There’s no denying that Wikipedia has become the most popular encyclopedia on the web with a collection of facts on almost every subject in the world. The site has generated over 6 million articles in more than 250 languages – truly a global phenomenon. Not bad for a site that just celebrated its 6th birthday, employs fewer than 10 people, and relies on an army of volunteers to produce content. That’s the power of Wikipedia’s “wiki” format -- anyone who creates an account on the site can contribute and edit existing pages on any topic. However, a recent scandal has placed Wikipedia in the spotlight of scrutiny regarding its stance on contributors to the site.
Last week, it was discovered that software giant Microsoft paid a blogger to edit a Wikipedia entry. Microsoft claims it didn’t want to edit the content directly so it brought in a third party to provide “balance” to it. This has raised serious questions regarding the ethics of the site and what restrictions, if any, can be placed on author contributions. Brian Bergstein of the Associated Press asks “why is it so bad to pay someone to write something on Wikipedia?” After all, isn’t it about providing deep knowledge on a subject, regardless of payment? (Bergstein lends more insight into the situation in a related story here.)
I’ve read that Wikipedia has blocked PR agencies from making contributions on Wikipedia due to presumed bias and unfair advocacy. That’s absurd. What Wikipedia needs is more authors, not less! Truth be told, mass participation is surprisingly low on the site. Eric Goldman points out that 72% of all articles on the site have been written by less than 1% of Wikipedia users. That’s not much of a democracy in terms of content created, if you ask me. I hope that if anything comes from the Microsoft debacle, it’s that scads of people will flock to Wikipedia and post content for the first time. Just make sure content is unbiased and has validity, folks. If not, Wikidumper is waiting in the wings. Billed as the "official appreciation page for the best of Wikipedia rejects," Wikidumper may just take your entry and show the world how ridiculous it really is – like this one about chickenology. (This site is a good laugh)
For those of you who are curious about official Wikipedia guidelines, you can read the “Neutral Point of View” article on the site.