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    Up To 60 Percent Of Wikipedia Entries About Companies Incorrect
    By News Staff | April 17th 2012 01:30 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Wikipedia is crowdsourced knowledge and therefore discourages people from writing about themselves. As a result, 60 percent of Wikipedia articles about companies contain factual errors, according to research published in Public Relations Journal.

    Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., assistant professor of public relations at Penn State University, surveyed 1,284 public relations people from
    the Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA). Results of the survey indicate a gap exists between public relations companies and Wikipedia concerning the proper protocol for editing entries.

    When respondents attempted to engage editors through Wikipedia's "Talk" pages to request factual corrections to entries, 40 percent said it took "days" to receive a response, 12 percent indicated "weeks," while 24 percent never received any type of response. According to Wikipedia, the standard response time to requests for corrections is between two and five days.


    That isn't really relevant, of course. Wikipedia people work for free and not everyone checks it every day.  If anyone gets a response at all, it is a bonus.

    Only 35 percent of respondents were able to engage with Wikipedia, either by using its "Talk" pages to converse with editors or through direct editing of a client's entry. Respondents indicated this figure is low partly because some fear backlash over making edits to clients' entries. Respondents also expressed a certain level of uncertainty regarding how to properly edit Wikipedia entries. Of those who were familiar with the process of editing Wikipedia entries, 23 percent said making changes was "near impossible." Twenty-nine percent said their interactions with Wikipedia editors were "never productive."


    Backlash is a real concern.  If you ever looked at the Science 2.0 Wikipedia page, it's almost comical how poorly written it is.  But if we edit it, then we could be accused of marketing.  So the first paragraph, written by someone who knows little about Science 2.0, just says the network are commercial websites talking about science - which is essentially true, but missing the point of what it is supposed to be.

    Those results also show that public relations people have only a rudimentary understanding of Wikipedia's rules for editing and the protocol for contacting editors to secure factual changes.

    "It does not surprise me that so many Wikipedia entries contain factual errors," said DiStaso. "What is surprising, however, is that 25 percent of survey respondents indicated they are not familiar with the Wikipedia articles for their company or clients. At some point most, if not all, companies will determine they need to change something in their Wikipedia entries. Without clear, consistent rules from Wikipedia regarding how factual corrections can be made this will be a very difficult learning process for public relations professionals."

    Public relations people should review their employers' and/or clients' Wikipedia articles for accuracy and balance and inaccurate or misleading information should be brought to the attention of Wikipedia editors via an entry's "Talk" page - but keep in mind Wikipedia is not a free public relations tool.

    "The editing of Wikipedia by public relations and corporate communications professionals is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed by everyone," says DiStaso. "The status quo can't continue. A high amount of factual errors doesn't work for anyone, especially the public, which relies on Wikipedia for accurate, balanced information."

    Comments

    The study is not scientific - it is based on SurveyMonkey questionnaire circulated to PR professionals of the companies. The people behind the study are associated with Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, a pro-paid-editor group. They did not create any list of errors to independently verify the list - they simply asked the PR professionals if the articles about their company contained any errors - 60% said "Yes". In related news, 60% of convicted felons are innocent... according to their mothers.

    No, not even that: read the original paper: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2012DiStaso.pdf

    In it, the relevant paragraph is this:
    "When asked if there are currently factual errors on their company or client’s Wikipedia articles, 32% said that there were (n=406), 25% said that they don’t know (n=310), 22% said no (n=273), and 22% said that their company or client does not have a Wikipedia article (n=271). In other words, 60% of the Wikipedia articles for respondents who were familiar with their company or recent client’s article contained factual errors."

    Not only is "alleged errors" being used instead of "actual errors", but only around 30% of those whose employers had an article alleged an error. The elimination of that "unknown" group introduces a *huge* potential for error.

    Unfortunately, the error goes a bit further than that. The problem is that the question related to multiple articles. So the 60% figure represents the number of people who reported that at least one article contained errors. But that doesn't mean that 60% of articles had problems. It is a fundamental error in the analysis of the data as presented.

    Sadly, the paper makes a number of fundamental mistakes which leads to a significant problem overall, and raises considerable doubt on many of the conclusions.

    Another day, another Wikipedia fail. Some brave new world this turned out to be...