Engaging with Wikipedia Day 18 – PRs Edit Wikipedia at their own risk

Firstly I would like to thank the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for accepting and posing my question to Wikipedia on their recent June 20th webcast – see below for the embedded video.

It is very clear that this is an issue that is fuelling debate around the world and as the efforts to increase Arabic content grow, there is a clear and immediate need to educate users on how to interact with this community to prevent some potentially very nasty outcomes.

My take-outs from this are as follows:

1. Wikipedia is a law unto itself. There isn’t a single person who is individually accountable for the content published – no CEO, and no amount of wasta that can be brought to bear to influence change. Jimmy Wales is the founder, but apparently even he cannot enforce his wishes on this global army of voluntary Wikipedians.

Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia – but not in charge…

2. There is no automatic translation of content – companies and individuals need to track multiple languages to monitor their reputation in different markets. It is possible that Middle East companies operating in India will have a significantly different profile in Hindi than in Arabic or French!

3. Arguing/editing (aka ‘vandalising’) without following the rules of Wikipedia is like trying to convince the English they should give up on entering football tournaments because they will never win anything… You may be right, but no-one is going to listen and you will become the number 1 most hated person very quickly.

Controversial thought… As a voluntary and hobby project it has some unbelievable achievements, but without proper investment it may find it difficult to maintain quality and accuracy. And to try and coordinate an omni-accessible, crowd-sourced information portal should be impossible. Emphasis on should and may as nothing can be certain with the Wikipedia phenomenon.

Watching this interview I am reminded of the novels by Terry Pratchett and the library of the Unseen University in particular. Read his books – they are very popular and complicated to explain… (Pratchett satirically argues that librarians are the most aggressive and scary individuals and his most powerful character is the University’s Chief Librarian who was transformed into an orangutang by a wizardly accident.)

I see his point.

It would appear to be safer for a PR to walk into Pratchet’s world and scream ‘Monkey, Monkey, Monkey’ than to edit your client/employer’s Wikipage. (This character is one of the most popular heroes so I believe fans should take this as a compliment, it is certainly meant in this spirit…)

So where do we go from here?

First please do visit www.cipr.co/wiki-guidance and learn more about working with Wikipedia.

Secondly, send an email to admin@mepra.org and register your interest to participate in a forthcoming MEPRA training course.

Third check out and Like the CREWE Facebook group.

Then, when you feel confident you understand what to do, start your own Wiki page and disclose your conflicts.

Final note – you can’t beat up Wikipedia. You can’t shout at Wikipedians. You can’t censor it and, because it is the 6th most visited Web site and generally the first or second entry on any search, you can’t ignore it.

You, your employer, your client etc just have to deal with it – and the consequences.


About stephenking2012

In 2012 I volunteered to hold the position of Chair - Standards & Ethics Committee for the Middle East PR Association (@MEPRA_org). I have set up this account to assist in this effort. You may also like to follow my Blog or connect with me on LinkedIn. In any case, please do visit www.mepra.org, and if you are not yet a member, please do sign up!
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