Monday, September 18, 2006

The gaping void in Wikipedia

I have contended that, while Wikipedia is an expansive compendium, it is sorely lacking in its coverage of business and non-profit entities. The program has been in place for five years now, but major companies (e.g., Arch Coal, the second-largest coal mining operation in the United States) are STILL MISSING from the pages of Wikipedia. As a quasi-scientific experiment to further examine this problem, I turned to one of my favorite magazines about the world of commerce -- Fast Company.

Going online, I opened up the July/August 2006 issue of FastCompany and saw that there were 27 distinct articles or serial features in that issue. In order to be fair, before even looking at the articles, I parsed out a random selection of seven to review -- the 3rd, 7th, 11th, 16th, 20th, 24th, and 25th pieces. As I read those seven articles, I counted 41 unique business entities and non-profit organizations or projects that were mentioned. (There were two duplicate entities -- Ford Motor Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, each of which were only counted once.)

I then went to Wikipedia to carefully look up those 41 entities. Not to my surprise, Wikipedia failed to have an article for 13 of them; plus there was one article that could be found, but only if you took the German spelling of the business. So, we might say that 13.5 out of 41 entities were MISSING FROM WIKIPEDIA. Thus, nearly a third of the entities mentioned in a major publication like FastCompany are missing from Wikipedia! I will concede that not all of these probably merit an article in Wikipedia, due to the encyclopedia's own criteria about notability. However, I have to think that if FastCompany is mentioning the organization, there are other media sources who are, too; and that would qualify them under the rules of "WP:CORP".

For all of you process wonks out there, the "found" companies and non-profit entities were:
  • ABN Amro
  • BlackBerry
  • Capital One
  • Citigroup
  • City Year
  • Columbia Tristar Pictures
  • Country Music Television
  • Credit Suisse
  • Duke University
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Indianapolis International Airport
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Molson beer
  • Northwestern University
  • Plain English Campaign
  • Qwest
  • Rice University
  • Safeco
  • Starbucks
  • Telecom New Zealand
  • Tufts University
  • University of Chicago
  • U.S. Army
  • Viacom
  • Warner Brothers
  • Zipcar

On the other side of the coin, though, the "missing" entities were:
  • 1Bloc
  • Blind Cow (restaurant that is listed under "Blindekuh")
  • BlueTights Network
  • Bradley & Montgomery
  • Chase Commercial Banking
  • Gary Klinsky Children's Centers
  • Healthquest Technologies
  • Institute for Social Innovation
  • KLD Research & Analytics
  • NanoDynamics
  • Parking Stripe Advertising
  • RedPeg
  • StartingBloc
  • Transnational China Project
  • Wizmark

I founded a business that would help organizations like Bradley & Montgomery, the Gary Klinsky Children's Centers, and RedPeg establish a presence within Wikipedia. Those organizations are not supposed to create articles about themselves (a conflict of interest), and the volunteer Wikipedia community is obviously not getting around to helping them -- they're too busy with articles about Pokemon characters and debating whether or not to include numbered asteroids in the encyclopedia. So, tell me, then... what is inherently so evil about the business model of

I say, "absolutely nothing".


Dick Cheney's Shill at Halliburton said...

I think you have a point about the failure of Wikipedia to cover business. As a free tool, it's at the whim of what's popular to those wanting to cover something for free on the Web. Thus, you get lots of 11-year-olds writing cartoon fan articles and teens writing musician fan articles relative to business information.

The solution of having PR/ad businesses like yours somehow correct this I think would contribute more to business advertising, which is nothing more than another form of fan writing without the critical aspect that fans often add. Why? Same reason advertisers and PR firms don't promote or talk about the negative things. Doing so will interfere with repeat business and and positive word-of-mouth to other businesses.

A note on the companies you mention. Chase Commercial Bank could probably be found easily enough. Typing in just Chase Bank gets you this on Wikipedia. Granted, the article is only a historical overview and doesn't mention the commerical banking operation specifically.

You can be happy that this has gotten Arch Coal added to Wikipedia, and the article is as fluffy as any fan article without a single criticism. As a fellow shill, I am very impressed.

Sj said...

Hello Gregory, this is a fascinating idea. I hope the number and scope of projects such as this grows -- you have not hit on the only gaping void in Wikipedia -- to draw in content about major companies, projects, events, GOs and NGOs, and

Do you do all of your posting via user:MyWikiBiz? Do you have other employees? I would appreciate a project page within your userspace that lists the organizations you are working for in an orderly fashion, so that others can see how their articles are progressing. I am prticularly interested in seeing how long it takes for other editors to move your articles to the main namespace, and how long to add useful content to the articles you create.

Have you considered offering these services for free or for vastly reduced rates to non-profit organizations and charitable initiatives?

Anonymous said...

The little old lady didn't need the purse you snatched from her, maybe, but I don't think she's gonna agree now, since you've explained to her what a good thing it is to take her purse, that you're really an OK pursesnatcher. Very likely I'm mistaken about that, since she is kind of batty.

Anonymous said...

How Wikipedia really works. by Tern.

Anyone who belongs to the dominant block of opinion on any subject can get anyone else blocked. Wikipedia has no policies, applied consistently.

All the admins who talk on En-l openly admit counting any shred of personal fairness as mattering less than developing Wikipedia as they wish. Blocking of only 1 side when 2 sides have done exactly the same thing that the block is supposed to have been for, is routine. It's what happened to me, and claiming to have any rights against a biased 2-day block actually was the offence that got me permablocked, after only 5 weeks' membership. Look at all these:

a voice from within Wikipedia's own system describes how the ArbCom and dispute resolution systems are rigged with discretionary catch-alls that always enable admin to win
on how force of group numbers dictates Wikipedia pages's content this is actually called "don't bother reporting abusive admins"

I was wary of how the umpiring of pages the whole world can fight over could possibly work well, but I was drawn into Wikipedia by a friend who was briefly (and no longer is, already!) having good experiences with sharing his medical concerns on a couple of pages on medical subjects. My Wiki name was Tern, and here are 2 administrators saying to me
saying "You are not entitled to anything" and "Wikipedia is not a democracy."

On the nature of Wikipedia: tag "Wikipedia"

Messages of support: "some of the people on there do seem pretty sarcastic and bullying .... some of the right-wingers on there seem to think mentioning anything negative but factual about Reagan or Bush constitutes bias and there do seem to be some nasty characters on there." - from Aspievision,
"You are not the only one who has had problems with Wikipedia taking sides in a dispute, and being blatantly unfair to the other side without even giving them a chance to defend themselves." from FAMSecretSociety, a Yahoo group
"Yes ... this is my opinion of Wikipedia.
It suppresses anything that may be considered 'more than marginally controversial'.
It's definitely in the same boat as the mainstream media without any shadow of a doubt. " - the forum of the British anti-ID cards site

" of late I've noticed that some independent contributions have been either radically edited or censored. I've not had time to check articles on 9/11, the London Bombings, the assault on Falluja etc, but judging from the way content was edited promptly out of articles on SSRIs, schizophrenia and Asperger's, there definitely seem to be operatives in place ready to clamp down on anything that may cast doubt on establishment canards." from Medialens,

Anonymous said...

It's ludicrous that the editors of an organization devoted to accumulation of content would place a much higher emphasis on the source of the content, rather than the contents of the content.