Wikipedia Woes

Wikipedia is never far from the news, and the last week is no different.

First up is the decision to make outgoing links from Wikipedia include the nofollow tag. This basically means that the links are worth nothing in terms of search engine juice. They’ve done this as an antispam measure, but that’s no guarantee that it will work, as many commentators have pointed out. Just from my point of view, the fact that WordPress sticks nofollow on comment links on my blogs does not stop spammers attempting to post comments anyway. As Matt Mullenweg points out:

Wikipedia has decided to nofollow all external links to help offset people spamming the service. In theory this should work perfectly, but in practice although all major blogging tools did this two years ago and comment and trackback spam is still 100 times worse now. In hindsight, I don’t think nofollow had much of an effect, though I’m still glad we tried it.

There are also issues around the fact that Wikipedia is a link-attracting behemoth. Everyone links to it. So they’re taking all this inward traffic and search engine juice, but not giving anything out in return. That’s bad.

Mike Arrington notes another Wikipedia scandal-in-the-offing – Microsoft paying Wikipedia editors to do their bidding. On the face of it, that sucks, but when you read into it, Microsoft appear to at least be trying to do the right thing. As Rick Jeliffe (the Wikiwonk in question) writes:

…I was a little surprised to receive email a couple of days ago from Microsoft saying they wanted to contract someone independent but friendly (me) for a couple of days to provide more balance on Wikipedia concerning ODF/OOXML. I am hardly the poster boy of Microsoft partisanship! Apparently they are frustrated at the amount of spin from some ODF stakeholders on Wikipedia and blogs.

I think I’ll accept it: FUD enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see. If anyone sees any examples of incorrect statements on Wikipedia or other similar forums in the next few weeks, please let me know: whether anti-OOXML or anti-ODF. In fact, I already had added some material to Wikipedia several months ago, so it is not something new, so I’ll spend a couple of days mythbusting and adding more information.

Needless to say, Jimmy Wales and the other Wikipedia fans aren’t too pleased. Arrington notes that

It’s clear that the only way to safely clear the record on Wikipedia when you are involved party is in the discussion area of a page. Paying others to make direct changes isn’t smart, even if you tell them they are free to write their unbiased opinions (as happened in this case). And making direct changes yourself is likely to get you in hot water, too.

It’s a tricky situation. Microsoft tried to find a positive way through the mire of editing Wikipedia pages to right what were, in their eyes, wrongs. In turn, they got it wrong. Arrington’s way forward, of using the Talk page, might be one way through.

Edit: Weird. I just went back to the TechCrunch article to snaffle the link to Arrington’s article, and it’s gone. Not sure what this means about the story…

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