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Submissions/We Need to Talk About Paid Editing... Sorting Out Wikipedia's Most Enduring Argument

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 8512
We Need to Talk About Paid Editing... Sorting Out Wikipedia's Most Enduring Argument
FINAL VIDEO of the session can be found on Youtube
Presentation, Panel and Discussion
Author of the submission
Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado), Christophe Henner (User:Schiste), William Beutler (User:WWB)
E-mail address
Special:EmailUser/Fuzheado, Special:EmailUser/Schiste, Special:EmailUser/WWB
Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado), Christophe Henner (User:Schiste), William Beutler (User:WWB)
Country of origin
USA, France
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)


It's finally time to have an open, frank and comprehensive discussion about paid editing and public relations in Wikipedia.


From historic examples of anonymous conflicted edits such as those uncovered by WikiScanner and in the United States Congress to more recent controversies like those involving Bell Pottinger, Wiki-PR and Harvard's Belfer Center, Wikipedia has long been challenged by conflicts of interest, "paid editing" and related issues.

More recently, it has become increasingly clear that the language surrounding this topic is imprecise and problematic, perhaps preventing a better informed and more productive conversation about this enduring argument.

Consider the role of respected paid GLAM professionals (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), and the emergence of responsible professionals at major public relations and "marcom" (marketing and communications) firms who have adhered to strict hands-off policies and are interested in cooperation with the community. We quickly realize that terms like "paid editing", "paid advocacy", and "bright line" do not robustly or accurately describe the range of issues involved.


In this series, three experienced Wikipedians who have deep experience in GLAM, public relations, marketing, online culture, community dynamics and Wikipedia history will present and debate what paid editing means by providing a spectrum of views regarding contributors' neutrality, transparency, advocacy, motivations and financial relationships.

During this series, they will provide a clear picture of the history of paid editing in Wikipedia and provide clear definitions of terms we should employ when talking about paid editing. The last part of the session will aim to be an honest overview of the opportunities and risks related to paid editing at large, while engaging the audience to brainstorm about ways paid editing should be treated in Wikipedia.

The session includes a recap of an unprecedented 2014 meeting of PR representatives discussing their stance on paid editing in Wikipedia that would (pleasantly) surprise many Wikipedia editors. On February 7, 2014, William Beutler hosted a roundtable bringing together representatives of the top global public relations firms, including Burson-Marsteller, Edelman, FleishmanHilliard, Ogilvy & Mather, and others, with volunteer Wikipedia editors. At this meeting, participants evaluated the current, complicated relationship between both groups, and considered possible avenues to improve on the status quo, which will be presented to the Wikimania audience.


The submitting team comes from a broad spectrum of Wikimedia experiences:

  • Andrew Lih is a longtime English Wikipedia editor, and is the author of The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. An en.wp administrator, he has been a frequent commentator in the media on Wikipedia issues and has hosted the Wikipedia Weekly podcast since 2006. He has advised organizations and given talks to firms on the do's and don'ts of conflict of interest editing on Wikipedia. Most recently, he has taught a class at American University which engaged GLAM institutions in Washington DC on how to collaboratively improve Wikipedia content in their domain of expertise.
  • Christophe Henner is vice-chair of Wikimedia France, and currently is head of marketing in media company in Aurillac, France. At Wikimania 2011, he presented a session on the topic (What place for companies on Wikipedia), he presented two more sessions on paid editing at Wikimania 2013 (How could company help reach Wikimedia strategic goals and Paid editing: all we need is a framework and here's one!) and has been one of the most significant community voices calling for a deeper discussion on the issue of paid editing. He brings a crucial view from outside the US, where editing of Wikipedia's European language editions by corporate representatives is less frowned upon. He’ll also bring the point of view of a marketing professional and with him opinions of other French top marketing professionals.
  • William Beutler has been a Wikipedia editor since 2006, and is the author of The Wikipedian blog. As the principal of Beutler Ink he has advised companies on hands-off participation on Wikipedia while educating some of the largest PR companies in the world about best practices for Wikipedia engagement. He is active in the online discussion group CREWE (Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement), which focuses on issues related to paid editing and "conflict of interest". In February 2014 he organized and led an invitation-based roundtable discussion about these topics at the Donovan House in Washington, DC, attended by volunteer Wikipedians and representatives of several of the top global PR firms.
WikiCulture & Community
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
Three brief sessions or two long sessions. This is an unusual proposal in that it aims to cover the entire past, present and future of paid editing in consecutive sessions. Ideally a 9am-12noon, three hour block with a break in between and brainstorming would be ideal. Because the final layout of the schedule is unknown, we are open to working with the programming committee on how to best fit our session into the final configuration.
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
A/V support for slide projections
Final slides on Slideshare
Special requests

Interested attendees

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  1. Keilana (talk) 23:54, 31 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. It's a serious issue that's not going away, and needs a serious discussion. Kevin Gorman (talk) 23:55, 31 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. I agree that it merits a serious discussion. --Tmmanson (talk) 14:38, 2 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  4. (talk) 22:46, 6 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Ocaasi (talk) 23:14, 6 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Rsrikanth05 (talk) 20:20, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  7. --Nicole Ebber (WMDE) (talk) 20:56, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Galio (talk) 21:45, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  9. CristianCantoro (talk) 21:52, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  10. Blue Rasberry (talk) 23:17, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Pundit (talk) 01:00, 8 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  12. Sannita (talk) 09:18, 8 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  13. Panyd (talk) 12:14, 14 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  14. Alice d25 (talk) 11:46, 19 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  15. --Netha Hussain (talk) 13:09, 20 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  16. Lyzzy (talk) 20:35, 24 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  17. Sabbon (talk) 22:13, 26 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  18. Aski72 (talk) 07:53, 29 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  19. AlisonW (talk)
  20. Frank Hendriks (talk) 18:01, 4 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  21. --Another Believer (talk) 11:05, 10 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]