What’s the point of Wikipedia?

Lots of online discussion about Microsoft and Wikipedia relating to whether companies, and their public relations people, should be able to amend the official entries – and in this case, pay an “independent” author to do so. 

 feels the resource should be open to input from all sources, provided an entry is accurate.   I tend to agree – and that references to show the origins of information are essential so they can be checked and any bias determined.

Again this is an ethical issue – something Web 2.0 seems good at throwing up as everyone finds their way around this new world.  It would be good if there wasn’t so much wheedling to find questionable ways around the open and transparent nature of social media, but similarly, there is a lot of virtuous over-reacting too.

is a really useful resource – particularly as a starting point for students.  It shouldn’t be taken as some great authority on everything and anything – but as an accessible viewpoint, it has great merit.  The ability to follow links and check further is its greatest virtue – as that encourages independent investigation and a skeptical mind. 

Provided others who disagree with an entry can verify their position in making amendments,  then Wikipedia entries can dynamically evolve.  It shouldn’t be about propaganda or sanitised entries, but we shouldn’t discount input from those who are the subject of an entry.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

7 thoughts on “What’s the point of Wikipedia?”

  1. If nobody challenges an adjustment or entry, then it’s eemed to be the general “consenus” that it’s So, what’s stopping PR pactitioners from doing amendments on behalf of their clients anyway. Is it a grey propaganda type of concern that we might be accused of participating in?

  2. Couldn’t you just have the PR people named as the ones who have adjusted the entry on behalf of the company? After all, they have been employed to look after the company’s reputation, and you can’t let mis-information floating around the internet allow views to form that could be completely off the wall.

  3. Would anyone know who the PR people are – and what about if they change? Also, the issue with Microsoft was about paying “independent” people to make changes on their behalf. Really it isn’t so much about correcting misinformation – in which case you could link to provide supported evidence of the truth – but when the company might not like what is said, even if it is a valid opinion or fact.

  4. OK maybe not make amendments but be given a chance to put their stance in place at some stage to sit alongside the ‘offending’ text. If companies don’t get a chance to have their voice heard that’s a bit like printing an opinion piece in a newspaper but forbidding the company to try and make any redress.

  5. Absolutely – I can’t see why companies should always be viewed with suspicion. Being banned just reinforces the idea that corporates aren’t trustworthy rather than providing good examples of those who are willing to be responsible. Although companies do need to take a sense of perspective and be aware of the difference between factual errors and opinions which someone has the right to hold, even if it differs from the corporate perspective.

  6. I certainly agree with that, Heather. And interestingly enough, given how big a to-do Wikipedia editors routinely make about how important it is that editors write articles in a neutral point of view, it seems rather hypocritical that their own collective mistrust of companies as a rule should dictate weather or not one should be able to edit its own article. Besides not being very neutral, it’s just closed-minded and presumptuous.

    I find it troubling. The way I see it, if these jokers can’t consider giving individual companies the benefit of the doubt until given reason not to, then how can we trust that they’re editing Wikipedia in good faith themselves? This is a demonstration of personal bias dictating policy, is it not? And if bias is driving policy in this regard, one has to wonder whether or not it rears its ugly head in other areas. Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but even so, just having to ask that question at all renders the entire project questionable to me and undermines its worth. At best, it’s just a really silly policy, and not one that’s conducive to the project’s supposed goals, which still doesn’t leave Wikipedia looking all that hot.

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