Microsoft on Wikipedia – findings from WikiScanner

WikipediaBy now most people have probably heard of WikiScanner, the web-tool used to map anonymous Wikipedia edits against a list 2.6 million known IP ranges owned by some of the most reputable organizations and companies in the world. Naturally, people start by scrutinizing the obvious targets such as the CIA, but what about our friends over at Redmond? Has any one of the 49,000 employees on-campus at Microsoft HQ been having a bit of fun with Apple’s Wiki?

And the answer is an anticlamatic no. Microsoft employee, or at least those who made anonymous Wikipedia edits during those long breaks between Windows releases, are a rather boring mixed bunch.

From within the IP range 207.46.0.0 to 207.46.255.255 which belongs to Microsoft Corp, Microsofties have been recorded doing a bit of everything – some knew what they were doing, others didn’t.

AppleAlthough one particular edit stood out for me, an edit to Apple’s wiki. Before your imagination runs wild, it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as this Microsoft employee was the first to remove some obvious vandalism, which had “Apple Inc sucks” added 2 minutes earlier by another anonymous user in Australia. Even after all the humiliation from Apple, I thought this was a meaningful act of decency.

Whilst I’m at it, Microsoft’s public-relations duo – Waggener Edstrom and Edelman appears to be doing nothing out of the ordinary as well . Just the obligatory self Wikipedia entry edits as well as correcting product rumors.

On the other hand, what is this Apple employee doing to Robert Scoble’s page? Got a little too zealous of the iPhone? ;)

15 insightful thoughts

  1. WikiScanner only tracks back to corporate IP blocks. It can let you see what edits people made from certain large offices.

    Manipulation is rife though. The Wikipedia entry on “Fenton Communications” paints quite a different story than their websearch footprint, for instance.

  2. Microsoft looks to be relatively clean, but there is some real important work getting done at Google! Look at some of these, yikes!

    216.239.58.136 [wp] Talk:Anal sex [cur] 42354537 Anal sex 2006-03-05 16:21:56

    216.239.58.136 [wp] Human sexual behavior [cur] 45841321 /* Common sexual activity */ 2006-03-28 10:53:58

    216.239.58.136 [wp] Human sexual behavior [cur] 45841321 /* Common sexual activity */ 2006-03-28 10:53:58

    216.239.58.136 [wp] Anal sex [cur] 71664012 /* Anal sex between male participants */ 2006-08-24 20:01:48

  3. I agree with RC that corporations should edit information concerning their industry – they’re the ones that should be experts in that field. The issue is that they weren’t contributing for the public good but rather to further their own aims (not unethical in itself) by removing any references that may have been seen to put themselves in a bad light (that’s the unethical part).
    This is always going to be a problematic area for sites that provide information about companies and allow the public to edit that information. That’s precisely why http://www.bizwiki.co.uk requires registration. We took the view, in part by looking at Wikipedia’s spam and spin issues, that company information is just too tempting for both those that would want to deface it and for those that would want to ensure it’s always squeaky clean.

  4. Sort of. I don’t have a problem with people/companies editing information critical of them. It can be just as inaccurate or unfair as any other piece of information. After all, letting people defend themselves is a very cherished thing. I’ve often read bios and other types of articles on Wikipedia and been a little skeptical to the prominence critical opinions are given. It gets cut right out, appropriately, if bias is put into the main body, but if it’s put under the heading, “Criticism” or something, then any stupid comment is left in. Often it’s a sizable chunk of the entire article and it gives a very skewed view of the topic. It’s different to write a several hundred page book on something and devote a small part to something negative.

  5. Calling it Apples Wiki is a bit disingenuous. It is clearly not Apples wiki, it is Apples wikipedia page. I am sure that Apple has a wiki of its own (possibly only for internal uses), if not several. So saying that Microsoft has gone around altering Apples Wiki is a big charge indeed.

  6. @cak: I was calling it “Apple’s wiki” in the context of Wikipedia, more of a shorthand for “Apple’s Wikipedia page”. :)

  7. People are having a field day on this WikiScanner tool. It’s purely fun to see who changed their own entry and we laugh at them for getting caught trying to pull a fast one on us. The Internet and blogosphere live to expose corporate America and our government for “not getting it.”

    Regardless, incorrect Wikipedia entries is a real problem. And if you work in a company and you want to change something, how do you do it without being seen as underhanded and weasely? I have some ideas in a post I wrote How to change your Wikipedia entry, ethically.

  8. I think the argument has been a bit one-sided. A lot of editing has been done to present oneself in a positive light in an effort to offset something slanderous. It’s all POV, so everyone, most of all the subject of the article, has the right to weigh in.

    When it comes to an open source anyone can edit with anonymity, there can be no discussion of “ethics.” It’s preposterous to hold anyone’s behavior to ethical standards when their participating in something (Wikipedia) that is unethical intrinsically. Admins often take sides in disputes and preserve slanderous content (i.e. a reference to one netizen as a “kook” was defended by admins because they cited as an authoritative source some ridiculous vote in a Usenet news group). And one admin created a user box for some editor he didn’t like and defamed him in that user box. The admin in question, who calls himself Calton, admitted in a de facto livejournal entry that before Wikipedia was born, his hobby was writing negative reviews in Amazon.com of books whose author blogs he didn’t like. And we think there is any ethics attached to Wikipedia?

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