Ethics: Bloggers referencing through Wikipedia?

I actually made this video the other day with my close friend Josh Strawczynski

Edit: Referencing your own blog fall outside of Wikipedia's reliable source rule, it would also fall foul of the important Conflict of Interest rules.



After making this video there came up some discussion around the ethics of blogging and referencing yourself through Wikipedia.

Some interesting news is that I got an email from Peter Wagstaff the other day

As you may be aware, in mid-June I updated the wikipedia entry for Mother Energy Drink after reading Josh's posting on the issue in his CIIMS blog (Current Issues in Marketing Strategy) on 11 June. See http://www.ciims.net/2008/06/mother-of-all-relaunches.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_(energy_drink)

On the 30th of July, somebody else edited the entry, removing the reference to CIIMS, and replacing it with a Fairfax newspaper report, dated 19 June, eight days LATER than Josh's report. The comment this
user made in wikipedia was that they were replacing a blog reference with a non-blog reference, as the original posting was from a "non-reliable source".

Today I have restored the reference to CIIMS, with a notation stating that a blog is as reliable, and sometimes MORE reliable than a newspaper, so the earlier reference should be retained.

It may be worthwhile reading wikipedia's definition of a "reliable source" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RS - do you think that this may need changing, given the rise of reliable bloggers?

7 comments:

Josh Strawczynski said...

I might need some work on my VODcasts! Also, Strawczynski is how you spell my surname and probably hyperlink that link to my blog.

I'm looking forward to the new Mac coming through!

K-a-t-e said...

Whilst I think Josh has done a great job commenting on the Mother relaunch, I don't think referencing blogs in Wikipedia is the best solution in maintaining the encyclopaedia's integrity.

I do agree with Peter that some blogs are more credible than some newspaper's online offerings, but this is rarely the case.

It's a bit like Chinese whispers, a newspaper is closer to the original source so the message has less chance of changing, losing meaning or becoming corrupt. They can also fall back on the secondary fact checking systems in place.

Bloggers on the other hand, often source their information from traditional media, and even other bloggers so the message is much more open to individual interpretation (which is arguably one of the best things about blogging!).

Although Wikipedia redefines the traditional notion of what an encyclopaedia is, I believe the sources used should largely be factual or have measures in place to ensure credibility, which a Fairfax newspaper report would have.

God help me if every blogger decided to use Wikipedia as a promotional tool, users would have to spend twice as long as they do now, to sort through the clutter!
I also tend to edit out promotional links to businesses and the like when I encounter them, but this is mainly in the content, not the endnotes as they are in large part irrelevant.

Finally, the Mother campaign was widely discussed in the blogosphere, what would happen if every blogger threw in their two cents?!

Paull Young said...

It's a little confusing trying to work out what you're discussing on the video, but from what I can gather it involves Josh editing Wikipedia entries to include links to his own blog.

Not only would referencing your own blog fall outside of Wikipedia's reliable source rule (as pointed out in the email you included in your post), it would also fall foul of the important Conflict of Interest rules.

The norms of Wikipedia can often be viewed as unfair, but as marketers we need to play within them. Too many of us are doing it the wrong way and it hurts our collective credibility.

Julian Cole said...

Hey Paull, there were two things at play here, the first one was that Peter Wagstaff had put Josh's post up and then they had changed the reference. This is the first contentious issue.

The second point was actually that Josh was putting his work as references on wikipedia, you are completely right and this is a conflict of interest.

I was just wondering Paull, Is it also an conflict of interest for a brand to edit their own wikipedia page, if it is incorrect?

Julian Cole said...

Hey Paull, I have made the edit to the body of the post as well! Thanks again for clearing that one up for me.

Paull Young said...

Julian - yes, it is a conflict of interest for a brand, or any of their agents (ie anyone they're paying - like a PR firm), to edit their entry.

This is even the case if it is fixing a blatant innacuracy. For example: if Vegimite's wikipedia page said that it was made from ground up Koala's; and I worked for Vegimite and added the correct, properly referenced information - I'd still be breaking the rules of Wikipedia.

The rules aren't great, but we still need to abide by them. Correct course of action is to present you/your brand's case via the talk page.

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