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Microsoft PR Paying to "Correct" Wikipedia 355

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the what's-left-is-right dept.
Unpaid Schill writes "Over on the O'Reilly Network, there's an interesting piece about how Microsoft tried to hire people to contribute to Wikipedia. Not wanting to do the edits directly, they were looking for an intermediary to make edits and corrections favorable to them. Why? According to the article, it was apparently both to let people know that Microsoft will not 'enable death squads with their UUIDs' and also to fight the growing consensus that OOXML contains a useless pile of legacy crap which is unfit for standardization."
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Microsoft PR Paying to "Correct" Wikipedia

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  • Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:34PM (#17715652) Homepage Journal
    This is not new behavior. Remember when Microsoft tried to hire "individuals" to perform "grassroots" work including writing letters to the Department of Justice and letters to the editors of papers around the country concerning the anti-trust trial? Look, I have friends at Microsoft and there are truly some brilliant folks up there, but what the hell is the marketing department doing? Are they *that* ethically challenged? Or is it that they are *that* desperate to be cool and loved? How about a policy of honesty and if there is something that you want, then why not have your Microsoft PR department make the edits? Is that too obvious? It would certainly present other ethical dilemmas, but at least it would be more honest than hiring supposed "impartial" third parties to do your work for you.

    • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wpegden (931091) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:41PM (#17715718)
      A policy of honesty?

      How about a policy of let's make as much money as we can!

      I mean, come on, this is a corporation, and you're complaining about ethics? Perhaps you're suggesting that they would make more money if they didn't have "unethical" policies like this... but that's not at all clear from your post. It is unclear why, in all situations, a blanket policy of honesty would be expected to maximize profits for corporations. (Let me rephrase that: this is obviously not the case.) Microsoft's goal is not to make you like them; it is to make lots of money. So far, they've been very successful at that. Probably their PR department played at least some small role in that. Don't get me wrong, I despise them too, but let's be clear that they're all doing exactly what they're "supposed" to.
      • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:53PM (#17715902)
        You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist? Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization? Or should standards of ethics and non-monetary issues be forced onto corporations by society (government)?

        Corporations as they exist today are a mistake. A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design). But the idea that it should be done by a pseudo-person with no sense of morality, whos only goal is to amass money and power, and with no accountability for its actions is horribly flawed.
        • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:01PM (#17716000)
          You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist? Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization? Or should standards of ethics and non-monetary issues be forced onto corporations by society (government)?


          Its worth noting that it used to be that governments were far more restrictive about the corporate charters they would approve, and far more willing to revoke charters for corporations violating the public interest. The special privileges granted with a corporate charter were viewed more as a privilege granted in the public interest and conditioned on good behavior than as a virtual right the way they are now.

          What we have now is not some intrinsic necessity for the corporate structure, a remnant of late 19th Century subservience to big business.
          • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nuzak (959558) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:06PM (#17716070) Journal
            The special privileges granted with a corporate charter were viewed more as a privilege granted in the public interest and conditioned on good behavior than as a virtual right the way they are now.

            A slightly less rose-tinted view of history suggests that corporate charters were granted when there was an assurance that the ruling prince of the city-state, or his cronies, would get a cut.
            • ...the more they stay the same?

            • Re:Honesty.... (Score:4, Informative)

              by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:19PM (#17716266)
              A slightly less rose-tinted view of history suggests that corporate charters were granted when there was an assurance that the ruling prince of the city-state, or his cronies, would get a cut.


              Since I was (though I didn't make this clear) referring to earlier US history, I'd say that's more of a view of a different part of history, but sure. And certainly neither the earlier US practice nor the more recent one was or is free from the corrupting influence of cash and the cronyism of the connected.
            • by likerice (1046554) on Monday January 22, 2007 @09:07PM (#17718090)
              I'm no fan of the corporation either, but oversimplifications of history accomplish nothing.

              The function of the corporations in early American society was a matter of heated dispute. As of 1780 there were only 7 chartered business corporations in the United States. That number increased dramatically after the turn of the 19th century once the courts and legislatures recognized the legitimacy of private, for-private corporate entities. Ambivalence about the role of the corporation in early American law resulted from tension between those who insisted that corporations serve the public interest and those who believed that the public interest was inherently served by the chartering of private corporations and the creation of wealth that would presumably result therefrom.

              On the one side of the debate were anti-mercantilists, Jeffersonian Republicans and artisans who believed variously that corporations were monopolistic in nature; that they the accumulation of vast quantities of capital in private hands characteristic of the corporate form was inconsistent with the civic virtues of a democratic republic exemplified in the American Revolution and would undermine democratic republicanism; and that corporations could be used to dominate markets, driving down the cost of production and thereby reducing demand for artisinal goods. On the other side were those who believed that corporations were a matter of necessity in order to promote the aggregation and investment of capital. In a society of relatively equal wealth distribution, as in the early years of the republic, capital must be drawn from large numbers of small investor/share-holders rather than from individual financiers or aristocrats as could be done in Europe. The structure of the corporation and its ability to centralize management and control represented the most efficient means of operating investments and therefore of developing the American economy, proponents argued.

              While demands that corporate charters be granted only in the public interest, and that liability extend to shareholders were common in the early law of corporations, these rules which seemed rooted in longstanding English mistrust of the anti-social corporate form yielded to the demands of the market and of laissez-faire capitalists. These historical developments represent another unfortunate triumph of utilitarianism over tradition in American law.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Weedlekin (836313)
              You're thinking of trade and manufacturing monopolies, not corporations, which didn't exist prior to the 19th century. Mediaeval / renaissance Europeans had an Aristotelian mind-set that would have regarded giving a company the status of a person as totally ludicrous, and even if somebody had come up with the idea, the massively influential and powerful Catholic Church would have regarded it and the concept of absolving such a man-created being from the moral and ethical obligations that God-created ones we
        • Re:Honesty.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by vyrus128 (747164) <gwillen@nerdnet.org> on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:02PM (#17716014) Homepage
          Sadly, although you are right on, I have found that espousing such a view will get people to look at you as though you have a third eye. Much as most people believe in a right to "intellectual property", everyone also seems to believe in an inherent human right to form corporations, and they cry out in horror when you suggest that granting the privilege of incorporation unfettered is a bad idea. I can only conclude from this that people are idiots.
          • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by s20451 (410424) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:22PM (#17716306) Journal
            Much as most people believe in a right to "intellectual property", everyone also seems to believe in an inherent human right to form corporations, and they cry out in horror when you suggest that granting the privilege of incorporation unfettered is a bad idea. I can only conclude from this that people are idiots.

            Actually, the grandparent denounced corporations while acknowledging the necessity of a corporation-like object by saying: A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design).

            It's incredibly short-sighted to say "X sucks and should be banned", when X provides a useful service, and when no alternative is proposed. Say we banned corporations. Because of the necessity of a corporation-like object, it is very likely that such an object would quickly appear, and over time would evolve into something indistinguishable from today's corporation.

            It's appropriate that you likened the argument to the argument over intellectual property. Again, IP sucks in many ways, but has useful consequences. If IP laws were repealed, and nothing replaced them, it is likely that content creators would re-create something similar to the IP system using complicated contracts (e.g., you would have to sign a lengthy agreement prior to purchasing an album at a music store).
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I was taking a Business Law class a couple years back and we were going over the basics of corporations. I asked the "Professor" (Civil Lawyer posing as adjunct faculty) his opinion of corporate "personhood." He looked at me blankly and then asked me what I meant. I then asked him whether he thought it was a good idea to have corporations considered "persons" in a court of law. He said that he'd never thought about it.
            • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Informative)

              by Capsaicin (412918) on Monday January 22, 2007 @08:39PM (#17717806)

              I then asked him whether he thought it was a good idea to have corporations considered "persons" in a court of law ... I then asked him whether he thought it was a good idea to have corporations considered "persons" in a court of law. He said that he'd never thought about it.

              I'm not an American lawyer, but I hope this in some way redresses your "Professor's" ... um ... lack of reflection?

              The fact that a corporation is a legal person is the very criterium by which a corporation is defined (limited liability is itself the result of such personality). Being a person allows a corporation to own property in it's own right, sue and be sued in its own name etc.

              Before the development of the Corporate form (ie. a company with legal personality), the the joint stock company (a kind of giant partnership) was the predominant form of organising shareholders. This was dangerous for shareholders since they were jointly and severally liable (ie. any damage comitted could be recouped from a single shareholder, all of the shareholders, or anything in between). This did not make investing in overly large companies particularly enticing. When it became necessary to raise large sums to fund the massive capital development which we know as the Industrial Revolution, Parliament addressed this impediment by creating the Corporate form, that is to say a company with legal personality, which could deal in its own name, and take the wrap for any wrongdoing on its part.

              This history is instructive in two ways. Firstly it demonstrates that our way of life is predicated on the Corporate form. Corporations, though their influence is occasionally (some might say largely) negative, are necessary (well at least if we want to live in the kinds of mercantile culture we inhabit, and enjoy the standard of living this entails). Secondly, there is absolutely nothing natural about corporations (even in the way a partnership might be described as 'natural').

              Corporations are creatures of Parliament. They were created for the social benefit they bequeath, and they were granted limited liability, which is in effect a cost imposed upon everyone else in society. In other words it is a quid pro quo. Consequently there can be no objection to the regulation of corporations, as if this constituted intervention into some natural right of individuals to form corporations. Indeed, when the sacrifice made by society, (in terms of limited liability, lower tax rates etc.) is not being returned by corporations, when the mischief the corporation makes is greater than the mischief Parliament sought to cure, then Parliament ought to address the regulation of corporations. Needless to say, such regulation, must not strangle the goose that laid the golden egg.

        • by sokoban (142301)

          Corporations as they exist today are a mistake. A way of gathering investment money needs to exist, in order to fund things that need massive startup costs (for example, processor design). But the idea that it should be done by a pseudo-person with no sense of morality, whos only goal is to amass money and power, and with no accountability for its actions is horribly flawed.

          Well first of all, corporations are only accountable to their shareholders, not to anyone else. If a sufficient majority of shares demand that a corporation act ethically, then the corporation will have to operate as such. Most shareholders want maximum returns on their investments, and honestly do not care about ethics. This stems from the fact that corporations and investment are economically motivated decisions. Economics is incapable of accounting for such intangible things, since economic decisio

          • Re:Honesty.... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by 0xABADC0DA (867955) on Monday January 22, 2007 @07:03PM (#17716762)
            Well first of all, corporations are only accountable to their shareholders, not to anyone else.

            Actually this isn't the problem with corporations today. The problem is that employees are not responsible for the companies actions. Instead, corporations are now "people" who are responsible for the actions that the employees take. There's an obvious disconnect there; the "person" responsible is not the person actually doing the crime.

            Corporations typically have a hierarchical structure just so that somebody can be held accountable. If a corporation does something illegal then the person behind that decision needs to be tried for it, not the corporation. If the company hires somebody to do something illegal then the person authorizing that is responsible and the people who knew about it are accessories and the people who found out later and did nothing are accessories after the fact.

            This is the real problem today. For example, Microsoft gets convicted of criminal restraint of trade and there are absolutely no personal consequences for the people authorizing it and perpetrating it. There are plenty of people in MS who knew of this and would not have allowed it to happen if their own butt was on the line.
        • Re:Honesty.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by paeanblack (191171) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:21PM (#17716294)
          You completely miss the point. Its obvious that MS's (and most other corporations) sole goal is to maximize profit. The question is- should we, as society, allow such organizations to exist?

          Absolutely. Entities that exist for a sole purpose are inherently "trustworthy" by the pragmatic meaning of "trust"...they are transparently predictable. Predictable is good.

          Beyond a certain size, a corporation can no longer be anthropomorphized to an entity capable of emulating human behavior. They have no "soul", no "conscience", nor any sense of "good" and "evil". They are simply successful or unsuccessful, determined by the only metric with any meaning to them...money.

          We find corporations to be useful entities, but we cannot expect them to police themselves, because it is simply not in their nature. That we must accept, while also accepting and upholding the task to monitor and contain them. If we shirk that responsibility, that's society's fault, not the corporations'.

          If one wants to see what happens when a corporation attempts to police itself, one must examine any large socialist government. They are certainly not the first organization one would call upon if one wished to actually accomplish any useful work.

          Is it a wise move to allow such massive accumulation of wealth and power in what basicly amounts to a sociopathic organization?

          A wolf is not a sociopath; it's just a wolf. The sociopaths are the citizens who do nothing while a wolf behaves as wolves do.
          • Trust (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DeadCatX2 (950953)
            I don't know what definition of trust you're using, but just because you can predict someone or something's behavior does not mean you can trust them.

            If my exgf is a slut, and every time I get back with her she cheats on me, I know that her behavior is predictable and she has one primary goal. She is predictable, but definitely not trustworthy.
            • Re:Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Monday January 22, 2007 @09:27PM (#17718298)
              If my exgf is a slut, and every time I get back with her she cheats on me, I know that her behavior is predictable and she has one primary goal. She is predictable, but definitely not trustworthy.

              She's completely trustworthy, you have just misplaced your trust. If you trust in her to be faithful, you made the mistake of mis-evaluating her actions. If you trust she is gonna cheat on you, you have accurately nailed the behavior and can develop contingencies for dealing with that behavior.

              Trust is just a projection of your expectations in relation to your perceptions.
        • Re: Honesty.... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dolda2000 (759023) <fredrik AT dolda2000 DOT com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:25PM (#17716346) Homepage
          I think that you, too, miss the point. Even though corporations may be pseudo-persons with no sense of morality and with the sole purpose of amassing money and power, I think it is important to note that they are, indeed, pseudo-persons. They have not actually any consciousness, will or deciding ability in themselves. Normally, that task is carried out by actual humans.

          Somewhere, deep inside the twisted corridors in Redmond, some person must have actually thought of the idea to hire third parties to edit Wikipedia. He must also have presented it to his boss (unless it was some boss who thought of the idea himself), who in turn must have ordered someone to carry out the plan. Shouldn't an obviously unethical plan such as this have been stopped at some point in this chain? Shouldn't that boss figure have some kind of conscience which should have stopped him from doing this? Another problem may be the current inability (real or imagined) of "peons" in a corporation to themselves stop such plans when being ordered to carry them out. Generally, I believe that the lack of personal responsibility for actions being carried out "in the name of a corporation" is the real culprit.

          Also, aside from the ethical standpoint, must they not have realized that this would leak out?! I mean, this cannot be considered positive PR, right?

          • Re: Honesty.... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by violet16 (700870) on Monday January 22, 2007 @07:35PM (#17717126)

            I think it is important to note that they are, indeed, pseudo-persons. They have not actually any consciousness, will or deciding ability in themselves. Normally, that task is carried out by actual humans.

            There's an interesting view emerging that it's actually more accurate to view a corporation as a self-aware entity. The reason that corporations routinely engage in behavior that would be considered obscene by a human being is not that there just happen to be a few "bad eggs" in positions of power, but rather that the structure of a corporation encourages and extracts bad behavior from otherwise reasonable human beings.

            There are endless examples of this, and an intriguing discussion in Wade Rowland's Greed, Inc.. It's convenient for corporations to blame "bad egg" individual employees, because people can be easily replaced, and ignores the reality that the true root of the problem is systemic.

          • Re: Honesty.... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by BlackSabbath (118110) on Monday January 22, 2007 @07:39PM (#17717168) Homepage
            Technically you are correct - corporations are non-thinking entities made up of thinking humans. However they are a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Of complex, sometimes unpredictable behaviour arising out of systems with relatively few, simple rules.

            Anybody that has worked for or with large corporations knows that they have a unique "culture" that is different from one to another. This culture largely survives changes of individuals within it. It is hard to identify where the culture "comes from". There is no single source of it - in some corporations you could replace the CEO and his direct reports and the culture would not change in the short or medium term (or ever cf: government).

            One analogy would be the human brain. Many brain cells - individually very simple - governed by few simple imperatives generating very complex behaviour which is hard to pin down to any single brain cell (or even small group of cells).

            "Mob rule" is another example of this kind of thing - where behaviour arises that exceeds that which any of its individual elements would necessarily countenance.

            Here's a thought...
            If evolutionary pressure was enough to select for "morality" and "ethical behaviour" in individuals, could it be that over time, these new entities will eventually evolve these traits as well?
        • They're the exceptions to the rule, right? I'm not good at keeping up with groupthink.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by McFadden (809368)
          I'm so glad to hear there's at least one other person in the world who share's my repulsion at the way we've let big business's pursuit of profit at all cost completely dominate our lives. I'm sick of hearing how a company has decided to reduce it's workforce by 10% to 'make efficiency savings' shortly after it announces hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. Why is it so necessary to fuck up people's lives when the company was already healthy and had impressive profitability?

          But hey... A company l
      • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:58PM (#17715956) Homepage Journal
        What are you saying? That because a corporation wants to make money that we shouldn't criticise them when they're caught acting unethically?

        That's just stupid.
      • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Qzukk (229616) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:16PM (#17716226) Journal
        what they're "supposed" to.

        And murderers are doing what they're "supposed" to, after all, thats why we call them "murderers". Who decided that the profit motive was supposed to be superior to honesty? I think you'll find that fraud is not accepted in standard definitions of "free market" or "Capitalism", so where has the idea that lying for money is permissible come from?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It is unclear why, in all situations, a blanket policy of honesty would be expected to maximize profits for corporations. (Let me rephrase that: this is obviously not the case.) Microsoft's goal is not to make you like them; it is to make lots of money. So far, they've been very successful at that. Probably their PR department played at least some small role in that. Don't get me wrong, I despise them too, but let's be clear that they're all doing exactly what they're "supposed" to.

        Oh God, I don't know wh

      • A smart society will place limits on what any corporate entity can do. The accumulation of wealth for wealth's sake without clear benefits to society as a whole is not something that most societies should reward.

        Corrupt corporations corrupt everything they touch and the bigger they are, the more pervasive their effects on society is. To a certain extent, this anything-goes bullshit that one often hears in Slashdot is a clear example of the real pernicious effect that massive corporations are having on our c
    • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:48PM (#17715802)
      what the hell is the marketing department doing? Are they *that* ethically challenged?

      As a matter of fact, yes they are. Corporations (and therefore their various departments), by definitions, only have in mind the interest of their shareholders, therefore if being unethical furthers their interest and a corporation can get away with it, they will be.

      I suggest you watch a documentary called The Corporation [amazon.com]: they very clearly demonstrate that the laws governing corporations make then sociopathic by nature.
    • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by imess (805488) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:48PM (#17715814)
      If you read the article, that guy was hired to make technical correction in the Wikipedia entries. Why would you expect that only MS PR people should do it?

      The quotes around the work "Correct" in the summary headline is just another Slashdot spin...
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:52PM (#17715882) Homepage Journal

      what the hell is the marketing department doing?
      Are they *that* ethically challenged?
      Or is it that they are *that* desperate to be cool and loved?
      How about a policy of honesty
      Their job.
      Yes.
      That's their job.
      That would be the anti-thesis of marketing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Their job.

        Being the PR department, their job description probably involves maintaining a positive PR image for the company. A fiasco such as this is them failing at their job. This is "doing their job" in the same way Uwe Boll makes movies.

        Yes.

        I honestly can't make a call here. I'd like to assume that all marketers are terrible people lacking ethics, moral restraint, and any worth. However, not knowing any marketers personally I can't claim they are swampy morasses of evil.

        That's their job.

        This is true, alt

    • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:07PM (#17716086) Journal
      How about a policy of honesty and if there is something that you want, then why not have your Microsoft PR department make the edits? Is that too obvious? It would certainly present other ethical dilemmas, but at least it would be more honest than hiring supposed "impartial" third parties to do your work for you.

      You did read the link, right?

      This isn't some random anonymous goofball being paid to insert text Microsoft gives him; he's an (apparently) recognized figure, not especially MS-friendly, being paid to provide corrections in his area of expertise, with his reputation on the line. I'd trust that more than edits made by the PR people. He certainly made his case a lot more credibly than the Slashdot submitter made his.

      I mean, I can still see where there are questions to be raised, but the write-up here is completely dishonest.

      • by BWJones (18351) *
        I mean, I can still see where there are questions to be raised, but the write-up here is completely dishonest.

        The O'Reilly link timed out on me (twice), so admittedly I took the article/Slashdot post at face value (and prior experience) before responding. Thanks for the clarification and I'll be happy to take my moderation lumps now... :-) Of course this is another example of Slashdot's poor editorial policy and why I've been spending less time here than in the past.
    • Re:Honesty.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by steelfood (895457) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:15PM (#17716204)
      At least said third party has explicitly stated that he's being paid by Microsoft. And at least Microsoft has not barred him and others they are paying from doing the same. How much more honesty can you ask for? If Microsoft told a bunch of PR people to edit Wikipedia, they'd probably not have told anyone, and no one would've known Microsoft was paying PR people to subtly skew articles in their favor.

      Third parties are usually where corporations finds impartiality, even if the third party receives a cheque from the company on a monthly basis. Most other industries use a third party for impartiality--e.g. auditing in the financial industry, security audits, etc. are essentially asking a third party to review existing data for disrepencies. Why can't Microsoft do the same with their products and/or standards?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DragonWriter (970822)
        How much more honesty can you ask for?


        How about following Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest guidelines [wikipedia.org]? Is that too much to ask?


    • ...but what the hell is the marketing department doing?

      Check the Wikipedia entry for turning lead into gold [wikipedia.org].

      Seth
  • Bit of FUD Himself (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:36PM (#17715660) Homepage Journal
    For example, in the Wikipedia entry, it currently mentions that "the members of ISO have only 31 days to raise objections", the implication being that this is far too short a time; yet, if I understand matters correctly, ODF was submitted in a fast-track procedure that didn't even allow these kind of objections.

    That would be because respondants have had over 4 years to respond to the OASIS specification. Since it's already a standard that has been reviewed by the industry, the ISO committee can choose to adopt it on a fast-track as a way of putting their own stamp of approval on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) *
      I just realized that most Slashdotters probably didn't read the article, and I didn't quote quite enough to get the point across. Basically, he's saying that the ODF supporters are hypocrites by claiming that the 30 day window for OOXML review is too short, as they are using a similar 30 day period to get their own ISO approval. Which completely obscures the fact that ODF is already standardized by an industry standards organization (OASIS) while OOXML is not.
  • Microsoft has *always* been better than Linux.
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)
      Microsoft has *always* been better than Linux.
      So, how much is Microsoft paying you?
  • So is the submitter for or against Microsoft's corrections? I was unable to gauge his tone.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I know, it's crazy. It's almost as if the submitter is trying to stay neutral and let you make a decision for yourself.
    • Isn't that a good thing? I would prefer people who submit stories to be like this; Give me the information and let ME decide, for myself, if it is good or bad.
    • Re:For or Against? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by larien (5608) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:42PM (#17715730) Homepage Journal
      The tone I was getting was that he was in favour of real corrections, cutting out the plain untruths that the Wikipedia entries are garnering. If he does this in the name of truth & correct reporting, I'm all for it. Bear in mind you'll be able to track what changes he makes and if you don't think they're accurate, you can make your own edits back.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        I have a problem with Wikipedia.

        Everything must be in neutral POV for it to be acceptable, however sometimes an objective POV is better.
        I would like to see a wikipedia branch which offered different perspectives upon an article.

        It would be good to see the Microsoft POV on themselves and how the public perceives them.
        It would be good to know the facts about Manchester United football club, but since I support them I also don't mind reading about extra detail, where the best pubs are, bitching about the oppos
        • Everything must be in neutral POV for it to be acceptable, however sometimes an objective POV is better.
          I would like to see a wikipedia branch which offered different perspectives upon an article.

          That's not really Wikipedia's job. Wikipedia is a starting point in researching a topic. To develop a complete view of the subject, you should visit other sites that make more objective points about the topic. Wikipedia usually links to many of these as citations for its various sections.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by LiquidCoooled (634315)
            Wikipedia does a VERY good job at keeping hold of user input.
            It does not throw it away.

            Currently there is a whole goldmine of good information buried inside the wikipedia history files.
            It has been edited out of view because somebody did not agree with the content.

            Why not just moderate these phrases instead of hiding them?

            Sure, theres lots of drivel and spammy vandalism, but that might actually be of interest to someone.

            We write a hell of a lot into our keyboards, we are infinite monkeys at our keyboards and
    • Perhaps this is a way of hanging out an "I can be bought" shingle.
  • NPOV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:40PM (#17715702) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't either side of these debates violate the neutral point of view policy of wikipedia? Aren't all of those opinions supposed to be deleted?
    • by Petrushka (815171)

      No one said anything about "opinions". As a poster below has said, "corrections are corrections". If all that's happening is that errors are being corrected, that's a good thing. If it should be the case that the corrections all happen to be on one side of an argument, then, well, no one said truth is neutral.

      Now, having said that, I wouldn't be one bit surprised if there were some astroturfing, but the article presents nothing to suggest it. Your comment seems to express concern not so much about correcti

    • by owlnation (858981)
      Technically, but although I hate to defend Microsoft, why should they be singled out for trying to do this. I have no doubt that other firms, organizations, and individuals do exactly the same thing. There's plenty of articles on Wikipedia that look like they've been written directly by that organizations marketing dept. They don't get deleted either.

      Any firm that's not trying to use Wikipedia directly, or through grassroots shills, to manipulate its image is wasting an easy opportunity.
  • by All_One_Mind (945389) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:40PM (#17715708) Homepage Journal
    I'm available for hire. Please send me a Ferrari notebook, Office 2007, and a contract to sign away my soul. Did I mention I also blog?
  • by operagost (62405) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:41PM (#17715722) Homepage Journal
    ... if the average Wikipedia author is as biased as this article summary. "Corrections favorable to them?" Corrections are corrections! In TFA, you'll see that there are errors in the OOXML article (as there are in many of them) and Microsoft enlisted a pretty unbiased guy to find them. If anything, one would expect him to be biased against OOXML and for ODF considering that only free time has kept him from contributing to ODF.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oGMo (379)

      It doesn't matter. What they're doing is underhanded and shady. It doesn't matter how "unbiased" you think the person is, the facts remain:

      1. There is public information Microsoft doesn't like.
      2. They are privately paying a non-affiliated individual to fix it because they have been barred access.

      This is, in irc terms, ban evading. It doesn't matter if the guy who banned you was a jerk, you're still ban evading. If they actually cared about "corrections," they'd submit a public correction request to the

      • Insightful my eye. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ahnteis (746045) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:59PM (#17716720)
        >>It doesn't matter. What they're doing is underhanded and shady.

        Howso? From TFA:
        "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."

        Wow -- that sounds shady AND underhanded. No wait -- not even close. He admits he's been hired, AND he is only going to correct errors. Wow. Sounds EVIL.

        >>1. There is public information Microsoft doesn't like.

        No, this is public MIS-information that Microsoft doesn't like on a PUBLIC forum. They have every right to correct those errors, but they've gone one step further and hired a third party to examine the validity of the articles and correct any errors he finds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kelson (129150) *

        This is, in irc terms, ban evading. It doesn't matter if the guy who banned you was a jerk, you're still ban evading.

        Has Microsoft actually been banned from editing these articles? Even if you consider it to be Microsoft editing its own autobiography, I think it would be acceptable [wikipedia.org] to remove blatant errors -- if "MS wants to enable death squads with their UUIDs" were in the article, I doubt anyone would object to Microsoft removing it.

        If they actually cared about "corrections," they'd submit a public co

    • by Kelbear (870538)
      Parent has a good point.

      If Microsoft is hiring these editors to place facts onto the entries and not opinions, then there's nothing wrong with that. Corrections are good if they're valid.

      If what they're placing is half-true but disputable, then truths from both sides should be placed in the entry and tagged as being under dispute.

      If outright lies, then hopefully they can keep reverting the page to older revisions.
  • Removing FUD. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Is this acceptable and ethical?

    There is A LOT of Anti-MS behavior and FUD out there. Therefore, MS is contracting PR agents to "fix" this publically available (and incorrect(?)) (mis-)information.

    I don't see a problem provided they don't alter the FACTS.

  • by LibrePensador (668335) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:47PM (#17715800) Journal
    Isn't this the same company that had dead people lobby Congress to avoid being broken-up during the anti-trust years?

    This is the tip of the iceberg as it is rare, Halloween Documents not withstanding, to know the real extent of Microsoft's ongoing disinformation campaign.

    Were public opinion to turn around and evaluate many of the existing technologies on their own merits, without being told by the media that they are too dumb to use something like Suse 10.2, Mandriva or Ubuntu, it would hit Microsoft very hard, provided, of course, that there was an OEM there with enough balls to offer preloaded computers with another OS.

    So Microsoft fights and will fight to the death for mind-share. This is the single most important thing that drives Microsoft. Once computers,operating systems and office suites are demystified, a process which could be greatly helped by open standards such as ODF,and people are no longer afraid to lose their valuable data in a transition to a different product, Microsoft either innovates in real valuable and tangible terms or begins to have to tap its reserves, which huge as they are, would "only" carry them for another fifteen years at their current size.
  • by PingSpike (947548) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:49PM (#17715836)
    Marketing is all about this kind of stuff, fake individuals that are invented to love whatever crap you're pedaling. There was a pretty hilarious 'sony fan' blog that was posted recently. The Simpsons I remember had an episode that touched on this with the dog character they added to Itchy and Scratchy. Usually the marketing department fails at meshing cool and product placement, resulting in a transparent poser character that may as well have been a traditional ad. Even the viral marketing campaigns usually produce individuals who are quite fake because of their bizarre over enthusiasm.

    The trouble with this though is its akin to paying one of the guys at websters to change a dictionary entry for you. People don't expect those to have any signifigant bias.
  • by ToxikFetus (925966) on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:55PM (#17715910)
    Unlike Microsoft, Apple has an entire army of iZealots who work for free. No wiki or message board stands untouched by their version of iTruth!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 22, 2007 @05:55PM (#17715912)
    ...was ticking along one day, and I realized wikipedia is not going anywhere, and that corporate entities are going to want to have a very "respectable" write-up just to maintain image, to play up positives and downplay negatives. And so I envisioned this pitch: "Ensure your wikipedia entry is acceptable and not compromised by rumour and hearsay by subscribing to my service for $29,99 a month. My team of wikipedia nerds will ensure the integrity of your company's entry is maintained to the highest possible manner in accordance with veritable truth. For an extra $50 a month this truth can be considered as flexible as a gymnast."
    • by Dogtanian (588974)
      And how long is that going to work for, even if you never publicise the details of your scheme?
    • by ewhac (5844)
      Ensure your wikipedia entry is acceptable and not compromised by rumour and hearsay by subscribing to my service for $29,99 a month.

      Get real. I know a firm out of Bangalore, India, that will do it for USD$4.49 a month.

      :-),
      Schwab

  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:05PM (#17716046) Homepage
    Apparently, someone in Microsoft got the idea to "pay some outsider to make corrections to Wikipedia pages we care about", *and* got internal funding for it.

    If you have ever worked in a moderately sized organization, you will know how difficult it is to get anything slightly unusual through the bureaucracy. Yet a clearly outside-the-box proposal like this apparently got through. Presumably, it is even encouraged. That would never have happened in any of the organizations I worked in, except maybe for the small 3 employee upstart.

  • no matter who is doing it. Microsoft has a long history of using FUD to advance it goals and maintain its position. No one, except MS flacks, argues that. But if it is wrong for MS to do so, and get (rightfully) slammed for it, then it is wrong to use FUD against MS to advance a competitor!

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were contradictions or issues in the OOXML specifications. Any specification that runs 6000 pages is likely to have them! However, the real issues are whether they're addressable,

  • by 3seas (184403) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:14PM (#17716196) Journal
    ... spam that promises to pay me big money if I forward the spam to friends and relatives and edit wikipedia regarding and biased for M$?

    Oh how the good ol'days can return....

    Still waiting for my first big check from years ago...
  • ... to Wikipedia. Not for nefarious purposes, but because accurate information can be an important sales tool.

    For example, awhile back I was in the market for planar ribbon loudspeakers. I wanted to see what the difference between kapton and mylar/polyester was. DuPont could have easily expanded the article, rather than have potential customers track down bits and pieces of information through Google.

    Even if they were rather excessive in their praise for the product, it would at least give a starting point
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kalriath (849904)
      Except that they can't. They're forbidden by WP:COI [wikipedia.org] from editing their own article - under penalty of change reversion and/or blocklisting.
  • I didn't see any problems at all. MS would have no reason to expect this guy to be slanted in their favor. His interest is in correcting errors of interpretation, of which it appears some exist.
  • BUY one! Sponsored by the '$10 in your pocket to say Zune is great' campaign.
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:26PM (#17716356) Homepage
    If the Wikipedia articles in your area of expertise were of low quality, filled with anti-Microsoft spin, and clearly violated Wikipedia policies, would you accept money from Microsoft to clean them up. The mandate would be to correct technical mistakes, and make the articles follow Wikipedia policies.

    In other words, being paid to do something you would gladly do for free, if you had the time?

  • by gamer4Life (803857) on Monday January 22, 2007 @06:51PM (#17716654)
    ...as well as review sites.

    Trying to "pay" them off to write something favorable for them - giving incentives such as notebooks, advertising dollars, free software, etc...

    They do this to promote Vista, Zune, and the XBox. Their goal is to try to create a fanboy circle of consultants, gamers, and audiophiles, which will automatically do this for them. But the initial seed is through the media.
  • by Daltorak (122403) on Monday January 22, 2007 @11:50PM (#17719438)
    Okay, I think I'm [wikipedia.org] probably more qualified than most people to comment on the state of Wikipedia's Microsoft articles, considering that I've personally started a couple dozen articles on Windows-related stuff, and I have more than 1,000 Microsoft-related articles on my watchlist. I work a bunch on Mac OS X articles, too... I don't really consider operating systems to be a worthy subject of religious advocacy; they make for a great hobby, sure, but that's about it. All I care about is making sure that the subjects are presented accurately and without bias in either direction.

    Wikipedia articles are edited by people from Microsoft on a regular basis. Most of the time it's simple stuff, like fixing spelling mistakes, updating links, and putting some newly published information in about future releases. (This [wikipedia.org] is one example of an MS employee edit to the Office Open XML article. Pretty harmless.) It's quite rare that someone at Microsoft adds in unabashed "pro-Microsoft" stuff, and when they do, I or other interested editors remove it entirely or tone it down. But, I have yet to see any kind of co-ordinated efforts to astroturf Microsoft Wikipedia articles... if anything, it's just individuals who are proud of their work and want to write about it... you can tell, it doesn't have that shiny PR veneer on it. I've had to remind a few Microsoft employees to stay within the encyclopedia's neutrality and verifiability policies, but it never turns out to be a problem; almost everyone who's new to editing Wikipedia needs to learn that.

    Frankly, I see far more crap by juvenile pro-Apple zealots, like redirecting the Windows Vista article to Mac OS X [wikipedia.org] and other such time-wasting noise. That's a reflection of the kind of uphill battle Wikipedia has to fight against vandalism.

    Shit, after 7,000+ edits to Microsoft-related articles, maybe Microsoft should be offering to pay me to keep Wikipedia clean of anti-Microsoft crap, since I assuredly work harder at it than some dude with an O'Reilley blog. I wouldn't take their money for it though... or if I did, I'd make a public display of donating it all to the Wikimedia Foundation. They need the money more than I do.

    If Microsoft wants to pay someone to write more into the OOXML articles, that's fine, I don't care -- but there's no damned way they're getting material inappropriate for Wikipedia past me & the other regulars. You can be sure of that.
  • by dmahugh (1054848) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:41PM (#17724650) Homepage

    The premise of this thread is a lie. Nobody ever contacted Rick and asked him to "make edits and corrections favorable to" Microsoft. Also, nobody from Microsoft PR contacted him. I am the person who contacted Rick, and I am a technical evangelist specializing in the Open XML file formats. And here is what I asked Rick to do:

    "Wikipedia has an entry on Open XML that has a lot of slanted language, and we'd like for them to make it more objective but we feel that it would be best if a non-Microsoft person were the source of any corrections ... Would you have any interest or availability to do some of this kind of work? Your reputation as a leading voice in the XML community would carry a lot of credibility, so your name came up in a discussion of the Wikipedia situation today."
    "Feel free to say anything at all on your blog about the process, about our communication with you on matters related to Open XML, or anything else. We don't need to "approve" anything you have to say, our goal is simply to get more informed voices into the debate ... feel free to state your own opinion."

    I understand and accept that longwinded discussions of lies and their theoretical ramifications is a fascinating hobby for some, but since it's 100% my own personal actions that you're talking about, I just want to be very clear: the premise of this thread is a lie. Wikipedia's definition of "Microsoft (sic) Office Open XML" is not fact-based, and I think it would be a good thing if there were more participation by persons like Rick who are knowledgeable and interested in the actual facts of file formats, and less participation (or at least less influence) by those with specific agendas based on specific corporate interests.

    Call Microsoft evil if you must, but in this case it's Doug Mahugh you're talking about. PR didn't know I contacted Rick. Hell, my own manager didn't know, although it seems likely he knows by now. You're talking about my actions alone, so I think my opinion is relevant. And in my opinion, the premise of this thread is a lie.

    - Doug

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