First thing's first... Headline-writing in copyediting departments must be a decaying art if this original claim:
"60% of Wikipedia articles for companies and clients of respondents who were familiar with them had factual errors"
...becomes, to take ABC News' current headline in part:
"Wikipedia: Survey Shows 60 Percent of Entries Have Errors."
Whu? Big difference between the two. There are other outlets similarly mis-headlining this paper as well. (Entertainingly, and in what I'll charitably describe as "testing the journalistic art of compression," The Register offers "PR Mag: Let Promoters Edit Clients' Wikipedia Entries", gloriously missing the bigger point.)
Clickthrough quotas must be getting tough out there.
Some within Wikipedia circles are characterizing this research with remarkable breathlessness as the "counterattack of the PR companies." No, sorry... Just because someone publishes well-vetted research that goes counter to widely held claims about Wikipedia's accuracy or responsiveness does not mean that evil Svengalis in smoke-filled rooms, ice cubes clinking in their bourbon glasses, are sticking pins in a doll.
For those, I point to the mission statement available on the Facebook group:
CREWE comprises Wikipedians, corporate communications, academics, students and other interested parties who are exploring the ways that PR and Wikipedia can work together for mutual benefit, defined narrowly as cooperation toward more accurate and balanced entries.
People will take from the research what they will. Here's what the research says to me:
- Public relations people are still doing things wrong. This is what CREWE seeks to fix... to show corporate communicators (at least the ones who haven't completely lost control of their careers) how to do right both by their clients/companies and one of the largest, most influential, most distributed, and most vibrant communities online.
- Wikipedians are quite a ways away from the ideals they profess to hold in terms of the accuracy of the encyclopedia and the responsiveness of its volunteers. Also, the complexity of the rules, procedures and suggested remedies often encourages PR behavior we'd all like to discourage (much like the U.S. tax code does). In fairness, it's not that all or even most companies want to do bad by Wikipedia... they just sometimes feel that they have no choice when A) inaccurate information persists on Wikipedia after attempts at engagement and B) it figures so high in search.
PR and Wikipedians alike... If you doubted the importance of what CREWE is trying to accomplish, I encourage you to put passions aside and ask "What state of affairs would result in the most accurate entries and be in the mutual, objective best interests of all parties?"
More about CREWE's activities in an upcoming post.
Photo by Carolyn Sewell