.
But reporters at these elite newspapers get many benefits from their jobs, including accolades and acknowledgement from others, possible future job opportunities based on their skills learned as well as the connections and relationships they have forged along the way. The latter can be problematic, but there's no way to pass a rule against it. (You can't very well tell a reporter not to meet people and forge relationships!)
The reason I'm against paid advocacy in Wikipedia is not some irrational demand that people not make money. Learn from Wikipedia! Become a better writer! Learn about community management and social media. Use it in your life to get a better job, that's not problematic at all.
But notice how incredibly different all that is from taking money from someone to write an article about them. That's not a gray area at all.
Second, I want to talk again about the difference between "paid editing" and "paid advocacy". I hope we can get rid of the phrase "paid editing" because it just causes all kinds of weird conceptual confusions and makes a really easy issue seem complex. If you are assigned at school, as a learning exercise, to write an article for Wikipedia, and you are "paid" in course credit, that's perfectly fine. If you are an academic at a university, and your university values Wikipedia and asks professors to participate, while being paid by the university, that's completely fine. The only thing that would make either of those wrong is if there were to be an offer made to act as an *advocate* for the employer or school.
No one is arguing that you should be banned from Wikipedia if you go out and get a job based on skills you learned in Wikipedia. What is being argued and which - despite all the confusion - is nearly universally accepted - is that charging money to people to edit the article space on Wikipedia to advocate on their behalf is wrong. That one is an easy no-brainer.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:16, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Imagine I told you now Jimbo that Clint Eastwood himself and his PR team had personally paid me $1000 and a backstage pass to visit his future movies on set to write his biography. Would you think the article itself was disgusting or wrong? Would it change the fact that the article is written perfectly within wikipedia's content guidelines and is valued by several thousand people on a daily basis? i think this is the point some of us are trying to make. Paid advocacy would be him paying me to only select gushing reviews of every film he every starred in, to promote his politics and arguments against people like Spike Lee who've been outspoken against him, to tone down his relationships with women and to cherry pick. The article would be full of POV and completely against guidelines. Given that this is not the case, would it really matter that I was compensated for my efforts without "advocating him"? ♦ Dr. Blofeld 17:33, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Dr, anyone who claims to be paid to edit neutrally is either lying, or will not be in business for very long. Even granting the incredibly ridiculous hypothesis that an entity would pay someone to write something possibly unflattering about them without pressure to "make things right" or that the fictional writer was perfectly ethical and was – unlike human beings – perfectly objective towards a customer and had no care for repeat business, the readers would smell a rat and would no longer trust anything that writer produced. — Coren (talk) 18:04, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Put a simpler way: you are arguing that a paid editor that was perfectly neutral would be okay; I (and I expect Jimmy) are arguing that no such thing can exist. — Coren (talk) 18:09, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Imagine the Clint Eastwood article was prefaced with: Full Disclosure Notice: The subject of this article gave Dr. Blofeld $1000 and a backstage pass as an incentive to provide his unbiased editing contributions. As far as we know, he's the only one. First, readers would laugh. Second, Wikipedians would start hitting up the subjects of other articles for like 'incentives'. Third, those subjects would start screaming that Wikipedia was now a protection racket. Fourth, unsubstantiated rumors of heads of horses being found in unlikely places would be reported. Fifth, The Onion would have its next film. (talk) 18:15, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
You may very well be right that there is nobody who would pay for somebody to write a high quality neutral article about them. In principle though it would be different from somebody paying somebody to cherry pick and insert loads of flattery and POV. Ultimately it is the product of the article which matters. Admittedly I also don't like the idea of people manipulating content and wikipedia for gain so I would agree with Jimmy on that.♦ Dr. Blofeld 18:18, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Caesar's wife (and Wikipedia) must be above suspicion - proper intent and proper actions are insufficient. The problem is that the readers have no way of knowing whether the resulting article does indeed include the good, the bad and the ugly. That's (presumably) why they're reading Wikipedia - to find out. If we don't have their trust, we're toast. Money is good. Accuracy is good. If IMDb employees were to verify Wikipedia's lists of film appearances of actors, or create or update such lists, I would have no problem with that. If an actor's PR department were to add a film the actor was just signed to make, I wouldn't have a problem with that, either. Same with book lists for authors. It's when the move from facts to opinion ("this will be the high point of his career!") that I see a problem. (talk) 19:03, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Thank you Jimbo that sorta is the point I was alluding too as well and is kinda what I thought that answer would be once clarified. Your absolutely right that there is a clear consensus that COI paid editing is innappropriate. For example if I were a politician and I hired a PR firm to clean up the articles realting to me that would be bad, unethical and against the rules. But, my point way above on the page was, what would be the problem if a person or business offered money (a bounty for lack of a better term) for an article or group of articles unrelated to them, to be improved and that money went to a charity or to the foundation. An easy example would be if I wanted to offer a bounty to someone to improve a Medal of Honor recipient article within normal Wikipedia guidelines. This would consditute what I would consider paid editing but not not paid advocacy. I would be essentially paying someone to edit the article, but not to advocate a particular outcome, detail or ideal within the article. That is the sort of middle ground that I am talking about. I'm not going to continue to beat a dead horse though since I can clearly see that the decision has been made I just wanted to try and more clearly articulate my though process of how potentially allowing some type of compensatory editing might be ok and beneficial. --Kumioko (talk) 17:36, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo I have utmost respect for your opinions, and often agree with them so please don't take this the wrong way, but I think the black and white stance against paid editing is a bit like security theater. It helps build the illusion that the encyclopedia's integrity is more or less intact. The reality is that Wikipedia's integrity as a quality source is compromised all the time by people who edit in particular ways for personal gain. This personal gain is usually not monetary, especially not in the straight forward fashion that it would be if editors were paid, but it is personal gain nonetheless. Is the possibility of monetary reward any more corrupting than the possibility of emotional reward? social reward? political reward? etc. I think there is a mistaken assumption here that money corrupts more than anything else, inherently, and always. That if we open the doors to paid editing the dominoes will fall until the entire project has been completely compromised. Perhaps that would happen, but how do we really know that? I am someone who is 100% against the use of Wikipedia for marketing purposes. I've been vocal about this in the past as well. But I wonder if it isn't a bit simplistic to say that there could never be a system of paid editing in place that would work. Consider this. What if paid editing was a service run by Wikipedia? What if the editors had to register with project and what if their assignments were given out at random? The way that an entity pays for editing is to make a standard donation to Wikipedia. Instead of paying cash to the paid editors the Foundation gives them gift cards, or other valuable gifts that are not cashable (of a value less than the donation). The gift would only be credited at the point that the article passes GA review or something similar. This way the editor's reward comes from quality editing and not pleasing a client. Now this is a very, very rough idea. In fact I just thought of it minutes ago. My point isn't that this idea is the one, but only that I think there are much more imaginative ways to link together entities who would like entries, or would like improved entries, and editors who would like to get rewarded for improving them. Why not also kick some donation money the Foundations way while one is at it?Griswaldo (talk) 18:30, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Excellent points Griswaldo but have you not read my suggestions of introducing a Article of the Month and a Core Contest of the Month scheme in which there would be a reward at stake, perhaps Amazon vouchers or something academic which would motivate people which I've been frequently bringing up the past few weeks? If you or anybody would like to help me form a formal proposal please say so.♦ Dr. Blofeld 18:33, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Dr. Blofeld I admit that I have not had time to read through everything. Could you link to the basic description of that scheme. Thanks.Griswaldo (talk) 18:36, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Can't find it sorry, I think it was from about 3 or 4 week ago, I think it was under a discussion about how to attract new editors..♦ Dr. Blofeld 19:20, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Griswaldo, I agree with you that many people edit Wikipedia with ulterior or self-serving motives. But introducing paid editing in any guise would hurt Wikipedia's reputation even more than the presence of editors who are motivated by grudges, nationalism, self-promotion and so on. ScottyBerg (talk) 19:39, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I think we shouldn't make the perfect be the enemy of the good. It would be perfect to have an environment in which ethical paid editors existed (because well, we all need money to live), but the reality is such a thing is a pipe dream that would destroy the very basis of the project - which is amateur editing. So we need the good, which is announced COI, a general prohibition, and content rules. And it mostly works fine, except for those that try to game the system.

Without mentioning any other projects to develop encyclopedias using wikis, the reason this one is successful is among other things because personal expertise or economic incentive is downplayed, for a reliance on community consensus of what reliable sources verifiably say - our experts and professionals are in the reliable sources, not our editor community. This separation of powers, so to speak, is the cornerstone of Wikipedia's success, because it removes - systemically - any barriers to entry but also makes it extremely expensive to significantly skew the information into one's favor unless the reliable sources do so. This has an effect on the readership, making wikipedia one of the few informational web properties seen as free of commercial influence. It also creates a lot of problems, but again, lets not make the perfect the enemy of the good - the problems are inevitable and ultimately, in the big picture, mitigated by the emergence of quality material. An interesting pattern I do have seen, is the increasing tendency in RS to write for wikipedia, but that is another topic.--Cerejota (talk) 20:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Just to go back to Griswaldo's comment above. I agree with his first part entirely, it expresses well what I've perhaps not managed to do. As to the second part; I'd strongly disagree with an approach that encouraged paid editing, or made it a "feature" or anything. I see no reason for people not to be funded now and again to improve content, preferably making a note on the talk page about it, but organising a scheme to do so...
If funding schemes were to take place you'd have to do it separately to avoid gaming - and also avoid articles related to living persons or companies (for obvious reasons!). You'd set it up as a fund/non-profit and employ content writers directly (the plan I specced out a couple of months ago was for £80K funding three people + resources). I see no issues in such an idea... perhaps others do? --Errant (chat!) 21:51, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I proposed the second idea mostly to point out that there are many ways to consider the problem, and it seems to me that some who are opposed to paid editing have blinders on. In other words it was a half baked example of thinking outside of the box :). I like the non-profit idea you're proposing quite a bit. In what forum was it discussed? In general I'm of the mind that it's better to know what someone's COI is if they are editing the encyclopedia. Any system that encourages them to be upfront about it is an improvement. We are more capable of ensuring neutral editing when the cards are on the table. It strikes me that for Jimbo there is more going on here than the quality of the end product, and that is Wikipedia's reputation (regardless of the actual end product). He seems to think that allowing paid editing would make the world lose confidence in the product. I'm not entirely sure that is true. I think petty vandalism, ideologically and emotionally driven POV pushing, and editor incompetence have a much more negative effect on our reputation than a few paid editors would. Consider also that it is not in the paid editors best interest, or in the entity paying him/her to drive the reputation of Wikipedia into the ground. Far from it. I also think people are forgetting that old saying, that "any publicity is good publicity." For most entities seeking publicity a neutrally written Wikpedia entry would be much, much better than no Wikipedia entry. When puff pieces get deleted or hacked down to size because they are too promotional paid editors who are not playing by the rules will be quick to learn the ropes. If they didn't they would have no future in their profession.Griswaldo (talk) 00:37, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Too many straw men being raised

"Paid editing" and "Paid advocacy" are not the same thing. I think Jimbo has it spot on. We need to be aware that certain approaches to motivating editors favor bias, and other approaches favor neutral treatment of material.

I can pay an editor and make it clear to them that I want high quality, neutral material, and as long as they aren't writing about those who pay them, it can be fine. But those people aren't who Jimbo was talking about. People who are paid (or even not paid) to make someone or something look good or something else look bad, to remove negative material, or to add negative material to opponent's pages, and anything like it, are advocates. If someone is freely contributing their time to Wikipedia, and they are an advocate, we have rules and processes that help us push back against that. So we don't allow advocacy in Wikipedia. And further, if someone is being paid to be an advocate, its an even further breach of the same rules. But the explicit declaration of "we don't support paid advocates", while it might be redundant because we don't support advocacy editing anyway, helps show the world that Wikipedia wants to do its best to stay neutral and have high quality editing. So for PR companies out there, its a big sign saying "don't waste your money here", because Wikipedians will probably remove the material. I think Jimbo said it well, and the nitpicking of who, what, why etc, is just distracting from the fact that no matter whether it is paid or unpaid, we don't want advocacy-style editing. -- Avanu (talk) 16:01, 2 September 2011 (UTC)


Jimbo, Along these lines, what kind of compensation is acceptable for a Wikipedian in residence? ( Course credit? Salary? Stipend? Access to curators or back offices? New contacts? -- and is this constrained to only museums? Or would you be open to a Wikipedian-in-residence who works for the U.S. Department of Energy, or Exxon, or NBC, or the Kennedy Library? Wxidea (talk) 20:46, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

As the link you provided explains, it is limited to "cultural institutions" and they can be both compensated and volunteer. However, the intent is not be representatives of those institutions in wikipedia, but representatives of wikipedia in those institutions, and this is not trivial as differences go. For example, the Wikimedia Foundation does accept donations from anyone, yet this doesn't mean this is a quid-pro-quo for editing, just a way to support the great work Wikimedia does. What Wikipedians-in-residence receive is essentially the same an intern or some other temporary worker or volunteer would, and there is no way to construe that as "paid editing", in particular because the institutions make no such requirement. Cultural institutions, in general, are viewed as reliable sources of information, and are large repositories of cultural knowledge, and having volunteers and even paid interns gather in-depth knowledge of these sources can be of great benefit to us all. Developing relationships with them improves the encyclopedia. Paid editing is a one way street that harms the encyclopedia. The difference is clear.--Cerejota (talk) 21:02, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
A person paid to edit Wikipedia, who worked at a reliable source, would always clearly harm the encyclopedia? Jesanj (talk) 21:13, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota, that doesn't really make a lot of sense - or, rather, it feels like awkwardly redefining what Wikipedian in Residence is so that it doesn't appear to be paid editing as defined further up. :) In reality there is little difference in someone working for a company editing articles in relation to said company, and a resident editing articles about their institution... they are being paid to edit and improve content. Now; the latter is going to have more problems and pitfalls - and is more likely to be anti-policy. But there is no guarantee it is so... --Errant (chat!) 21:42, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Well to clarify, Wikipedians-in-residence, if they edit, are not paid to edit on behalf of the institution paying them - they are basically working for Wikipedia, with the express task of improving the encyclopedia: should we consider WP:OFFICE actions paid editing? The Wikimedia Foundation has also paid Jimbo's expenses at times (sometimes controversially), is Jimbo a paid editor? I think one has to make a clear difference between receiving remuneration based on participation in Wikipedia, something that is not banned and even necessary (those servers do not run themselves, and the people who run it being banned from editing makes no sense at all), with paid editing. Wikipedians-in-residence, clearly and uncontroversially help improve the project, whereas paid editors in general do not and even if they did improve the project it would be a situation were a broken clock is right twice a day. Paid editing also, as Jimbo points out in his essay, severely compromises the unspoken trust contract that we have with readers - it damages the wikipedia brand in a severe way. Wikipedians-in-residence, on the other hand, bring the generally positive branding positions of major cultural institutions to wikipedia, improving the brand. Being known to have paid editors from a commercial brand or controversial political cause is harmful. Being associated with a respected and well known cultural institution is helpful. Pretty simple, really. --Cerejota (talk) 22:12, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
are not paid to edit on behalf of the institution paying them ; huh? Some indeed are! Some are specifically tasked to improve the article about their institution ;) What you've established, I think, is that some paid editing is ok. All we are negotiating over is where to draw the line... I think you'l find I largely agree with you over that line. But it doesn't seem Jimbo does - I wrote an article in the field my company works, on company time (don't worry - no COI issues!), at the suggestion of my employer. It seems that this is "disgusting" and unethical :( You can maybe understand why that is de-motivating :) --Errant (chat!) 22:55, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
(it looks like I was partially wrong about WIR being paid - but I know there are couple that are employees at the institution retasked to editing Wikipedia, and those are the examples I mean) --Errant (chat!) 23:00, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Not only that, but a few wikipedians-in-residence are compensated by Wikimedia chapters, not external organizations. Also if you know of these employees, and they have not declared their COI, kindly ask them to do it. When they are eventually found, the reaction might not be too kind.--Cerejota (talk) 05:25, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • The little difference is marketing... between paid-editing at an institution and paid-editing at a corporation. The marketing drive is often so fierce in some companies that more marketing people get promoted to executives, than say, product-design workers. The little difference is campaigning if the paid-editing comes from a political group, but most political groups lose their steam after the current election (they often close their offices and release the buildings, until the next campaign). Corporate marketing is a very, very powerful, long-term force, and it would be tempting to use Wikipedia plus have paid "reliable sources" to market "vaporware" - imagine the articles describing the user-friendly, value-added features of products that did not really exist, beyond hollow prototypes glowingly reviewed in paid reliable sources. Perhaps now, "There are few paid sources" but how long would that last? Expect thousands of articles to be edited, and perhaps every village in the world should see-also the benefits of products in their villages to improve the living conditions with 3 easy payments of $39.99. In American TV, many stations broadcast infomercials of 5-30 minutes, where no other information is presented, during the time period. WP would need more WP:NPOV_dispute tags "[disputed]" in many articles, to counter claims made by paid reliable sources, such as, "Hey, don't send your money; that product doesn't really exist" on the talk-page. However, if the money is really rolling, then expect POV-disputes to be conveniently settled by paid non-complainers in talk-pages. Consider the tactics which corporations have already used: many $millions paid by corporate sponsors. -Wikid77 23:19, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • If you have a concern about the Wikipedia in residence program, or any COI issue the place to discuss it is the COI noticeboard. This is the archive of them being consulted at the start of the venture and this was their feedback. (Disclosure, subsequent to that discussion I've taken part at events at the British Museum and the V&A and had several canteen lunches paid for either by the UK chapter or by the Museum). If people want to reopen the debate about a series of collaborations that has helped us with articles as diverse as Royal Gold Cup and Hoxne hoard you are of course free to do so. Though if consensus were to shift against such collaborations with a group of not for profits whose mission obviously overlaps with ours, I would hope and expect that there would be no recriminations against those of us who took part in this between consulting the COI noticeboard last June and whenever consensus shifted against such collaborations. But remember these are institutions whose remit is to look after the cultural patrimony of makind and in many cases to make that available for all to see. That makes them very different collaboration partners than say a car manufacturer or a Hollywood studio would be. ϢereSpielChequers 07:21, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Essay article

I have put it up as an essay at Wikipedia:A story from the early days of the web with the shortcut WP:ASTORY. I have no idea how to categorize, make pretty, de-orphan, etc. Feel free to do so.--Cerejota (talk) 20:19, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:WikiProject Essays and Wikipedia:About essay searching and Category:Wikipedia essays.
Wavelength (talk) 21:15, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

If WP articles began to look like Knol pages

Go to Google Knol, and compare a search for some specific topics. Perhaps people have forgotten that existing articles can be rewritten to mention things (such as products?) in the lede section, or that current articles can be sent to WP:AfD, or merged away, until only some other pages are left as the search-result pages in Wikipedia. Go to Knol and search for "Davy Jones locker" and see if it matches a page about halloween costumes, rather than "Davy Jones' locker" as in an objective encyclopedia. For years, I have noticed that Knol pages tend to be about marketed products, more than general-knowledge pages for the same topics. Imagine how the (remaining) WP articles would look after a few years of paid-advocacy to support certain commercial viewpoints. -Wikid77 22:10, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo, I think this discussion demonstrates that consensus is not with you. Please show us otherwise.

If this discussion is at all representative of community consensus (and !consensus), then there is not a consensus that being paid cash for editing is always unethical. It seems some editors are more concerned with whether or not the encyclopedia's content is improved. You have made your opinions clear, but I do not see consensus that the community supports them. Now I'm asking you directly to please show us all written policy that says writing a neutral article that meets all community standards is prohibited. Thank you. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

There are many people like me who totally agree with Jimbo's stance, and we don't normally pile on because very little could be added to what Jimbo wrote above, and because it is pointless to add "me too" commentary. Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy where every procedure is fully documented, and you will never find a rulebook specifying just how unethical a paid advocate can be before they are banned. Johnuniq (talk) 03:38, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I think you are misreading the consensus. If you do an RFC, the consensus against paid editing is overwhelming. I fully support Jimbo's stance on this topic, and if it changes, I will continue to support it: it is a part of Jimbo's vision that has bought us success were all other wiki-based projects, and other user-edited efforts, have failed - even when led by well-funded organizations like Google. Jimbo has always put making an encyclopedia before any consideration, going as far as not moving this to Wikia (as he could have) when the time came, understanding that while the rest of the library would indeed need to make some money in the market, an encyclopedia(and other similar project, like wikiquotes and wikinews) made more sense as non-profits. I trust him fully in this respect, to provide long-term business and brand leadership to the project, including the position on paid editing. If all of the sudden conditions change, and it is felt this is possible, I will probably trust this spidey sense, because so far it has navigated the ship well. (Even if he is wrong on truth and verifiability and I am unconvinced - but open - to the "moral argument").--Cerejota (talk) 03:47, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

That's an interesting claim, Cerejota, since the last time we had an RfC, in 2009 (before my time, I admit), the result was 'no consensus, but with significantly more people of the opinion that paid editing is fine so long as the end product meets our other guidelines. Interestingly, the closing statement notes that German Wikipedia already, at that time, allowed paid editing. Thus I believe that it is very correct to say that there is not community consensus for Jimbo's position, though there is a substantial minority who do support it. Qwyrxian (talk) 04:32, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think you are misreading the RfC, which is one of the reasons I didn't participate back then: they way it was organized and worded was skewed towards a default position on paid editorship. For example, the anti-paid forces were spread out in a number of degrees, and the "winning" position didn't directly ask the question: is getting paid ok? It asked the question, "regardless if paid or unpaid, what matters is following the rules" - hell, I would have !voted for that. It was a majority of the positions against paid editing, taken as a whole, but the weasel worded position for paid editing got the single most support - but the position on oppostion got 66, plus all the other proposals. To give you an idea of how skewed it was, there was an identical proposal, after rootology's that was even seconded by rootology, and yet got only 19 supports. That RfC doesn't count because it was not done right. -Cerejota (talk) 04:59, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Okay, but what evidence do you have to support your position that Jimbo's position is actually the consensus position? If it is the consensus position, why is it not written into policy (say, WP:COI)? If it is policy, why is it that when I've seen (in the last year) paid editing raised at ANI, blocks have only resulted from failing to follow other policies (like saying "I know it's not neutral, but I got paid so it has to stay")? I fully accept that a substantial number of people, Founder included, believe that paid editing is antithetical to the project. I don't see evidence that this is, in fact, consensus. Qwyrxian (talk) 05:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo wasn't discussing paid editing, but was in fact discussing paid advocacy. Consensus is not in jeopardy, and conflating the two is just muddling the issue. -- Avanu (talk) 16:07, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

My mistake was a language issue, I meant paid advocacy when I said paid editing.--Cerejota (talk) 00:09, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

What is paid advocacy?

I'm signing separate thoughts separately so that people can respond to each idea.

Jimbo says (correct me if I'm wrong) that an editor producing/editing content for pay is de facto an advocate. I don't get the sense the community is united on this issue. If I told you that the Bishop of Qingdao paid me to write St. Michael's Cathedral, Qingdao and get it featured on the main page in 2010, it seems to me that the church benefited, the encyclopedia benefited, and I benefited. (Note: I was not paid to write that article. This is hypothetical.) I don't see any breach of ethics. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Correcting you - because that isn't what Jimbo said. -- Avanu (talk) 16:10, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Noraft, I'm slightly speechless. "an editor producing/editing content for pay is de facto an advocate". Not only did I not say that I have repeatedly - directly speaking to you - discussed at length why that is not true. Please go back and reread the thread, otherwise I don't know how we can make any progress whatsoever. Additionally, I have explained to you multiple times why it is entirely unpersuasive to come up with fantasy cases about how something might have worked out ok. It's perfectly fine for us to have a rule which 999 times out of 1000 stops something bad, at the cost of 1 good thing in a thousand. And I have also explained to you what to do when someone offers you money to do something: don't edit the article space, use the talk page or user space, and let people without a conflict of interest do the article space edits. This is not difficult to understand.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 04:35, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You seem to be having a lot of negative emotions in reaction to things people are saying in this discussion, ranging from shock to disgust. It also seems that you have the perception that nothing you say is difficult to understand (you've used that phrase, "no-brainer" and others). I think some people might infer that you're implying that they must lack intelligence if they don't understand, which I will assume is not what you intend. Forgive me, I should have said "an editor producing editing content for pay from the article subject or his/her representative (like a PR firm or ORM firm)." Now can you please reread the paragraph with that insertion and respond to the statement that I don't get the sense the community is united on this issue? Also, you seem to confuse "not listening" with "disagreement," as if what you say is so painfully obvious that diverging opinions must not understand what you mean. I have listened to everything you have said. "Paid advocacy is wrong, against policy, and will be banned, so don't do it" is the upshot, yes? I also have repeatedly asked you to show me where this policy is written, which you've never answered directly. If its written only on your talk page, kindly put it in WP:COI which is currently at odds with what you're asserting is policy. (WP:COI says "strongly discouraged" only). That's an easy fix, isn't it? ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 07:10, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Q.E.D.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 07:20, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Jimbo's analogy above fails in a couple places, and sets up a straw man.

  • Jimbo wrote: "the public trust in Yahoo was diminished. Today, of course, Yahoo is no longer regarded as a dominant leader, and I think that shortsighted moves like this are a big part of the reason why. (That algorithmic search turned out to be the right answer in most cases is of course also a part of it.)" Public trust in Yahoo was not diminished by paid submissions. The public barely noticed that, and thought it was par for the course, because it was what everyone was doing. Algorithmic search was not "a part of it." It was ALL of it. And I'll give you a dozen citations that say so. Jimmy is making a post hoc ergo propter hoc logic error by saying "Yahoo introduced paid submissions. Then Yahoo lost market share. It must be because of the paid submissions!" Yahoo had paid submissions for a long time before Google took their market share. Long enough for people to shift to another search engine if paid submissions had been a problem.
  • Jimbo wrote: "Oh no, we insist, nothing changes about our editorial policies, of course not. People would rightly be deeply concerned about that. Suddenly people would read articles in Wikipedia and wonder - how tainted is this by the formal acceptance of Wikipedians being paid to write on behalf of companies?" People would do that in the same percentage that they read newspapers now and wonder "How tainted is this by the fact that this company advertises with this newspaper?" And how much of a concern is that to people? Very low. As Jimbo wrote: "It's not perfect, but the system does mostly work." And that would be true of a system where PR companies edited out in the open with scrutiny of the community. It would work. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You are wrong on both points, and furthermore you don't seem to be listening to anything that I've written. I'm growing frustrated here, so I'm going to ask you to slow down, go back and read everything.
First, that Yahoo's reputation was damaged by this is beyond question. That our reputation would suffer even worse is even moreso beyond reputation. But I want you to understand something - this is not a debate about what policy should be. This is policy: paid advocacy is forbidden in Wikipedia. This is not a substantial minority position, it is overwhelming consensus, and it is a decree from me as well. If you don't like it, if you want to come to Wikipedia to edit articles to push an agenda for clients, then you will be blocked.
Second, as I have said, there is already a perfectly good way for PR companies to participate out in the open with the scrutiny of the community. I have said this to you multiple times: edit the talk page, disclose your interest, and request edits. It works, and pretending that it doesn't, and ignoring that this obvious option exists doesn't reflect well on you or your motives.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 05:01, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't seem to be agreeing is more accurate, as per my comments above. That Yahoo's reputation was damaged significantly is not beyond question. I am questioning it. Yahoo lost market share because Google had a better algorithm that returned more accurate, more complete search results, not because of reputation problems. That Wikipedia's reputation would suffer worse is pure speculation, and thus also not beyond question. You've said "paid advocacy is forbidden in Wikipedia." But policy should not be reflected solely on your talk page. Please edit WP:COI which doesn't use the word "forbidden," "prohibited," etc. but "strongly discouraged." If for no other reason than the fact that your talk page archive is more difficult to reference and not allowable to edit. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 07:10, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Quod erat demonstrandum--Jimbo Wales (talk) 07:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
WP:COI says something different to Jimbo's policy statement, and Jimbo appears to be fine with the discrepancy. That's disappointing, and will cause additional time and energy to be wasted in future discussions (by editors not aware of this discussion) I'm sure. Probably a single line of editing to WP:COI would ensure that there is no more confusion or need for questions in the future. Is a little more clarity too much to ask for? To put it another way, I'm advocating for WP:COI to be edited to reflect that people/entities in the employ of representatives of article subjects (like PR firms, ORM firms, and social media consultants) are banned for editing the respective articles. This is clearly not advocating any outside interests. Why is it so hard? ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 08:35, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

The fact that Jimbo says there is virtually no evidence that outside interest are editing the encyclopedia tells me he isn't looking very hard. He isn't in their industry. Maybe he should ask some people that are...but unless he's got good friends there, they won't tell him the truth. Besides, traditional PR firms are just one type of entity that has an interest in editing here. A more common one is online reputation management firms, who seek to help their clients occupy all ten spots on the Google search result for their clients. Everyone knows Wikipedia has great PageRank, so they often will make sure their clients have articles here. Its written up as an ORM technique in online reputation management and social media manuals, for Pete's sake. Is that enough evidence for you, Jimbo? I can give you titles if you like. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 02:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes , please present titles for investigation. Clearly people attempt to use this project for their own benefit, mostly the open environment here addresses such issues and neutralizes such attempts - if and when it doesn't users should report involved articles and editors for investigation. Off2riorob (talk) 03:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
That online reputation management is so prolific means we should publicly move for more active discouragement of their aims. As Wikipedia becomes more important, we cannot afford to be purely defensive. elle vécut heureuse à jamais (be free) 03:45, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
WP:SEO - Search engine optimization and editing articles here to affect that is an issue currently under discussion on this project, if you have evidence of that please present it, thanks. Off2riorob (talk) 03:49, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The autobiography Simon Chesterman is one such likely example, designed to boost the pagerank of the narcissistic subject's publications through extensive self-citation. (The article has since been neutralised to thwart this intention.) elle vécut heureuse à jamais (be free) 03:57, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
My arbitration request at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests was also as you know, motivated by paid advocacy concerns, after dealing with editors that had some very extensive IP-switching capabilities across Singaporean government and commercial networks. The tendentiousness of the entire affair that the message paid advocacy will backfire must be driven home to such "PR managers" and "reputation managers" if our project is to endure. elle vécut heureuse à jamais (be free) 04:04, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online by Andy Beal and Judy Strauss.
  • The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott
Those are a couple books that have sold well, for starters. Now don't get me wrong, they don't say "Go out and break Wikipedia's rules," but basically that Wikipedia usually occupies a first page slot, so it is advantageous for an article to exist. But how many PR, Marketing, or ORM professional reading that book are going to go right to WP:COI, and how many are just going to create entries for their clients? ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 07:10, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Alright folks time to knock this paid editing discussion on its head its gone far enough now. Jimbo has clearly made it clear he opposes any form of paid advocacy. Apologies if this issue has frustrated you. Regards.♦ Dr. Blofeld 11:44, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I would like a clarification from Jimbo. Jimbo, are you hereby declaring this official policy, despite it not currently appearing in any policy, such a policy and guideline having failed twice, an RfC finding no consensus, and one policy that we do have (WP:COI) contradicting this? If you are declaring this official policy using your "benevolent dictatorship" powers, it would at least be helpful if you were to create a policy page stating this, and modify WP:COI to follow this policy as well. Because currently it's not being treated as policy (people are not being blocked for it, even when we know about it). Such a policy should very clearly state exactly what counts as "paid editing" (i.e., is it strictly money? What about gifts in kind? What about grades? What about people who work edit their company's article? What about...). Finally, is this a declaration only for, or for all WMF projects? I'm not disputing your right to make such a fiat declaration, but I would like to see it clearly written somewhere, so that if in the future I, as an admin, block someone for it, I can clearly point to why I'm blocking them (and, of course, so that I can understand more exactly what exactly this policy covers). Qwyrxian (talk) 13:49, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
How exactly would wikipedia change if Jimbo declared his official policy? He could repeat himself until he's blue in the face and still paid editing and political/social editing would continue to happen every day on wikipedia. There is absolutely no way he or anybody else can stop PR firms and people from editing under the radar however much he detests it. That's the down side to being high on google search engines and being an open resource I'm afraid.♦ Dr. Blofeld 15:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Well we could do several things to ahem upgrade our radar to pickup lowflying spammers. Some involve a change of policy such as allowing checkusers to go on fishing trips and identify and monitor edits coming from commercial IPs. Others just require a change in tools - adding more marketing speak into the edit filters and cluebot's algorithms. And there's always the threat of deterrence, I suspect some companies would take notice if we implemented a policy of "delete and salt" for business related articles of marginal notability and repeated spam. Not that I'm currently advocating any of those, but there has been a longterm increase in the proportion of spam edits here and I believe we need to start thinking about ways to improve our defences against the stuff. ϢereSpielChequers 21:56, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
In response to Dr. Blofeld, you're absolutely right it wouldn't stop paid editing. But it would make an ANI thread like this one from July 2010 much simpler--we wouldn't sit around debating whether or not the edits were productive; rather we'd just block the editor immediately. Additionally, assuming this ban on paid editing extends to employees of companies editing pages associated with those companies, instead of placing softblocks on editors who have promotional usernames, we'd place hard blocks, tell the user they have to get a name change, and, when they do, they're forbidden from editing the article(s) in question (this is why we would need to change WP:COI, since it very carefully does not forbid people with COIs from editing articles). Depending on exactly what rule Jimbo lays down, i.e., how "paid editing" is defined, it could result in a very broad swath of editing behaviors requiring sanction. For example, we would need clarification if Jimbo intends editors to be fully barred from editing articles on companies in which they own stock, and whether or not an editor could edit the article of a competitor (even a distant competitor) of their employer. I apologize to both Jimbo and readers here if I sound tendentious, but I really believe that such a major change (and yes, this is a change, because no matter what Jimbo has said, this would be new policy, as there is currently no explicit, written prohibition on paid editing). I'm trying to point out that if Jimbo or the WMF wishes to officially declare a new policy, that is their right to do so, but the policy needs to be codified and publicly announced. Qwyrxian (talk) 01:38, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Quod erat demonstrandum

Noraft asks a question:

"Can you please reiterate your stance, actual policy, and if/how they differ please? Thank you. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 05:14, 30 August 2011 (UTC)"

The question is on Jimbo's page and is, thus, addressed to him, though even a casual reader knows that many, many voices will chime in. The question is answered and answered and answered, by Jimbo and others. As the answers develop, Noraft makes it clear he has a position to advocate: his potential new job depends upon getting approval for paid editing. This agenda is not revealed until after the question is initially answered by Jimbo. Some of the responses support his view, in part, if not in whole; many do not, and, specifically, Jimbo does not. But the arguments by Noraft go on and on and on. He cannot let it go. His job depends upon "winning". Could there be a better demonstration of the problems with a conflict of interest and with advocacy in Wikipedia? Bielle (talk) 05:34, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

That's a pretty loose reading of the situation, Bielle, and fairly inaccurate as well. Actually, writing to a talk page will work just fine for the PR firm, and my offer is not contingent on the outcome here. Writing for Wikipedia is sort of a bonus for them, if its possible. We've already settled on a model for writing material for clients without a COI that we're going to test later. However, I now sense some discrepancies in the community and am asking questions to resolve them. The question is slowly being answered. I know know Jimbo's stance pretty well. He says his stance is policy, which is fine, but I'm not aware that policy is set on Jimbo's talk page, and if it is, there should be a mechanism that allows for wider distribution and integration with other policies and guidelines. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 07:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think Bielle made a very good point.
Regarding the model you mention, I noticed that several days ago, you reverted an established editor who had removed a section authored by you, because he felt that it "reads like an advert, see WP:PROMOTION". Is this an article related to your paid editing work? Regards, HaeB (talk) 12:07, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I haven't started working for the firm yet. However I have written several articles for free for the purpose of establishing my ability to write both personal and corporate articles that meet community standards. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:29, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem I see after reading all of this discussion is that there is no clear distinction between "paid editing" or what is acceptable to be paid for when it comes to content and "paid advocacy." If you are of the opinion that all payment for content creation = advocacy, then there is no distinction to be made. But while I have seen others make this statement, neither WP:COI nor Jimmy expressly state it. I agree with Noraft that if there is no policy page such as WP:COI explicitly stating that it is a banning offense to receive payment (as in $$$) to create content, I dont see how to justify doing so if the created content meets all of WP's other stated policies. The fact that there have been so many words written here in such a short time is itself evidence that the policy is NOT clear and obvious.Thelmadatter (talk) 17:47, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
As far as I know, Noraft, you are right about policy not being set on this talk page, which begs the question of why you are trying to push for a change here. I am interested in the your statement "We've already settled on a model for writing material for clients without a COI". I can understand how the client might not have a COI, but, by definition, someone writing on the client's behalf for pay (which is implied in the "client" designation) does have a COI. Of course, if all of the proposed writing is on the talk page, it may work out just fine. What continues to trouble me is that someone who is being paid to present an article has, also by definition, the resource of paid time to keep on and on at aspects of it. Volunteers, with no such luxury, fall by the wayside in exhausted heaps. This is a detriment to the encyclopedia and to its on-going development. Bielle (talk) 17:48, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I read an article that said Jimmy Wales has instituted a prohibition that editors be paid by clients to write/edit articles for them. So I came here to ask him about it. The model we've settled on is what Jimmy suggested: Writing in non-mainspace as a suggestion and letting editors with no conflict-of-interest decide on whether or not it belongs in mainspace. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:29, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Thelmadatter, you write about paid editing as if it were going to be funded by some philanthropic enterprise whose goal would the betterment of the encyclopedia in the interest of the spread of world knowledge. This is a possible scenario, but a highly unlikely one. Why would anyone pay someone to write an article except for either personal vanity or commercial gain (and sometimes both together)? No puffery, no positive spin, no paid sources, no image manangement, no on-going monitoring for a "stable" article; no chance. Bielle (talk) 18:12, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
If it is believed that such a situation is not possible, then the policy should not reflect that. "Strongly discouraged" seems to leave open the possibility and indeed I can think of a possibility. In Mexico, university students are required to complete months of social service work in order to get their degrees. While this work is not required to be paid, many organizations offer stipends to entice this rather cheap source of labor (to be frank). Non profits such as that dedicated to restoring Mexico City's historic center could decide to have students write about landmarks in this area for Wikipedia. (in fact, its an idea I would love to develop). However, if WP policy is 100% against paid editing, this is not possible unless no stipend is offered and the chances of getting students (especially good students) is greatly diminished because this project could not compete with other ventures for social service students.
The stance against payment for content creation is based on the assumption of one writing for a company about that company. However, this is too narrow and I would agree that for this kind of paid editing, there is consensus (if not policy) against. There is another problem. Wikipedia is running up against the limitations to a purely altruistic model of content creations. We seriously lack decent articles on topics that require more knowledge that most people have and those with the ability to write them have almost no incentive to take time away from pursuits that do give some kind of reward, either in $$$ or in credit. After all, why spend hours researching, going through WP's horrible citation system and writing/improving an article when the effort garners not even real attribution (not to mention the fact that it could be eventually "destroyed" by the well-meaning edits of others, requiring continuing efforts in the future with possible edit wars). Right now, the only non-controversial rationale is "love of topic", but writing is work and most people want some kind of reward for their work. (the recent editor survey even backs this as most editors want positive recognition for their efforts and why we have barnstars in the first place) The more work and expertise needed, the more is required to get cooperation. Even with GLAM's right now, the general rule is that museums cant edit the article about their institution, but can work on articles about notable items in their collection. Tell me that they do that purely for altruistic reasons.
Someone wrote above about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. If nothing else, this discussion indicates the need to have a formal discussion and policy on the matter, no matter what emotions this triggers.Thelmadatter (talk) 19:16, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
In response to Bielle's argument directly above mine... we already have problems with puffery, bias etc. etc. by POV pushers and the like. The answer to that by paid editors is the same as that done by those with ideological axes to grind.... editing by others... If it does/doesnt work for one/it does/doesnt work for the other. In newspapers and the like, once something is written it is not really possible to change. In WP, all articles are works in progress.Thelmadatter (talk) 19:20, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Somewhere above Bielle posed the question "Why would anyone pay someone to write an article except for either personal vanity or commercial gain?". I can give an example that was presented just over a year ago at Wikimania in Gdansk. A charity paid editors to translate a bunch of medical articles from the English Wikipedia into various South Asian languages. I don't know if it has been continued, but at the time it didn't seem contentious. ϢereSpielChequers 22:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I did mention something about a philanthropic body doing something similar. I agree that it is possible but, as I said, unlikely. Sometimes the unlikely happens. I do think, though, that translating something where the rules have presumably already been met is quite different from creating an article for a client. Bielle (talk) 22:30, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
People also need to realize that a well written but neutral article on a given entity is in their own best interest two times out of three. If they already have an article but it is poorly written or negatively biased it is in their best interest. If they don't have an article at all it is in their best interest. In this discussion there appears to be a false assumption that only a highly slanted puff piece is desirable for any given entity seeking to employ writers and that such an entity will stop at nothing less. That is simply not true. Now, whether or not the situation can be controlled if paid editing is allowed is another question, but the reality is not as nefarious as everyone seems to think. Publicity is publicity, and one often has to make sacrifices to get it. I don't see why PR firms and marketing agencies wouldn't understand that there are sacrifices they have to make if they want to help build entries on their clients.Griswaldo (talk) 11:48, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

The problem and the solution?

Noraft, for privacy reasons maybe you should create an alternate account to make these non-COI edits for your boss if you take this position. We all know COI edits happen (I found this page yesterday, for example), but it seems some don't want to officially break any new ground, and there are concerns of a PR headache/reputation decline. Jesanj (talk) 19:22, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Okay, so it would be acceptable to have a second account for the content I write on assignment for the PR firm? I don't know the policies and guidelines surrounding multiple accounts. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:31, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
You need to, at a minimum, notify arbcom via email of both accounts. Gigs (talk) 15:43, 2 September 2011 (UTC)


You are involved in a recently filed request for arbitration. Please review the request at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests#La goutte de pluie and, if you wish to do so, enter your statement and any other material you wish to submit to the Arbitration Committee. Additionally, the following resources may be of use—

Thanks, — Kudu ~I/O~ 22:35, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

selling links?

Closing this discussion until I learn more, probably on Monday, so that we don't get ourselves into a frenzy of uninformed speculation
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Hi Jimbo - I was wondering how you felt about this recent story that dealt with this page on the Wikimedia Foundation's Wiki? I always thought that Wikipedia was ad free, and I was kind of disturbed to read an article that makes it look like the Wiki Foundation is selling links to spammers for purposes of search engine optimization. Some of the links on the sustaining corporate donors page on the wiki look really spammy, they are selling herpes medication and advertising debt consolidation and stuff like that. Thanks for any comment you might have. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:32, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Huh. I don't know anything about that, but I will look into it now. It looks like a hacked page to me.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 03:01, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
[Update: It might be Monday until I learn enough to be able to comment intelligently, as it is currently Friday night].--Jimbo Wales (talk) 03:33, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Holy smokes... That page is a bonafide link farm: -- the URLs are not nofollow, and they allow any anchor text the payer wants. Wxidea (talk) 04:44, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
That's not Wikipedia, but the WMF's own little site. Is there anything wrong with a nonprofit organization providing ordinary HTML links to some leading sponsors from its website? They shouldn't have to be purer than pure. Wnt (talk) 06:29, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree. At Wikipedia, a linkfarm is an article that is a collection of links. The case in question is totally different (it's not an article, and it's not Wikipedia), and it is pretty reasonable for an organization to list URLs in a format wanted by sponsors. There would be a problem if someone could buy a link on the main page or in an article. Johnuniq (talk) 07:16, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Even if it's in the WMF's page, it still uses the same format as all wikimedia wikis. People are going to think (quite rightfully) that we have sold out. Not really the impression that we want to give. (Seriously, what the heck, this totally breaks the corporate image of wikipedia). --Enric Naval (talk) 11:23, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
True, and more to the point, it's not a very pretty page for $5000 a link. That's the place to break out the spans and divs - maybe give each site an image rather than just a text link, etc. Wnt (talk) 15:41, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Yep. Spans, divs, nofollows, noindexes. All that I've determined so far is that the page is real, and that the Foundation is considering what to do about it. It's too early for me to know for sure, but I think what happened here is that there was a policy loophole about thanking donors that has gone in a bad direction without anyone in charge really noticing. Anyway, speaking only for myself, I had no idea this was going on, and I don't really like it. But I'm waiting to hear more before I come to any conclusion. If the blogs are right and this brings in over a half a million dollars for the Foundation, a small part of me is inclined to just laugh about it. But only a small part. Mostly I just don't like ickiness, and if we want to enhance revenue with links to donors, we should at least do it professionally and tastefully. Jimbo Wales (talk) 15:47, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Transcription monkeys

Mr Wales, I seek clarification of a comment made by you that is being used a trout to slap people with elsewhere. That comment was -

We are not transcription monkeys, merely writing down what sources say. We want to only write true things in Wikipedia, and we want to verify them.

I’m not sure that many editors here want to deliberately mislead or lie, but its axiomatic that one person’s truth can be another’s lie. The concept of truth is just not unambiguous enough to assert as an unqualified absolute.

To illustrate that point, consider the following from a Featured Article - was one of the few expressways built before the public opposition which cancelled many of the others.

While it may that this is an uncontroversial statement, partisans in the implied political debate referred to as public opposition are likely to take opposing sides in any truth/untruth division about that statement. So, while I agree we aren’t transcription monkeys, isn’t our job to stay aloof from debates about what is true? Aren’t the finest efforts here about assessing and representing the major verifiable points of view as points of view, not as Wikipedia’s endorsement of any of them as truth? Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 23:58, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

I'll leave space for Jimbo to answer above, but I think the concept is that WP should be truthful in writing about the various points-of-view, based on reliable sources, rather than allow slanting the views, as contrary to the various sources and, thereby, support not truth, with false text about those viewpoints. The truth is in the writing about the ideas, to truly reflect those ideas, and not merely transcribe false (or misleading) information. For example, if a hurricane report stated exactly, "The most dangerous storm had sustained winds of 320 km/h or 20 mph [sic]" then WP should really correct that "20" mph, as a typo, to be "200 mph" (320 km/h), as verified by mathematical deduction (see RPI: "Use mathematical deduction to derive new knowledge"). Likewise, if a reliable source quoted as person as saying, the August 2011 "Hurricane Irene was just a large, hyped rainstorm," then WP should correct that presentation as stating how some people reported calmer rainstorm weather while others had walls collapse, cars submerged underwater, or parts of highways washed away by flood waters. WP should not parrot text in a manner that presents a false (misleading) view of the subject. This seeking of a greater truth also involves policy WP:NPOV, to provide a truthful balance of the encyclopedic ("all-encompassing") view of the subject. As another example, an article should not simply state, "Casablanca is a film about a fictionalized town in Africa," but rather should note the larger truth, "For the Moroccan city, see: Casablanca, or Casablanca (disambiguation)". Stating the whole truth is a difficult part of WP's work, so we are open to people noting when related issues have been forgotten or omitted. A tough part of the problem is when someone "heard" or "knows the truth" of an important issue about other aspects, for a balanced view, of a subject, and so the hunt is on to find the reliable sources to describe those aspects of the overall subject, in a truthful manner. There is an essay, "WP:Attribution" which attempts to explain the issues for how to maintain verifiable text (combining WP:V and WP:NOR). Also, other editors are writing guidelines to explain why to allow 999+2 = 1001 as a concept in an article, without a source to directly quote that equation. I think it is important to note that WP is in the "truth business" much more than some editors realized. -Wikid77 04:28, revised 05:04, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
If reliable sources agree that X is true, false, or half-true we should cite it as fact, in my opinion. In that case, we're not taking sides because reliable sources agree. Jesanj (talk) 00:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. And if reliable sources disagreed, we would present both sides, being careful to ensure proper weight is assigned to each opinion. elektrikSHOOS (talk) 03:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The problems typically arise when something is obviously false but there are no reliable sources saying so. When was the last time you read in a reliable source that the New York Times, in an article about a marginally notable person, got the spelling of that person's name wrong? Yet, if we know the correct spelling, we simply ignore the typo and don't add a silly "sometimes also spelled as ..." to the article. Because we are an encyclopedia, not a compendium of everything that has ever been published including all uncorrected errors. Wikid77 above has given a better, Hurrican-related example for the problem. Hans Adler 08:22, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Here is a story for consideration. Recently in the UK, a Member of Parliament was accused of sexual assault. There was a flurry of news stories. Within a few days, the entire case collapsed and his accuser admitted the whole thing was a lie. For a few days, his biography was problematic in the usual way: the accusations took up a huge percentage of the article, so that there were serious undue weight issues. When the case unraveled, a consensus was quickly reached on the talk page that while we should leave the material in his biography for a little while, since some people may not have heard about it at all, that a good case could be made for removing the whole incident entirely, eventually, because as it turns out, it is likely to have had zero impact on his career, life, etc., because basically nothing actually happened. (I reserve judgment on whether removing the information completely will be the right thing in this particular case, but I can see where it could be the right thing to do.)

All of that is editorial judgment as opposed to be transcription monkeys. The transcription monkey view, which virtually no one actually holds of course, once they stop to think about it, would say that editorial judgment is wrong, that the information is verifiable in reliable sources, therefore we must include it.

What's point here? My point is that even if something meets "verifiable" we might not include it... even if it is true. There are also cases where it is possible to find a handful of reliable sources that made a claim that is false and never corrected themselves, even though it has become starkly obvious that the claim is false. It's wrong to say "verifiability, not truth" if it leads people to think that it is ok to not care about truth.

We want verifiability and truth. And relevance. And proper weight. And some other things besides!--Jimbo Wales (talk) 04:52, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I understand this point, and agree until that point: why does saying "verifiability, not truth" have to lead to people thinking it is not OK to care about truth? I care deeply about truth, and have never seen the phrase as telling us to not care about it. Quite the contrary, it often leads to the improvement of the encyclopedia by forcing good faith editors to consider the other side. It is in doing that, in connecting with those we disaggre with, that truth often emerges. There is a reason why, after totalitarian regimes are toppled, "truth and reconciliation commissions" emerge as a central part of healing - being able to see the other side, and recognizing one's own failability is what reveals truth...--Cerejota (talk) 05:18, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Why people misunderstand it is a complex question, but I think the main point is that they do. To be fair to them, the phrase - taken as a standalone - is ambiguous. "X, not Y" may mean "The more important thing is X, not Y" or it may mean "The only thing that matters is X, and Y is not of any interest at all."--Jimbo Wales (talk) 05:32, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Understood. Why not then say "Verifiability not truth - but truth is very important because we are not transcription monkeys"? I think the cognitive dissonance the "X not y" creates is healthy, like any paradox - editing an encyclopedia should be intellectually challenging from top to bottom: we are not Truth Rabbits either, guided by sheer instinct and emotion without a rational filter applied.--Cerejota (talk) 05:46, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure I agree, since I think the phrase does more harm than good. But at the moment I'm completely unable to respond or disagree with you in any way because I'm so simply happy about the expression "Truth Rabbits". Hop hop! :-)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 06:26, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh noes, carrots vs bananas :)--Cerejota (talk) 06:36, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Thanks to all. I think I begin to see my confusion, and possibly that of some others, about the 'verifiability, not truth' thingie. I have never regarded verifiable and accurate facts as truth, because that word has always implied, for me, a human insight or subjectivity. So, perhaps the entire debate about truth in verifiability is actually about removing subjective truths related to personal experiences and insights rather than anything related to verifiably accurate facts. Maybe I'm a bit of a slow learner in that regard, but I wonder whether this cognitive dissonance is a cultural thing. Thanks again. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 06:47, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Many users have gone into turmoil about the phrase, at various times, over the past ~7 years (since 2004). The word "truth" involves several different levels, and so far, Wikipedia still has some missing articles about truth, such as "subjective truth" (versus "objective truth"), "journalistic truth", "universal truth", etc. In computer science, the notions of truth often refer to logical truth, as in an if-statement (in if-else logic as 1/0 for true/false), and hence, truth is considered billions of times per second inside computers. So, take the "not-truth" phrase and multiply by zillions of times, per day, to consider the computerized impact of being discarded in policy. Computers cannot even transfer data over the Internet without ensuring the truth of check bits in the HTTP data packets. More explanations below. -Wikid77 07:51, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • The not-truth phrase could horrify scientists and journalists: Consider the common phrase, "The first obligation of a journalist is to the truth" (for objective journalism). As a scientist, my first reaction to "verifiability, not truth" is to think, "OMG, whatever, another wiki-spastic phrase slipped into a page". Many scientists depend on a discipline of "objective truth". Then, I read the extensive WP debates where people have strongly rejected the not-truth phrase, on numerous occasions, for misleading readers, or as cognitive dissonance, or because it allowed inserting not-truth from tabloids. I have worked in standards committees for years, and the prevailing norm is that policies and standards should be direct and clear, not paradoxical, not shocking, not thought-provoking. Typical standards documents provide almost zero philosophy, where even the documented rationale, for a specific standard, is likely to be written in a completely separate book (correlated by paragraph-id numbers). Many readers have had a copy of a standards document but have never seen the related rationale book. Many standards are not written in shocking language that requires a "double take" to begin to be useful. Instead, as in WP, we have essays to stir and challenge thoughts, such as "WP:No angry mastodons just madmen". Meanwhile, many, many editors are now fiercely proclaiming that WP does not make any judgments about truth, while they claim that typos "get fixed" just because, not as a issue about the truth of the text. The whole debacle has gone beyond the humorous WP:Wikispeak to sound like real wiki-speak double-talk. So, yes, saying "verifiability, not truth" has created problems, several many problems. -Wikid77 07:51, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
But it has also solved many problems, several many problems. For example, if we eliminate this focus, already contentious ethno-religious topic areas (Which for some reason I keep being dragged into in spite of myself) would explode into fights aover what is true or not, WP:SOAPBOX issues would exacerbate (just earlier I was dealing in WQA with a three way fight over at Nazism in which V issues are at the center of major sopabox behavior). Scientific truth, for example, is incomplete in that it excludes (or depending on your views, exists in a different magisterium) religion, or art, or feelings which are other ways we come to comprehend truth. I am not a relativist, but I think the problem with declaring a truth is that it will begin a process that destroys NPOV, or makes it meaningless, empty words on a page: if the earth is truly not flat, how can we seriously write a neutral article on Flat Earth Society.--Cerejota (talk) 08:11, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
At this point, I think we can shift, from discussions, into writing how-to guides to explain what levels of truth apply when wording each section of articles, and sifting through sources. -Wikid77 08:23, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem here is that you (and not just you; I am sure I have also done it on occasion because it's so effective), are applying WP:V, a policy about what may be included, and interpreting it as if it said what must be included. The problem is exacerbated by "removal of sourced content is disruptive" statements that have regularly been coming from Arbcom since at least 2005, more or less well garded against out-of-context application. (Examples: [3] [4]. Over time, "unexplained" or other necessary qualifiers got added.) It is a problem because WP:V is only one of several policies that describe necessary conditions for something to be included. To include a statement in an article it is necessary that:
  • the statement is verifiable in the technical sense of WP:V
  • is relevant to the article and noteworthy (we don't really have a policy on this except for BLPs; for the kind of problems in this area caused by "reliable sources" writing about stuff that is definitely not noteworthy see e.g. Talk:Pippa Middleton; WP:UNDUE, a section of WP:NPOV, is relevant, though)
  • satisfies the requirements of WP:NPOV.
I guess formally we could say that it is NPOV which requires that if a statement is known to be false, then we must either say so, or if we can't do it (because it's not formally verifiable), we must leave it out. It cannot possibly be neutral for us to say something in an article that we know to be false.
As Jimbo says, we only want to say true things. Verifiability implies a presumption of truth, but this presumption can be disproved by better, contradictory reliable sources, or sometimes by other means such as private information obtained reliably through OTRS, or a consensual application of common sense or joint knowledge. The latter happens all the time in mathematics, where we generally stay within the range of what is verifiable in the technical Wikipedia sense, but simply drop the claims in reliable sources that we find to be based on defective proofs, or even demonstrably wrong.
When arguing with fringers, we generally don't want to mention NPOV because it tends to encourage them. They think that their own POVs are significant and must be included without any hints that they are false or at least fringe. While not perfect, I wouldn't really mind this practice of hiding NPOV from fringers by telling them it's only verifiability that matters. But this approach is contaminating discussions where it's not appropriate at all.
The problem with my explanations is that they are not accepted by the "not truth" = "regardless of falsity" extremists. They elevate "verifiability, not truth" to the underlying dogma of Wikipedia. According to them, all other policies must be interpreted in the light of this dogma. In particular, when applying NPOV, we are not allowed to use our knowledge or apply common sense. We are only allowed to mechanically weigh reliable sources. For the reliability of a source it does not matter whether it is false. This can at most become relevant if other reliable sources say so. Hans Adler 09:24, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You are indeed not allowed to use your knowledge if that knowledge contradicts reliable sources. Why would your knowledge be more reliable, trustwworthy, "true", than what reliable sources say? Your knowledge has to come from somewhere: if it is firsthand, then it is not acceptable (e.g. alien abduction: you may state that it is real, because it happened to you: but that peice of knowledge has no weight in Wikipedia discussions); if it is secondhand, then give us the sources you base your knowledge on, and we can discuss things based on the sources, not on your knowledge as such. Common sense is a dubious concept and should be used sparingly in discussions as well. Using common sense to detect typos and glaring errors (things which normally should be confined to one single source) is acceptable, if supported by sources with the "correct" or at least more realistic information.
But there are other mechanisms by which verifiable info can be excluded. You already gave WP:UNDUE, which is probably the most important. WP:NOT and WP:BLP are also good reasons to exclude verifiable info in some cases. Another thing, where I don't immediately know which guideline or policy describes it, is that newer info tends to have more weight than older info: if you want to give information about a country now (population, demographics, ...), a 2010 source obviously trumps a 1910 source (assuming they both are equally reliable otherwise) or even a 1990 source. (You may place this under "common sense" if you like). These combined with the current WP:V seem to me to be sufficient as checks and balances that we include all relevant verifiable info, and exclude the irrelevant, outdated, or clearly wrong info (typos). Fram (talk) 10:07, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You are wrong. First hand knowledge is acceptable evidence for removing incorrect statements (not for adding their corrections) if there is a consensus among editors. However, this mechanism is currently broken because even in the most straightforward cases such as Sam Blacketer controversy (where it wasn't first-hand knowledge so much as primary sources -- our server logs), "regardless of falsity"-extremists such as you come out of the woodwork and delay through wikilawyering what would normally be a straightforward consensus. You seem to be dreaming of an alternative Wikipedia in which WP:Ignore common sense is policy while WP:Use common sense is just (part of) an essay (which it is), and in which WP:IAR is deprecated because it cannot be translated into a mathematical algorithm.
The 'alien abductee' is easily dealt with because such people will never get a consensus. This is a strawman. We don't need a theoretical obligation for people who think they were abducted by aliens to write in the relevant article that it's just a form of mental illness. There are more than enough editors who will be happy to do so. We just need to make sure that 'alien abductees' cannot remove that information, and there is no dispute about that. Hans Adler 10:42, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
No, first hand knowledge is not enough to remove sourced information which some editors believe to be incorrect. Some actual, verifiable evidence indicating that the info you want to remove is incorrect (by providing e.g. another value for the same topic) is needed. The example you give, looking at the logs for the Blacketer article, is not "first hand knowledge" though, but is using primary instead of secondary sources. This is also insufficient, but is not the same as what you were describing. These logs are verifiable (at least here), first-hand knowledge is unverifiable. And please refrain from characterizing other people's positions in extreme terms: labelling people as "extremists" doesn't help in a discussion, "come out of the woodwork" is a bit bizarre, we all come from the same place and have the same right to voice our opinion, and if a reliable source has written something, an editor has introduced it into an article, and another editor disagrees with the removal, then how much "straightforward consensus" is left? Yes, if you silence all opposition, you will always have a straightforward consensus. I hope that's not the kind of Wikipedia you are advocating? Fram (talk) 10:54, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
By "coming out of the woodwork" I am referring to the phenomenon that happens on occasions such as the present discussion or the week-long situation where Wikipedia was libelling Sam Blacketer under his real name, and all attempts to make us stop breaking the law were held up for about a week by "regardless of falsity"-extremists. I am not taking the "extremists" back. Newyorkbrad had this to say: "But the fact that a piece of information is included in a source, even one that is normally considered highly reliable, is not a sufficient condition for including the information. An additional condition is that the editor inserting the information, or a consensus of editors if a dispute arises, believes that the information is actually accurate. [...] A statement such as "whether or not something is actually true is irrelevant to its inclusion on Wikipedia" does not, in my view, capture either what our editing policies are or what they should be. I can understand why such a comment would be made—we have too many people who believe that content should include what they think is true, no matter how many sources or how strong a consensus points in a different direction. That is not acceptable and it is not something I am endorsing here, at all. But the other extreme of simply abjuring any interest in getting the facts accurate is also unacceptable, and if taken literally (I don't think it was likely meant as such, at least in its extreme form), would be an exceptionally irresponsible attitude for one of the world's most visited websites. Newyorkbrad (talk) 19:37, 17 April 2011 (UTC)")
"Coming out of the woodwork" is my description of the phenomenon that on these rare occasions, editors who have come to an eccentric and wildly inaccurate interpretation of "verifiability, not truth", but due to confirmation bias and false consensus effect have convinced themselves that it is the majority position, are no longer able to maintain the illusion that everybody really agrees with them and begin to defend their positions in a way that fully exposes its extremism. Hans Adler 11:33, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
As for the "alien abductee" strawman: who are you to decide which "first hand knowledge" is acceptable, and which isn't? For many people, it is "common sense" that 9/11 was done by the US Government, or that the Apollo Moon landings never happened. For billions of people, it is common sense that there is one god (and it is common sense that their variety of this god is the only correct one of course). Millions of people have first-hand knowledge that homeopathy works. Yet, we are suppressing those truths. Common sense and first hand knowledge are dangerous things to base article content on. Fram (talk) 11:16, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't have to decide this. It's decided by a consensus of editors. Have you forgotten that Wikipedia is a wiki? That's what distinguishes it from its predecessor, Nupedia. If, in any specific case, you think certain first hand knowledge is not acceptable, then you are free to say so, and if enough others agree you can prevent a consensus to apply it. But the number of extremists like you who reject this necessary mechanism altogether, while still small, has become too big to be ignored. It's direcly causing real disruption in some cases, and in general it's just not a healthy way to think about Wikipedia. Hans Adler 11:33, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
If you can't stop labelling people who have a different view than you have as "extremists", then I have nothing else to say to you. I have seen a lot more disruption from people stating "but I know that X is true (or false, same difference)" than from people stating "X is false but we have to include it neverheless". The latter position is extremeley rare: what most people who support "verifiability, not truth" seem to be advocating is "You claim X is false, and you may be right, but I can only base my knowledge on reliable sources, not on your say-so, and these sources claim X is true". Of course a lone voice stating this against a large consensus can not stop the removal of X anyway: but the lone voice should not be dismissed or silenced, or even labeled "extremist", "wikilawyering", "disruptive", or what else; it should be applauded, and those wanting to remove X should take a pause, and think about where they got their knowledge and how they can show evidence for it. We wouldn't want common misconceptions to take the place of verifiable knowledge of course... Fram (talk) 11:59, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The people who I am labelling as extremists have brought Wikipedia into the situation that for about a week we claimed something to be true that we knew beyond reasonable doubt to be false. (That Sam Blacketer, whom we initially even named under his real name, had vandalised the biography of his political opponent David Cameron in the election season.) If Sam Blacketer had so wanted, he could have sued Wikipedia and would likely have been successful. You have indicated above that you actually agree that knowingly libelling Sam Blacketer was the thing to do in this situation. I don't think it's a stretch at all to call you an extremist under the circumstances. ("Extremism is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards.") Hans Adler 12:27, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
So you basically ignored that I said that BLP also applies and is also a reason to exclude material? "You have indicated above that you actually agree that knowingly libelling Sam Blacketer was the thing to do in this situation." Could you please either give a good link for this claim or retract it completely? I don't believe I have stated anything even remotely close to what you are fabricating here, and I consider it a direct personal attack and an attept to poison the well. Fram (talk) 13:00, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Did I misunderstand your 10:54 post? I was going by the following: "The example you give, looking at the logs for the Blacketer article, is not 'first hand knowledge' though, but is using primary instead of secondary sources. This is also insufficient, but is not the same as what you were describing. These logs are verifiable (at least here), first-hand knowledge is unverifiable." In the middle sentence, you say information from our logs "is also insufficient". I completed this as meaning "... for excluding the vandalism claim and hence deleting the article." Maybe that's not what you meant? Did you mean something like: "... for correcting the vandalism claim based on our unpublished information"? Hans Adler 13:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Coming from WP:V, having primary sources that disagree with the secondary sources is insufficient to remove those secondary sources, yes. What normally is done in such a case is "according to sources X and Y, Sam Blacketer did Z: according to the actual logfiles Q, he did not do Z". When taking into account 'other policies (BLP, BLP1E, N), a decision to simply delete the article may have been perfectly acceptable. But imagine that the same had happened not to Blacketer, but to Wales: we couldn't delete the article, so that option is out. Now, let's assume that some scandal is reported in dozens of reliable sources, but is according to our logs incorrect: we can either ignore the scandal, giving the impression that we sweep it under the rug, protect our founder, and ignore our NPOV policy for him: or we can report the scandal ("according to...") and present evidence to the contrary as well. This is not "agreeing that actually libelling is the thing to do" at all: this is balancing our policies with common decency and honesty. We should present both the reliable sources and the contradicting primary source, just like we would do for anyone accused in the papers but proclaiming his innocence on his own website: and then it is up to the readers to decide where the truth may lie. Fram (talk) 13:36, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Much though it may be uncomfortable for me and some others, I'm inclined to agree with Hans Adler about an excessively mechanistic reliance on rules, which I have seen applied to at least one discussion on a pseudoscientific topic (so defined by Arbcom) that now barely acknowledges it as such, much less as superstition. In my view agenda editors adopted deliberate strategies to game the rules, and managed to gain the support of at least one interceding administrator with entirely mechanistic view of the rules that effectively shut out all rational judgement. As a consequence the article may be sourced, though the sources are probably not all that when it comes to credibility, but the content makes it look almost like the subject is a respectable profession, practice, area of study, or even science.

I had to end my involvement when I was instructed (by an administrator) that proposing to cut out unverified bullshit statements was un-Wikipedic, and that I should be seeking to find sources for the unverified assertions instead. I could not stomach participating in such a farce, and I was outnumbered. Wikipedia wisdom is that you walk away from such situations and do something else. That's what I did. But, as alluded to by Mr Adler (I think), the consequence is that for at least some while, a whole lot of horseshit is being told to the world by Wikipedia on that topic. I don't think it would be far fetched to suggest this is not an isolated incident.

In summary, then, if personal judgement, which is always based on personal knowledge, is entirely excluded from interpreting Wikipedia guidelines, we are indeed just transcription monkeys. The real kicker in this is that not even the best written guidelines or rules can really restrict judgement, otherwise it isn't judgement. So it seems to me that robot administrators who eschew rationality in favour of entirely mechanical application of 'commandments', and agenda editors adept at gaming the rules are the real worst enemies of Wikipedia principles and guidelines; they make oddly repellent bedfellows without aiming at it.

So, while I perceive some of Mr Adler's comments unfathomable, I am on board with the idea that individual, rational judgement must have room to breathe in the spaces between guidelines and principles. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 12:41, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Concerning one point of disagreement concerning policy formulation in the above discussion, I would suggest that the normal approach is:

  • Yes, knowing something to be untrue, is generally accepted as a reason to tag or remove material. In fact, the extreme argument, which I do not have much sympathy with, is that questioning un-sourced material is always acceptable, no matter what the intention. (But then people generally add some proviso when arguing this extreme version, such as "except when we are talking about obvious behavior issues".)
  • Trying to formulate what less extreme people think, I would say that believing something to be unlikely to be something that people could come to a consensus about being true is a valid reason for tagging or removing material.
  • This is perfectly consistent with our real way of working: verifiability, the ability to confirm that something is what rational people could agree to be true, is our threshold for inclusion, but not personal opinions about what is true.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:50, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I thought Wikipedia had a policy for this called Ignore All Rules. Apparently, however, it is just a decoration. Simple reason it has fallen into disfavor is that it really doesn't find use for maintenance staff who rely on conventional practice. It will mainly find use for article writers who have an aim towards improving an article and dislike bureaucratic hairsplitting getting in the way of making an article better. Unfortunately there are too many maintenance staff kind of editors especially among admins and less and less of the fundamental article improvement variety. IAR is dead. Lambanog (talk) 20:00, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

IAR is not dead. In fact, even FAs are IAR in one way or the other. What is not alive, because it should remain so, is the belief that IAR is a license to do whatever you want as long as you claim it was "improving the encyclopedia". IAR, for example, is present in nearly all vandal-containment efforts, which are nearly always violations of rules. Yet no one calls them so because of IAR - there is nothing that improves the encyclopedia more than fighting vandals. --Cerejota (talk) 00:14, 3 September 2011 (UTC)


Reading this debate is actually pretty hilarious. There is no coherent philosophical stance underlying the way WP is written and what it includes. What we have instead is kludged folk wisdom, rules-of-thumb, and that elusive beast consensus. Some people might like to believe that there is a philosophy underlying it all that will give clear answers to questions like the ones we are raising, and I fully expect many vociferous objections to what I am saying here on those grounds. I would say to those objectors, if you believe such a philosophical stance exists (or indeed is even possible) then define it in a comprehensive way, so that it applies equally to science, the humanities, and pop-culture. I defy you to express it and then gain consensus for it. A more sensible, pragmatic (though still herculean) goal might be to write a clear-cut policy to replace the kludge we now have. Good luck with that. In the meantime we will end up with the WP we deserve, and I for one can accept that. Revcasy (talk) 13:59, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I agree with that. But it does not mean WP:V wording can't cause problems. (Which is probably not what you want to say anyway.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 17:00, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia might be called a true "Democracy" . Mugginsx (talk) 19:07, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh sure, the wording of WP:V can cause problems. Anything taken as dogma in an environment like WP is going to cause problems. However, if philosophical indeterminacy is our weakness, then I would say that flexibility is our strength. I would simply suggest that rather than looking for a dogmatic stance to take on changing the policy that we should simply change it arbitrarily if that is what is necessary. What could be more arbitrary than consensus, after all? Revcasy (talk) 20:49, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • "Verifiability, not truth," if ever used as an argument , then it should be used as an argument for deletion, not inclusion, of a claim. Sole Soul (talk) 23:35, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
I've been involved in the discussions over "Verifiability, not truth", and it's quite clear that there is verging on zero evidence (ie two possible cases cited after many, many months of campaigning) where people may be knowingly including false content citing "verifiability, not truth". Maybe there are lots more, but they're being kept very secret. As Jimbo says, just about no one actually holds to the transcription monkey view of wikipedia. By all means strengthen the ability of editors to omit clearly incorrect material, but don't in so doing undermine the principle that we as a bunch of anonymous keyboard monkeys from around the world have any direct say in what's true. If we're worried about giving the impression that we don't care about accuracy, explain our sourcing policy better. Hell, have a highly visible policy text that explains procedures for removing provably false information. The worst thing for our public image is to give the impression that an encyclopedia that anyone can edit lets anyone decide what is true.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:55, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
👍 Cerejota likes VsevolodKrolikov's comment --Cerejota (talk) 17:26, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

A question

If any kind of advocacy is forbidden here, doesn't "paid advocacy is forbidden" sound redundant? Matta Tremayne (talk) 15:29, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

So what?--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:06, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Well, thank you for your time! How to stop these people who keep being a nuisance despite having been blocked a thousand times under a thousand names? Matta Tremayne (talk) 19:09, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Well, most COI advocates are getting stopped, quickly, by like 4,000(?) editors watching the edits and reporting them to get them blocked. Even some editors, who merely seem suspicious, get confronted about their motives. -Wikid77 19:35, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes, I agree. There's no clear and easy answer of what to do about people who keep being a nuisance other than raising the cost of being a nuisance and lowering the cost of stopping them. I'm all for escalating range blocks as necessary. Actual PR firms aren't really the issue - stopping them is easy, as they have money at stake with real clients who fear for the reputational damage that a bad PR firm could do to them. They'll generally follow the rules, and the ones who won't, are still not likely to do something as idiotic as spoofing ip addresses, anonymous proxies, etc. to keep annoying us. It'd be expensive and pointless.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:37, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

The avatar of Jimbo Wales on his userpage

 "No. Srsly." in this case is not Argumentum ad Jimbonem - more like a blizzard--Cerejota (talk) 22:09, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Anyone else think that this avatar change might be a bit nice for Jimbo to have on his userpage? I actually think that it might fit Jimbo very well, even if its not the right picture to use on there. I wouldn't be surprised if Jimbo changed his picture to that, either. LikeLakers2 (talk) 14:58, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Not really. -- Avanu (talk) 15:01, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
No. NickCT (talk) 15:56, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
No... --Σ talkcontribs 21:11, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
No. Srsly. --Jimbo Wales (talk) 21:49, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
If not an avatar derived from a Christian religious picture, then perhaps it would be less controversial to use - ah, ok. No. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 22:03, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Would you believe?

To sum up: I think posting to my talk page is never a violation of WP:CANVASS. People should feel free to come here to raise issues of interest to me and to others. Others disagree with me on this. I again restate my dislike of posts on this page which seek to deter people from talking to me. Citing WP:FORUMSHOP is similarly frowned upon by me. This page is my personal talk page, but it is also special as a place for people to discuss policy in what I hope is a safe and collegial environment. Get philosophical here, it's really ok.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

In the notorious neologism talk page, I made a comment. [5] I feel accurately reflects your position and mine, but if you have a comment, then I think it would be of some use. Cheers. Collect (talk) 00:18, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

^ = WP:CANVASS Writegeist (talk) 02:06, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
You appear on every page I edit, it seems <g> but posting a neutral comment on UT:JW is generally not considered CANVASS. Cheers. [6], [7], [8], [9] , [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], etc. show a remarkable ability to note my posts <g>. Cheers. Collect (talk) 13:10, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I think they call that "boojum".   Will Beback  talk  04:39, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
As in missile or creature? Peter S Strempel | Talk 04:45, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Your own words, clearly applicable to this instance of WP:CANVASS, make it unnecessary for me to add more: “. . . any attempt to influence in any way a discussion by . . . phrasing the notice in any way that an outside person might view as being non-neutral, or by soliciting people whom you reasonably believe would hold a specific position in accord with your own, is improper.” Writegeist (talk) 02:40, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Contacting me is never an violation of WP:CANVASS. I really really don't like it when people try to encourage people not to talk to me. This should be regarded as a general exception. Everyone who edits Wikipedia has the absolute right to contact me. I can make up my own mind, and will.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 03:02, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I think there should be a presumption that everyone can. Make up their own minds, that is. I do not like WP:CANVASS, at least not the way it is interpreted by many editors. Extreme "spamming" type behavior is objectionable, but short of that, if this is really considered a "community," then people should be allowed to "talk" to each other. Neutron (talk) 03:13, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree. WP:CANVASS is a page I regard as being similar to WP:NOTCENSORED - almost every time it is cited, the person citing it is in the wrong. Both are used to shut down discussion. WP:CANVASS is used to suggest that you shouldn't talk to people who you agree with. WP:NOTCENSORED is used to suggest that any argument for editorial judgment is 'censorship'. Both are used inappropriately, far too often.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 03:17, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
It would be ludicrous - OK, totalitarian - to suggest that people who agree (or disagree) with each other shouldn't talk. Equally obvious, I'd have thought, is the fact that that was not the gist of my post (I am disappointed that you have chosen to represent it that way). It simply referred the OP, who exhibits a great fondness for directing other editors' attention to WP:THISTHATANDTHEOTHER, to a core concern of the WP:CANVASS guideline, which is that the practice of recruiting people to a discussion in order to add weight to an opinion you are arguing there, when your criterion for selection is that the recruit shares your opinion, is regarded as "inappropriate". Thank you for clarifying that the co-founder of WP, no less, does not regard it as so. It's good to learn that WP:CANVASS is trumped by the infinitely more precious principle of free speech, and that it's yet another strand of WP red tape we can safely ignore. Writegeist (talk) 05:18, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Yet you seem to appear every time I post on UT:JW <g>. [15] Where (say) a minyan is CANVASSed for an RfCU, I suggest that the line has been so far exceeded as to admit no doubt of hitting WP:False consensus. Jimbo has iterated the open invitation to post many times, and the raising of CANVASS has been shot down here so many times, that I thought everyone knew his position. Cheers. Collect (talk) 11:47, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
It's not because an editor invites posts and claims that a post to his user talk page is not canvassing, that such a post can'tbe canvassing anyway. If you invite someone with a known opinion to join a debate or to give a quote they can use in the debate, then you are canvassing. E.g. asking Jimbo to join a debate on a supposed pornographic picture on Commons would be canvassing, plain and simple. That doesn't mean that Jimbo can't or will make up his own mind: the fault of the canvassing is not with the canvassed, but with the canvasser: people who come here with the purpose of getting heavyweight support for their position are canvassing, no matter if they indeed get that support or not. This is not an opinion on this section, which I haven't looked at any further, but a disagreement with the general claim that coming here for support is never canvassing. Whether something is canvassing is not to be judged by the canvasser or the canvassed one, but by outside views if needed. Fram (talk) 12:28, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
In short - Jimbo is "wrong" when he has specifically posted a number of times Contacting me is never an violation of WP:CANVASS. I really really don't like it when people try to encourage people not to talk to me. This should be regarded as a general exception. Everyone who edits Wikipedia has the absolute right to contact me. I can make up my own mind, and will.--Jimbo Wales Unfortunately, I demur, Fram. Cheers. Collect (talk) 13:10, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes. I am not stating "people shouldn't contact Jimbo Wales", there is nothing wrong with a post like the section below ("Would you believe? (2)"). But to claim that contacting him is never canvassing is incorrect. If I post "Jimbo, you must help me, people are trying to delete my article, please come and tell them to keep it!!", then I am canvassing, and the fact that it is posted here and not on the page of any other editor doesn't change that. Fram (talk) 13:26, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I rather think Jimbo is sufficiently independent that such a post would not be CANVASSing as he simply would not be thus ordered about. Cheers. Collect (talk) 13:40, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Again, I am not saying that Jimbo would be influenced: the only thing that counts for canvassing is the apparent intention of the poster, no matter if it gets the desired result or a case of BOOMERANG. But if e.g. someone posts here, and a discussion at AN or somewhere else feels that it is canvassing or part of a canvassing campaign, then the excuse "but Jiùbo said that he welcomes such posts) shouldn't be taken into consideration. If every member of the "club of extreme deletionists" states that they welcome all requests for help and that they don't consider it canvassing, and I post to them "please come and vote "delete" on these AFDs", it would be pure canvassing, even though the recipients gave their permission for it. Fram (talk) 14:02, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
It's part of WP:ISABUREAUCRACYEVENTHOUGHWEDONTWANTITTOBE. I think Jimbo was just saying we probably need to lighten up and try to not always take every WP:RULE with such intensity all the time, even though these things end up helping us. -- Avanu (talk) 05:33, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Comment One of the problems with applying WP:CANVASS to posts here, is that they would pretty much all run afoul of the guideline were Jimbo not to have given his stated rationale about posting here explicitly not being canvassing. Jimbo clearly wants people to feel comfortable bringing issues to him, without worrying that they will be flogged for it. Sometimes rule that make sense in certain situations don't in others, and that's why we sometimes make exceptions to rules. Jimbo is not your average editor. We know that, he knows that and the project accounts for that. I'm not suggesting that Jimbo is outside the law, or a Wiki superhero (sorry Jimbo), but he simply is unique since he's the founder of the project. One of the things I really appreciate about his talk page policy is that it enables even more public dialogue about hot issues facing the project, and it does so in a forum that is often infused with Jimbo's opinion. Should that opinion carry more weigh than others? No, not in any technical sense, but as far as I know it doesn't. If people feel that Jimbo's opinion is of a certain quality that they respect (or not respect), however, that's for them to feel. He's no different in that regard than a veteran editor who's opinions are well known. We all have more or less social capital than each other on this project, and that's simply a reality. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 14:26, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Griswaldo is "not suggesting that Jimbo is outside the law". But Mr. Wales suggests that certain posts on his talk page are. Indeed he decrees it so.
In a nutshell: (1) the OP's attempt at recruitment clearly falls within the meaning of WP:CANVASS, yet (2) this page is exempt - by decree of Mr. Wales. (Less WP:ISABUREAUCRACYEVENTHOUGHWEDON'TWANTITTOBE and more WP:ISANAUTOCRACYWHENACO-FOUNDERFEELSLIKEITREALLY.)
Are there other guidelines and/or policies, in addition to WP:CANVASS, that don't apply here? It would help to have them permanently listed on the page. Writegeist (talk) 16:43, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I think one of the issues that makes a potential canvassing-like post less so here is that with so many watchers, of all opinions and philosophies on editing, this page is not simply Jimbo's personal talk page, but a de facto notceboard. A request for Jimbo to join a conversation because he may hold a certain opinion is almost certainly guaranteed to also be seen by people with the opposite opinion, who can then also join the conversation. LadyofShalott 17:26, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
What is the threshold for a user talk page to become "a de facto noticeboard" where recruitment to a discussion is less subject to WP:CANVASS? JW has around 2400 watchers. SlimVirgin, for example, has around 780, presumably also representing many different opinion; Off2riorob has around 240; LadyofShalott, around 100. And so on. Writegeist (talk) 18:58, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
See Wikipedia:Database reports/Most-watched users.
Wavelength (talk) 19:25, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Gosh - I am in a tie for 499? Collect (talk) 21:56, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Writegeist, I can't quite tell whether you're being stubborn or just insistent. Jimbo is a special case, maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong, but this page is a special case, and even though on any other page, the *strict* interpretation of canvassing might apply, what's wrong with just saying "ok, he's just being Miley" (see the song), and move on? As people have told you, this is a fairly neutral page, with lots of viewers, so for any bias done, there's a dozen other people that might tilt things the other way. -- Avanu (talk) 20:20, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Methinks people need to read and understand WP:JIMBOSAID, Jimbo when it comes to content, its just another editor. Things like tool access and policy are different, but that is well known and rather transparent and he has two special user-rights, one global and one in en-wiki to show this (I think he has similar user-rights in other wikimedia wikis too, but I don't know). Jimbo's talk page as per WP:CANVASS can be seen as a Village Pump-type page, but it is *also* his talk page: CANVASS doesn't prohibit like minded people from exchanging views on a topic - it specifically allows it! What is doesn't allow is abusing this ability to stack !votes and engage in meatpuppetry, or to do this in a stealth manner. Read the policy, and it will all be revealed... And I hate to say this, but saying Jimbo is a special case is unnecessary in this case, because the letter and spirit of the rules were followed. The only special thing is the opinion, generally accepted even by Jimbo and expressed in WP:JIMBOSAID, that Jimbo's opinion on content shouldn't be given any special value than any other opinion, and certainly that his opinion (and any of our opinions) are to be tempered by what verifiable, reliable sources say on a topic. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 20:46, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

You can "generally accept" whatever you like but you can't change basic social facts. Different editors on the project have different amounts of social capital. Their opinions will be treated by others in different ways. In that sense Jimbo, is indeed just like everyone else. The idea that Jimbo's opinion, or that of any other user, should not be given any special weight is of course exactly the time of advice people should hear, but it simply doesn't play out that way in reality. There is no community where everyone is equal, and where all opinions are given as much weight. Again, this is a basic social fact. We can strive for a system that works as democratically as possible, but pretending that we have achieved this in reality is actually a detriment to that very effort.Griswaldo (talk) 20:55, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

@ Avanu. "For any bias done, there's a dozen other people that might tilt things the other way" at the user pages of numerous other editors who don't happen to be co-founders of the project. LoS's thesis doesn't hold water.

@ Cerota. This was not "two like-minded people exchanging views on a subject". One person invited another to weigh in on a discussion based on the belief (explicitly stated in the invitation) that the opinions of both are in agreement. Neither the letter nor the spirit of "the rules" (the guideline) were followed. Clearly, on this page, I now see, they don't have to be.

@ Griswaldo and others, thank you all. I have learned there's one rule for proletarian users' pages and another - or, more correctly in this instance, no rule - for Mr. Wales's. Ta ta. Writegeist (talk)

3 Inviting a person or persons who are likely to share views on a subject to consider commenting in a discussion is not a violation of CANVASS, specially if there is previous participation of the person being invited in the topic (as implied by the opening message). Jimbo is not being treated differently than us humble proles. In particular, CANVASS is about the negative effects of seeking opinions. So for example, a closing admin on a discussion might take into account WP:CANVASS issues when counting !votes. But the sole act of seeking additional opinions in an open and transparent manner is not a violation of CANVASS, it is how freaking human beings communicate, and anyone who says so (to Jimbo or the proles) is forgetting that part of collaboration is communication and that what matters is if an action improves the encyclopedia or if an action doesn't, and I haven't seen anything in this thread that argues the simple request for opinion harmed the encyclopedia. If it does, then we figure it out, and Jimbo has indeed "lost" more than one discussion - even on his own BLP.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 22:16, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota, I wish the first sentence of your comment were correct, but unfortunately that's not what WP:CANVASS says. Look at the table in the guideline. It appears that even one, neutrally worded message on the talk page of someone who agrees with your view on a topic could be considered "votestacking" unless you also notify people with opposing views. I think this should be changed, but I strongly suspect that proposing it would be a waste of time. Neutron (talk) 00:40, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Where is the vote here? To vote stack, there needs to be a vote. This is an ongoing discussion. Also, people do this as routine, via Wikiprojects etc. Seriously, if people interpret WP:CANVASS as you do, as a general prohibition to encourage topic participation, we need to update CANVASS to be be clear. I think people are trying to have it both ways, treating Jimbo's talk page as user talk sometimes, and as a Village Pump other times. It is both, and that's that.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 00:59, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
What are you going to update it to and say in its place? Lambanog (talk) 02:55, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Nothing at this point, its fine as it is, unless more people misinterpret it. :)--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 07:28, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Community Central

Could you please unblock me there? Thank you! --#1 Fan of Queen (Talk | Contribs) 00:39, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

For Wikia questions, you are better off emailing Wales (talk) 00:47, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Deleted a subpage from your user talk space, hope that's allright?

The page User talk:Jimbo Wales/wiki/Wikipedia talk:Pushing to 1.0 was created in 2007 by an IP address. It didn't look as if you would want to keep it around, so I deleted it. If you want it back anyway, I'll obviously restore it. Fram (talk) 13:27, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Sure, it was vandalism it looks like.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:15, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

New archives of your talk page

Hi Jimmy, I've just created archives of all the discussions on this talk page before late September 2005; they're archives A–G. Wow, you've certainly worked with some rather interesting people and situations! Enjoy! Graham87 16:13, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Is it possible to summarize the "paid advocacy" situation?

Perhaps people can edit this table. This talk might not be the right place for it, but since people have been talking.

I just moved this table to this page:

Since this talk page will be archived soon. Wxidea (talk) 16:57, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Edited 19:03, 2 September 2011 by Wxidea; and also Wxidea (talk) 22:32, 3 September 2011 (UTC) I removed the academics row, but feel free to restore it.
Adjusted the table with some actual real-world guidelines since Wikipedia can't effectively police/enforce the no-paid-advocacy rules.
I think this is a brilliant start. I moved one thing that I consider to be problematic to the 'risky' middle column (and also added that description of 'risky'). Let's all keep working on this to try to reach some kind of consensus.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:34, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I think we're looking for a magic mix of concensus and the royal seal of approval. (If we were just looking for concensus the conversation would be happening elsewhere, and if you were operating totally by fiat you would have simply declared where all the lines are.) That said, I'm really hopeful that this will lead to clearer guidelines.
More approaches to editing to consider:
  • Wikipedia:Requested articles. I added this to the good column for PR folk, company staff, and academic autobio/personal research situations. This involves submitting a topic and maybe a little info, but not writing an article.
  • seeking out Sponsors. The sponsor approach involves checking similar articles or WikiProjects for editors who might have an interest in the topic and asking them if they would be interested in creating an article on that topic (or, if the article already exists, taking a look at it to see if it needs work). I've seen this suggested repeatedly to corporate editors and have seen it in use.
  • WP:AFC. I'm less certain of directing people to Articles for creation because I haven't used that process myself, but I've seen it reccommended by an experienced admin. Cloveapple (talk) 20:24, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that this table confounds COI editing with paid advocacy. An academic doesn't need to be paid (or even still working) to want to edit an article about himself or his specific research endeavors. Rather, I think the crucial boundary for paid editing is editorial independence - the same line we (should) draw when considering whether a newspaper or television news report is independent of the corporate owner. Paid editing by employees of a corporation who must say good things about their employer is obviously a problem. Paid editing by research grant recipients who (hypothetically) would receive a salary including 10% time spent explaining their research field in Wikipedia articles would be just fine, provided they adhere to normal COI precautions. I think we should eagerly seek paid editing by those with absolutely no personal stake in the editing. For example, the New York City school system famously maintains a "rubber room" (reassignment centers) for teachers accused (usually unfairly) of misconduct. They complain bitterly (almost as bitterly as the taxpayers...) of being sent to do nothing - 600 teachers lounging around. I wish New York City would sit them all down at computer terminals and have them edit Wikipedia or other WMF projects (Wikiversity?) - it would be a huge productive resource to get the K-12 level of resources up to a more usable level. Wnt (talk) 06:21, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
OK, the table was changed to omit the "academics" row, on 22:32, 3 September 2011. -Wikid77 14:04, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Why consultants write WP articles

Hi, I'm an online reputation management consultant, and I've been asked by another editor to come here, read over everything, and give my unvarnished opinions. I hope everyone sees that as a good thing, even if I say some things that you wish weren't true. First, my firm is often hired by PR firms and ad agencies. The big ones. What do they want with Wikipedia? You may be surprised, but half the time it isn't about anything that happens inside Wikipedia. Most my clients would be perfectly fine with a ho-hum article about them, or even one that has some negative things in the article. Why? Because they don't want a Wikipedia article because they think anyone will read it. They want the article because it takes up a slot (often the precious #2 position) on a Google search for the company name. Why is that important? Because companies executing aggressive reputation management/SEO strategies don't want to be number one, they want to be number one through ten: they want to be every hit on page one for certain keyword searches (like their company name). Why? Because they don't want to be number one, but number four is a competitor. If his meta description is better, his link might get clicked instead of theirs. The other likely scenario is to defend against (or proactively protect against) a scandal. Since Wikipedia doesn't publish unverifiable, unfounded accusations, its still a good thing to have on page one, because its PageRank is so high that it helps provide a buffer against defamatory blog entries and forum comments. So a breaking scandal might not make page one where lots of people will see it.

It is in my interests for a Wikipedia article on one of my clients to not be deleted, so I make sure the writers I manage work hard to follow community standards when writing (I don't write, but I manage our content department). What this means is that we actually have editorial independence when writing Wikipedia articles. I don't edit articles already written, just author new ones for clients that don't have them, because for me, its existence of an article that matters. The way I see it, since I only write about notable companies and people, and I cite reliable sources, Wikipedia benefits from my work. Also, just an aside, I mentioned to my boss that Jimmy Wales thinks most PR agencies don't edit Wikipedia and he just laughed. I'm here to tell you that almost ALL of them do, especially the big ones. Lastly, spoofing IP addresses and using anonymous proxies isn't expensive to a company that has an IT department, both because their employees can do the work, and because we just pass the costs on to the clients through the time and expenses we bill.

Also, in regards to the table you've put together above, I think your definitions are a little narrow in some places and too broad in others. It seems that there is an assumption that PR firms are always advocates, although I've explained to you above that half the time they aren't interested in advocating, just creating a robust link for online reputation management purposes. So that assumption is inaccurate half the time. Also, an employee of a company editing the company article is assumed to be less of an advocate. I presume because the idea is that an employee might be writing just because he likes his company; it is a subject of interest because he works there. However, lots and lots of in-house PR departments and marketing departments edit their company's Wikipedia articles. Lots. So I don't see a distinction between a PR firm and a company employee. Also, if you all reach consensus that a publicist writing for a client on Wikipedia is always considered a paid advocate, you should state this explicitly. Because coming up with a definition of advocacy that defines it as "pushing a POV" will leave you with reputation management folks saying "but I'm not pushing a POV, so I'm not being paid to advocate." Lastly, you should drop use of the term PR firm and come up with a more exact definition. Otherwise you'll have freelance publicists, social media consultants, and online reputation management consultants all saying "I'm not a member of a PR firm, therefore this doesn't apply to me."

Now, all this said, I'm not writing this to thumb my nose at Wikipedia, but to give you an inside perspective. I recognize some of it isn't something you want to hear, but no matter what you decide to do, this information will help you understand what the other side is thinking, so you'll make a more informed decision. (talk) 02:10, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments. That's all interesting. I have been concerned that there's a distorted reality going on. Aside from the most famous topics, or topics that fancy the whims of Wikipedia editors, it's useful that you confirm that many articles are written by firms/consultants, or people who are involved. I think the COI guidelines are misguided because they just force an underworld to grow. Wxidea (talk) 02:54, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I tried to incorporate several of your points, so that this is more realistic. Wxidea (talk) 03:36, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Nothing that 120.28 said comes as a surprise to me... except that he would say it instead of staying in the shadows. But as long as he's throwing us bones, I'll try asking: how do the PR firms get around the so-called "single purpose account" (WP:SPA) problem? I'm thinking there's a large pool of clients mixed up between many different accounts, but even that doesn't explain many of the apparently uncommercial edits from accounts I get suspicious about. Of course, maybe they really are just fans who keep a close watch on their favorite companies...? Wnt (talk) 07:58, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Professionals have resources to mimic users: As noted by the consultant above, the professional writers have the resources to simulate the actions of typical WP users, with active usernames or multiple (remote) IP addresses. In trying to form workable rules for such consultants, then it is helpful to know they will try to make a company article "look" like it was created by typical users, but have reliable sources to back the text, and show notability of the company (to deter article deletion). In a sense, WP wants such articles on notable companies, if they were written by volunteers. Meanwhile, we have 33,000(?) articles on footballers, written by intense fans (among 1.5(?) million sports articles), and numerous articles on governors of colonial territories or other politicians, so there are many such specific articles. Things to ponder. -Wikid77 14:27, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
As for how paid editors hide their tracks, I know of one company that had its clients create accounts and do minor edits while their article was being written, then the finished article was handed over to them to post. So the real paid editors remained largely behind the scenes. That's just one example - other PR firms probably work differently.   Will Beback  talk  02:11, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
If you are paid to represent a client's interests on WP, that runs counter to the community built here and its purpose. Having run into it before I'm not surprised. As for above ground versus below ground, neither is this a free advertising venue because Google tends to return Wikipedia articles at or near the top. PЄTЄRS J V TALK 02:29, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Yet more reasons (from the OP) why I think we have to judge product, not producers. We can't identify the producers, except the sloppiest ones, but we can identify product. We're even pretty good at catching teams who try to manipulate things like AfD discussions. What we are not and never will be good at (thankfully) is actually matching up an IP address with a company, PR firm or otherwise. I will say that the current version of the table, which doesn't group people into categories without justification about actual differences, and which, more or less, matches our current COI policy, is a much better approach. Wikipedia has a problem with advocacy, and always will, as long as we allow open editing (which we should). I don't see any valid rationale that paid advocacy is somehow significantly different from/worse than unpaid advocacy and thus needing significantly different treatment. Qwyrxian (talk) 02:53, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
To Vecrumba, I think the purpose of the community here is to contribute to an online encyclopedia that holds the sum of human knowledge. What you seem to be saying is that intention for why someone contributes is important. If it truly is a contribution (hype and promotional articles or other things that don't meet community standards are NOT contributions), then to me it meets the purpose. POV writing does not meet community standards, but a good non POV article does, doesn't it, regardless of who wrote it or why? I agree with Qwyrxian that you need to look at product, not producers, because you just can't know the intentions of the producers. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 08:07, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Interested parties may want to closely examine the IP editors working on articles tagged by WikiProject Film as a case study of how paid editors operate on Wikipedia. I highly suspect that the film project has one of the highest number of paid editors active on the project. Viriditas (talk) 23:57, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

I'm glad this PR consultant spoke up because it has been clear to me for a while now that the tenor of this ongoing conversation has been off for some time now because of the assumption that "paid editors" would only ever work on creating puff pieces for their clients. If this IP is indeed telling the truth then that assumption is totally wrong. I tried to point out earlier that it is in any paid editors best interest to try to edit as conventionally as possible, abiding by policies, because having an entry of some kind, especially a neutral one that wont be attacked or deleted is quite clearly their number one priority. That appears to be true. It would be much more beneficial if we continued this conversation with that in mind. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 00:15, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

It all depends on the nature of the contract. In the case of the one PR company I know best, the paid editor received his money after the article had been up for a week. After that he didn't care what happened to it. He just needed to maintain a few articles to use as examples of his work. Another issue to remember is that when editing is a job rather than a hobby any kind of block represents lost income. So blocked paid editors are not going to simply go away and find another hobby or work at Wikiquote to prove how they can play well with others. Instead, they'll sock. That's been shown time and again. In a perfect world, paid editing wouldn't be a problem. In the real world, it is.   Will Beback  talk  00:37, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
However, the problem with paid editing is the same whether the editor is paid or not (promotion, advertising, bias, violation of policies and guidelines) so the problem isn't with paid editing, but with the COI guideline. If we were serious about admitting how widespread it is, we would develop a COI guideline that has real world (read off-wiki) antecedents. It is time to face the fact that PR firms have been using Wikipedia for years, and unless we acknowledge it and write policies and guidelines addressing this activity, it will continue to be swept under the rug. Viriditas (talk) 00:49, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with that. I am not sure what the answer is, but it needs to be based on the reality of what has been going on, and how it has been going on. IMO those who have been advocating for some form of paid editing seem to have had a better grasp of that reality than those railing against it. I'm not sure, personally, what is best for the project in the end, but for now I'd like to advocate for a more well informed discussion at the very least.Griswaldo (talk) 01:00, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
A while back we had a serious discussion about the paid editing guideline. One editor was especially vocal about rejecting any limits on paid editing.Sure enough, he turned out to be engaged in paid editing himself, in a very disruptive way, and was banned. Since there was money on the table, he naturally returned using countless socks.   Will Beback  talk  01:19, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Logical fallacy

There is a fallacy here, which is, "since every PR firm violates wikipedia rules, the rules should change to make them legal". This sounds like "since there are so many pedophiles who rape children, we should make pedophilic rape legal" - makes no sense at all. I am a generally anti-prohibition and anti-regulation persuasion, but there are things that should be prohibited, and for a number of widely discussed reasons this one of them. The allegation that an impossibility of total enforcement means we should allow the behavior is a logical fallacy. In fact, the open admission (if true) that PR professionals violate wikipedia policy as a matter of routine is argument to keep the prohibition, so that whistle-blowers can embarrass the PR firms in question with specific allegations - something I would encourage good faith wikipedians to seek. I think we should ignore WP:OUT when it comes to paid advocacy: the more community disapproval the better. PR firms want to have it both ways, having access to the high visibility Wikipedia provides with the control of messaging an editorially controlled environment has: they would like to engage us like they engage all media. Thing is, we are not a monolithic editorial organization - they should adapt to our model, not the other way around - and this reality is why they hate the ban on paid advocacy. If we allow paid advocacy it would spend the end of the Wikipedia brand - as has been explained.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 01:12, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

There are some good points. Most regular advocates of a concept will give indications of their interests, so other editors generally know they are advocates. PR firms may work on dozens of unrelated articles, obscuring the reason for their advocacy. If paid editors followed COI by either disclosing their involvement or sticking to the talk pages then there wouldn't be much of a problem.   Will Beback  talk  01:17, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)There is nothing keeping them from disclosing COI and following all the other rules. The ban on paid advocacy is not a ban on paid professionals editing Wikipedia, even Jimbo (who is the one banning paid advocacy, AFAIK) has said so (take for example, User:James Cantor who has never been permabanned for having obvious COI). My personal hero in terms of PR professionals who seem to be doing-it-right is User:Joedesantis, Newt Gingrich's communication director, who in his user page says:
No one questions, because of his self-disclosure, that he is paid to watch after the interests of Newt Gingrich. But instead of gaming the system by editing from the shadows, he discloses this, and has been effective in editing the articles that apply to his employer - following our rules. PR firms that do not disclose COI do not do so because they want to violate the ban on paid advocacy, instead of announcing COI and editing according to our rules (including the ban on paid advocacy). All the other stufdf is frankly noise from editors who want to be able to engage in paid advocacy from the shadows, and in case of being discovered, they can then say: "but we didn't break the rules". No - if you disclose COI and follow our rules, then you can participate in the open. If you remain in the shadows, you are breaking the rules. Period.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 01:55, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota, who exactly is making the argument you are calling a logical fallacy? Has anyone argued to change core policy to suit paid editing? That's news to me. You also appear, like many others in this conversation, to simply ignore the reality of what is going on. As the PR consultant IP mentioned above, "advocacy" is a minor part of the picture. The bigger part is simply having an article, and to accomplish this editing in a manner that is conventional is necessary. This means abiding by the rules. As I said, I'm not sure what the answer is, but it simply baffles me why so many people here an unwilling to have an honest conversation about this issue. Let's leave the unverified hypothetical claims out of the picture for now, and look at how paid editing does occur already, and what the most practical solution (as opposed to ideological solution) might be. You say that "[i]f we allow paid advocacy it would spend the end of the Wikipedia brand - as has been explained." Really? Where is the evidence for this? You'll pardon me, but I'm having a very hard time buying the gospel you're selling in that regard. In my opinion Wikipedia's brand has been, and will continue to be damaged much more by ideological POV pushing, random vandalism and editor incompetance than by paid editing, and I don't see any convincing evidence that I'm wrong. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 01:51, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that we should give to much weight to the word of one anonymous IP editor, who won't even reveal which articles he's written. Nor, to be frank, should the views of editors who don't actually contribute content to the project. In contrast, there's plenty of history of dealing disruptive paid advocates. Go do a little research.   Will Beback  talk  02:01, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Will you are talking about one paid editor, and I'm almost 100% sure I know who you are talking about since I was introduced to a certain off-wiki website critical of Wikipedia, where this editor might lurk (yes?). There is no indication that that editor's experience at Wikipedia is any more emblematic than the IP's. Basic common sense, and an ounce of knowledge of public relations or marketing makes what the IP claims seem much more likely to be indicative of most paid editing on Wikipedia. If there are more examples, or more lurking PR consultants who want to throw their experiences down then let's hear them, but please lets not base this entire conversation on one dark episode. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 02:14, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
We don't know anything about the IP's actual editing, just his claims about it. On the other hand, we have lots of concrete evidence about paid editors like "BB" and PR firms like "GA", and also the case of the New Gingrich editor. When we have clear evidence of actual problems, and one case of a non-problem, then let's base the discussion on those, rather than on hypothetical constructs or the self-serving claims of someone who refuses to show us his actual editing.   Will Beback  talk  03:54, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree that other problems exist, in fact, some of the specific ones you mention. Yet, that is not a reason to ignore "paid advocacy" as a problem, just that it is one more problem in need of our attention. Please read my {{ec}} above, which addresses some of your points. I will simply repeat myself in other words: we already have methods for which those PR professionals to participate, openly, in wikipedia. Their choice not to do so is because obfuscation and hiding in the shadows is usually part of the way PR works. I see no reason for wikipedia to allow that behavior. If we lifted the ban of paid advocacy, they would still remain underground, yet when uncovered and outed there would be no legitimate consequences. Right now, if a whistleblower uncovers their misbehavior, we can at least say "you went against the rules". I have no doubt in my mind that underground paid advocates would love nothing more than our community to say their disruptive behavior is ok, so that they can rest assured that even if outed there would be no real consequence. I think we should not oblige them. The only good way to be an editor who is also a paid professional in the topic edited is by disclosing COI, and get it over with. In fact, I would even welcome an OTRS style COI revelation for editors who which to remain anonymous while disclosing COI. In short, there are many other simple alternatives to lifting the ban, and that these are not considered leads me to suspect that the problem is that PR firms want to continue being underground but control the damage a possible outing would have.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 02:06, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I think any rules in place concerning financial conflicts of interest should always force editors to disclose such conflicts. I do not think anyone, even the staunchest supporters of paid editing, would disagree. I don't think it is helpful, however, to keep on using language like "advocacy" or "disruption" to describe editing that might not fit either very well at all. If a paid editor creates an article, under the radar, that is policy compliant they have neither engaged in advocacy or disruption. One of the larger problems we have as a community, is that we're constantly obsessing over people's motives and reacting to their edits based on our judgments of those motives (despite our token claims to focus on edits and not editors). Disclosing a COI, in such an environment, is an invitation to have pretty much anything you edit within your COI area get reverted because people assume you're necessarily making a biased edit. This also goes for suggested edits you might make an a talk page. They will be met with suspicion. Consider how often the COI guideline is invoked in cases that don't even qualify, when editors want it declared that their POV opponents should be considered part of this larger pool of editors whose motives are such that they cannot be trusted to edit neutrally (e.g. someone's religious beliefs are claimed to give them a COI in articles about their religion). The net result, all over the encyclopedia, is for people to try to hide facts about themselves that might give another editor evidence of their motives. Paid editors not disclosing COI are just doing what the rest of us are doing when we hide behind pseudonyms and keep as much information about ourselves unknown so our motives cannot be impugned. I don't think we're going to encourage paid editors to abide by the COI guidelines as long as our culture of editing remains as it is.Griswaldo (talk) 02:40, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I think the example of User:Joedesantis speaks against your argument: even if that user is occasionally mentioned by POV warriors, his behavior allows a brightline that allows administrators to quickly identify the real problem - again you bring up the logical fallacy that because enforcement is impossible or tedious or ineffective then we shouldn't ban the behavior. Here is the issue: PR professionals editing wikipedia want to be treated like any other editor, and I think that if we take the "revelations" of the above anon editor at face value, we have many reasons not to treat them as such - for example, a PR firm have resources to even influence even otherwise reliable sources, coordinate world-wide, use significant IT resources to mask wrongdoing like sockpuppetry and meatpuppetry etc. I lack those resources. I do not want a multinational to have the same rights as I do to edit a free as in beer and free as in freedom, NPOV, encyclopedia. Essentially, if we allow paid advocacy, it will be like allowing professional sports persons into the Olympics - you will be making it impossible for amateurs to "win", and being an amateur project - "an encyclopedia anyone can edit" - is central to the wikipedia brand. Just because some PR firms want to change the rules, doesn't mean we should.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 03:04, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
again you bring up the logical fallacy that because enforcement is impossible or tedious or ineffective then we shouldn't ban the behavior. Cerejota, I'm perfectly willing to AGF here, but please go back and try to understand that I've said no such things. Where have I argued that we should not ban the behavior and where have I discussed the problems of enforcement? Please note that offering an explanation for why editors are not abiding by a guideline, is not the same as saying that enforcement is impossible and that we should give up all hope. As I clearly stated at the outset, I firmly believe that all COIs should be declared. It is really frustrating when someone erects a straw man argument, plops your name on it and then calls it a logical fallacy.Griswaldo (talk) 03:13, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I apologize, and I agree it is frustrating when people setup strawmen. Since I am mistaken in my understanding, I am still not clear what your argument actually is? I honestly saw your argument as being 1) its better to allow a paid advocacy than having it underground as it is today 2) that there is no difference between the need for privacy and anonymity of COI editors and paid advocates and the rest of us 3) that we should open the doors and let the chips fall where they would. If I am wrong, please put something forward that clearly contradicts this.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 03:41, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
BTW, professional athletes have been competing in the Olympics for some time so that's probably an analogy you should reconsider.Griswaldo (talk) 03:16, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Precisely, the participation of professional athletes in many categories has lead to a near impossibility of amateur talent, in particular from countries with less resources, to win on athletic merit alone. The Olympics still exist, but in certain categories, they are no longer really a competitive event but rather an opportunity for advertisers to showcase their products and causes and amateur athletes are a mere background to heavily sponsored superstars: the analogy is nearly perfect in this respect.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 03:41, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
How can the brand revolve around the notion that it is an "encyclopedia that anyone can edit" when you're arguing exactly that some people cannot edit the encyclopedia? You mean, an encyclopedia that anyone can edit unless we decide that your motives aren't pure enough to edit the encyclopedia? Do you really think that paid editing has had more of a negative effect on our brand than child editing, for instance? We should, of course, set limits on who can edit and how they can edit, but I think some of the thinking around the specifics isn't really reflecting reality as much as ideology.Griswaldo (talk) 03:22, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but your last sentence is a platitude: what thinking? what reality? what ideology? If you refuse to be specific, do not claim others build strawmen. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 03:41, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Anyone can edit it. They just aren't allowed to edit with a conflict of interest. Simple. -- Avanu (talk) 03:42, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
👍 Cerejota likes Avanu's comment.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 03:50, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Cerejota wrote: There is a fallacy here, which is, "since every PR firm violates wikipedia rules, the rules should change to make them legal". This sounds like "since there are so many pedophiles who rape children, we should make pedophilic rape legal" - makes no sense at all. Actually, nobody said "since every PR firm violates Wikipedia rules, the rules should change to make them legal." This is a straw man. Add to that the idea that the writer (whether he intends to or not) is equating sexual assault of children with violation of Wikipedia rules. Let's concentrate on the straw man, though. If anyone thinks we should change oft-broken rules because they're oft-broken, that's news to me. I know that at least what I'm saying is that I don't think an agent (like a PR firm, ORM firm, or independent publicist) is necessarily in conflict-of-interest simply because they are being paid to create an article or edit an entry of interest to their client. If they are advocating a certain POV, then they're definitely breaking a rule. But the assumption that PR firms are always advocates by nature of their business and therefore in COI is not accurate, in my opinion. An ORM firm authoring a well written article that follows community standards is contributing to the mission of Wikipedia, even if they're doing it with different intentions. I do agree that because there is potential for abuse, their edits should be scrutinized more highly, and we should know who they are. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 05:51, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

The only strawman here is the allegation that anyone denies there are PR firms who edit Wikipedia. As made clear, "paid advocacy" is not the same as "paid editing" (I did, in the previous thread on this totally brainfarted and used the term interchangeably). It is clear that there are people who are paid to monitor and contribute to Wikipedia as par tof their job - I even gave the example of User:Joedesantis. "Paid advocacy" is a different thing, and it is a violation of WP:BATTLEGROUND and WP:SOAPBOX, besides going against the principles behind WP:AGF etc. You seem to have a serious misunderstanding about our WP:COI rules: they do not forbid those with a COI from editing, they simply provide something you say you agree with, which is that due to a "potential for abuse, their edits should be scrutinized more highly, and we should know who they are". Those are the current rules, so I do not understand what you want changed. And yes, a PR firm, promoting a client or themselves, always has a potential conflict of interest in wikipedia, and one powered by that most powerful force, money. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 07:26, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

In regards to both Jimmy's statement of "there is virtually no evidence" and someone else saying the IP editor above is "just one person," I'd like to call attention to the fact that one of the biggest industry sites for PR (Ragan's PR Daily) recently issued Wikipedia: 4 Rules of Engagement for Professionals. Hopefully that's enough evidence for the both of you. The second line is "A select few corporations and PR firms have been crossing ethical boundaries for years to edit the world’s seventh-most-popular website." While the article goes to suggest adherence to major community guidelines (like "Establish notability") it fails to draw the major distinction drawn by Jimmy here. So now that you've got some solid evidence of PR firms (and other agents) editing Wikipedia (and I mean this article, plus the IP editor, plus the two books I mentioned that recommend it as a technique), what do you want to do about it? Because saying "We like the status quo," is the same as saying "We'd like the issue to continue unabated," which is what is happening now. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 05:51, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

That advice is sound advice, the only thing missing is WP:COI advice. And there is a recognition that editing from the shadows and engaging in paid advocacy is "crossing ethical boundaries". I fail to see your point, however - we have rules, and they will be enforced, and furthermore, all major advocacy efforts that have tried large scale manipulation of Wikipedia have resulted in severe ArbCom attention. SO I do not understand the problem here???--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 07:26, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that Jimbo wrote "PR firms should never edit Wikipedia on behalf of clients, other than posting to the talk pages." The inherent assumption is that that every possible instance that a PR firm might do so is considered paid advocacy, and thus banned. Am I interpreting you wrong, Jimmy? Are there times that PR firms, ORM firms, independent social media consultants or publicists may author new articles or edit articles on their clients where it is not paid advocacy? If not, then the Ragan article is 100% wrong because there is no instance in which a PR firm can edit articles, even if it follows all the advice contained in the article. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 08:21, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
How many times has it happened that PR people have followed the "rules" set by the article by Andrew Cross (who?) on the Ragan's website? Maybe a half-dozen? OTOH, how many times have paid editors crashed and burned spectacularly? That might also be just half-dozen cases, but they've been so disruptive that they merit great caution. However I don't want to usurp your question to Jimbo Wales.   Will Beback  talk  08:31, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I am fairly certain there are a great many "paid editors" (i.e. PR firms) who a) we don't know about and b) have not caused a problem. We see the crash/burns because, well, they cause a problem. Before we can say things like "PR firms are damaging Wikipedia" (or whatever) we do need actual evidence of the fact. I had a chat with the guy who does our PR at work (he works for a firm with about 150 employees in the US/UK). His comment was "yeh sure we edit Wikipedia... most of our client stuff gets written by fans so... poorly written cruft... or full of rants... It's horrendous. We used to try and get the material deleted through "discussion"... but no one cares... we have two or three people who keep an eye on the material and make sure it is up to scratch". I asked him for more details on why he wants to promote... "promote? no... but we have big problems with people seeing Wikipedia as... opportunity to wax lyrical abt their idol... or rant about how horrible he is... i think they see it as a very visible and open forum that we cant influence... i think all PR firms are coming to understand what a problem that is... we just finished a seminar on WP & PR and basically it amounted to 'if your perceived as being associated with the client Wikipedia is going to reject you'... so now the advice is 'stick to the rules, but avoid disclosing anything about yourself'... no one wants to work with us on this... its crazy that haters/zealots/obsessed-fans are considered better contributors than professionals... or to have a lesser "conflict"..." --Errant (chat!) 09:39, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
If there are significant numbers of PR firms working on WP without anyone knowing about it then describing it might be like trying to describe the behavior of angels or ghosts whom we cannot see. Let's start with the cases we actually know about, before basing policy on suppositions about unseen editors.   Will Beback  talk  09:45, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Except that you've now got these unseen entities leaving comments here and talking openly with Wikipedians that are reporting about it here. And regardless of how many times paid editors have crashed and burned spectacularly, you've got at least one now (me) who wants to work out in the open under the scrutiny of the community. I wouldn't slam the door so quickly. This could set a precedent for others to come out and edit in the open as well. Thanks for talking to your PR guy, ErrantX. What he said pretty much echoes how most PR people I know operate. But it doesn't have to stay that way. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 09:53, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
You asked, I answered. Full disclosure, stick to the talk page only. Do not edit any article directly for which you are being paid as a PR person. It's easy. If you want to do more than that, then you aren't really talking about just that you want to work out in the open under scrutiny, you want something more. You asked for something more, you didn't get it. Life goes on.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 10:21, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I asked why the WP:COI page doesn't reflect what you've been saying here. No answer. I asked up above if the inherent assumption in your previous statement is that that every possible instance that a PR firm might do so is considered paid advocacy, and thus banned. No answer. I didn't ask you for anything else, except to update COI to reflect what you're saying here, and that's not for me, that's for all of us. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:53, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Please read WP:NOPAY a subsection of WP:COI, which says pretty much this. I will edit it as per WP:BOLD to add the language Jimbo uses, because it doesn't say anything new.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 11:39, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Added this: In general, if you have a financial interest in a topic (either as an employee, owner or other stakeholder) , it is best to provide full disclosure, sticking to the talk pages only (using the{{Request edit}} template to request edits), and not editing any article directly for which you are have a financial stake or a being paid to edit. If you request an edit, it doesn't mean it will be done as it will be subjected to the same standards of the WP:BRD process that any editor does. However, once the edit is done there would be no conflict of interest associated with it, as the edit was performed via a consensus process and done by an admin trusted by the community for the purpose. to WP:NOPAY. Unless it gets reverted and forces an RfC, it is now policy.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 11:54, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Looks generally OK - I tightened up the prose for clarity, hope you don't mind (didn't change the meaning, but I cut some repetition). I also cut the comment about having an admin do the edit - that strikes me as being controversial and way out of line with community norms. I'd oppose the idea of admins being needed to judge whether a suggestion from a paid editor is good or not. --Errant (chat!) 12:21, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Yeah cool, it was a brainfart, meant to write editor, but your tightening is a good one. The important part was the simple instructions and the {{Request edit}} template, and indispensable tool for good PR edits.--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 12:25, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Lets examine the claims you present, assuming for sake of argument they are true:

  1. If your perceived as being associated with the client Wikipedia is going to reject you - I call BS. No one gets rejected in Wikipidia for being percieved as being pro-anything. The most notorious COI case I remember ever examining at some point is User:James Cantor - a highly controversial figure in his field, with a lot of professional and political enemies who also happen to edit Wikipedia. Yet, he still edits, his edits remain, and only gets in trouble when he does it wrong. On the other hand, User:Joedesantis, other than predictable opposition from, well his opposition has been openly and via rules editing in the topic area of his employer without any interruption - following the rule Jimbo recommends, which is requesting edits in the talk page. Sometimes his requests get denied, sometimes they don't. Quite frankly, this sounds more like a lazy, dishonest excuse to not reveal COI, than any real experience.
  2. opportunity to wax lyrical abt their idol... or rant about how horrible he is - OH NOES SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET! BS called again. I am pretty sure you know about WP:V, WP:OR, and WP:BLP and how a zealous cadre of thousands of editors does nothing else but spend countless hours fighthing against the violations of these rules. Man, the other day some admin freaking denied me "autopatrol" rights based on me creating Anders Behring Breivik, and leaving it as an unsourced BLP for six minutes when I created it. SIX MINUTES. No way a PR firm can claim with a straight face this is a serious issue. There is no way fancruft can survive today in Wikipedia if identified - we still haven't got the whole "identifying" part down, but hey, that's something PR professionals using the talk pages and tags could help with!
  3. no one wants to work with us on this - BS there are plenty of volunteer mentors willing to help PR firms, and people willing to intern, and large numbers of etc. Its just easier to make this claim than having to treat us seriously. Essentially, when dealing with any media outlet, a PR firm will have relationships with at most a dozen people in each organization, with defined hierarchies, escalations etc. In wikipedia they have to deal with thousands of different editors, each with different proclivities and idiosyncratic views, with no clear hierarchies and with a rather slow dispute resolution process. So its easier to claim we are a bunch of neckbearded/teenaged basement dwellers with no notion of professional relationship or expertise than to actually engage us, in our terms.
  4. its crazy that haters/zealots/obsessed-fans are considered better contributors than professionals... or to have a lesser "conflict" - Why is it crazy? You see, what makes them better contributors is that they follow content rules and take the time to follow BRD and go to DR and etc. We shouldn't have to streamline our process to fit the needs of an industry. Industry is free to join our process, and some visionaries like User:Joedesantis have done so. But they should follow our rules, and they shouldn't advocate at all. Advocacy is similar to WP:BATTLEGROUND and WP:ADVERTISING. As to the "expert" bit, one shouldn't confuse "expertise" with "competence" or confuse possessing one with possessing the other. There have been well know mathematical experts who have totally failed at Wikipedia, and some excellent editors in mathematical articles who are not experts at math. The primary reason for this is because experts tend to mistake the tree for the forest, and an encyclopedia is interested on the forest, not the trees. I know enough about the field of Public Relations to know that what they call an "expert" is whoever advocates for the position they are currently hired to advance - regardless of qualifications. That is no different than what we do.

Face it, the problem PR firms have with Wikipedia is that there is no profitable way for them to use Wikipedia as an actual platform for advocacy - the ban eats into their margins. I am perfectly content with that continuing to be the case. Allowing open paid advocacy will make it profitable as an advocacy platform (because there is no danger of negative press if outed or collateral costs and other infrastructure costs hidden PR advocacy requires today), and hence it would allow them to use Wikipedia, which will not necessarily spell the end of Wikipedia, but will spell the end of Wikipedia as an open, free, encyclopedia anyone can edit with a proven level of statistical accuracy matching Britannica - and turn it into the open, free, PR newswire anyone can edit if they have the backing of a multinational PR firm and with the accuracy of If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 10:35, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

I don't think you understood everything you read from the way you interpreted it. "If your perceived as being associated with the client Wikipedia is going to reject you." This is being said by a PR professional who means "if you are perceived as writing for the client." With a lot of the rest of it, we're not talking about objective truth, but the perception of the PR firms. I can understand why they think "no one wants to work with us on this." This is a good representation of the perceptions of quite a few of them. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 10:53, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I understood perfectly what those quotes mean - so I will ignore that highly presumptuous comment. If what they mean by "no one wants to work with us on this" is "no one wants to do our bidding for us" they are right. If they mean, "no one wants to let us learn how to improve the encyclopedia" they are wrong. We have a hierarchy and a professionalism, but it is different than that media outlets and other platforms PR firms and PR professionals are used to be dealing with. What I am hearing here and what I have read on the intartubez, is that PR professionals do not want to adapt to us, but want us to adapt to them. That is presumptuous of them - we can do very well without them, but they need us, so they should adapt. I have given multiple times an example of one such professional who has had a mostly positive effect and experience with us, why is that example not a good one?--Cerejota If you reply, please place a{{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 11:24, 6 September 2011 (UTC)


(edit conflict)Unfortunately, Cerejota, you've highlighted exactly the problems...
  1. You see, what makes them better contributors is that they follow content rules and take the time to follow BRD and go to DR and etc.; these are editors ostensibly pushing awkward BLP violating content, inaccuracies or OR into the articles. From the description I am getting, no these are not "better contributors". Indeed you've admitted there that motivation is not the issue, it is the actions... so theoretically if you have a PR person writing really good compliant content, where is the issue? Hmmm?
  2. There is no way fancruft can survive today in Wikipedia if identified; that comment is entirely out of touch with reality. I've edited numerous fancruft articles, or articles full of pro/negative POV, and I am sure there are many many more. Key word "if identified" :) but hey, that's something PR professionals using the talk pages and tags could help with!; the point being made is that this has been tried to no effect. You seem to be dismissing that as lies, somewhat out of hand. It might well be, or it might be the case - this is worth examining. Certainly there are regular WP:OTRS emails saying "I mentioned this on the talk page weeks ago but nothing happened.. what can I do??"
  3. As to the "expert" bit, one shouldn't confuse "expertise" with "competence" or confuse possessing one with possessing the other.; you seem to be confusing his use of "professional" to mean "expert", which isn't really the context. He means someone who acts professionally - i.e. rational, able to discuss issues and to learn the rules. His claim is that the people they see editing these articles are there for advocacy; I don't know if that is accurate (I am trying to find out what articles have been edited to see for myself) but I don't think it is fair to reject that concern out of hand!
A lot of the above comes across as "PR IS EVIL, FUCK OFF LYING SCUM" - which is just not a rational approach to helping people understand how to contribute effectively. Telling people to contribute only to the talk page is a non-optimal approach - we don't have the editors to cope with the material, and I suspect you'd get stuff sat on under visited talk pages for months. I argue the right approach is to tutor these editors on the right approaches and end up with people who are capable of editing without advocacy. That would be great! You've assumed this PR firm is lying, are hiding so they cannot be scrutinised purely because they are here for advocacy; I find that attitude naive, unethical, close minded and, frankly, rather contrary to WP:AGF ;) --Errant (chat!) 11:47, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I think it is you who is failing to assume good faith - I have expressed respect for PR professionals, multiple times. I have even recognized that their mission and our mission can have positive overlaps. However, their core mission is to zealously advance and advocate the interests of their clients - any relationship they have with us is going to be colored by that fact. Our duty is to ensure that their mission and our mission do not collide. Recognizing and advocating for Wikipedia can at times put us in a contrarian position with the needs of the PR industry, but alleging, as you do, that being a contrarian position is unprofessional and amounts to "PR IS EVIL, FUCK OFF LYING SCUM" is quite frankly why I raised the point earlier: PR has to meet us in our terms, not the other way around. We hold the cards. Its that simple. Your position amounts to assuming the notions of collegiality and a professionalism that are not our notions (and I have dealt, professionally, with PR people my entire adult life, so I know their world well). No, Wikipedia has its own rules, however exasperating they are to outsiders, and we shouldn't change them to solve problems for outsiders, we should change them to solve our own problems. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 12:15, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, perhaps I didn't express it well, sorry :S But you did outright call the PR firm I quoted liars - when I am certain at least parts are not the case (as I detailed with some evidence). I do get the impression that your stance is that there is no way for PR firms to be able to edit Wikipedia directly without advocacy, that they want us to work on their agenda but won't work on ours, that their aims are ultimately incompatible with ours. I disagree; I think we can find ways to work with the PR agencies in ways which benefit us both - so we end up with more good, accurate content, and less issues with idiot PR firms trying to advocate. I think we can look at ways of reaching out the PR firms to explain this situation and convince them of new approaches. I think we can convince them to work on our terms instead of folding our arms and shaking our heads at their nefarious antics. I've actually interacted with PR people in the context of Wikipedia to fix fancruft/BLP problems (i.e. OTRS) - and many of them are now aware of the issues of advocacy and how we frown on them simply editing the material to suit them. That seems like an opportunity to me.... I think we can convince PR in general that a) a Wikipedia article is good for you in any form but b) we only have neutral and well balanced articles so c) trying to make the article into a puff piece won't work. I think we can convince them to work with us, and I think we can show them how to edit effectively without needing the talk page - and that is a good thing, because it removes yet another job for other editors to do :) Streamlining is always good! --Errant (chat!) 12:34, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Basically, as it stands now, WP:COI policy is perfect. The ball is on the court of the PR firms. I already mentioned the example of the best example of paid professionals I have come across, perhaps next time you get an OTRS, invite the interlocutor to follow that example of that editor: 1) Declare COI 2) Participate on Talk 3) Do not edit directly. Done. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 12:47, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure if you noticed; but my OTRS examples often are of the form "I posted a message on the talk page, but no one responded, what can I do".... So there is a process issue there. --Errant (chat!) 14:30, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
This process gap is why I have suggested finding a sponsor to some COI editors. Unfortunately the sponsor search is only effective some of the time, so then it's back to the dilemma Errant describes above. Cloveapple (talk) 16:53, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
There is no way fancruft can survive today in Wikipedia if identified - we still haven't got the whole "identifying" part down, but hey, that's something PR professionals using the talk pages and tags could help with! Open your eyes, fancruft is all around you. The most prolific areas of content on Wikipedia are as big as they are precisely because of the volume and intensity of their fans. Cerejota, what you're doing boggles my mind at this point. You are, here contributing to the idea that no one being paid as an editor can be trusted to write anything but "advocacy" for their clients - e.g. to write with bias in ways that contravenes NPOV, etc. You are hardly alone in your belief there, in fact I'd say you're easily in the majority when it comes to this suspicion. It's a fair stance to take. I don't share it, but it is fair. What isn't fair is to then claim that such suspicion doesn't exist, that it's bullshit for PR professionals to think that if they announce their COI editors will refuse to help them. It's not bullshit at all, and your very arguments are undoubtedly proving their points. The irony here, is that I believe that Jimbo's stance on this is itself a public relations matter. He's not really interested in understanding how much or little our project might be damaged or aided in terms of quality contribution. What he's concerned with, in my opinion, is our image. If we are not firmly against paid editing in principle people will trust our content less. I think this is a reasonable conclusion, but I'm not sold on the fact that it is true personally. I'd like to see more evidence.Griswaldo (talk) 11:34, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
You are seriously misinterpreting everything I said. I even said directly, in the quote you provided, that PR professionals could help in containing fancruft (something I am sure that they can do even if paid)! When you are able to read what you quote, I might pay more attention to what you are saying, but you lost me there. Sorry, but at a minimum, to disagree, one needs to actually disagree, not set up strawmen so flimsy the quote actually says the opposite you claim it does. --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 12:11, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. You are misapprehending what you're doing. We'll go in circles arguing about it. I've said my piece. This conversation isn't advancing any longer. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 13:31, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota, if you think the core mission of a PR firm is to zealously advance and advocate the interests of their clients, then you don't know our world well. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 12:44, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Then educate me, please, what is the mission if not that? --Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 12:49, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Interests can align. We want more articles and PR companies are happy to write them about their clients. If the end goal isn't a puff piece but simply basic company information, because any entry is better than no entry, then it's hardly "zealous advocacy." I have a feeling though that Jimbo isn't ignorant of the fact that such things are already going on, but that he feels that the current process is the best way to deal with it, despite the fact that it is going on. I have a feeling that what seems like an ideological stance might actually be more of a pragmatic one, but that admitting this would be shooting himself in the foot. If that is the case he might be right after all. Meh.Griswaldo (talk) 13:36, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh, the sound of realization :)--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 13:44, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Also, nice use of our deletion process :) Wikipedia:Miscellany_for_deletion/Wikipedia:A_story_from_the_early_days_of_the_web--Cerejota If you reply, please place a {{talkback}} in my talk page if I do not reply soon. 13:05, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I've worked with a number of internal PR departments. Almost never do they get it right at first, but some of them can be taught. Others, when they realize what is involved in doing it right, decide not to engage in it. A few end up banned, by myself of another admin. In one or two cases, I've contacted senior executives whom I knew, who realized the danger and stopped it immediately, preferring to not have the mention to the chance of getting noticed unfavorably here.
PR firms are indeed a little different. I can't directly work with them, for none of them will admit it. I've certainly seen many articles which are obviously from PR firms placing articles. It's fairly easy to recognize the house style of some of the companies. Most of them are inadequate in various ways, usually by not resisting the temptations to add adjectives of praise (my current bugaboos are "leading" and "world-wide"), to include the full name of their company as often as possible, to refer to many of their internal sites, to list multiple executives, or to specify every country where they do business. A particular recent marker is the tendency to repeat the history of the firm 3 times over: in the introductory paragraph, in a history section, and in a timeline--=a timeline which is careful to mention all the acquisitions. And of course the style tricks of using bulleted lists, and bold face. If the firm is notable, most of these can be cured by editing, and I sometimes do it in the hope that they will learn, but they don't seem to. I find our best weapon against the incorrigible is the possibility of an AfD discussion, with people making negative comments about whether the company is notable. At least one firm, I assume the same as hinted at above, is recognizable because it carefully avoids the traps I mentioned. A truly chaste article about a middle-sized company is almost certainly coming from a professional. In writing this, I was wondering about giving WP:BEANS, but I'm forced to conclude that as we cannot stop it, we should focus on making it better. DGG ( talk ) 19:24, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

Discrepancy in WP:NOPAY

WP:NOPAY has been edited, and that's a good thing. However the core discrepancy still exists. It says "you are very strongly encouraged to avoid editing..." where Jimbo said that PR firms simply may not edit. Someone please fix this one way or the other, because the discrepancy doesn't do anyone any good. ɳorɑfʈ Talk! 03:33, 7 September 2011 (UTC)