According to Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, in a CNN article today:
Wales said the proper course would have been for Microsoft to write or commission a “white paper” on the subject with its interpretation of the facts, post it to an outside Web site and then link to it in the Wikipedia articles' discussion forum. “It seems like a much better, transparent, straightforward way,” Wales said.
Why is the Open XML entry full of qualifications and attributions, while the OpenDocument entry presents similar types of information as fact without saying whose opinion is being expressed? I'm with Microsoft, so if I were to change anything in the OpenDocument entry I'm sure some would feel that's inappropriate, but the lack of consistency in editorial style is pretty striking and seems to reflect a strong pro-Sun/anti-Microsoft sentiment. Hardly encyclopedic, in my opinion.
– Doug Mahugh, Microsoft18.104.22.168 17:24, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Now, I have no background when it comes to standards, and I will not get into the merits or fallacies of Microsoft’s case, but only in the process as it relates directly to other companies that might find themselves in this position.
In desperation, Microsoft hired an outside expert with no ties to Microsoft, but who had proved fair in the past, to look at the entry and suggest changes. Rick Jelliffe, who has a blog at O’Reilly, fully disclosed the offer from Microsoft in his post, “An interesting offer.”
According to the CNN article, and in reading the subtext of his post, Jelliffe would only be paid for his time and Microsoft would not dictate the changes in any way. Since he was completely transparent, there is no way that Jelliffe would be able to contribute anyway as the community reacted, so the point is moot. I can't help but wonder what woudl have happened if he hadn't been so transparent?
However, this incident made it clear that the discussion pages alone aren’t cutting it, so Wales offers the advice to post your own entry elsewhere, of course with a neutral point of view or NPOV as Wikipedian’s call it, and link the article to the discussion page. (Here is Microsoft's decidedly non-NPOV press release about the standard).
I still like Joe Mabel’s essay to PR folks about how to successfully navigate the process with Wikipedia. He also recommends referencing items on other web pages, although in a less hostile manner than Wales did.
Unfortuately, moderate Wikipedians like Mabel may be getting driven off the site. Wikipedian Geoffrey Burling alerted me to the fact that Mabel, an long-time Wikipedian, recently announced he was talking an extended break from participating on the site after an list of songs that he felt was a fun list of popular culture references was slated for deletion saying,
I had said a year ago that if Wikipedia become so tight-assed that we decided to delete that article, it would be time for me to leave the project.”
- Scott Baradell and I seem to have been on the same page yesterday with his open letter to Jimmy Wales.
- Also, the Techcruch blog carried a story about the controversy and blogger Dare Obsanjo, a Microsoft employee, made an entry on the TechCrunch Wikipedia entry that outlined some criticisms that have been leveled about the site in the past. Mike Arrington responded with this post.
- And then there is Microsoft evangelist Doug Mahugh's side of the story.