Posts Tagged ‘Wiki’

Important Research on the Relationship Between Public Relations and Wikipedia

April 19, 2012 1 comment

Wikipedia Edit

One of the first places people go (from Google, that is) for quick answers and information is Wikipedia.  The size of the audience it commands, and its ability to become a critical resource for developing the narrative from current events mean that it’s of critical importance to any public relations professional.

Unfortunately the PR community is largely ignorant of how to interact with Wikipedia.

According to a new study done by Dr. Marcia W. DiStaso of Penn State University,

  • 25 percent of public relations pros were completely unaware of the state of Wikipedia entries about their organization.
  • Worse – only 21 percent were familiar with the rule that PR pros should not edit articles on behalf of a client or organization they represent.

This is unacceptable.  A healthy understanding of Wikipedia and the dynamics of the collaborative space online (which eschews back-room deals and undemocratic influence) is critical for every PR pro (and journalist) to understand.  This is the stuff of textbooks.

The study was prompted after a very thorough and productive discussion that has been happening on a Facebook group called CREWE (Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement) created by Phil Gomes of Edelman.  The group has brought together Wikipedians (including founder Jimmy Wales) to promote broader awareness of the relationship between PR pros and Wikipedia editors:

  • On the one hand, Wikipedians want to ensure that all information on the site is accurate and free of bias.
  • On the other hand, PR pros have a legitimate complaint in that following the established process for contributing or editing content (to post suggestions to the “Talk” page in the hope that it will be evaluated by a Wikipedian with no connection to the story and ultimately considered for application to the Wikipedia entry) is often ineffective as it can be difficult to get the attention or consideration of editors.

The study done by Dr. DiStaso also contains a very helpful infographic pulling out some of the important points from the study.  You can find everything here:

Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?
Public Relations Journal — Vol. 6, No. 2 | Author: Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D.

Abstract: The study by Dr. DiStaso explores the views, experiences and beliefs of public relations/communications professionals about editing Wikipedia for their company or client. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has what he believes to be a “bright line” rule whereby public relations/communications professionals are not to directly edit the Wikipedia articles about their companies or clients. Through a survey with 1284 responses, this study found that the “bright line” rule is not working. This is because, among other reasons, 60% of the Wikipedia articles for respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s article contained factual errors. When the talk pages were used to request edits, it was found to typically take days for a response and 24% never received one. Plus, most of the public relations/communication professionals in this study were unaware of the rule and almost half of those who were familiar with it did not understand what it meant to them..  [Download Article]

Webmaster Entries for Google Sidewiki?

December 18, 2009 2 comments

Google’s Sidewiki apparently now allows webmasters to stake out entries on their own pages.  The “Webmaster Sidewiki” feature must have been enabled some time ago, as has one that dates to October 2, 2009.  I happened across this while browsing (another site I thought might generate controversial Sidewiki entries).

Screen Capture of Amway's Webmaster Sidewiki Entry

Screen Capture of Amway's Webmaster Sidewiki Entry

The entries appear in mint green (as opposed to the standard white of regular schlubs), and according to Google’s description it remains at the top of the page no matter what else is posted.  This is likely a response to all of the fear that was expressed when Sidewiki was announced that it would take control of the conversation away from the owners of a website.

Curiously I haven’t seen “webmaster” entries on any other websites except; I’d be interested to know if anyone else is aware of other organizations that use them as I can’t seem to find any.  Coca-Cola doesn’t use one, nor do McDonald’s or Toyota. In fact, NONE of the top ten companies in the Fortune 500 (Exxon Mobil, Walmart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, General Motors, Ford Motors, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Valero Energy) use a webmaster entry for their sidewiki pages (though AT&T has an obnoxiously-long entry from “Molly” on their CustomerCare team).

Does this strike anyone else as bizarre?

Google Sidewiki Experiment Results: 12/18/09

December 18, 2009 2 comments

It’s been a few months, so I thought I’d check in on the experiment I’m conducting with Google Sidewiki; (for the uninitiated, I posted mildly-controversial but accurate comments on a few websites to monitor the reaction.

Google Sidewiki on  There’s been comparatively less activity on, though my post is still one of the only two that appear on the first page of listings.  Anecdotally the content is primarily reviews of the usability of the website, with a bit of discussion of Wal-mart’s politics.  Of note are two new “spam” messages – though it’s questionable that they’re really “spam” in the dictionary sense (one literally calls itself ‘spam’ but doesn’t seek to promote a product or website).

  • Total Entries on Site: 11
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:   2 / 4  / 4
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (10) No (6)
  • Spam Entries: 2 (18%)   The duplicate entries for Facebook have returned; on many sites there are duplicate entries in Sidewiki depending on whether or not one is logged in to that site or not.  Facebook is also the highly-trafficked Sidewiki entry in the experiment.  Anecdotally, the content in Facebook’s sidewiki is primarily people commenting in a way that would indicate they don’t really understand how Sidewiki works (many appear to be commenting on stories from their newsfeed), along with discussion of Facebook’s privacy policy.  There continues to be a high number of non-English language Sidewiki users commenting on Facebook’s Sidewiki, demonstrating the global reach of the platform. (Logged In):  My entry is one of only three (the other two are relatively new; only posted in December, 2009) that appear on the front page (I updated it this week with content about the newest privacy issue that cropped up with Facebook publishing profile information to search engines).  Nearly 18 percent (15) of the entries were non-English language.

  • Total Entries on Site: 85
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  23 / 10 / 30
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (535) No (208)
  • Spam Entries:  7 (8%) (Logged Out):  My entry is one of only two that appear on the front page (I updated it this week with content about the newest privacy issue that cropped up with Facebook publishing profile information to search engines).

  • Total Entries on Site: 166
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  60 / 31 / 49
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (132) No (18)
  • Spam Entries:  13 (8%)  My entry is now one of only two entries on the front page of the sidewiki for  As more people have posted, it’s interesting to see how much variation there is in the comments that are positive or negative about Fox News; some people are hashing out the media bias debate (among those, some argue Fox News has no bias and others argue it is good precisely because it has a conservative bias), some are focusing only on web design and performance, and at least two commenters cited their affinity for Fox News was solely based on its attractive female newsreaders.  My entry inspired three new angry responses (from “Steve G,” “Mike St. James,” and “Michael Lederman.”), and given how many people have begun to rate it as “not useful” – I don’t know how much longer it will retain a spot on the front page.

  • Total Entries on Site:  51
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral Ratio:  18 / 19 / 13
  • Ranking of my Entry: Useful? Yes (45) No (75)
  • Spam Entries: 1 (2%)

Conclusions:  The major concern that is emerging is how large volumes of SideWiki comments will be organized.  On Facebook (where the most traffic of the sites in my experiment is taking place) it’s become clear that the oldest entries have a considerable advantage the new ones; with 15 pages of “not as useful” entries – users are not browsing and ranking them beyond the first few pages.  If a new entry doesn’t quickly prove itself valuable, it’s relegated to the back room.

Suggestion for Google:  It would help to have a ready display on the top page of Sidewiki entries that shows all of the stats about the Sidewiki entries (a counter showing how many there are, how many have been rated helpful/unhelpful, etc.)