What actually is Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest guideline for professional writers?

by Rick Jelliffe

What exactly are Wikipedia's guidelines relating to conflict of interest and professional editing? Looking at their policy pages, it actually seems to bear little resemblence to some of the comments floating around. From what I can gather, here is a summary:


  • Defamation can be removed at any time by anyone

  • Being paid to edit is not, of itself, a conflict of interest. That is stated nowhere.

  • Being paid to edit with the sole intention of improving the employer's image is a conflict of interest.

  • This is because, in Wikipedia terms, the conflict of interest comes not from the payment but from the aspect of self-promotion.

  • Nevertheless, being paid to edit however does give an appearance of a conflict of interest (but not for unrelated material) and so is strongly discouraged.

  • Editors should declare conflicts of interest on their User page, which allows edits to be paid extra attention for neutrality.

  • The guidelines include guidance for how to proceed if you have or appear to have a conflict of interest, with a section on professional editors. The guidance specifically concerns itself with bias for and against the employer company.

  • If you have a conflict of interest, avoid editing, participating in discussions, or even linking from your company to Wikipedia (i.e. using it to market your company.)

  • If the rules prevent you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore them.



This seems quite reasonable and workable.

So the question for me becomes, has MS asked me to edit material relating to Microsoft? That would be a conflict of interest.

And the answer is, no. The material in question was in relation to Open XML, not Microsoft. Now I can understand if a ban on a company also meant a ban on articles on its products: they are only one step removed. But a file format is two steps removed. And a file format standardized by a formal standards organization (Ecma) including other organizations like Novell and British Library is three steps removed. And by the time it comes to ISO, it is four steps removed.

So I believe that the Wikipedia guidelines mean there is no conflict of interest created by me accepting an editing job from Microsoft to neutrally edit articles that are not about Microsoft, and not about their products, but about technical aspects of an Ecma standard that is before ISO. One a similar vein, an IBM person can edit an article on ODF but not on IBM or Lotus or some particular software. Tim Bray can edit an article on XML but not Sun or their hardware products.

The appearance of a conflict of interest means that disclosure and scrupulous attention to the Neutral Point of View come into play. Now, I certainly welcome correction from Wikipedians on this (chapter and verse from you please, spirit of cooperation from me!)

But it is interesting that at least on the face of what the Wikipedia guidelines say, the entire premise of all the newspaper articles is actually wrong. We are not talking about a conflict of interest that is banned, we are talking about, at the most, the potential of an appearance of a conflict of interest for which there are non-absolute guidelines.

I wonder if we will see any newspapers or press printing retractions apologizing to me. It is what I would like. They have published my name far and wide in connection with shady allegations. A headline like "Microsoft sounds out guy to improve entries as allowed by Wikipedia rules and says it is no secret and the guy discusses it in a blog but still hasn't done any edits and hasn't talked money yet" is not much of a headline is it. If you look at the AP article at CNN when setting up Jimmy Wales' comments "paying for copy is a no-no." But they are not paying for copy, they are paying for me to improve technical material on a prospective ISO standard (that they and others would be using.)

42 Comments

Tim Bray
2007-01-26 00:36:48
Rick, I have a lot of respect for you but you are deeply wrong on this particular aspect of the issue. Most people, including me, simply cannot believe that OOXML is not, to quote you, "material relating to Microsoft". It is, whatever other names may be pasted on the side of the draft, a Microsoft creation. It would never have happened in any conceivable universe without an incredible amount of energy and cheerleading from Microsoft. You can argue all the degrees of separation you like, but at the end of the day the question that matters is "cui bono?" and the answer may be found at http://www.microsoft.com/investors


Having said that, I would totally trust you to do an even-handed and erudite job of editing in this scenario. But Ceasar's wife must be seen to be pure, and the media are here because something smells whorish.

Anthony B. Coates
2007-01-26 02:06:46
I'm disappointed that some people seem to think it is politically incorrect to write anything factually correct about OOXML. I've certainly written in my own blog that I favour interoperability, in the sense of any office software package being able to use any document format, not just somebody's idea of the "one true format".


I don't really care who pays for what is written (and someone always pays, directly or indirectly, nothing is truly free). I do care about accuracy. So far, no-one seems to be worrying much about that. If anyone edits the OOXML entry in Wikipedia, or the ODF entry, they will be judged by the accuracy of what they have written. That is the only thing they should be judged on, as far as I am concerned.


It would be different if anyone was being stopped from adding better and more factual content to Wikipedia. As far as I can see, the only person being stopped right now, thanks to some trial by media, may be Rick.


Cheers, Tony.

Stephane Rodriguez
2007-01-26 02:43:20

"The material in question was in relation to Open XML, not Microsoft."


Even your wording is wrong. Time to call it quit.


Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-26 03:42:58
Tim: Show me chapter and verse in the Wikipedia guides. Happy to be wrong. Or are you saying I am wrong despite what the guides may say, because the "big picture" supercedes procedure and fair play?


What I see is wording like "(Organization conflicts of interest) include, but are not limited to, those posed by edits made by: public relations departments of corporations; or of other public or private for-profit or not-for-profit organisations; or by professional editors paid by said organizations to edit a Wikipedia article with the sole intent of improving that organisation's image."


The "sole intent" here is not to improve an "organization's image". In fact, there is no intent to improve MS' image. I've probably done more in the last week to tarnish it that every reader of this blog put together, thanks to the ludicrous press stories; which is journalists who write according to the "bit picture" rather than concerning their pretty heads with facts.


I certainly agree that there is scope for a broader, tougher interpretation of the Wikipedia material, and I expect that some people will take it. And ultimately the wording might well be changed to better reflect that position. But I think an unbiased but literate person in good faith, reading though the Wikipedia guidelines currently, would agree that my reading is fair.


When I first started looking for the conflict of interest material at Wikipedia, under the Five Pillars page, it was not where I expected it. It was under the material on self-promotion: see under What Wikipedia is not for example, where the conflict of interest link comes under a general statement Wikipedia is not a soapbox or vehicle for propaganda or advertising. I am not interested in propaganda or advertising.

Segedunum
2007-01-26 04:22:59
I'm worried about you Rick, I really am. You're stirring around trying to detach OOXML from Microsoft and the interests they so obviously have in it, but I doubt whether Wikipedia will see it the same way as you.


Considering that no one has implemented ECMA-376 successfully in anything other than Microsoft Office (and there doesn't look like there'll be one soon), there are some serious impediments to implementing the dependencies of the standard in anything other than Windows and Office (Windows Metafiles etc.) and the only organisation contributing anything to ECMA-376 is Microsoft, to say that OOXML is not related to Microsoft is just so silly it isn't even funny.


I'm sorry, but a great deal of what is being said and written about OOXML is just not FUD. The only issue I can see is that certain people are just getting a bit upset about it ;-).


And a file format standardized by a formal standards organization (Ecma) including other organizations like Novell and British Library is three steps removed.


OOXML hasn't been a public standard for very long at all versus ODF (the inaccuracy you chose to ignore in a previous article) and it doesn't have an implementation outside of any of Microsoft's products. You do realise that a standard has to prove itself, there has to be an adequate period of public consultation and any apparent endorsement isn't enough, right?


Again, you're simply not wanting to see the objections raised regarding implementing OOXML as a standard outside of any of Microsoft's products. Simply saying "Oh well these people think it's OK, so it's OK" and linking to Microsoft blogger sites is pretty daft. Unless you address those concerns equally you're just slipping into "paid shill" country.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-26 05:23:58
Segedunum: Hi, thanks for your worry about me!


For a start, you don't have to think a standard is absolutely brilliant to think that it fair that it becomes a standard. There are lots of standards that don't benefit me, but they will have some constituency.


ODF's route to standardization was much preferable to OOXML, and I think ODF is a better standard in the way it does most things. Patrick Durusau and everyone should be proud. Though people like Dr Peter Sefton has blogged that he thinks the MS list format is better than the ODF format *because* it is uncontainerized and unstructured, contrary to what I think I believe. Of course, work is still going on in ODF (which is what the OOXML people say too: these are living formats where competition is forcing each to be enhanced to support the other.)


But when you say "no-one has implemented ECMA 376" I think you are getting the wrong end of the stick. In the kind of SGML world that the ISO SC34 committee comes from, data capture is only one part of a chain, not a very interesting part either. The benefit or expectation of standardization is not necessarily that someone (Novell? Google?) would make a 100% actalike competitor to Microsoft Office. It is that OOXML provides a fixed, close-to-the-metal public format that MS cannot fart around with without becoming non-standard to aid data transformations in and out, in environments where there is some significant MS legacy. So one purpose of standardization is to help the poor unfortunates who have to deal with data conversion and archiving.


The big boys want everyone to see this in terms of anti-trust realpolitik; I'm afraid I see in terms of ease of document conversion. In part this comes from a lesson from years of experience in data conversion, that sometimes the fewer intervening layers of abstraction you have, the easier it is to solve tricky problems. (See Three Ways of Writing XML Transformations for a previous blog on this.


Translating documents into a neutral, format oriented format that abstracted out features of all word processors was the state of the art in about 1992, with the Rainbow DTD (I've mentioned this before recently.) But it was commonly found with this that it simply was not good enough to rely that the pivot format had everything that native format contained, or that the converter between the native format and the pivot format exposed or captured the information in the way you needed. So Rainbow slipped out of fashion (being finally killed by HTML export which ultimately gave the same level of information.) So I for one am suspicious of claims that serious transformation writers never need to access a native data format and they can rely on a third party to get the transformation right. Open source makes the second suspicion less compelling, but as with errors in Xerxes, just because something is open source does not mean it is user fixable.


Now, these poor unfortunate dupes who have to do these transformations includes me. In the next few weeks I have to do an OOXML conversion job for a military client, for example. If I have the time, I will also test the ODF converters around to see what the status is.


One reason I have not addressed lots of concerns about OOXML is that it is not my job or hobby to sing and dance its praises! I don't care if big vendors don't love OOXML the way they love ODF. I don't care if govts mandate ISO ODF for interchange and confine ISO OOXML for other uses; probably a very sensible idea. I don't care if it doesn't get standardized at ISO, even though I think it should in fairness. What I do care about is that we can overcome the FUD enough to operate on facts.

Sylvain
2007-01-26 05:25:32
I think comments here miss the point of the present article. It's not about OOXML Vs ODF but about Wikipedia selective rules depending on context and people part of the problem.
Segedunum
2007-01-26 06:07:30
It is that OOXML provides a fixed, close-to-the-metal public format that MS cannot fart around with without becoming non-standard


What, you mean like embedded, non-standard and closed Windows Metafiles embedded into OOXML - which the standard refers to? Non-standard country codes? Non-adherance to existing ISO standards and from other standards bodies that would have been more acceptable? Those are facts. I fail to see how using an XML format that is chock full of Windows and Office specific references that makes it a migraine to get your data out is going to aid data conversion. Converting from one format to another, particularly one that states its own hashing algorithm amongst other things, is simply going to break data conversion royally.


You can't reasonably and practically address the issue of feasible data conversion without addressing some of the other points.


What I do care about is that we can overcome the FUD enough to operate on facts.


Sorry Rick, but what you're doing is saying that you want to overcome the FUD without directly addressing what you and some others are saying is FUD in the first place. It's not entirely clear what you're trying to say at all, especially with regards to things like there not having been enough time for consultation on OOXML. There simply hasn't been enough time, and ODF warranted its fast tracking by virtue of the fact that ODF had been developed for years in the open with OASIS. I don't think people have worded that particular point very well on things like Wikipedia, but it isn't FUD.


Besides, the article is about Wikipedia's guidelines, and since Microsoft clearly has a vested interest in OOXML (you can't address that without looking at some of the politiking that's gone on with OOXML) then it's a conflict.

M. David Peterson
2007-01-26 06:30:04
@Tim,


"It would never have happened in any conceivable universe without an incredible amount of energy and cheerleading from Microsoft."


And the *EXACT* same statement (plus one additional word appended to the end) can be made about ODF.


It would never have happened in any conceivable universe without an incredible amount of energy and cheerleading from Microsoft's competitors.


Tim, what's your point? Do you honestly, and wholeheartedly stand behind the claim that ODF represents "the people" as opposed to the companies paying the bills for its ongoing development? Standards *become* standards because of the economic interests of those in whom develop these standards.


That's not to state that ODF isn't good at what it was designed to . As a (somewhat) from scratch XML document format that has no need to provide support for legacy baggage, it gets the job done.


So does EOOXML, and whether you like this fact or not, 80+ percent of the worlds documents are encoded in legacy MSFT Office formats. So the need to ensure the longevity of these formats, while providing an avenue to move forward into the next generation of features and capabilities is an absolute.


You may not like the fact that it's an absolute. But it is, regardless of what you think and would prefer to propagate as "the truth."

mac
2007-01-26 06:40:48
Alberto Gonzales.. is that you? Maybe when you're done shilling for Microsoft you can get a job with the AG's office parsing laws.
Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-26 06:46:56
Mac: Sorry, I don't get the reference. I know Alberto Gonzales is the US AG, and that he doesn't seem to respect habeas corpus or privacy or the Geneva Conventions.
Peter Sefton
2007-01-26 07:52:47
I don't mind very much whether OOXML is an ISO Standard or not, but I'm very glad to see it out in the open, for some of the same reasons as Rick - I write software the depends on word processor input, and OOXML lays everything out in an accessible way.


So images are stored in the proprietary WMF format; that's useful information and it points out very clearly that I need to look for alternatives. Likewise all the attributes such "Paginate like Word 2" point out where there are preservation or conversion issues with a document. I have spent years guessing at ways to make interoperable word processing documents. OOXML makes it much easier to escape from Microsoft lock-in without having to guess.


The way I see it the ODF community forced this level of disclosure and openness from Microsoft by playing clever (and entertaining) political games but I wonder if refusing or slowing down ISO adoption for this format might make MS revert to their old tricks and start obfuscating things again?


At this point I would rather see OOXML stick around long enough for me to figure out how my constituents can work in Word and other word processors at the intersection between ODF and OOXML with no lock-in to either.

Doug Mahugh
2007-01-26 08:54:03
> It would never have happened in any conceivable universe without an incredible amount of energy and cheerleading from Microsoft.


Can't the same type of statement be made about most standards? The specific details of any technology standard often originated with one company's work -- is that company then forever linked to the standard in this way?

Nick Carr
2007-01-26 19:53:57
So amusing, not to mention ironic, the outrage over OOXML aiding the interests of Microsoft (oh yeah, and most of the world's computing population). It appears that a lot of people have forgotten that standards for text processing started when the Microsoft of the 70s and 60s, IBM, wanted a way to migrate users to evolving platforms without destroying the value captured in customer documents. Hence GML.


And correct me if I'm wrong but my recollection from the time was that XML was taken to W3C so that it could be fast-tracked and avoid the "cumbersome" ISO process that had supposedly bogged down SGML.


Document conversion is grinding work and people only do it because they have to. OOXML will make it easier than it has been in the past. That's a good thing.

Torsten
2007-01-26 22:03:36
In German Wikipedia is a page called Aufragsarbeiten, where you can offer rewards for certain jobs like making an specific article an excellent article. This are usually donations in kind, e.g. a Johnny Cash album for improving the artcle on Johnny Cash.


There is one rule: : The last word on the payment ist by the donor, the donor has the last say about the payment and the community has the last say about the article.

Torsten
2007-01-26 22:07:46
PS: Some details on the Auftragsarbeiten are here.
M. David Peterson
2007-01-27 04:44:26
> Document conversion is grinding work and people only do it because they have to. OOXML will make it easier than it has been in the past. That's a good thing. <


Nicely stated, Nick!


2007-01-27 05:36:43
As someone who helped write the Conflict of Interest guideline, I'd like to first note that your summary of nine bulleted points is an entirely accurate summary of the various related guidelines and policies. On the other hand, every single person who we have had a COI problem with insists for various reasons similar to yours that they can edit without adding bias and should be allowed to make Wikipedia better. The problem arises when other editors disagree with that assessment. So long as you accept that your opinion is not the opinion that counts on your own COI, meaning that you don't fight over what goes in the articles but are content to offer suggestions on the talk page (or in the articles if no one protests) than we don't have a problem. Anyone can add an edit. Anyone can delete an edit. People who fight about it get banned. People who play well with others are encouraged to help even more. I hope you, like me, get addicted to helping create a wonderful free resource for all mankind.

2007-01-27 05:51:23
Clarification: "No one protests" refers to the other respected editors editing that article. So long as the main authors of an article are playing nice together and improving Wikipedia, its all good. When conflicts arise, the guidelines and policies become important, but the interpretation of them should be in the hands of uninvolved editors (mediators). If mediation fails, administrators can ban or block people who insist on continuing to fight. If administrators disagree among themselves or a contributor insists on it, Arbcom holds a sort of trial to resolve the situation. This is very roughly how its supposed to work.
Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-27 09:40:03
Anonymous: Thanks for that, you have no idea how heartening it is to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.


I wonder whether the Wikipedia rules against self-promotion are missing an angle? In a two-corner race, pulling down the opponent is the same as self promotion, for all intents and purposes. (Is it?) So perhaps the same dicouragement of corporate self-promotion should also apply to edits from obvious opponents?


2007-01-27 12:19:30
Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest guideline at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP%3ACOI says "avoid participating in deletion discussions about articles related to your organization or its competitors" so yes we are aware that "pulling down the opponent is the same as self promotion". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk%3AEditing_with_a_conflict_of_interest and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk%3AMyWikiBiz for additional information.
Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-28 00:12:45
Anonymous: Good point about the deletion. Is there a similar statement about addition?

2007-01-28 04:28:01
The first paragraph of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP%3ACOI says "A Wikipedia conflict of interest is an incompatibility between the purpose of Wikipedia to produce a neutral encyclopedia and the individual agendas or aims of editors who are involved with the subject of an article. This includes promotion of oneself or other individuals, causes, organizations, and companies you work for, and their products, as well as suppression of negative information, and criticism of competitors." Those last three words constitute "a similar statement about addition". By the way, I'm WAS 4.250 on Wikipedia (check my IP# for where the 4.250 came from).
Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-28 07:03:48
Anonymous: Thanks for that!
len
2007-01-28 11:08:37
Spy Vs Spy.


Tim, Rick, you sadden me deeply but I can't expect otherwise. This kind of thing has become too common in the web era. You were warned very early, Tim. "As the twig is bent..."


Has anyone considered that guidelines for conflict of interest are not the problem here? It is the editing guidelines themselves which are the means to offset the problems of self-selection vs paid selection. No one is free of bias. Absolutely no one. For that reason, scholastic editing guidelines attempt to keep it free of this sort of dispute.


First: Citations. Both of you are blatantly guilty over time of accepting misattribution. You correct it later but you allow it to flourish long enough for the search engines to put into their cache where there are no rules for removing it. You are only now beginning to acknowledge the issues of positive feedback (the eigen locking effect) on the systems, and now Tim, you want to tell us that maybe link clusters are a 'good idea', but only now that you have to cope with them.


So Hytime was right?


This is disgusting. I mean, professionally, personally, ethically and in every way that common decency affects public affairs, this is disgusting.


Get some air, take a bath and understand that the price of leadership IS being above it. That is how it works and you can't have it both ways. MS is defending themselves because they ARE being attacked. Rick accepts the job because he IS a top expert in this field. Tim protests this because he IS the director of web technologies at Sun and WAS screwed over by Microsoft for accepting a consulting position with Netscape while being the editor of the XML specification.


Christ! Get some values and stick with them or quit pretending for a second to lead anything other than a third rate burglary.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-28 17:15:48
Len: What do you mean by "accepting misattribution" please?

2007-01-29 23:43:29
this controversy was the topic of "The Word" on the Colbert Report tonight. crazy!
Finite
2007-01-30 15:19:24
Upload to YouTube, anyone? And please, somebody tell me that Colbert caught the part about there being no conflict of interest because Rick discovered that OOXML is not even related to Microsoft!
Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-30 15:23:59
The Colbert thing was great. It was up on the Comedy Channel, in the "Great News" video.


Finite: I didn't use the words "not related". The Wikipedia COI guidelines have an idea of closeness. There is no tidy definition of what is meant by "too close" in this context, and editors should use their common sense in deciding whether this guideline applies. An article about a little-known band should preferably not be written by a band member or the manager. On the other hand, an expert on climate change is welcome to contribute to articles on that subject, even if that editor is deeply committed to it.

Finite
2007-01-30 18:56:13
Rick, I shouldn't need to remind you, but your words were actually "So the question for me becomes, has MS asked me to edit material relating to Microsoft? That would be a conflict of interest. And the answer is, no. The material in question was in relation to Open XML, not Microsoft." ... which I think justifies my assertion that you say they are not related.


Thank you for pointing out that you (quote) "didn't use the words 'not related'."


Please note that I didn't say that you said the precise words "not related" either :)

Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-30 19:43:02
Finite: I did not say they are not related. I said they are not so closely related that a conflict of interest in writing about one necessarily creates a conflict of interest in writing about the other.
Willscrlt
2007-01-30 21:19:02
I am moderating an unrelated conflict of interest case on Wikipedia. This has been a very illuminating discussion and very pertinent to our case. Rick's excellent summary of Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest (WP:COI) rules and the anonymous comments by one of the WP:COI editors, still leaves the big question mark always left behind after these statements concerning COI: what about the other side? If the non-interested parties are able to edit freely, and the interested parties are not permitted to do so, then how can you ever have a truly neutral point of view article? It would appear that the answer is simply that you can't. WP:COI does not take into account how it inadvertently leads to POV-slanted articles, and the general editing public of Wikipedia (as evidenced by the notation that the WP:COI guideline is generally accepted by the editors of Wikipedia) do not seem to find that matter worrisome.


It would appear that someone, with an obvious and self-admitted COI is subject to the general consensus opinion of the majority of non-interested editors who act as moderators. If they are convinced that that person's edits are COI and impose POV within the article, then those edits should be removed. The fact that other major contributors might have COI (though it would have to be proven through self-statement or repeated actions consistent with having COI) should not even be factored into the decision, since WP:COI appears to trump common sense when it comes to POV. If only common sense were a little more common.


I'm going to try to exercise a little common sense here and say what makes sense to me, at least in our mediation case.


* The person with COI should be free to edit the articles in question, subject to the same policies to which everyone else is held. Even if the person with COI in our case receives some financial gain, I don't see him as having much, if any, more financial COI than the likely dozens of editors who anonymously edit the article each month.
* The person with COI or anyone else who edits in a fashion that consistently appears to slant things toward one point of view or another, should be treated as someone likely to have COI, even if that COI is not readily apparent.
* By treating someone as if they have COI, I mean that their edits are scrutinized a little more carefully than other similar edits (fair, maybe not, but it is the formal guideline).
* If the consensus of the uninvolved parties (i.e., none of the individuals on either side of a POV struggle) feels that a particular edit, link, or whatever is a POV edit (in either direction), then it should be reverted.
* Obviously, if either side can show solid, reliable sources backing their edit, then the other POV should be required to provide equally compelling sources or rescind their argument.
* If both sides present compelling sources, then a carefully crafted statement should be added to the article presenting both sides of the issue neutrally, along with the sources.
* In those situations, Wikipedia would be acting as a neutral source of information, and the end-reader can make up his or her own mind, because he or she will have the pertinent facts.
* If such compelling sources cannot be found, but one party knows something to be false, then that is just too bad. Until adequate citable sources are found that are roughly comparable in reliability to the opposing side of the debate, the side without sources will have to suffer in silence and resist the temptation to insert weasel words or otherwise soften the other side's argument.
* Determination of the reliability of a source should be made, again, by consensus of the uninvolved parties. It should be noted that if a prominent news source (New York or Los Angeles Times; NBC, ABC, or CBS Nightly News, CNN News (not just an opinion talk show on CNN), NPR, or a foreign news source of equal stature) feels comfortable with the reliability of an "expert", then that should be acceptable for Wikipedia, too. True, the expert may be an expert in cults based on personal experiences that are outside the experiences other people have, but that is not for us to decide. The Times or whoever made that decision already, and they are paid professionals with careers on the line based on their judgments. It is not the average Wikipedian's duty to try to second-guess the criteria that otherwise reliable sources use.
* The preceding being said, if such sources later change their level of trust of an "expert" or appear to change views, then it is certainly worth revisiting. Reliable sources do not always retract earlier statements, but attitudes and levels of trust change over time, and more current assessments by such sources should generally be given greater consideration than ones from the past.


Is all of that found in WP:COI? Not hardly. But it is how I interpret WP:COI making the most sense, especially in the particular case with which I am involved.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-01-30 21:49:12
Willscrit: Thanks.


It becomes an even more important thing were there are claims made but deadlines involved. This is of course why many countries ban media coverage of political issues in the last, say, 24 hours before polls close: there is no time for rebutting scuttlebutt.


In the Wikipedia world, you could imagine moderators, paid adjudicators. I would be in favour of time limits, so that


* if an editor flags a page as contentious, and
* if an issue was raised in the discussion page by a person with a nominal or real COI, and
* if no edits had been made to resolve the issue within 1 week, then
* the COI person could make the changes themselves.


I would also like to the COI rules changed so that COI people can make some kinds of changes, such as linking to an original article rather than a sock puppet article

Finite
2007-01-31 14:53:44
I think it is unfortunate that you have successfully wasted so many people's time with your nitpicking about Wikipedia's not-really-very-hard-to-understand policies and guidelines, while mostly ignoring the incredibly important issue at hand: Microsoft is (still) trying to get their proprietary format passed off as a 'standard', primarily so that they can continue tricking governments into paying them huge sums of money for software even when the governments have demanded standards-based software, while it is obvious to (and undisputed by) all observers that they have no intention of ever actually allowing their documents able to be fully accessible by other implementations besides their own. This is of course (still) completely scandalous, and to a much larger extent than the little footnote about that one time that you decided to sell (as in, you no longer have) your credibility as a standards expert by defending Microsoft's vile actions.


But, somehow, the Wikipedia issue is what most people are talking about. Most people who heard about the MS/Wikipedia/COI scandal probably never actually heard about the OOXML scandal at all. And you can blame the lousy press all you want, Rick, but I blame you for that too.


As to the wikipedia issue: I (still) think that *of course* Microsoft employees should be able to edit just like everyone else. But, if they get some guff in the process for being Microsofties, who cares? There are much bigger problems here!


So... Rick, do you have any comments on "Microsoft and Standards"?
http://www.robweir.com/blog/2007/01/microsoft-on-standards.html

Finite
2007-01-31 15:04:45
(note: that last and should have been on)
Finite
2007-01-31 15:11:46
Clarification: I meant that I blame you too, in addition to blaming the lousy press. They obviously bear much of the responsibility for their coverage (and lack of coverage) of these issues.


But "the press" doesn't have comments enabled yet, for the most part :)


(So thanks for that, at least.)

Finite
2007-02-01 15:16:24
Rick, no, I do not have any connection with OpenFormula, or with any company even remotely related to ODF (aside from being an occasional user of software that supports it). Your motivation in this area is obviously financial, but you should not assume that everyone else's is too.


The attempt at ISO standardization of OOXML is an issue who's outcome will have long-term effects for almost everyone who regularly uses a computer, and that is why I care enough to participate in the discussion here: Not because I think ODF or OpenOffice are perfect (they're far from it), but because I see OOXML as a clear enemy of human progress.


And btw, I've been using this pseudonym on the web for years... references are available upon request.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-02-01 22:18:47
Finite: Pardon? I am not allowed to clear my name from outrageous claims in the world press, the worst of which include bribery, conspiracy, and so on? My poor mother rings me up with distressing stories of my dear elderly father trying to explain the press stories to his best friend who is 101, and I am not allowed to feel some emotion?


(I have edited this comment to remove material that went too far, and I apologize to all my readers, including those mentioned, for the unnecessary display of emotion. I have tried in the blog to strictly keep to issues, and comments like "nitpicking" are a red rag to a bull. Note: This edited comment will probably show up one position out of sequence.)

Finite
2007-02-01 23:49:40
(In my last comment, I was responding to Rick's words which he has since decided to retract... leaving my comment without its context.)


If that is the kind of operator you are, Rick, you're going to find Wikipedia very difficult.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-02-02 00:23:35
Finite: I am sure readers will understand your comment reading a little like a non-sequitur because it replies to material I thought better of. If you are concerned, I am happy to remove it too. But I am trying not to inflame the discussion, and I hope you will too. And I am sure any suggestions, including from me, to Wikipedia will be well scrutinized.
Fred
2007-02-03 20:27:01
Jeezus rick, you're still missing the obvious points- microsoft employs tens of thousands of people, and has its own in-house personnel who understand OOXML far better than you or anyone else, and are better qualified to write about it. Why do they need you? To try to buy a bit of legitimacy. But all that happens is you look like a shill, and naive dunce to boot.


You sound even duncier when you try to claim that OOXML is just some "standard" not really related to MS. Man, if you want to do paid work for Microsoft quit making excuses and just do it. Your credibility and reputation will take some hits- that's predictable consequences, no matter how many arguments you fling out.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-02-03 21:36:45
Fred: I hope they have people who understand it better than me! For about the last 10 years, the big boys abandoned ISO and national bodies in favour of often US-centred consortia where they could have a direct vote: W3C, OASIS, Ecma, etc. So I don't think they do have much inhouse experience in working through ISO standards processes. They are getting it pretty rapidly, I think.


There are much greater experts than me in ISO procedures and document processing: I had a large gap in working with ISO in the late 90s too. Martin Bryan, Lynne Price, Ken Holman, (and the other WG1 people) have decades of experience and are relentlessly capable of making up their own minds on things; ask MS why they picked me instead of them: probably because I had helped on the RELAX NG schema conversion so I have some awareness of the structures and they liked my viewpoint on contradiction.


But the close relation rule is relevant; a fulltime worker who has only seen the world through the prism of their job can be expected, in good faith, to have a closer relationship than a hands-off editor with an independent career is the theory. I hesitate to use the term Chinese Wall in relationship to MS, of course. ;-)