[Wikimedia-l] Paid editing v. paid advocacy (editing)

Andrew Lih andrew.lih at gmail.com
Fri Jan 10 15:17:56 UTC 2014

Ting and Christophe,

Glad to hear we are moving forward on finding more sophisticated ways of
thinking about "paid" editing. At least for the English Wikipedians I've
talked to, many are pleasantly surprised that the European editions are
able to find a cooperative relationship with paid, corporate entities. The
Signpost article out today details some of that, but it merits a
comprehensive inventory and study to compare best practices. (Of course,
the argument can always be made about English Wikipedia as a weird special
case because of its profile and large community. I intentionally choose not
to use the horrible word "exceptionalism"!)

In last night's episode of Wikipedia Weekly podcast, we talked about this
as well [1]. In general, there are multiple parameters regarding the issue
of COI editing that goes beyond pay.

1. Pay
2. Neutrality
3. Advocacy
4. Transparency

Even then, the term "advocacy" is an imprecise and nearly useless term. Are
you advocating for a client? Are you advocating for the public good? Same
word, completely different motivations. So "paid advocacy" as a phrase,
uncontextualized, is not useful.

That's why I really like the GLAM use of the phrase of choosing to work
with "like minded institutions." A national museum with editorial
independence is a good like-minded institution for the Wikimedia community.
A think tank that works to convince the public that global warming is a
myth… not so much.

If an institution is not like-minded, then the process of educating and
working with them with appropriate strict guidelines is a viable solution.
We see that this can work with the examples of Swedish and German
Wikipedias (and, it seems, others)

Back to the four factors above: You can have paid, neutral, transparent
editors that advocate for something good -- like better public access to
public records. GLAM Wikipedians-in-residence are a good example of this,
where they ensure that the interests of the public and Wikipedia's
principles come first. So their advocacy is for the principles of better
public knowledge, and a full time employee is working on it. This is a 4x
positive outcome, even though the words "paid" and "advocacy" are used.

On the other hand, in the case of Wiki-PR: it's editing for pay, without
transparency, without neutrality and advocating for a paying customer's
benefit. That's a quadruple no-no. This type of activity must be banned.
But if there is a middle way on this, in working with corporations in a
straightforward way, we would be silly not to investigate this, as certain
Wikipedia editions already show that it is possible.

I've highlighted in the past that we have systemic problems in Wikipedia
with unpaid editors resulting in persistent non-neutral content. The
university and college articles are the best (ie. worst) examples of this
-- these always read like brochures that brag about the top accomplishments
and rankings of a university because the number of alumni and students that
put in positive statements far outnumber anyone who could pull them back
into neutral territory. Unpaid, non-neutral, alma mater-advocacy is rampant
and persistent.

I hope we can start a longer dialogue about this at Wikimania. I'd be happy
to propose not just a session, but an entire track at Wikimania to address
this, including brainstorming/sharing sessions to get more views from other
language editions.


[1] Wikipedia Weekly episode 108 -
Discussion of paid editing at 33 minutes into the podcast

On Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 7:40 AM, Ting Chen <wing.philopp at gmx.de> wrote:

> Hello dear all,
> I would like to be more cautious about the difference between the "good"
> paid editing and the "bad" paid advocacy.
> There are two reasons why I don't want to separate in this way.
> First of there is no clear boundary between the "good" and "bad" like
> black and white. There is a gradient of grey between the two. And that
> gradient is not a narrow one but a very broad one. And it depends from the
> perspective of the people who look upon the matter. For one maybe a
> behavior is the dark white but for the other one it may be a bright black.
> Second I want to especially respond to the idea that Erik brought up: an
> organization that hire people to write qualified articles. I wrote in the
> other mail that I believe paid editing changes the collaboratory nature of
> our projects but did not really elaborate on why I think so. I want to do
> this now. Let me construct an example to emphasize why I think so. I will
> now take an example which leaves almost no room for interpretation about
> black and white: the theoretical physics. Let's say there is a charitable
> non-profit organization that hires reknowned theoretical physicists to
> write Wikipedia articles. So they pay 10.000 Dollar to Bryce DeWitt (I
> know, he is dead, I just don't want to name any living people) to write
> about field theory, or John Wheeler to write about general relativity, and
> so on and so on. I wonder if this happens, would there still be anyone who
> dares to change or write articles on topics about theoretical physics? If
> this becomes a model that many follow, I feel it will largely change the
> composition of our volunteers community and how the project will look like.
> This is basically an approach that the Nupedia tried at the beginning. It
> didn't work that time. Meanwhile Wikipedia gains such a reputation that the
> model may work. But I personally don't find the idea sexy.
> Greetings
> Ting
> Am 09.01.2014 03:22, schrieb MZMcBride:
>  Frank Schulenburg wrote:
>>> [...] it is widely known that paid editing is frowned upon by many in the
>>> editing community and by the Wikimedia Foundation.
>> No.
>> Paid editing is not the same as paid advocacy (editing). This is a very
>> important point.
>> Suggested reading:
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Dominic/FAQ
>> https://blog.wikimedia.org/?p=25830
>> N.B. an example of paid editing that few would likely have an issue with
>> in the first link and Sue's careful and correct wording in the second
>> link.
>> If we're going to have such a fine distinction, we should probably better
>> document it to avoid misunderstandings.
>> MZMcBride
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