back to article Conflict-of-interest scandal could imperil Wikimedia charity status

Wikipedia contributors in the UK are concerned that a scandal involving the close-knit group of friends and business associates who run Wikimedia UK may imperil its charitable status. Wikimedia UK is the group involved in promoting the web project, and it finally won the tax concession in 2011 after being rebuffed two years …


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  1. John Lilburne

    And despite the outrage on the frontpage today is another Gibraltar DYK entry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But wait - there's more!

      There's another Gibraltar "did you know" on the main page right now. That's two today. Someone should grab a new screenshot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But wait - there's more!

        Nevermind - it's been removed.


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a shame

    Wikipedia is a very noble idea that is polluted polluted by the commercial interests of a few.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a shame

      and by the propaganda interests of many.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a shame

      "Wikipedia is a very noble idea that is polluted polluted by the commercial interests of a few."

      And some people are just shocked - shocked! to find this out....

  3. badmonkey

    Wikipedia madness

    I can't decide if it's satisfying or depressing to see Wikipedia exposed as the mess it is with its community of cynical, hypocritical, and insular wankers.

    Its procedures are so easily abused by clever spammers who know how to turn the site's methods against it, one of which is referenced in the article. This being the flip side of the poor sods who might try to make an innocent edit or two before being ruthlessly chased off by the dominant resident whose territory he happened to encroach upon.

    I say this not from a position of ignorance either; I had an account once with a number of edits, and racked up a bit of experience with the COI procedures and other mechanisms for supposedly dealing with the obvious problems.

    Somebody mentioned the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect in another thread. I believe Wikipedia presents a strong case of it to most victims. Read any Wikipedia article on a topic you are expert in, and roll your eyes (and forget about trying to correct it, by the way). But you'll still click on other articles when you next do a Google search, woncha?

    Will be interesting to see what happens to it over time.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Wikipedia madness

      I can't find anything about 'Gell-Mann Amnesia' in Wikipedia. Are you sure this thing exists?

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Wikipedia madness

      I'll look up "factoids" on Wikipedia. Where such-and-such was born, what Memphis is known for, the a list of Haruhi Suzumiya novels...the sort of stuff that isn't critical. I wouldn't trust it for accuracy when it comes to medical issues or technical procedures (although many such articles give links so one can check sources if need be).

      And, yes, I think a worrying number of people here have had the "edit, slapdown, f**k wiki" routine played out for themselves. Given how fond wiki is of published fact, it's a mystery why abusive editors huddled over their pet subjects don't get stripped of edit privileges when shown to be wrong; but generally the immature little pricks don't take kindly to that being pointed out; so if I can be bothered I down-rate (at the bottom of the page) articles that I know are wrong; but life's too short to waste time editing when it is all too easy to "revert". I have better things to waste my time on. Writing comments to news articles for nobody in particular to read, for instance. ;-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wikipedia madness

      I'm sorry, but I must strongly disagree with you right there:

      "I can't decide if it's satisfying or depressing to see Wikipedia exposed as the mess it is with its community of cynical, hypocritical, and insular wankers."

      Not all of them are insular.

  4. JN

    Where are the British media

    One thing that surprises me is that so far, there has been no report of this in the British media. The story has been reported all over Europe these past few days, with articles in El País, Le Monde, Frankfurter Rundschau, as well as Fox News in the US. But nothing in The Guardian, Times, Telegraph, BBC, etc.

    1. David Neil

      Re: Where are the British media

      Probably because for most the British Media Wikipedia is seen as "the" source for a lazy journalist to get their background from.

      BTW that Maximillian fella looks like a right knob, imo

  5. frank ly

    Human Nature is what it is

    If there is money to be made, in a way that is not obviously illegal, there is sure to be somebody who will take advantage of whatever position they have. The only good thing to come out of this seems to be that the Wikipedians are (at last?) waking up and smelling what's happening.

    I'd be happy to rely on Wikipedia for cold dry facts, as written by engineers and scientists (and reviewed and pounced on by other engineers and scientists) , and I often use it to do simple research on technical subjects and medical conditions. Given that it can be edited by anybody, anything that has a whiff of PR (like promoting a tourist destination or investment opportunity) must be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

    1. Bernard

      Re: Human Nature is what it is

      Frank, that's exactly right. When I need a historical overview of key events and timelines Wikipedia is an easy to access source that is sensibly accurate (though I don't imagine anyone using it as an authority if important things are at stake.

      When I need some idea of whether something or someone is/was good or bad I assume wikipedia is as prone to bias and corruption as anywhere else.

      Magazines (including the reg) do PRish puff all the time. Its sad in some ivory tower way that wikipedia do too, but its not in the least surprising.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Human Nature is what it is

        "...When I need a historical overview of key events and timelines Wikipedia is an easy to access source that is sensibly accurate (though I don't imagine anyone using it as an authority if important things are at stake...."

        It's not too bad for SOME important things.

        What you have to remember is that, because it's openly edited, it's very bad for CONTROVERSIAL things. It's fine when a contributor has no axe to grind. But once they have - watch out!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    "UK Wikipedia contributors are dismayed by the revelations involving Bamkin and Klein"

    Because presumably they're idiots. This stuff has been going on for years.

  7. Dr Trevor Marshall

    Ah, I see - I should have offered money...

    Now I get it. When Jimmy Wales got involved in the deletion of my Bio page, I should have offered money, and not abuse. We live and learn....

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Ah, I see - I should have offered money...

      If you're not notable your page would just get deleted by someone else down the line, it's a basic policy that only verifiable and noteable stuff is kept

  8. BillG

    I'm Shocked, Shocked!

    it's been discovered that a close-knit group of friends and business associates who run Wikipedia have been selling services to manipulate Wikipedia entries for personal gain and to reflect personal bias.

    In other news, Inspector Renault is shocked, SHOCKED!, that gambling is going on at Rick's Cafe.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seen similar before

    "Gibraltar onto Wikipedia's "Did You Know" page – one of the most viewed pages on the web – seventeen times, or every two or three days. Topics rarely appear more than once"

    I've seen it happen several times for a general topic to be covered over several days in the DYK. If an editor creates (or expands) several articles over a short period and has some catchy hooks and puts them forward for the DYK then they are likely to appear.

    I'm not saying that one group of editors doing it is gaming the system more or less than another group, but that it doesn't take special privlidges to get it done - just a marketing strategy that carried out.

  10. JN

    Presentation on the SEO value of being on Wikipedia's front page

    Here is a presentation that openly hawks the SEO value of being on Wikipedia's front page:

    "The more links you've got, the higher you go up the ratings."

    "It's a phenomenally cheap, very imaginative way to absolutely energize a city and put a city on the map. And there you go..."

  11. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    When you say Wales,

    Do you mean Wales the country, or Jimmy Wales the Wikipedia bloke, or sometimes one and sometimes the other?

    It's confusing even before you conisider what Jim Braltar has to do with it all. (Which happily seems to be nothing, as that there is apparently the first and perhaps only time any such person has been mentioned, ever.)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Credit where credit is due

    You link to Violet Blue's article on Cnet and call it "an investigation". What you may have missed is that Blue's article very closely follows a discussion on Jimbo Wales talk page:

    If you want to know where this all springs from, look here:

    And if you want the story behind the story, try here:

  13. Notas Badoff

    Wikipedia, an education

    COI (conflict of interest) has been simmering for years. BLP (biography of living person) has already blown up and still isn't perfect. Just a couple weeks ago the BLP thing was mismanaged not only by the 79-year-old sophisticate concerned but by an average editor (not an 'admin' - not everybody there is an 'admin' - not everybody here is 'sane', okay?)

    Even when a problem is an known issue that "everybody knows about", not everybody knows about it nor reacts correctly/appropriately. I expect very soon there will be an effort at giving out at least a minimal understanding of both BLP and COI handling to plain editors. Distributed proofreaders site has tutorials - maybe WP needs to have tutorials also?

    In any large public working there are a substantial number of people with quite substantial failings. Wikipedia is no different. Sometimes there are unfortunate combinations of personal failures - think HP or Nokia. But Wikipedia is worth something in spite of its changing set of failings.


    Once somebody besides one average editor knew there was a problem. You can't get attention by flinging pebbles at windows of the wrong house. Unfortunately a brick with a note through the window of an old-style media house will get you attention, even if everything you wrote in the letter was flawed. Who checks facts? Not the New Yorker!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here piggy piggy

    "We believe – strongly – that there’s nothing inherently wrong with accepting for-profit engagements that involve contributing to Wikipedia, as long as it’s approached in a transparent and ethical fashion"

    Amazing how the advocates of "for-profit" never seem to see any of the large pitfalls that are so crystal clear to everyone else - they just see win-win. I'm piss sick of seeing "transparency" rolled out as some kind of cure all (win-win again!), as if being able to see the inner workings of something flithy and corrupt somehow stops it being corrupt and indeed filthy. The ultimate excuse for bad behaviour we're all supposed to swallow whole and grin while doing it.

    Ethical? Fuck you.

  15. Gregory Kohs

    Will the sheep still donate to the Wikimedia Foundation?

    It's refreshing to see the media giving this scandal the ample coverage that it deserves. Year after year, unsuspecting donors chip in $10, $25, $50, and more to support the Wikimedia Foundation, on the premise that without money, Wikipedia might have to shut down. We'll in actuality, the WMF is spending on program services only 46 cents of every dollar it receives. The rest is wasted on overhead, "staff" members who look for things to do on top of the thousands of volunteers who are really keeping Wikipedia alive.

    Anyway, one thing I always am amused by -- because it is so predictable -- is this culture of denial and cover-up when the insider corruption at Wikipedia goes public. In fact, I wrote a news piece that carefully exposes the "denial" and the "cover-up" phases, with convenient links to every under-handed action of the True Believers. If you'd like to read:

    Great work, media -- keep up the pressure on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation. There's plenty more just waiting for even a modestly-talented investigative reporter.

  16. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Ohio College Library Centre?

    OCLC is now the "Online Computer Library Center, Inc", and has been at least since 1981. Before that, it was just "OCLC Inc" for a few years (1977 to 1980 or so), and before that the "Ohio College Library Center".[1] It's a proper noun, you know. But I suppose if you're using a name that hasn't been correct for 35 years, there's no reason to spell it correctly either.

    On a more serious note: As far as I'm concerned, OCLC should be forgiven for having a "Wikipedian-in-residence" (even if the title is inane); as the pioneering and preeminent online-library-catalog organization, it has a strong interest in Wikipedia and the like. Whether Klein is a good choice for that job is another question, and certainly his consultancy services are ethically suspect.

    [1] Compare OCLC's annual reports for various years, available at

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