So it transpires that Microsoft has offered to pay someone to update a Wikipedia entry about open source software standards. Since Wikipedia’s whole foundation rests on the fact that its contributors are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, and the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has explicitly stated that paying for Wikipedia content is a no-no, this is not smart. A colleague of mine remarked in an internal e-mail thread on the topic:
“In a company of such smart people… I can’t believe we do such incredibly dumb things.”
Not that I can’t sympathize with whoever it was who was trying to get the entry changed – if you believe that a Wikipedia entry is wrong or biased, it’s incredibly infuriating to watch it get cited and treated as gospel. My own entry on Wikipedia, for example, is full of inaccuracies. But you have to suck it up, unfortunately.
The story exposes an interesting loophole in the Wikipedia rules, however: it’s rumored that the Wikipedia article in question was being marked up by IBMers, and the Microsoft mark-ups were being removed. These IBMers are being paid to advance IBM’s cause in the market (so, for that matter, are the ‘Softies) – does this count as paying for entries? Would the distinction hinge on whether someone’s job description included “maintain accuracy of Wikipedia articles about xxx”? Surely some of the content about, say, DB2, or SQL Server, has been contributed by the companies that created those products.
This is surely desirable, since the most expertise on these products comes from those working for the companies that build them. Yet even the most dispassionate of prose about something like DB2 has the benefit of educating the market about its benefits. Murky.