Wikimedia Scandal: Proof Of Unreliability Or Confirmation That Crowdsourcing Works?

from the guess-who-caught-the-bad-guys dept

While Glyn just recently wrote about Jimmy Wales' effort to stymie UK snooping, it appears there may be other issues to address in England. If Wikipedia has had to fight any stigma, it's been the notion that a crowdsourced encyclopedia in which most anyone could contribute would be so rife with errors and bias as to be unusable. After all, there have indeed been reports of individuals and companies editing negative information out of thier own pages. This perception persists, despite evidence that Wikipedia is every bit as accurate as printed encyclopedias.

And so we have another such story, in which Roger Bramkin, Wikimedia trustee, is being accused of running a pay-for-play system using Wikipedia's "Did You Know" and GLAM projects to keep his day job clients in the wiki bloodstream. Essentially, it appears Bramkin took the country of Gibraltar on as a consulting client and then routinely pumped their stories into Wikipedia.
Roger Bamkin, trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation UK, whose LinkedIn page describes him as a high-return-earning PR consultant, appeared to be using Wikipedia's main page "Did You Know" feature and the resources of Wikipedia's GLAM WikiProject (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) initiative to pimp his client's project.
Now, it would be easy for anyone so inclined to throw their hands around and make a great deal of noise about how this proves Wikipedia's unreliability. Crowdsourcing, it would seem, has led to corruption of the bloodstream. This hand-wringing would be particularly easy in light of a second such Wikipedian in Residence (an editor held in high esteem) being found to have run a similar operation focused on SEO and Wikipedia pages for paying clients. Wikipedians in Residence are typically required to recuse themselves from editing pages in which they have a conflict of interest, and these incidences seem to violently violate those rules.

But here's what is being swept under the rug with all the hand-waving: it was the Wikipedia community members who found all this out and are bringing it to light. This entire incident began on a Wikipedia discussion page over abuse of DYK and that is exactly how Wikipedia is supposed to work. So, while conflicts of interest issues and erroneous entries in Wikipedia are certainly a huge concern, it is selective bias at work to point to them as examples for why crowdsourcing information doesn't work while also failing to mention that the same crowd was responsible for its ceasing.
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Filed Under: crowdsourcing, editing, roger bramkin, wikipedia
Companies: wikimedia foundation


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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Sep 2012 @ 4:25pm

    Re:

    He didn't say it was a fail. He stated it was both one fail and a huge win since the community found out.

    I admit I tended to be wary of using Wikipedia in the past but if you confront it with one or two more sources it usually tends to be a pretty good one (and pretty well sourced itself).

    I'm quite sure this turned a potentially huge fail into an epic win by the community and if anything it only adds to its reputation.

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