Microsoft has recently come under fire by Wikipedia and its founder Jimmy Wales after it was made public that Microsoft was contacting technical writers and asking them to change a Wikipedia entry on Office Open XML to favor the Redmond company.
As many of you in the search engine world know, Google and other engines favor Wikipedia results because the site is considered a massive trusted authority.
Microsoft approached Rick Jelliffe, a CTO of an Australian tech company, offering to pay Mr. Jelliffe to alter the Wikipedia entry.
Jellifee writes on his O’Reilly XML Blog entry:
I was a little surprised to receive email a couple of days ago from Microsoft saying they wanted to contract someone independent but friendly (me) for a couple of days to provide more balance on Wikipedia concerning ODF/OOXML. I am hardly the poster boy of Microsoft partisanship! Apparently they are frustrated at the amount of spin from some ODF stakeholders on Wikipedia and blogs.
Here is a snippet of the email sent to Mr. Jelliffe (thanks, Slashdot):
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.
So, is this an example of the evil empire wanting to change the way users think, or an example of online reputation management gone wrong?
Neil Patel of Pronet Advertising and a Wikipedia marketing guru writes:
Because Microsoft’s past modifications did not go as they planned, it does not mean they should have resulted in trying to pay someone.
If the modifications were truly beneficial to Wikipedia readers they probably would have been accepted by the community.
So, with a delicate case like Wikipedia, perhaps Microsoft should have let the community decide on whether or not the entry was favorable to Microsoft.
Lesson, if you’re going to doctor Wikipedia listings, add links, or pay someone to do so… don’t get caught.