In my post yesterday discussing an attempt by a Microsoft employee to pay a blogger to make changes to certain Wikipedia entries that Microsoft considered unfair, we noted that a Microsoft spokesperson made a number of factual statements.
Spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM Corp., which is a big supporter of the open-source standard. IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert who could determine whether changes were necessary and enter them on Wikipedia. Brooker said Microsoft believed that having an independent source would be key in getting the changes to stick – that is, to not have them just overruled by other Wikipedia writers.
This seems to be the stake that Microsoft has put in the ground – they went through the normal Wikipedia channels, got nowhere, and were forced to take extreme measures to protect themselves.
The problem is, as we noted yesterday, that the discussion area of the page in question has no mention of any attempts by Microsoft to clear the record. Update: see below
We asked Wikipedia today for a comment on this. In particular, we asked them if Microsoft made any attempt that they know of to contact Wikipedia or the Wikipedia community to get their side of the issue communicated properly. The answer we got, from an unnamed insider, was “We have nothing in our ticket system, no phone calls, nothing.”
Without any evidence to back up their statement, it’s easy to believe that Microsoft skipped the crucial step that they said they took – trying to work directly with the Wikipedia community. I’d like to ask Brooker or another spokesperson for Microsoft to provide evidence that they did in fact engage with Wikipedia, before attempting to buy the changes they requested.
On the other side of this story, I think Microsoft is making a couple of good points.
First, in going through the discussion area, it’s clear that the article, while ostensibly about standards, is really a political battle between pro and anti-Microsoft factions. Each trying to make changes that the other side quickly reverses. It’s also clear that Microsoft is losing that battle. Both sides are exceedingly nasty.
Second, Wikipedia is a bit odd in that the experts on a given subject are the only people not welcome to participate (their methods for making these points, however, are leaving a very bad taste in my mouth). Nick Carr put it well today when he said: “It seems like we’re getting to the point where anyone who has gained deep enough knowledge of a subject to have developed a point of view on it will be unwelcome to edit Wikipedia.”
Update: See comments #3-5 below. We’ve found one (but only one) Microsoft comment in the discussion area of the article that occurred prior to this incident occurring (and others that were added in the last couple of days after this story broke). There are thousands of comments on the history of the discussion page, and most have no company affiliations. If there are other MS comments that anyone finds, please let us know. And by the way, I now know more about ODF and OOXML than I ever cared to.