Wikipedia talk:An interest is not a conflict of interest

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This essay was written with a view to getting editors to focus on the effects rather than the cause. "COI" branding is currently used relentlessly in talk pages, deletion discussions and other debates throughout Wikipedia without regard for the actual policies and guidelines that have been breached. Around 2,500 articles are currently branded with the COI template which many editors see as a permanent, immutable fixture rather than a temporary indicator of breakage - if such articles are so flawed as to be irretrievable they should be deleted; if not they should be fixed. -- samj inout 15:42, 26 February 2009 (UTC)


The title ("Conflict of interest is a cause not a crime") makes absolutely no sense. Can we think of a better one? THF (talk) 13:06, 28 February 2009 (UTC)

I haven't been able to thus far but suggest away... -- samj inout 22:03, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
"Conflict of interest is an explanation not a violation" ? -- samj inout 11:51, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
How about "Having an interest doesn't mean there is a conflict" as a title. I like the idea of the article. I haven't looked at it in detail at this time. RoyLeban (talk) 19:55, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
Right, something like "An interest is not necessarily a conflict of interest"... the gist is that one should only cite COI with the support of some other violation(s) - that should come through in the title and nutshell. -- samj inout 20:09, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
  • I would like to rename this essay to "An interest may not be a conflict of interest" and do a major rewrite to make it clearer / more on point (as I understand it). I'd also like to add the minor point something along the lines of "citing COI alone as a complaint about an edit is not sufficient -- you should cite the result of the COI" and "beware of editors who cite (unproven) COI when they have no other claim against a change they don't like" (that needs much better wording) Any objection? (I won't find time for this for a few days)
After that and some work by others, it seems it's worth finding spots to link to this essay.
RoyLeban (talk) 06:11, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
Sounds good. Feel free to start with the page move. THF (talk) 06:16, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
Cool, have moved to Wikipedia:An_interest_is_not_a_conflict_of_interest as an interest is never a conflict of interest. Some may argue that it can be in extreme cases but that's subjective and lack of objective guidelines is what makes COI such a problem today. -- samj inout 12:31, 10 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm good with that. The fact is they're unrelated in many ways. You can have a COI with no interest at all, for example, on a page that is about your competitor -- you have no interest, you may even know nothing about them, but you want to make them look bad. And it's already clear you can have I without COI. I'll try to get to the rewrite next week. RoyLeban (talk) 01:15, 11 March 2009 (UTC)
Yup and conversely you'll see someone with a strong interest being accused of having a COI which results in fireworks (unless there is "interest" in the business rather than amorous sense then I don't see that it's a conflict - regardless how strong that interest is).
The point of this essay is that COI in and of itself is not a violation - ence the previous title. The idea was that WP:WHYCOI could be used to defend against a COI claim without a supporting policy violation (currently defending against such claims is almost impossible, which is no doubt why they are so often made!).
I actually think these are two separate topics, though it would be nice if we could figure out a way to cover them both in the same essay. Or not. I don't know. See what you can come up with but drop it here or ping me (by email if you like) before ripping & replacing. Perhaps it's best if WHYCOI and NOTCOI can point at different parts of the essay - the former for where COI is used as an ad hominem attack (e.g. there *is* a conflict but no policy problem) and the latter where there is actually no conflict but an overzealous editor is being accused anyway. -- samj inout 02:34, 11 March 2009 (UTC)


Ok so I've split the essay into sections - "Remember" and "Advice". I think it would be best to add another section "Interest" which explains that interest has two meanings in this context:

  • A great attention and concern from someone or something.
He has a lot of interest in vintage cars.
  • A business or amorous link or involvement.
I have business interests in South Africa.

Ok so let's see where that leads us:


The word interest has two distinct meanings in this context which can be a source of great confusion:

  • A great attention and concern from someone or something.
He has a lot of interest in vintage cars.
  • A business or amorous link or involvement.
I have business interests in South Africa.
While both meanings usually apply at the same time (for example an editor writing about their own company or family member), this need not always be the case. Just because an editor has an interest in a topic (regardless how strong) does not imply that they have a conflict of interest. Conversely an editor may have a conflict of interest with no interest at all (for example an editor writing about an ex-employer or competitor).

Where there is no obvious off-wiki financial, professional, or marketing benefit to the editor or someone close to them (examples) it is usually better to avoid introducing conflict of interest and focus instead on the actual violations of policy (indeed this can be good advice even when there is a conflict of interest). Many editors consider such accusations to be a personal attack and may respond aggressively where they may have otherwise remained calm.

I'm reasonably happy with that and I think it covers most of your concerns so I'm going to be WP:BOLD and add it as is. -- samj inout 03:20, 11 March 2009 (UTC)


Some ideas for nutshell:

  1. Conflict of interest should be cited as a cause for some other violation, not a crime in itself.
  2. Conflict of interest can be cited as a cause for some other violation, but the existence of a conflict of interest by itself is not a policy violation.
  3. Wikipedia's COI policy permits editors with a conflict of interest to edit articles, so long as they comply with other Wikipedia policies.

Perhaps it is best to say explicitly conflicted editing is allowed. -- samj inout 11:55, 1 March 2009 (UTC)


Seems it needs updating now the essay covers two topics. -- samj inout 21:19, 11 March 2009 (UTC)