Wikipedia contributors decry pay for posts

Critcis point to two high-profile contributors who have outside consulting businesses related to Wikipedia content

A contentious debate has erupted on Wikipedia over questions about whether two high-profile contributors have been paid to promote articles on the site.

Some contributors have questioned whether Roger Bamkin, a director at Wikimedia UK, is being paid by the government of Gibraltar to write or edit articles about the British territory. Bamkin has a contract with the government of Gibraltar, apparently to promote the territory and the Wikipedia subsite Gibraltarpedia.

Bamkin, in his role as a Wikipedia editor, approved an article about a yacht club in Gibraltar, and nominated and reviewed another Gibraltar-related article, one contributor noted in a lengthy debate, beginning last week, on a Wikipedia discussion page. Bamkin has also worked with Monmouthpedia, a subsite about the U.K. city Monmouth.

The debate has raised the concerns of Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's cofounder, who wrote Monday that he was unfamiliar with Bamkin's situation. But, he said, "it is wildly inappropriate for a board member of a chapter, or anyone else in an official role of any kind in a charity associated with Wikipedia, to take payment from customers in exchange for securing favorable placement on the front page of Wikipedia or anywhere else."

Some Wikipedia contributors accused Bamkin of using his influence to get Gibraltar articles featured frequently on the site's "did you know" (DYK) section, featured on the front page. Others questioned Wikimedia UK's recent offer to provide in-kind support to Gabraltarpedia while Bamkin serves as a director for the U.K. group.

"There's a fundamental difference between wiki as a labor of love and wiki as a business," wrote a Wikipedia administrator know as Secretlondon. "If the same guy has a business based on mommouthpedia and gibraltarpedia then we shouldn't allow ourselves to be exploited by this. We're allowing someone to make money out of access to the front page."

Other contributors downplayed the issue, saying Bamkin has disclosed his consulting gigs on his contributor page. "My main question is why should we care?" wrote contributor Silverseren. "If someone is making money off of the articles indirectly (not talking about paid editors here, that's a totally different subject) or getting tourism or whatever, why should DYK or even Wikipedia care? So long as the articles are properly made and don't have POV or copyright issues, then we're getting more and better articles out of their desire to get tourism."

Bamkin didn't respond to a message seeking comment on the debate, but he defended himself on the discussion page. It was a mistake to nominate, then approve an article about Gibraltar, he wrote. His potential conflicts of interest are "well documented," he added.

Bamkin said he disclosed his commercial interests when he ran for a directorship at Wikimedia U.K., and the membership there supported him. "I don't intend to criticise their choice," he wrote.

Wikimedia contributors brought up a second case of potential conflict of interest days after the first debate started. Wikipedian in residence Maximilian Klein, through a business named UntrikiWiki, advertised services for posting positive articles on the online encyclopedia.

"A positive Wikipedia article is invaluable SEO: it's almost guaranteed to be a top three Google hit," the UntrikiWiki site said before the consulting pitch was pulled down. "We have the expertise needed to navigate the complex maze surrounding 'conflict of interest' editing on Wikipedia. With more than eight years of experience, over 10,000 edits, and countless community connections we offer holistic Wikipedia services."

Wales, again, said he was unaware of Klein's case. "If what you say is accurate, then of course I'm extremely unhappy about it," he wrote to the contributor who pointed it out. "It's disgusting."

UntrikiWiki pulled the pitch after the controversy erupted. Starting immediately, the business will "not accept any paid conflict-of-interest Wikipedia editing work," UntrikiWiki said in a statement Tuesday.

The company advertised Wikipedia editing services but it has "not aggressively pursued it," the statement said. "We've never made a single edit for which we had a conflict of interest on Wikipedia -- ever."

But the company also defended for-profit contributions to Wikipedia, "as long as it's approached in a transparent and ethical fashion.  

"We understand why it's a controversial issue, but we believe that it's a necessary and emerging field and believe that it's important that people with knowledge of Wikipedia's ecosystem move [into] it and establish standards that protect Wikipedia's integrity," the statement said.

Klein didn't answer a message seeking comment on the debate.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?