Wikipedia Woes

Long story short, a colleague asked if we could write each other’s articles on Wikipedia. I refused and called the practice unethical. Here’s the reply:

I have never been accused before of being “unethical”, so this coming from a person I considered a friend, is especially bothersome.

As you might know, for creating an article, Wikipedia recommends (in Tip number 5 of their site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Starting_an_article): “Please do not create pages about yourself”. For this reason, as I explained to you in my e-mail of 30th July, “perhaps it will be more appropriate and have more credibility if [my biography] is sent in by a third person – somebody with great international respectability … like you!” I thought of you because you are a person that has been in professional contact with me (and not just my buddy) and who knows well my professional development over the years. If you insist on calling this request “unethical”, then I admit I am completely confused.

As I mentioned, in reciprocity (since for the same reason, it’s not advisable for you to post your bio in Wikipedia), I offered myself (if you so wished) to post YOUR biography in Wikipedia (mentioning that I believed it was high time also for you to have it posted).

For your information, after your denial, I contacted my good friend HD of WG University, who also knows well of my professional development over the years, and he immediately accepted to post my bio in the Wikpedia and assigned a graduate student of his to carry out the necessary steps. The article has already been submitted to Wikipedia and, due to their huge backlog it is still being reviewed. Their message of last week was: “Review waiting. This may take over 3 weeks.  Please be patient. There are 1775 submissions waiting for review.”

Now from my limited understanding of Wikipedia protocol, this is the exactly the practice that is frowned upon. Here’s the key point from Wikipedia: “You should not create or edit articles about yourself, your family or your close friends. If you or they are notable enough, someone else will create the article.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:COI

My question: how do I nudge this colleague and others so they understand Wikipedia etiquette? I don’t want to dismiss 20 years of friendship on this incident but I also feel compelled to take an ethical stand. Your thoughts?

Wikipedia Lesson: Avoid Conflicts of Interest

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This entry was posted in 2013, ethics, Web 2.0 in Action and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wikipedia Woes

  1. Barbara Kastelein says:

    I have come across this situation before and I didn’t do it. Not because it was “unethical”, but because it was sort of “uncool” (or as we used to say in England about 20 years ago, “naff”). I do agree that if you have done something to deserve being on there, you will get on there anyway (eventually!) It’s a thin line. However, the practice of asking a friend to help write a profile for you as you would like yourself (dreaming is good!) to appear on Wikipedia is in itself an excellent exercise. It gives you something to aim for, is a good way of brushing up your CV, bio, resume, or whatever you are using to promote yourself (eg your blurb about yourself on facebook or any other social media you might be using). personally i would leave it at that and keep focused on work, not cutting corners.

  2. ronmader says:

    Naff. Excellent word.

    I don’t mind helping someone with their CV or endorsing colleagues on LinkIn, but when Wikipedia explicitly states that one should not write about one’s self or one’s friends, I think that’s a pretty clear rule to follow (and easy to check when reviewing the page’s history!).

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