I asked Constantin Basturea, director of new-media strategies for social media communications firm Converseon, to weigh on the Wikipedia-Microsoft situation written about here.
He was kind enough to give more much more information than I could fit online, so I’m putting his thoughts below. For more of his thoughts, check out this link.
My thesis is that the current approach to employees and corporate participation in Wikipedia is encouraging dishonesty, is preventing people from becoming members of the community and, as a result, is undermining the quality and credibility of the encyclopedia, while failing to address the problem of bias.
The funny thing is most of the current guidelines go against common sense and against (established) Wikipedia guidelines.
1. What we have here is a “intent vs. content” debate:
Right now Wikipedia is discouraging people from editing a page if they have a perceived conflict of interest or bias, instead of allowing all contributions and evaluating them in terms of verifiability.
The lack of bias and the Neutral Point of View should be the *result* of the editing process, not the *condition* of participating in that process.
The quality of the content submitted by editors (which can be assessed) should be more important than their biases or interests (on which we can only speculate), if the goal is to build an encyclopedia.
2. Wikipedia should encourage participation and transparency in order to build community and a better encyclopedia
A small number of people are, in fact, editing more than one article in Wikipedia, so there’s a big participation problem that will only increase as the number of articles is soaring.
It’s likely that most people will start participating in Wikipedia by editing a topic that’s in their area of expertize, and often this has something to do with their profession or with their current employer.
Instead of welcoming these people, teach them the Wikipedia rules and guidelines, and assuming - until proved wrong - that they have the best intentions, the current policies and guidelines are relegating experts and employees to a second-hand status in Wikipedia: all they’re allowed to do is to participate in the Talk pages.
We’re talking all the time about “the community”, but it’s perplexing to see that an anonymous editor who doesn’t declare any affiliation is welcomed as a member of the community, while people that are willing to edit under their real names and be transparent about their interests, clients and affiliations are treated as second-hand wikizens. Qui prodest?