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Microsoft PR Paying to "Correct" Wikipedia

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the what's-left-is-right dept.

Microsoft 355

Unpaid Schill writes "Over on the O'Reilly Network, there's an interesting piece about how Microsoft tried to hire people to contribute to Wikipedia. Not wanting to do the edits directly, they were looking for an intermediary to make edits and corrections favorable to them. Why? According to the article, it was apparently both to let people know that Microsoft will not 'enable death squads with their UUIDs' and also to fight the growing consensus that OOXML contains a useless pile of legacy crap which is unfit for standardization."

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Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715652)

This is not new behavior. Remember when Microsoft tried to hire "individuals" to perform "grassroots" work including writing letters to the Department of Justice and letters to the editors of papers around the country concerning the anti-trust trial? Look, I have friends at Microsoft and there are truly some brilliant folks up there, but what the hell is the marketing department doing? Are they *that* ethically challenged? Or is it that they are *that* desperate to be cool and loved? How about a policy of honesty and if there is something that you want, then why not have your Microsoft PR department make the edits? Is that too obvious? It would certainly present other ethical dilemmas, but at least it would be more honest than hiring supposed "impartial" third parties to do your work for you.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

wpegden (931091) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715718)

A policy of honesty?

How about a policy of let's make as much money as we can!

I mean, come on, this is a corporation, and you're complaining about ethics? Perhaps you're suggesting that they would make more money if they didn't have "unethical" policies like this... but that's not at all clear from your post. It is unclear why, in all situations, a blanket policy of honesty would be expected to maximize profits for corporations. (Let me rephrase that: this is obviously not the case.) Microsoft's goal is not to make you like them; it is to make lots of money. So far, they've been very successful at that. Probably their PR department played at least some small role in that. Don't get me wrong, I despise them too, but let's be clear that they're all doing exactly what they're "supposed" to.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715902)

You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist? Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization? Or should standards of ethics and non-monetary issues be forced onto corporations by society (government)?

Corporations as they exist today are a mistake. A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design). But the idea that it should be done by a pseudo-person with no sense of morality, whos only goal is to amass money and power, and with no accountability for its actions is horribly flawed.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716000)

You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist? Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization? Or should standards of ethics and non-monetary issues be forced onto corporations by society (government)?


Its worth noting that it used to be that governments were far more restrictive about the corporate charters they would approve, and far more willing to revoke charters for corporations violating the public interest. The special privileges granted with a corporate charter were viewed more as a privilege granted in the public interest and conditioned on good behavior than as a virtual right the way they are now.

What we have now is not some intrinsic necessity for the corporate structure, a remnant of late 19th Century subservience to big business.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716070)

The special privileges granted with a corporate charter were viewed more as a privilege granted in the public interest and conditioned on good behavior than as a virtual right the way they are now.

A slightly less rose-tinted view of history suggests that corporate charters were granted when there was an assurance that the ruling prince of the city-state, or his cronies, would get a cut.

So you're saying, the more things change... (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716264)

...the more they stay the same?

Re:Honesty.... (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716266)

A slightly less rose-tinted view of history suggests that corporate charters were granted when there was an assurance that the ruling prince of the city-state, or his cronies, would get a cut.


Since I was (though I didn't make this clear) referring to earlier US history, I'd say that's more of a view of a different part of history, but sure. And certainly neither the earlier US practice nor the more recent one was or is free from the corrupting influence of cash and the cronyism of the connected.

Re:Honesty.... (3, Insightful)

vyrus128 (747164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716014)

Sadly, although you are right on, I have found that espousing such a view will get people to look at you as though you have a third eye. Much as most people believe in a right to "intellectual property", everyone also seems to believe in an inherent human right to form corporations, and they cry out in horror when you suggest that granting the privilege of incorporation unfettered is a bad idea. I can only conclude from this that people are idiots.

Re:Honesty.... (4, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716306)

Much as most people believe in a right to "intellectual property", everyone also seems to believe in an inherent human right to form corporations, and they cry out in horror when you suggest that granting the privilege of incorporation unfettered is a bad idea. I can only conclude from this that people are idiots.

Actually, the grandparent denounced corporations while acknowledging the necessity of a corporation-like object by saying: A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design).

It's incredibly short-sighted to say "X sucks and should be banned", when X provides a useful service, and when no alternative is proposed. Say we banned corporations. Because of the necessity of a corporation-like object, it is very likely that such an object would quickly appear, and over time would evolve into something indistinguishable from today's corporation.

It's appropriate that you likened the argument to the argument over intellectual property. Again, IP sucks in many ways, but has useful consequences. If IP laws were repealed, and nothing replaced them, it is likely that content creators would re-create something similar to the IP system using complicated contracts (e.g., you would have to sign a lengthy agreement prior to purchasing an album at a music store).

Re:Honesty.... (2, Interesting)

kickingandscreaming (1042750) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716350)

I was taking a Business Law class a couple years back and we were going over the basics of corporations. I asked the "Professor" (Civil Lawyer posing as adjunct faculty) his opinion of corporate "personhood." He looked at me blankly and then asked me what I meant. I then asked him whether he thought it was a good idea to have corporations considered "persons" in a court of law. He said that he'd never thought about it.

Re:Honesty.... (1)

Cstryon (793006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716120)

I think the only honest companys turn out to be Mom and Pop shops that never go very far. It sucks, but you don't make money in America unless you arn't completely honest. I even exagerate on my Resume to get the job that I CAN do but my completely honest resume would say I can't.

Re:Honesty.... (1)

sokoban (142301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716284)

Corporations as they exist today are a mistake. A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design). But the idea that it should be done by a pseudo-person with no sense of morality, whos only goal is to amass money and power, and with no accountability for its actions is horribly flawed.
Well first of all, corporations are only accountable to their shareholders, not to anyone else. If a sufficient majority of shares demand that a corporation act ethically, then the corporation will have to operate as such. Most shareholders want maximum returns on their investments, and honestly do not care about ethics. This stems from the fact that corporations and investment are economically motivated decisions. Economics is incapable of accounting for such intangible things, since economic decision making is based entirely off monetary values being assigned. The environment, ethics, and other very important things cannot be assigned a monetary value, and thus can not be properly accounted for in any economic system.

Re:Honesty.... (3, Insightful)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716294)

You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist?

Absolutely. Entities that exist for a sole purpose are inherently "trustworthy" by the pragmatic meaning of "trust"...they are transparently predictable. Predictable is good.

Beyond a certain size, a corporation can no longer be anthropomorphized to an entity capable of emulating human behavior. They have no "soul", no "conscience", nor any sense of "good" and "evil". They are simply successful or unsuccessful, determined by the only metric with any meaning to them...money.

We find corporations to be useful entities, but we cannot expect them to police themselves, because it is simply not in their nature. That we must accept, while also accepting and upholding the task to monitor and contain them. If we shirk that responsibility, that's society's fault, not the corporations'.

If one wants to see what happens when a corporation attempts to police itself, one must examine any large socialist government. They are certainly not the first organization one would call upon if one wished to actually accomplish any useful work.

Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization?

A wolf is not a sociopath; it's just a wolf. The sociopaths are the citizens who do nothing while a wolf behaves as wolves do.

Re: Honesty.... (4, Interesting)

Dolda2000 (759023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716346)

I think that you, too, miss the point. Even though corporations may be pseudo-persons with no sense of morality and with the sole purpose of amassing money and power, I think it is important to note that they are, indeed, pseudo-persons. They have not actually any consciousness, will or deciding ability in themselves. Normally, that task is carried out by actual humans.

Somewhere, deep inside the twisted corridors in Redmond, some person must have actually thought of the idea to hire third parties to edit Wikipedia. He must also have presented it to his boss (unless it was some boss who thought of the idea himself), who in turn must have ordered someone to carry out the plan. Shouldn't an obviously unethical plan such as this have been stopped at some point in this chain? Shouldn't that boss figure have some kind of conscience which should have stopped him from doing this? Another problem may be the current inability (real or imagined) of "peons" in a corporation to themselves stop such plans when being ordered to carry them out. Generally, I believe that the lack of personal responsibility for actions being carried out "in the name of a corporation" is the real culprit.

Also, aside from the ethical standpoint, must they not have realized that this would leak out?! I mean, this cannot be considered positive PR, right?

Nice guys finish last (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716498)

Generally, I believe that the lack of personal responsibility for actions being carried out "in the name of a corporation" is the real culprit.

So you're suggesting insubordination?

Thanks, but I'll take putting food on my table to losing my job because my employer's morals and ethics do not align with my own. And, with some of that money from the paycheck that I keep by doing what I'm told, I can even donate to charity, thus minimizing the Karmic backlash.

What about Google and Apple? (1)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716436)

They're the exceptions to the rule, right? I'm not good at keeping up with groupthink.

Yes we need these companies (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716506)

because the vast accumulation of wealth is in the hands of individuals, not some "mythological beast" you seem to want to make corporations into.

Only large organizations can efficiently serve large populations. Governments certainly can't, go look to areas of the world beholden to government entities, most aren't anyplace you want to live. The primary reason is that governments don't have to get better and improve, they only have to maintain the status quo. Companies on the other hand grow because the people in charge want to succeed. This leads to innovations, more employment, better qualitiy of life, and yes more money.

Oh, but that evil money, where is it? Well the bulk of corporate wealth is held by retirement concerns, yup those evil teachers, firemen, police, and maybe even your coworkers are all part of the system.

Sorry, its childish to apply human traits to something that is not alive. Its a form of organization, nothing more. It succeed because of individuals and it fails because of them too.

Re:Honesty.... (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716546)

should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist?
Society is formed by people, who allow such organizations to exist by purchasing their products. Even if they're wrong to support Microsoft, it's their freedom. To take the decision out of the hands of consumers would be to deny them market freedom. Imagine saying "No, we won't let you buy from that company, because we've decided they're too dishonest and profit driven."

Investors who are willing to risk their own money decide which start-ups to invest in. Consumers decide which company will ultimately be successful, and a successful investor will try to identify those companies.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715956)

What are you saying? That because a corporation wants to make money that we shouldn't criticise them when they're caught acting unethically?

That's just stupid.

Re:Honesty.... (4, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716226)

what they're "supposed" to.

And murderers are doing what they're "supposed" to, after all, thats why we call them "murderers". Who decided that the profit motive was supposed to be superior to honesty? I think you'll find that fraud is not accepted in standard definitions of "free market" or "Capitalism", so where has the idea that lying for money is permissible come from?

Re:Honesty.... (and SOX) (1)

AveryRegier (66592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716286)

With the advent of the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) honesty became literally the best policy for not losing gobs of money. SOX and the related securities law changes has made corporate ethics a very big thing. I hear a lot about how ethics violations have the potential of ruining a company. Corporations now go to great lengths to create ethics and business conduct policies and make sure every employee is well trained on them.


I'm not sure why Microsoft hasn't gotten the message.

Re:Honesty.... (and SOX) (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716476)

I would actually say that with the advent of SOX, obsessive compulsive behavior became the best policy.

We follow our procedures. The goal is to follow the procedures, not to be honest or to be productive.

Our executives can still write huge checks without even a co-signer.

Re:Honesty.... (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716558)

I might be more inclined to buy their products if I thought of them as honest and trustworthy. Instead, they engage in widespread astroturfing, multi-year disinformation campaigns against OpenGL, and all manner of other nefarious behavior. So, when it comes time to choose what I'm going to use, I'm a lot less likely to choose Microsoft because you can't believe what they say.

Yes, I have an anti-MS bias. The question is why do I have an anti-MS bias. And this is one of the big reasons.

Re:Honesty.... (4, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715802)

what the hell is the marketing department doing? Are they *that* ethically challenged?

As a matter of fact, yes they are. Corporations (and therefore their various departments), by definitions, only have in mind the interest of their shareholders, therefore if being unethical furthers their interest and a corporation can get away with it, they will be.

I suggest you watch a documentary called The Corporation [amazon.com] : they very clearly demonstrate that the laws governing corporations make then sociopathic by nature.

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

imess (805488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715814)

If you read the article, that guy was hired to make technical correction in the Wikipedia entries. Why would you expect that only MS PR people should do it?

The quotes around the work "Correct" in the summary headline is just another Slashdot spin...

Re:Honesty.... (5, Funny)

thelost (808451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716040)

excuse me, did anyone ask you to get in the way of a good ms bashing opportunity?

Re:Honesty.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716428)

were you paid to say that?

Re:Honesty.... (4, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715882)

what the hell is the marketing department doing?
Are they *that* ethically challenged?
Or is it that they are *that* desperate to be cool and loved?
How about a policy of honesty
Their job.
Yes.
That's their job.
That would be the anti-thesis of marketing.

Re:Honesty.... (2, Insightful)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716364)

Their job.


Being the PR department, their job description probably involves maintaining a positive PR image for the company. A fiasco such as this is them failing at their job. This is "doing their job" in the same way Uwe Boll makes movies.

Yes.


I honestly can't make a call here. I'd like to assume that all marketers are terrible people lacking ethics, moral restraint, and any worth. However, not knowing any marketers personally I can't claim they are swampy morasses of evil.

That's their job.


This is true, although in this case they didn't perform well.

My personal preference would have been an interesting public press release regarding factual errors in the wikipedia articles, suggesting editors could check the facts for themselves and amend the issues. That way MS couldn't be said to have interfered with the objectivity of wikipedia while at the same time allowing it to be more accurate.

Not a perfect solution to be sure, but one that might show much more respect, tact and tolerance than ninja editing wikis.

That would be the anti-thesis of marketing.


While this is perhaps the case with much of marketing now, it needn't be.

For example, Nintendo. I would say that their marketing is honest. Their advertisements show a wide variety of people playing games with the new controller. Whether or not we agree that this is fun, Nintendo has worked hard at making their system fun in this way and believes strongly that this has been accomplished. The very successful sales of the system back this up.

If the system failed to sell well because Nintendo had failed in their goal to make such a system, they wouldn't be dishonest for having tried, felt they succeeded, and then attempted to share their success with everyone. However, they would be dishonest if they began/continued to make claims about their system that were divorced from reality.

Correct This: Bill Gates IS +1, Incendiary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17715932)


More evil than the Al-Qaeda Commander-In-Chief [whitehouse.org] .

Patriotistically as always,
Philboyd Studge

Re:Honesty.... (5, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716086)

How about a policy of honesty and if there is something that you want, then why not have your Microsoft PR department make the edits? Is that too obvious? It would certainly present other ethical dilemmas, but at least it would be more honest than hiring supposed "impartial" third parties to do your work for you.

You did read the link, right?

This isn't some random anonymous goofball being paid to insert text Microsoft gives him; he's an (apparently) recognized figure, not especially MS-friendly, being paid to provide corrections in his area of expertise, with his reputation on the line. I'd trust that more than edits made by the PR people. He certainly made his case a lot more credibly than the Slashdot submitter made his.

I mean, I can still see where there are questions to be raised, but the write-up here is completely dishonest.

Re:Honesty.... (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716218)

I mean, I can still see where there are questions to be raised, but the write-up here is completely dishonest.

The O'Reilly link timed out on me (twice), so admittedly I took the article/Slashdot post at face value (and prior experience) before responding. Thanks for the clarification and I'll be happy to take my moderation lumps now... :-) Of course this is another example of Slashdot's poor editorial policy and why I've been spending less time here than in the past.

Re:Honesty.... (4, Interesting)

steelfood (895457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716204)

At least said third party has explicitly stated that he's being paid by Microsoft. And at least Microsoft has not barred him and others they are paying from doing the same. How much more honesty can you ask for? If Microsoft told a bunch of PR people to edit Wikipedia, they'd probably not have told anyone, and no one would've known Microsoft was paying PR people to subtly skew articles in their favor.

Third parties are usually where corporations finds impartiality, even if the third party receives a cheque from the company on a monthly basis. Most other industries use a third party for impartiality--e.g. auditing in the financial industry, security audits, etc. are essentially asking a third party to review existing data for disrepencies. Why can't Microsoft do the same with their products and/or standards?

to answer your question (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716312)



...but what the hell is the marketing department doing?

Check the Wikipedia entry for turning lead into gold [wikipedia.org] .

Seth

How widespread is this behavior? (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716504)

Does anyone know if there are any numbers floating around the web which give a rough approximation of how much companies are spending at these kind of tactics? I know you can hire people to leave good comments, forum-posts and reviews and edits wiki's, but how much money is in it? How worried should we be?

Bit of FUD Himself (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715660)

For example, in the Wikipedia entry, it currently mentions that "the members of ISO have only 31 days to raise objections", the implication being that this is far too short a time; yet, if I understand matters correctly, ODF was submitted in a fast-track procedure that didn't even allow these kind of objections.

That would be because respondants have had over 4 years to respond to the OASIS specification. Since it's already a standard that has been reviewed by the industry, the ISO committee can choose to adopt it on a fast-track as a way of putting their own stamp of approval on it.

Re:Bit of FUD Himself (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716038)

I just realized that most Slashdotters probably didn't read the article, and I didn't quote quite enough to get the point across. Basically, he's saying that the ODF supporters are hypocrites by claiming that the 30 day window for OOXML review is too short, as they are using a similar 30 day period to get their own ISO approval. Which completely obscures the fact that ODF is already standardized by an industry standards organization (OASIS) while OOXML is not.

Microsoft is better than Linux (3, Funny)

heauxmeaux (869966) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715670)

Microsoft has *always* been better than Linux.

Re:Microsoft is better than Linux (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715784)

Microsoft has *always* been better than Linux.
So, how much is Microsoft paying you?

Re:Microsoft is better than Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17715944)

Ash-Fox is a known alias for Emmanuel Goldstein and is unable to bellyfeel heauxmeaux's writings. All crimethinkers are to report to the joycamp by order of Miniluv.

Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715686)

I mean, seriously, hiring someone to contribute to Wiki and pretend they're an objective source when they're actually paying to publish your FUD and distorted views, is akin to spam from zombie computers.

Can they do it? Apparently.

Should they do it? No.

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715852)

Just do what Stephen Colbert did, and tell your audience the edits you want to see!

If Microsoft were smart, they'd set things up so that a friendly Wikipedia edit would extend your Windows license for a few days.

As for the rest of us, we may have to write worms to infect Windows computers if we are to orchestrate massive distributed Wikipedia editing campaigns.

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (2, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716016)

....would extend your Windows license for a few days.

You mean it runs out???

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716292)

You mean it runs out???

I said if they were smart. ;)

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716440)

Just do what Stephen Colbert did, and tell your audience the edits you want to see!

It's much better, much more subtle, and much smarter than that.

Colbert basically encouraged every jackass in the universe to run over to Wikipedia and replace the page on elephants with "ELUPHUNTS R AWWQSOMEzors!!!!!1!!one!1". This is very easy to detect and stop.

Microsoft is encouraging people who are eloquent and well-spoken, and possibly already respected contributors to Wikipedia, to subtly modify entries to cast it in a more favorable light. This is much harder to detect, and could be impossible to stop.

One of two things will happen. Microsoft will either get away with it, or a NPOV holy war will break out, causing serious damage to Wikipedia. Either way, Microsoft wins.

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716568)

How does Microsoft win if its actions damage Wikipedia? I'm not sure I understand the second win of your proposed win-win for MS.

Re:Isn't this just spam using robots? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716334)

"when they're actually paying to publish your FUD and distorted views, "
What if it is the truth? I have found lots of whacked out stuff in wikipedia. The posts that Microsoft wanted corrected seem to be less than useful. Why this ban on interested parties anyway. What exactly is an uninterested party and why would they post to the Wikipedia to start with? If you are posting to the Wikipedia you have some interest in the subject and a view point. I thought that the Wikipedia was supposed to be self regulating. Imagine if Salk wanted to do an article on Polio for the Wikipedia. Would you want to prevent him from doing it since he is not a neutral party?

For or Against? (1)

kaleco (801384) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715688)

So is the submitter for or against Microsoft's corrections? I was unable to gauge his tone.

Re:For or Against? (2, Insightful)

letsgolightning (1004592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715716)

I know, it's crazy. It's almost as if the submitter is trying to stay neutral and let you make a decision for yourself.

Re:For or Against? (1)

Opie812 (582663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716422)

Did you read the article? If you consider what the submission to be neutral based on the contents of the article, I've got a bad feeling about these new 7 digit uid'ers. The future of the intrenets is in bad shape.

Clearly, the submission isn't presented in any sort of neutral way. I'd say FUD all the way.

Having said that, I hate micro$haft (hahahaha get it $ and shaft!!!!11!!!) as much as the next uber-linux geek. W00t!!

P.S. If you're kidding and the joke flew over my head, I'm truly sorry...it's been a long day.

Re:For or Against? (2)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715724)

Isn't that a good thing? I would prefer people who submit stories to be like this; Give me the information and let ME decide, for myself, if it is good or bad.

Re:For or Against? (4, Interesting)

larien (5608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715730)

The tone I was getting was that he was in favour of real corrections, cutting out the plain untruths that the Wikipedia entries are garnering. If he does this in the name of truth & correct reporting, I'm all for it. Bear in mind you'll be able to track what changes he makes and if you don't think they're accurate, you can make your own edits back.

Re:For or Against? (2, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716184)

I have a problem with Wikipedia.

Everything must be in neutral POV for it to be acceptable, however sometimes an objective POV is better.
I would like to see a wikipedia branch which offered different perspectives upon an article.

It would be good to see the Microsoft POV on themselves and how the public perceives them.
It would be good to know the facts about Manchester United football club, but since I support them I also don't mind reading about extra detail, where the best pubs are, bitching about the opposition and all other stuff someone who doesn't follow won't be interested in.

With microsoft I might want to see the party line on events actions and (for instance) the reasons behind those, I might want to be an investor who is looking more closely about the accounting details or a ravid linux fanboy wanting the conspiracy theories.

I would want to set my preferences like slashdot moderation groups and see the wiki-content I want.

All of this is available and is constantly created and destroyed in daily edit wars about POV.

Re:For or Against? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716256)

Everything must be in neutral POV for it to be acceptable, however sometimes an objective POV is better.
I would like to see a wikipedia branch which offered different perspectives upon an article.

That's not really Wikipedia's job. Wikipedia is a starting point in researching a topic. To develop a complete view of the subject, you should visit other sites that make more objective points about the topic. Wikipedia usually links to many of these as citations for its various sections.

Re:For or Against? (2, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716382)

Wikipedia does a VERY good job at keeping hold of user input.
It does not throw it away.

Currently there is a whole goldmine of good information buried inside the wikipedia history files.
It has been edited out of view because somebody did not agree with the content.

Why not just moderate these phrases instead of hiding them?

Sure, theres lots of drivel and spammy vandalism, but that might actually be of interest to someone.

We write a hell of a lot into our keyboards, we are infinite monkeys at our keyboards and I sense there is another work of shakespeare hiding away within our collective edits.

Re:For or Against? (1)

lastmachine (723265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715746)

So is the submitter for or against Microsoft's corrections? I was unable to gauge his tone.

Sacre Bleu! Hang on a moment Slashdotters, but we may have come across a rare specimen of un-biased journalism!

I, for one, welcome our new, well, um... Hey, how about that? We're free! WE'RE FREE!

Depends who's paying (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716314)

Perhaps this is a way of hanging out an "I can be bought" shingle.

NPOV (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715702)

Wouldn't either side of these debates violate the neutral point of view policy of wikipedia? Aren't all of those opinions supposed to be deleted?

Re:NPOV (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715890)

No one said anything about "opinions". As a poster below has said, "corrections are corrections". If all that's happening is that errors are being corrected, that's a good thing. If it should be the case that the corrections all happen to be on one side of an argument, then, well, no one said truth is neutral.

Now, having said that, I wouldn't be one bit surprised if there were some astroturfing, but the article presents nothing to suggest it. Your comment seems to express concern not so much about correction of factual errors as about misrepresentation of the debate itself. The article suggests that this campaign is more about the former than about the latter.

Re:NPOV (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716268)

Technically, but although I hate to defend Microsoft, why should they be singled out for trying to do this. I have no doubt that other firms, organizations, and individuals do exactly the same thing. There's plenty of articles on Wikipedia that look like they've been written directly by that organizations marketing dept. They don't get deleted either.

Any firm that's not trying to use Wikipedia directly, or through grassroots shills, to manipulate its image is wasting an easy opportunity.

Dear Microsoft (4, Funny)

All_One_Mind (945389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715708)

I'm available for hire. Please send me a Ferrari notebook, Office 2007, and a contract to sign away my soul. Did I mention I also blog?

Re:Dear Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17715860)

MS, I have been using and abusing your products. I gladly fix any errors/FUD that are incorrect. I'd request a laptop but isn't needed.

Please hire me. Please contact me for rates. (rebelphotographer!!RemoveTHISandBangs!!gmail.com)

No wonder there's a problem ... (5, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715722)

... if the average Wikipedia author is as biased as this article summary. "Corrections favorable to them?" Corrections are corrections! In TFA, you'll see that there are errors in the OOXML article (as there are in many of them) and Microsoft enlisted a pretty unbiased guy to find them. If anything, one would expect him to be biased against OOXML and for ODF considering that only free time has kept him from contributing to ODF.

Re:No wonder there's a problem ... (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716044)

if the average Wikipedia author is as biased as this article summary.

They are.

"Corrections favorable to them?" Corrections are corrections!

That's true, however I doubt that Microsoft or any other company pays people to correct entries where they are credited for something good that they did not in fact do. In other words, they only pay for "corrections that are favorable to them".

TWW

Re:No wonder there's a problem ... (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716236)

And? So what if they're favorable to them. What matters is if they're true, not whom they're favorable to.

If, for some reason, these Wikipedia entries are spreading lies that cast them in an unfavorable light, or are being used to convey the opinions of the hordes of "M$ SUX" fanboys that permeate the internet, then they're perfectly justified in correcting them to be accurate.

In fact, I'd say that its desirable for MS to present their side of the issue on Wikipedia, so long as they present facts and sources. After all Wikipedia is supposed to be neutral. If their entries are innacurate, then they can be corrected. If they abuse it they can be banned.

The only reason this is on Slashdot is because slashdotters tend to knee-jerk categorize anything MS does as evil, to the extent that they will make up crap on the spot. But its ok, right, because M$ SUX!!!

Re:No wonder there's a problem ... (2, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716106)

It doesn't matter. What they're doing is underhanded and shady. It doesn't matter how "unbiased" you think the person is, the facts remain:

  1. There is public information Microsoft doesn't like.
  2. They are privately paying a non-affiliated individual to fix it because they have been barred access.

This is, in irc terms, ban evading. It doesn't matter if the guy who banned you was a jerk, you're still ban evading. If they actually cared about "corrections," they'd submit a public correction request to the wikipedia editors detailing what is wrong, why, and the proposed corrections, and subject them to review.

Re:No wonder there's a problem ... (1)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716200)

Parent has a good point.

If Microsoft is hiring these editors to place facts onto the entries and not opinions, then there's nothing wrong with that. Corrections are good if they're valid.

If what they're placing is half-true but disputable, then truths from both sides should be placed in the entry and tagged as being under dispute.

If outright lies, then hopefully they can keep reverting the page to older revisions.

Re:No wonder there's a problem ... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716590)

If anything, one would expect him to be biased against OOXML and for ODF considering that only free time has kept him from contributing to ODF.

Maybe that was their evil plan... to hire ODF supporters and give them busy work so that they couldn't contribute!

Removing FUD. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17715734)

Is this acceptable and ethical?

There is A LOT of Anti-MS behavior and FUD out there. Therefore, MS is contracting PR agents to "fix" this publically available (and incorrect(?)) (mis-)information.

I don't see a problem provided they don't alter the FACTS.

Troll article (0, Offtopic)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715766)

legal@microsoft.com? Are you shitting me? CmdrTaco should seriously think about adding article modding to slashcode.

The email is a joke, chum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716114)

I see that your sense of humour is gone. Haven't you noticed a few... overly appropriate... names given for certain submissions? Those are probably mine.

The story is real enough--visit the O'Reilly link. I certainly can't fabricate such things. If it was made up, well, he'll probably be hearing from the real legal@microsoft.com. So it's quite true that the email address is not mine, but the point of it is to give a contact point for anyone interested in the story and that email address is far more relevant than my own.

As for the people saying "but they're paying for corrections!" Well, that presumes that the things they're correcting were wrong in the first place. For example, it's true that he has a very technical argument about 'conforming specifications'--they don't actually need the legacy stuff. Now, it'd be absolutely useless in practice to "conform" to that specification when you can't read the disgusting blobs of unreadable legacy application data present in tons and tons of documents, but he could be technically correct about that wording being incorrect. I'm often disturbed at just how much lying, err, sorry, I guess it's called "pretexting" now, we can manage by "correcting" tiny nits while remaining oblivious to all the elephants in the room like the fact that unnecessary legacy options should NOT be in a new standard simply because MS Word happens to use them, depreciated or otherwise, that a standard should only include things by reference that are actual standards, rather than more poorly or undocumented mystery meat formats, etc. ...

Anyhow, feel free to moderate this comment as you wish if it makes you feel better. But not you. You've already posted :P

Same ol, same ol Microsoft. (3, Insightful)

LibrePensador (668335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715800)

Isn't this the same company that had dead people lobby Congress to avoid being broken-up during the anti-trust years?

This is the tip of the iceberg as it is rare, Halloween Documents not withstanding, to know the real extent of Microsoft's ongoing disinformation campaign.

Were public opinion to turn around and evaluate many of the existing technologies on their own merits, without being told by the media that they are too dumb to use something like Suse 10.2, Mandriva or Ubuntu, it would hit Microsoft very hard, provided, of course, that there was an OEM there with enough balls to offer preloaded computers with another OS.

So Microsoft fights and will fight to the death for mind-share. This is the single most important thing that drives Microsoft. Once computers,operating systems and office suites are demystified, a process which could be greatly helped by open standards such as ODF,and people are no longer afraid to lose their valuable data in a transition to a different product, Microsoft either innovates in real valuable and tangible terms or begins to have to tap its reserves, which huge as they are, would "only" carry them for another fifteen years at their current size.

Re:Same ol, same ol Microsoft. (1)

karlthemed (1013313) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716550)

yeah, b/c mom and pop are looking at wikipedia articles on OOXML to stave off dementia. that's how MS is trying to win the mindshare war!

I'd say business as usual... (3, Interesting)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715836)

Marketing is all about this kind of stuff, fake individuals that are invented to love whatever crap you're pedaling. There was a pretty hilarious 'sony fan' blog that was posted recently. The Simpsons I remember had an episode that touched on this with the dog character they added to Itchy and Scratchy. Usually the marketing department fails at meshing cool and product placement, resulting in a transparent poser character that may as well have been a traditional ad. Even the viral marketing campaigns usually produce individuals who are quite fake because of their bizarre over enthusiasm.

The trouble with this though is its akin to paying one of the guys at websters to change a dictionary entry for you. People don't expect those to have any signifigant bias.

So what? (1)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715878)

People have been ravaging ANY Microsoft related entry on Wikipedia for just as long as it has been around with utter crap. Be it back handed comments at Bill Gates or blanking the Zune entry repeatedly.

Maybe Microsoft SHOULD pay the better respected press memebers to keep Wikipedia on track until those that think that putting "Bill Gates has no penis" in the Windows Vista entry grow up.

Re:So what? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716006)

Maybe Microsoft SHOULD pay the better respected press memebers to keep Wikipedia on track until those that think that putting "Bill Gates has no penis" in the Windows Vista entry grow up.

They wouldn't be "well-respected" for their journalism if it ever got out that they were being paid by MS.

Anyhow, "Bill Gates has no penis" is blatant vandalism and abuse, and as such isn't likely to prove a problem for MS. Not unless it really *is* plausible that Bill Gates has no penis; and if that were true, the best way to avoid publicising the fact would be to act as if it weren't :-)

Re:So what? (1)

MSFanBoi2 (930319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716084)

So just what does Bill Gate's penis have to do with Windows Vista? Thats right nothing.

Thats the point being made here, Wikipedia is supposed to be neutral. Thats the whole point. Thats why Microsoft went out of the way to find someone who wasn't pro-Microsoft, in fact even a little anti-Microsoft to provide more level headed input into Wiki.

Re:So what? (0, Offtopic)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716140)

Nah, Gates is probably OK. It's only that guy from the EPA [imdb.com] who has no dick.

Re:So what? (1, Troll)

moogs (1003361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716318)

I agree completely. I'm no MS fanboi, having experience with both Windows and Linux, but there are a lot of good things that could be said about Windows, which are just being left out of intellectual conversation largely because most contributors are MS-hating fanboys. I could think of a number of criticisms of Linux off the top of my head - non-intuitive installation, difficulity for newb users to switch platforms easily (whether because of intentional design or simply because of it's mass spread throughout society as a whole, the Windows interface is, for the large part, intuitive.) But just look up "Criticism of Linux" on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_linux/ [wikipedia.org] and it's nothing but a poorly worded paragraph with links towards criticisms on the windows OSs. A very easy way to get modded Troll or a low mod score in /. is simply to write anything in support of Windows.

Nobody is denying that there is nothing wrong with MS, and Windows. But say what you want about shady business practices, if people continously, consistently remain on Windows, there must be something in it they like, something that works for them. I know many people who chose to use Windows, even after knowing of Linux. To quote author of TFA, that's just the stream they CHOOSE to swim in.

Microsoft has been badly ravaged by mostly childish, backhanded insults on Wikipedia and other forums. It's about time they take some positive action to boost their good name. It is a company, after all.

Why do I have a feeling I'll be modded Troll? Hell, screw my karma, I'm sleepy.

-Mugi.

Apple gets its truth squad for free (5, Insightful)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 7 years ago | (#17715910)

Unlike Microsoft, Apple has an entire army of iZealots who work for free. No wiki or message board stands untouched by their version of iTruth!

Re:Apple gets its truth squad for free (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716148)

"Unlike Microsoft, Apple has an entire army of iZealots who work for free. No wiki or message board stands untouched by their version of iTruth!"

The Apple fanboys are certainly a pain. However, you have all unawares actually made a very telling point *against* Microsoft, namely:

Microsoft are so toxic that nobody loves them; consequently, no one who isn't paid by them will do anything for them.

free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716152)

IMHO, they are paying several of them through perks.

I've observed some underhand dealings over at Digg (yuck).

Re:Apple gets its truth squad for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716278)

Why is this modded Troll? Like it or not, it's completely correct.

Re:Apple gets its truth squad for free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716394)

Why is this modded Troll? Like it or not, it's completely correct.

Ahem...

Unlike Microsoft, Apple has an entire army of iZealots who work for free. No wiki or message board stands untouched by their version of iTruth!

My evil brain... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17715912)

...was ticking along one day, and I realized wikipedia is not going anywhere, and that corporate entities are going to want to have a very "respectable" write-up just to maintain image, to play up positives and downplay negatives. And so I envisioned this pitch: "Ensure your wikipedia entry is acceptable and not compromised by rumour and hearsay by subscribing to my service for $29,99 a month. My team of wikipedia nerds will ensure the integrity of your company's entry is maintained to the highest possible manner in accordance with veritable truth. For an extra $50 a month this truth can be considered as flexible as a gymnast."

Re:My evil brain... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716056)

And how long is that going to work for, even if you never publicise the details of your scheme?

Re:My evil brain... (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716128)

Ensure your wikipedia entry is acceptable and not compromised by rumour and hearsay by subscribing to my service for $29,99 a month.

Get real. I know a firm out of Bangalore, India, that will do it for USD$4.49 a month.

:-),
Schwab

I'm impressed by Microsoft (kind of off-topic) (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716046)

Apparently, someone in Microsoft got the idea to "pay some outsider to make corrections to Wikipedia pages we care about", *and* got internal funding for it.

If you have ever worked in a moderately sized organization, you will know how difficult it is to get anything slightly unusual through the bureaucracy. Yet a clearly outside-the-box proposal like this apparently got through. Presumably, it is even encouraged. That would never have happened in any of the organizations I worked in, except maybe for the small 3 employee upstart.

It's not unusual (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716380)

Microsoft has been doing the same thing forever.

A bit of an opinion in post? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716116)

M$ isn't the only ones trying to influence readers..

Quote: "in light the growing consensus that OOXML contains a useless pile of legacy crap which is unfit for standardization."

Wasn't the poster a bit opinionated?
P.S. I think the poster is probably right.

FUD is FUD (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716122)

no matter who is doing it. Microsoft has a long history of using FUD to advance it goals and maintain its position. No one, except MS flacks, argues that. But if it is wrong for MS to do so, and get (rightfully) slammed for it, then it is wrong to use FUD against MS to advance a competitor!

I wouldn't be surprised if there were contradictions or issues in the OOXML specifications. Any specification that runs 6000 pages is likely to have them! However, the real issues are whether they're addressable, and whether they're "killer issues" for ISO. In order to know that, we should cut through the FUD and look at the facts. Yes, ODF is an ISO standard, but just because it's our favorite standard is not evidence that OOXML is completely duplicative, or can't be made into an ISO standard, if the contradictions are resolved. The best way to argue this case is to drop the FUD, and let the arguments stand on their merits.

needs tag: astroturfing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17716162)

Astroturfing [wikipedia.org] is all about artificial "grass roots".

Does this mean I can expect .... (2, Informative)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716196)

... spam that promises to pay me big money if I forward the spam to friends and relatives and edit wikipedia regarding and biased for M$?

Oh how the good ol'days can return....

Still waiting for my first big check from years ago...

I think companies should contribute (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716198)

... to Wikipedia. Not for nefarious purposes, but because accurate information can be an important sales tool.

For example, awhile back I was in the market for planar ribbon loudspeakers. I wanted to see what the difference between kapton and mylar/polyester was. DuPont could have easily expanded the article, rather than have potential customers track down bits and pieces of information through Google.

Even if they were rather excessive in their praise for the product, it would at least give a starting point for others to add to, and of course they should be held accountable deleting things simply because they weren't complimentary.

did you read the article? (2, Insightful)

hedrick (701605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716216)

I didn't see any problems at all. MS would have no reason to expect this guy to be slanted in their favor. His interest is in correcting errors of interpretation, of which it appears some exist.

If you can't get a good opinion... (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716254)

BUY one! Sponsored by the '$10 in your pocket to say Zune is great' campaign.

it's called fraud down at the courthouse (0, Troll)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716320)

and "no freakin' ethics" elsewhere.

you are judged by what you do yourself. if you're too slimy and gutless to stand on your word, but have to whistle up shills instead, you're slime.

if MS is doing it, then they're fraudulently distorting records and public opinion. not the first, won't be the last. but I don't do business with them any more because they are screamin' weasels who can't even stand up with a stone face and tell their own lies.

Would you take the job? (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716356)

If the Wikipedia articles in your area of expertise were of low quality, filled with anti-Microsoft spin, and clearly violated Wikipedia policies, would you accept money from Microsoft to clean them up. The mandate would be to correct technical mistakes, and make the articles follow Wikipedia policies.

In other words, being paid to do something you would gladly do for free, if you had the time?

OOXML and its shortcomings (2, Insightful)

stuartrobinson (1003887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17716570)

Regardless of how you feel about MS and its attempts at spin control, let's not loose sight of the really important thing here---OOXML is a bad standard. Its many flaws are well documented. Try any of these links to find out about some of them: http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections [grokdoc.net] As a linguist, the pathetic language encoding (which ignores the ISO standard) is particularly galling: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archive s/004065.html [upenn.edu]
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