Monday, May 21, 2012

Wikipedia: Understanding How It Works – Part 2

Posted by Leah Ludwig

In the first part of my Wikipedia: Understanding How It Works post, I shared details about what Wikipedia is and the site’s core policies. Now, I would like to share what I learned during the second portion of Jake Orlowitz’s “Learn to Speak Wikipedia” program – specifically addressing Wikipedia and the PR profession, as well as some best practices and resources to help along the way.

As I previously mentioned, Orlowitz spoke about the historical conflict between PR and Wikipedia and how it can be resolved with a proper understanding of the two cultures’ roles and processes. He further explained that PR professionals, who are editing their clients Wikipedia articles, can often have a conflict of interest because of their role. These professionals can save themselves countless hours of frustration by learning the best practices for editing and transparency through disclosures on behalf of their client (addressed further under Best Practices below).

Wikipedia Best Practices

What I found most useful during the program (and think you will as well), was the best practices that Orlowitz provided to ensure that PR practitioners are successful on behalf of their own companies and clients.

Register with an independent username: He explained that in most cases you should register with a completely anonymous name – unrelated to your company, product or service.

Read the notability guideline: As per Wikipedia, “Notability is a test used by editors to decide whether a topic can have its own article.” The notability guideline can be found here.

Declare your conflict of interest: If you are writing and/or editing an article for your business, a client, etc., it is always best to be transparent and share a disclosure statement in the article comments for the Wikipedia editor(s) that you are working with to complete the task.

Start with a draft: This is a highly recommended best practice and there are resources to support these efforts such as The New Article Wizard. This tool will allow you to create an article for editors to review and provide feedback at no consequence to your organization. Orlowitz explained that, “Articles and edits started this way have the best odds of remaining in Wikipedia after other editors see what you have done.”

Sources, sources, sources: You should not use self-published materials, but instead summarize what published, reliable sources have said about your organization, product or service.

Neutralize your conflict of interest: I shared details about this best practice in part one of this two-part blog post. It is important to know and remember that a neutral point of view is valued and the only view accepted by Wikipedia and the Wikipedia community. Articles mustn't take sides, but should explain the sides fairly and without bias.

Avoid spam: Orlowitz explained that articles should not include promotional pages or content.

Have other editors review your draft: As mentioned previously, it is important to get the feedback of other Wikipedia editors before attempting to publish your article.

Don’t rush: Although there are always deadlines, do not rush. Wikipedia does not run on deadlines and operates in the scale of months, years and decades.

Accept that other editors can and will edit your content: Once an article is published and live, it is public property and can be added to, edited and/or removed.

I know that this is a lot of information to process, however, Orlowitz provided a plethora of very helpful resources to make this process less painful (WikiProject Cooperation, the Wikipedia Help Desk, Live Help Chat, etc.). Best wishes to you in your next Wikipedia article endeavor!

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