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Handling Wikipedia with care

How to avoid thorny debates when editing content about your brand

Photo courtesy animalspeek.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy animalspeek.blogspot.com

One day, I took it upon myself to add some content to the Wikipedia page about a little town in southern Japan where I had briefly taught English after college. Who else, I figured, would be inclined to add information about the local hotel and restaurant owners’ annual tradition of throwing live pufferfish into the harbor on a February afternoon? So, in December of 2006, I added a paragraph about it. I didn’t cite any sources because I couldn’t find anything written about the event…I had only attended it. A full year later, someone slapped a banner across the top of the page: “This article does not cite any references or sources.” My heart sank a little.

If you’ve ever tried to create or edit content on Wikipedia about your company, products or services, you know how alarming it can be when a Wikipedia editor brands your entry as not up to code. It immediately calls into question the credibility of your brand to anyone viewing the page. Wikipedia users have dozens of such disclaimers (known as “template messages”) to choose from when questioning the validity of your work. In fact, a full blown culture war has erupted between “Deletionists”, those who strictly enforce Wikipedia’s content standards, and “Inclusionists”, those who prefer a more relaxed approach in the interest of encouraging a broader base of people to take part. The Deletionists vs. Inclusionists imbroglio has been covered in The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.

Wikipedia offers a slew of guidelines on how to cite sources so that your content won’t be called into question. Cite your own company’s Web site, blog, any informational materials or white papers you have published, and any media coverage you’ve garnered, to fend off criticism from nitpicky editors. If someone does place a template message on your page, click the History tab to see who did it. You may even want to start a Talk page to have a discussion with that person about why they’re unhappy with the content. But be careful: such debates can quickly devolve into semantics. It’s better to cite sources as much as possible in the first place.

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