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What to charge for Wikipedia entry??

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NeverEndingStory

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I've been offered the opportunity to write an unbiased, 'non-advertisement' Wikipedia entry for a large company. Most of the info will be provided for me via the company's website and marketing materials. I've been asked to provide a quote for writing the first draft of text. I haven't the slightest idea as to what this might or should be.

Have any of you been hired for this sort of thing? What did you charge/get paid? How much time did it take? How many re-writes were involved? And what about the format and references? Did that all come from you?

Thanks!
 

Kitty Pryde

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Wikipedia is written by volunteers! And companies aren't allowed to advertise on it, even if they hire an outside writer to write their advertisement for them. It would still be biased information (unless you are going to write a section about criticisms or scandals or other unsavory topics about the company), because you are using their own marketing material. What's more, Wikipedia editors will notice right away that there is an article written in marketing-ese, and they will change it to be neutral (ie written by volunteers who don't have a vested interest in the company), and your work won't even exist on wikipedia any more. It sounds like a really strange job to me.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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This is ridiculous. It is the antithesis of what Wikipedia is supposed to be about. I wouldn't take an assignment like that any more than I'd write term papers for pay.

I say this not to criticize you, NeverEndingStory, because I'm guessing you didn't know this. But I am outraged by the company who wants to buy themselves a positive Wikipedia entry--they almost certainly know that that's not how it's supposed to work.
 

herdon

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It's not at all strange. It's actually relatively common -- though not altogether ethical. But since when have companies been ethical? This is certainly not nearly as bad as paying bloggers to advertise your product by writing little snippets in their blogs.

As for what to charge, I'd say just estimate how much writing it will be, how long it will take you, what you want as an hourly rate, and do the math.

If you do take this job I'd say make sure you get paid before you hand in the copy. As said above, the Wikipedia entry could change the very next day.

Personally, I agree with IceCreamEmpress in that I simply wouldn't take this type of job because of the ethical issues.
 

Kitty Pryde

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A company called MyWikiBiz was banned from writing/editing Wikipedia articles because they wrote articles for pay. And in the past lots of companies/individuals have been embarrassed in the news for editing their own entries. That is, if the person who hires you from Big Company X takes your article and posts it to wikipedia, there is a program that tells wikipedians that someone at a Big Company X IP address added/edited an article about themselves.
 

benbradley

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Wikipedia is written by volunteers! And companies aren't allowed to advertise on it, even if they hire an outside writer to write their advertisement for them. It would still be biased information (unless you are going to write a section about criticisms or scandals or other unsavory topics about the company), because you are using their own marketing material. What's more, Wikipedia editors will notice right away that there is an article written in marketing-ese, and they will change it to be neutral (ie written by volunteers who don't have a vested interest in the company), and your work won't even exist on wikipedia any more. It sounds like a really strange job to me.
I have no doubt it WILL exist in the history (if the Wikipedia people decide to keep the entry!), and your login name (or your IP ADDRESS, if you don't log in) will exist in infamy at Wikipedia.

Long story short, don't do it.
This is ridiculous. It is the antithesis of what Wikipedia is supposed to be about. I wouldn't take an assignment like that any more than I'd write term papers for pay.

I say this not to criticize you, NeverEndingStory, because I'm guessing you didn't know this. But I am outraged by the company who wants to buy themselves a positive Wikipedia entry--they almost certainly know that that's not how it's supposed to work.

It's not at all strange. It's actually relatively common -- though not altogether ethical. But since when have companies been ethical? This is certainly not nearly as bad as paying bloggers to advertise your product by writing little snippets in their blogs.
Some blogs are indeed like that, but such blogs usually don't claim they're NOT doing it. Such blogs probably don't accept comments asking if the writer is getting paid, either.

If you do take this job I'd say make sure you get paid before you hand in the copy. As said above, the Wikipedia entry could change the very next day.
It could change in five minutes. If I knew the company name (and there's virtually no chance I'm going to find out now, due to this post), I'd add a talk page entry with a link to this thread, as well as being on alert for any changes to the main article and among the first to put up a "this article may be biased" banner on it and alert the (more active) editors.
They may not even be offering to pay you.

Use caution.
If I understand the OP, they are indeed OFFERING to pay...

The only thing I might do with this is use it as a chance to write an 'undercover' story, "How a company offered me money to write its own Wikipedia entry." There's got to be a legit site that would buy such a story.
 

NeverEndingStory

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Wow...I had NO idea!!!! I recall hearing something about others being able to edit entries, although it hadn't occurred to me when I wrote my OP. The ethical issues make sense and now I don't see much reason to accept the offer. Though, in fairness to the company, I must stress that the entry was to be more like a company overview, history...that sort of thing. It was not to be slanted as an advert. These entries do exist on Wikipedia. Nonetheless, points taken. Not to mention, my writer's ego is having a hard time swallowing the knowledge that my words could be changed, and not neccessarily for the better! At least when you ghostwrite something it stays put!! Thanks for schooling me on this one, y'all. Whew!
 

Fresie

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I actually don't even think the company people understand what they're doing. I've met SO many business people in these last few months who are truly clueless about what's going on on the Internet. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody had told them there was this site called Wikipedia and they'd just come up with this "bright idea" ;) about posting an article about themselves. I mean, everybody knows what Wiki's about, so doing it in all seriousness would be something a clueless beginner netrepreneur would do.

I'm quite serious, I've really met lots of business people lately who don't know anything about the Internet other than it's a place to advertize and make money.
 
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JNLister

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In and of itself, I don't think this is quite the evil job some might believe. All you're really doing is writing a profile of a company in a certain style and format, just like a press release or sales letter.

And as much as you can say it's ethically dubious because its against the principle of Wikipedia, you can just as easily say that writing a press release is an attempt to trick a newspaper into promoting a business under the guise of a news story.

However, the reason I'd be very wary of it is that in the job listings I've seen for such work, there's often an implication your pay depends on the article being 'good enough' that it doesn't get deleted or heavily edited. As there's absolutely no way you have any control over that - and it's really got very little to do with the quality of your work - you want to steer well clear.

Even if they don't specify this in the terms of your deal, you do have to think seriously about whether you are going to get paid if you write the piece and it's immediately pulled from Wikipedia by the editors.
 

herdon

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And as much as you can say it's ethically dubious because its against the principle of Wikipedia, you can just as easily say that writing a press release is an attempt to trick a newspaper into promoting a business under the guise of a news story.

Not at all true and those two aren't similar at all.

Wikipedia expressly forbids people and companies from writing their own entries. So writing a Wikipedia piece for a company is going against Wikipedia's wishes.

On the other hand, newspapers welcome press releases. Obviously, they know that the company in question is looking for press -- they aren't stupid after all -- but they clearly welcome press releases because it notifies them that something newsworthy might be going on.
 

JNLister

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I'm not saying the two situations are identical, but they are both debatable. In both cases you are writing an article for a news/reference site but doing so with the intention of promoting a business. In both cases, editorial reviewers will filter the article's content to make it fits their editorial needs/policies.

For example, if it's wrong to write a Wikipedia entry for a firm, is it wrong to write a sales letter that may be sent to somebody who isn't interested? Is it just the fact you specifically know it is for Wikipedia (which doesn't want it?) that makes it worse than a sales letter which *could* be sent as spam?

Is it wrong to write a search engine optimised article where you know that, however genuinely useful you try to make it for readers, its primary purpose (and one you've taken specific steps to achieve) is to show up high on Google and act as a promotion for a company's website? Is this any more against Google's rules/principle than promotional articles on Wikipedia?

Is it wrong to continue writing press releases for a company if you discover they repeatedly send them to magazines which simply aren't interested or relevant? How many magazines and how often would this have to happen before you stopped?

And can't you criticise the Wikipedia deal just as much from the other perspective of ethical duty to your client? Is it right to accept payment for an article you know they won't be able to use? If so, does the same apply when you write a press release for a firm that simply doesn't have a strong enough story to have any hope of coverage?

Alternatively, at what stage does/should Wikipedia's wishes decide how you as a writer choose to act with a client? Does it come down to an ethical absolute, or is it a judgment call that depends on how much you personally value Wikipedia itself? Does the fact that Wikipedia bans such articles carry as much weight as a legal issue?

Indeed, is there any ethical difference between creating the Wikipedia page yourself (thus breaching your 'agreement' with the site as a user) and e-mailing the text to the client and them using it to create a page? Is the Wikipedia rule breach serious enough that you consider even the latter a no-no, or can you live with yourself if you simply feel you are writing an article for a client and what happens between them and Wikipedia is their business? What if you write a company profile on a 'work for hire' basis and later discover the firm tried to put it on Wikipedia - is that enough to stop you working for that firm again?

To me there are far too many ethical grey areas to say outright that this type of work is a terrible thing that no professional writer should do, or that it's absolutely fine and nobody should even think of questioning it.

Fortunately the fact that you stand a pretty decent shot of being stiffed on the payoff should be enough to deter most people from having to worry about these moral points :)
 
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NeverEndingStory

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All valid points, yet a debate keeps coming back to whether or not I'll be paid. Would it make a difference if I tell you that I've previously worked for and been paid on time by said company?
 

herdon

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In both cases you are writing an article for a news/reference site but doing so with the intention of promoting a business. In both cases, editorial reviewers will filter the article's content to make it fits their editorial needs/policies.

That's incorrect. Press releases are regularly used to write articles with the intention of reporting the news. Furthermore, the article is not always positive for the business in question.
 

JNLister

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I was talking about the writer of the press release, not the writer at the magazine/newspaper.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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I was talking about the writer of the press release, not the writer at the magazine/newspaper.

Here's the difference: Newspapers accept press releases. Wikipedia does not.

When a newspaper gets a press release, they know that it's a press release written by someone working for the enterprise in question.

When someone submits a commissioned article to Wikipedia, they are doing so under the implication that they have no connection with the enterprise in question.

That is the difference.
 

JNLister

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All valid points, yet a debate keeps coming back to whether or not I'll be paid. Would it make a difference if I tell you that I've previously worked for and been paid on time by said company?

That's certainly a good start. The specific point here is that there is a very good chance your article will either immediately be pulled from Wikipedia completely or heavily edited by other users in a way that doesn't benefit the company concerned. You'd need to agree with the client beforehand that you are paid for producing the article, not for its success on Wikipedia.
 

NeverEndingStory

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I agree, JN. Though, knowing that A) the article could be pulled and, B) the article could be edited unrecognizable as my own, I'm not sure there's enough money involved to satisfy me for such losses on the back end. Thanks for your unbiased input.

As far as the debate over the difference between a press release and Wikipedia, I'm afraid I tend to agree with what the others are saying. Only because I work with a lot of PR firms and publications and know firsthand how interwoven the two entities are. That said, I guess that's another vote against my Wikipedia offer.
 

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The real story about paid editing on Wikipedia

A company called MyWikiBiz was banned from writing/editing Wikipedia articles because they wrote articles for pay. And in the past lots of companies/individuals have been embarrassed in the news for editing their own entries. That is, if the person who hires you from Big Company X takes your article and posts it to wikipedia, there is a program that tells wikipedians that someone at a Big Company X IP address added/edited an article about themselves.

Well, Kitty has quite a few things wrong here. As the founder of MyWikiBiz, though, I'm used to it. MyWikiBiz entered Wikipedia under the bright, disinfecting sunlight of full disclosure, before the "WP:Conflict of Interest" policy existed. Jimmy Wales had an immediate problem with the business model, despite the fact that a "Reward Board" existed on Wikipedia, and still exists today. After talking with Wales for at least 25 minutes on the phone, he came up with a compromise that he felt would tolerate paid editing.

I would write articles for clients, release them ON MY OWN WEBSITE under the terms of the GFDL, then if an independent Wikipedian felt the content was suitable for Wikipedia, it could be scraped in, under the terms of the GFDL.

Well, a couple of months after that (and about 7 articles published on my site and into Wikipedia this way), the Wikipedians upgraded their new "Conflict of Interest" plan from "guideline" to "policy". It contained some provisions that I understood to be a bit more lenient, actually, than what Wales had set up for me. So, I e-mailed Wales to ask him to clarify, and also pointed him to an article about Arch Coal that I thought served as a good example of how I was writing articles which were being copied into Wikipedia.

Now, it so happened that Arch Coal, as I wrote it, was not a "paid" editing job. Neither the Arch Coal company, nor its agents, had any idea who or what MyWikiBiz was. I was writing for practice. But the moment Jimmy Wales looked at it, he went bat-shit insane. He deleted the article with prejudice, calling it "PR puffery" and "corporate spam".

Fortunately, other more rational folks took a look at the deleted article, and they concluded that it was actually a rather decent, humble description of a coal supplier (the second-largest in the United States), which was previously missing from Wikipedia (Fortune #630, or so, if I recall). These unbiased editors felt it would be better to have it and keep working on it, than to just maliciously delete it from Wikipedia.

Wales insisted that it be re-written from scratch, though, and that's when one of his henchmen, Guy "JzG" Chapman, a rather hot-headed character himself (if you look into his patterns of abuse on Wikipedia and other Internet message boards about cycling), set to his "re-write". Thing is, he basically just plagiarized my original work by rearranging words and changing the pitter-patter of sentences here and there. It's fairly obvious this is what was done.

So, after the Wikipediots all dusted off their hands and congratulated themselves on "ridding" Wikipedia of this vile paid-editing-article-that-they-didn't-even-realize-was-voluntarily-written, MyWikiBiz remained indefinitely blocked, because Jimbo rarely admits to a mistake. He imagines himself to be about 98% perfect. Anyone who disagrees is likely to be labeled a "troll". It is a fearsome epithet, indeed!

After several months, Jimbo decided that maybe, just maybe, he had been an ass with me. So, he unblocked my account. He encouraged me to come back to edit his encyclopedic playground, but others of his minions suggested that if I do, choose a new screen name. One to have a bit of pride in my work, I agreed, but I chose the name "Zibiki Wym". Get it?

Anyway, I set out making nice, friendly, constructive edits about things like the Czech Air Force, performance artist Liz Cohen, and the M-105 state highway in Michigan.

Thing is, some vindictive user with whom I'd never interacted suddenly came along and proclaimed in public space on Wikipedia that Gregory Kohs "has given misleading information to journalists that was published in the mainstream press", and that I deserved to be blocked again. I couldn't be trusted! This was really strange to me, since she used the word "journalists" (plural), though I had only ever been written about by one AP journalist named Brian Bergstein. And I certainly didn't recall ever lying to him. So, I questioned this "User: Durova" queen if she could support this claim of hers with some evidence. Her "evidence" was that she thought she remembered seeing something to this effect recently written up in the Wikipedia Signpost (an amateur news source published on Wikipedia). When I pointed out that nothing had been written about me in the Signpost in many months, and certainly nothing to that effect EVER, I suggested that what she said could be considered libelous.

Well, within a few hours, I was permanently banned AGAIN, this time for exercising "legal intimidation" (that is, typing the word "libelous" in a public space against some anonymous character who had libeled me).

Around that time, Guy "JzG" Chapman returned to antagonizing me, reminding the world on another website that he, and he alone, had rewritten the Arch Coal article "ab initio", from scratch. Of course, he was lying. JzG even went so far as to DELETE the original edits with his admin tools, to mask the provenance of "his" article. This was so offensive, even Jimmy Wales had to eventually step in and restore the original edits. What JzG had done was not only unethical and cheap, it violated the terms of the GFDL license to make the honest attribution history disappear that way.

As time went by, I watched a number of interesting things on Wikipedia. I watched Jimmy Wales hire a 24-year-old community college dropout to work at his for-profit Wikia, Inc., knowing that this young man had lied to everyone on Wikipedia about being a multi-degreed theology professor. Then, Wales appointed this same liar to a seat on the Arbitration Committee, Wikipedia's highest authority, short of the Wikimedia Foundation itself. When called out by a Pulitzer-winning journalist about this, Wales said he "didn't really have a problem with it". I then saw the Foundation quietly terminate the employ of a multi-count felon they had appointed to the post of Chief Operating Officer. Later, I saw Jimbo privately ask my same old buddy Guy "JzG" Chapman to sanitize the article about Rachel Marsden, just a matter of hours before Wales would meet Marsden in a Washington Doubletree hotel to boff her. JzG was certainly happy to serve his master.

You know what, though? Recently, Jimbo finally had a change of heart. He apologized publicly for much of the garbage that he put me through.

So, people ask me, "How could you be so unethical to have wanted to write Wikipedia articles in exchange for payment?" My answer, in light of all that I've described above, is... Statistics don't lie. Even as recently as November 2008, I've written articles for payment (for clients I deeply trust not to spill the beans) that magically find their way to Wikipedia. In all, I've written 12 articles under the MyWikiBiz byline that have found their way into Wikipedia. Some were for pay, others not. Here is the telling statistic, my friends:

I ever only divulged the provenance of three of those articles. Two were deleted almost instantly, never to be seen again. The other, Arch Coal, was deleted, then restored in plagiarized form, then the plagiarism was covered-up, then about two years later, I got an apology from Jimmy Wales.

The other nine articles are all happily existing in Wikipedia, being edited and improved upon by the volunteers. It's a thriving state of common development, the way Wikipedia was intended to be. Isn't that testimony of the benign foundation of my entirely all-too-controversial experience on Wikipedia?

So, what's evil, then?

Paid editing?

Or the "free" and "open" community that rejects it, plagiarizes it, and blocks and defames its author?

-- Gregory Kohs
 
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