Interesting Times


It seems I’ve put a few folks in a bit of a tizzy, by asking Rick Jelliffe to contribute his expertise to some incorrections on Wikipedia that I’ve been unable to get corrected on my own. I won’t take the time to go through the whole story here, but these are the links that tell the tale:


Rick’s original post (many interesting comments):
http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/01/an_interesting_offer.html

“Microsoft PR Paying to “Correct” Wikipedia” on Slashdot:
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/01/22/2056214

My comment on that thread:
http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=218248&cid=17724650


There are lots of other blogs linking to this as well. Good to see the tone of the Open XML debate getting some broad attention and analysis. I’ll leave it up to others to reach conclusions, but as always I have confidence that most people are reasonable, and will reach reasonable conclusions from the facts.

Comments (17)

  1. Jeff Reser says:

    I had seen this on Engadget but didnt think to much about it. I like the comment you posted on slashdot – gutsy and honest. Good Job.

  2. JD on EP says:

    Soapbox: Handling Wikipedia? Seeking your thoughts here… yesterday there was a controversy about "MS pays non-staffers to correct Wikipedia"… hit Slashdot… today there’s a Microsoft response. This topic came up in the Flash community a few times

  3. orcmid says:

    Nice, straightforward clarification.  But of course, Evangelist = PR (the first reply I noticed to your SourceForge rebuttal).  Funny.

    Thanks putting a bright light on this.  On retrospect, I’s disappointed in how Rick characterized the contact that was made to him.  Posting the body of your e-mail is very helpful.

  4. devnet says:

    You guys really don’t understand this "Open Source" thing do you?  Why do you shoot yourselves in the foot so much?

    My goodness, for being supposedly some of the smartest developers, programmers, and technical evangelists alive you sure don’t think things through do you?

  5. Doug Mahugh says:

    Jeff, Dennis, thanks for the comments.

    JD, I agree with your point on your blog that there’s no course of action here that seems right — it’s still not clear how these community-driven sites can achieve maximum editorial accuracy.  But I’m glad we’re all debating it, that’s step one.

    Devnet, I’m not sure what you mean.  At this point, I don’t know what we’d do differently.  Wikipedia’s conflict of interest rules state as rule #1 to "avoid editing articles related to your organization or its competitors."  So it seems that contacting a person like Rick for their input is a way to correct it without violating Wikipedia’s rules.

  6. Kenny says:

    I have two friends. One is a Microsoft apologist and another is a Linux (I use Linux loosely, and include the BSD’s in this bunch a bit) zealot. Both of them are the kind that turn a blind eye to the other OS.

    I turned this question to him, and found something interesting:

    He wasn’t willing to let go of Microsoft’s past. He was *personally* hurt by something Windows did to him many years ago — and then it hit me.

    There are three kinds of computer users:

    1.) Those that use it as the tool it is — to get the job done. Be it Linux for a Server, or Windows for a server. Whichever makes the life easier for the now and the later, but later is usually more important as it’s long term. The people in this group are the grandparents and corps — those that don’t have time to tweak and jack around with this beyond the task at hand.

    2.) Those that treat it like a car — something that represents them. They spend an insane amount of time polishing and tweaking their item to their best. These are like the Ford vs. Chevy people. Example: *slams car door* "Hey! It’s not a Chevy!"

    3.) The people that treat it as though they are one with it. These are the ones that are your greatest advocate or your worst enemy. Everything either side does is a very personal thing with them. It’s like family — you just don’t mess with them.  I once saw him give Windows XP a shot (after I spent much time trying to rid him of his horrible previous experience of Win95 [long story] — and I claimed WinXP is different but better). The partition manager came up and before I could really stop him, I saw him whack his Linux partition. Lucky for him it was a new install (new laptop, thusly new software) — but he blamed the software regardless. He made excuses for his mistake. Took him a loong time to get over it too (and give it a "fair" shot. His attitude now is more of a "the software may not bite as much as it used to, but I won’t use it out of principal, except for work of course" — which I entirely understood; we each have our values.

    I plan on continuing my debate with him until either I’m agreeing that Microsoft (or any company for that matter) be able to hire a neutral third party to corrrect Wikipedia for blantant (and only blantant) shouldn’t be able to do that –or– he agrees that it’s acceptable for anyone to do it, assuming it’s a reasonably netural POV. Fun times, eh?

    For the record, I triple boot my machine: Windows XP (hopefully adding Vista soon), OpenBSD 4.0 (runs my servers so I prefer to break my box before I break my servers), and Ubuntu Linux (I’m curious if it’s a reasonable desktop yet; seems relatively good now… but I have my complaints). So I like to consider myself fairly balanced… but we all have personal agenda’s which make us slightly near-sighted or far-sighted, IMHO.

  7. "An interesting offer: get paid to contribute to Wikipedia" (Une offre intéressante : être payé pour écrire dans Wikipedia) titre un des billets de Rick Jelliffe qui explique avoir reçu une proposition de Microsoft pour écrire des articles plus équilibrés..

  8. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    It’s your day, today.

  9. pwb says:

    Wow, your posting on Slashdot is bizarro. You claim two lies: 1) that MSFT never asked Rick to make edits favorable to MSFT and 2) that no one in PR contacted him.

    Then proceed to explain that you the evangelist (=PR rep) contacted Rick to make the Wikipedia article "less slanted".

    WTF???

  10. Doug Mahugh says:

    Bizarro?  I just thought, as the one and only person who ever contacted Rick about this concept, that I’d share the actual facts of what was said.  If you find that hard to believe, I suppose you could ask Rick about it.

    By the way, just so nobody gets misled by your comment, evangelists are an entirely separate division of the company from PR.  In fact, we sometimes disagree about how to handle some things. 🙂

    Yes, Stephane, it’s my day, and I’m looking forward to Thursday more than usual.

  11. veridicus says:

    When you contact anyone outside your company you are representing Microsoft.  Therefore you made yourself part of PR.

    You’ve got plenty of web sites on which to document file formats.  Using a third party to bypass Wikipedia rules isn’t helpful to anyone, whether the facts on the page are right or wrong.  Let Wikipedia change as it may and just worry about your own sites.

    If Microsoft was more open about all file formats (patents, Word docs) and acted as a better member of the community you wouldn’t be ridiculed so much.

  12. Dale says:

    For a detailed explanation of why some people may have reasonable doubts about OOXML, consider reading;

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=2007011720521698

    or

    http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20070117145745854

    Perhaps these issues caused the authors of the wikipedia entry to give a negative tone.

  13. Oooof..! Microsoft Offers Cash For Wikipedia Edit Microsoft blunders over Weipedia editing The Darkside

  14. I’ve spotted some lovely Sydney photos on Doug Mahugh’s blog . That must mean he is in Sydney. For those

  15. Doug Mahugh says:

    The ISO voting on Open XML is delivering even more drama this week than I expected. In addition to the

  16. The ISO voting on Open XML is delivering even more drama this week than I expected. In addition to the

  17. Doug Mahugh says:

    It’s been quite a year for those who have been blogging about the Open XML file formats. Here’s a look