But in Narrowing the chasm between PR professionals and Wikipedia, word comes of an organized effort to start repairing that relationship. Eleven firms have issued a statement about their commitment to the goals of Wikipedia, and to the ethics policies of their firms. The statement came out of a meeting earlier this year in Washington with a mix of Wikipedia volunteers and scholars who study the wiki phenomenon. In part, the firms agreed on the following:
We have promised to continually seek greater understanding of the project’s goals for our employees and clients, and to investigate and seek corrective action in any instance where a potential violation of Wikipedia’s policies arise based on the work of our respective agencies. And we have committed ourselves to push our industry as a whole to have more deliberate conversations about a high standard of ethical engagement with the Wikipedia project (and similar initiatives) as well as better education in our field for what the Wikipedia project is striving to achieve.There was one big transparency misstep with this initiative: It came as a surprise to Wikipedia itself. Maybe not the best of best practices for PR firms. A better approach? The Phillips Collection, a museum in Washington, DC, asked Wikimedia volunteers to help them write and upload articles without a hitch. They weren't self-promotional, but contributed to knowledge about particular artists.
This post from a Wikipedia administrator details just how complicated its posting rules are, which suggests you should at least make an effort to understand them before you start trying to change them. One person who gets the rules is the most prolific volunteer poster of all, responsible for some 2.7 million articles, or more than 8 percent of the total. And yes, he uses a bot for some of that.
In the meantime, I think I've spotted the next thing that PR could ruin for everyone, if it wanted to (and too many practitioners want to). The Knight Foundation just awarded nearly $4 million to an effort by Mozilla, the Washington Post and the New York Times to create an open-source platform "that will allow readers and users to upload pictures, videos, and other media for news outlets to use." Yikes. Just think about that for a few minutes. Described as a publishing platform for readers, you can read more about OpenNews here. It's not clear how this will play out, but the effort is worth keeping your eye on.
If you insist on playing with Wikipedia, at least use these tricks and extensions to improve the experience. And if you're thinking about making anonymous edits to Wikipedia, keep in mind that it's possible to set up a bot that identifies edits from particular IP addresses and tweets out who's changing what, as in this example of a bot that tracks edits from U.S. Senate or congressional offices.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Kristina Alexalverson)