Wikipedia contributors decry pay for posts

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

By , IDG News Service |  On-demand Software

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.

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