By Matt Mondok | Published: January 23, 2007 – 11:50PM CT
Over the last few days, websites have picked up on a story written by blogger Rick Jelliffe. In a post titled, “An interesting offer: get paid to contribute to Wikipedia”, Jelliffe says that Microsoft e-mailed him to ask if he would be willing to correct, or balance, a Wikipedia entry dealing with the OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML). The problem, as Microsoft sees it, is that Wikipedia’s entries are heavily weighted against OOXML. Jelliffe, for the most part, agrees with Microsoft’s assessment, but he’s still not about to take sides.
I think I’ll accept it: FUD enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see. If anyone sees any examples of incorrect statements on Wikipedia or other similar forums in the next few weeks, please let me know: whether anti-OOXML or anti-ODF.
Jelliffe, although he would be paid by Microsoft for his work, isn’t just concerned with correcting the OOXML problems, but he wants to make sure that entries for both sides contain facts, not FUD. The context of Jelliffe’s post shows that he had little idea that the media would run with the “Microsoft pays blogger to fix Wikipedia” story as he mainly discusses some of the details behind the ODF versus OOXML battle. Nevertheless, most of the focus has been placed on the ethics of the situation, not ODF or OOXML.
A lawyer for Wikipedia, Brad Patrick, has already responded as saying that Microsoft’s actions were unethical. Patrick feels that this ordeal puts both Microsoft and Wikipedia in a harsh light. “This is a hot issue, and Microsoft wanting to soften the edges on an entry raises concerns about the perceived independence of both Wikipedia and Microsoft.”
A Microsoft spokesman said that the company tried to change the Wikipedia articles on its own, but the edits were refused. “At that point, we realized we needed to enlist some help,” he said. That’s where Jelliffe came into the picture.
So far, Jelliffe has not accepted any pay from Microsoft, but he has already defended his possible actions.
I have not started or been paid by MS yet. It is only three days work we are talking of, as an independent contractor not as an employee. My opinions are long-held and on public record. I don’t have to get approval for any changes I make to MS or Ecma or anyone, so the improvements I make would be my own, not imperitives[sic] from the Borg. The job relates to Wikipedia and not to my blogging or other forums. And I am doing it openly, so that suspicious people can judge whether I have Stockholm syndrome. But at a certain point, grownups look at arguments rather than teams.
One thing is for sure: this is a hot topic. Do you believe that Microsoft was wrong offering someone compensation for editing a Wikipedia entry? How should the company have handled this issue? What would you do if you were Jelliffe?