Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Paid Advocacy Watch/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

What this talk page is for

We're not really interested here in arguments in defense of paid editing, and especially not interested in long and contentious digressions on the matter. This Wikiproject is for people who've already made up their minds on the matter, and this talk page is to facilitate the work of the Wikiproject. If you don't agree with the basic goals and principles of this Wikiproject, you're invited to make your own or whatever, but please don't disrupt our work here, thanks. Herostratus (talk) 19:23, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

One suggestion: can we/you change the name of the page to 'paid advocacy'? I think that's important because one of the "straw man defenses" is to talk about a hypothetical professor whose University decides to value Wikipedia highly and asks the professors to contribute to Wikipedia on topics where they have expertise, i.e. they are now being paid (in some small part at least) to edit Wikipedia. That's a good thing, generally.
What crosses the line is paid advocacy.
Also, along the same lines, I think one key here is to work to generate policy (and good explanations of that policy for people who are not new to the issue and who may be vulnerable to the fallacies put forward by unscrupulous PR hacks who desire to undermine Wikipedia for their own benefit) that can get broad consensus. So what I am recommending is that we develop an effective carrot-and-stick approach, i.e. focus as much on what good honest PR people can and should do for their clients (generally: talk to the community rather than try to edit directly) and explain how those routes are both effective already and can be made more effective.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Some ideas

What we can do here and now

Well, mainly, we can use the Alerts section and this talk page as a noticeboard. That's the main thing right now, I guess. Ideas welcome, and let's see what develops. Herostratus (talk) 19:23, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

More rigorous identification of paid editors

As it stands, at Wikipedia:Paid editing (essay) and Wikipedia:Conflict of interest#Declaring an interest editors are basically adjured to declare if they're being paid to edit. I think this is insufficient -- instead, editors should be prohibited from being paid to edit -- but anyway, the suggestions are insufficient in my view. A couple of reforms to consider might be:

  • Paid editors be required to attach [Paid editor] to their signature. Declaring their situation on their talk page or somewhere in a thread is not enough. I note at the discussion on Jimbo's talk page that one editor had been engaging another editor, not knowing he was a paid editor, and was shocked and demoralized to find out that that was the case. So this needs to made crystal clear for all interactions.
  • There should also be Category:Paid editor and/or a list where paid editors register. Lobbyists have to register, same deal here.

None of this should be contentious and paid editors should welcome these reforms as should all Wikipedians, in the interest of transparency. I'm not how to implement these, I would guess through changes to Wikipedia:Conflict of interest#Declaring an interest. At this time I'm putting the idea of reform up for discussion. Herostratus (talk) 19:23, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Exactly, there are many models for collaborating with paid COI participants in the real world, spanning sales, PR, lobbying, but each is regulated and each has neutral guardians that can make decisions on whether the paid COI participant gets their way. The reason this is a big deal on Wikipedia, is because there is nothing physically blocking us from editing directly. Say I'm a lobbyist. Well I might write a piece of legislation, but the politicians would review and decide. If lobbyists just wrote things into law, that would be crazy.
Anyways, I'm a paid editor (often). Sign me up please. I'll add like I commented in response to Jimbo's post below, that we should also think about how to motivate paid editors to join the program by making it in their best interest to do so instead of edit anonymously. For example if a list of paid/COI editors that are in good standing and closely monitored is provided on the COI policy page, any paid editor that didn't disclose wouldn't get any business, since they're not on the list. This puts the volunteer community in control of a paid editor's purse strings.
You can also require real identities in the OTRS system, so paid editors can only be on the list once. Making their identities public might result in death threats from some, so something only a select few can see is a nice balance.
And of course we don't want to go down a slippery slope. I think of paid editing as something that's prescribed to certain patients that actually need it, but too often is more like an illegal drug. Something must be done to make the project something that reduces the burden on the volunteer community, not increases it and that won't create so much paid editing that Wikipedia articles become sterilized and the community is dragged into arguing about every petty detail of the controversy section. King4057 (talk) 05:22, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Paid editing identification must include some clear and transparent manner in which our reader/visitor/researcher is informed that the article/talk page they are viewing has been edited at the behest of some third party. Perhaps the edit is favorable but it could just as well be unfavorable. It is at this point that the reader can determine believablity of the information. The visitor may view payment to edit as a minor issue. That is up to them. The researcher may decide that the edit is tainted by the payment for services. Either way they are intitled to know that the paid editor is working for someone else not as an un-paid volunteer (which is the basic assumption of most people) of Wikipedia.```Buster Seven Talk 08:10, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

What we can ask the Foundation to do

One idea I have is that the Foundation modify the software to create a new class of user for paid advocates. Anyone participating on behalf of a client should have this flag set, and this flag would disallow edits to the article space, but allow participation in other spaces. Ideally, it would disallow participation in !voting, but since those generally could take place in freeform wikitext almost anywhere, a potential alternative would be transparency, i.e. their signature automatically has a symbol by it to allow people to know when they see it that this is a paid advocate (and if someone doesn't know what the symbol means, clicking on it or hovering the mouse over it can show it.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:18, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
No matter how much a COI/paid editor discloses, there's always someone complaining the disclosure is in-sufficient. User WBToo disclosed extensively, and there was still a complaint somewhere in there about not enough disclosure that was later withdrawn when they read his user page in greater detail. I think there's a balance between making ourselves giant targets for users to vent their hatred about a company or about COI editing, and enabling seamless transparency, so our edits are better scrutinized (as they should be), while maintaining enough Assume Good Faith to keep the conspiracy theorists at bay. So in that context, I think an account level would help RE disclosure.
My suggestion would be to make it for COI in general, rather than paid editing specifically. For anyone where a majority of their edits will be done with a COI.
Here's my other comment. I have personally seen companies look at a bias, inappropriate controversy section. Meaning, it was community-written and had a negative bias often written by a former employee, angry customer, etc.. They consider their options. Behind door 1, they can edit the section directly from a home PC with an anonymous IP address and do whatever they want. Door 2, they can hire a paid editor who will do all this consulting on Wikipedia ethics, rack up a huge bill and tell them not to erase negative information they'd rather just see removed.
So I look at the question - "How can we make it in a COI/paid editor's best interest to disclose, follow the rules, etc?" We shouldn't expect companies/people to act ethically. We should expect them to act in their best interest. Exposing poor taste edits to the media has gone miles in accomplishing this, but there's much more that can be done to motivate people to do the things Wikipedia wants them to. King4057 (talk) 05:01, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Jeez I dunno. I see your point. I essentially don't agree. I copied down the latter part of your post into a separate section and I'll address it there. Getting back to the original point, I think a flag in the software would be an excellent idea. Herostratus (talk) 12:57, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
A few reactions here... First, in my experience, the Talk pages have been effective maybe 30% of the time. Wikipedians are sending the tacit message that having a grossly outdated entry available for an extended period is a preferable condition for that entry than an updated one where a company representative--operating above board--has had a hand. The current system, at its core, almost appears to try its absolute best to encourage bad behavior.
Second, I'm wondering about this allergy to having a company representative update an entry's numerical data (e.g., year-end financials, number of employees), or other items where sources of independent verification are ample. Going to the Talk page or the COI noticeboard (suggested to me in another thread) strikes me as an unnecessarily "mother-may-I" approach in instances where debatable matters of positioning or emphasis are completely absent. (Ref. the PR-related section of the FAQ).
Finally, advocacy of any stripe--paid or otherwise--is a problem and harms the integrity of an entry. So, if you're going to slap a marker on a known "paid advocate", you might want to consider a similar designation for known activists in general. --Philgomes (talk) 21:53, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • If you want to find problematic POV editing, there are thousands of articles on the middle east, balkans, religion, sports rivalries &c that will yield a far richer crop. Focussing on a small and less problematic subset of POV editors and then hamstringing each of them even if they're not doing anything bad seems to be missing the point catastrophically. (I mean "problematic" in terms of the number of editor-hours needed to fix problems and deal with drama). No doubt there are some a few problematic paid editors out there; what proportion of those will volunteer to be branded and to work under far stricter revisions than apply to the chronic pov-pushers you see every day on the drama boards? bobrayner (talk) 22:22, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I believe this message of encouraging bad behavior also occurs when poor advert/spammy articles written by a paid editor are "salvaged", communicating to the submitter that marketing copy will get edited by the community for them. King4057 (talk) 23:16, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

What we can do down the road

We need to find out if it's going to be OK to create a list of avowed paid editors, maybe as a subpage here. I don't see any reason why not. My inclination is to create the page and subject it to an advisory WP:MFD to determine if it's kosher.

It'd be interesting to then pair editors with volunteer watchers who vet their work as a volunteer activity. Normally this would be considered stalking, though, although when you're talking about paid editors a lot of rules such as WP:AGF are not applicable, I would say. Obviously this is pain the butt to have to do, and a waste of our resources, but since paid editors are here this has to be done one way or the other anyway, so I'm looking for ideas on the most effective way to do this. We need to determine if this particular scheme is good and also kosher, though.

I think a a couple of principles that would be good to establish, if they can be established, are:

  • It's OK to lobby third parties to not pay people to edit Wikipedia.
  • Paid editors should not attempt to influence Wikipedia governance and should be forbidden from doing so.

How these can be established I'm not sure yet. Talk it up for starters, I guess.

Also, down the road, we need to think about covert paid editing. I think maybe a good way to deal with this is to after the source. We can't easily go after editors who are covertly accepting pay for editing except in stone-cold-obvious cases which are rare. Rather, we address the source of the money directly. I'm inclined to leave this aside for now as it's likely to be contentious. We need to determine the best ways to do this that is acceptable under Wikipedia rules (or change the rules if required). Herostratus (talk) 19:23, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

A dialogue between the Foundation and the Public Relations Society of America would be possibly useful and perhaps should be suggested to the Foundation. Herostratus (talk) 21:16, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Along these lines, I'll be talking to people in similar organizations in the UK in the coming weeks.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:15, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Wow, didn't know you were going to watch this space. That'd be great, thanks. Herostratus (talk) 11:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
In my own efforts to start constructive debate on this issue, I've seen great interest from PRSA and it has also been suggested that there be a dialogue between the Foundation and a consortium of int'l industry bodies (e.g., the Global Alliance, whose conference is in November). I will tell you, however, that most of the bad actors who are creating the problem are likely not members of a PR professional org and probably don't much care what they have to say in any event. (There isn't a "bar association" for PR people, in other words.) That said, participation of these professional orgs does have great value in terms of developing a "north-star" standard that the industry can point to as best practice. --Philgomes (talk) 15:47, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Education on Wikipedia ethics at conferences could reduce bad actors as well. Wikipedia is abhorrently missing from the social media education and training circuit. King4057 (talk) 18:10, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Can I Help?

I have lots of ideas about the objectives and would like to add a link to the plain and simple COI Essay. I'm a paid/COI editor and have already thought about this issue a lot in writing a draft Signpost op-ed the publication editors suggested and in my pet project ( Is my participation welcome?

After all, nobody is paying me to contribute here ;-) Bad joke. I realize I have a certain point-of-view about paid editing that is not popular among the volunteer community due to their negative experiences with paid/COI editors. I say that Wikipedia can benefit from paid editors, but the reality is that's not how it is today. But I think I have a lot to contribute to this discussion nonetheless from the other side of the pond if you will. King4057 (talk) 05:52, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Right. Well it's a vexing issue. Obviously the vast majority of private entities are essentially benign and beneficial. And it's horrible when one's reputation is unfairly smeared. And of course entities are entitled to represent themselves to the public in a positive light.
When it comes to paid editors on the Wikipedia, though, I haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer to the following:
Suppose a Wikipedia editor is engaged by a client. Suppose an editor comes to the article's talk page and says "Look, I've found information about a serious problem with this company, and I have sources, but it's not in the article. But it's really key information helpful to understanding their role in society, and I think it should be in the lede and constitute a large section in the article, but I need help formatting citations and so forth."
  • As a paid agent of the company, would you be willing to say "good point, I agree, and I'll help you with this"?
  • As a paid agent of the company, are you really able to assess fairly in your own mind if it is true that the information should be in the lede and constitute a large section in the article? How on earth can a human being be expected to be that fair-minded?
  • And if you did agree that the information should be in the lede and constitute a large section in the article, what on earth are you going to say to your client? "I assisted in adding a bunch of stuff that makes you look bad, because it's true"? You'd be fired (and should be) and kicked out of the Public Relations Society of America if you're a member (and should be).
You can't serve your client and the Wikipedia, period, I would say. Herostratus (talk) 11:01, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, I do sometimes advise clients to write their own neutral controversy section, but no, not exactly as a slam piece. I believe there's already a hands-off policy for COI editors on controversial content and clearly it will always be inappropriate for a corporate interest to attempt to censor negative, encyclopedic information (or negative information that's not controversial). Holding paid editors accountable to the community makes them more likely to uphold that principle.
A great example of the value of paid editing is that right now I'm reading a 100+ page book that is no longer being published and may be one of the last remaining copies. It's filled with over 100 years of important encyclopedic history. If my work wasn't sponsored, not only would this information never make it to Wikipedia, it could be lost forever to society as a whole. We can also keep editing wars with COI editors offline, reduce the burden of policing COIs with no expertise spamming marketing goop and so on.
I don't think it's fair to portray paid editing as a plague to Wikipedia, because there are certain sections we cannot and should not edit. When a paid/COI editor tries to interfere with the community process, censor negative information anonymously, etc. those are obviously serious situations - the occurrence of which we'd all like to reduce - but there are other situations where contributions are positive and we can do a lot to better distinguish between the two. Carrot & stick as Jimbo mentions to motivate people to make Wikipedia better. King4057 (talk) 16:47, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
"You can't serve your client and the Wikipedia, period" is an interesting stance but I see no reason for it to be actually true. Why not? Surely there are organisations out there which, rather than being evil deceivers, merely want a neutral wikipedia article...? bobrayner (talk) 16:56, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Agreed with Bobrayner. Herostratus says above when you're talking about paid editors a lot of rules such as WP:AGF are not applicable but there's no policy justification for that sentiment. I can see why the admonition of WP:NPA's "Comment on content, not on the contributor" might be somewhat different here, but WP:ABF would be terrible thing to codify. WWB Too (talk) 11:09, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
This is exactly the attitude we should adopt to paid editors -- we should assume that they are not interested in NPOV. A profit-making corporation wants to maximize profits, and paying a Wikipedia editor is a means to that end; to the extent the paid editor is attempting to advance the client's goals (and why else would the client pay for it), we have something other than NPOV. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 11:41, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Nomo, you might be surprised: a lot of Wikipedia articles about companies are inaccurate or incomplete, and it's understandably in their interest that these articles be more accurate and representative. And that often can be compatible with Wikipedia's goals. Having talked (and worked) with communications people at a number of companies, I've found they have a lot of respect for Wikipedia, and a desire to follow the rules in making it better. WWB Too (talk) 11:53, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
The implication that any profit-making organisations paying an editor is aiming for a promotional article is the kind of absurd unevidenced generalisation that should be kept a mile away from any decisionmaking process. Some may; we can treat those particular cases similarly to the way we treat other kinds of POV-pushing (alas, civil POV-pushers in any field will often get a slap on the wrist then move to another article; that's a broader problem which merits more attention). In cases where an employee has made positive edits, why punish them for purely ideological reasons? I'd also like to point out that paid editing is not solely the preserve of for-profit businesses - there are other kinds of organisation, you know... bobrayner (talk) 12:53, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── That is true, but the difficulty is that whilst an article might not be outwardly promotional, it can be written in a way that highlights positive aspects of them and hides away more negative information. I think this is pretty much inevitable if you are working for a client, but the result is that the article will differ from what relatively uninterested community would have written. I don't agree with Nomo's point about ABF, but as an editor who's spent way more time than I would have liked cleaning up after PR firms, I know that it can be difficult to AGF. SmartSE (talk) 14:01, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I think we can reasonably categorize paid editors into (1) evil (2) aloof (3) positive contributors. From there we could think about how to identify, define and respond to each as oppose to saying all companies are like this or that.
There are too many comments on this page from paid editors (like me) and seeing as no one answered my original post intending to provide a more meaningful level of support for the project, I'm going to dial off now, there being so many issues with this volume of largely undisclosed paid editor participation on a Talk page of this nature. I hope there can be some level of productive conversation between both parties though and encourage Hero or others to use my Talk page (and PhilGomes/WBToo/etc.) if you want perspective, ideas or support from the other side.
Meanwhile, I want to encourage other paid editors like PhilGomes, WBToo or any others that find this page to resolve that we've largely "spoken our piece" and to allow the volunteer community to build out this discussion at their own pace so they can speak their minds without being "pounced" by paid editors, etc.. I'll check back in a month, unless Hero and others suggest my active participation would be welcome. King4057 (talk) 18:23, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Point of clarification: I'm not a "paid editor" as characterized here. Broadly, I work in the service of corporate reputation management with particular attention focused on online matters. As part of this, I advise companies as to how they should interact with the Wikipedia community, inasmuch as some members of said community will allow, based on the publicly stated guidance from Mr. Wales and Co. I have turned down business from companies who want to do it the wrong way and my employer has backed me up at every step. --Philgomes (talk) 03:57, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Paid editor is used broadly on Wikipedia. It doesn't mean you've broken policy or done anything unethical, it just means the nature of your COI is a business/professional one. Being a PR executive that does Wikipedia consulting for paying PR retainer clients is - without a doubt - a paid editor. Heck, even university professionals encouraged to edit during working hours are sometimes considered paid editors though they really have no financial gain from the process or any COI. It's not a derogatory term like I would consider "paid advocacy" which implies ethical violations, but it does mean you have a COI with the subject of paid editing policy. If you didn't, would you really be on this string at all?
And there lies the problem. From a casual observer's standpoint, this string is starting to appear to demonstrate a communal lean towards certain POVs that are actually from paid editors with disclosures that aren't obvious to the casual observer. To the astute observer, excessive participation may cheapen the string by giving the appearance of being a niche group of paid editors pushing for lenient policies in a form of astroturfing. We should be participating, especially when asked/welcome, but I think we should be cautious not to overwhelm the conversation.
On a separate note, PR agencies think that by giving their clients consulting, but not editing articles themselves, it somehow absolves them of risk and responsibility. Their participation on Wikipedia becomes invisible and dispersed through their clients. Additionally, by leaving clients to edit themselves without expertise, their clients are more likely to become bad actors in the kinds of minor ways that occur from good-intentioned, honest COI editors that are just inexperienced. That's not an attack on you personally, but since you have no editing history I can't really tell what edits have resulted from your influence. That erodes transparency and verification of your online behavior since your participation on Wikipedia is done offline through other actors.
An issue I struggle with as well, being that not all my clients are represented in my edit history either. But perhaps another issue this project can discuss and address. King4057 (talk) 17:30, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Erm well, it's a complicated issue and no mistake.

One question I have right off for King4057, who said

"A great example of the value of paid editing is that right now I'm reading a 100+ page book that is no longer being published and may be one of the last remaining copies. It's filled with over 100 years of important encyclopedic history. If my work wasn't sponsored, not only would this information never make it to Wikipedia, it could be lost forever to society as a whole.";;

Wait, you are being paid by an educational foundation or something? Yes, if the Smithsonian or whomever is paying you to create articles on the Wikipedia about Civil War regiments or something, that's entirely different. Of course! I don't think anybody has a problem with that; see the "Project name?" section below, where the case of professors is mentioned, and that's one reason we could change the name of the project to only cover advocacy. (BTW, though, if none of the few remaining copies of your source are available to the general public at some library or whatever, you probably can't use it as a source (not certain about that), but that's a different issue.) I was mainly thinking about companies, politicians, governments and parties, and like that. Your case is entirely different and we need to make the clear, yes.

Anyway, it's a complicated issue. My opinion is that overall paid advocacy editing is a net negative, for a lot of reasons. One of them is the effect on our reputation. Another is the effect on on morale. A third is corruption of our processes. But mainly, no, I don't believe that entities "merely want a neutral Wikipedia article". Because, you know, one man's neutral is another man's whitewashing, and putting money on the table just makes this impossible to fairly determine.

Tell you what. When someone can point me out an instance where the CEO or head of public relations of a company called you up and said "Smith, I just read our Wikipedia article, and it's horrible. There's no mention of our steadily declining market share and profit margins that are sub-par for our industry! What's more, it doesn't even point out that Consumer Reports rated our product as unsafe and that we're under investigation by the SEC. Dammit, Smith, the article makes us look like Mother Theresa for chrissakes! Profits and reputation be damned, our first obligation is to the readers of the Wikipedia, not our damn stockholders! I want accuracy in our Wikipedia article, and I don't care what it costs -- fix it!" When someone can point me to instances of this sort of thing, maybe I'll change my mind. Herostratus (talk) 06:24, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

OK! Now that my ANI has run its course, I feel like I can start participating again without fear of backlash. Thanks to everyone who supported me and helped clear my name. In the long run, I am very glad the ANI happened, because it shed so much light on this issue and got so many editors involved. But I do admit it was unpleasant. I had no idea that emotions ran so high on this issue and that so many editors would demand my head on a platter. In any case, it's water under the bridge now. I am ready to join the cause. What can I do? Ebikeguy (talk) 14:50, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

I think a "guideline" could suggest what kinds of motives/organizations generally shouldn't edit, but actual enforcement "policy" should be based on the content itself. There's plenty of organizations that might hire paid editors to write negative content as well. I neutralized a bit (on a volunteer basis) part of Apple's article a while back that I suspected was written by Greenpeace, attacking them for their environmental record. Paid, negative, COI editing should be treated the same as paid, positive, COI editing. Planned Parenthood for example could probably write a good article about themselves, but not about abortion. Why such an allergy to neutral/positive content, but so much encouragement for criticisms and controversy?
You know Tampax is a notable 80 year-old company that's probably been involved in some significant historical social-economic trends as far as equality and the treatment of women, perhaps still today globally. They're also large enough to be the subject of significant public interest in business and for people in general. However the largely male-dominated editing community will never write a complete article on THEM. They're a perfect client, because they're under-served by the community, but a subject of significant public interest and notability. I don't think it's true that if I wrote an article for them, it would not be a good thing for Wikipedia unless I also add a slam section about how awful they are as a company. That adding negative information is a requirement of a good editor. King4057 (talk) 17:30, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Actually the discussion below with WBToo brings up an interesting point, that intentionally witholding notable controversy can be a form of bias. I always tell clients if there is a piece of controversy so big it's glaring that you're glazing over it in the company story, you have to write about it. But where blogs/tweets/etc. can be full of bogus statements, Wikipedia has a rule-bound process for sticking to the facts. If the company has actually done so much evil that "the facts" is a bad thing, maybe they shouldn't be hiring a paid editor to write about it. If a paid editor writes an encyclopedic positive article about a corrupt company, then that's not a good thing. It's one of those complex "it depends" type of things this project could probably help clearly define, create policy and police. I don't think not touching negative information makes me a bad editor, but I do think it's my responsibility to the community, to - at the very least - notify them if there is a gaping whole in the story I'm telling. A lot of this comes down to being selective with what types of clients you accept. Anyways, dialing off for real now unless someone requests my comment again. Happy to see some intellectual conversation on this issue. King4057 (talk) 20:08, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, I don't think that it's possible for paid agents to really be fair-minded. I do understand that clever paid agents need to make the appearance of this for tactical reasons. I also understand the need for humans to avoid cognitive dissonance by believing that they are fair-minded when they're not. Whether any of this applies to you I can't say, not yet having reviewed your work.
The basic paradigm of the Wikipedia is volunteer crowd-sourcing. The theory is that this results, eventually, in good-quality articles. This is the model we use rather than the Brittanica model or the Citizendium model or the MyWikiBiz model or the Knol model. Whether this is functional is a matter of personal opinion I guess. It seems reasonably successful so far, at least as regards popularity and amount of material generated. Some people think that it works OK.
If the problem is truly insuperable, then Wikipedia doesn't work, or doesn't work anymore. Introducing paid editors into the system is probably not a good way to fix that. Rather it would be to turn to a Brittanica-type model, with closed content and a much smaller but salaried editorial staff. This would probably require monetarizing the Wikipedia, by accepting advertisements or requiring a subscription fee or whatever. So it would be a very different system.
If the Wikipedia is so broken that we need to abandon the volunteer paradigm, that'd probably the best path, and that's something that people can discuss, I guess. I don't see the situation as that desperate, but I'm not a company, so maybe I don't have the right perspective. Herostratus (talk) 05:45, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Project name?

Jimbo suggested that the project be retitled to "Wikiproject Paid Advocacy Watch" on these grounds: "a hypothetical professor whose University decides to value Wikipedia highly and asks the professors to contribute to Wikipedia on topics where they have expertise, i.e. they are now being paid (in some small part at least) to edit Wikipedia. That's a good thing, generally." I'm a bit of a "dry" on paid editing -- I'm just against it -- but I understand the point. I'm also inclined to take suggestions from Jimbo fairly seriously.

I also understand the where there's inappropriately defamatory material on an entity and so forth, that's very vexing to the entity, and while that'd possibly be fixed eventually anyway money can speed things up. So I don't know what to say about that...

Anyway, would "Wikiproject Paid Advocacy Watch" be a better name? Thoughts? Herostratus (talk) 11:31, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I wouldn't worry too much about the "professor" point: most universities would take a dim view of the notion that they are paying faculty to edit Wikipedia. To the extent we do it, it's on our own time/dime. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 15:58, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
From a definition perspective, I see "paid advocacy" as editing with the intent to instill a certain point of view. Paid bias editing. King4057 (talk) 17:30, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • The term 'paid editing' is broader but perhaps too broad: I initially preferred the term "paid editing" to "paid advocacy" as a broader term, where the word "editing" is broader and defers good/bad judgment. For example, a rival encyclopedia, which competed against Wikipedia, might overlook "paid vandalism" to scar WP articles so that readers would prefer the other encyclopedia, over reading trash talk in WP articles. However, I also consider Jimbo's advice to be very accurate, so I would carefully consider naming as "paid advocacy" because the term "paid editing" could be seen as offensive or threatening to valuable editors. Sometimes a broader term is "too broad" and becomes seen as an insult to a wider group of people. Compare with the old term "wikilawyer" which includes the broad term "lawyer" (attorney or sollicitor), and of course some lawyers have been highly offended, while the alternative term "WP:Wikifogger" might have been better, as narrowed to reflect the pettifogging done by some lawyers. Hence, the phrase "paid advocacy" might be a much better choice, even if tending to be too narrow for some improper actions. -Wikid77 (talk) 20:56, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Good point: I've never cared for the term "Wikilawyering", as "lawyer" needn't always be a pejorative term, though the relevant essay admits it is a pejorative, and describes behavior to be avoided. Likewise, I suggest the same is largely true for Watch as a modifier for this proposed WikiProject. Names like ABC Watch are basically always oppositional to ABC; I suggest a more productive aim for a project like this would be to regulate ABC, rather than try to eradicate it (the failed U.S. "War on Drugs" has been mentioned to me as a suitable analogy). Following the comments above, I actually think that something like "WikiProject Paid advocacy" might be a better term for it. Best, WWB Too (talk) 10:59, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, no, it is a watch project, partly. "Review" instead of "Watch" might be OK. Part of the point is to serve as a noticeboard for when (alleged) problems arise in this area, for instance.
Regarding editing/advocacy, the problem I see is someone saying "Well I'm not an advocate, I'm just paid to put in truly neutral and fair material, correcting errors, so this doesn't apply to me". This may be actually be true in particular cases, but not generally in my experience. So I dunno about that. So I'm OK with the current name although I don't have a strong opinion. Herostratus (talk) 17:46, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I note the following on an editor's userpage: "I help with topics related to my employer, and my employers' clients, projects and affiliates. In these cases I have a financial connection with the subject.... This declaration in no way implies that I am an advocate for these subjects." I'm not saying anything about that editor as I'm not familiar with his work, but you see the problem here. If I understand correctly the editor is saying that he has a financial stake but would reject the appellation "advocate", so he possibly would reserve the right to not be considered under the aegis of this project (this may or may not be true of this particular editor, I'm just saying that some editors could make that claim). Herostratus (talk) 17:07, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Nevertheless, after looking at some comments re WP:GLAM and the Ammbassador's program and so forth (over at the other project), I think it's more important to be clear that we've no problem or engagement with various actors working in cooperation with the Wikipedia, and that paid editors could inlclude Foundation employees and so forth, so given all that I think it best to rename to "Paid Advocacy" and I've done this, subject of course to further or later discussion. Herostratus (talk) 20:17, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Defining good PR outreach

Herostratus, I'm interested to know what you might think a constructive volunteer editor / client representative interaction would look like. On Jimbo's Talk page, you recently wrote:

Public relations is an honorable profession. Trying to persuade the New York Times to cover your client's speech is honorable. Hacking into the New York Times database to alter the coverage of your client's speech isn't.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. And do you think that one could substitute "New York Times" for "Wikipedia" and the same would be true? If Wikipedia did not contain a true, guideline-appropriate fact about a client, and a PR rep persuaded an independent editor to help add it, wouldn't that be acceptable? Surely this could not be considered "hacking" the project. Can you explain what you would find to be a successful WP-PR engagement? WWB Too (talk) 09:04, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't agree, no. I don't agree because introducing money into the system is inherently corrupting, and introducing the interests of clients into the system is inherently corrupting. I don't mean that in a pejorative way, really, just as a statement of fact; if one wants to substitute "tending to skew results in a certain direction" for "corrupting" that would be OK.
The situation of "If Wikipedia did not contain a true, guideline-appropriate fact about a client" brings up the problem of cherry-picking facts.
Obviously there are situations where entities are unfairly put in a bad light, for various reasons including editing by disgruntled employees or customers or people who are just generally anti-business or whatever It's a vexing problem and I don't know what the answer to that is, but I do know that paid editing isn't it.
It's been suggested that a "biographies of living corporations" policy be effected, similar to WP:BLP. I haven't though that through but it's possibly reasonable. Herostratus (talk) 17:40, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
But regarding your other point. You (WWB Too), for instance, don't usually edit articles directly, or at least sometimes you don't. Instead, you provide materials, on the talk page or a user subpage, and offer them up, so this is only "Trying to persuade the [Wikipedia] to cover your client's speech" so to speak.
I see your point, but we don't work like that. When a PR person talks to a reporter, it's two professionals talking. But we're not professionals. It's just an entirely different paradigm.
For instance, one thing you ((WWB Too) is offer completely rewritten versions of articles. I think that these offerings are an attractive nuisance, though. We're busy and we're amateurs, and offering a nice, properly Wiki-formatted, lengthy article with the citations properly formatted and so forth is just different than sending a press release to the Times. Unlike the Times, we're just not in a position to deal with enticements backed by corporate resources.
Other editors should not enable you by posting your stuff (unless they're willing to carefully and tediously vet your material, which it would probably be quicker to just write if from scratch themselves). But we're amateurs here, with a very varied body of editors and very amorphous editing system. And so some of them do that. It seems to save a lot of work! Look, the nice man has offered us this fine article! Our lucky day.
It would OK if the articles you offered were truly fair-minded. But they're not. They're full of misrepresentations, half-truth, cherry-picked data, and so forth. Sorry to be harsh, but this is just true. I know that you say its not true. I get that you may well actually believe it's not true. But it is true.
And of course they're full of misrepresentations, half-truth, cherry-picked data, and so forth. You wouldn't be doing your job properly if they weren't. So it's not just you personally, it's the nature of the job.
And so it doesn't really save use any work, because then we have to go through all your material and fix it.
Figuring out how to do that is one of the tasks of this project, I guess. I'm willing to engage with you and other paid editors, but I'm not that interested in arguing with you. I'm not going to persuade you to give up your meal ticket. I'm mainly interested in seeing paid editing ended, and unless and until that is done, watching it and fixing it. It's tedious work but it has to be done, I guess. Herostratus (talk) 05:35, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Wait, what? "nice, properly Wiki-formatted, lengthy article with the citations properly formatted and so forth" are a bad thing? I thought they were what wikipedia strove to provide. Can you explain how the "inherently corrupting" introduction of money transforms ostensibly good content into bad content? bobrayner (talk) 15:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
It depends on what has been written and what has been left out! I think Herostratus is trying to point out that whilst an article can appear fine at first glance, if you delve deeper you might realise important things have been left out and corporate fluff has been added. Talk:Cracker_Barrel_Old_Country_Store and the edits that volunteers have made since are a good example of this. I'm used to checking articles for COI issues and thought that the article was ok. In retrospect, I now realise that it needed (still needs) to be gone over with a fine toothcomb, as well someone performing a proper source review to examine whether the sources used are representative of what's been written and not cherry picked. SmartSE (talk) 15:20, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Right, exactly. "nice, properly Wiki-formatted, lengthy article with the citations properly formatted and so forth" are not a bad thing. Nor a good thing. They are just a thing. Whether they are good or bad depends on other factors. They are an attractive thing and that is the problem. Herostratus (talk) 18:49, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Herostratus, you write:
It would [be] OK if the articles you offered were truly fair-minded. But they're not. They're full of misrepresentations, half-truth, cherry-picked data, and so forth. Sorry to be harsh, but this is just true. ... And of course they're full of misrepresentations, half-truth, cherry-picked data, and so forth. You wouldn't be doing your job properly if they weren't.
I take this to mean you view any contribution I may make to be prima facie destructive to Wikipedia; even if they seem worthwhile, simply by virtue of my involvement they are not. In fact, the "better" they are, the worse they are. Fortunately, I think this is a very small minority viewpoint at Wikipedia. But it doesn't seem there's any room for me in this conversation, so I'll leave you to it. WWB Too (talk) 01:34, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
They're not prima facie destructive but there's a presumption that you put you're clients interests over the Wikipedia's, except for tactical benefit. I sure hope that you do, because otherwise you're in default of your fiduciary obligation to your client. And everything I've seen of your work so far indicates that you do indeed put your client's interests first, as you should and must. I'm sure there's plenty of your work that is OK (even a stopped clock is right sometimes). Having to go over all of it with a fine-tooth comb is wasteful of our time and resources and for that reason alone your contributions probably represent a net detriment to the Wikipedia. But there's no helping it I guess. Herostratus (talk) 05:15, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Wikiproject Cooperation

All, I thought you might be interested in this page I recently found, User:Silver seren/Wikiproject Cooperation. It seems like that proposed Wikiproject has some similar motivations to this one, but approaches things from a significantly different angle. Thoughts? Ebikeguy (talk) 01:01, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

I am somewhat bemused. I would have thought you guys would be rather opposed to my Wikiproject, since it's a bit at odds with yours. SilverserenC 01:24, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I hope we can work together, in the spirit of cooperation, despite our differences. Ebikeguy (talk) 03:10, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I hope we can too. :3 SilverserenC 03:18, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

It's possible in some ways. For instance we're all in favor of increasing the transparency of overt paid editors as long as there are paid editors, by some scheme such as flagging their sigs and so forth. In other areas, I guess we disagree and the that project has a different point of view than this one. For instance, there's this (at the other project): "This is a list of users who have openly disclosed their conflicts of interest and work actively to improve certain articles" followed by two names, User:WWB Too and User:King4057.

I don't know about User:King4057, but that's surely not a correct characterization of User:WWB Too. I'll give an example below. It's representative, I think it fair to say. Not to perseverate on Cracker Barrel, but I haven't had time to vet a lot of User:WWB Too's work, so I'll stick with that for now. OK, Cracker Barrel had some issues in the past with firing employees for being gay, so it's reasonable for the article to address this. There are versions of the Cracker Barrel "Before" and "After User:WWB Too's changes were implemented, and just taking the section that deals with their assessment by the Human Rights Campaign:

Leaving aside minor issues of wording, the "Before" is much better than the "After". Right? I think that any neutral reviewer would concede that. It's a more accurate summation of the key points of the Human Right's Campaign's findings in 2010 and 2011. (It's not like the "Before" is hatchet job; it says they improved to 55% in 2011 without even noting that the majority of the 600+ surveyed companies scored 100%, so 55% is still well below average.)

That's just one example, and there's tons more, but it'll have to do for now.

So anyway, since the article was better before (and this is typical of User:WWB Too's work, as near as I've had the time to determine so far), you probably shouldn't include User:WWB Too in a list of editors who "work actively to improve certain articles".

Because it's not true.

And since it's not true, why would you want to say it? I'm sincerely asking. What would be your reason for doing that? Herostratus (talk) 04:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

About Cracker Barrel and HRC

I have a number of thoughts in reply to the post above, but the first one is just this: I see your point. My version did remove a critical viewpoint from the article, and I should have explained the change when I offered up the new draft. This was and is my thought process:

  1. The inclusion of ADM and Nestle Purina didn't seem relevant, as the article isn't about them.
  2. Cracker Barrel's score had changed substantially in a short time, so I was thinking about avoiding a proseline.
  3. Most importantly, using Lexis-Nexis, I found no third-party sources discussing Cracker Barrel's 2008-09 scores. I take the HRC report to be a primary source, but without secondary source commentary or interpretation, I looked to the linked guidelines: Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so. Meanwhile, I did find this 2010 LGBT newspaper story giving Cracker Barrel favorable marks for improvement, so I decided to make it less judgmental. Now that the point has been made, would I make the same judgment call? Perhaps not. Although I think my version is defensible, it's fair to say I should have described what the newspaper story said instead, and I could have handled the matter more delicately. I'm also certainly not opposed to further revision.

Even if we agree this was a bad call, that is still a different thing than saying I am not working to improve articles. I often focus on articles that are a) poorly developed, and b) overly negative, and I think that was the case here. I certainly disagree with Herostratus that the Cracker Barrel article "was better before"; it was previously short, mostly unreferenced and preoccupied with controversies (before); my version was better referenced and provided a more complete picture (after). I was aiming for something that could pass GA, and I based my work on the Companies, corporations and economic information guideline from WikiProject Companies, as well as Good article criteria.

Moreover, I think Herostratus' broad interpretation of my work is very much incorrect. I offer as examples the articles about Dee Dee Myers (before + after), Richard Stengel (before + after), C-SPAN (before + after) and WCSP-FM (before + after). The latter two have even passed GA review.

That said, I think this issue shows why the wiki model is important generally, and why something like WP:COOPERATION is a good idea specifically. No one editor can make the right judgment call every time, and this is all the more true where COI is involved. I welcome this kind of review, even if it turns out I'm wrong at times. After all, collaboration is what Wikipedia is all about. Best, WWB Too (talk) 14:25, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

OK, I hear you.
However, this was just one example of a number or problematic changes to that article. You are right, though, that this is just one article. I will look into those articles, but I can't do it right away. For one thing, I have a job, as well as a family and other interests. I'm a volunteer here. Dealing with editors who have corporate financial backing is obviously not something that can be done quickly, or by me alone.
Regarding the particulars, no, I don't agree with your characterization. I don't have time to engage beyond that, we'll eventually hash this out over at the talk page for that article I imagine.
The article wasn't especially overly negative. When we're writing about an entity, we want describe who they are, basically. Where they fit in social and historical context is important. It's more important than getting into overly-detailed descriptions of their products, which after a certain point is trivia.
The article may have been a bit too negative before. That's something reasonable people could discuss. But your version went way too far the other way. Well of course it did, since Cracker Barrel wrote it, or any rate paid to have it written, which amounts to the same thing.
Regarding this particular article, it was better before and worse after. That's my opinion, but it's a fair opinion I think. Regarding the other articles, we'll have to see, but this and some other of your work makes me skeptical. We'll see. Herostratus (talk) 17:55, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Of course it's a fair opinion. The point that it's difficult for volunteers to keep pace with paid professionals is also important. This whole episode is very telling -- the examples given above are exactly the sort of thing one would expect. Others have characterized that judgment as WP:ABF, but the example above shows that it won't be an assumption, there is bound to be plenty of evidence for it, as there is here. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 18:56, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Considering that the original version was entirely half controversies and negative information, I don't believe it is something that really needs to be discussed. It's obvious that the article was negatively POV slanted before. Very much so.
And, if you noticed, in the current version, the controversies issue that you have with how WWBToo wrote it have been fixed, it's been expanded again, but balanced better, as the original version didn't note that a lot of the criticism was found to be unfounded later on or was otherwise fixed. As it stand, all the article needs is the lede to be expanded to be a better summary of the article and that one citation needed tag to be dealt with and I think this article is ready for GA, if not FA (though a little prose polishing might be necessary and a few sentences in an area or two). I think the advertisement tag is completely unfounded. I just read through the entire article and it reads fine to me. There are a few sticking areas, but it isn't due to it reading as an advertisement, but more on how exactly you explain the necessary information, such as the stuff about times and menus. SilverserenC 21:24, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I get that you "don't believe it is something that really needs to be discussed", but it does need to be discussed. A couple of editors right here are saying that it needs to be discussed, and other editors elsewhere have also indicated this.
The fact of the matter is that Cracker Barrel is just an usually bad corporate actor.
They are absolutely one of the most homophobic large corporations in the United States of America. That's their prerogative, to the extent that they stay within the law. Lots of people are homophobic. But it's an important social issue and it's important to understanding where this entity fits in the world. Incidentally their HRC rating decreased from 55% to 35% for 2012. That they would decrease indicates that they've actually stopped doing some of the already inadequate attempts to address this issue. That is really quite remarkable and important to understanding this entity, I would say.
In addition, they appear to be pervasively racist. In spite of the fact that they were shamed for a very pervasive and widespread pattern of really quite appalling racist behavior, and had to pay millions and set up anti-discrimination programs, they do not seem to be getting the message through to their stores. I think that's an important fact to know about this entity. They also appear to have problems with misogyny.
None of this is shocking or surprising. They're Southern and for Southerners of a certain generation and upbringing and moral character all this comes with the territory, I guess. But it's important. It's important to an encyclopedic understanding of what this entity is, what the do, where they are coming from, and where they are going.
In addition, they seem to be having business issues in that they are facing a looming hostile takeover attempt. That's not in the article; instead we have "Cracker Barrel continued to grow and perform well" which appears to be flat-out not true. That's unusual -- they're isn't that much out-and-out mendacity in the article, because of course the editor is too clever for that, and it's not necessary or smart to lie when you can get that same effect with misrepresentations and cherry-picking and so forth.
There's more, but I'll make an arbitrary stop here.
In the "Before" version, the discussion of these issues took up 45% of the article. That's probably too much. It should be 40% or 35%, maybe. 30%, whatever. In the "After" version, it's 10%, buried deep, made more vague, and overbalanced by more than that amount of self-serving corporate flackery. That's just ridiculously inadequate.
I guess what I'm saying, User:Silver seren, is I don't get it. I understand where User:WWB Too is coming from. He's a paid agent of Cracker Barrel Inc. He's got to pay the rent, kids need orthodontics or whatever, and so forth. I get that. But what's your angle? You're promoting this obviously corrupt, horribly biased and just very poor article to be a Featured Article, obviously to make some kind of point. But I don't even understand what the point is.
The only thing I can guess is that you just think that articles on corporate entities should take a relentlessly sunny-side-up POV. Is that it? In answer to my original question, is that the underlying philosphy of User:Silver seren/Wikiproject Cooperation, then? It's OK if it is, because that's a reasonable opinion. You should probably be more out-front about that, though. Herostratus (talk) 09:13, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Oh and regarding "the controversies issue that you have with how WWBToo wrote it have been fixed". Well fine. But here's my question. Why should I, as a volunteer editor, or any volunteer editor, have to "fix" and clean up after paid editors with corporate backing? That is not what I signed on for. What I like to do is translate articles and do other fun and interesting stuff. I didn't sign on for the annoying gruntwork of monitoring and cleaning up after agents of corporate interests, for free, while they cash their checks. I do it because it needs to be done. It wastes our time and demoralizes the staff, though. How this helps the Wikipedia I have not been able to understand. Herostratus (talk) 09:25, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
No GA would ever get passed with an article that was 30% controversies. That is way, way too much. If the issue is that there is a significant amount of negative information about Cracker Barrel that should be discussed, then the clear method is that rather giving far too much weight to the controversies section, it should be spun out into a separate article (Maybe titled Controversies of Cracker Barrel), with a summary of that spun out article in three to four paragraphs in the current article and a main page link to the spun out version. That is how you made an article. If you feel like the article is not directly discussing more prominent negative issues, then bring it up on the talk page and it'll be worked in. The issue I have is not with negativity, but length.
Are you seriously saying that WWB Too's changes have not improved the article? Are you seriously saying that the article isn't more complete and well-written now than it was before? It is quite clear how his editing has helped. If the only thing we ever have to worry about are negative information sections, just one or two sections in an overall article, and we had editors like WWB Too who pump out information quickly and well, we'd be finishing up FAs left and right, because all we would have to worry about is making sure the articles are balanced between positive and negative information. SilverserenC 09:32, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
User:Silver seren has started a peer review for the Cracker Barrel article. He indicates that he and User:WWB Too will be doing the work on the peer review, but I hope he would be willing to accept other help as well. I thought some of the members of this project would be interested. Ebikeguy (talk) 14:13, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I'd be fine with some help in applying the comments that the peer reviewers make, but I do want to make sure that it's the two of us that do most of the work. That's the point of the Mentor process in the first place, not to have the entire Wikiproject join in on every article. SilverserenC 20:12, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Please clarify, because it would be easy to conclude that you are attempting to assert ownership of the Cracker Barrel article, which violates Wikipedia rule, in wanting to limit participation in this peer review. Ebikeguy (talk) 20:58, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
*rolls eyes* No, I am not trying to own the article. Feel free to contribute. I just feel like it is a waste of effort for everyone on the Wikiproject to be focusing on one thing. But the whole point of this process is to show that the mentorship and also the collaboration with paid editors works, so in order to showcase that, it is preferable that WWB Too is prominently seen doing the work as well. SilverserenC 21:02, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I did not find your *roll eyes" comment helpful. In the future, please follow proper procedure for nominating articles for peer review. As I read the procedure, the first step is to tag the article in question with a peer review notice. This makes the process much more open and transparent, and lessens concerns of individual editors attempting to dominate the peer review process. The intent of the peer review process is to solicit input from a wide variety of editors, whether they have been previously involved in the article or not. Thanks. Ebikeguy (talk) 21:16, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Um, I did? 20 hours ago when I started the peer review. SilverserenC 21:30, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Ah. I was looking at the top of the page, where procedure says the tag should be, and where it was in the other peer review articles I have seen. Sorry. Striking through previous comments. Ebikeguy (talk) 21:40, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I've seen them at the very top and at the bottom of the group at the top. I don't think it particularly matters which spot it's in, just so long as it's visible. SilverserenC 21:48, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I doubt I'm the only one who doesn't share the view that the "point of this process is to show that ... the collaboration with paid editors works". There's a whole lot of unwelcome baggage in that statement. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 22:04, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I was referring more to the Cracker Barrel article in singular. I want to prove that it can be done, that cooperation is possible and beneficial if the community would just make the effort for it. SilverserenC 22:08, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think the mentor program should ever be used to interpret that only the mentor is allowed to critique the work of the apprentice. The current language of the project (well I wrote it) encourages mentors to coach their apprentice on how to collaborate with the community, not isolate them. It also (we discussed this) doesn't attempt to influence (or override) pre-existing policy. Collaboration with the community and an article that everyone is happy with (including anti-paid editor advocates) would demonstrate success. Asking other editors not to participate under the umbrella of the mentorship program seems like a perverse interpretation IMHO. Maybe that's a discussion for that project's talk page, but I can't imagine any support for such an interpretation. King4057 (talk) 04:47, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Speaking just for myself, I don't want to interfere with the GA/FA process for this article because I'm not familiar with the GA/FA process (a bad gap in my Wikiknowledge) and this is just one article, I haven't studied the article extensively in it's current form, and (again just for my part) I don't want to get all contentious over one article; it's not that important, we are looking for ways to discuss and deal with this phenomenon generally.
But yes, it probably is worse (I'm speaking of the WWB Too before/after, not necessarily the current form). It is, at any rate, certainly arguable. The "after" is longer, but that is not the main test of an article's quality. The "after" has more refs (in keeping with its increased length), but that is not the main test of an article's quality. The "after" has good prose style, but that is not the main test of an article's quality. The "after" has all its refs formatted properly with the correct templates, and conforms to other Wikiformat rules, but that is not the main test of an article's quality. The "after" is less accurate and presents the totality of the entity less well, and that is the main test of an article's quality.
On some level, it's a philosophical disagreement. One editor might take the position "Look, we basically want to present an entity in an essentially positive light, all things being equal. We're not Frontline or 60 Minutes. We're here to present basic information about an entity, not be hatchetmen." An other editor might counter "Well, we're not Frontline but we're not the Chamber of Commerece either. The fact is that corporate entities have a role in and an effect on society, a large one. Describing how an entity fits into the historical and social and business nexus is more important than details about their individual products and so forth."
Editors can have this philosophical disagreement and reasonable people can argue reasonably over this. But not if the entity itself has a seat at the table. I'm willing to engage with you over what should or should not be in the article. I'm not willing to engage with Cracker Barrel Inc. or what should or should not be in the article. Do you see the difference?
Because, for one thing, as I say, I only have so much time. I have to break off and go earn my living at a certain point. But an agent for Cracker Barrel Inc. doesn't have to do that. He is earning his living while he edits here. Also, I'm willing to consider reasonable arguments in good faith. A paid agent isn't and can't, unless he's a fool or a fraud.
If the Ralph Nader people or Jobs With Justice or the the Democratic Socialists of America or whomever had the werewithal to hire paid agents to make sure that Wikipedia articles took care to highlight instances of corporate bad acting in society, maybe that'd be different. They could fight it out with the corporate agents and we could sit back and watch. (Not that I'd approve of that, of course. Would you? It's an interesting question.) But they don't.
It's an interesting issue with a lot of facets, and I have more to say about the issue generally.
But not now. I have to go to work. Herostratus (talk) 19:42, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Back. I think that one cogent rebuttal to the lack of paid agents of "the Ralph Nader people or Jobs With Justice or the the Democratic Socialists of America or whomever" is that they're not needed because we have the functional equivalent: plenty of basically business-hating elitist and smarmy jejune schoolboy-lefty types, not even considering the disgruntled ex-employee/customer crowd, investigative-journalist wanabees, and possibly business rival of a given entity, consequently plenty of articles about entities are slanted against those entities.

It'd be a cogent point. How big a problem it is I don't know, but it's surely a problem on some level. I also don't know the answer. I don't think that permitting paid agents of the entities to edit the articles is a good solution, all thing considered. However, a couple of things that might help are formulating a WP:BLP policy for extant corporate entities. I'm not sure I would favor that but I might, and it's reasonable idea.

However, it would be difficult to push that through. But here's something, it's not much but it could help a little maybe. We have {{advert}}, which says

But we don't have the converse, something like this:

(We probably want to use a more formal term than "hatchet job" I guess.) How about something like this? I'm willing to propose this. Would this be at all a helpful step to addressing this problem? Herostratus (talk) 03:43, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree, the volunteer community tends to have a negative bias for the reasons you outlined. Hate motivates people and trust of corporations is at an all-time low. The discrepancy between available resources also needs to be addressed. Even if a paid editor is in the right (or thinks they are) it shouldn't be appropriate for them to force the community into a large, resource-draining embattlement over a basically inconsequential article or edit. I'm looking through the COI guidelines and don't see anything (I could be missing it) telling COI editors not to become argumentative. That seems like an easy, no-nonsense adjustment that I can't imagine any opposition to. Though there may already be many policies on the topic that simply weren't followed. King4057 (talk) 18:17, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

Editor registry

One of the tasks here is to regulate paid advocates. One of the steps to doing that, I think, would be to create a central registry of paid advocates (there are other ways also). This should be non-controversial I think (although you never know). I've created a page for this, it is here: User:Herostratus/Wikiproject Paid Editing Watch/Editor Registry.

Paid advocates are invited to register, other editors are invited to help out by adding known self-avowed paid agents (be sure to follow the instructions re providing proof), thanks. Herostratus (talk) 07:22, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

You'll want to add User:Eclipsed and several other related editors to that. (I'm surprised no one has mentioned them yet, as wikipediaexperts was the reason for the last RfC IIRC). I'll let them know about this page. SmartSE (talk) 13:37, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, sure, we're just getting up to speed here, you or any editor is invited to make additions yourself, if you care to. Herostratus (talk) 17:02, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I added him to the other project's list. King4057 (talk) 04:53, 12 January 2012 (UTC)


Well gosh. That other project (Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation) is going great guns with loads of participants and lots of snappy material, and this one isn't, so I dunno. There's some overlap between these two projects. If you imagine a Venn diagram there'd be some overlap. Whether two separate projects is useful I'm not sure. Possibly not.

I guess the thrust of Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation is more or less "Paid editing is a positive good, and what we need to do is help paid agents navigate the various rules and pitfalls so that they can get their material into the Wikipedia" while the intended thrust of this project is more like "Paid editing is very problematic, and ought to be either outright banned or, if not, viewed with extreme skepticism".

Where there's some overlap is the question of controlling paid editors. Participants in both projects agree that, inasmuch as paid agents are currently permitted, they ought be controlled in some ways. But the thrust of this project is "watched with gimlet eye" while the thrust of the other project is more like "encouraged and mentored", I guess. Which is right is a matter of opinion I guess.

I note that something called CREWE (Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement) was formed on Facebook about a week ago and already has over 100 members. These are high-powered full time experienced and subtle and clever PR people, and it's kind of daunting to think about going up against them. Of course if one takes the view that the word "Ethical" in their title constitutes proof of ethical intent, it's not a problem. I suppose that people with that outlook on life must own a lot of ShamWows, but maybe that's OK.

Oh well. It's a complicated issue. If the general philosophy of this Wikiproject does indeed represent a distinct minority view, it arguably shouldn't go forward, as pressing contentious minority views isn't usually a good idea.

We don't have any money to hand out here, but we can make awards! I note that Greg Kohs (of MyWikiBiz), a CREWE participant and I guess sort of the "bad cop" as opposed to the suave "good cops" of the more established organizations represented at CREWE, awarded me "Wikipediot Tool of the Month" for creating this project. But it's not about me; I think all the "mental midgets" (Kohs again) that participate should be able to share this accolade:

Klucz francuski.JPG This user is a Wikipediot Tool of the Month

Herostratus (talk) 18:27, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

I find it interesting that when I suggested taking "off-wiki" action in this matter, I was brought up at ANI for doing so. Yet when the pro-COI crew formalizes an off-wiki group to promote paid editing on Wikipedia, it turns into a pro-COI love-fest. I guess I should not be surprised. Ebikeguy (talk) 18:42, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think any conversation on Facebook should be taken to demonstrate a consensus on Wikipedia, being that most participants in the Facebook group are PR people. I've spoken my piece about this group on the other project. It's tough to say if this group will be problematic for Wikipedia or good:
  • If they do an earnest job educating the PR field on ethical practice, that could be a good thing (or it could encourage more good-intentioned but poor-quality, out-of-compliance COI contributors)
  • If they spread misinformed "best practices" without any real knowledge of Wikipedia, that could be dangerous
  • If they advocate policy changes, that could be annoying
  • Many people will leverage the group as "thought-leadership" to get attention to a topic they have no real expertise on.
One admin said the group could be the cheerleader within the PR field to educate the profession on Wikipedia best practices and the resources/documentation already available on Wikipedia. The fact that there was originally so much push for Jimbo to authorize their participation, and an incredibly (read NONE) effort to discuss and implement governance is pretty telling on the balanced (read sarcasm) and informed (*uhem) the general perspective is in the group. But it's still early. I suspect Jimbo might facilitate a public humiliation of some form if this group produces something unacceptable.
Anyways, I've spent a substantial amount of effort on the other project, because I knew my contributions were welcome and you'll see some of my first efforts were to balance out the overt pro-paid editing stance to something more agreeable. You'll also see unanimous support on the Talk page for the proposal I put forth that the project ALSO help reduce bad actors, yet the project page doesn't actually include much yet on ideas on how to do that.
So my suggestion is, a paid editing watch has a place as part of that group, and I would love to see if we can identify the usernames on Wikipedia that correspond to your list (at the bottom of this project page) and see if their edits are indeed inappropriate. King4057 (talk) 22:06, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Hero, see the Paid Editing Watch string I started on the other Wikiproject King4057 (talk) 00:44, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
OK, but I think a merge is premature. I mean, the name of that Wikiproject is "Cooperation" and the basic thrust is of facilitating and encouraging paid advocacy. I'm against that.
I get that the idea for that Wikiproject is to that paid advocacy should be done appropriately, but my reading of "done appropriately" is something along the lines of "Well, your company has a propensity for locking employees in during their shifts at facilities which catch fire at an alarming rate, but you can't just delete that information, you idiots. That doesn't work. Do you not understand how to slant things? We will educate you on the many complex hoops to jump through so that your version of these events prevails". Maybe that's a fair characterization and maybe not, but it's at least arguable that it's fair.
In fact, "inappropriate" -- that is, clumsy -- paid advocacy is possibly better. At least it's easier to detect and correct. If you can convince that project to serve as a kind of BBB for paid advocacy, all power to you, but that's not where I'm coming from. Herostratus (talk) 20:47, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, you could also keep them separate. Main thing is, I don't want to see you give up, because this stuff needs to happen as well. A proactive, instead of reactive, team to investigate gross unethical edits could routinely hand over cases to the COI noticeboard and the media - preventing bad edits before they happen instead of drowning the community in reverting spam. In fact, I already donated some time investigating the PR agency on your list and identifying up to six anonymous user accounts, including one that removed information about an executive wrapped in a fraud case. I sent an SVP from the firm a private, courteous note.
Anyways, if the tone of the project was lighter, I think more volunteers would want to participate. Many enjoy the investigations (I thought it was fun myself). And if ethical paid editors were allowed to participate, I would make substantial contributions personally. If you do want to give up, I'll take the baton of making some similar initiative on the Cooperation project. The Cooperation project got unanimous support that in addition to "cooperation" we need the preventative side of things. King4057 (talk) 22:27, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Go Forward

If the general philosophy of this Wikiproject does indeed represent a distinct minority view, it arguably shouldn't go forward, as pressing contentious minority views isn't usually a good idea.

Definitely Go Forward. The adult conversations on this page far surpass those on other related WP pages. The paid editor syndrome is not one that will go away. Changes need to be made as to how a paid editor handles him/herself and the edits that are implemented, by the paid editor or volunteer proxies. ```Buster Seven Talk 17:22, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

Of possible interest

Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals)#Proposal: Articles about extant corporations. Herostratus (talk) 18:03, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Template the irregulars?

I've noticed that the established process for COI editing usually fails when a COI editor makes detailed comments on an article talk page, and then nobody responds in a constructive manner for days to months. So they will get discouraged and start editing the article, and get in trouble for being the most obviously COI editors possible. Then they start socking.

Do we need a template or some other means of communicating directly with COI editors to let them know to put a note for help up on WP:COIN after commenting on an article's talk page unless it's high traffic? Some other kind of WP:COIN-ping instructional outreach? A WP:BOTREQ for prominent notification of {{Request edit}} uses more than a few days old? Selery (talk) 18:55, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

These all sound reasonable I guess. There's a page over at Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation called Wikipedia:WikiProject Cooperation/Paid Editor Help which they're experimenting with, so maybe that? Herostratus (talk) 01:55, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Ah, good idea. I asked over at WP:BOTREQ and they suggested this which should help, but I hope they add stale members of that category to the Feedback Request Service, too just in case. I'll have a closer look at that WikiProject. Thanks! Selery (talk) 20:30, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
There seems to be a few different opinions about the validity of requiring a {{request edit}} tag. See User:Joedesantis#Request edit. Some editors interpret WP:COI as a suggestion, "If you could find the time it would be nice if you could......". I think any tag should be required. And, importantly, NOT to create a violation of policy but only to show as a template or guide for the informing of our readership as to the POV of the editors involved in any particular article or talk page. ```Buster Seven Talk 20:09, 23 February 2012 (UTC)


Some in-person face-to-face discussions could go a long way in improving the paid editor scenario. RKLawton mentioned to me (on Facebook) submitting a speaker submission to Wikimania. I think a civil panel would be more effective at reaching a balanced and refined outlook that considers varying viewpoints and have suggested a panel here:

The submissions appear to be openly editable. I'd like to encourage project participants to modify the submission as they see fit and sign their support if they would like to see a discussion on paid editing at the conference. Also, if I mentioned you as a potential speaker, but you don't wish to participate, let me know. If you would like to be a panelist and fit one of the buckets, let me know that too. King4057 (talk) 03:27, 5 February 2012 (UTC)


The comments about the CREWE group in the list of links is inappropriate. The "evidence" given to support that CREWE is a pressure group is a comment by King, when King was kicked out of the group for promotion. So I wouldn't call that evidence at all. King and CREWE are completely separate at this point (though i'm working with both), but his comments cannot be attributed to anything related to a statement from CREWE. SilverserenC 03:45, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Why are you helping them?
They are not about ethics, they just want to try bully Wikimedia into doing things their way. Children can write Wikipedia articles neutrally. They know how to do it, they just don't want to. It's a pressure group, not cooperation. If they were co-operative they would follow the rules in Wikipedia:Conflict of interest like everyone else. I don't edit the Wikipedia Review article. They know about the rules, they are very aware, they just want to get things their way.
--Mistress Selina Kyle (Α⇔Ω ¦ ⇒✉) 09:32, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
COI doesn't say don't edit articles related to one's COI. As you very well know, if people held to that, no one would edit anything, as everyone has some sort of COI in regards to the articles they're editing or they wouldn't be editing them. And the CREWE people are editing neutrally, but they know that even doing as such, they would, and do, face extreme resistance from editors just because they outright declare their COI. That's one of the reasons why I created Wikiproject Cooperation, to facilitate a dialogue between the two.
Though, if you read the CREWE Facebook page, you'd see that they're far more about educating other PR people about the ethical ways to do things, because they know that the biggest detriment to them being accepted on Wikipedia is the actions by groups like Bell Pottinger.
So, again, the statement about CREWE in the links is an extreme mischaracterization with no real evidence and it should be removed. SilverserenC 15:33, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
"Please stop vandalising our wikiproject, we are not required to be neutral, we are in opposition of the Corporate Editing project that you are a member of. Please stop attempting to censor us". Is such an adversarial stance really helpful? bobrayner (talk) 00:07, 19 February 2012 (UTC)


I have placed my name as one of the supporters of the project, because I support the basic idea of taking care that content for paid authors be NPOV, and otherwise in accord with our rules. However, I do not support the second goal, to adovcate for forbidding paid editing, and in fact intend to actively oppose any such restrictions. It is normal the Wikiprojects be worded so that anyone who supports the basic goals and existing rules of Wikipedia can join. There are a good many deletionists on the ARS wikiproject, and I am on the Conservatism wikiproject--their intentions, (I assume) and mine, are to see that the projects not go beyond the generally accepted guidelines, and change from "improving coverage" to advocacy--at least by receiving their notices. I do not think the project can enter mainspace with that goal present--it contradicts the foundational principle that anyone can edit. DGG ( talk ) 05:56, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

I don't understand. Paid editing and NPOV are directly contradictory, aren't they? Can you give one example of when they would not be? (By 'paid editing' I mean editing by a person paid to do advocacy/PR work on the topic in question.) If I was paying someone to do PR for me and they behaved strictly NPOV, I would sack them. Wildfowl (talk) 23:54, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
If any editor (paid or not) follows our WP:NPOV policy, and ensures that their edits are backed by independent reliable sources - there is no reason they shouldn't edit. Editors (paid or not) who practice advocacy should not edit. --Versageek 00:09, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
Paid editors, by definition, do not have a neutral point of view. They are being paid to support a specific point of view, advocating for the cause of those who are paying them. The clever ones can hide their POV, with results such as the fluff job we now see in the Cracker Barrel article. Hidden POV is still POV. Ebikeguy (talk) 00:13, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
Which definition is that? I would like to see it. I had a quick look through WP:NPOV and it doesn't say that paid edits are inherently non-neutral. Is there another definition elsewhere? bobrayner (talk) 00:19, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
Hi Bob. Your question is certainly valid. My answer is that the definition I was using is the common, non-Wikipedia definition. I am fairly certain that most people would agree that those hired by a company to do any kind of writing are going to write in a manner that supports their employer. Thus, by that definition, they do not have a neutral point of view. You are correct in your assertion that WP:NPOV does not include this common definition. Note that I did not Wikilink "neutral point of view" in my previous to WP:NPOV. I was using that language more as a lead in to my statement that all paid editors are advocates. I'd like to see Wikipedia policy change in the future to take a harder line regarding paid editing, but unless it does, we must all abide by the Wiki-rules we have. Cheers, Ebikeguy (talk) 01:11, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
I think we need to draw a distinction between writing from a neutral point of view, writing to make an article neutral, and possessing a neutral point of view. We can take it as given that a COI means a potential POV. But it is possible that someone who doesn't hold a neutral point of view could edit in such a way as to improve an article's neutrality, or who could write an NPOV article because their brief was to have an article on Wikipedia, and they understood that a non-neutral article would either be removed or edited. In regard to the first situation, there are articles currently very anti the subject, such that I can imagine a subject seeing NPOV as a much more reasonable situation. And similarly, I know of situations where an article was dominated by one POV, and the inclusion of a second one did help to find some balance (although the main case I'm thinking of made my life pretty miserable as I tried to balance the POVs).
I guess the way I see it is that having a POV isn't necessarily a problem on Wikipedia, but making an article mirror that POV is. However, one doesn't necessarily entail the other. Paid editing makes it more likely, and may need to be curtailed accordingly, but it isn't necessarily the case. - Bilby (talk) 01:49, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
(rep to Ebikeguy): This is why paid editors need to declare their COI before they start editing. If they want to continue editing AND stay employed, they need to stay within our guidelines and manage the expectations of their employers. As long as Wikipedia appears at the top of most search engine results, we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of preventing paid editors (particularly those of the marketing department & PR firm persuasion) from editing. --Versageek 00:38, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
Hi Versa. Yup, you are right that we don't have much of a chance of stopping all paid editors from pushing their position, but that is different from saying "there is no reason they shouldn't edit." There are reasons, and good ones. However, I think I understand your position better now that I have read your last comment. Thanks!Ebikeguy (talk) 01:27, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Like DGG, I, too, have placed my name on the list for this project, but do not necessarily endorse an outright ban on paid editing, whether it be by freelance paid Wikipedia editing specialists, employees of article subjects, or paid public relations people. I do support a variety of formal and community consensus restrictions on such editing, and understand the concerns of those who favor an outright ban. However, the neutral point of view includes a balanced presentation of all significant points of view about a topic. In the case of a corporation, for example, we want to report on the position of critics of the corporation, if their criticism has received significant coverage in reliable sources. At the same time, we want to report on the corporation's own response to the criticism, and paid spokespeople for the corporation are in the best position to help ensure that the coorporation's own point of view is reflected in our coverage. To allow the anti-corporate activists to edit freely, using only the reliable sources that they select, while denying any input from the corporation's advocates, may tend to skew the point of view of the article. Collaborative editing is proven to be the best assurance of neutrality. I recommend that all paid editors openly declare their COI, and that paid editor participation be limited to article talk pages, project pages and user talk pages of interested but unpaid editors, with the exception of reversion of overt, indisputable vandalism and correction of indisputable errors of fact, such as spelling and date errors as supported by all readily available reliable sources. I support creation of a noticeboard where representatives of corporations can propose changes or report problems with articles, as a backup to stagnant talk pages. I also recommend that editors assume good faith of contributors, until and unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:15, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Do you mean like a noticeboard noticeboard? Technically, I think the COI noticeboard is supposed to fulfill that capacity, though it doesn't do the best job of it. :/ SilverserenC 04:25, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

I think that in many cases they can and should contribute in article space directly. One of the things a company wants to do is have the public aware of it, and have the basic facts about the business history and products widely visible. One of the things we want to do is have the basic information about notable businesses available in the encyclopedia . There can be a complete match between the two. I think it would be highly desirable if all NYSE companies, for example, made sure they had a page of this sort of Wikipedia--they will get there faster than we will. Now, there is additional information the company would like, to have visible, which is promotionalism. A good PR person can put in the material we want and omit the rest, or, at the worst, put in the material we want and we can delete the rest. (A more difficult problem is factual material written in a promotional way--sometimes this requires complete rewriting. Again , a good PR man can learn to avoid this.) The easiest way for us to edit this material is to make it visible, by knowing whom the authors are. I suggested, and so have others, that all paid editors must use their real name & give their affiliation; this has previously been rejected as opposed to the basic principle of permitting anonymity. I think it needs to be suggested again. When a public entity edits, there is no reason for it to be anonymous. Openness solves many problems. And, imho, part of the problem is the quality of the PR people who have been working here, especially for smaller companies--at the rates that some people are willing to do this work, no wonder we get bad editing. In large companies too, it often seems that Wikipedia is assigned to the least experienced. Using real names would help this immediately. DGG ( talk ) 16:53, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

I read about this controversy on TechDirt. I haven't formed an opinion on paid editing, but I have an interest in public relations and propaganda and will help if I can. I was contributing to Wikipedia a few years ago and my interest dwindled after a while. I may try to help out more if I have time. Jay Tepper (talk) 21:14, 24 February 2012 (UTC)