Scandal 2.0: Is Microsoft the only company paying for Wikipedia edits?

Microsoft is getting some bad press for offering to pay a blogger to change a supposedly inaccurate article on Wikipedia. The blogger let it out in the open, and it wasn’t long before it hit the mainstream press. Even the Wall Street Journal decided to run an article based around the situation.

I suppose the principle of payment for Wikipedia coverage is the key issue here (some argue it’s about Microsoft’s clumsiness), though I’m curious to know why Microsoft (or whichever Microsoft employee pulling the strings, more to the point) really felt the need to correct a technical Wikipedia article on Office Open XML.

I mean, are there that many people relying solely on this Wikipedia entry to understand Office Open XML? Are sales of Office 2007 taking a dive over an article authored by a community? Or is the reasoning more noble with a for-the-good-of-the-community approach?

The truth is, I really don’t know the answers to the above questions. I’m just amazed that a Wikipedia entry incorrectly referencing something about Microsoft has enough influence and reach to get Microsoft to respond so drastically. This can’t be the first time the Wikipedia community has authored something potentially slanted about Microsoft (there are plenty of Microsoft haters out there, and I’d bet some of them are indeed part of Wikipedia).

In fact, a Microsoft spokeswoman, Catherine Brooker, has reason to believe the original Wikipedia entry was heavily authored by “people at IBM,” the company which incidentally supports the competing open-source standard.

If that’s true, and IBM has somehow finagled its way into indirectly corrupting an article about a Microsoft standard… Then this problem is much bigger than just another reason for finger pointing toward Microsoft. The only difference between what’s happening to Microsoft and what’s potentially happening behind the scenes at Wikipedia everyday is the fact that Microsoft got caught.

Thus, my first inclination isn’t to point a finger at Microsoft; but rather, I think of the situation as another reason to question the Wikipedia process/content in general.

*Update* The Microsoft employee responsible for this has a response over at Slashdot, which tries to tone down the original scandaliciousness (word of the day) of the whole situation. But CNN running the story (“Microsoft in hot water over Wikipedia edits”) isn’t helping…

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  • veridicus

    The funny part is the employee is an “evangelist” and isn’t in the official PR department, and that’s supposed to make a difference. Does he not know what an evengelist is? He doesn’t seem to get that when he contacts someone outside the company he becomes representative of Microsoft as a whole.