Wikipedia talk:Conflict of interest/Archive 3

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Contents

Name change[edit]

This page used to be called "vanity guidelines" and has recently been renamed. The reason behind that is that the term "vanity" can be seen as derogatory by people outside Wikipedia, who are unaware that we use a "local" definition of the word that does not match the most common outside definition. The problem with the term is that if an article on a NN business is deleted, it is quite likely that the deletion debate will show up on Google, and be listed pretty high in the search rankings. The owner of that business may then become very upset that we're calling him vanity, especially if he didn't write the article himself. This might sound like a hypothetical problem, but since Wikipedia has become the world's 10th most popular website, it happens a lot, and people complain about it over OTRS. Hence, the new name. We should avoid using derogatory terms if at all possible. >Radiant< 08:04, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Yay! I think this is a great change. I never liked using the term, as it didn't really embody the assumption of good faith that smoothes a lot of discussions with well-meaning newbies. Thanks to whomever did this. William Pietri 05:34, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

One minor issue: this page says that WP:COI links here. It doesn't. Since I'm not quite sure what's going on with the move and merge I won't touch it for now, but I wanted to point it out. William Pietri 05:39, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

  • It does now :) >Radiant< 08:20, 16 October 2006 (UTC)
One puppy's opinion, but anyone who doesn't realize we're using vanity in the extremely common useage as in Vanity press is not very well informed. There is nothing defamatory about this accurate use of the word. See further comments below, section titled Vanity. KillerChihuahua?!? 17:03, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
I'd agree on principle. However, I don't think that in this case it is a bad move. Not because there's anything wrong with the term vanity, but rather because the new title addresses a wider range of problems. Of course, the WP:VAIN shortcut was a lot easier to remember. --tjstrf Now on editor review! 17:42, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
  • I too, would like to support the use of the word "vanity". I do not see any difference between the way we use it here and the way the world uses it. To drop it seems to be overdone political correctness. Which bites the newbie harder to say: "your article displays a conflict of interest" or "your article is vanity"? -- RHaworth 07:07, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
    • The second, obviously. It's not a matter of political correctness, it's about the fact that many people complain to the Wikipedia office because they feel they're being treated unjustly. A high schooler writing about himself is both vanity and COI. However, if the friend of the owner of a small store writes about that store, "COI" is a reasonable interpretation, but "vanity" is derogatory. >Radiant< 13:27, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Admininistrator's Vanity Pages - William Connolley[edit]

The William Connolley vanity page, which has only been protected from several attempts at deletion by Connolley himself and his fellow Wikipedia administrators, is seemingly exempt from the rules against vanity pages. If you object to this page, make your feelings known. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 82.35.73.41 (talkcontribs) .

You do realise this was created by User:Ed Poor, a long time ago? Charles Matthews 19:58, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
If you have concerns about Connolley's notability, you could always list the article on WP:AfD, following the proper process. As is, it's not in any way a vanity page since Connolley did not write it. Of course, you're blocked for disruption, vandalism, and personal attacks anyway, but if you still care when you get back... --tjstrf 21:23, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Discipleship[edit]

There as very recent arbComn case that ruled quite differently than what this section attempts to describe. See: Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Sathya_Sai_Baba/Proposed_decision#Proposed_final_decision. Wording changed accordingly. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:38, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

Note that Charles Matthews, as an arbitrator in that case, was arguing for a similar wording, but it was rejected by the other members of the ArbCom. So, I find it quite peculiar that he chose to add this to this guideline, despite that decision. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:44, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

Well, I would have thought that the wording that has been removed, starting with the hypothetical example of Engels editing Marx, was quite far from the line that was discussed, restricted to 'gurus'. I have never thought that 'guru' was something to single out. But in any case this page is the guideline page. As I have said before, policy pages are open for discussion, while ArbCom votes neither make policy, nor are open for general contributions. So I invite people to compare my section added, entitled 'Discipleship', and see whether it fits better here than User:Jossi's version.

By the way, I only came here fairly recently, after User:David Gerard suggested on the wikien list that the page needed attention, after its renaming to get rid of the 'vanity' title. Sorting the material suggested that 'editing from too close' was a major category causing examples of various kinds to arise. The 'discipleship' issue is one that would naturally have fitted there anyway. I am hardly likely to forget the extensive discussions of this that User:Jossi has put me through on this, here and on meta. They certainly served to sharpen my appreciation of this issue; and to clarify why exactly I think disciples are particularly at risk of conflicts of interest.

Charles Matthews 22:18, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

We can bring up the arguments to this page, if you so wish. My arguments have been that making a distinction specifically about disciples of gurus, or senseis, is improper, as there are other relationships that are as stronger (or stronger) in other religious, political and other human endeavors. Notwithstanding the example of Engels and Marx (that may be restored) a Wikipeda guideline that attempts to warn followers of eastern traditions on the perils of editing article about their teachers, while not warning similarly biased people from western traditions, is in my view a poor display of understanding these traditions, and a non-so-veiled western bias. I see no difference between the possible problems an editor would have in keeping his edits in full compliance with out content policies if he is a member of the Opus Dei editing the article on Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, a member of the Lawton Foundation editing Fidel Castro, a Chabad Lubavitch follower editing The Rebbe, or a neophyte from the Drepung Monastery editing the article on Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama. Thus, any guideline or policy should not make distinctions based on people affiliations, be these religious, political, scientific, or otherwise: Wikipedia guidelines needs to be religious (as well as political) agnostic, in my view. I would delete the whole section altogether. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 23:43, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
Disclosure: I have a teacher, that some may consider a religious leader or "guru" ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 23:59, 22 October 2006 (UTC)


I have attempted to merge both versions into one that may capture the principle of "close relationships". It needs work, but may be the basis for a compromise version. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 00:11, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

It looks to me like jossi's compromise is reasonable; would you agree, Charles? Jayjg (talk) 15:57, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
No, because it has cut out the word 'disciple'. This is unhelpful. It is not helpful on this page to have exhortations to respect NPOV. As it says at the top of the article, this page is about the recognition of COI, and that requires more. 'You should be partiularly careful' is an unhelpful wording, because, as of right now, Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest is supposed to cover that issue. So I object to the blurring that has gone on. I would like to see this section stay on-topic for this page, not wander off. Charles Matthews 12:14, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
Blurring? Do you mean the disagreement over using that wording? The new wording does not exclude discipleship, and includes additional situations. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 14:32, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I would like that section to address the specific problems of "close relationships" without making specific arguments based on value judgements that single out a specific worldview. I would appreciate that rather than saying "I object", the arguments presented are discussed, the concerns addressed, and new wording that can be agreed, explored. I am also of the understanding that no guideline can override policy. Thus, having a guideline that may contradicts two established policies of WP:NPOV and WP:NPA, is not acceptable, so caveats and explanations are needed. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 14:38, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
Note that there is a request to merge Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 14:40, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I'm well aware of that, and have expressed my opposition. The page on editing with a COI starts off like this: In keeping with Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy, edits where there is a clear conflict of interest, or where such a conflict can or might be justifiably assumed based on the proximity of the editor to the subject, are strongly discouraged. That is clear, that is firm, and I think that is a good statement of where policy on COI is heading, and has always been heading. That is how the guideline stands. One can say that the wording currently standing here approximates to that, in a sense: You should be particularly cautious when editing an article about a person you have a close relationship with. If you cannot abide strictly by Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:Verifiability, and Wikipedia:No original research, then you should avoid editing such articles. This is what you have inserted. There are problems with that. Firstly, it a weaker form; it suggests that anyone who feels that they can handle their COI can indeed edit. In that way, it merely restates something about NPOV. Secondly, it removed the element of deprecation of editing with a COI which is utterly clear on Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest. Thirdly, it is on the wrong page. As I have pointed out, the introduction to this page defines its scope, and the advice is not within that scope. Charles Matthews 16:53, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I have no problem with that argument, Charles. But you are not addressing the core of mine. My concern is one about making a statement that is based on a narrow view of what discipleship is, and the wording about edits being "suspect" (your wording: Edits by those whose loyalties to such a teacher transcend any stake in this project may have to be treated as suspect. You are assuming (a) these loyalties transcend a stake in the project; and (b) these edits have to be treated as suspect. Let me give you an example, with your wording all edits made by Sikhs to the Guru Granth Sahib will be labelled "suspect", as they consider that book to be their Guru. Would it not be a similar situation if an editor is loyal to a cause such as anti-abortion? (Check the talk page of any article about which there are stromg POVs...) What is the thinking (or may I say, bias) to say that discipleship is any different that other loyalties that exist that may be as strong or stronger? As long as an editor is able to comply with WP policies, he is welcome to edit any article regardless of his POVs, biases, and loyalties. If he is not able to comply, then we do not care if he has loyalties or not. Yes, anyone that not only feels capable but actually does comply to WP policies, can edit Wikipedia. I look forward to see a proposal that will bridge between our understanding on the subject. One alternative that I proposed before, is to delete that specific section. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 17:25, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I'll broaden out the principle, that those loyalties to [...] transcend any stake in this project, all you like. Fill in the ellipsis with anything that fits the bill, and, I should have thought, you have a fine, capacious version of 'conflict of interest'. But I am going to adjourn this discussion to your User Talk now. Charles Matthews 17:56, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
A broading of the principle may work. Give it a go. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:05, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

My edits[edit]

  • Combined Charles Mathews' section on "Discipleship" and expanded it to include wording about "close relationships" in a more generic manner as per above arguments;
  • Combined some sections that were related;
  • Some copyedit for clarity;
  • Expanded on the policy section;

≈ jossi ≈ t@ 03:51, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

Vanity[edit]

"Avoid using the word "vanity" in a deletion discussion — this has created serious problems. Remember that such an accusation may be defamatory." Why? This is nonsense. "Vanity" is not defamatory. Strongly oppose inclusion of this "walking-on-eggshells because we may offend some thin skinned vanity editor" clause. KillerChihuahua?!? 17:01, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

I could agree with that. Let us find wording that presents a way to avoid flamewars in AfDs for these reasons. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 17:42, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree as well. Jayjg (talk) 18:10, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
It is not the word 'vanity', it is the form of argument that attacks notability. If you end up saying that a distinguished person, for example an academic, is not distiguished (which is the notability criterion generally applied in that career), you are attacking their livelihood and may be libelling them. Charles Matthews 12:32, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I've done a copy edit to tighten it, as it was repetitive and a bit patronizing; I also removed some bits that seemed to make no sense (e.g. the bit about defamation via pseudo-vanity). SlimVirgin (talk) 19:28, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Close relationships section[edit]

Expanded on SlimVirgin's edit, and removed the specific examples as per my objections in this page. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:25, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

You have again removed the word 'discipleship', and again without prior discussion. You are very clearly a conflicted editor in so doing, and I have explained at great length on your User Talk that you are in violation of very specific matters laid down in terms on Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest, for editing with any conflict of interest, or apparent conflict of interest. The fact that the page that you are editing in this way is the guideline defining conflict of interest only makes it more serious as a matter. If the edits I made were not fair-minded, I imagine I would be told so, by someone else. I think anyone here would tell you to leave it to others, to deal with such matters. As on a previous occasion, and as I have pointed out, you are acting in haste. The fact that you have denied this to me, in the discussion I was having with you, does nothing to increase my confidence in your edits. Charles Matthews 21:09, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

I hear you, Charles. As of now, and to dispel such concerns I will no longer edit this guideline directly. Nevertheless, I will continue making contributions to the discussion via this talk page, with the expectation that my arguments will be taken on their merits. As a note of caution, I would forward the fact that you have not listened to recommendations from other editors such as User:Jayjg to accept a compromise version, and the fact that you have been keen in introducing the disputed language despite consensus to the contrary. That does not increase my confidence in your edits either. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 21:45, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

There you go again: I have told you that I have solicited advice from my Arbitrator colleagues. I think you might assume that User:Jayjg and I have a collegiate relationship, and you certainly must know that we discuss matters offline. Why you think I'm going to respond to attempts to drive a wedge between us on this, I have no idea. You are most welcome to participate in this discussion, on an ongoing basis. Given the choice between edit wars, and robust debate, I'm on the side of debate, always. Charles Matthews 11:11, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

I added the phrase "or dependence upon" to: "It is not limited by area, but created by relationships that involve a high level of personal commitment to, or dependence upon, a person, subject, idea, or organization."
I'm hoping that might be enough to get the "discipleship" idea across without using the word. The point at which an enthusiasm for something turns into a conflict of interest is a very difficult question. We wouldn't want to say that Roman Catholic editors shouldn't edit articles about the Pope, and yet devout Roman Catholics are deeply committed to the papacy in a way that might preclude them from criticizing. We have one situation at the moment, which I won't name directly, where members of a mainstream religious denomination, who are actually employed by one of its branches (one of their job descriptions includes the "development of online resources" about the denomination), are making extensive edits in their area of interest and employment. Should they be stopped? In a sense, yes, because they're highly POV, but on the other hand, they know more about the subject than anyone else.
It's hard to know how to word the policy so that people who love something can still write about it, but people who love it irrationally and even dangerously (e.g. members of a cult) may not. SlimVirgin (talk) 12:30, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Interesting that Charles think that I want to "drive a wedge". I don't. I was stating what I believed to be a peculiar situation, as it traspires from this discussion: the intensity and persistent intention of Charles to introduce the terms "disciple" and "follower" despite a consensus of opinion that ruled out that wording. Note that I am not arguing that disciples may not have conflicts of interest. I am arguing that there was a reason for chosing a different wording such as "You should be particularly cautious when editing an article about a person you consider to be your current or former religious leader." The concern expressed was that these reasons have been disregarded in favor of the wording that was rejected. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 12:58, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Really, this is silly reiteration of an invalid point. Believe me, if the ArbCom votes for one wording on a principle rather than another, there are so many factors involved, probably specific to the case and the light in which it is being viewed, that a consensus of opinion that ruled out that wording is just misdirection. It is hard enough to concentrate on AC cases, and do the right thing, without having to worry about whether the fact that draft A or draft B was preferred as more apt to the case in hand is going to be brought up in some half-baked way later. Charles Matthews 16:51, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Removing negative info[edit]

The "Examples of conflict of interest" lists various types of material that is may be inappropriate to add. But nowhere in the guideline do I see anything about inappropriately removing information that may be perceived as negative. In my experience we have as much or more difficulty with the removal of information as the addition of it. Of course WP:BLP covers unsourced (or poorly source) defamatory material, but we should also mention that it is often inappropriate to remove properly sourced negative information. -Will Beback 22:59, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

We should also include something about not taking ownership of an article in which one has a COI. -Will Beback 23:17, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

But those points currently fit better at the 'other' page, Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest. For all the attention this page has had, I think that page is the key one. There are going to be various 'edge cases' here to argue over, but what the guideline is for editing is going to be crucial. Charles Matthews 11:14, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
"Ownership" of articles is already covered in WP:OWN and it applies to all editors, regardless if there is a COI or not. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:20, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Currently Wikipedia:Editing with a conflict of interest focuses almost exclusively on financial COIs (which are barely mentioned here). Perhaps when this is complete that page can be overhauled to complement this one. -Will Beback 16:20, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes. The recent drive for this guidelines (formerly "Vanity" guidelines), was based mostly on these types of COIs, recently extended to financial and other obvious ones such a PR companies. The other page was only started on August 9, 2006 by User:Eloquence: See diff. There is a proposal on the table to merge these two, about which there is not yet consensus. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:31, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Engels not a 'follower' of Marx?[edit]

Really? (Prompted by User:Jossi cutting out the word 'follower'.) Let's go over to Isaiah Berlin:

In his own lifetime Engels desired no better fate than to live in the light of Marx's teaching, perceiving in him a spring of original genius which gave life and scope to his own peculiar gifts; with him he identified himself and his work, to be rewarded by sharing in his master's immortality.

This being from Berlin's Karl Marx, 4th edition p. 75. Well, that certainly says it all, for the 'close relationships' section, as far as I'm concerned. That attitude, or even a fractional part of it, could define 'too close', better than my efforts so far.

Therefore the toning down of 'follower' to 'associate' seems to me to fudge precisely the issue. I'll make it 'follower and collaborator', since there is plenty of academic support. Charles Matthews 11:25, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

It might not be a bad idea to include the Berlin quote, even if only as a footnote. It's a good description of exactly the kind of attitude toward a person or group that would spark a conflict of interest in the editor. SlimVirgin (talk) 12:34, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
That is the opinion of Berlin. Surely other readers will be as suprised as I was when I saw the term "follower" associated with Engels. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:01, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Having said that, I do not object to having that example if accompanied with the quote as a footnote. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:24, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
It definitely feels like Berlin is pretty off-base with this. I understand why Berlin writes that, there's a certain school of Marxian hagiography that takes that line (Berlin not being a MarxIST, but still having a somewhat wrongheaded deference here). Engels was much more important in his own light, and "colleague" (or maybe "junior colleague") is more in line. Nonetheless, it seems like the error is fairly harmless, and having the footnote illustrates the point being made... even if Berlin is wrong, the type of hypotethetical relationship he describes is OK for "conflict of interest". LotLE×talk 16:48, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

'Generic statements'[edit]

It says in the guideline intro There is no list of criteria to help editors determine what counts as a conflict of interest.

I read this as saying that to some extent this page is going to have to give examples of what is meant. Specifics are good, because they point to something concrete. Generic statements are not going to cut it. Therefore I object to User:Jossi removing specifics, saying he prefers generic versions. As things stand, that is editing across the grain of the page. (I also regret that tightening has taken out quite so much of the particular material, but one discussion point at a time ...) Charles Matthews 11:32, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Charles, if my tightening took out too much, by all means put some of it back. SlimVirgin (talk) 12:35, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
I have already gave several examples during this and previous discussions on ths subject.
"If you are a follower of Opus Dei editing the article on Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, a member of the Lawton Foundation editing Fidel Castro, a Chabad Lubavitch follower editing The Rebbe, a neophyte from the Drepung Monastery editing the article on Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, or an active proponent of Consistent Life Ethic editing the article on abortion, for example, you may be in conflict of interest."
But I still believe that is a matter of degree. My concern remains that this guideline will be poorly understood and applied in hundreds of articles about which there are strong POVs at play. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:12, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

And it shouldn't be applied? I think one should bear in mind that some guidelines are least likely to be attended to, when they most should. Charles Matthews 14:33, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Surely guidelines should be applied! The concern is that rather than using a shotgun loaded with pellets, we should be using a sniper rifle. What I mean is that this guideline, if not carefully crafted, will likely be use as a witch-hunt by POV warriors against contributors. Shoudn't we explore the possible negative consequences of guidelines? I think that it would be irresponsible not to. I see many, and will list them here shortly. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 14:49, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

There is certainly plenty to say on difficulties of handling this, unexpected consequences and so on. You might be interested in a personal essay I posted earlier today. Charles Matthews 14:59, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I have read your essay and the comments in talk. Do not understand the need for two separate discussions, but nevertheless, it helps clarify your position on the matter. Thanks. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 15:51, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Document modethread mode. Charles Matthews 18:57, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

COI and legal disputes[edit]

I propose additional wording to cover people involved in legal disputes with a person or organization that have an article in WP. Something along the lines of: "If you have been involved in a legal dispute with a person or organization, editing the article about that person or organization, or about the legal dispute itself if ther is such article, may constitute a conflict of interest." ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:17, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

That's a good idea. SlimVirgin (talk) 13:38, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Declaring COIs[edit]

Wording would also be needed about the effects of publicly declaring one's COIs, and the special considerations (if any) that apply if one continues contributing to these articles. We have strong policies in place already that deal with how to edit articles (NPOV, V, NOR, AGF, NPA, etc.) that cover most aspects that protect articles (and the project) from bias. This guideline ought to build on these policies, rather than deprecate them. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:45, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

You are still applying to the wrong page. This page is about defining what we mean by conflict of interest. This guideline is mis-saying it, therefore.
And the word 'deprecate': we deprecate people who disregard their conflict of interest when editing. We also enjoin on them the absolute respect of the slew of other basic editing policies, such as NPOV. The point being that editing in the teeth of a conflict of interest puts editors in a false position. Their situation is unenviable, if they overstep that line from POV (having a point of view, which we all do in practice much of the time) to COI (having an actual conflict of interest), whether covert or open. In such a false position, any lapses from strictly neutral editing become more serious. I mean, judged as editorial behaviour. They can convert stubbornness (which we all suffer from, to some extent), to arrant POV pushing of an actionable kind.
So in that sense there is no conflict at all between our sheaf of editing policies and the guidelines on editing when subject to a conflict of interest. The new factor is that people need protection, for their own good (read, their good reputation here, at very least) from getting into such a false position in the first place. Now, when it comes to declaring an interest, I think this modifies the guideline not one whit. What it does do, is to make the community aspect easier. It probably facilitates some discussions, it probably helps to create an impression that one recognises the conflict of interest as an issue. It may well help people to back away from things: to stop digging a hole any deeper, and to think about scrambling out. To be able to say 'I have said my piece here', and move on. That all is helpful in its way. Charles Matthews 14:46, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't believe I am in the wrong page. As I have declared before, I support a merge of these two pages as these are on the same subject. We need clear, non-verbose guidelines. In my experiece, multiple pages on the same subject do not help in fostering clarity (See the mess at WP:RS, WP:NOR, and WP:V and the brave attempt to consolidate these in WP:ATT, for example).
I understand your points above, but I have serious concerns about the basis of your formulation. In the example of a follower of Opus Dei editing the article on Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, according to this guideline, that editor would be ill advised to edit that article. A possible unintended consequence is that a detractor of Opus Dei, will somewhat have a carte blanche to edit that article without such onerous restrictions. "No", you would say, "we have content policies that will deal with that editor and his contributions". But one can argue that NPOV may suffer by not including the viewpoints brought forth by that follower.
So, the issues that we cannot evade in this discussion, are relate to "degree", "motivation" and "intent". As WP policies (so far) have stayed away from such value judgments, I would argue that we should be cautious when crafting a guideline such as this. If an editor, regardless of her biases and declared COIs, is able to demonstrate to the community through her edits that she is well intentioned and that she respects the principles upon which the project is built upon, should the community not accept her contributions? Yes, her edits should be held to much higher standards. And yes, her edits may be suspect at fist glance. And yes, AGF, would be taken cum grano salis in these case, at least initially. But if the editor demonstrates to the community through her edits, her behavior in talk pages and her commitment to the project, that her intentions and motivations are sound, considerations should be made, IMO.
In the life of our project so far, we have had content policies, and a few behavioral policies (such as CIVL, AGF and NPA). Ill intentioned editors have been dealt by the community with user RfCs and the ArbCom as last resort. I would say that this is not a mistake: WP has been built on principles that encourage well intentioned contributors. At least so far, that is. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:16, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
You may want to read the COI policy of the University of Colorado [1]. I think it is a good example of a sound formulation. I find their distinction between "Conflict of commitment" and "Conflict of interest" to be enlightening (Page 2). ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:43, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
It's an interesting distinction but I'm not sure I follow it entirely. They say a "conflict of commitment" (e.g. being paid as a consultant by an outside body) may adversely affect or appear to affect an individual's commitment to the university. A "conflict of interest" is defined as a personal or financial relationship that might affect or appear to affect an individual's judgment vis-à-vis the university. I can't quite see what the distinction would be in practise between compromised commitment and compromised judgment. SlimVirgin (talk) 15:01, 26 October 2006 (UTC)
The "conflict of committment" includes the wording "Such activities are encouraged insofar as they are conducted in accordance with University policy (including the one-sixth rule), promote professional development of faculty, and student employees, and enrich their contributions to the institution, to their profession and to the community. Consulting relationships, for example, may serve to create conduits for the exchange of information and technologies that enhance the University environment and permit faculty to test the soundness of their ideas.". They way I read it, in conjunction with their discourse on disclosure, is that not all conflict of committments are negative, if properly managed. I would translate it as follows: "Such activities are encouraged insofar as they are conducted within the content policies of Wikipedia, promote the development of sound encyclopedic material, and enrich their contributions to the project and to the community." ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 15:50, 26 October 2006 (UTC)
I think that this issue was discussed previously in regard to experts editing WP. Experts may have a COC while not having a COI, and in the current formulation they may be treated with the same suspicion as a PR company paid to edit their client's article. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:00, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

Carrying out the merge[edit]

AFAIK I was the only voice against the merge before. I am now going to carry out the merge anyway, in a style discussed on Wikipedia talk: Editing with a conflict of interest. As I said there, this will end up with a tripartite page. I shall take a dim view of anyone who can't respect the division created. Charles Matthews 14:42, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

Thank you Charles, it is looking much better. Thank you also for addressing some of my concerns in your last rounds of edits after the merge. A few things you may want to consider:
  1. The top portion of Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Editing_with_a_conflict_of_interest may be better placed at Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Examples_of_conflict_of_interest;
  2. The guideline addresses specifically new articles, but does not expand on existing articles. Maybe it would be better to address these as well;
  3. As a conflicted editor in certain subjects myself, I would like more information on what is permissible. For example, I have requested a peer review on an article about which I have a COI, I am editing the article as per the reviewers comments in my sandbox, and have also asked the reviewers to implement the edits if they find my work to be useful and inline with WP content policies after I am done. Other alternatives for contributing rather than editing should be presented as well. Using an advocate, for example, or other surrogate means.
≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:28, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

Voluntary disclosure[edit]

Since my comments have effectively gotten lost in the process of moving, merging, and redirecting, I am reiterating them here.

I do not like the new guidelines in the third section because the hardline discourages voluntary disclosure of conflicts of interest, particularly in mild cases such as a non-PR employee editing a page about his industry or a politician editing a page about an issue she champions. Voluntary disclosure is often preferable to forcing people to contribute anonymously because it provides a better basis for open discussion and consensus building. I think many of the original comments on this leaned to this opinion as well. Voluntary disclosures should be made on the edit summary or on the article's talk page, and I would expect this to motivate other editors to review the edits pretty much automatically for NPOV. This is how all the codes of ethics that I am familiar with deal with CoI's.

At the same time, this guideline should also point out that bias can be introduced by things as subtle as adding more material on one subject than another, and that paid contributors can easily wear down our volunteers and subvert the system. Frequent introduction of bias like this is a flagrant violation of WP:NPOV and should be easily blockable, regardless of whether voluntary disclosure has been made or not. I do not see the talk-page pre-article as a complete solution to this problem, and I don't think it received much support by others either. It is too easy to find a drone who will do your editing for you.

I think this proposal was prematurely promoted to a guideline, and I hope that people will still consider large changes to it. I think it should be rewritten to encourage voluntary disclosure and strict adherence to WP:NPOV, WP:CORP, WP:AUTO, etc. as a first remedy, but warn that prolific users with a pattern of violations shall be blocked, regardless of disclosure. Original Post:--Yannick 05:27, 5 October 2006 (UTC) Re-post:--Yannick 04:18, 27 October 2006 (UTC)


  1. Regarding your new addition, Charles, specifically "You don't by making a declaration change the guideline position on edits with conflict of interest: Wikipedia doesn't welcome detrimental edits just because they are transparently made." may be making the presumption that all contributions to articles in which one may have COI are detrimental by nature. But as a few editors have expressed it, including me, that may not always the case. Removing that sentence all-together, does not take away from the rest, in my opinion. I would also encourage you to read about "disclosures of interests" in other fora, as it may bring some clarity as well on how disclosures of COI are managed.
  2. As for "Your edits are going to attract attention of a particular kind", it may be better worded as "Your edits will be held to higher standards than normal, and will attract close scrutiny. The burden will be on you to prove that your contributions are sound and compliant with policy."
  3. The last sentence could be tightened and refer to the established policy of no-advocacy as in WP:NOT. Advocacy is not permitted in WP, regardless if you have a COI or if you don't.≈ jossi ≈ t@ 15:42, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
[Re: (2)] Well, we can't be sure of all that, can we? We impose the same standards: the point is rather than the monitoring will likely be stricter, and that declaring an interest invites that. Charles Matthews 16:02, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Of course it should not be implied that all edits are detrimental: the position has not changed because the reasons for objecting to any edit are just the same as before. I'll need to come back to things said above here.Yannick presumably posted before the 'declaration of interest' section was posted? Voluntary disclosure is obviously pretty much a synonym, in this context, but if there is some nuance between these terms we have to get into all that. Using 'bias' in discussions on NPOV is not my preferred term, basically because no one thinks the NPOV version is unique, and so there will be versions with more of this or more of that: partisans tend to look for 'bias' in preponderance, but if it might have been written by a fair-minded person we are not primarily worried about that. Charles Matthews 15:59, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Returning to this after editing the page a little: some questions in my mind. Do we actually want to encourage disclosures and declarations? I don't know. It seems worth discussing. It is easier to write a guide that is neutral about that point, is very severe about editing with disregard for conflict of interest (where the issue is that if some people maybe do not care what is good for WP, we certainly do), and mostly points out possible consequences of actions and possible ways to get round the worst of those. Charles Matthews 16:28, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
Disclosing of COIs should be encouraged, not discouraged: it enhances transparency and it is an accepted practice. Pertinent questions may be: Should the good standing of an editor be diminished by such disclosures? Should such editor be penalized for making such disclosures? Shouldn't an editor's good standing with the community be judged by his/her contributions and commitment to the project, regardless of any COIs disclosed, rather? ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:58, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

As applied to ourselves[edit]

As examples, I believe that the Wikipedia articles Jimmy Wales and Daniel Brandt have content different than a neutral encyclopedia would. I have no idea how this guideline should address the issue of conflict of intrest as applied to the community and the foundation and influential members. Maybe stick a label at the top of such articles? Stubify seems more extreme than needed and assume conflict of intrest is something we can magically overcome seems wishful thinking. (Although I do think Wikipedia is ok, but then I'm prejudiced aren't I?) WAS 4.250 17:18, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

I think you may be describing a fairly straight NPOV issue. And the cases are probably somewhat different. Jimbo might be accused of being conflicted in editing his own biography, but the idea that he'd really put his own interests above those of WP in so doing is implausible. The Brandt article might be bad because not enough people like him to care; but he won't be alone in that and sheer neglect is not a COI issue. Or at least 'COI by omission' would be a sort of minor example: not removing unfounded accusations of adultery against your personal foe. Wouldn't come up that often. Charles Matthews 18:23, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
The interactions of Jimmy Wales and Daniel Brandt, separately and quite oppositely, with regard to the Wikipedia community editing the articles on them and with regard to the articles themselves are long lasting, involved, significant, intricate, complex, and has resulted in changes in those articles. The article on Jimmy has attacted those who idolize and those who hate him resulting in a constantly changing article that is poorly written and odd in its emphasis and use of sources compared to what an article by nonwikipedians using sources we distain as "self-reference" would be. The article on Dan is more detailed and less friendly and more poorly written than it would be if Dan didn't keep threatening everyone who edits that article with lawsuits and other real world negative consequences. WAS 4.250 19:36, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Community support[edit]

This merged version has been substantially expanded by Charles Mathews over the last few days, more or less on his own. I am placing a note at the Village pump to increase the exposure of this guideline and to seek wider support and input from others. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 15:04, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I've come from the pump. The most obvious element of this page's discussion, I would say is, the subject touches close to where some editors live, somehow. Myself, I don't actually understand how it could but judging from the emotionality of the statements the subject somehow does. Terryeo 15:38, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Okay, I begin to get a glimmer of one element of the difficulty here. The term "suspect" does not belong in Wikipedia Policy or guideline. The project presently is using "suspect" and other biased terms which do not provide clear direction but instead guide an editor toward searching through Wikipedia to find sneaky editors doing sneaky things and this is simply not acceptable Wikipedia activity. As "biased wording" is to be avoided within articles, so too it should not be present in projects, guidelines or policies where we seek to give an editor clear direction and not murky direction. As used in the project the term tells an editor he should not assume good faith but should seek those things which he can suspect ..... Terryeo 15:57, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
The policy (this is not yet policy, indeed, and is a young document if with some older planks) has to speak to defending the viability and openness of the site, which today is at #12 in the world, when there are inevitably those who care more for their own good than for Wikipedia. I believe there is nothing here that is actually restrictive of good faith edits that help the mission; that is certainly the intention. I have written needed sections, but for the most part I have been re-factoring material with editorial issues in it, from previous incarnations.
I too have solicited participation, using email lists. User:SlimVirgin has been editing here also. Charles Matthews 16:00, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
On suspect: some edits are suspect. Inserting spam-like links is suspect, inserting links to an unremarkable personal web page is suspect. We do monitor the site for spam links, and maintain (I believe) a list of sites that have tried to spam us. And don't get confused: NPOV and wording criteria for the article space are not to be applied here. 'Murky' is used as in the same sense as 'grey area'. Assuming good faith is not the same as being a naif. Charles Matthews 16:04, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
No, edits are never suspect. We are NOT going to have Wikipedia built on "suspect your fellow editor, scrutinize his edits toward suspecting him of a conflict of interest. No, no and no. If that is your state of mind, move off into police work. Wikipedia is built on the foundation of Good Faith and it grew on the foundation of Good Faith and it runs on the foundation of Good Faith and Civil conduct. Terryeo 17:48, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for the clarification, Charles. I would expect then that this page is demoted to proposal, until such time in which there is wide consensus for it as a guideline, or policy. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:14, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't recall seeing any threads at Wiki-En, besides a message from you about your essay on the subject. Are any other mailing lists in which this guideline has been discussed? I would appreciate a link to archives so that I can read other editor's comments, if any. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 16:17, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I have used the closed Arbitrators list, and mentioned the most recent addition not long ago on wikien. I came here shortly after David Gerard solicited help with the re-editing after the name change, not previously having been involved in much policy discussion at all. So I mentioned my first round of edits on wikien. Oh, and I've mentioned how it's going to Jimbo, but apparently he's in Poland right now.
On language, I wanted to look first how spam in particular is treated. Wikipedia:WikiProject Spam talks about 'suspicious' edits (As in Suspicious edits automatically deserve a {{subst:spam1}} tag on the user's talk page ...). The main page Wikipedia:Spam on the topic rather confusingly refers back here as one of the main pages dealing with the issue of external link spam. So some clarification of the way material is divided up will be needed. Wikipedia:Spam also has its own guideline for 'conflicted editors', one more thing that might need taking into account to pull guidelines in this area into shape.
I'll vote against downgrading this page from guideline status, of course. It is much more comprehensive and better written than what was here not long ago. There is some urgency in filling in areas that were not even mentioned in the old WP:ECOI, and obviously I'm not saying those new sections flagged up as such are in perfect shape. But the bulk is nothing new (well, footnotes, but those are deliberately not made central). Charles Matthews 16:39, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I added Premerge talk page of third section to top. It was a guideline before merger. WAS 4.250 16:45, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the clarifications. I was under the impression that the guideline was such when it referred to "Vanity" only, but since then it has expanded quite a bit, hence my point to considering demotion. Nevertheless, we can keep in current status, but I will be happier when more editors join in to discuss the current formulation. Mailing list discussions and private email exchanges are not a substitute to a vigourous public debate as it pertains to policy decisions. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:11, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Distribution of sections[edit]

To User:WAS 4.250: you have reverted the moving of the sections Declaring an interest and Defending interests back to the third section.

They belong in the third section precisely because they say you: the third section is talking to editors with a conflict of interest position to address. You say 'undermine', in your edit summary. If you look up the page to the comments of others under Voluntary disclosure, you will see different opinions. Please discuss here. What you have done cuts right across the article's basic organisation. Charles Matthews 16:48, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

The structure does seem to be a little confused now. I'll try to sort it out. SlimVirgin (talk) 17:32, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Copy edit[edit]

I'm trying to tighten this a little, but without changing content or thrust. I've removed a few sentences but only because I couldn't see what they were getting at; e.g. "Such a declaration is a complicated thing. Perhaps: you show that you are someone who might have an apparent conflict of interest if your circumstances were fully known, by revealing some of those circumstances." Otherwise, I'm leaving the content intact, but hopefully a bit sharper. SlimVirgin (talk) 17:30, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Is the template below in the article to emphasize the point, or is it an example of a template used elsewhere? SlimVirgin (talk) 17:55, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Unintended consequences.
If you write in Wikipedia about yourself, your group, or your company, then once the article is created, you have no particular right to delete it, nor to control its content. Any other editor has an equal say in that. Don't create articles lightly, especially on subjects you care about.

If there is anything publicly available on a topic that you would not want included an article, it will probably find its way there eventually. More than one user has created an article, in which other Wikipedia editors have then presented the subject in a poor light. Properly sourced and notable material may be added to the article — but to the possible chagrin of the original creator.

In short, there is no ownership of articles. The onus is on those who create articles to look after the best interests of the subject, at the time of suggesting an article is needed here, because later may be too late.[1]

I do not think it requires such prominence. The text can be included without the formatting. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:12, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I guess it came from here, I moved it to WP:ECOI because it was in the wrong place at that point, IIRC. It seems a good format device to attract attention to a key observation aimed at someone who really doesn't understand WP. If people say 'why wasn't I told?', we should be able to say, 'we tried'. That's wny the prominence. (The content is very apt: I know of a very good case.) Charles Matthews 18:28, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Okay. I edited it and removed the formatting, but I can put it back. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:30, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Community review section[edit]

I removed the section below because I'm not sure we want to encourage it and it seems contradictory. Do we really want people using their user subspace to create articles not fit for Wikipedia? That encourages a MySpace mentality. We say that advertising in user space is blockable, but then we say they should use user space to post material for the community to review. But how big is Wikipedia, and how large is the reviewing community? Material could be there for years without anyone seeing it, but it still gets cached by Google as though part of encyclopedia space. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:10, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

If you wish to submit an entire article for community review, follow this process:
  1. Create a user page for yourself that describes yourself and your professional background.
  2. Edit that page and add a link to a subpage for every article you intend to create, using the syntax [[/Article title]] (note the leading slash).
  3. Click the red link, and create the article on your user subpage. Make sure it conforms to Wikipedia guidelines (simplified version).
  4. Add a link to this article, of the form [[User:User name/Article title]], to the list below.
Using user space or any other part of Wikipedia for advertising purposes may result in an indefinite block. Label user space articles with the below template so it is clear they are not Wikipedia articles. Also put {{proposed|type=article}} at the beginning of the article, and use <nowiki> around category markups so they are not included into by Wikipedia categories.
The community will review and comment on the talk page of that user sub-page. If content is to be placed in the main Wikipedia space, it is to be done by someone who is willing to stand behind that content as if he wrote it himself, deleting, rewriting or moving onto the talk page of the article anything he is not willing to stand behind 100%.

What is the alternative, SlimVirgin? We should not assume that all such contributions are spam or advertising. Some allowances should be made available for editors with COIs to contribute to Wikipedia. In soccer, a good defense player does not just block an opponent player, but gives some space for the attacker player to move into, with the intention of having him in the place the defender wants him to be. In the same manner, we ought to make allowances for those editors to contribute, even if just for the purpose of not allowing dishonest edits made via sockpuppets, anon IPs, etc. This goes in the sam grain as disclosure of COIs. COIs are only negative when not disclosed and when not properly managed. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:20, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

My tendency is to think all COIs are bad, whether declared or not. We recently had an editor called NetPR or similar remove all negative material about a company and replace the article with a PR thing from the company's website. The fact that he declared his conflict of interest by calling himself "NetPR" made no difference: the material was still unacceptable and he was still violating our policies by adding it and by removing the criticism. I feel the issue of declaring COI is a bit of a red herring and potentially misleading, as though it makes COI okay. The bottom line is that the NetPRs of this world must stay away from articles related to companies who are paying them.
If we encourage such people to add material to user subpages, then we are in effect allowing the material into Wikipedia. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:28, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
That example is quite clear, SlimVirgin, and even without this guideline it was dealt with swiftly, by simply applyinng WP:NPOV. If that person had declared is COI, I am sure he would have been less inclined to do what he did... Nevertheless, I am still concerned about the "Close relationship" subsection, because I believe that many of us have close relationships to subjects we are passionate about and a "close relationship" can be easily argued as a COI against editors in discussions. Where is the line drawn? Is a staunch supporter of Israel, a conflicted editor on Allegations of Israeli apartheid? What about a person belonging to an antisemitic organization? Is he not also conflicted? Is a person that donates money to the Missionaries of Charity a conflicted editor in the Mother Theresa article? Maybe. But what about an editor that declares himself to be a staunch skeptic, atheist and supporter of the views Christopher Hitchens editing the same article?
What I am trying to say, that the moment we get into definitions of "close relationships", even after the recent additions of SlimVirgin about applying common sense when making these judgments, the current formulation is slanted towards those COIs in which there is obvious advocating for a position, , person, or subject, but little is said for these COIs in which there is obvious advocting against a position, person, or subject. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:34, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
My dictionary (Concise Oxford) say advocacy is pleading for. Charles Matthews 18:40, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Yes, but our own Advocacy defines is it as "Advocacy is an umbrella term for organized activism related to a particular set of issues" and more. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:47, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Just about all kinds of wider-sense and organized activism on WP are banned. See also the Campaigning section, and the final footnote on advocacy. Charles Matthews 11:22, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
I also think declaration of interest is a red herring. I think, however, there has to be wording here. My addition was intended as analytical: what is it, what are the likely effects. No way we can prevent disclosures of interest, is there? No way we can reduce the expectation that disclosures will be of positive effect on the 'ethical' position. So I wrote in contradiction of that: they do nothing to make edits better (or worse). They have a big social impact.
My own view is that the guideline should remain neutral on that: tell people it's their choice. (That was actually why I mailing Jimbo - this one point will have a big effect on future interactions with corporate hired guns. That area of concern, also, is why I introduced the bit on locus standi. Judging by recent hot-potato issues, something has to be said about companies, articles about their products, and what right they have to beef about them.) Charles Matthews 18:38, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I continue to disagree. I studied several COI policies of Universities and research institutes, and all of them encourage such disclosures, for obvious reasons of transparency and for the protection of the indiviual and the institution. Why our prohect should be any different? Clearly, these disclosures does not mean that policies can then be bypassed. Of course not. But it encourages transparency and that is something that we need more of, nor less. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:44, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Jossi, what difference does it make if a LaRouchie declares that he's a member of that organization? I can still see it from his edits, unless he edits in accordance with the policies, in which case I'll never know and don't need to know. What is the benefit exactly of his declaration? SlimVirgin (talk) 18:48, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
No difference whatsoever, as most probably anyone following the edits of such person will easily deduce that from his edits and behavior. But if the person declares it, it is transparent and other editors will understand his motivations better and encourage him/her to either comply with policy or to avoid editing. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:51, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

We know about COI: it's putting the outside interest ahead of WP's interest. User:Jossi pressed for the merge. I was against, until the definition was in good shape. He continues to dispute things, all over the page. That is starting a large number of hares. I'm going to make this workable, since my approach is that we have definitions, and we do not have to add anything more except good descriptions of the unpacking. Charles Matthews 18:52, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I was not the only one suggesting the merge, Charles. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 19:00, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I already recused myself from editing the guideline. Should I also recuse myself in engaging in the debate, Charles? I was under the impression that my comments have helped clarify the issues and some of my concenrs addressed in the current wording. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:56, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
My view: conflicted editors edit here on tolerance. Which can be worn thin. Now, I want a workable page on COI: it matters. I don't particularly want so many edit conflicts when trying to comment on a recent copy edit with cuts, especially if it is you re-iterating something about university policies which you've said before. Your comments will be read and treated on their merits. Charles Matthews 19:17, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Thank you. But note that with the current formulation, we all are conflicted editors on one subject or another. You included. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 19:25, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Thank you. But note that with the current formulation, we all have the potential to be have been conflicted editors on one subject or another. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:02, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
No. You take that back immediately. Charles Matthews 19:39, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
And also, please consider the possibility that I also want a workable page on COI. I care deeply about this project as well. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 19:27, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Removed paragraph about criticism[edit]

I edited this paragraph but then couldn't see the point of it, or rather couldn't see how it's exactly connected to conflict of interest, so I'm moving it here. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:22, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

There are grey areas, of course. In many articles, criticism is gathered in a separate section, although this is not regarded as good editorial practise. There you may find properly referenced reports of well-publicized debates next to vague assertions such as "Some people say X, while others think Y." Make sure that all criticism is well-sourced and consider integrating it into the text rather than having a separate section as a POV magnet.

It was in 'defending interests', as the kind of advice you need in dealing properly with the kind of things on pages that will catch the eye of any outsider landing here and getting annoyed. If this duplicates other advice, then let me know where. Charles Matthews 18:43, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Okay, I'll put it back. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:50, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
There is no such consensus about where to place criticism in articles. See Wikipedia:Criticism. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:58, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
That was my copy edit. I'll fish out the original parapraph and put it back as it was. SlimVirgin (talk) 19:49, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Another paragraph removed[edit]

I removed the following too, because it seems to be encouraging people to add material from company websites. All we're saying is: don't add it yourself, because you're being paid; find someone to add it for free instead! SlimVirgin (talk) 18:40, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Rather than editing Wikipedia, consider writing an article on your own website, or creating a listing on another wiki such as Yellowikis. License your writing under the GNU Free Documentation License and ask a Wikipedian to consider copying some or all of it onto Wikipedia.

Triggering the guideline[edit]

moved here fo easy threading of this specific discussion

It seems to me that we're having problems editing this because (a) we haven't agreed on what constitutes a conflict of interest sufficient to trigger this guideline (this is Jossi's concern about the close relationships section); and (b) we haven't agreed on how to handle them even when they are clearly defined (as in commercial interests). Perhaps we have to agree on these two issues before proceeding, as hard as it will be to pin down clear definitions. SlimVirgin (talk) 18:46, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, SlimVirgin. That would be very helpful. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:53, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I replied above? In 'conflict of interest' we are only really arguing about what constitutes an outside interest. Answer: anything, really. So that's OK. I've lost track: does it still say 'no list of criteria'? It should. People shouldn't expect an exhaustive list, and if the situation is not there, you're free and clear. We give examples. These should be helpful. They should be 'well-chosen and representative', as I have argued before (Talk of WP:ECOI, pre-merge, now archived at top here). We also indicate in what sense edits may display the prioritization of outside interests. Charles Matthews 19:26, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
My concern is that we're defining it too loosely and that lots of people could get caught up in it. Commercial interests are clear: if you're being paid to represent an organization or interest, don't edit Wikipedia articles relatd to that organization or interest.
But what about when people are not being paid? The danger with the guideline is that anyone with a close relationship to a subject is being advised not to edit in that area, which implies that subject experts will be excluded. User:William M. Connolley, for example, is an expert on global warming, and is involved professionally. Should he stay away from global warming articles? SlimVirgin (talk) 19:54, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
OK. I see what has been my difficulty so far: The opening text on what constitutes a COI, reads: "Anyone who prioritizes outside interests over the interests of the encyclopedia is subject to a conflict of interest." That is very clear (and should be bolded in the text, IMO.) Now, if the "close relationships" section (that by the way is the only one I am in disagreement with), had some wording that states that unless your edits are in the interest of WP, and are made in full compliance with its policies, then your close relationship will be assessed as a COI. But if your editing pattern, behavior, and commitment to the project as perceived by these activities is sound and in compliance with WP content policies, then your contributions will be appreciated regardless of your COI (disclosed or not.)≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:00, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
The difficulty is that lots of editors of Wikipedia prioritize outside interests. How many editors are there who, even if they have strong POVs and edit within those areas, edit within the policies; act as regular Wikipedians; have well-rounded editing interests? In other words, how many Wikipedians do we have, as opposed to people who edit Wikipedia?
If there are any that manage to edit within those policies in the areas where they have outside interests, should not they be welcomed even though this guideline, taken at the letter says they should be discouraged as it says nothing about any demonstrated neutrality capacity? 74.38.35.171 21:13, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
The animal rights articles, for example, which I edit quite a bit: we have editors there who admit to being involved in animal rights activism and who edit in no other area; and we have editors who admit to being vivisectionists and who edit in no other area. Should they be prevented from editing?
I think we need to lock down our definitions a bit more, not in the spirit of wikilawyering, but just to be clear in our own minds what we're talking about. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:29, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
That is my concern, SM: almost all editors of Wikipedia prioritize outside interests, and I would say that the incredible growth of the project may be directly linked to that fact: people edit subjecs they care about. But this new guideline, when expanding beyond clear-cut COIs, may be cutting the branch WP is stitting on, if not carefully crafted. Unless there is a perception that we have grown enough and now is time to lock-down a bit, as I have seen it expressed in some fora. Look forward to your views and others on how this can be avoided. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 20:35, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
However, if someone has such an outside connection but does try as hard as possible to follow policy, are they still doing something wrong?! This is a very critical issue. 74.38.35.171 21:13, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
Well if they (this "expert" you mention) edit they should not put their interests above that of Wikipedia (the content policies). 74.38.35.171 21:13, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me that the main thing is that people should edit within the policies, and that we can't really expect more than that. A LaRouchie editing within the policies will never be spotted as a LaRouchie (although I think by definition that would be impossible, because they are 100 percent caught up in what they do), and if they're editing within the policies, it doesn't really matter who they are; it's actually none of our business who they are. The problem with this guideline, and the idea of declaring interests, is that it goes against our philosophy that it doesn't matter who you are in real life; you're welcome here IF you respect our policies.

We have one editor I mentioned obliquely before. He works in the library of a mainstream religious denomination. Part of his job description is "the development of online resources" about that denomination. So he adds material about the denomination to Wikipedia. In that sense, he is being paid to edit. (He has posted this publicly, by the way, so I'm not telling tales out of school.) Should he be prevented from editing? Yes, but only because his editing is highly POV and he is very argumentative, and that has led to lots of unnecessary disruption of the articles. If he were able to edit in an NPOV way, there would be no problem. So the problem is that he violates our policies; not that editing here is part of his job. The latter inclines him toward the former, but does not determine it. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:03, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

We are in agreement on this. Should then the "close relationships" subsection have some wording to that expectation? As it is worded now, if you have a close relationship to a subject as currently defined, you are strongly discouraged from editing related articles (as in don't do it.) The "trigger" of a conflict of interest could be worded differently (second sentence after the Engles example):

Any situation where strong relationships can develop may trigger a conflict of interest, if it impedes you from edting related articles in full compliance with Wikipedia content policies

≈ jossi ≈ t@ 21:42, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
It's not "if it impedes you"; the idea of a COI is independent of whether you are impeded by it. It's if you're impeded by it that we care. So it would have to be tweaked. SlimVirgin (talk) 21:47, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
if you're impeded by it that we care, that is what I meant. Look forward for a tweak that can address this. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 21:55, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Maybe: Any situation where a strong relationship impedes you from editing related articles in full compliance with Wikipedia content policies, triggers a conflict of interest. ≈ jossi ≈ t@
That sounds better as it excuses those who try to remain neutral in spite of their strong relationships. 74.38.35.171 21:14, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
I've posted a suggestion for the closeness section. [2] Any thoughts? SlimVirgin (talk) 21:59, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Looking good, SM. I would just say (my emphasis) "[...] If neutral editors on a talk page suggest in good faith that you may have a conflict of interest[...]" ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 22:03, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I said "in good faith" because the problem with insisting on neutrality is that in some areas all the editors on the page might be regarded as non-neutral, but even if non-neutral might still be acting in good faith i.e. are not troublemakers, not trying to use excuses to get editors off the page etc. SlimVirgin (talk) 22:06, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I've tweaked it. It now says:

Friedrich Engels would have had difficulty editing Karl Marx, because he was a close friend, follower and collaborator. Any situation where strong relationships can develop may trigger a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest can be personal, religious, political, academic, financial, and legal. It is not determined by area, but is created by relationships that involve a high level of personal commitment to, involvement with, or dependence upon, a person, subject, idea, tradition, or organization.

There is no tidy definition of what is meant by "too close" in this context, and editors should use their common sense in deciding whether this guideline applies. An article about a little-known band should preferably not be written by a band member or the manager. On the other hand, an expert on climate change is welcome to contribute to articles on that subject, even if he is deeply committed to it. As a rule of thumb, the more involved you are in a particular area in real life, the more careful you should be to adhere to our core content policies — Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:No original research, and Wikipedia:Verifiability — when editing in that area. Closeness to a subject does not mean you're incapable of being neutral, but it may incline you in that direction. Be guided by the advice of other editors. If editors on a talk page suggest in good faith that you may have a conflict of interest, take seriously what they say and consider withdrawing from editing the article.

SlimVirgin (talk) 22:05, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

I see your point about neutral and good faith. This looks much better now. Thanks. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 22:14, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Is it all right with everyone else? I'm trying to tread a fine line; not sure I got it right.
Do we want the guideline to have teeth? That is, if someone is regarded by good-faith editors as having a conflict of interest and they continue to edit in violation of the policies, do we leave the situation for admins/ArbCom to deal with as they see fit, or do we want to prescribe/suggest a solution here? SlimVirgin (talk) 22:23, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
This is quite an active page, the most recent 50 edits happened in the last 24 hour period. Your question, I believe, asks for additional editor input. My suggestion would be, let it sit for a day or two, let it gather a few more editor's inputs before defining teeth. As I understand it, the sphere of interest has been addressed. But the quantity of editors who have contributed is small. I would say, let it mature for a day or two before exposing teeth. Terryeo 22:57, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Wording changes[edit]

I have quite a number of comments just at the level of wording changes. These are mostly about 'teeth'. Possibly incomplete list:

  1. Self-promotion section: the renaming - does this imply that product placement is covered?
  2. Close relationships section: must define, not advise. Advice should be in the appropriate place, later. Don’t soften older versions of this at all.
  3. "Who's Who" directories section: tightening has gone too far, since the definition of COI has gone, leaving only a comment about notability.
  4. Importance of civility section : renaming removed one of the actual points. Civility is a universal requirement, but defamatory comments can be couched in apparently civil terms ('sorry but your contributions to biology are negligible').
  5. Consequences of ignoring this guideline section – softened too much. The concept of 'false position' has been cut, the point that edits are logged has been removed.
  6. Personal benefits – I don't see the renaming here as good. 'Impersonal benefits' – what are those? The whole point is that people’s commitments make all sorts of things beneficial in their outlook. Would benefiting your nephew be personal or not? Nepotism is a by-word for good reason. Charles Matthews 10:47, 29 October 2006 (UTC)


(took the liberty to numerate your points for easy referencing)
(1) I would say so. If there have been many cases of COIs related to product promotion (I have not witness much of that), the wording could be expanded;
(2) That has not been "softened", but clarified. It addresses specific concerns discussed yesterday. Note that other subsections on the definition section includes some how-to wording (e.g. Autobiography). A possibility would be to move the second paragraph to its own sub-section on the third section of the guideline;
I agree with the other points, only that I would remove the special formatting of the "unintended consequences". Don't think it is needed. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:59, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Is it really so hard?[edit]

Analogy 1. A government statistician has to produce employment figures by best practice. The government will benefit if the figures are better. Conflict of interest can arise if there is political pressure for a change of methodology, not justified by the statistical theory, or if the political allegiances of the statistician have the same tendency to suggest slanting it. The government should only see benefit if the un-spun figures are better.

Analogy 2. I thought last night about Japanese homes. It is a traditional comparison here, to say that we as Wikipedians leave all our outside interests 'at the door'. Expand on that: entering a Japanese home, you leave your shoes in a special area just inside the door. Three points:

  • Bare feet are not required;
  • No amount of wiping your shoes on the doormat will be enough;
  • There is more to it, since you may have to take off shoes in a kimono shop or restaurant, and there is a cultural tradition behind it.

In just the same way:

  • We don't ask for an impossible stripping away of personal views, expertise, areas of interest;
  • We do ask for more than a cosmetic appearance of neutral language, and require the real deal, which is that people give up efforts to benefit outside interests other than by the addition of good-quality reference material to WP.
  • We do have a wiki culture, and it is not defined by a short list of rules, and it is not to be assumed that guidelines exhaust it.

The common idea seems clear enough: stop trying to benefit yourself except by benefit to WP. If you can't manage that, you have a serious conflict of interest to address. We judge people on intention; as it says early on, the probable intention is the common indicator.

Charles Matthews 11:03, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Most that is covered in WP:NPOV#Bias, so it woulld be better to link to that than to reformulate here. Having said that I like the analogy of the removal of shoes at the door as it is very illustrative. It can maybe expand it to include that in Japan, after you remove your shoes, you change into slippers. In our case: the slippers of our content policies with which you are supposed to walk while in Wikipedia land. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 13:44, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
So if we judge on "intention", then if someone gets a bad thought, they should not be allowed to contribute in that area even if they do not bad action?! Intention only hurts when it is followed up by action that is in line with it. If someone may be intent on damaging based on the criteria but really are not, do they deserve to be punished, even if their edits objectively cause no harm? What if we think X has some "bad intention", but their edits turn out to be neutral? Wouldn't this delusional view potenitally color it and create "phantom bias" that would hurt their ability to contribute? 74.38.35.171 21:05, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

WP:NPOV#Bias does mention commercial bias, in the briefest possible way. Otherwise things about gender bias, geographical bias and so on are not really what we are mainly talking about. Charles Matthews 13:55, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

I was referring to the spirit of what you said. That is already covered in NPOV when discussing bias (We don't ask for an impossible stripping away of personal views, expertise, areas of interest... but we expect you to conform to NPOV when you edit.) ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 14:05, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

If that's all you think we are asking ... well, in my analogy, try wearing the slippers from the benjo round the ryokan. You'll find out the difference. Charles Matthews 15:58, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Exactly my point. (For those who do not know the difference, ryokan is a traditional Japanese living quarter with tatami and washi sliding doors, and benjo is the traditional Japanese toilet: a hole in the ground, that even some modern houses still feature) ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 17:03, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Points not to lose in the shuffle[edit]

I think we need to be very clear in a lot of different places that PR firms editing Wikipedia is something that we frown upon very very strongly. The appearance of impropriety is so great that we should make it very very strongly clear to these firms that we do not approve of what they would like to do. It is all well and good to say, well, it is ok so long as they remain neutral, but if they really want to write neutral articles, they can do so, on their own websites, and release the work under the FDL, and notify Wikipedians who are totally independent. Additionally, it is always appropriate to interact on the talk pages of articles. If a PR firm is not happy about how something is presented about their client, they can identify themselves openly on the talk page, and present well-reasoned arguments and additional information and links. Of course it is always going to be the case that unethical practitioners may get involved in inappropriate behavior, but I think this is no argument for simply accepting it. Rather, it is a strong argument for asking people to do this the right way: transparently and allowing independent editors to make the actual editing decisions. [3] WAS 4.250 19:04, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

Nice thoughts, WAS 4.250. However, that is precisely what happened in the instance of the article about Arch Coal, and Jimmy Wales went way out of his way to nuke the article. Only after concerted effort by the community was the article restored. I'm still not clear if the future way is to "create offsite and someone else scrape", or to just be very, very transparent about who we are, and let the community decide if the content is worthy of Wikipedia or not. -- ~ ~ ~ ~
We need only say it once. But I am clear that outwardly following some sort of NPOV is not enough.
One point that is already made that always 'editing to the central reservation', but only from one side of the argument, is not enough.
I would say more than that: always accepting all concessions in argument as only your due, but acting as a rebuttal bot when it comes to the other side of the argument, is also not good enough. I suggest that that is exactly what flacks are trained to do, if perfectly politely. That is a behavioural problem, and behavioural problems are actionable.
Charles Matthews 19:28, 30 October 2006 (UTC)
"Actionable"? As in subject to a lawsuit? Or (I hope) in some other sense? - Jmabel | Talk 06:17, 2 November 2006 (UTC)
Admin action in general, ArbCom will take notice in particular. There is a line drawn between acceptable editing that is somewhat partisan, and POV pushing, for example. Charles Matthews 11:20, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Anti-vanity[edit]

Does anti-vanity also deserve a mention here (or perhaps in WP:N)? It seems that some pages of non-notables are added mainly to express negative information about them. This edit to a disambiguation page is one example, and perhaps another can be found in Robert Morey, which is basically all criticism and not much positive content. --Flex (talk|contribs) 02:58, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

See WP:BLP. WAS 4.250 18:09, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

What about non-living persons, organizations, etc.? --Flex (talk|contribs) 14:14, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

  • The same principle applies, but there is lesser urgency. (Radiant) 15:04, 13 November 2006 (UTC)

Unwritten rules?[edit]

Hi.

I noticed this: "But even if we could verify Tom Cruise's favorite breakfast cereal, that is something that is typically not included in an encyclopedia.". But, why can't it be included? There seem to be some rules that still haven't been formalized yet, or perhaps I am missing something. 170.215.83.83 22:05, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

And WP:STALK[edit]

If this has already been covered, please direct me to the relevant conversation, but: doesn't this policy conflict a bit with user's right to privacy? In other words, it is it possible to suggest to someone that they are violating this policy without yourself violating the policy, in particluar "Posting another person's personal information (legal name, home or workplace address, telephone number, email address, or other contact information, regardless of whether or not the information is actually correct) is harassment, unless that editor voluntarily provides or links to such information himself or herself." IronDuke 20:50, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

  • I don't understand what you're trying to say. It's quite possible to point out that someone is posting personal information without repeating that personal information. (Radiant) 09:27, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, wasn't clear. It's like this: let's say I edit the Bill Gates article and change the lead to read "Bill Gates is the smartest human who has ever lived." After looking at some of my other edits to Microsoft, etc., you get suspcious. So you come to my talk page and you say, "IronDuke, you aren't by any chance Bill Gates, are you?" Well, if it turns out I am, aren't you violating my privacy? And yet, am I not violating COI by editing the Bill Gates in a hagiographic manner? IronDuke 14:46, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
  • If someone asks whether you're Bill Gates, they're not violating your privacy (they are likely incivil and incorrect, though). If he posts Bill Gates's home address and telephone number, that would be violating privacy. (Radiant) 15:12, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
But it says "legal name" above. Thus, if you post that I am Bill Gates, you are violating that part of WP:STALK, no? IronDuke 15:15, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
  • If asked out of the blue, yes. If this could reasonably be implied from your on-wiki activities, then no. For instance, if John Doe is the founder of DoeCorp, and the article on DoeCorp is suffering WP:OWN issues from User:JDSomeone, it is not unreasonable to conclude that JDSomeone might be John Doe. In effect, the user has exposed himself. (Radiant) 15:21, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, he's exposed himself to being exposed, yes? If you, intrepid editor, are the only person who puts it together, it can stay secret of you keep it secret. But this gets back to my question... when may one essentially violate WP:STALK. I'm going to paste this conversation over there and see what people think. IronDuke 15:27, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Well, we do not attempt, nor do we need, to define stalking in a legislatively foolproof way. One may not violate WP:STALK, but pointing out that e.g. User:Jimbo Wales is in fact named Jimbo Wales is not a form of stalking. (Radiant) 15:46, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not talking about "foolproof." What I'm saying is, we might be able to use something like "Revealing the identity of a Wikipedia editor may be acceptable if you have strong grounds for believing they are in violation of WP:COI." Fair? Too broad? IronDuke 15:50, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Too broad, I'd say. What matters is if the user posted his own personal information on-wiki, or if he's made it clear enough anyway without explicitly stating so (as in the John Doe example above). (Radiant) 15:55, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Point well taken and fair enough. Anyone else have an opinion on this? IronDuke 15:59, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Some kinds of biased editing can lead to the natural conclusion that someone may have a conflict of interest and thus should not be editing certain articles in the first place. The real issue is the bias. Getting involved in outing an editor's real life identity is a waste of time as it is totally unnecessary for the purpose of requiring users who act like they have a COI to stay away from the articles in question. We can act according to known identities if they are provided and believed or act according to behavior and block/ban based on the appearance of COI. Editors are not allowed to wiki-lawyer their way to the disruption or biasing of Wikipedia. Using the rules to make Wikipedia worse is specifically outlawed (see WP:IAR and "Gaming the System"). WAS 4.250 20:48, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

If you don't want to have someone identify you, don't go praising yourself pseudonymously. - Jmabel | Talk 03:31, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Vanity versus COI[edit]

Following the merger with the Vanity page, this page now seems primarily geared to dealing with personal self-promotion. It offers very little advice for dealing with corporate mercenaries that threaten to exhaust our volunteer force of spam fighters, which were the reason for starting the original two "conflict of interest" proposals. Check out the contributions from these jokers as a minor example of things to come if we do not clean up this guideline:

Their user names served as voluntary disclosure, so they were easily countered, but they will be more clever next time. I think we should resplit these two topics to remove confusion. We need an anti-self-promotion guideline to deal with looneys, and a conflict of interest guideline to deal with marketing deparments.--Yannick 17:05, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

What changes would you recommend to this policy to adequately deal with marketing departments? WAS 4.250 00:28, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
  1. Definition of COI should be expanded to include promotion of companies you work for and their products, and criticism of competitors. Right now, the first section only defines COI as promotion of "an article's author, family members, or associates".
  2. Read our own article on conflicts of interest. Outside of the internet world, "conflicts of interest" are about conflicting financial interests. This guideline is mostly intended for people who write about themselves and their friends. This "vanity" is primarily an internet phenomenon, and it rarely qualifies as a conflict of interest in the real world.
  3. Emphasis on voluntary disclosure. In the existing guideline, corporations are finally mentioned in the third section, only to say they are "strongly discouraged" from editing articles where they would have a COI. (As if they would be interested in editing anything else!) Marketers will not find that statement in the middle of this rambling stream-of-consciousness jumble, they will not be "discouraged" by that statement, and we do not have the ability to enforce it. Whereas we should present voluntary disclosure as an ethical imperative for an encyclopedia author, the current guideline presents it as merely optional with dubious benefits.
  4. Something permitting an abridged enforcement process against COI editors, declared or not, who violate WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:NOTE, etc. This is necessary to level the field between the volunteers and paid mercenaries, whereas it is undue antagonism in cases of simple vanity or personal self-promotion.
  5. Restructure to bring key points up front and moving irrelevant details to the end or to other guidelines. For example, the "Who's Who" directories section belongs in WP:NOTE, not in a COI guideline. It may be highly relevant to a vanity or anti-self-promotion guideline.
  6. A declared financial COI, while permissible, should neutralize the assumption of good faith, and a discovery of an undeclared financial COI should cause us to assume bad faith. The guideline currently makes two conflicting recommendations about this. It makes sense to preserve AGF for personal self-promotion but throw it away for marketers, because, again, this is a volunteers versus paid mercenaries issue.
  7. the Defending interests section should be rewritten to cover defamation of businesses and trademarks and defense against same. While it makes sense that unsupported defamation of living people should be removed at once, I don't think the same standard should apply to businesses and products. Otherwise we would need a full academic citation on every sentence such as "cars produce carbon dioxide" or "smoking cigarettes is unhealthy". I have seen professional spin doctors abuse Wikipedia's policies to expunge all negative comments about their product, and we have no means for a volunteer force to fight them. Heck, some of these guys have tried to brush off fatalities as WP:TRIVIA!
  8. Rewrite pretty much everything. Except for parts of the third section, this guideline is all designed for dealing with personal self-promotion, not what the business world calls a conflict of interest.
--Yannick 04:56, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
In other words reverse the political correctness move, put this page back at WP:VAIN, and write a new guideline in its place? --tjstrf talk 05:08, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes. There were two COI proposals here already before WP:VAIN moved in and crushed them. And the original reason for the merge was bogus: people were inappropriatly applying the vanity guideline to corporations because we didn't have a real COI guideline yet. Now we're even further away from that goal.--Yannick 12:19, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Not quite. The reason for the merge was that the OTRS used to get frequent complaints about the word "vanity", which the subjects of articles may find offensive. That said, I have no objection to rewording this page to improve it. (Radiant) 16:12, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry if I misrepresented your views. You specifically mentioned deletion of NN businesses in your reasons at the top.--Yannick 00:31, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Why not write a specific guideline to address the concerns raised by Yannick? Would it not be better to have a snipper rifle than a 12-gauge shotgun in these circumstances? Something such as Wikipedia:Promotion of companies and products. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:43, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
That would be another way to split these guidelines under different names. But then people unfamiliar with Wikipedia history will think that COI means the same thing here as it does in the real world. The term is already a well-known legal phrase, and it's been somewhat redefined here. This redefinition is what has turned it into a shotgun.--Yannick 00:31, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Yes, it's kind of annoying if we use real-world terms in a definition different from that used elsewhere. If we can avoid that, we should. (Radiant) 09:27, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

Yannick, You write "Outside of the internet world, 'conflicts of interest' are about conflicting financial interests." Simply not true. Wikipedia's usage is normal use in talking about journalistic conflict of interest, which is by no means limited to financial conflicts of interest. It is exactly why, for example, publications like The Nation require full disclosure from their contributors: for example, whether they ever studied under or worked with a person they are writing about, whether that person ever published an article about them, etc.

Good point. I concede that I oversimplified the issue. My point was that the original vanity guideline was designed to deal with things like teenagers writing about their band, and that we are now facing a much more serious threat. The compassion afforded to teenagers should not be extended to corporations, nor should the recognition afforded to corporations be extended to teenagers.--Yannick 04:42, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree that requiring disclosure is very important. I agree that discovery of an undeclared financial COI should cause us to assume bad faith.

I will be more than happy if someone wants to "plagiarize" my essay on ethical public relations and Wikipedia for some of how we should deal with this! - Jmabel | Talk 03:39, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Users who may be contributing solely in COI[edit]

Is there a protocol for reporting users whose contributions are exclusively (or almost exclusively) to articles involving themselves? Regardless of notability, I mean. I've encountered more than one user recently who not only created/edited articles about themselves, organizations they're involved in etc. but seemed to have contributed nothing to Wikipedia beyond this edit, and I was wondering where this could be reported for investigation, as it doesn't seem to be outright vandalism. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 16:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

WP:BLP has an associated noticeboard and group of volunteers that field issues related to it. A similar thing could be created for COI if there are enough volunteers to make it work. Any volunteers? WAS 4.250 00:50, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I think it's a good idea, but I'm not sure I'm qualified. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 14:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I think there may be a need for a noticebaord or other forum to handle articles that are being edited by editors who aren't following this guideline. Recently I've seen several instances of corporate employees editing articles about their employers, related companies, and products. One editor justified his one-sided participation because the only people who support the company are in a business relationship with it. -Will Beback · · 22:07, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, so we all agree it is needed and would be useful. I hereby draft Will Beback to implement our new COI notice board. If anyone complains, just blame me. WAS 4.250 22:47, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Draft at Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/Noticeboard ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 22:58, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Wow, that was quick. (Once again, procrastination is rewarded.) It looks great, Jossi. My only question is what do we mean by "outside persons"? Would "editors" be clearer? -Will Beback · · 23:21, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
Sure. Please fix as needed. We also need to add a line in the guideline to inform editors about the noticeboard. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 23:29, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
When ready to go live, please add a link to the notice board to {{Editabuselinks}}. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 23:34, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm very glad to see this. I believe I will add the noticeboard to my most-used-links. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 13:09, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

Identity[edit]

I think an important item about COIs is not mentioned. I suggest adding something like

"If a group, an idea, a world view, a religion etc. forms a significant part of your identity then you are likely to have a conflict of interest when editing articles about these subjects. "

I wonder who should edit the article human.

I am a bit worried where this guideline is heading to because it seems that eventually this guideline will say that you can only edit articles that you are not interested in and have no personal knowledge of.

Andries 07:58, 10 December 2006 (UTC) amended for grammar 14:16, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

  • What you point out is covered under WP:NPOV. Arguably, people of a certain group or religion are the most knowledgeable about it and should apply this to article writing. (Radiant) 13:56, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Unfortunately, this guideline DOES overlap with WP:NPOV but is much more strict. Whereas WP:NPOV only controls the article content, this guideline, as it currently stands, goes much further by vaguely forbiding some people from contributing. User:Andries is correct; this guideline advises us to "avoid editing" the article human and hope the bots pick up the slack. This is why this guideline should simply promote VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE of COI's, and expedited enforcement of NPOV, etc., for real problems.--Yannick 00:14, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
If you feel you have a COI WRT editing Human then don't edit it. But don't expect us to to fall for strawman arguments. You might as well try to tell a judge it wasn't really fraud because white lies are ok and who is to say where the line is anyway. WAS 4.250 06:57, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps you should explain exactly what this straw man is??? I'd like to hear an explanation, as I've come to a similar conclusion, it might forbid some from editing no matter how hard they strive to try and keep a neutral view! 70.101.145.209 08:03, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
No one should edit Wikipedia in a way that is not NPOV. It is a strawman to suggest that can not be done because it can not be done perfectly. WAS 4.250 08:44, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I am not quibbling about how close we can come to NPOV. I'm happy with the NPOV policy. But this guideline says "avoid editing articles related to your organization or its competitors," which is too broad and applies even if you follow NPOV. For a more serious example, I do read this as saying that Canadians shouldn't edit the article on Canada or Afghanistan, since we're at war. Even if this rule were restrained to corporations, I think that employees should be allowed to write about their companies, as long as they disclose their relationship and stick to NPOV. That disclosure should lead to greater scrutiny from other community members, and an abridged enforcement process should be available if this conflicted editor violates NPOV. A strawman argument would be one where the policy is misrepresented; I don't believe this is the case. --Yannick 02:12, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
But what if you do manage to edit WP in a way that is NPOV, even though you have a percieved conflict-of-interest, like if it is an autobiography? Would you still be punished? 74.38.35.171 21:19, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
If you think you can remain neutral then go ahead and try it! The only way to find out is to actually give it a whirl and see what sort of reaction comes from the edits. 74.38.35.171 21:17, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

(<--) You say "I do read this as saying that Canadians shouldn't edit the article on Canada or Afghanistan, since we're at war." Then you should not edit such articles. WAS 4.250 06:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Please don't make this personal. I assume you meant to confirm that people should avoid editing articles about their own country or an enemy country in times of war. I think this rule is too harsh. Enforcement of NPOV should be sufficient in this example, and it has demonstrated reasonable success in Wikipedia's war coverage. Even if our definition of COI is kept so broad and vague, (articles relating to your organization or its competitors,) it should be sufficient for editors to disclose their citizenship to trigger strict NPOV scrutiny on their war edits.--Yannick 06:05, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
You assume wrong. I agree with you that some people need not refrain from editing under circumstances as you have indicated; yet I assure you that others should refrain. Someone who thinks they should not edit due to possible COI indeed should not (and this is what I was refering to). Others who think they should edit political or religious articles because it is a matter of life and death and it is their moral obligation to influence the situation probably should not edit articles related to their moral imperative. WAS 4.250 06:34, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Edits with COI issues are deprecated; edits with POV issues are (if anything more strongly) deprecated. The reasons for the deprecation differ, though. NPOV is basically there as Point 1 in the Wikipedia charter. Where editors have a serious conflict of interest, it frequently shows up when there are sharp editing debates. It is really not good for anyone, and is also not good for WP, to have participants in edit wars tarred with COI. If you are being paid by results, and if 'losing' an edit war affects you financially, that is a bad position to be in. People may think they can cope, but most editors without sufficient WP experience basically don't know enough to say 'I can handle it'. Same if you are a patriot of the kind who cannot compromise on the 'correctness' of all your country's actions. You really need a whole lot of Wikipedia knowledge, and a whole lot of self-knowledge, and probably insights into the style of disputation that goes on here and how to get edit wars settled, to manage. It's at best a tall order. If we say 'there are some issues for which nobody benefits if you edit', that's unremarkable; we say that about topics about which you know too much/are too close, as well as know too little. Charles Matthews 22:56, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Having a conflict doesn't ban you from editing the article, it just means that needs to be taken into consideration. Humans should be mindful of their perspective when editing human, as much as any other group. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 23:56, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Off the hook?[edit]

Hi.

If you do make neutral edits related to whatever you are associated with, is it still a conflict of interest or are you off the hook? I would say off the hook, since you're following official policy. If not, then this is not fair, since if one is honestly capable of remaining neutral in spite of their association, by all means they should be given that chance and weclomed to provide such contributions without having to post every darned contrib on a talk page. So, this needs to be clarified, otherwise someone might abuse it and proceed to crow "Conflict of Interest!!!!!" when they see someone closely associated with the subject of an article editing without even bothering to check for NPOV violation. And if no NPOV vio. exists, there's nothing to punish them for. A good contributor might get reprimanded or even blocked for something that caused no harm. The persons actions, ie. the edits, must do the speaking, not any circumstantialities (is that a real word?). 70.101.145.209 08:00, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

The point is NPOV, but typically the person involved can not tell which of their edits reflect bias and which do not so they are not capable of making that judgement no matter how much they want to. We all have biases. Knowing when to back off is more than not just pushing a known bias; it is also recognizing that we all have self interests that make us have biases that don't seem like biases to us. WAS 4.250 08:29, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
However, what if one tries to avoid these biases as much as possible, if they've managed to figure out where they come from, and what they are. Like you said, everyone has some sort of bias, so the thing is to avoid it as much as possible. If one truly does manage to get that neutrality, even if they have such an affiliation that may lead to a conflict of interest, could they still be charged for violating WP:COI?! 74.38.33.15 07:57, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
If a person has never been suspected of COI with regard to an issue then he is in the clear until such a suspicion is indicated; but as wikipedia deals with user accounts and not persons, pattern of editing is everything so the question to the rest of us with regard to any specific account or anon edit is does it fit a pattern that indicates COI; such as a pattern by a prior account with a COI (and pattern matching to other accounts can include anything indicating it is the same person or a meat puppet of theirs). Be bold if no one has indicated an issue with you; but this can't be used to create one account after another with each one claiming "Oh, but no one has suspected me yet so I can be bold." WAS 4.250 19:21, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
So the affiliation alone is no reason to assume COI, as that would be extremely unfair especially if the person is making an honest effort to try and stay neutral. COI can only be assumed when that is coupled with edits suggesting one. Is that correct? 74.38.35.171 09:30, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
First, you are confusing having a COI with violating the COI guideline. Just like everyone has biases, everyone has conflicts of interest. The key is don't behave in a way that that is a problem. There are lots of ways to edit such that one causes problems - biased editing or editing articles one has a believed COI with are just two. Second, you will note I said "believed COI". If I say I'm Frank Stein or say that I was paid one thousand dollars to edit the article Frank Stein then people will believe I have a COI regarding it and ask me not to edit it. Or if I add to twenty article what a great guy Frank Stein is then people will assume I have some sort of COI going on and ask me not to make any edits regarding Frank Stein. If I'm Frank Stein and I'm being paid a million dollars to edit the article Frank Stein, but no one suspects it because my behavior in editing and communicating does not suggest any such a thing then I "got away with it" - but if at some future date it becomes known then all those edits will become suspect and my reputation will take a hit. So some people announce their COIs and then edit anywhere until they are asked not to; which if they edit in an unbiased fashion may never happen. Others chose to say nothing and let their edits speak for them. Finally, Wikipedia is not about "being fair". We are writing an encyclopedia. If someone is believed to have a COI with regard to something then "being fair" and having to double-check their edits just puts an unneeded burden on others that can be avoided by simply having that person edit other stuff or place their suggestions on the talk pages. WAS 4.250 11:37, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
How does having stuff go via talk and then edited in create less work than having to "double-check" their edits, assuming WP:RS and WP:NPOV are followed? That would seem to me to create more work - especially since pretty much every edit is checked by someone sometime. --Insider201283 13:48, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm sorry but I still don't quite get it. What if I edit an article where I have a believed COI, and the edit turns out to be neutral anyway? Am I still violating the guideline? If so, how is it fair? The edit turned out to be Neutral, so what would be the problem? "Being fair" does not mean to not make Wikipedia an encyclopedia, it means that if the edit turns out neutral & enyclopedic (ie. in keeping iwth Wikipedia's goal as an encyclopedia), not to accuse them of any wrong. It means they have to actually cause damage to do something wrong. Would I accuse you of something wrong by driving my car if I suspected you were inclined for some reason to break it, but didn't, and never did all of the 15 times you did it? No, I would not, because I know that there is a difference between someone's thoughts and actions. I don't accuse based on thoughts. I might monitor you while you are doing it, but I'm not going to PUNISH you for the drivings, as in the end you did no harm. "Conflict of interest" suggests the person actually conciously has other interests that are in conflict with those of Wikipedia, namely NPOV. But someone who satisfies the "guidelines" here to be suspected of having one may not in reality, as they may still be striving to maintain neutrality. The edits prove that. Like if I'm person X, and I have some notable achievements, so I write an autobiography. But you don't suspect it, since the autobiography turns out to very well satisfy WP content policy, why suddenly attack me if I reveal that it was an autobiography? What damage did it cause to Wikipedia??? Things that one should not do are things that damage the encyclopedia, so how did this cause damage? Could you also please explain your rationale for reverting my edit to the guideline, anyway? For one, you took out the whole thing that says about seeking consensus before making changes. If I seek consensus for a change due to possible COI, and my change is approved, what is so bad about me adding it? It has consensus support, so, what's the prob? 74.38.35.171 19:38, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
Furthermore, the guideline seems to suggest that a conflict of interest requires certain pro-POV intent on the part of the editor. What if though, no such intent exists, and in fact the opposite does -- they intend on trying to maintain NPOV, even though they are closely affiliated with a given topic? Could even NPOV edits & no POV-Push intent be construed as a COI violation? How is that a fair guideline, then? It would sound more like a way to stifle contributions based only on prejudice. 74.38.35.171 02:11, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

(<---)It typically works out as less work for a variety of reasons ranging from not implementing the suggestions to telling the person to go ahead and edit the article since their suggestions are so consistently appropriate. WAS 4.250 14:36, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Wouldn't such a person actually be better off not revealing a COI then? They wouldn't have to go to the trouble of via-Talk-editing (which is a PITA) and since they're editing appropriately nobody would be concerned. Indeed, if they're editing appropriately why should anyone be concerned in the first place? The only area I could see of significant concern would be articles with few or few knowledgeable editors, which would thus lack such oversight. Are those types of articles common? --Insider201283 14:46, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
That is exactly the point I have been trying to make here, in fact! I would definitely like to hear some response on this. Glad to see someone sees the same problems with this thing that I do... 74.38.35.171 21:22, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
So if the proposed edits consistently are seen to be neutral, then one could be "approved" to edit the article? Hmm. The problem, see, is that the way the guideline is worded seems to suggest that they are forever limited to proposing changes on talk pages, which can be a hassle because someone might not implement the change even if it is in agreement with WP policy. However if they can make the changes that agree with policy, then why is this not mentioned? What I think is that the guideline should say that one should pay special attention to precisely what they are writing if they have a possible conflict of interest, and if they are not sure, to discuss the changes on the talk page. Furthermore, if the changes are approved, why must "someone else" implement them as the guideline suggests, why not the person proposing them? They were approved, after all. 74.38.35.171 02:46, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
Why haven't I gotten any answers here? Hello? 74.38.35.171 05:25, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
I am in agreement here. In at least some clear cases the current guidelines do not appear to "damage" Wikipedia rather than enhance it and WP:COI itself virtually encourages people to be dishonest and not declare COI rather than be upfront and willing engage in a higher level of scrutiny. In my view it is far more sensible for people with COI to be known and scrutinised. As it stands, if you're honest you are "punished", if your not, in most cases you'll get away with it. When a "rule" encourages it's own breaking, there's something fundamentally wrong with the rule. --Insider201283 12:40, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, verifying honesty is difficult, almost impossible here on Wikipedia. But if we have a rule that "persons with COI should declare it and then freely edit" then again it doesn't work. Everyone will then declare their COI and go ahead with their editing, what does it change? So we don't have much choice except to have some trust in each other regarding honesty in our declarations. And for the long term and regular editors, it would be surely difficult to lie and still be consistent in all their discussions. -- Knverma 13:05, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
What it changes is that people are aware of the COI and thus the edits can be put under extra scrutiny - not exactly what I'd call "freely editing". This is exactly the situation that applies with most peer-reviewed publications. Authors with COI are allowed to publish research and findings, but any COI must be declared. In this way they're not hampered in any way but the COI is out in the open so all are aware of it. As it stands if you are honest then anyone who disagrees with you can very simply get you "banned", whereas the dishonest ones can freely edit unless they are caught. In other words, those editing in good faith are more likely to be restricted by it than those not editing in good faith, who'll just ignore it anyway. That makes no sense. In any case, in controversial articles virtually everyone has a COI, even if it is just reinforcement of ones own beliefs and positions, something highly desirable for we humans. --Insider201283 15:06, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, everyone has bias, and we have to live with that reality. Extra situations like financial gains surely deserve special consideration. Regarding peer review publications, the identity of authors is more or less known in those situations, unlike on Wikipedia. As I said dishonest ones cannot keep on editing. If they lie it will be difficult for them to be consistent in discussions for a long period of time. Those who come and leave after a few edits can anyway be ignored. But I agree we don't live in a perfect world, and errors will happen. Essentially some kind of trust is necessary in a place like Wikipedia. -- Knverma

15:20, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree, but I would think voluntary admission of COI is actually a cause for trust rather than distrust. Even the guideline itself as it stand effectively warns people against doing this. In situation of "finanical gain" one issue is "distance". Being paid to maintain or promote a company or product is one issue. Potenially gaining if a company is viewed positively is another. Every store owner or employee in the world who sells Coca-Cola potentially gains financially if the Coke article is more positive than negative. Does that mean everyone who works or owns somewhere Coke is sold can't edit the Coke article? What about if your Mutual Fund has stocks in Coke? It's a financial COI. Should you not edit the Coke article? My question remains - what does WP:COI give to wikipedia that WP:RS and WP:NPOV do not already do? --Insider201283 15:26, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there is a precise line. Regarding the Coke and MF example, sure there is some COI. In the MF case, the larger the investment the larger the COI. The store owners and employees of Coke should have some restrictions in editing Coke articles. Of it has been admitted that we risk not having some insider information in this way. Anyway we are not talking of an outright ban on editing, only restrictions. -- Knverma 15:48, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Well, it can go past "insider information". As I have pointed out when it comes to polarizing issues like MLMs, virtually by definition it would be hard to find a fully independent supporter. Members themselves have a conflict of interest. "independent" authors who write supportive works become obviously popular with MLMers and are accused of just pandering to the market to sell the books and not truly independent. Major companies or representatives of companies, if they endorse the model will promote their products through it - so they're no longer "independent" either. Mr Joe Public if they like the model will take advantage of it even just to shop - COI. Thus you end up in the situation where virtually the only people without a COI who have an interest in editing articles on the topic are those who have some problem with the model, either theoretically or through a bad experience. So the "anti-" crowd can pretty much edit at will, whereas any supported following the guidelines are directed suggest changes on the talk page. A far more time consuming and often ignored method of enabling change to an article. Throw in the fact the majority of "supporters", virtually by definition have less time - well, the 100% predictable result is that articles will be unbalanced. When it's virtually guaranteed that a guideline will cause a wikipedia article to be unbalanced, then the guideline needs some modification. --Insider201283 23:38, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Why do you say that the only people without a COI who have an interest in editing articles on the topic are those who have some problem with the model. There could be people without COI who have no problem with the model. Why do you talk of anti-MLM authors, they don't seem to be Wikipedia editors, do they? How come supporters have no time? What about this PR (of Quixtar in our example) you talked about maintaining a website? You mean you are the only IT literate Amway businessman who has time? I don't believe. Even if they don't have time, it wouldn't justify modifying the COI rules. Anyway the situation cannot be much different from that of other companies. -- Knverma 12:31, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm not that interesting in discussing specifics here, I think this problems can arise over other polarised issues as well. Please read my talk page for further explaination. Now, re people with COI who have no problem with the model - yes of course they would exist, primarily because they haven't had serious exposure to the model. If however you think the model is a good idea, then you would join, even if only do buy the products. As a member you have a COI and asked not to edit. If you think the model is a bad idea, illegal, whatever - you are free to edit as you please. There is also the question of motivation to edit. In general, who edits or initiates edits in articles? People interested in the topic. In this case you will have people interested with a negative POV because of some bad experience - they are free to edit. People interested with a positive POV are not suppose to edit. People with a positive POV are also more likely to actually be actively building the business, thus have less time, than people not actively building the business. In general, "supporters" are working 20hr weeks building their part-time business on top of 40+ hr weeks with their normal careers. That leaves little time for wikipedia. After you've got to the stage where the part-time business gives you the ability to leave your full-time career, most are probably more interested in enjoying life after working so hard than in spending time editing wikipedia. I have no idea what PR of Quixtar you are talking about? A PR person in the direct employ of Quixtar should quite obviously not be editing the articles. That is the strongest type of COI. But you say the situation would be the same for other companies. Ok, let's take McDonald's. Care to explain why people who oppose rather than support McDonalds would have more time to edit wikipedia? Pick another example if you wish. In the MLM field, virtually by definition, supporters on average will have less time and more likely greater "official" COI than detractors. This isn't a theoretical construct up for debate, it's an actual reality. That reality will predictable lead to unbalanced articles. If a guideline can predictably lead to biased articles, then it, IMO, requires adjustment. --Insider201283 16:18, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Persons enjoying life having no time for Wikipedia? Maybe, but that is not a justification that we change the rules for the others. If people have no time to edit, then they don't edit, we can't change the rules for others. -- Knverma 16:33, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

It isn't the justification, that's entirely a straw man, it's simply a concrete example. The justification for the guideline to be reconsidered or modified is that articles become unbalanced and Wikipedia inaccurate. I should think that would be the primary concern. Incidentally, or perhaps not, are you connected with Onega, Inc? --Insider201283 18:38, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I share your concern for balanced articles. Never heard of Onega, though I just googled it. How did you think of this connection? If you wish you can reply on my talk page. -- Knverma 19:49, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
I right clicked your username instead of left clicked it and that makes my browser do a google search, and a K N Verma was listed as the CEO of Onega, Inc - a direct competitor of Amway/Quixtar. Given the context of the discussion I thought I best to ensure it was no more than a coincidence of name. Pleased to ensure your concern is for balanced articles, and not blind submission to rules that are in a constant state of (hopefully) improvement.--Insider201283 20:10, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Oops, I hope you had not made any false conclusions from this name clash, and thanks for alerting me to this dangerous piece of information. My full name is Kumar Neeraj Verma. Well I have yet to familiarize myself with all the rules, but I will only be willing to cooperate in having balanced articles. -- Knverma 20:27, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

So where to start[edit]

Hi,

I've added the page of "fluid website" to wikipedia. You might consider this as personal promotion, but I think I'm doing something new and would like to be known for it. Compliment to Wikipedia I'm trying to use it to promote myself and my business?

And what about this page? I thought, where will I put myself, on the top or the bottom? On the top I will get the comments I would want. Is this again self promotion?

I think I'm starting to sound sarcastic. Please just look at what I'm doing, if it's worthwile mentioning, and if so, please extend or remove the article.

Guus Ellenkamp 11:14, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

"Unintended consequences" section[edit]

Hi.

I saw something disturbing here: "If you write in Wikipedia about yourself, your group, or your company, once the article is created, you have no right to delete it or to control its content. " So what?! If I make a total vanity article about myself that obviously cannot satisfy WP policy, I have "no right" to delete it?! If I go out of my way and delete it could I be banned?!?!?!?! This is WRONG! 70.101.145.209 08:21, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

This refers to the fact that all submissions are under GFDL and the contributor does not have the legal right to withdraw his submission. It has nothing to do with being banned. WAS 4.250 08:37, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Ah, I see that sentence is ambiguous. What it means is that we are not obliged to delete things just because you want us to. Of course deletion of such an article can be proposed via the regular channels by anyone, including you, as long as that person has a plausible reason (such as "cannot satisfy WP policy"). (Radiant) 10:11, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
If you aren't an administrator, it's hard to delete something. Also, that wouldn't get you a ban, as they are only handed out for extremely severe violations. As above, this just means that once something is submitted, it's out of your hands and can be edited, added to (in ways you might not appreciated), or deleted. 68.39.174.238 02:12, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

Exceptions[edit]

There have to be some exceptions to this: e.g. should I not revert vandalism if I see someone replace the page of another competing charity with "blah blah blah" etc. Of course I should. I guess it is a guideline like all guidelines and I have to be prepared to take the consequences (particularly the balance of proof being against me in any dispute) if anyone else ever complains or objects (which they haven't). --BozMo talk 09:46, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Indeed, as you say, a guideline is not law, and you can do as you think best and accept the consequences (we even have a policy stating so, WP:IAR). Reverting vandalism is useful even on an article from a competing business (indeed, reverting vandalism is exempt even from the WP:3RR). Nobody's likely to object if you fix typoes either. You should probably avoid changing the tone or content of such articles, though, and Wikipedia has plenty of places to request outside opinion if you need it, e.g. WP:3O. (Radiant) 10:06, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
    However, remember that if one does not actually have the intent to create bias -- remember, a "conflict of interest" depends on intent, then one can edit whatever the want. If onereally tries to follow NPOV and all other relevant policies, I would seriously doubt one could be "arrested" for "violating" a guideline like this. 74.38.35.171 22:10, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. Bias is only equivalent to intent if you have perfect self-awareness, and demonstrably most of us do not. Some of the most obviously POV writing on wikipedia comes from people who sincerely believe that they are unbiased. Moreover, C.O.I. questions are procedural. When someone looks at a collaborative effort like a wiki page or a parlimentary vote, they do not want to pick through everyone's independent motives and whether or not so-and-so was really trying hard to overcome their biases. They just want to know that participants with potential C.O.I. abstained. Ethan Mitchell 14:30, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Moved here from BLP talk[edit]

(below moved from subsection called "BLP policies regarding edits by paid assistants of the subject of an article." WAS 4.250 22:22, 15 December 2006 (UTC))

I have a question regarding a procedural issue that is not spelled out in WP:BLP -- what to do with edits by people who are paid assistants of the subject of a WP:BLP. Martin Kramer, who has posted and identified himself on talk, has acknowledged having his assistants add material to various Wikipedia articles. I made the suggestion that if the subject of a biography has paid assistants working on articles at his direction, that those assistants should be up front about their affiliation and their instructions. I did not suggest that their edits were ipso facto invalid, but I am aware that this has been a problem in the past when U.S. Congressional staffers edited Wikipedia -- I am not aware of any reason that academic staffers present less of a conflict of interest issue. I suggested something I thought was quite reasonable and acceptable to anyone, which was that anyone editing under such direction should identify themselves as doing so. Apparently that suggestion was not acceptable to some (well, one). Can someone from here give us some direction here? Is it out of line to suggest that if someone is editing Wikipedia because they were paid to do so, that they acknowledge that fact? csloat 00:31, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

We've had people paid to edit corporate articles before -- Arch Coal was originally based on text paid for by the company. COI needs identification so we can watch for bias, and likely biases should be identified, so I'd support encouraging them to identify themselves, and treating them as if they were the subject for the sake of COI. Edits by the subject or paid representative are not inherently invalid, but we need to check them for compliance with our policies, especially WP:NPOV. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 00:36, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry to interrupt, but Arch Coal wasn't paid for by anybody, according to the original author's statements. If you want a better example of people blatantly being paid to edit Wikipedia, then Wikipedia:Reward_board is probably more fertile ground. As long as the Reward Board remains intact, all of this bickering over paid conflicts of interest is either hypocritical or moot -- take your pick. --JossBuckle Swami 16:03, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I've added Wikipedia:Reward_board to the see also so people can go there to see the issue isn't money but offers that affect NPOV. Perhaps a comment to that affect should also be added. WAS 4.250 21:11, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, if someone is getting paid but does not violate NPOV then they're OK, even if they may be "violating the COI guideline" simply due to circumstances beyond their control (judging on that alone is prejudiced cee are ay pee.). 74.38.35.171 05:27, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
But that is true of any edit, regardless of who makes it or of he's paid to do it - all edits must conform to WP:NPOV, and bias should be taken out of articles regardless of how it got there. I don't see how being paid to edit is different than editing out of ideological motivation, or even plain domain expertise. The criteria should be adherence to WP policies. The motivations of editors should be kept out of it. Isarig 03:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
It is different because one is motivated differently when one is motivated by money or by fear of losing a job as opposed to being motivated by one's actual beliefs, values, or feelings about an issue. WP:COI may be helpful to your understanding of this. csloat 04:28, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I am asking you how they are differently motivated, and you are responding by asserting that the motivation is different. And the motivations are entirely irrelevant. What matters is adherence to WP policies. You have not yet addressed any of my questions. Isarig 04:47, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Again, I think WP:COI will clear up your confusion on this matter. csloat 05:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Do you have an answer, or don't you? Stop condescending, and address my questions. If you are unable to come up with an answer, say so. I have read WP:COI, and it is quite clear that "Conflict of interest can be personal, religious, political, academic, financial, and legal. It is not determined by area, but is created by relationships that involve a high level of personal commitment to, involvement with, or dependence upon, a person, subject, idea, tradition, or organization." Isarig 05:12, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I have answered. You are the one condescending. To explain again, there is a big difference between someone editing because they believe in a particular viewpoint vs. someone editing because their boss told them to (or because they are being paid to). What you quote indicates that COI is "created by relationships that involve a high level of personal commitment to, involvement with, or dependence upon, a person, subject, idea, tradition, or organization." Working for someone who tells you to edit Wikipedia in a certain way creates just such a conflict.csloat 05:44, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
No, you have no answered, and telling someone that they are "confused" and telling them to read something to fix their "confusion" is textbook condescension. It seem you are simply incapable of writing anything without it, or perhaps you don't know what the term means. Once again: you are not 'explaining' anything, you are merley repeatedly asserting that there is a big difference, but not explaining what the difference is, let alone showing that it is a "big" one. Working for someone who tells you to edit Wikipedia in a certain way could create a conflict of interest. And being an unpaid activist for a political or ideological cause could create exactly the same COI, and this is spelled out clearly in WP:COI: "If you edit articles while involved with organizations that engage in advocacy in that area, you may have a conflict of interest." I am beginning to suspect that it is you who needs to read that guideline. Again: what is the difference? (note: responding with "there's a big difference" , which is what you have done so far, is not an answer to that question). Isarig 05:59, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Isarig please. I have asked you to stop being abusive. Please stop. You were the one expressing confusion; that is why I asked you to read the article that clears up a point that seems obvious to me (as well as to at least one admin who has commented on the issue). I have explained it, but you keep asserting my explanation is not an explanation -- I really don't know what to say. If you don't know the difference between doing something because you believe in it and doing something because your boss told you to do it, I am not sure I can help you -- please ask someone else to help you. I am tired of your abuse. csloat 06:40, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I am neither being abusive, nor am I confused. I am asking you a question, which you are repeatedly refusing to answer. The question is, once again: it terms of conflict of interest and its impact on editing WP in a neutral way, what is the differnce bewteen a conflict of interest created by a paid contributor, to a conflict of interst created by unpai, ideologically motivated editing on behalf of a ceratin cause. A resposne that syas "one is paid. the other is not" is not ananswer to that question. I take it you have no answer, that's fine. We can leave it at that. Isarig
You have been being extremely abusive as I noted on your talk page. As for your question, I have answered it at least 6 times now. Here is what I just wrote on the talk page: "You're asking for a distinction I have already made -- the distinction between someone who genuinely believes what they write and someone who disingenuously writes as if they believe because they have been instructed to do so. I really have no interest in continuing to counter what appears to be sheer sophistry on this matter. I have made my position clear, and everyone else who has entered the discussion appears to agree, and Wikipedia policy appears to be consistent with my position -- again, you are advocating a bizarre form of paid meatpuppetry, something users are generally banned for." Do you understand yet? If not, please ask someone else to help you out. I'm sure they will. csloat 20:15, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
And the final score is... Isarig - 1, csloat - 0.
I'd be interested to see how csloat would answer the following challenge: "Explain how a Granny Smith apple is less tasty than a Golden Delicious apple." I predict that the answer would be, "Come on, you KNOW that a Granny Smith is WAY different than a Golden Delicious -- stop HARASSING me!" --JossBuckle Swami 16:23, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Would you be willing to explain this on the talk page in question? I have tried to make this point and have been accused of "threatening" and of "personal attacks" as a result (you can read through the discussion in the last section of that page if you have the stomach for it). Obviously, I have had negative interactions with that user in the past; I just don't think he's willing to listen to anything I have to say about the issue, so it would be helpful if an admin confirmed the view that paid editors ought to identify themselves. csloat 03:49, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
explain what? as he wrote - "Edits by the subject or paid representative are not inherently invalid, but we need to check them for compliance with our policies, especially WP:NPOV. " If th edits are POV, the can (and should) be eliminated, regardless of who the editor is or what his motivation is. If the edit conforms to NPOV - then as Night Gyr wrote, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Please stop your witch hunt. Isarig 03:55, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
What witch hunt? I am not asking that any edit be changed. All I am asking is that editors acting as the equivalent of paid meatpuppets identify themselves - a point Night Gyr agreed with in the part you didn't quote: "COI needs identification so we can watch for bias, and likely biases should be identified, so I'd support encouraging them to identify themselves, and treating them as if they were the subject for the sake of COI." csloat 04:26, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The witch hunt that prompted you to appear on a page where no contentious or problematic edits have been made for over 7 months, to revisit a long-dead issue of edits made there in April by editors working for Kramer, who was new to WP, apologized if he violated any principles , and said he'd instruct his editors to self identify if they edit agian. Night Gyr agreed that he'd like identification so we can watch for bias, but failed to explain how the bias of paid contributors is any different from the bias of any other editor that we need to watch for. Isarig 04:47, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
There is no witch hunt. I responded "7 months" late because that is when I read that material on the talk page. All I said was that people who are paid to edit wikipedia by the subject of a BLP ought to identify themselves. Kramer said he would instruct editors to get Wikipedia accounts; not that they would identify themselves as paid assistants - I believe my question was fair. It certainly was not a "witch hunt," nor was it a valid basis for the tirade of abuse from you that followed. The distinction between someone who is paid to be biased (or who is ordered to edit by an employer) vs. someone who has political leanings is an obvious one, with a long tradition in laws and philosophies covering conflict of interest, bribery, etc. -- but if you are unfamiliar with those issues, you can read up about them on WP:COI. By the way, you might consider how you would respond if Juan Cole posted a note to Talk:Juan Cole claiming that he had paid assistants adding material to Wikipedia, and I posted a note indicating that I thought such assistants ought to identify themselves. csloat 05:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
what is it that you hope to accomplish by revisiting a long dead issue? Other than stirring up controversy, that is. I again urge to stop condescending, and answer question f you are able to. I have read WP:COI, and it clearly states that COI is not limited to financial relationships, but occurs in any close relationship, including ideological ones. I have addressed your false equivalence of bribed politicians on the Talk page - and I ask you again to address my questions. You are not in a classroom here directing your students to do research for you - you need to answer for yourself. Isarig 05:19, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I have no problem, BTW, with Cole paying his assistants to edit (for all I know, he's doing so, without bothering to even acknowledge the practice as Kramer has done), or with him editing WP himself. And if you demanded that his assistants identify themselves, I'd accuse you of the same things I'm accusing you of now. Isarig 05:21, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The issue is not "long dead" if anyone is editing under the direction of a subject of an article. All I did was suggest it was a good idea if such editors identify themselves. I am not condescending. I have answered your questions. I have responded to your comments about bribery on that page; they were evasive of the actual issue. Please do not use my occupation as a professor to insult me -- I have not asked any students to do research. There is no need to personalize this; it was a simple suggestion, and your remarks have become abusive. And, just to be clear, I have no problem with Kramer or Cole editing themselves either, or asking assistants to edit, as long as they are identified as such -- otherwise, it is simple meatpuppetry. That's all this discussion is about, and I'd like to ask you again to not be abusive. csloat 05:44, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
When there have been no POV or controversial edits on the page for 7 months, I think we can safely say the issue is dead, at least as far as Martin Kramer is concerned. If you are referring to a hypothetical case, and to a general request that editors with potential COI identify themselves - it brings us right back to the question you've been avoiding: why should paid editors identify themselves, but not ideologically motivated ones? You have not answered this question, neither here nor on the Kramer Talk page, you have just asserted that the cases are different. Isarig 06:25, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The issue is not "dead" to you, clearly, since you have expended a lot of energy and pixels on it. I am making a simple request - that editors who are editing as paid assistants of BLP subjects identify themselves as such. I have explained why, and WP policies on meatpuppets are pretty clear to me. As for ideologically motivated editors, you are the only one bringing that up. I have not said they shouldn't identify themselves, nor do I see how it is relevant. They usually do. The difference between that and someone paid to write is something I have explained at least 5 times by now. But that's not the issue. The only issue is the one I asked about at the top of this section, whether a paid assistant of a BLP subject should identify themselves when making edits that they were asked by their boss to make. One admin has agreed that it is a good idea, and has indicated that such edits should be treated as if they came from the subject him or herself. I agree with that very sensible statement. csloat 06:40, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
No, that issue (paid contributors editing teh Kramer page) is dead to me, and everyone else on WP but you. What is not dead to me is a new issue, which is your demand that paid contribuotrs identify themseleves, while ideologically motivated contributiors who could be just as biased do not. You have not explaine dthe differnce ven once, let alobne 5 times, you merely keep asserting that there is a iffernce, and when pressed for an explantion you reply that the differnce is that one is paid, the other is not - which is non-responsive. Isarig 18:42, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I just explained it above for the 7th time now; my response is not "non-responsive"; the problem appears to be a refusal on your part to understand it. I have not "demanded" anything; I have made a suggestion that everyone else who has entered the dispute seems to think is quite reasonable, and which you have been alone in resisting extremely vehemently for some reason. My suggestion is also completely in keeping with Wikipedia policy as outlined in WP:COI as well as Wikipedia:Sock puppetry. You are advocating paid meatpuppetry and you're acting like I'm the one being unreasonable. It's just bizarre. csloat 20:15, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
No, you have re-asserted your non-response for a 7th time, not explained it. Contrary to what you wrote, most editors who entered the dispute did not think it was a good idea to have paid editors identify themseleves - the other editors suggested that they not edit articles directly, but contribute to the Talk page, whioch is what WP:COI recommends - for any kind of COI, not just paid editing. You ahve yet to explain why COI as a result of payment for editing is any different from COI resulting from ideology. This has been noted not jut sby myself. Additionaly, I am not advocating anything - I am asking you to explain your position that paid editors self-identify, while unpaid biased editors remain anonymous. You are being unreasonable in your repeated refusal to explain yourself. Isarig 22:13, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I have bent over backwards to try to explain myself and you simply ignore my explanations. I will not interact with you anymore as you have conceded my arguments here and simply repeated that they are "nonresponsive." I also feel you have been extremely abusive in this conversation over what should have been a relatively noncontroversial suggestion. csloat 00:08, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
(mercy de-intentation) Actually this whole exchange is bizarre. I'd also like to see why you feel paid conflicts of interest differ significantly from ideological ones (Abortion), political ones (George W. Bush), or interest ones (Gundam Wing). The fact that this entire dialog between the two of you has gone on three screens with no forward movement is what I find bizarre. -- nae'blis 21:02, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The issues are the same as those raised by Wikipedia:Sock puppetry. One writer believes what they say, the other is editing under instructions. This is covered under basic Wikipedia policies. I have explained this more extensively above; allow me to quote myself again: "the distinction between someone who genuinely believes what they write and someone who disingenuously writes as if they believe because they have been instructed to do so." What is it you don't understand?-csloat 21:37, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Just to be clear, Naeblis, and to use your own examples -- are you saying you would see no problem with George W. Bush establishing a Ministry of Wiki-truth and hiring assistants to edit the George W. Bush page without letting anyone know that they were paid by the Bush Administration to do so? This is exactly what happened with the Congressional staffers fiasco, and it was considered an abuse of Wikipedia. I am not saying a paid assistant is intrinsically more biased than anyone else; what I am saying is that there is something intrinsically more deceptive about such an assistant editing without letting anyone know that they are doing so under instructions from an employer. If you think meatpuppets violate the spirit of Wikipedia, it seems bizarre to me that you would support paid meatpuppets. csloat 21:44, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I think you misunderstand me. I'm opposed to editing without disclosing a conflict of interest in general, whether you are being paid to do so, love the topic, or believe strongly in The Truth of what you write. Hence, my userpage discloses some of my major interests/biases so that people will know where I'm coming from. I'm not saying I support paid editing; I'm saying I don't see a big difference between paid and ideological/political shilling. -- nae'blis 22:07, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
The issues are the same as those regarding meatpuppetry; I am only suggesting that paid meatpuppets identify themselves as such. I don't see why that suggestion is so controversial. I agree with you that all conflicts of interest ought to be disclosed. I really don't think that is at issue at all. csloat 00:08, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
At the risk of going on for another screen, allow me to introduce a third point here -- that is that Wikipedia discussions should result in articles that are improved in terms of the truth. Disputes will occur, and the assumption is that all disputants are arguing in good faith, motivated by their belief in what is true. If some disputants are instead motivated by their employer's demands, this cripples that assumption of good faith, and in fact the end result is that whoever has the most money to spend on this endeavor will win disputes -- I can simply pay a staff of assistants to revert three times apiece every twenty-four hours, ensuring that my version of a disputed page stays current. Disputes should be guided by concern for truth, not by who has the most money. csloat 21:49, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I firmly believe that the statement "someone who disingenuously writes as if they believe because they have been instructed to do so" is the disagreement we have here. Like the man said in A Few Good Men, "it doesn't matter what we know, it only matters what we can prove!". My personal beliefs on an issue are irrelevant if I cannot back them up with reliable sources. And if I can back them up and add them as a neutrally worded edit, what's the dispute, exactly? -- nae'blis 22:07, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Our COI policy helps us with minimizing bias. Who is to say if a given edit is neutral or not. Concensus makes that decision. Consensus among who exactly? Twelve paid editors? We need this policy to minimize bias. WAS 4.250 22:31, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
How about consensus among 12 unpaid but organized activists? How is that different? Isarig 17:21, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that is bad too. Care to help draft a guideline proposal to help minimize bias from organized activists? WAS 4.250 21:11, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't think it's possible. Unless we have a policy that requires every editor to disclose potential COI, we should just let things continue as they are - and count on the community to ferret out POV edits, regardless of origin. Isarig 21:57, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
It's possible and quite simple. A WP rule requiring people who are making edits as paid representatives of another party to disclose that connection would do the trick fine. Count on the community to ferret out rule violations just as we ferret out POV edits regardless of origin. csloat 22:14, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

(<---) I believe he was refering to "bias from organized activists" and not "paid representatives of another party". We are better able to deal with the one bias source than the other. WAS 4.250 22:18, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Ah, I see. Yes, that is a similar problem too - and I don't think money is the key issue (though it is a factor); the issue is really (to me) the extension of meatpuppetry. How about "representatives of another party"? The thing is, you shouldn't have to disclose every organization you belong to, but you should have to disclose if you belong to an organization that has specifically instructed you to edit Wikipedia as part of your duties to that organization. I realize there will be grey areas, but something like that would help deal with obvious abuses (like when a subject of a BLP orders his assistants to edit his biography, or the biographies of people he knows). csloat 22:23, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't think WP is equipped to deal with either bias source. My example was of course extreme, in order to clearly establish the obvious parallel between paid editing and organized unpaid editing (which has eluded csloat for a few days now). But it is of course not required that an organization instruct or encourage its members to edit WP to advance its cause. As far as the existence of COI, and the likelihood of editing in a POV manner, it does not matter at all if an employer instructs an employee to edit, if an organization instructs its (unpaid) members to edit WP to forward its cause, or if the members decide, on their own initiative, to edit WP to forward the organization's cause. In all of these cases, the same COI exists, with the same predictable results. The monetary compensation or the existence of a direct instruction to edit not enter into it at all. Short of requiring all editors to disclose any and all potential COI, and putting in place effective mechanisms to police it (which is , quite obviously , impossible) - WP has no solution for this, other than to politely ask that editors edit in a neutral way, and relying on the community to remove POV edits. Isarig 22:43, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I'll thank you to stop condescending and hurling insults at me. You are correct that my solution will not solve all POV issues but I never said it would. All it would do is deal with obvious deception and abuse of the wikipedia process. Isarig is just wrong that "it doesn't matter" if an employer explicitly instructs his/her employees to edit wikipedia or if they do so on their own. Again, this distinction is obvious and it is the root of Wikipedia's rules against sock- and meat-puppetry. Yes there may be COIs if someone edits of their own initiative but that is not the issue. The issue is when someone deceptively edits as if it were their own initiative but they are actually acting as a representative of someone else. This is particularly troubling when they are acting as an agent of the subject of a biography. I really don't understand why my position on this is controversial at all. csloat 22:59, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Let me repeat the examples I gave you on the Talk:Martin Kramer page, which illustrate why the distinction between editing under instructions vs. editing of your own initiative is meaningless from the POV of COI: Consider the following 2 cases: An employer does NOT instruct his employee to edit articles about the the employer (personally) or the employer's business - but the employee does so anyway, under his own initiative (either becuase he thinks this will benefit him in some way, or because he really believes the employer is helping make the world a better place) - surely a COI exist here, even without the employer's instruction. It is so obvious that the COI exists, that it is one of the first things mentioned on WP:COI: "avoid editing articles related to your organization or its competitors". Now, consider a scenario where a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving goes to his MADD chapter meeting, hears explicit instructions from his chapter leader NOT to edit WP in a POV view, but since he recently lost a child in a DUI-related accident, he does edit WP related to drinking, from a predictable POV. Clearly, a COI exists, despite the fact that he was instructed by MADD leaders not to edit that way, and despite the fact that he is unpaid, and truly believes in his position. The end result is the same: WP is edited in a non-neutral way. The only way to avoid this is to require all editors to disclose any and all actual and potential COIs, and to create an effective monitoring and policing mechanism for this policy. This is of course impossible, so we have to rely on the community to ferret out POV edits, without bowing to demands from the likes of you that specific subsets of editors disclose potential COI, while others are under no obligation to do so. Isarig 23:30, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I didn't say there wouldn't be bizarre special cases (I acknowledged there would be "grey areas"); I only proposed a simple rule of thumb to avoid the obvious abuses. There will always be POV issues on Wikipedia, as you well know; I don't think we need to add to them by licensing meatpuppetry. csloat 23:52, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't think there is anything bizarre about these cases. In fact, I believe a not insignificant amount (if not the majority) of WP edits are being made by just such interested/partisan editors. As another editor pointed out, you are unlikely to contribute to Pet Skunks unless you have a pet skunk, sell pet skunks, or have been the victim of a pet skunk "accident" - all of which lead to COI. I am not asking to license puppetry, I am pointing out that your request, if it were to be applied in a non-discriminatory way, is impossible to fulfill. Isarig
Fine, there may be non-bizarre cases in the grey area, but there are nonetheless black-and-white areas that can be simply and easily accounted for with a simple rule of thumb. The request that people who are explicitly instructed by their employer or organization to edit wikipedia be asked to identify themselves and/or treated as meatpuppets has nothing to do with skunks. It's a simple rule of thumb and, all sophistry aside, you haven't shown what is wrong with it. I've got better things to do that continue belaboring this point. csloat 00:04, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
What's wrong with it is that it is discriminatory. It requires something of one class of people (editors under instruction) which it does not require of other classes (equally biased, equally conflicted). There's no reason to require a paid editor to disclose he's editing on behalf of a payer, if we do not require a partisan for a certain cause to do the same. Isarig 00:28, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
When someone has his wife murdered by a third party, we discriminate as well -- we treat the person who ordered the murder as a party to the act. Because they are. When someone has a third party edit wikipedia, we treat the person who ordered the edit as a party to the edit (see meatpuppetry). Hope you see it now; if not, someone else can help you out. Bye. csloat 00:36, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
You are really over the top. No one here agrees with you, that's enough for me. Isarig 01:57, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Strict enforcement of COI may lead to biased POV articles[edit]

Disclaimer:I'm writing here from being in a position of COI, so I have a COI in writing this :-).

Some topics are naturally controversial with both supporters and critics, but by their very nature virtually all supporters will be in a position of COI. This means that under strict enforcement of WP:COI only editors with a critical viewpoint are able to edit the articles. A current example - I am an Amway Independent Business Owner in Europe. Amway and affiliated companies such as Quixtar, along with other MLM have always had an element of polarizing controversy about them. By their very nature however, if you are an active enough supporter of them to be interested in editing wikipedia, then you are likely to have some sort of potential COI with them. In MLM and direct selling, even people who just like the products register with reseller rights for the sake of cheaper pricing. This also gives them the right to promote the products, producing a potential COI. In addition of course, people active in such businesses, by their very nature, are far more limited in time to police such articles for inaccuracies. This results in the majority of edits being made by one POV, and people with a different POV effectively being excluded from contributing (yes, it can be done via talk but this is very burdensome).

The predictable result? Biased articles.

Furthermore, such a restriction also prevents those who are likely to have the greatest knowledge about a particular topic from contributing to Wikipedia. The end result is to the detriment of the quality of information provided on Wikipedia. As has been noted above by others, if edits are made that pass other guidelines, primarily WP:RS, then any effect of a COI should be significantly mediated. I would also note that scientific journals operate under guidelines of accepting submissions from people with COI, but those COI must be declared. This is equivalent to a Wikipedia editor declaring his interests and editing under WP:RS, with the addition of the unparalleled peer review process that is an inherent part of Wikipedia. In fact I would argue the peer review process of Wikipedia is significantly stronger than much of that for scientific journalist (I am a published scientist so have knowledge in this area). As it stands, Wikipedia will happily accept published, sourced, peer-reviewed journal articles with declared COI as primary sources, but will not accept the same standard for itself. I believe this is to the detriment of Wikipedia and needs to be addressed. --Insider201283 01:52, 28 December 2006 (UTC)

You say "This means that under strict enforcement of WP:COI only editors with a critical viewpoint are able to edit the articles". I am not sure I agree with that. You are welcome to edit articles, just you need to be extra cautious with your edits so that they conform to WP:ATT and WP:NPOV. Same applies to active critics. Critics do not have carte blanche to add critical viewpoints only. As WP editors, we need to be able to add material from both sides of the dispute, including adding material that opposes our POVs. A good article, after all, is one that presents all viewpoints fairly. One issue that comes up quite a lot is the misunderstanding that we need to balance the POVs of editors in an article. That is incorrect. What we need to do is describe the significant viewpoints as published in reliable sources, and attribute these views to those that hold them. That will create the necessary balance. So, as long as you have your research straight, and you add material that is backed up by such sources, you will be OK. Just note that by disclosing your possible COI, your edits will be naturally looked at with extra scrutinity. And that is not a bad thing IMO. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:35, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Hello, thanks for the feedback. While that was my interpretation of WP:COI and I think is sensible and reasonable, an administrator has explictly directed me more than once, and I quote, "to follow the WP:COI guideline by not editing the articles" (see my talk page). In general I have been taking care to follow WP:RS and NPOV and when the "opposition" case has been WP:RS sourced I have not challenged or edited it, even if I disagree with the sourcing. If I have felt major changes are necessary I have explained it in Talk. I have no aim to "balance POV" per se - simply to have factual, sourced, and correct information. That in itself should provide more balance. In my review of articles in the area I mentioned the quality of sourcing is very very poor and POV is rife. In my view the admin in question has been acting unfairly and not with a NPOV and I have submitted a case request - Wikipedia:Mediation Cabal/Cases/2006-12-28 Will Bebeck. As a relatively inexperienced Wikipedia user I have little choice but to assume admins are interpreting guidelines like WP:COI fairly, and this admin has clearly directed me on a number of occasions that WP:COI means I should not edit articles with potential COI other than to submit via talk. --Insider201283 03:54, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
User:Will Beback is a respected editor and admin. I would suggest that you listen to his concerns regarding your ability of editing within our content policies. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:34, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
I have listened to his concerns and each time he has pointed out issues I have acted on them in good faith. Even in this last instance regarding WP:COI I have made no further edits (other than correcting some typos) said he directed me not to edit the articles - apparently contrary to the guidelines according to yourself above. I wish I could say I beleive he has acted in good faith as well. Right now for example he is editing an article and insisting on using a term for Amway and Quixtar Independent Business Owners (IBOs), "distributors" which no longer reflects how Amway IBOs operate and was officially replaced by Amway some years ago and has never been used to describe Quixtar IBOs. I have pointed this out in Talk:SA8_(detergent) (since he won't let me edit it) but he continues to resist correcting it. There is absolutely no justification for this, and he has given no justification except to claim they are interchangeable based on a court case referring to incidents a decade ago, when the claims were interchangeable with regards Amway. If he believes the terms are interchangeable, why not use the official term that is not disputed? He has quite clearly not been acting fairly and while he may in general be a "respected editor and admin" I have to question his impartiality on this particular topic. I gather you are retracting the earlier interpretation of WP:ROI ? --Insider201283 09:58, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
It is one thing to interpret our policies in general and quite another to apply them to a specific case. You should follow User:Will Beback's advice. Period. Other editors may be in a similar situation in your mind, yet be in a quite different situation in the mind of unbiased wikipedia editors. The point is that the biased person often does not see their own biases and needs to rely on others to know where the limits are. Put your proposed edits on the talk pages and not in the articles. WAS 4.250 10:48, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
And who ensures admins are not being biased? Everyone has their biases. Admins for example will tend to be biased in support other admins. And Admins will also have their own biases with regards to particular articles. There's nothing wrong with this per se, we're all humans. I'm not going to further into the aspects of the current dispute here, I would assume that's inappropriate and better suited for the Mediation Cabal. My point regarding WP:COI stands. If WP:RS and WP:NPOV is being followed in editing, then WP:COI serves little purpose except to exclude those who may otherwise contribute positively to wikipedia. If WP:RS and WP:NPOV is not being followed, then those guidelines already address any issues that may arise. The guideline itself warns about the very situation I am in - being honest and "outing" oneself can lead to "sanctions" that would not otherwise have occurred and are not related to the factual or otherwise perspective of the article. WP:COI as it stands actually encourages a certain level of deception, and overall, in my opinion overall diminishes wikipedia, not enhances it. --Insider201283 11:31, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
It depends what you mean by "strict." I think COI and NPOV are related, but distinct. There's a difference between a person who is pro-choice editing abortion and a user creating/editing an article about themselves. Of course we all have our biases, and as Wikipedia editors were constantly fighting these biases to write as NPOVly as possible. But it comes to a point where, no matter how NPOV and encyclopedic you think your article is, you just shouldn't be writing it.
IMHO, it's a curve: you absolutely should not create/edit an article about yourself (or yourself by extension, such as a band you're in or a company you founded); you should avoid editing articles about your friends/family, if possible (as a contrary example, the award-winning author Karin Lowachee didn't have an article for the longest time, until it was created by an editor who says she's his friend -- in this case, the need exceeds the COI); you can edit articles about organizations/movements in which you participate, but with extra caution; you should edit articles about things and people that are close to your heart, but with caution; if you care little about a subject, technical-type editing is better than content-type.
Anyway, those are my fuzzy personal guidelines about NPOV and COI. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 13:22, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
well that's kind of the problem isn't it? It's all very fuzzy and by definition opinionated and POV. A little difficult to explain, but I for example have been told by an admin. to not edit a article about an education company that I have no direct financial interest it, but whom I merely purchase products and services from to support my business. I have a COI because if that company is put in a positive light, others will be more likely to use or consider their advice, which put my business in a favourable light and can thus lead to a potential financial return for me. A pretty damn "fuzzy" COI if you ask me. --Insider201283 13:53, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Yup. Reality is fuzzy. WAS 4.250 14:27, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Indeed it is - which returns to the question - How does WP:COI enhance Wiki past what WP:RS, WP:NPOV, and inherent peer review already does, particularly if disclosure was a requirement? I would propose that the standards applying to academic publications would better serve Wikipedia, namely, Proper sourcing ala WP:RS, NPOV writing, peer-review, and disclosure of any COI. --Insider201283 14:37, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Mandatory disclosure and practices used in the real world are a nonstarter as we accept anon edits and must act on the basis of edit patterns and such and not claims of identity which may or may not be real. Problem editors let themselves be known by their behavior moreso than their claimed real world interests. WAS 4.250 16:22, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, "mandatory" is obviously not possible and was not suggested. Like everything else here it would be voluntary as it is now. As it stands there's no "mandatory" on respecting any guidelines and the guidelines actually encourage non-disclosure. Would Wikipedia not be better served by disclosure that is not "punished"? The guideline itself even mentions that as an outcome of disclosure. When a guideline itself virtually recommends you should seriously consider ignore it - well, there's something wrong with the guideline. Similarly if the guideline is widely ignored by editors, which I suspect is the case. In my opinion the guideline should encourage disclosure and encourage people with knowledge and experience in a field to contribute to wikipedia. At present it does the opposite. --Insider201283 19:39, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
For the record, I disagree with the opinion of the admin involved. I would say there is no substantial conflict of interests because your interest in seeing a company you support achieve more sales is peripheral. Whereas I do strongly object to people editing articles about themselves. Even if we assume speedy deletion gets rid of most articles about non-encyclopedic people, the idea of people signing up for Wikipedia solely to promote themselves and their creations grates on me. Wikipedia is not an advertizing service. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 08:20, 29 December 2006 (UTC)
Mmm, that's fair enough to a point, but even an article about an individual could be factually enhanced by that person. As long as you know that person is doing the editing it should have the necessary editorial oversite. Complete vanity articles are likely to be removed as quick as they are put up, and the folk likely to do it are unlikely to be respecting WP:COI now anyway. Is that therefore enough of a reason to overcome the benefits of having people "closer to the action" of an issue being able to edit it? It seems to me that people operating in bad faith are going to ignore WP:COI whereas those who could make a positive contribution are the ones most likely to abide by it. In other words, it doesn't help Wikipedia at all. --Insider201283 08:47, 29 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, the subject of an article can and sometimes should be involved in he process of the article's editing, but the COI policy outlines various ways in which the subject can get involved without directly editing an article. Supposing I sign up for Wikipedia and find out that there's an article about me that lists an incorrect year of birth, or that a quote by me is tagged as unsourced; I can comment on the article's talk page, providing the correct data or necessary sources, and request that one of Wikipedia's other editors alter the article. This allows mistakes and libel to be removed, while still leaving the editing to people without a vested interest. If I edit the article myself, however, I can remove stuff that should really be there just because it puts me in a negative light. If I comment about it on the talk page, other editors can check to see if the offending material is sourced, and if it isn't, remove it.
I could give examples of biography articles and other articles to whom no one has made significant contributions except the subject of the article, and so no neutral POV was ever introduced. If the editor in question had not gone and create the article, it would have been created when it reached a certain degree of notability that other editors are interested in and knowledgable about it. While it does strictly meet the WP:BIO criteria, tagging it as NPOV or COI is ineffectual because no one is following these tags to edit the article to an encyclopedic degree. It would be better for no article to exist than an autobiographical one (IMHO) but deletion doesn't seem to be an option.
Perhaps a WikiProject Conflict of Interest is in order? LeaHazel : talk : contribs 00:22, 31 December 2006 (UTC)

Close relationships[edit]

Can somebody explain me why close relationship constitutes a conflict of interest? I would argue that this close relationships will make most people biased, but that is a different matter. Of course, in case you are close or dependent on this person you are writing about in Wikipedia and if you edit under your real name then I admit that you will unlikely include negative information about the person in Wikipedia. So this means that there will only be a conflict of interest in certain somewhat rare cases. Andries 17:48, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Not rare, so your argument isn't correct. Why do you say 'bias' is a 'different matter'? Mostly bias is a term used in a rather sloppy fashion. Our term 'POV editing' is more accurate. COI is a cause of POV editing, but also of other things, such as edit warring over minor points just to shift a page very slightly, for example for prominence of one fact. Why do people act in this way? COI just means that when they edit they don't think about 'what is best for the encyclopedia?' They think of something else. Can this be 'triggered' (what the page says) by 'close relationships'? Certainly. Charles Matthews 21:49, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
I think that POV editing in close relationship is in most cases not caused by COI but by bias which is a different matter. I believe that most people even in close relationships are sincerely convinced that they are helping the encyclopedia even when their edits do not follow NPOV. Andries 21:56, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
Unless one is extremely cautious, close relationships will incline us not to put Wikipedia aims first. Is it impossible to edit within NPOV with a COI related to a "close relationship" (being that pro or con a subject)? No, it isn't. But it is extremely difficult. Accepting the fact that it is very difficult, may be a good staring point. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 22:49, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
May be, it is extremely difficult, but that is in most cases not caused by a conflict of interest. Most people have the sincere intention to help the encyclopedia even if they are in close relationship. Can we either reword it or remove it? Andries 22:53, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
Andries, please read Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Conflict_of_interest_in_point_of_view_disputes. As you can see, this guideline does not trump WP:AGF, that is an official policy. I do not think that this guideline doubts the sincere intentions of editors with COIs related to close relationships. It simply highlights the difficulties involved. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 23:54, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Someone may want to talk to this Brian Wasson guy[edit]

He suggests PR representatives creating names like "CompanyXrepresentative" to be transparent. A good idea (both), but aren't usernames that are or include company names regularly shot on sight? 68.39.174.238 21:11, 31 December 2006 (UTC)

There is no need to have such usernames. If the editor wants to voluntarily disclose a COI, he/she can do that in userpage. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 22:37, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
Exactly, so someone should Email him and suggest he update his page. 68.39.174.238 02:14, 2 January 2007 (UTC)

Notable people editing their own page[edit]

If a notable person (someone about whom there already exists an article) edits their own page, is that a conflict of interest? What if some celebrity who is an infogeek like the rest of us (let's suppose, for example, Penn Jillette or Weird Al) edited their own page to eliminate rumors and falsehoods? Would NPOV be a factor too? --BlueNight 09:12, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Yes it is a conflict of interest to edit a page about you. One is recommended to edit the talk page instead. But if someone does edit their own talk page, wikipedians are not to bite newbies and not to revert proper edits and to treat the person with all due sensitivity (see WP:BLP). WAS 4.250 10:18, 4 January 2007 (UTC)
Exactly. While a celebrity could fix errors on their own page, they could also add info that makes them look good but isn't true. And due to the nature of wikis, we generally have no way of being sure that an editor is who they claim to be. If someone showed up and said they were Penn Gillette, we can't verify that and shouldn't treat their edits any different from anyone else. --Milo H Minderbinder 16:32, 4 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Note that we do tend to block people who take a celebrity name as username, unless they somehow do convince us that they're genuine. >Radiant< 16:34, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Wikia principal spamming WikiEN-l mailing list[edit]

Does the claim made here reveal a Conflict of Interest? If so, what might be done to counsel the offending party not to use Wikipedia as a harvesting ground for her for-profit venture? --JossBuckle Swami 02:40, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Recent additions by FT2[edit]

I would argue that the recent additions to an existing guideline without discussion may not be appropriate, in particular as these topics have not been explored in this or previous incarnations of this guideline. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 23:31, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Note that this guideline is being cited in several current ArbCom cases, and additions such as these made without discussion will be misleading as if there is community support for them, which I doubt. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 23:37, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
I would appreciate if rather than keeping adding material about which there is no consensus expressed in talk, that you discuss your edits as requested above. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 00:50, 9 January 2007 (UTC)


There is plenty of support for the stated matters. A number of policies make completely and solidly clear that conflict of interest over administrator and other intervention in disputes is to be avoided, that powers granted are not to be used other than for the purposes given, that ArbCom members involved in a dispute are expected to, or do, recuse themselves.
I don't think that there is any disagreement that conflict of interest in editorial control is well documented in policies already, but that at present WP:COI lists only certain kinds of COI, namely those where a user wishes to POV slant an article. Other forms of COI are not explained, despite being formally and on core project pages recognised as mattering within the community at policy level and regularly coming up in disputes. These are utterly backed up by consensus in relevant policies where COI risks are noted or prohibited, through to ArbCom formal decisions.
I will reassure you, that's my sole planned correction to COI - to add the omitted forms of COI to the project page and thus ensure it is consistent with discussion of conflict of interest on Wikipedia, elsewhere. FT2 (Talk | email) 02:56, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
I would argue that it would be better to provide "see also" links to to WP:BLOCK and WP:DR rather than paraphrase existing policies on these matters. That can be done in a separate sub-section titled "Administrators conflicts of interest", in which these are outlined, as the remedies/process to deal with these are quite different than what is advised in the guideline for all other cases of COIs. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 04:13, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
See above comment. There are reasons not to 'just link' to those policies. Firstly, they are far from the only policies which cover admin COI; they're being used as examples of the several situations and policies which fall under admin COI. Secondly, its a significant COI issue, a casual read of WP:AN or WP:RFArb reveals a significant number of cases where admin COI is alleged.
In any venture, Wikipedia or otherwise, COI by those given special powers would be a serious issue, if it arises. So it should be noted as a serious aspect of COI. Remedies aren't at issue here; the point is to note that admin COI is covered in multiple policies and in ArbCom decisions. Like many other policies, COI covers more than one aspect. It isn't just about content COI, it needs to cover both and reflect both. FT2 (Talk | email) 09:23, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
Deleted - sorry, misread the point being made. FT2 (Talk | email) 10:39, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
I've taken up your suggestion, which seemed a good idea. There is now a separate section for admin COI, and the examples from the intro have been moved there together with a (non-authoritative) list of some policies where admin COI may be relevant.
I've also grouped all the existing sections together under "content COI" to distinguish the two. Finally, I've also given "consequences of ignoring" in its own section under "content COI" rather than a sub-sub section, since it's important enough to warrant it, and changed the color slightly to make it stand out a little more. In line with your above comments, pretty much no textual change outside these changes, though. FT2 (Talk | email) 10:39, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the edits, but I still think that it is a big departure from the original formulation. I will let other editors that worked on the guideline in the recent part, to comment on these edits. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:44, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
I am referring specifically about the lead. I have no problems with the Admin COI section. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:48, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

FT2's changes do not change wikipedia policy/guidelines. The changes simply express those policies/guidelines in what FT2 believes to be a better way. I agree that the changes express wikipedia policy/guidelines better than before. I especially like the addition of the continuation of the centralization of COI here on one page rather than scattered about as before. This current consolidation (old COI added to VANITY becoming the new COI) is ongoing and is in no way some old longtime formulazation preceding Arbcom cases that are now refering to it. Some of those arbcom cases originally refered to the encyclopedia article Conflict of interest before Wikipedia even had a guideline by that name. I hereby congratulate FT2 on a job well done, as I did on his userpage prior to jossi's possibly valid complaints. (I still like the first version with the Admin stuff more integrated, but I can see both sides of that argument.) WAS 4.250 16:13, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, WAS 4.250. I agree that the new admin COIs section is a useful addition, but I am not sure the lead is reflective of the article, as it is putting too much emphasis on admin COIs when it is actually just a small section on the guideline. Nothing major, I would say, but it would be better to have a tighter, more focused lead. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:26, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia's COI guideline, its community's understanding of COI, and understanding the relationships between COI and various things like legal liability is significantly lacking in many areas and will grow in importance as Wikipedia grows in popularity. So I believe that this guideline will see significant editing, expansion, and discussion in 2007 to deal will issues (such as legal ones) that are on the horizon. I see this additional consolidation not as a one shot improvement but as one of a series of changes that are needed. I lack the foresight to tell you exactly what the next useful additions will be, but "it doesn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing". So all things considered, it seems inevitable that the admin section will expand to meet its importance. Thus any deletion of admin stuff from the lead will be reversed eventually anyway. WAS 4.250 15:50, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
Regarding balance in the intro, my thinking is, that admin COI is actually pretty important. Rightly or wrongly, it's a common or recurring theme of complaint that admin X abused some power, or at the least allowed the appearance of it. The fact that there's a lot less needing to be said on admin COI compared to content COI doesn't change that it's probably equally important, and in some ways arguably more so: - as with any abuse, abuse of internal powers is more problematic than 3rd party spam-addition, so to speak. So I think the intro may well probably be reasonably balanced on that score, don't know if that reassures you at all, just my $0.02 I guess. FT2 (Talk | email) 01:02, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
I hear you. I have tightened the prose just a tad, so that it is clearer for readers. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 01:16, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

Thanks. I've had a go at fixing one sentence whose wording I'm not 100% happy with:

  • OLD - "These editors are usually anticipated to exercise separation of powers, or consult other editors, in order to avoid acting in a way which might suggest use of these privileges for a purpose that isn't good for Wikipedia."
  • NEW - "Where there could be grounds for perceiving a conflict of interest, it is usually good practice to exercise separation of powers or consult with other administrators, in order to avoid the appearance of use of these privileges for a purpose that is inappropriate or isn't good for Wikipedia."

But not 100% happy with either. can you take a look, see if you can sort this sentence out better? I think you can see what I'm trying to do. The sense I'm trying for is that where its not obvious, or could reasonably be taken as questionable due to COI, its good practice to avoid the appearance of COI by separation of powers or consulting/recusing to other administrators. Obviously not all of this goes in the intro, but thats the broad sense of it I think? Over to you? FT2 (Talk | email) 03:22, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

Maybe we can drop the "separation of powers" thing as it not exactly applicable. What about:
"Where there could be grounds for perceiving a conflict of interest, it is usually good practice consult with other administrators, as to avoid the appearance of use of these privileges for a purpose that is inappropriate."
Shorter?, sharper? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 03:39, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, you're right on that. "Separation of powers" is interesting, but in retrospect it's not necessary. For a policy, shorter and sharper are more important. So I now agree 100%. Allowing for a couple of minor omitted words, could we get away with this even shorter version?:
"Where conflict of interest concerns might arise as a result of some action, it is usually good practice to take care to avoid the appearance of use of administrative privileges for a purpose that is inappropriate."
The logic here is that almost immediately after this sentence, we state that appropriate action is usually to consult or explain carefully. So there's little benefit in duplicating that. In this sentence we can say the response is to avoid the appearance, and then in the next paragraph or so it will say how to do that.
Thoughts? FT2 (Talk | email) 18:10, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
Looks good. Simple and to the point. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 18:15, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
Done. Can you review, check it looks OK now overall? FT2 (Talk | email) 23:51, 10 January 2007 (UTC)


Update: two quick fixes if comeone can work out what's best:

  • The sentence "it is usually good practice to take care to avoid actions which might give the appearance of use of administrative privileges for a purpose that is inappropriate" seems to suggest that merely avoiding the appearance (not the reality) is what matters. Can this be fixed or is it just me that thinks it could be read as that?
  • The other major source of content COI isn't mentioned in the intro - editing one's own bio. Simple to add to the list. At present content COI in the intro covers editing for ones business or organization. COI regarding ones own bio is a pretty big one and not mentioned (and no policy is linked). Can this be slipped into the intro list along with organizational, as a form of content COI?

FT2 (Talk | email) 11:36, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

A short sentence distilled from WP:AUTO, would do, FT2. As for the current wording on the lead, I would keep as is. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 17:09, 11 January 2007 (UTC)


It's a bit tricky saying that edits to one's own autobiography (including creating an autobio) can be COI without accidentally suggesting WP:BEANS. I've thought a while, and done it this way, hope you agree.
  1. Updated the list.
    Old: This includes promotion of companies you work for and their products, suppression of negative information, and criticism of competitors, as well as misuse of editorial access and powers.
    New: This includes promotion of oneself and of others -- including individuals, causes, organizations, and companies you work for and their products -- suppression of negative information, and criticism of competitors, as well as misuse of editorial access and powers.
  2. Added to the list of key points, one that covers approach and WP:AUTO without giving beans:
    avoid breaching relevant policies on autobiographies and neutrality.
By putting it as "promotion of oneself or others", and listing relevant "others" afterwards, I am hoping that it'll work out nicely. I think that covers WP:AUTO without leaving loopholes for problems. Thoughts? FT2 (Talk | email) 19:22, 11 January 2007 (UTC)
What about this formulation?
"This includes promotion or suppression of negative information or criticism of competitors, of individuals, causes, organizations, and companies you work for and their products."
We can leave the abuse of editorial powers bit out, as that may be already covered. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:08, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

'Administrator conflict of interest'[edit]

I deprecate what has been done to this page, in the name of inventing such a thing. While there may be real concern about admin powers and possible abuse, the clear outline of making edits that are against the encyclopedia's interests is not to be blurred by adding this material. Charles Matthews 13:01, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree. I'm taking it out for now, pending some real consensus on this. Jayjg (talk) 15:14, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
Specifically, it appears to be a rehash of the rejected proposal Wikipedia:Admin neutrality. I concur with the removal. >Radiant< 15:20, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
They appear to be unilateral additions by User:FT2, along with a number of other unilateral additions. I'm pretty sure User:FT2 isn't even an admin him/herself. Jayjg (talk) 15:23, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
  • No, but he's on RFA atm, so that's not unreasonable. >Radiant< 16:15, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
FT2 and WAS 4.250 expanded the guideline a week ago. I challenged the addition on a similar basis, and engaged FT2 in finding a way to include some wording that would acknowledge his concerns as no other editors got involved in the discussion. I would support a removal of the new material, though, and ask FT2 and WAS 4.250 to make their case for such addition. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:27, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree that these charges are often made carelessly or unfairly and don't see the need for all this attention. Even assuming good faith, when people are sincere about these kinds of charges they are usually assuming admins have some kind of special powers that can be abused. The way I see it admins are mostly housekeepers, and cases of real conflict of interest (e.g. my protecting a page where I am an active participant in an edit war - what other kinds of conflicts of interest are even possible?) are very very very rare. What is at stake here i not just protecting us from wikilawyering and an inflation of trivial conflicts, what is at stake is the relatively egalitarian nature of Wikipedia and this means communicating clearly what admins are - and what they aren't. Admin's are not judges or federal regulaters for goodness sake! Slrubenstein | Talk 15:29, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Obviously, if an admin has such an obvious conflict of interests that he should not edit a page, then he should not use his admin powers concerning the page either (deleting or protecting). But that's a matter for AN/I. This page is designed to prevent a specific problem, and it shouldn't be diluted. – Quadell (talk) (random) 15:31, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm no fan of conflicts of interest, having been in 2 RFARs over editors who were inappropriately editing their own articles, but this addition strikes me as policy creep and an undiscussed addition to boot. It needs to come out until which time there is strong community support for adding it. FeloniousMonk 15:50, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

I firmly agree with the removal. This smells of a rather insidious attempt. Admin's are people who have already earned teh community's trust in their judgement. Further, we have a system to address admin's who have violated that trust, it is called Arbcom. Circumventing the proper avenues by sneaking in non-consensus wording strikes me more a violation of WP:POINT or WP:NCR than anything else. I am afraid that at best these people are lacking in a fundemental understanding of how wikipedia operates, and at worst, this is a targeted attempt against policies that are not appreciated by certain specific people. -- Avi 16:07, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Of course, all admins have a COI regarding this. I'd like to see it more broadly discussed before elevating to the level of Wikipedia guideline. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 16:18, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

While protecting a page that you are actively editing could be seen as a conflict of interest, it's something that is covered under the blocking policy. Adding it in here distracts from the main point of this page, which is to deal with external conflicts of interest. Conflating the two makes things less clear, IMO. Guettarda 16:28, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Concur; unless actions involve the block, protect or delete functions, everyone is simply an editor. If actions do involve admins' functions, it still doesn't belong here, but is covered under the relevant guidelines and policy pages. This is muddying the waters. KillerChihuahua?!? 17:07, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
Comment - it's clear that various individual policies do spell out the issues with conflict of interest individually. Policies and guidelines are also there as reference to the project's overall approach. A "conflict of interest" policy that addresses user conduct only, but does not address or even mention the possibility of administrative COI, however obvious that may seem to us, is bait to anyone seeking to cause disharmony and also easy to be seized upon by outside reviewers. It speaks of "one rule for content creators, another rule for administrators" if one were of a cynical mind. By contrast its inclusion makes clear that we tend to our own principles, as well as seeking to tell others to tend theirs. Since admin COI is a common theme in a number of external places and internal disputes, and is reasonable for outsiders to ask about, it seemed worth including for the long term benefit of being explicit about our view on our own responsibilities. It was done briefly, and made clear that as an overview only, the actual citable detail was in the other policies.
There was debate, and the debate was friendly, collaborative, reasonable and amicable, with points made and accepted on each side. There wasn't at the time consensus to remove; the only two other views expressed at the time (Jossi, WAS) were both ultimately supportive to the changes. Whether or not it will ultimately be consensus to note in one place that various forms of admin COI are taken seriously in policy, it is clear that the idea to add it was not unfavorably looked upon nor unreasonable in the sight of others. I think there's a good basis for doing so, not least for the clarity it gives to those who will look for such clear statements of principle as Wikipedia grows and continues to mature.
I'd urge to set aside fears of intruction creep and to look on it for what it is -- a matter that a reasonable outside person would expect referenced in a responsible policy on COI, and that some will remark adversely if it is not. That's a valid and increasingly important perspective for the project. There are more uses to policy than just internal dispute reference; they are also statements on what's considered important and what isn't. Wikipedia isn't a small or non-notable site, and given past misperceptions from outside, it may be beneficial long term to more fully inform on such matters in an appropriate reasonable manner. FT2 (Talk | email) 18:43, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

I believe that this guideline is already overbroad without the "administrative COI" bit. If we get too carried away, we'll end up in a situation where no Christian is permitted to edit the article about the pope. The Uninvited Co., Inc. 19:02, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree. This is wikilawyering at its "finest". The expansion of an already broad and unevenly-enforced policy is ill-advised. Briangotts (Talk) (Contrib) 19:57, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Why on earth should an admin avoid the topics that he knows most about? In some instances, an educated admin is worth his weight in gold, as there is no direct need to fact-check every detail. And if the admin is WP:POINT or WP:NPOV then normal dispute resolution should take place as with any other user. JFW | T@lk 20:46, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
An admin shouldn't, has anyone suggested they should? I thought the point of the suggested addition is that admins shouldn't use their admin powers on articles they edit or with editors they are having conflict with. And I don't think those points need to be made here since they already appear elsewhere. --Milo H Minderbinder 20:54, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
I fully agree that admins should recuse themselves from situations where they have a content involvement, etc., but I think that WP:COI, which is our protection against outside interests manipulating WP for their own special purpose ends, should not be diluted with internal WP administrative matters. I think admin recusal and behavior, while very important also, should be addressed elsewhere. Crum375 21:44, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
WP:COI doesn't actually describe its purpose as to "protect wikipedia against outside interests". WP:COI intro says its purpose is to protect wikipedia against "an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia to produce a neutral encyclopedia and the individual agendas or aims of editors who are involved with the subject of an article". When we discuss 'editors', we're potentially discussing all kinds of editors, not just "outside interests". Administrators and their actions fall within this headline definition, and are unquestionably also capable of having conflict of interest and incompatible individual aims and agendas, as noted in many other policies.
Historically, back in 2004-05, this page was once the guideline protecting Wikipedia against vanity articles. When its title and focus is changed from "vanity guidelines" to a wide and commonly understood title such as "conflict of interest", it needs to give some mention and pointers (however brief) regarding other notable forms of COI, not just the one type it historically started with. Otherwise, the likelihood is, the title is going to mislead people as to what to expect. If that isn't desired then the intro might include a comment somewhere that "Other forms of COI are covered here" so people know.
Without attention in this area, the title, the headline description, and the intended focus, are not all in good alignment within the guideline. If it is intended that this be a tightly focussed guideline specifically on contributors with POV-style conflicts of interest, as suggested by editors above, then perhaps the intro could benefit from a note of this kind.
Otherwise the headline description continues to imply that this is the guideline covering all forms of COI on Wikipedia, and other forms of COI regulation may be perceived negatively as conspicuous by absence, to the overall (unfair) detriment of the project and the benefit of its denigrators, which is my personal concern. FT2 (Talk | email) 01:22, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
It seems to me that in current usage, COI on WP specifically refers to editors who are very closely associated with a subject, normally in their real life, for example current or ex employees or members of an organization, and then try to edit a related article on WP. We allow them to do so, but we also require them to be ultra careful in their edits and interactions with other editors. This does not cover a typical case where a WP editor has an internal 'conflict of interest' within WP, e.g. an admin who previously edited an article, who should recuse him/herself when assuming a judgmental administrative role in the same article. I think it essential to keep the admininstrative and other internal conflict policies separate and distinct from the external COI policy, as the challenges and issues are very different. IMO it is crucial to keep WP:COI tightly focused on the 'external' COI issues, as that appears to me to be a much more serious challenge for us, since recusal of an admin can be quickly enforced and virtually all admins will quickly agree to it. OTOH, to get a typical tenacious, tendentious COI single-issue editor to 'recuse' him/herself from an article that affects his/her livelihood and/or belief system can be very rough sailing in some cases. Having a clearly focused policy helps in defining the issues and hopefully reducing the abuse. Other forms of editing conflicts should be covered in other policies. Crum375 01:47, 17 January 2007 (UTC)


That makes sense. My concern has been essentially that that's a Wikipedia historic view on what "COI" has meant. But it's not at all what the term will be taken as by anyone who hasnt grown up in Wikipedia historic policy views as we have. To any such people, including critics, reviewers, independent media writers, it will mean what COI always means - and be lacking. Which looks bad.
I take the point that you feel a focussed policy on external COI helps us to assert when that issue is breached by an editor. I'm hoping you see my point, that to the outside world and anyone else except policy-very-familiar Wikipedians, COI is usually used to refer to COI of people in a custodial role of trust, such as editors with admin rights.
Would you be okay with either or both of the following for a simple fix: either a separate summary, on some other page (title to be decided) summarizing briefly other forms of COI and what policies they are covered by, and/or a note in the intro of WP:COI to the effect that "Other forms of COI are dealt with in other policies" that allows a user to easily see what other forms of COI are also covered under policy? I think that it's important from a "good practice" viewpoint, to be easily able to see COI policies as these exist too, and to locate them. FT2 (Talk | email) 02:52, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
You could write up an essay which focuses on 'internal COI', i.e. situations that call for an editor's (or admin or arb) recusal from an article, discussion, case or some other process, not due to RL but to internal WP issues. If you can get consensus of support for that, it could become a guideline, and then it could possibly be linked here. I personally feel that recusal should be interwoven into guidelines for specific WP administrative positions. Crum375 03:26, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
It's missing the point. The point is that policies and guidelines arent just for the cognoscenti. Once we create a guideline called "conflict of interest", that title itself has a pre-existing meaning, and people not of long Wikipedia standing will expect it to cover certain things because of that pre-existing meaning. The fact it gives no mention is then a Bad Thing, because it implies to those who don't check in depth and have extensive knowledge (ie most reviewers, commentators, and potential critics), that such principles either don't exist, or don't matter. When you're notable enough, as Wikipedia is, then you need to take a degree of note of the outside world's definitions, and one of those is that "conflict of interest" is not just about self-promotion, it's also about those with power not abusing it for gain (in Wikipedia this would be to silence others, win disputes, protect their preferred version, look up IPs or hide versions improperly, etc). That is status quo in the entirety of the world outside Wikipedia. The COI guideline needs to mention it in some way, even through a token nod, or by saying "yes, administrative types of COI exist and are covered in these policies and guidelines". To state simply, "Other forms of COI exist, they roughly cover misuse of editorial powers, and more can be read in the following policies" is appropriate and respect-worthy. To ignore this completely risks leaving us with a COI guideline whose first impression to any outsider might be that it's a joke, since it doesn't actually address a main form of COI that any responsible and aware organization/group/site who wishes to self-regulate maturely, would be aware of. That's the first impression that may be given, and it's unnecessary since we do have such policies and as a community we enforce them strongly. They just aren't stated as existing, even by a brief mention, in the guideline that bears their name. WP:COI needs to in some way acknowledge that they exist - by mention, by something. FT2 (Talk | email) 08:41, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

May I suggest a compromise? WP:BLP lists Relevant policies: within its "See also" subsection. Perhaps this guideline could have a "Other COI policies and guidelines" subsection within its "See also" section? WAS 4.250 11:29, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

FT2, I really don't see any need for a major policy that applies to admins that doesn't apply to everyone else. People should not violate 3RR - that does for admins too. people should edit in good faith - that goes for admins too. People should follow NOR and NPOV - that goes for admins too. What situations really arise where our existing policies are not already more than adequate? Slrubenstein | Talk 12:07, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Slrubenstein, FT2 did not create any new policies or guidelines. He referenced in Wikipedia:Conflict of interest existing policies/guidelines that dealt with conflict of interest. Which makes sense. WAS 4.250 12:36, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Perhaps we need to clarify then a difference between external conflicts of interest (I shouldn't make significant edits to Peter Laurence Gordon because he's my brother), and internal conflicts of interest (I shouldn't make take administrative action involving User:Insert-name-here because I've been a principle in nasty disputes with him.) Existing policy has been entirely about the external conflict of interest, and adding the internal issues muddies, not clarifies, the actual ramifications of the policy issue. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 15:32, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
That's a good way of looking at the issue. This is the guideline on external conflicts of interest, not on using admin tools in internal editing conflicts. -Will Beback · · 18:23, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

Self-promotions masquerading as articles[edit]

It's easy to spot them sometimes: other times, however, a page here could look like an encyclopedic article, yet it may be written to promote the subject.

The question is, how many of them are stealthily promoting the subject??

On the Matt Lissack article the edit summary was

but it looked like an encyclopedic article.

The question is, should you check the edit summary first before AFD'ing the article?? --SunStar Nettalk 17:58, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Checking edit summaries and edit histories is always a good idea, although from my experience a lot of the more problematic editors don't summarize their edits, or use very short, undescriptive summaries like "created article," "expanding" etc. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 21:37, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

avoid breaching relevant policies[edit]

Point two, a recent change near the top of this article, "avoid breaching relevant policies on autobiographies and neutrality", is technically incorrect. Neutrality is a policy; autobiographies is a guideline. To me the difference is significant, but maybe I'm being too nitpicky. Would it be better to say "avoid breaching the neutrality policy and autobiographies guideline"? It makes the distinction and places the most signicant first without greatly increasing the verbage. JonHarder talk 02:40, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

It is okay, right?[edit]

... to go and write neutrally on subjects that you are close to? Like if you can take the fact that you may have to admit negative things. Or could you still be busted for a percieved violation of this "guideline"? However, in the opener it says that a "conflict of interest" means that the person has some agenda that conflicts with Wikipedia's interest, namely the neutral point of view. But if one does not have that, then one should be able to write about subjects of which they have very close relationships, since they've still decided to maintain neutrality in spite of being close to them. Also, if one's proposed content is "approved" by the community, is it OK to add it themselves provided no "sneak-em-by" edits (ie. quick changes just before addition) that could counter consensus are performed? I don't see a problem with that, since if it's already approved why should the identity of the adder matter? Esp. if it stays in the community-approved form -- anything else is pure bigotry and is wrong. 74.38.35.171 22:21, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

If you are willing to accept any random anon's claim that your edits are not "neutral" and therefore you stop editing the article, then yes. See the problem? WAS 4.250 01:50, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
Oh, you mean because then I'd just be letting someone's random claim influence me without any critical thinking or other important things, and thus "bust" myself? 74.38.35.171 07:20, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
You need to be able to accept that you're not going to be the ultimate authority on what should and shouldn't be in the article. Of course, it's always true that you don't own your contributions to Wikipedia, but when the articles you edit are about you, your family, your band, your business etc. it's ever so much more difficult. LeaHazel : talk : contribs 10:55, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
But if I can do that (keep neutral), then it is OK, right? I guess the thing is is that working on something like that, where you can't be the boss, requires a high level of humility. Many people's egos are too large. Basically, what I am saying is that if one makes a very good fruitful effort to stay neutal, one cannot be busted for "violating" this guideline, right? 74.38.35.171 21:41, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Or, of course, keep editing but make the edits neutral. There's nothing wrong with (or at least there shouldn't be anything wrong with, if there is then that is a problem with Wikipedia that demands attention) making neutral edits, regardless of who is making them. Also, why didn't you (WAS 4.250) like my edit to this page, anyway? 74.38.35.171 21:51, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Microsoft using hired gun to edit Wikipedia[edit]

Many of you have probably seen this, but a pretty interesting read for those who haven't: "Microsoft 'tried to doctor Wikipedia'". -- Satori Son 04:32, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

"you should consider"[edit]

This is the first time I've run into this page and I think it is rather too strong. In particular, I have had many excellent editing sessions (such as that on FIRE or the John Templeton Foundation) that involved employees of these organizations, and I think their contributions materially improved the articles. So outright banning any "interested" party from editing is ridiculous IMO -- and it happens all the time anyway (especially when it comes to, say, a scientist writing about ideas she's worked on.) So I've changed "you must not write" to "you should consider not writing."

Secondly, the article pretty much acknoledges this later, when it lays out guidelines for how to edit wikipedia while having a COI (e.g., it suggests that you declare it.) It does, however, reference NPOV when it says "you are strongly discouraged." This is, again, rubbish. NPOV is not about who you are, but about what you do. The whole point of NPOV is to educate users on how to overcome their own biases and interests in the goal of making a better encyclopedia.

Please drop me a line on my talk page to alert me to disagreements on this. I was shocked to find this COI article and it's ambiguous statements that COI==automatic recusal. It goes against everything I've learned about editing wikipedia in my 2+ years here. Sdedeo (tips) 22:16, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

My first impressions on this article are similarly unfavorable. I find it ironic that an article that is supposed to support WP:NPOV seems to have NPOV problems of its own. In particular, it is lacking balanced coverage of WP:AGF implications, especially WP:BITE. I also think it is unnecessarily restrictive, as all WP editors generally write about things they are interested in, which is a COI. The issue is defining the line where COI harms WP. I don't have any problem with someone writing an article about their company as long as the information is WP:V and cites WP:RS and nominally has a good faith effort at WP:NPOV. If it's not, the answer is to help the editor improve it. I think it's time for someone to be WP:BOLD and tackle these issues here, but I'll pause a moment, and let someone else take the lead if they wish. Dhaluza 11:57, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

"action" box[edit]

I've deleted the action box, where it says that a "real or perceived COI" should force you to restrict yourself to the talk page or an RFC. Again, not only is this against every other policy on wikipedia -- where users are educated on NPOV, etc. -- but it is also completely disconnected from the actual practice of wikipedia. It's fine if users want to push for something new, to change how things currently happen, but to represent this as "consensus" and "how things are done" is really false. Again, of course, I'd be happy to discuss. Sdedeo (tips) 22:21, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Please read [4] WAS 4.250 22:34, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't think this page can be too strong considering how much self promotion people try to do, particularly things like adding links to their own websites. I like the page to be strong, if there are exceptional editors who are capable of editing articles they're related to with NPOV, they're the exception to the rule (and all policies do have exceptions). --Milo H Minderbinder 22:37, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Neither of these responses address my concerns:

  1. that NPOV -- the bedrock of WP practice, and cited here -- has nothing to say about who you are, but only talks about what you do when you get here
  2. that this is not how things actually work on wikipedia, so it is not consensus in any form

MHM, that you want wikipedia to be different is fine, but is irrelevant in declaring consensus. Sdedeo (tips) 22:45, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

demotion to proposal[edit]

WAS reverted my changes that I believe more accurately reflect the wikipedia consensus here. I have changed the "guideline" to a "proposal" template, because I again strongly believe that the current statements here -- for example, that employees of a company should not be allowed to edit articles -- does not reflect wikipedia consensus. Sdedeo (tips) 22:53, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

PS: needless to say, I am watching the talk page here and hope that we can engage in a debate on these things. I do think we need a COI page, but I think the current version is ambiguous, self-contradictory (the intro says "you must not edit if you have a COI", some parts say "we strongly suggest do you not edit if you have a COI" and other parts say "if you have a COI here is how you edit.") and that the most strongly worded parts of the proposal contradict wikipedia practice as I understand it from at least two years of editing. Sdedeo (tips) 23:02, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't know why you think there is an absence of 'consensus': consensus is not unanimity. And I don't know why you think employees of a company should not be allowed to edit articles is a fair statement of the position. WP is open to editing: but if Microsoft hires someone to edit in their interest (true story) we disapprove strongly. The page approaches the 'grey area' of when COI is serious enough to be prohibitive of sound editing from several directions. It is not prescriptive, but tries to be adequately descriptive of the nature of the COI that is of major concern here. It also describes the issue as subject to process (e.g. withdraw if others are bothered by your editing) rather than trying to be a gatekeeper for all editors adding content to which they have some connection. Charles Matthews 09:17, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
That didn't make a whole lot of sense. If there is disagreement over a guideline, that does not mean it's suddenly not a guideline any more, and it certainly does not mean it's suddenly a new proposal. "Demoting" a page is an oxymoron. >Radiant< 10:34, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Charles: I believe that I am not the only one who views this article as an inaccurate depiction of how things work on the wiki. As I've said, it's not only me, but many others who've shared editing duties with employees of corporations.

I didn't say it was an accurate depiction of the real thing. I said I didn't share your view that there is no consensus on how things should work. We have a policy on NPOV, with POV edits happening all the time. Charles Matthews

As you seem to acknoledge implicitly, the guidleline is ambiguous: sometimes it forbids (as in the opening), sometimes it strongly discourages (somewhere in the middle) and sometimes it says you have to, just be careful ("defending interests"). Do you want to discuss this issue?

I don't acknowledge implicitly any such thing. The page was carefully drafted not to overstate the position on COI. What is missing from the page is why there is a strong deprecation. We can discuss that, if you like. The only correct advice people can be given is that editing in the situations described puts you in a false position; and only very good understanding of the content policies and how to behave will save you from bad stuff when it comes to any type of edit war. Charles Matthews 22:58, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Here is where the guideline forbids COIs from editing: "If you have a conflict of interest, you should avoid editing articles." Here is where the guideline says that COIs should edit, but very carefully:
The intermediate territory will naturally contain some grey areas. In many articles, criticism tends to collect in a separate section. There you may find properly referenced reports of well-publicised debates next to vague assertions that "Some people say X, while others think Y." Treat everything on its merits. Ask for reliable sources. Before nuking a whole criticism section and distributing its parts over other sections of the article, which may be the best way ahead, consult other editors on the Talk page. Use crisp, informative edit summaries to detail what you have done: this is one excellent way to show your bona fides as editor. Raise any less obvious reasoning as a note on the Talk page, with any extra Web links to support your edits.
Do you disagree that this is a contradiction? I personally agree roughly with the article -- that editors with COIs should be superduper cautious -- but disagree with the contradictory statement at the start of the article that says COIs should not edit period. Sdedeo (tips) 23:06, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't agree that it's a contradiction. "Avoid editing" doesn't mean they can't ever do it, particularly since all rules have exceptions anyway. It just seems to spell out how to make an exception, especially when taken with the two paragraphs that precede it. --Milo H Minderbinder 23:12, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
OK, well currently the statement "you should avoid doing X" is (understandably, IMO) being taken to mean "do not do X." Can we start by agreeing to alter the language here so that this mistake is not made? Sdedeo (tips) 23:17, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

As for the "Microsoft hiring" thing, I know about it -- and indeed that's why I'm here, because of the confusion this COI page has generated. (Go over and look at the discussion on Open Document and see.)

So I have looked at Talk:OpenDocument, and the 'confusion' seems to be your saying that you don't hold with WP:COI. Unless you still think that consensus = unanimity, I think you should perhaps not generalise quite so much, until you are supported by others there who also feel this is a nonsense. Charles Matthews 23:05, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
I never claimed that consensus is unanimity -- I've pointed to two experiences of mine involving COIs and other editors, and we all (after some squabbling) got along quite fine -- check the archives of FIRE and John Templeton Foundation. I am happy we are discussing this now. As for the Open Document page, we have two editors who even WAS agrees should be allowed to edit, but who currently read the page as forbidding them from doing so. If you want to count heads (consensus is not a vote, although you consider my voice insufficient) it looks like hAl, WLD, --Doc0tis and Gazpacho (who objected to the revert of an edit because of its presumed COI) also agree that COI editors should not be outright banned from editing pages they're connected with -- in direct conflict with some (but not all) of the directives on the COI policy page. Sdedeo (tips) 23:16, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Radiant: "demoting" a page makes quite a bit of sense when someone feels it's been described as a consensus before its time. Unless you believe that it is impossible to incorrectly "promote" a page. I seem to recall from reading past talk pages that you were the one who promoted it, so perhaps you believe you're an infallable judge of consensus? Sdedeo (tips) 19:33, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

  • Yes, making snide remarks is a very useful approach. You can't "demote" a page because you can't "promote" a page either. That's because it's not the tag that makes the guideline, it's the guideline that makes the tag. >Radiant< 11:36, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm here because of the Microsoft controversy, I am concerned that the COI policy is one sided. First we say that people who get monetary benefit should not (should avoid) editing. Ok, I can see the logic here. The problem though in this case is that some people hate Microsoft and do not get paid by a competing company so they don't get flagged as COI. I honestly believe that Microsoft was ok in asking Rick Jelliffe to edit the pages. If the information is not correct and the Official NPOV guideline is being compromised then there should be corrections made. I am a relatively inexperienced Wikipedian and desire to know what the "proper" conflict resolution process for this situation would have been. I know #1 is the talk pages, but I have noticed that people revert entries solely on the basis of the IP says that it was "within x miles of Redmond, WA". I see this as unacceptable. Doc0tis 22:09, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
It's not one sided because some people love microsoft and don't get paid by any company to edit wikipedia. I don't get the assumption that if employees and such can't edit about the company, the only people remaining are those who hate it. NPOV and COI aren't mutually exclusive, I don't see any reason to compare and see which is more important. And I do think it is going overboard to revert an edit just because the editor lives near a company, that's ridiculous. --Milo H Minderbinder 23:35, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
To revert an edit because someone lives near a company is ridiculous for two reasons, A) It disregards the quality of the work. B) It is biased against people who live in a specific area and who may have no possible connection to the company. I believe that quality of work should be the most important focus at Wikipedia and not an "apparent or possible COI". I understand that people who don't work for a company can be neutral on the subject, but on a subject such as OpenDocumentFormat there are a number of contributers who are biased against Microsoft and hence the NPOV suffers, I think that MS should be allowed to edit this page as long as it comply's with NPOV --Doc0tis 16:51, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
That's up to the consensus of editors at that article. They certainly have the right to keep MS employees from editing it, there's no question that there's a COI there. If you feel editors there are biased, solicit new opinions elsewhere on wikipedia. --Milo H Minderbinder 18:33, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

continual reversion[edit]

WAS has reverted twice two different contributions, and MHM has reverted once. Nobody is willing to discuss any of this on the talk page substantively. I believe this is a violation of WP:OWN, and am reverting. If either wish to engage in constructive dialogue on the talk page, I will not revert further. Sdedeo (tips) 05:23, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Reverting is never a useful option. Place a request at WP:VP and ask editors to come and comment. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 05:25, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Nobody reads WP:VP; we discovered that when working on a different guideline. I'm interested in improving this article, which I believe is currently not only a bad idea, but is itself internally inconsistent. Right now the WP:COI is being interpreted by good faith editors as banning their participation, for example. As I said in my edit summary, addressed to the three reverts I've received for presenting different content each time: either engage in discussion on the talk page, or allow others to edit. I think that's the wiki way. Sdedeo (tips) 05:28, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Jossi, I see that you don't take your own advice: you've just reverted! Are you willing to engage in discussion of the issues I have raised? If I don't hear from you within twelve hours, I will assume you're not, and will revert. Sdedeo (tips) 05:30, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I did restore to the consensus version. Please place a notice, at the village pump and attract the attention of other editors. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 05:32, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Alternatively, you may want to ask editors that worked in this guideline quite extensively, such as User:Charles Matthews. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 05:33, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Many editors frequent the Village Pump. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 05:34, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

That's semantics, Jossi, and certaintly wouldn't stand up in a 3RR as you well know.. I'll post a note at the village pump, though, and see what happens. Sdedeo (tips) 05:40, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

up to five editors who are unwilling to discuss[edit]

Now there are five editors: MHM, WAS, Jossi, Radiant and Charles (sorry Charles), who are unwilling to discuss the problems with the guideline that I've raised. Just to reiterate:

  1. The guideline is self-contradictory: it tells readers that those with a COI are forbidden, discouraged, and allowed to edit.
  2. The guideline does not represent consensus, as it does not represent the practices of many editors on the wiki, including myself, who have shared editing with employees of corporations.

Is there anyone willing to defend what they see as the consensus? Sdedeo (tips) 19:24, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

To make a correction, I have discussed this. See above. --Milo H Minderbinder 19:42, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, yes, you did post something, but left the discussion and now seem to confine yourself to metadebate, reverting, and threatening me on my talk page. Sdedeo (tips) 19:48, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

"If you have a conflict of interest, you should:"[edit]

I think the wording above is much stronger than the numerous revisions it has gone through. The policy doesn't need to be weakened by vague, waffling, language. If you feel the policy is inconstent, propose changes to the other parts of the policy to bring it in line. For a start, you could point out the parts that you feel aren't consistent with this. The current wording smacks of WP:POINT. --Milo H Minderbinder 20:00, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

As I've replied to Charles above, the article is inconsistent. This strong statement at the beginning is contradicted by later statements that advise COIs how to edit properly. I've pointed out many times where the outright forbidding of COIs conflicts with the rest of the article, and I've said it again here and in my just-previous edit on this page. Can you respond to those specifics? Sdedeo (tips) 23:09, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't believe the article is inconsistent, and I don't think saying to avoid something is absolutely forbidding it. If we wanted to completely forbid it, we'd simply say "do not edit". As I said above, if you truly believe it is inconsistent, feel free to propose changes that make the rest of the article as strong as the opening. I don't think weakening it is an improvement. --Milo H Minderbinder 23:18, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

We're going back and forth on this. We seem to agree that COI editors should not be banned from editing articles they are involved with. I have made various edits that you reverted to the project page that I think would make this clear. Let me once again propose a modification, this time on the talk page:

If you have a conflict of interest, you should strongly consider:
avoiding editing articles related to you, your organization, or its competitors.
avoiding participating in deletion discussions about articles related to your organization or its competitors;
If you decide, despite a conflict of interest, to edit anyway, you should carefully review policies such as WP:NPOV and WP:CITE, and the remainder of this article, before doing so. In particular, you must
avoid breaching relevant policies on autobiographies and neutrality
avoid linking to the Wikipedia article or website of your corporation in other articles (see Wikipedia:Spam).

How is that for starters? Sdedeo (tips) 23:26, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I still don't think "strongly consider" is strong enough. While they're not banned from editing articles, I think it should rarely happen, and only with the approval of the other editors of the article. COI editing is a far bigger problem than involved editors being blocked from making helpful edits. I'd consider those cases exceptions to the rule, and not a reason to weaken the rule to "do it if you feel like it". --Milo H Minderbinder 23:42, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, in that case you seem to be out of line with a number of editors on, e.g., the Open Document page, who disagree, for example, that the "approval" of other editors is required. Indeed, you seem to be out of line with the COI page itself, which does not seem to require such permission. So there are two next steps:

  1. We can discuss whether or not to add "you must obtain permission" to the current page.
  2. You can make a counter-proposal that makes it clear that there is no outright ban, and let's see if we can both be happy.

Sdedeo (tips) 23:47, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

My counter proposal is to keep it as is. And based on the comments and editing here, that seems to be the consensus as well. Any other editors want to weigh in on this? --Milo H Minderbinder 23:57, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

We're going in circles again. You don't seem to disagree that the proposal is being misinterpreted to imply an outright ban. And yet you are opposed to any correction of the language to make this clear. Based on edits to other pages, I believe the consensus has not vindicated your views on how to handle COI -- which, as I've noted, are in opposition to the COI page itself -- and would appreciate continuing the discussion with you. Sdedeo (tips) 00:02, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't believe my views are in opposition to this page, you seem to be misinterpreting them. And if the page is going to be misinterpreted, I'd much rather it be done thinking there's a ban than thinking that editors with an affiliation should just go ahead and start editing pages with which they have a COI. As far as consensus, there are a lot of people doing a lot of things on other pages. This page is edited by the editors participating here. --Milo H Minderbinder 00:14, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Your views include the belief that COI editors must seek permission from other editors, a view that is not supported by the WP:COI guidelines. You also seem to believe that the guideline should be written so as to be misinterepreted, which makes no sense and is contrary to the spirit of guidelines such as Wikipedia:How_to_create_policy. Unless I hear otherwise from you, I will edit the guideline directly to avoid misinterpretation while preserving the content. Sdedeo (tips) 00:22, 31 January 2007 (UTC) MHM, do let me know if you continue wish to preserve the page as is despite (or rather because of) the fact that it is being misinterpreted. Sdedeo (tips) 00:36, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I've made myself clear, but you still seem to have misunderstood my views. I've made my opinion known how I think the guideline should be, and I think it's pretty questionable to edit guidelines based on "Unless I hear otherwise from you..." If that's the closest you can get to consensus, don't be surprised if your edits end up reverted. --Milo H Minderbinder 00:38, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

How have I misunderstood you? You have stated that the page is open to misunderstandings, and you have stated that these very misunderstandings are the reason why you wish to keep the page as such. Is this incorrect? I say "unless I hear otherwise" because you and I are currently the only people discussing this article. Sdedeo (tips) 00:40, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

All pages have the potential to be misinterpreted, regardless of how carefully they are written. I want to keep the page as it is because I feel the current wording is less open to misinterpretation (and yours is more open to the sort of misinterpretation that is much more common and problematic). I'm certainly open to improving the page, but I consider all your proposed edits to be making it worse.
Any other editors want to weigh in on this? --Milo H Minderbinder 00:44, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

OK, I think that's the crux of our disagreement. You believe that having editors think COI prevents them from making good faith edits is preferrable to having COI editors believe it is OK to edit in disregard of WP:NPOV, WP:CITE, &c. Is that correct? Sdedeo (tips) 00:49, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

No. That isn't correct at all. --Milo H Minderbinder 02:00, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
OK, then please be more explicit about your objection. You do believe that it is preferable that good faith editors think there is a ban to -- what exactly? What is the "sort of interpretation" you refer to in the above comment? Sdedeo (tips) 02:30, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Hi again Milo -- if I don't hear from you in the next twelve hours, I'll assume you've lost interested in the discussion and will edit the article given our discussion so far. Happy to continue the discussion. Yours, Sdedeo (tips) 06:39, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Don't make that assumption. Whether I post here or not, I will be following any discussion and edits here. Generally, making ultimatums and setting deadlines for other editors isn't the best way to try and edit on wikipedia. --Milo H Minderbinder 12:31, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
As you and I are currently the only people debating this particular issue, if you disappear before we resolve matters, then I will assume you are no longer interested in working on this issue. This is indeed the wikistandard way -- edit or discuss: if you don't wish to discuss, I will edit. Please respond to my query above within the next day or so so that we can proceed with editing. Sdedeo (tips) 16:15, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I have stated my opinion. I don't see any obligation to "continue to engage" by repeating myself, if you have a new topic of discussion or wish to propose an edit, go right ahead. --Milo H Minderbinder 16:26, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Since you refuse to explain yourself, I am forced to attempt to read your mind. As always I am happy to continue discussing this topic. Let's take further metadiscussion to my talk page, since it's not of direct interest to others. Sdedeo (tips) 16:34, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

seeking input[edit]

I've dropped a line to a few editors who have participated in the Talk:OpenDocument page and asked them to join in the discussion. MHM (for one) seems to believe that a consensus policy should reflect only the consensus on the discussion page, and rather than argue, I'm doing my best to bring in alternate views. Sdedeo (tips) 00:22, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I'd appreciate if you didn't put words in my mouth. Hopefully, guidelines will reflect the views of wikipedia as a whole. I just don't buy into claims of unseen masses backing up a lone editor. If you're going to solicit outside opinion, I'd recommend putting up a notice somewhere like the villiage pump as well to get a variety of opinions.
I'm looking forward to hearing what other editors have to say about this issue. --Milo H Minderbinder 00:32, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
I may have taken them out of your mouth (you have dismissed my presentation of alternate views because they are not posted on this particular page -- let me know if you change your mind), but let's take the metadiscussion to my talk page. Sdedeo (tips) 00:35, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Applying some common sense to WP:COI[edit]

I am moderating a conflict of interest case for the Mediation Cabal. After carefully reviewing WP:COI, there is still the big question mark always left behind after these statements concerning COI: what about the other side? If the non-interested parties are able to edit freely, and the interested parties are not permitted to do so, then how can you ever have a truly neutral point of view article? It would appear that the answer is simply that you can't. WP:COI does not take into account how it inadvertently leads to POV-slanted articles, and the general editing public of Wikipedia (as evidenced by the notation that the WP:COI guideline is generally accepted by the editors of Wikipedia) do not seem to find that matter worrisome.

It would appear that someone, with an obvious and self-admitted COI is subject to the general consensus opinion of the majority of non-interested editors who act as moderators. If they are convinced that that person's edits are COI and impose POV within the article, then those edits should be removed. The fact that other major contributors might have COI (though it would have to be proven through self-statement or repeated actions consistent with having COI) should not even be factored into the decision, since WP:COI appears to trump common sense when it comes to POV. If only common sense were a little more common.

I'm going to try to exercise a little common sense here and say what makes sense to me, at least in our mediation case.

  • The person with COI should be free to edit the articles in question, subject to the same policies to which everyone else is held. Even if the person with COI in our case receives some financial gain, I don't see him as having much, if any, more financial COI than the likely dozens of editors who anonymously edit the article each month.
  • The person with COI or anyone else who edits in a fashion that consistently appears to slant things toward one point of view or another, should be treated as someone likely to have COI, even if that COI is not readily apparent.
  • By treating someone as if they have COI, I mean that their edits are scrutinized a little more carefully than other similar edits (fair, maybe not, but it is the formal guideline).
  • If the consensus of the uninvolved parties (i.e., none of the individuals on either side of a POV struggle) feels that a particular edit, link, or whatever is a POV edit (in either direction), then it should be reverted.
  • Obviously, if either side can show solid, reliable sources backing their edit, then the other POV should be required to provide equally compelling sources or rescind their argument.
  • If both sides present compelling sources, then a carefully crafted statement should be added to the article presenting both sides of the issue neutrally, along with the sources.
  • In those situations, Wikipedia would be acting as a neutral source of information, and the end-reader can make up his or her own mind, because he or she will have the pertinent facts.
  • If such compelling sources cannot be found, but one party knows something to be false, then that is just too bad. Until adequate citable sources are found that are roughly comparable in reliability to the opposing side of the debate, the side without sources will have to suffer in silence and resist the temptation to insert weasel words or otherwise soften the other side's argument.
  • Determination of the reliability of a source should be made, again, by consensus of the uninvolved parties. It should be noted that if a prominent news source (New York or Los Angeles Times; NBC, ABC, or CBS Nightly News, CNN News (not just an opinion talk show on CNN), NPR, or a foreign news source of equal stature) feels comfortable with the reliability of an "expert", then that should be acceptable for Wikipedia, too. True, the expert may be an expert in cults based on personal experiences that are outside the experiences other people have, but that is not for us to decide. The Times or whoever made that decision already, and they are paid professionals with careers on the line based on their judgments. It is not the average Wikipedian's duty to try to second-guess the criteria that otherwise reliable sources use.
  • The preceding being said, if such sources later change their level of trust of an "expert" or appear to change views, then it is certainly worth revisiting. Reliable sources do not always retract earlier statements, but attitudes and levels of trust change over time, and more current assessments by such sources should generally be given greater consideration than ones from the past.

Is all of that found in WP:COI? Not hardly. But it is how I interpret WP:COI making the most sense, especially in the particular case with which I am involved. I also see that several other people above (including one of the parties of this mediation case) have expressed similar concerns. It is also related to the [[5]] matter.

I totally understand and agree with the need for SOME sort of COI policy, but I think the current version encourages the inherent defense of the official view (i.e., the Microsoft view in a Microsoft matter, the Girl Scouts view in a Girl Scouts matter, etc.), because only the "official" view is the one being restricted here. COI is not exclusively present in the edits of people on the payroll of companies or families of those involved. The competitors and enemies of those people also have COI that is not really addressed at all in the current guideline. Also, as pointed out above, the guideline is internally inconsistent, and very confusing (especially when "Ignore all rules" is official policy and WP:COI is only a guideline with questionable amounts of consensus in its current state).

I am also accepting comments on this matter of COI as it relates to the MedCab case. Thanks. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 05:18, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Hi Willscrit -- not sure if you've been following the discussion above, but I've been agitating for changes on this article. Can you make some concrete suggestions for alterations to the article as it stands now? I'd also suggest editing it, or at least changing the status from "guideline" to "policy", but there are some people who have objected edits and reverted. Sdedeo (tips) 06:41, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Willscrlt, the first paragraph says "A Wikipedia conflict of interest is an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia to produce a neutral encyclopedia and the individual agendas or aims of editors who are involved with the subject of an article. This includes promotion of oneself or other individuals, causes, organizations, and companies you work for, and their products, as well as suppression of negative information, and criticism of competitors." Those last three words deal with your concern about "competitors and enemies". Also the guide says "avoid participating in deletion discussions about articles related to your organization or its competitors". The guide does not go into the matter in depth but so far there has no consensus to do that. Perhaps because it is so obvious. Sdedeo, the guideline does not need to be weakened. People with a COI need to add to the talk pages and in general to not edit the article although often the article's other editors will encourage them to do so if it seems appropriate. The key is that that it is not the call of the person with the COI to make. Other editors need to be the ones that make that call. WAS 4.250 19:11, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

WAS, you seem to hold the same view as Milo, that editors with a COI must seek permission from other editors before making edits to the page. This is not contained in the current COI guideline, as far as I can tell -- am I wrong? Sdedeo (tips) 21:27, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

It's not a matter of "editors with a COI must seek permission from other editors". Such a thing would be easy to game. It's more a matter of when to apply WP:IAR to ignore this guideline. See this for an excellent summary of Wikipedia's rules with regard this this situation. WAS 4.250 03:53, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

A guideline that requires more-than-occasional WP:IAR is problematic, I believe. As I posted below, I'm going to bow out of discussion (if you have lingering things for me directly, do drop me a line) but I encourage you to pay attention to other editors on the page who are raising questions about the COI guideline as it currently stands. I think their statements above and below that the guideline is currently inadaquate are correct. Whether or not consensus on the exact text of the current version did exist in the past, there's good reason to believe that this is currently not the case. I'd encourage folks to be less oriented around "defending" the current text and more oriented towards determining and drawing out what is eating at those who drop by. Yours, Sdedeo (tips) 05:06, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

language[edit]

Milo, you changed "strongly discouraged" to "should avoid". Can you explain why you think "strongly discouraged" is bad, given that it is the exact language used in two separate ArbCom cases, Midnight Syndicate and Brahma Kumaris, with unanimous votes? Sdedeo (tips) 21:26, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I think it is weaker and more lenient. ArbCom decisions don't set policy. --Milo H Minderbinder 21:31, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

As I've said above, "should avoid" is being taken to imply "must not", and it is important that this mistake not occur. So we have two choices, one which causes problems, and one which neither I nor many others thinks causes problems. In the interests of breaking deadlock, if you don't want to follow the ArbCom consensus on how to describe this issue, can you suggest a different wording? Sdedeo (tips) 21:39, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

It is correct that AC decisions do not make policy. They give clues as to how policy may be enforced, when it comes to the crunch. Such cases are not the typical business of the site (thank goodness). A fair proportion of the cases involve identifiable COI causing intractable editing conflicts over content; the AC certainly agrees also with the principle of 'avoidance'; and if not that, of editors backing away. Charles Matthews 22:29, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
Sdedeo, I don't think the current wording causes problems. I also don't see a deadlock - you want to make a change but I don't see support for it. --Milo H Minderbinder 22:40, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

It's a deadlock because there are two of us, we disagree, and can't find a solution that satisfies both of us (have to say, you're not exactly trying very hard.) In any case, my discussion with you has been exceedingly frustrating and BP-raising, so I think I will bow out now and let things evolve with without me with what seems to be an influx of editors. Sdedeo (tips) 05:01, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Conflict of Interest versus Potential Conflict of Internest[edit]

I've read this guideline a few times and it seems to be internally inconsistent. Can we possibly distinguish between potential conflicts, where an editor needs to be careful, and actual conflicts, where an editor is actually doing something wrong. It's easy to identify an actual conflict because numerous other editors will say things that are equivalent to, but nicer than, "You're being a Dick." My idea is that editors should generally be free to edit any article, but that they should disclose potential conflicts (e.g. "I used to work for this company.") At that point, the other editors are on notice and can decide whether there is an actual conflict or not. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 03:43, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

It serves no useful purpose to distinguish among actual, potential, and apparent conflicts of interest as the most ethical editors will be asked to please edit the article in spite of their COI because they are helping in a NPOV way while the least ethical will assert there is no COI and assert that the accusation of a possible COI based on the circumstances and content of their edits is a disgraceful incivility/harrassment/stalking/personal_attack. WAS 4.250 13:52, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
Wouldn't it make sense to encourage editors to disclose potential COI, and then give them the benefit of the doubt if they do, and if their edits adhere to NPOV? I want to encourage good behavior. Unfortunately, there is a perceived risk in disclosing a connection to a subject for fear that other editors will say, "Hands off, no editing under any circumstances, no matter how NPOV your edits may seem to be." Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 14:40, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
No. Credibility depends on not merely avoiding actual COI but also on avoiding what could appear to be a COI to reasonable observer. If we care about the credibility of Wikipedia - and I hope we do, otherwise the whole Wikipedia concept is pointless - then we have to say to someone with a COI "Hands off, no editing under any circumstances, no matter how NPOV your edits may seem to be." Raymond Arritt 03:27, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
I disagree, I believe that the NPOV is far more important to Wikipedia than COI. I believe this for two reasons;

First, I believe that the content is more important than a "potential conflict of interest". I believe that credibility is gained through the quality of the product. Secondly Wikipedia believes that NPOV is important enough to consider it "Official Policy" whilst COI is a guideline. --22:51, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Doc0tis

Wikipedia can survive with editors who are real life people in the real world, no matter what you say. Real life people have real life interests, which they are knowledgeable about. If you say their knowledge disqualifies them then you omit the possibility that wikipedia could infact gain a reputation for its correctness. Pretending that a conflict does not exist because it has not been disclosed is a new theory i must say, but it doesn't sound like one that will last. Ansell 09:58, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

A possible solution[edit]

  • After reading through all the back-and-forth about this, I think I see the problem. I agree that some parts of the article seem confusing and somewhat contradictory. It seems to me that everything that really needs to be said on this topic is said by the time the reader gets down to the table of contents. Everything under the TOC has WP:CREEP'ed in and WP:KISS'ed the legibility goodbye. By referring the reader of this guideline to WP:NPOV and WP:AUTO, together with a common sense application of WP:IAR and WP:COMMON SENSE (yes, I'm being redundant here), I don't think we really need the rest of the article in the guideline. I'm not advocating that we delete the whole thing altogether, but I think it should be moved to a separate essay, with a link from WP:COI stating something along the lines of "Here are some examples of what a significant portion of the Wikipedia community views as a COI", and then leave it at that.
  • That said, I'd like to propose that the following text be added to the "Action" box (and yes, I think it should be in ALL CAPS, or maybe bold, to make it further stick out):
WHEN EDITING, EDITORS WITH A REAL OR PERCEIVED CONFLICT OF INTEREST MUST REVEAL THAT INFORMATION ON THEIR USER:TALK PAGE, AS WELL AS BRINGING IT UP IN ALL DISCUSSIONS RELATED TO THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
  • I hope these edits will be acceptable to all, but if not, please DON'T BITE ME! Thanks! --Aervanath 05:11, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
By the way, I just realized how much the wikilinks in my first paragraph hurt the legibility. I hope my point is still clear. If not, I will be happy to re-clarify. --Aervanath 05:17, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
There are significant problems with requiring public disclosure of personal information. Wikipedia must let the disclosure of COI be a matter of 1) something that is apparent due to the nature and content of the edits and 2) a choice available to the editor themself. WAS 4.250 13:44, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree that the first part is the most important, and the following sections are very secondary (and probably way overwritten). I don't know if moving them to an essay would be appropriate, maybe an appropriately named subpage? Or keep them and just streamline. I don't think insisting that editors must disclose COI is practical, but we certainly could encourage it. --Milo H Minderbinder 14:53, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree that requiring disclosure would be heavy handed. Instead, can we say that if an editor discloses a possible COI, other editors should assume good faith and not use that as an excuse to discourage participation. It takes a certain amount of courage to disclose. When somebody does, we should assume good faith. I'd like to see that in the guideline. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 14:43, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Proposed new guideline[edit]

With an open mind, please review User:Willscrlt/COI, which is a first draft proposal of a rewrite of the current WP:COI guideline. I think it's pretty fair and equitable, and avoids the one-sided feel of the current WP:COI guideline. It also takes into account COI in non-human, non-corporate matters, such as scientific theories, specific products or services, etc.

Read it initially without trying to compare it with the current version. Instead, try to read it as if it is the first and only guideline that exists on this topic. Then feel free to compare the two after that. If you are familiar with specific COI cases (ArbCom, MedCab, etc.), think about how the cases might have progressed with the proposed policy in place. Would things have gone more smoothly or less? I know my style of writing tends to be a little formal (and sometimes a bit difficult for non-native speakers of English to comprehend), but aside from the tone, which set of policies are the easiest to grasp and apply clearly in a variety of situations?

I like the idea above of linking to a separate essay or something that could go more in-depth as to specific circumstances of COI (essentially the bottom half of the current WP:COI). I will be happy to take a whack at knocking something like that out, if others express interest. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 14:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

I looked at it and found several major problems. The most positive thing I can say is that if you work at it, you might have an interesting essay. The only specific problem I'm going to address right now is that your definition of COI is totally off. WAS 4.250 16:43, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
  • My definition of conflict of interest is straight out of the dictionary. My definition of Wikipedia conflict of interest does vary quite a bit from the current wording, but that is because I think the current wording is woefully one-sided and incomplete. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 23:23, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
Big problems. One point is that there is no way we are officially going to 'advise' people to explain their private interests here. Any 'declaration of interest' should be entirely up to editors, as is any other revealing of personal details. Charles Matthews 16:51, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
  • The problem with that is that the person who voluntarily discloses his or her interest is essentially then banned from editing the article (certainly he/she can make suggestions that may be completely disregarded simply because he/she has "interest"), yet someone who has been deceitful (or at least clandestine) and not revealed a similar interest is free to edit without prejudice. It is very frustrating to those who do the "right thing" to be penalized, and those who do not do so, to be rewarded. And that is how the current version of WP:COI currently reads -- assuming that all parties with COI do not voluntarily refrain from editing to begin with. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 23:23, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
Don't talk in terms of 'bans'. That's fundamentally wrong for wiki editing, which is a system of permissions. No 'permission' to edit is withdrawn. Those who edit from a false position of concealed COI are actually far worse off than those who have declared an interest, and who rightly can complain if no notice is taken if they suggest factual corrections. In the short term concealing a COI may look good as a strategy; in the longer term it is asking for trouble and a loss of reputation. What is really important is to stop people with a conflict of interest and with little experience of WP diving into editing an article, and getting into edit wars they can't handle. That really benefits no one. Charles Matthews 16:43, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. So can we re-write this guideline to make it clear that an editor who (1) declares an interest, and (2) has enough knowledge, experience and self-possession to maintain NPOV is welcome to continue contributing. This "safe harbor" is the de facto standard, but this isn't what the guideline says. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 04:29, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Admitting a COI is a reason to not edit, not a reason to be given a free pass to edit. WAS 4.250 04:39, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
  • In real life as well as in Wiki-life, there are many people who are perfectly capable of making rational, neutral decisions (edits to articles on Wikipedia) even with a strong interest in the subject. A Conflict of Interest really kicks in when a person with interest cannot interact with the article and/or other editors in a way that is in line with all of Wikipedia's various policies and guidelines concerning editing. To put it another way, Jane Doe, a lead security programmer for Microsoft, may be perfectly capable of dispassionately editing an article on antivirus software. She certainly would have a strong interest in the topic, as well as a lot of specialized knowledge, and probably some financial interest as well. However, Jane might be a very logical and fair minded person. She may "eat the dog food" of the company (to use an industry term for using a company's own products), but that does not necessarily mean that she can't impartially edit an article on that topic. So long as she makes her interests clear, and then edits in a way above reproach, then I do not see why should should be treated as a second-class citizen and only be permitted to make comments from the peanut gallery, when her edits might be very insightful, and with her inside knowledge, have links to lots of third-party corroborating information that fully verifies her statements.
  • The problem is that most people are not like Jane. Most people may start out editing hoping to be able to have a thick enough editing skin to "put up with" other views, but many ultimately cannot resist the forbidden fruit. At those times, the other editors should speak up, point out the indiscretion, and give the editor a warning that he has developed an apparent COI, and thus he should refrain from editing the article directly. This policy should back up that course of action. Later, once tempers have cooled, and reason has prevailed, the editor should once again be able to resume editing the article directly, assuming he continues to act in an appropriate manner. That is what I attempted to describe in the "banning" portions of my proposal. Not banning from Wikipedia, and not formal actions (goodness knows we don't need more Wikilawyering opportunities). Just pointing out the apparent COI and requesting the user to refrain from editing directly until the rest of the editing community feels confident the matter has been resolved amicably, and the editor will behave again. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:00, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
I believe you haven't read what I wrote carefully. Admitting an interest is not the same as admitting a COI. If I am employed in a small industry, let's say Ferrochromium production, I might declare an interest if I am editing an article on Donskoi Gok (one of the largest Chrome mines in the world). However, if my edits are good and NPOV, then de facto there's no conflict. An extreme counter example: if I work for a senator, and he tells me to go trash an opponent via Wikipedia, that's a clear COI. I think violation of NPOV is a necessary element of COI. You can even edit your own Wikipedia page (if you have one) to fix spelling, grammar, or remove vandalism or slander. Disclosure of an interest (one that may NOT rise to the level of COI) is a way to help the community scrutinize the edits a bit more. Disclosure makes sense and we want to encourage it. I think that punishing people who disclose will drive them underground and hurt the project. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 05:02, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Your examples make perfect sense, and are a good compromise between relegating honest users to talk pages and permitting free-for-all editing with blatant POV edits based on COI. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:00, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Asking people with a possible COI to use the talk page is useful and preventative of problems and is in no way a punishment. WAS 4.250 05:55, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
  • And segregating people of different skin colors to different parts of the bus is in no way a punishment either, right? By your same logic, all people who are honest about their interest should not find being relegated to talk pages a comforting alternative to editing directly. After all, it's not a punishment, but it's for their own good. You also talk about it being a good way of preventing problems before they happen, which is a policy of presumed guilt instead of presumed innocence. Instead of waiting to see if an editor is mature enough to edit in a productive and positive manner, regardless of interest, it is better to avoid the possibility of problems entirely, and just shunt them off to the talk page. Somehow, that's not what I envision when I read "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit." WP:COI in its current version is broken or at least bent badly out of proper shape. There are several people here who are pointing that out. Sadly, there are other people who cannot or will not see the truth in that statement. I'm in no way saying that my proposal fixes it (it likely would create new problems, based on the feedback I've received), but please do not stonewall attempts at fixing the guideline. Let us work together to develop some creative and inspired solutions that fix WP:COI and remove the unfairness that exists in it currently. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:00, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

clarification needed[edit]

I edit a fair amount on the various articles related to Freemasonry. The topic is a somewhat controversial one as there are religious groups who ardently oppose the fraternity, conspiracy theorists who believe that the fraternity is behind all sorts of plots, and others who want the articles to reflect their own particular Anti-Masonic POV. This often leads to heated debate between Masons and Anti-Masons over content. Inevitably, someone on the Anti side point's to this guideline and says that Masons should not edit articles about Masonry because of COI. So I though I would come here and get the opinion of those who wrote the guideline... are editors who identify themselves as Freemasons (and I suppose we should also include editors who are Freemasons but don't identify themselves as such) barred from editing such articles due to a COI? If so, the articles will definitely be one sided in their POV. To me this would be like saying that Christians can not edit articles on Christianity, or like saying Physicists can not edit articles on physics. Blueboar 18:23, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

You are probably referring to Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Close_relationships. In that context, fervent Anti-Masonic editors could be as conflicted as fervent Masonic editors. All boils down to their ability to work within our content policies and their intent. If their intent is to create a good, solid, NPOV article, it should be no problem. If their intent is to assert one POV over the other with an obvious lack of care for encyclopedic content, then COI could kick-in regardless of which side of the dispute they edit from. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 18:38, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
Thanks, that matches my understanding of the guideline (both literal and intent), but I thought I would make sure. Blueboar 21:30, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
That is my understanding, Blueboar. Others may or may not have the same understanding. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 21:31, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Exactly. But let me add that "intent" is all about what is apparent from the edits and the nature of the edits as judged by OTHER PEOPLE. We don't stand in the way of excellent unbiased edits from people who say they have a COI. We don't shrink from blocking edits that we believe are biased due to a COI regardless of claims of non-COI. WAS 4.250 21:40, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
That, WAS, is the issue that has been raised by various people over the life of this guideline. If all edits are assessed on their merits, what is the value of WP:COI, then? (don't get me wrong, I believe that the guideline is needed, just pointing out what the contention seems to be). ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 01:40, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

For something as widespread as Freemasonry, it doesn't bother me very much if a Freemason is editing the article. Same comment about religions with a wide following, political parties with mass participation and so on. When the scope of an article is narrower, you are likely to see more problems with COI. At the very sharp end you get people editing the article on themselves, where the issues are probably most acute (in cases of contention). Of course the 'activism' argument also has to be looked at. Charles Matthews 15:43, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

I do not understand the distinction you made. Why would it would be different for a person belonging to the Republican Party, and that is a frequent poster to the Free Republic, than for a person belonging to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization? Do Wikipedia editors need now to make such value judgments about what is mainstream and what is not? That is a road paved with more problems than this guideline is attempting to address. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:52, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
On a simple model, a mass movement will have some sort of 'centre', and the problems come mainly with those close to the centre editing. E.g. we have always believed that Catholics can edit about the Pope, and the issue of COI is more like could a Vatican employee edit about the Pope. The smaller the group you are talking about, in general terms, the closer people who belong to it are to the centre, the insiders, the core activists, the promoters, however you want to characterise those whose first thought in the day is what to do about it all. Charles Matthews 10:31, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

COI Guidelines Don't Promote NPOV Discussions Strongly Enough[edit]

Before I make my contribution to this discussion below, I freely admit that I teach collaborative processes for the company I work for and have routinely held Wikipedia up as a "Best In Class" collaborative environment. That may or may not be a COI related to any contribution I make to improving Wikipedia guidelines.

I was recently involved in a COI skrimish, which I think has or is resolving itself fairly and amicably. The particular COI (although it was, in my opinion, neither hidden nor disguised) was there and being relatively new to Wikipedia, I just didn't see it soon enough, despite reqularly reviewing guidelines and other articles as we all are encouraged to do. It was my fault and am thankful that is was raised before I did more damage. What truely surprised me however, being a student of collaborative practices, was the community reaction to the COI issue. Almost immediately, NPOV of any article involved was not up for discussion. It very rapidly became--"Its all about the contributor, not the contribution." Any attempt on my part to engage in good faith or NPOV related questions were for the most part dismissed or ignored. I quickly became intimidated, especially when the comments in [6]) were raised and directed at me. It became patently evident that any discussion of NPOV would be secondary to discrediting the contributor and ultimately suppressing the contributions. That's the biggest problem with COI in the first place--it's an easy and effective tactic to encourage and force suppression of ideas, regardless of motive. We see it all the time in courtrooms, politics, media, etc. The only real defense against becoming involved in a COI issue in my view is:

  • 1) completely and unequivocally disclosing your interests, potential and real conflicts of interest up front before you make any contribution so your motives are a bit clearer.
  • 2) Participating in a community, whose norms it is to completely and unequivocally defend and discuss contributions on the basis of NPOV, not the contributor or their percieved motives.

I think the WP:COI guidelines need to reflect that and the Wikipedia community should operate that way. The ideal guidelines would allow Thomas Edison to contribute NPOV material to articles on the light bulb and Henry Ford on the Model-T. Unfortunately, if they were alive today, the COI guidelines would discourage them from doing so as I am sure someone would raise a COI issue regardless of the NPOV of their contributions.--Mike Cline 00:45, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Excuse my placement of this topic, I did not realize I had jumped in front of the previous topic!--Mike Cline 01:02, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
You may be interested to know that the old editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica sought out eminent individuals to write articles (or at least to sign articles written by their assistants). So Henry Ford wrote the article on "Assembly lines". Ferdinand Foch wrote the article on "Armies". Cecil B. DeMille wrote the article on "Motion picture production". However Wikipedia works on a different model. Our model requires that all material be neutral and verifiable. We don't allow experts to write articles using only their personal knowledge as a source. We don't allow them to give their personal perspective on a topic. In theory, a rational person should be able to write a neutral, verifaible article on any topic, even themselves. In practice, it is almost impossible to do so. Once we've found that an editor is not editing neutrally in his field of interest, then other editors must become involved to handle the problem. Edits which otherwise would have been assumed to have been made in good faith are viewed more critically. Many times these conflicts arise even with folks who have the best of intentions, and who don't realize Wikipedia's standards. This guideline is a work in progress, like the rest of Wikipedia. -Will Beback · · 01:45, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
  • "We don't allow experts to write articles using only their personal knowledge as a source." Unless they are published experts on a subject, and the publication is considered a reliable source, in which case they should be able to quote themselves (asimilar to the case with Biographies of Living People).
  • I completely agree with Mike's statement that all too often it becomes a case of, "Its all about the contributor, not the contribution." WP:COI should focus on the desired outcome: developing a verifiable and NPOV encyclopedia. The current (or maybe a few revisions ago) version of WP:COI, instead, focused on the editor. It assumes "incompetent faith" on the part of every editor who has interest in an article's topic. The presumption (one echoed by Will Beback above) is that most editors with interest in a subject are unable to edit neutrally. I've only actively edited here for a little over two months, and in a relatively small topical area of Wikipedia. Perhaps, on a larger scale, Will Beback, WAS, and others strongly in favor of the current version are right, and a lot of the problems with editing are because people can't edit neutrally if they have much interest in a topic. I just think that WP:COI is too focused on disqualifying the editor from active participation and not focused enough on stressing the important thing is that all edits should support the five pillars, and that people with COI tend to interfere with those principles unless they are very conscientious in their editing and honest in their representation of the facts around the matter. Likewise, the guideline should also remind other editors to remember to AGF and work to coach problematic editors. WP:NPOV or another policy should take care of any actual editing disputes that arise if this guideline is ignored. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:42, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
I disagree with your assertion that WP:COI assumes that most editors with COI's are incapable of editing neutrally. That's like saying that I shouldn't lock my front door because if I do so, that shows that I believe that most people walking past my house will come in and steal things if I don't.
I agree with the guideline, and the idea is that if you have a COI, you're not supposed to edit the article at all. You're not supposed to try to edit it neutrally, even if you're quite capable of doing so. But there's no reason why you can't present material on the talk page. You could even present an entire copy of the article, edited and fixed up just the way you think it ought to be, so other users just have to copy your version onto the article space.
When the other encyclopedias hired eminent people to write articles, I think there was also an editor involved, who could reject the articles or change them or ask the writers to change them if they were blatantly inappropriate in some way. Maybe they didn't tend to change the articles written by eminent people; I don't know; but I think they had that power. That's like eminent people putting material on Wikipedia talk pages and having it accepted and copied in word-for-word by other Wikipedia users. Nothing wrong with that, I think. --Coppertwig 00:54, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

COI and AfD Guidelines Do Not Provide Level Playing Field For NPOV[edit]

Just looking at one pair of statements in the current WP:COI and WP:AFD guidelines show how COI can be used very effectively to suppress NPOV discussions of any article.

In WP:COI it says: avoid participating in deletion discussions about articles related to your organization or its competitors

In WP:AFD it contains the statement: A five-day public debate and discussion on the merits of the article and its best treatment. Applicable to all articles where deletion is unsure, seriously contested, or may need debate, and all borderline or controversial cases.

One only needs to raise a COI issue, force the article into the deletion category and the current guidelines eliminates any contribution by interested parties. In fact, the phrase "articles related" is so vague that COI can be raised easily with little merit. Once raised however, getting the article into the deletion process is easier because the the contributor and other interested parties with real or percieved COIs have been eliminated from any debate. The phrase "public debate and discussion" and "seriously contested" in the AFD guidelines may sound collaborative, but are not given the COI guidelines because the COI guidelines eliminate some of those in the public who might want to discuss, debate and contest the merits and deletion with facts, references and clarifications. This effectively suppresses any real debate of the NPOV of the article.--Mike Cline 12:57, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

If an article goes to AfD, involved parties shouldn't participate in the AfD discussion, it doesn't mean they can't still make comments on the article talk page. If people are biased against a company, they're probably more likely to keep an article and leave in negative information about the company. Are you aware of any cases where articles were deleted purely based on POV? Whether an article exists certainly shouldn't be decided by editors with COI, as far as I'm concerned, that's potentially worse than editing an article. --Milo H Minderbinder 14:45, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Milo, my concern may actually be one of tactics, it is not that an involved party decides on the deletion, but merely contributes to the body of information used to evaluate the deletion decision. If indeed an involved party can freely, and without being labeled COI, identify all the relevant information neccessary to evaluate an article's notability, NPOV, etc. on article's discussion page before making recomendations to keep or delete the article AND those commenting on the AfD page have in good faith reviewed and continue to review all that relevant information on the discussion page, then "public debate and discussion on the merits of the article" has been allowed. However, should COI guidelines discourage even the hint of discussion by involved parties on the disscussion page or anywhere else for COI or any other reason and that deletion decision makers don't refer or review the articles discussion page during the deletion process, then the real public debate is stifled. It is really just too easy for someone involved in an AfD discussion to say "I can't find anything" relevant to this article, when they don't know where or how to look for it. They take one shot at it and that's it. The presence of a negative does not prove the positive. I hope you see my point.--Mike Cline 16:17, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I find it unlikely that in the case of an AfD, none of the editors participating, and no editor supporting keeping would either point to the talk page, or copy relevant information either into the article itself or the AfD discussion. This seems like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist - can you provide an example of this hypothetical problem actually happening? --Milo H Minderbinder 16:46, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Milo, I must admit that I do not, in the least, understand what you just said. 1) DO or DO NOT editors, mediators and senior contributors participating in an AfD discussion review and refer to information on the disscusion pages of the articles under consideration? 2) If they do, is it evaluated from an NPOV perspective regardless of who contributed it?--Mike Cline 16:56, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Editors should do both. And if relevant info is posted on the article talk page, I think it's likely that an "uninvolved" editor will either point it out on the AfD or copy it there (or put it in the article if it's appropriate). I'd be more concerned about the hypothetical "COI party puts crucial info on the talk page but nobody at AfD notices" situation with an example showing it exists. --Milo H Minderbinder 17:28, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Milo, thanks I appreaciate your thoughts on this.--Mike Cline 21:25, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

Interest versus Conflicts of Interest[edit]

The fundamental problem with the guideline is that it fails to distinguish between an interest which may fall below the level of COI, and actual COI. Actual COI requires a violation of NPOV. We want people to disclose interests so the community can decide if there is COI. If the community finds COI, then the polite editor will withdraw and go work on other things. The guideline is intentionally vague about what is a COI and what isn't. The thoughtful editor wants to disclose to help others decide. We must encourage that, rather than punish. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 05:09, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

We want NPOV. The COI guideline helps with this. I have no desire to encourage people to "disclose interests so the community can decide if there is COI." The fundamental problem is not with NPOV editors with a COI (cause we can encourage them to edit anyway) but with biased editing that reflects a COI. WAS 4.250 05:50, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the first part of Jehochman's comment. Interest does not automatically result in conflict of interest. However, I also agree with WAS that having the community decide COI based on disclosure of interest. The advantage of disclosure is that it helps other editors tell where you are coming from in your editing patterns. Someone who works in an animal control shelter may have a very different view on spaying and neutering pets than someone in a breeder, or someone in an animal rights organization. All three have an interest in the topic, but any, all, or none of those individuals might have a COI with the article. It depends on how the person actually edits. If the breeder starts posting information that is weakly POV, another editor might notice the disclosure, and politely mention that POV is creeping into his/her edits. The breeder, if contentious about his/her editing, will either tone down the POV, maybe running proposed edits by the other editors to see if the POV has been eliminated, or will refrain from editing the article period. If the shelter worker did not disclose his/her interest, other editors might not pick up on the POV as quickly, and pretty soon, edit wars could break out. The difference is that without the disclosure, the other editors just assume that this is an opinionated person, not someone who is likely to have a COI. The breeder, on the other hand, by indicating his/her interest, shows that he/she is likely to be receptive to such gentle correction.
I am a computer consultant by trade and training. I do not edit in the computer topics largely because of this policy. I think that Wikipedia is losing out on a good editor on the topic for that reason. I am particularly good at translating "geek" to "common English", which several of these articles could certainly use. I often tell my clients that "I have no religious convictions when it comes to brands or platforms of computers." (For one thing, our company sells practically every brand out there, so there's no financial reason for us to do anything other than find the best match for a particular client, and ignore the brand.) However, the current version of WP:COI effectively bars me from any editing related to a topic that is both my passion as a 25-year hobbiest and a 19-year computer professional. Instead, I edit food and drink articles (which I probably also should not, since I do occasionally eat and drink, thus I have interest in those subjects, too).
Getting back to reality, I totally understand why I should not edit my own company's article (actually, it doesn't have an article yet). The logic that I might be the only one with enough in-depth knowledge of my company to accurately edit its entry is actually a pretty strong indication that my interest is beyond that of simple interest and moves into COI. Chances are, it also indicates that my company is not nearly notable enough to deserve an article on Wikipedia yet, either. The feeling in my gut as I type that statement is another clear indication that I have COI on the topic of my company. :-) On the other hand, I do not feel that I am so close to most other computer companies, even ones that with which I regularly do business (vendors), that I could not write neutrally about them. Customers, on the other hand, I would have more of a conflict. Partly, it's a matter of scale. I'm a little fish compared to my big fish vendors, but with clients, we are often the bigger fish, so it's a lot harder to be neutral about them.
Does WP:COI really address any of those distinctions? If it does, it doesn't do a very good job of it. You seem to basically be given two options: don't edit any article if you have interest in it (because people with interest automatically have COI and cannot edit neutrally), or lie and pretend you don't have interest, and then edit away (and, by the way, it might be a good idea to try to remember NPOV). The policy is not rational. The policy encourages deceit. The policy needs fixing. I have offered one possible revision. Other people should try to do the same. We should discuss the good of each proposal (so far, I've pretty much only heard negative comments, and I KNOW that not every part of it could be bad). Then, combine all the various good parts together, along with the good of the current version, and make a better policy. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:29, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
  • I agree with you whole heartedly, even if we might disagree on some details of implementation or wording. I am really flexible about the details. My objective is that we revise the policy to make clear that there is a big gray area, and that the way to deal with this gray area is for editors to disclose, and for others to assume good faith, and employ civility when confronting an editor who has crossed the line from interest to COI. You certainly should be able to edit the computer articles even though you work in this sphere. My person situation is that I am a marketing consultant, and I work in many different spheres. Perhaps 75% of Wikipedia would be off limits to me under a strict interpretation of the guideline. In spite of this, I have a good reputation as an editor, and have helped clear up COI problems in the SEO articles, for instance. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 15:13, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

We all agree we should delete the sentence in the guideline that says "You may not edit any article you have an interest in." Oh wait. There is no such sentence. Are you trolling? Are you attacking strawmen? Do you really misunderstand this guideline that badly? WAS 4.250 20:29, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

  • Yup, and here's the sentence that was there, up until a few days ago: "A Wikipedia conflict of interest is an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia...and...aims of editors who are involved with the subject of an article." (Emphasis added to involved.) No, I am not trolling. Sorry if I come off as an ignorant country bumpkin. The guideline has been improved, and this bumpkin is happy. We should continue working to improve the guideline so all NPOV editors feel welcome. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 00:57, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Please justify the statement "Actual COI requires a violation of NPOV." That is certainly a novel interpretation of the meaning of a conflict of interest. COI is COI; NPOV is NPOV. The statement "actual COI requires a violation of NPOV" implies that COI is a non-issue; all we care about is NPOV. Raymond Arritt 03:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

  • When people violate NPOV, the possible reasons include COI, ignorance, carelessness, and maybe some others. If somebody is ignorant or careless, we correct the error, explain how to do better, and invite them to continue editing the article. If somebody has COI, then we ask them to refrain from editing the article further, because they have demonstrated that their personal interests are in conflict with Wikipedia's interests. That's the difference. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 04:33, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. That's clearer, but I'm still having a hard time getting from there to "actual COI requires a violation of NPOV". Raymond Arritt 04:42, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Sorry, in law, there's a difference between an actual conflict of interest, and a potential conflict of interest. My feeling is that in the case of Wikipedia, an actual conflict only occurs when somebody acts on their evil impulses. The desires to self-promote via Wikipedia, or spin an article for a client, is just a potential conflict of interest. I guess I am willing to assume good faith for all editors. Until you make a bad edit, we aren't going to chastise you for what you may be going on inside your head. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 05:43, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
  • I wouldn't classify it as an "evil" impulse (for one things, that assumes bad faith). To me, any person with extensive experience, knowledge of, or involvement in the topic has considerable interest. Editing an article on the topic is not necessarily a conflict of interest, unless the article is edited in a way that slants the article away from neutral (unlike slanting a skewed article back to neutral, which is a good thing), the editor introduces errors (including errors of omission and misleading or subjective information), skews an article in favor of or against any party (which, in addition to people and companies, also could include scientific theories or philosophical views) in which the editor has an interest. In those cases, an actual conflict of interest has occurred. It may be an unintentional conflict (or even an unconscious one). Once such action is brought to the attention of such an editor, along with a better worded version of WP:COI, he or she should understand and should avoid making similar edits in the future. That could take the form of direct edits that are non-conflicted, or by discussing it on the talk page as WP:COI currently suggests. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 11:26, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
  • First, Wikipedia is not a court of law and does not apply the same standards, thank goodness (the term "wikilawyering" is considered perjorative). For the protection of Wikipedia's real and perceived impartiality, conflict of interest occurs at the moment money changes hands or is offered in return for edits. Wikipedia's credibility already is taking hits because anyone can edit it; imagine how much more it will be damaged if that's followed up with "...and they say it's OK to hire someone to edit articles for your company." Raymond Arritt 22:28, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Strawman argument. I never said Wikipedia was a court of law, and if wikilawyering is perjorative, I'd appreciate if you wouldn't insinuate that I was doing that, thank you very much (GRIN!). A conflict of interest occurs when an editor's interests conflict with Wikipedia's interests. If somebody gives me, say 1 million dollars, to edit an article and make it the best damn encyclopedia article that ever was, that wouldn't be a conflict, would it? If so, why? Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 22:59, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Apologies if I took your reference to the definition "in law" the wrong way, you're quite welcome (don't hire a wikilawyer to sue me for wikidefamation, please...). My view is that if the instructions were as broad as in your example, and the individual was as anonymous, then there would be no conflict. On the other hand if (say) General Motors gave you $1M and told you to write the best damn article on GM that ever was, there would be a conflict -- even if they didn't explicitly instruct you to make the article favorable to GM. Raymond Arritt 01:29, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

(reset indent)

Well, maybe it fails to distinguish between an interest which may fall below the level of COI, and actual COI. But for editors, they should 'distinguish' in that way, for themselves. It is exactly for people who aren't sure how conflicted they really are that this guideline (with its level of detail) may be of benefit. How close is too close? Better to find out by reading this, than by getting into an edit war and finding that five minutes' work has trashed your reputation here. A level of interest 'below threshold', as one thinks, can trigger regrettable edits, under the pressure of other editors, more easily than people's self-esteem and view of themselves as level-headed might suggest. Charles Matthews 16:05, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

--Mike Cline 01:29, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

Much happier[edit]

I noticed that quite a few edits (many of them subtle) have taken place since I entered this discussion. I think that the overall tone and intent of the guideline is much more clear and workable now. :-)

The main areas that I still do not see being addressed are: (1) COI relating to philosophical, ideological, and/or theological interests (most likely to occur in the scientific community and the philosophy/religion areas), (2) it should be the proximity to control of an organization, rather than just affiliation with an organization that is important, and (3) what to do about people who are published experts in their field who come to Wikipedia to contribute.

Some people strongly believe in string theory, evolution, or that the earth is round. There are other people who strongly believe that string theory is bunk, God created everything, or that the earth is flat. I'm not talking about "idle banter around the water cooler" types of beliefs, but rabid, all-consuming, to-the-marrow beliefs that do not tolerate opposing views. While such people are nearly certain to run afoul of WP:NPOV sooner or later, there is really little if anything in WP:COI that addresses such non-tangible interests as being part of COI. This can also be an issue with unproven scientific studies (paid cold fusion researchers and those who think it's a pseudo science at best), philosophy matters that can never be proven, and matters of religion (a Fundamentalist Christian lay person and an Orthodox Jew editing articles on Christ).

Earlier it was mentioned that active Freemasons who edit Masonic articles are not believed to be in conflict with WP:COI, basically because it's such a large and diverse field with many viewpoints. The same reasoning would also likely permit the Christian and the Jew to edit the articles on Christ without worrying about WP:COI. Yet, entry-level employees of Microsoft or some other huge company are considered to be in conflict only because they receive a paycheck from that company. Masons at a high level in the organization, and paid ministers and rabbis, are much more likely to have a strong COI than a wage-earner at a huge company. I think it is more to do with the proximity to the control of the organization that affects COI. A marketing firm hired by Microsoft actually has a much closer proximity to the control of Microsoft (who tells them exactly what to do and say) than a mailroom employee, yet both are considered equals under WP:COI. And people with much stronger COI are ignored.

For the final point, consider the case of a university professor/researcher into quantum widget particles (a fictitious example) with 25+ years in the field, dozens of peer reviewed articles, 3 text books, and 4 general books on the topic, swings through Wikipedia and sees obvious problems with the articles related to quantum widget particles. This person has strong interest in the topic, receives all of his project's funding related to the topic, and his very livelihood is based on his intimate familiarity with the topic. The person obviously has strong interests. Yet, he's also the recognized foremost expert in quantum widget particles. So, should this expert be advised to not contribute directly to the article? Also, since the majority of the reliable source material out there is his own writings, is there a problem with him using himself as a source for things he states (I'm guessing not, so long as the information is in published form).

Similar situation, but instead of being the foremost expert in quantum widget particles, the person is one of several people involved in the field and has written a book, is a regular and respected contributor to a scientific blog, and an occasional contributor to an industry trade publication. In short, the people who have read his work probably respect it, because his knowledge is good, but he's not well known outside the circle of people interested in the topic. Like the first expert, his livelihood is based on quantum widget particles. So, should this expert be advised to not contribute directly to the article? Also, what about sourcing things with his own writings? The information is in published form, but the reach of those publications is smaller.

I think the entire thing could be made better simply by inserting some wording where COI is described and illustrated, to add wording that mentions "or any theory, belief, or attitude that limits your ability to edit an article objectively and in a neutral manner."

When it all comes down to it, the "ability to edit an article objectively and in a neutral manner" is what WP:COI is all about. Anything that interferes with that, is a conflict of interest. There's your nutshell description as I see it. --Willscrlt (Talk·Cntrb) 01:18, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

I would second the above comments and add the following. If quantum widget particles were not already an article, it is very unlikely that it would ever become one if the expert didn't create it. Joe Editor is unlikely to create an article on some esoteric but notable subject that Joe Editor knows nothing about. However, given the current COI guidelines, it is very likely that when the expert creates the article, it would be immediately and un-equivocally challenged on the basis of COI, not NPOV or notability.--Mike Cline 01:29, 10 February 2007 (UTC)
  • I am glad you are happier because I made some of those subtle edits. Much of the problem was unclear wording. I don't think I changed the meaning or intention at all.
I like the "or any theory, belief, or attitude that limits your ability to edit an article objectively and in a neutral manner" suggestion. This goes right to the heart of the matter. An editors interest has to be so strong that they can't edit neutrally. This will always be a judgment call.
I disagree with the bit about the marketing firm being too close to edit neutrally. Marketing firms who want to buy E&O insurance coverage have to prove independence from clients. That means they typicall can't take more than ~15% of their business from any one source. Otherwise, the client can potentially pressure them to do stupid things like write false or slanderous stuff (not necessarily in Wikipedia, but through any media). An employee who receives 100% of their income from a single source is more easily pressured.
Sometimes corporate interests and Wikipedia's interests can be aligned. For instance, Google has trouble finding enough qualified Computer Scientists. In order to get more people involved in the field, Google might decide that it would be in their interest to edit Wikipedia's CS articles (there are many) to improve quality. Without even mentioning themselves, simply improving the public information available about CS via Wikipedia would probably benefit Google. More people learning about CS and getting interested in the topic increases the supply of talent. I delete tons of self-serving linkspam, so I share your annoyance with COI edits, but I can also see many situations where interests don't necessarily lead to conflicts. Wikipedia needs to be inclusive and work with people who may be disruptive in order to educate them. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 05:02, 10 February 2007 (UTC)
That's fine, as long as none of the articles mention Google or its products, or any of Google's competitors and their products. Under your scenario it would be OK for Google-sponsored editors to work on general articles related to CS; but they should not work on articles related to search engines. Raymond Arritt 13:44, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

If someone who has COI writes NPOV, is there an issue?[edit]

I mean, Jimbo himself has broken this rule time and time again, even though he said it was bad to do so. Who cares if they do break it as long as they present whatever they have in a neutral and verified manner? Just H 02:19, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

  • I think your assumptions contradict each other. If somebody edits with true NPOV, then there is no COI. The problem is subtle NPOV violation that might go undetected when an editor has COI. My personal feeling is that editors with an interest should disclose, thus aiding other editors in identifying any NPOV problems. Until there is an NPOV issue, I think editors should be free to edit. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 09:29, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
The example of Wales points to the problem. Many editors with a COI will insist that, even if they endorse the principle, they themselves are capable of NPOV editing. When that is really true it's unlikely that other editors will complain. The problems usually arise when the COI editor thinks he's being NPOV and the other editors disagree. In those cases, as this guideline suggests, it's best if the COI editor accepts the presumption of inability to make future NPOV edits and relies on indirect input instead. -Will Beback · · 11:02, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Exactly right. NPOV and COI isn't decided by the editor himself. The other editors are the ones who decide. I think this guideline should include the following principles:
  • NPOV edits are always welcome.
  • If you are close to a subject and want to ensure NPOV, we encourage you to disclose your connection so others can check your edits.
  • Please respect the opinions of other editors. If they suggest you have an POV issue, please refrain from further editing.
  • If an editor discloses a connection, please be polite if you see a POV problem, and try to help them make the desired edits while maintaining NPOV. We want to encourage disclosure, rather than driving COI underground.
Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 14:55, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Some tweaks to the above: (1) Delete "and want to ensure NPOV" - this is an "absolute and non-negotiable" principle of Wikipedia (quoth Jimmy Wales), and is not at the discretion of any editor. (2) I'm concerned about the suggestion that someone who is accused by others of having a POV issue should refrain from further editing. Such accusations are very, very commonly made in bad faith by those who are pushing their own POV (creationists, global warming denialists, etc) as a way of browbeating others who are adding objective information. Raymond Arritt 17:05, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

(undent) While I don't really agree with the proposal, I think he means if you have a COI and other editors suggest you have a POV issue. I do think "driving COI underground" is an issue, since COI editing is prohibited, I assume there are many editors with a COI who just never disclose it and edit articles anonymously. I'm not sure what the solution to that is, if any. --Milo H Minderbinder 17:12, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Agree on the suggested edit. "If you are close to a subject, we encourage you to disclose your connection so others can check your edits for NPOV." There are lots of COI underground. We can help that situation by watching, and by encouraging disclosure. We can encourage disclosure by making a policy "don't bite the disclosers." It's vastly better if people with a potential COI reveal that fact so we can help them and help Wikipedia. As for bad faith accusations of COI, "Please respect the opinions of other editors. If several reputable community members suggest you have an POV issue with certain articles, you should probably refrain from further editing of those articles." Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 17:26, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Yes, their actions should always be the final arbiter. Although if they have managed to purge himself of the bias, as coudl be revealed and judged by the WP community through working via discussions and sticking to approved edits, it may make sense to allow them to edit the article without as much approval, though I'd still keep an eye on them. 74.38.32.195 08:15, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Aye, but then who's a "reputable community member"? Is anyone willing to acknowledge that they're being "disreputable" even (or especially) if they're knowingly operating in bad faith? A simple answer might be that a "reputable" person equates to an admin, since admins have to demonstrate a certain level of trustworthiness in order to get the mop. Raymond Arritt 17:30, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
If somebody is accused of COI, they are free to ignore bad faith accusations. But if an admin joins the chorus then they should take care because the admin can block them. "Please respect the opinions of other editors. If community members suggest you have an POV issue with certain articles, consider whether you should refrain from further editing of those articles. If a COI problem persists despite friendly warnings, please contact an admin for assistance." At that point the admin can issue further warnings or even say "Stop or you will be blocked." We already have spam and vandalism warning templates. Perhaps we should create warning templates for COI. The problem of bad faith warnings would be no worse in this situation than for those we already have. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 17:39, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
However, what if they are not acting in bad faith, but instead in good faith? That is how I interpret this discussion's subject. 74.38.32.195 08:15, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I think this goes to the heart of the matter, because every editor has COI, it's just a question of degree. You need some interest to motivate you to work on an article. And to a point, that is helpful, because you are not likely to be as thorough with a subject you have little interest in. The question is when does your interest in the subject conflict with the collective interest in the encyclopedia. Dhaluza 15:03, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Banning by arbcom member merely for off-Wikipedia affiliations[edit]

Outside arb cases, it should not be assumed that arbiters speak for the Arbitration Committee (as opposed to just for themselves) unless they state otherwise. >Radiant< 13:38, 20 February 2007 (UTC)

This was an arbcom member who spoke about a pending arbcom case. Andries 05:59, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
If it's a pending case as opposed to an actual case, that would imply that the ArbCom intends to discuss it but hasn't yet, and hence the one arbiter does not speak for the committee as a whole. >Radiant< 11:58, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
I updated the Wikipedia:banning policy to reflect the stated motivations by the two arbcom members (user:Kirill Lokshin and user:Jdforrester) [8] User_talk:Jdforrester/Arbitration#Sathya_Sai_Baba_arbcom_case_2:_banning_of_Andries_for_one_yearAndries 19:55, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

I've reverted back to long-standing version. I have yet to see a case made here for such significant changes. FeloniousMonk 22:35, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

I have explained it here above. Two members of the arbcom wrote that they see my bogus COI as an important reason to ban me. Andries 22:39, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
I was thinking of reverting back to FeloniousMonk, but someone else beat me to it. While I'm sure editors with a conflict of interest do get banned (and I wouldn't be surprised to see it happening soon with an editor from the Terri Schiavo article), I cannot imagine that it is the conflict of interest itself that leads to the ban, rather the behaviour of the user with the conflict of interest. Anyway, it seemed a rather drastic change to make to a guideline. ElinorD (talk) 23:03, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
One arbcom member stated I that I edited responsibly, but banned me anyway for percieved WP:COI
User_talk:Jdforrester/Arbitration#Sathya_Sai_Baba_arbcom_case_2:_banning_of_Andries_for_one_year Andries 23:07, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Arbiters don't make policy. The community does. >Radiant< 10:49, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

Further info for editors who see a conflict of interest[edit]

Is there any further guideline to which I can refer an editor who understands that editing a particular article may be a conflict of interest, but who is here because they feel that their organisation is being misrepresented in an already existing article? Such editors frequently are complete novices (or at least have no exposure to the depth of guidelines and policy) and may be baffled about how to properly engage with Wikipedia to ensure factual accuracy, remove POV material, or debate about particular points or presentation in an article we encourage them not to edit. I would hope such a guideline starts with the talk page but summarizes how to conduct discussions (politely, no personal attacks or legal threats, on the talk page not the article etc., at the end with subheadings, signing, etc.), and how to escalate if either nobody engages on the talk page or if they believe editors are pursuing a non-encyclopedic agenda. I sometimes find myself trying to steer people adrift in this area, but I struggle to assemble the salient information. Thanks, Notinasnaid 22:01, 20 February 2007 (UTC)

David Gerard here advises using this:

Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Factual error (from enterprise). Talk to David. He has had a lot of experience in this area. WAS 4.250 08:47, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Policy ambiguity[edit]

In following the Autobiography policy of COI, I placed a deletion tag on article Daniel J. Barrett as the creator and sole contributor to the article was Daniel Barrett (User: DJBWiki). The AfD was overturned by an editor citing that Daniel Barrett is notable (and thus can violate the Autobiography section of COI). If this is true - that a notable person can create their own article - then perhaps we should add this caveat to COI#Autobiography. I had a lot of editors come down on me for adding the AfD tag and defending my position. I kept pointing them to this policy which clearly states that you can't author your own article. This has been unpleasant and confusing for me. I thought I was following Wikipedia policy. To avoid this kind of situation for future editors such as myslef, perhaps the policy can be retooled to say that a notable person can in fact author their own article. -- Levine2112 discuss 18:13, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Please note that the article was not put up for AfD, but tagged as a proposed deletion, which is a different process. I would disagree that editors came down on you; what you experienced is the normal consensus process at work. You stood alone in your interpretation of this aspect of the WP:COI guideline (which means that it may be helpful to adapt the guideline language to prevent this problem from recurring). One of the responses may have been a bit curt, but then you had been resisting a broad consensus between experienced editors for a while, in an atmosphere that had already been poisoned due to constant disruption by an editor that has since been indef-blocked for WP:BLP reasons. AvB ÷ talk 22:24, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
I think you may have confused two different issues. An article can be deleted for non-notability. This is often, but not always, a problem with self-authored articles. COI may result in an article about a notable subject that isn't written with proper encyclopedic tone and neutrality. The correct action in that case is to edit the article to restore neutral point of view. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 18:37, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
I guess I am still confused. Can a notable person create their own article? -- Levine2112 discuss 19:53, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
Sometimes they do, Levine. In these cases, we assume good faith, we inform them of WP:AUTO and ask them to help us via the talk page if tthe wish to contribute, we check the notability of the person and either place the article in AFD or we work to make the article neutral and compliant with our policies. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:01, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
It helps to keep in mind that the point of our COI guideline is to assist us in our goal of a NPOV encyclopedia. When dealing with any COI issue, always ask yourself how the issue relates to NPOV and what you can do to help make Wikipedia a better neutral free encyclopedia. Keep that central goal in mind and you won't go far wrong. WAS 4.250 20:58, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
I sincerely appreciate this. Can you see how the current COI#Autobiography can be ambiguous here? Perhaps it should state something to this effect... a notable person can sometimes create their own article, however... Make sense? -- Levine2112 discuss 21:25, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

Legal antagonists[edit]

I agree that WP:COI can lead to serious problems with WP:NPOV, but I want to bring up a hypothetical:

Suppose a litigant files a lawsuit against all Wikipedia editors who edit their article, claiming libel. (This may be covered under WP:NLT, but it might not.) Would WP:COI mean that no one could edit the article? Or perhaps, a little more plausible, suppose a certain religious organizations files a lawsuit against anyone who has ever said something about the organization which they consider improper. Would their article then be "safe" from criticism? (I would prefer not to name the religous organization I have in mind, as they'd probably sue me, or spam my E-mail box, or take some other action I would rather not happen. You know who they are.) — Arthur Rubin | (talk) 21:57, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

This is a guideline, not a rule. We make exceptions once in a while for special cases like these. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 12:13, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Editing for payment[edit]

I have recently been approached by an organisation to improve articles related to the organisation in question (not create new ones). I would receive money for doing so. I am an administrator and am aware of the policies and guidelines that govern Wikipedia. The organisation understands that it is not acceptable to whitewash any articles and that criticism should be included in the article. For them it is a matter of improving the quality of the articles, not to whitewash them. Is this acceptable? Should I decide to go ahead with this I would do so in full disclosure, since I believe doing so without the community being aware would not be ethical, especially since as an admin the community has placed trust in me that I would not want to abuse. JACOPLANE • 2007-03-3 16:45

Your disclosure is admirable. As you doubtless are aware, opinions on this differ. My own view is that editing for pay is right out, period, end of discussion. It creates at least the appearance of COI and damages the credibility of Wikipedia. Others think editing for pay is acceptable as long as strict NPOV is adhered to. Raymond Arritt 17:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Of course, I am aware of Colbert's Wikilobbying argument, but personally I feel that I would never engage in activism on Wikipedia. You say that "it creates at least the appearance of COI", but as others have pointed out, most editors have some sort of COI anyway. A fan of Manchester United fan has a COI when editing Wikipedia, but that does not mean we do not permit them to edit articles related to that team. What I'd really like to know is whether there is any specific consensus regarding monetary compensations for editing. My identity and reputation in this community means a lot to me and I don't want it to get tarnished because of ethical conflicts (see: Essjay)... Your claim that it "damages the credibility of Wikipedia" is something I don't really follow: could you elaborate how exactly you feel this is the case? I think that I have proven my dedication and devotion to the core principles of our community and would never do anything to harm it. Wikipedia has a lot of critics (Brandt, Orlowski), and I'm sure they would use this argument to attack us, but their aim is solely to harm, not to have a pragmatic discussion. JACOPLANE • 2007-03-3 17:34
Elaboration as requested: First, I'm not questioning your objectivity but am arguing from a general principle. Wikipedia already is criticized on the grounds that "anybody can edit it, so you don't know whether the information is true or not." I don't think it helps to add "...and they say it's OK for companies to pay people to write articles about them." You or others may be capable of writing a perfectly objective article but when credibility is at stake, perception is as important as reality. Raymond Arritt 17:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'd avoid them. They should know better. As for you, it'd at a minimum create the appearance of impropriety and compromise your integrity. I salute you for your candor.Rlevse 21:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Jacoplane, you must not edit articles related to your employer(s), but instead only make suggestions on the talk pages. Anything else risks what you say you wish not to lose. WAS 4.250 22:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Money is a red herring.
Jacoplane, do what ever you feel is appropriate. It's not for us to tell you what to do. I think whether you are paid or not is irrelevant. The decisive criteria, in my opinion, is that you are acting as an agent for a principal. You should hold yourself to the same standards of behavior as if you were the principal. If there's an edit that they shouldn't do, neither should you. If there's an edit that would be acceptable for them to do, it's also acceptable for you. Any editor, even the subject of an article, can make certain kinds of edits, for instance: reverting vandalism, and clearing linkspam. To protect your own reputation, I suggest you announce yourself on the talk page, and place any remotely controversial edits there so somebody else can add them to the article. I believe your principal's interest benefits most by encouraging neutral editors to work on the article. You would probably be wise to take one step backwards and let the community maintain the article, while you stay in the background providing support. You can, for instance, identify new facts or sources on the talk page so they can verify that information and add it to the article. You can also offer to answer questions. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 20:57, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

This is too well said not to quote it[edit]

This is too well said not to quote it:

"It's all a matter of how you do it. If someone asked you to write an article in a format that is acceptable to Wikipedia (wikicode, NPOV, etc.), I don't see anything wrong with them compensating you for your time. On the other hand, if someone asked you to write the article, post it under your own name, and defend it, then we have a problem. The difference is, are they asking for your service as a writer who knows how to write a WP-acceptable article, or are they trying to rent your reputation in Wikipedia? The former is no big deal, the latter is a problem." lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail comment by Guettarda WAS 4.250 01:19, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
I think the above is fair, but that you can potentially post the edit to the article's talk page, or even to the article itself, if you accurately disclose your connection and invite other editors to review your work. We don't want shills, but if some corporation wants to pay a writer to generate acceptable, high quality work, and then donate it to the project, why wouldn't we at least consider adding it to the encyclopedia? In the open source software movement I am sure they would accept code written by a programmer paid by a commercial source, and then properly donated to the public domain. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 01:42, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
An interesting subtext is whether they pay you to defend (or "maintain", whatever) the article after it gets into the project. I don't think the analogy to open-source software is a good one, by the way. Concerns like NPOV and notability are far more subjective than computer code. Raymond Arritt 01:50, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
The analogy to donation is really for outsiders to post elsewhere material released under the GFDL, so that we can use it if we want it. Charles Matthews 10:22, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Curious, I don't think NPOV is subjective at all. Any serious editor can tell the difference between POV and NPOV. Yes, paying somebody to 'defend' the POV in an article is wrong. Paying somebody to 'defend' and article from spam and vandalism is no big deal. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 12:58, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
It is par for the course at wikipedia to have people call edits that don't parrot their thoughts "trolling" or "vandalism". And defending such edits is often called "hurting wikipedia" and "tendatious" and worthy of warnings on user talk pages prior to blocks and bans. Too many people play wikipedia as if it were a game and our rules must reflect and protect from that reality. WAS 4.250 16:46, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Too restrictive?[edit]

Hi.

I noticed this at the beginning of the page:

"A Wikipedia conflict of interest is an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia, to produce a neutral encyclopedia, and the aims of individual editors. These include editing for the sake of promoting oneself, other individuals, causes, organizations, companies, or products, as well as suppressing negative information, and criticizing competitors."

This suggests that if you do not have any intentions of being biased or otherwise going against the purposes of Wikipedia (neutral, verifiable encyclopedia), and try to make an honest effort to be neutral, writing about subjects one is personally involved in is OK. I do not see a problem with that myself, since one is trying to be neutral, but the rest of the language of the guideline seems to suggest that this is still forbidden. Is this too restrictive? If not, why not, and should the opener here be reworded? 74.38.32.195 07:50, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, there is a long amplification to explain what is meant. The real point is that people who think they are not damaging the encyclopedia, but are in fact pushing something promotional into it, may be wrong. Because they are too close to be a good judge. Charles Matthews 10:19, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Are you saying it's possible, then, to have absolutely no intentions or "interests" of wanting to be promotional, and being totally willing to put in as much negative or non-promotional information about oneself as possible (although not so much as to turn it into a non-neutral article in the other direction -- self-degradation. WP:NPOV means we cannot have bias in any direction.), that it is possible to still have a bias? But wait, everyone is biased to some degree on everything -- why must we forbid editing when it can be corrected by other editors? A reasonable editor, who is the type I am trying to defend (the ego-editor with all sorts of vanity intent is an open-and-shut case), would then be open to admit that he had been biasing the edits, since for one he would not be intending to make biased edits or to promote himself, and thus when the corrective editing was applied, he could see where he went wrong and thereby help reduce his own bias or otherwise keep it off WP. And there's nothing wrong with that. Also, if "conflict of interest" means something different or more than just "intentions", then the opener is contradictory or misleading, respectively. There should be at least a brief mention of the "different" or "more" stuff. 74.38.32.195 20:39, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

Links to defunct policies in the body of the text[edit]

The main body of the text in this policy still contains links to WP:NOR and other policies that have recently been superseded. Ordinarily I would just go ahead and update these links as a minor edit, but as this is an official policy page, I thought it was more appropriate to consult other editors first. Walton Vivat Regina! 16:22, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

Walton, all these have shortcuts that point to the appropriate subsection on WP:ATT, so we may not need to make any changes. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 16:43, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
Not precisely true - look at this section. The link at the top of this section still goes to a subsection within WP:NOR. As it doesn't go to the top of the page, a reader would have to scroll up to find the box marking this as an inactive policy; only there do they find a link to WP:ATT. This could be very confusing for new users. Walton Vivat Regina! 09:18, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
I see your point. Do you have an idea on how to fix it? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 15:21, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

Separate issue[edit]

I've noticed a couple of situations lately where editors heavily involved in an article have been criticized for having a WP:COI for that reason. See Wikipedia:Deletion review#Jeopardy! in popular culture and Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Jeopardy! auditions for some examples. I created a new page, Wikipedia:Vested interest to talk about this issue. I think part of the confusion is that someone heavily involved in a particular article may have some kind of conflict of interest, just not the kind of conflict of interest this page is really about. I put in a link in the See also section, and added a section in the text to refer to the vested interest page. Mangojuicetalk 18:27, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

I strongly disagree. In my experience this argument usually is made by editors who want to insert their unsubstantiated pet ideas into an established article. When their ideas are correctly reverted as the nonsense, they shout "you don't own this article!" and so on. An essay on vested interest has the potential to cause more problems than it solves. Raymond Arritt 03:47, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Ah, don't be a spoil sport. Wikipedia:Don't worry about writing essays Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 04:30, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
OK, point taken. Thanks for the pointer to DWAWE. It will come in handy the next time someone refers to a WP essay when trying to justify their actions. Raymond Arritt 15:21, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Exactly! Essays are just random thoughts, until a bunch of people get behind one and promote it to a guideline. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 16:45, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Deletion criterion on it's own?[edit]

Hi.

Can conflict of interest, alone, be grounds for deleting an article or blocking an editor, even if no other policy/guideline violations exist? mike4ty4 02:24, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Editors can be blocked for spam or vandalism after being warned. An article can be deleted for non-notability. These are different issues from COI. I am not aware of any response to COI other than to ask the editor to refrain from further editing. The editor would actually have to become disruptive and receive warnings under some other policy before being blocked. The article would have to qualify for deletion to be deleted.Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 04:26, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
So then, no. COI, alone, is not a sufficient ground for deletion or blocking. mike4ty4 20:33, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
But is common to summarize rather than spell things out in great detail. Someone with a COI who edits in a POV way and is asked to stop and does not stop will likely be blocked with an explaination of "COI" even tho as you point out is was not simply a COI that was the problem. Please don't anybody try to wikilawyer a summary into an accusation of admin abuse. WAS 4.250 22:19, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Guideline is based on ad hominem[edit]

I see no value added by telling editors to avoid editing certain topics when they could simply be cautioned about editing carefully. It shouldn't matter what an editors' affiliation is as long as his/her edits are encyclopedic, and no editor should be presumed a priori to be too biased to edit any article. The world's biggest, most partisan advocate for foo should not be penalized for making good, sourced edits to foo.

By proscribing such edits, all we're doing is engaging in "advocacy profiling". The quality of an editors' contributions should be the sole consideration, not the editors' affiliation outside WP. Suggest rewriting this guideline solely in cautionary terms, and not make any articles off-limits to editors who have not yet demonstrated bias through their edits. thanks, Jim Butler(talk) 15:07, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Some editors can create disruptions when they edit articles they care about very much. In these cases, usually, another community member will ask them to step back and let others take over. This often helps the conflicted editor achieve their goals, while advancing consensus. I can provide you with a excellent example. See: Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Barry_Schwartz_(technologist). Barry Schwartz is user Rustybrick. Also, keep in mind that most Wikipedians can only identify COI if a user makes a series of POV edits. If there's no problem, the issue just doesn't normally come up. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 15:17, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
The original poster is addressing neutral articles written by their own subjects, etc. I strongly disagree with the statement "And there is something wrong with starting an article about yourself" on the AFD you mentioned -- in the case when the article that is created happens to be neutral (although I have not checked the neutrality of the starting article for the AFD you cite, that is not the point -- the point is more general and need not apply to a specific article. The point is that if a neutral article is created based on someone personally involved with it's subject, there should be no prejudice.). I'm happy to see that more people are seeing that this goes too far. It does not simply caution, but assumes guilt by association, and thus preempts those with humility from being able to make these contributions. Prohibiting someone from making contributions like that is prejudice. This guideline needs to be overhauled to emphasize the importance of the actual edits, and to caution people against editing but not to just forbid it outright based on prejudice as some people can be neutral even with subjects they are personally involved with. mike4ty4 21:23, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
It is the edits that matter. Notice in the guideline page itself: "All text created in the Wikipedia main namespace is subject to rules covering criteria for articles (what Wikipedia is not); encyclopedic quality (verifiability and original research); editorial approach (neutral point of view); as well as the Wikipedia copyright policy. All editors are expected to stick closely to these policies when creating and evaluating material.
Who has written the material should be irrelevant so long as these policies are closely adhered to. The imputation of conflict of interest is not by itself a good reason to remove sound material from articles." Furthermore, WP:COI is a guideline, not a policy and this is not set in stone and, just like the header says, should be treated with common sense, and the occasional exception. Remeber, ignore all rules (policy!) if they prevent a positive, worthwhile contribution. The reason for this guideline is that close associations are a common source of bias. A lot of people have too much ego and too little humility to be able to admit negative things about themselves and/or their projects. I do agree with you though that the wording is a bit too harsh. mike4ty4 21:29, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Mike4ty4, thanks, and I wish the guideline were written as clearly as your comments are! I agree with you, and would add that this wording from the lead goes well beyond "harsh":
  • In particular, you should: 1. avoid editing articles related to you, your organization, or its competitors, as well as projects and products they are involved with..."
"You should avoid" sounds to me like "you are not allowed to", not "you must exercise great caution when". I think this is a case of consensus-in-progress resulting in an article that contradicts itself. regards, Jim Butler(talk) 05:51, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
WP:COI has more to do with ethics and avoiding undue weight. I highly recommend not IAR'ing WP:COI, lest an editor want to find out what arb sanctions and edit parole is like. IAR is under a lot of scrutiny right now anyway for other reasons, and this is not a reasonable invocation of it. Autobiographical entries are routinely deleted with an overwhelming community consensus to do so, and ArbCom precedent shows that COI is taken very seriously: usually with the admonishment that those with a COI are prohibited from editing the entry or any related entries, and are confined to discussion on the talk pages. I have *never* seen an instance were someone who has a COI doesn't guard, canvass and engage in protectionist activities on the relevant page. - WeniWidiWiki 21:57, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Let me play devil's advocate: if somebody with COI behaves themselves, how would you ever know? Can you tell us more about ArbCom? I am not familiar with that. Can you Cite some interesting cases related to COI?Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 01:30, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
Are they (autobiographies) deleted even if they happen to have been neutral? If so, then I think that this thing goes too far. Neutrality -- content -- is what matters, and things should never, ever be deleted solely on the basis of the author/originator, at least not in an "ideal" Wikipedia. What if such a case where someone who "has a COI" (actually, they need deliberate intentions of non-neutrality to actually have one) were to be neutral and did not engage in such protectionist activities? What would happen then? I couldn't test what would happen since I have no COIs or accompishments notable enough to give it a shot, and WP:POINT indicates it may not be so good anyway. However, I think that if a neutral A/B or other "COI" material appears on here and gets deleted (although I don't see WP:AUTO/WP:COI on the deletion policy as a valid criterion alone.), then there is a prejudice in the community and perhaps another criticism of Wikipedia. And what if I were to IAR COI, and go make a neutral edit? That's when I would think it would be valid to IAR. If you do have self-promotional, or any other biasing intent, then no, you should not IAR it. But if you don't, well, then... Remember: IAR says specifically "If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them." Making biased edits does not improve Wikipedia! Making neutral edits, though, can. mike4ty4 03:35, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience involves a plasma physicist promoting a view of physics that in turn promotes himself. WAS 4.250 03:35, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Agapetos angel involves someone who claims the right to be anonymous but is believed to be the wife of a person whose article on Wikipedia she edited in what was claimed to be a non-neutral way. She claimed she was restoring neutrality and in my opinion was partly right about this. You can see wikipedia at its worst here, but the article was improved as a result and she was only interested in making the article more favorable to the subject of the article so she was rightly blocked from editing it. What I perceive as bullying in this case is part of the doing battle and winning gaming spirit that the anyone can edit process encourages as someone has to take on those who come here with "something to sell" and the battle-warriors are the only ones who will do it for free. WAS 4.250 03:49, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

What about someone though who is interested in making it neutral, not more/less favorable? mike4ty4 03:09, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

I just took a look at Talk:Jonathan Sarfati and apparently the Agapetos angel case is still being fought between the creationists and the evolutionists. WAS 4.250 04:10, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Completed requests/Involved parties for an index to arbcom cases. WAS 4.250 04:10, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

Sure, patterns of bad editing happen (as they do with editors without "COI" as defined here). For that reason, COI is great as a caution, but it shouldn't be taken as forbidding compliant edits by involved parties. And if an involved party does screw up, then only the bad behavior itself should be sanctioned; the editor should not be judged (ex-post-facto) by his or her off-WP conduct. The reason is simple: wiki pages can be fixed, and problematic editors sanctioned, but WP's reputation cannot so easily be controlled. WP should not damage its credibility by sanctioning editors because of who they are (off WP) as opposed to what they do (on WP). Way too slippery a slope, and too punitive. At the moment, the ArbCom is seriously considering a topic ban against a longstanding editor who has made edits that are well within the scientific mainstream, yet is accused of COI because he blogs off-WP about scientific skepticism. That's the sort of thing that causes Wikipedia not to be respected by grownups, imho. thanks, Jim Butler(talk) 06:01, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
Anonymous editors are welcome to participate in Wikipedia. Why then would we implement more severe sanctions against editors who choose to reveal their identity and disclose that they might have some connection to a topic. We should not let the spammer and trolls lure us into over-reacting. COI is a guideline to caution editors about their limitations and help them avoid problems. It shouldn't be used as basis for dealing out punishments. When sanctions are needed, there are plenty of policies that can serve. Jehochman (Talk/Contrib) 14:26, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

Overreacted[edit]

The first glance gave me an impression that the guideline is bloated. It looks like an essay than a guideline. Also it is quite an overreaction in many aspects. For starters, you don't need to scare good-faith editors that much, whereas "bad guys" will surely find a back door. This it a textbook example where just saying "be good" wouldn't work.

The second thing that worries me that such general guidelines have a dangerous tendency to creep way beyond the original intentions. I will not be surprized that this guideline of self-shying will forbid me writing articles about my native town or country in a year or two.

WHO WOULD HAVE KNOWN! Already started! `'mikka 22:10, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Therefore I would strongly suggest to trim the text to at most two screen pages now and set a big scary red flag when it will forbid more than 7 topics to edit or create. `'mikka 21:36, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

  1. ^ Be assured that straight attack pieces are not permitted as Wikipedia articles. The point is that starting a one-sided article is a poor kind of gambit.