Wikipedia for Hire

One thing I hate about the general perception of open source software is that it is somehow amateurish. Sure, there are a lot of projects that are less than professional out there, but that’s just because there are so many projects. A large portion of them can compete with the best software, period, closed or open.

At OpenNMS we take our development process seriously. For example, we have a ton of junit tests. It’s the only way we can insure robust code while committing a large number of changes from different people. I was talking with a commercial Java company awhile back, and when I brought up junit tests the CEO said, “oh, we tried that and found it was just too hard.”

Chalk one up for open source.

So it kind of bothered me that Slashdot ran a story tonight that Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame is against anyone hiring out their services as a Wikipedia editor. I can’t understand why.

Does he not think that almost every commercial entity out there with an entry has someone in their marketing department tweak if not outright write their article? I quote Wikipedia constantly on this blog and I must say that I assume most entries are written by someone with some form of self interest. Heck, I take everything I see on the Internet with a grain of salt and Wikipedia is no different.

While I can see blocking people who constantly violate the guidelines of Wikipedia by posting marketing material, how-tos or other content that goes against the “form” of an encyclopedia entry, I can’t see why people talented at writing such copy should be prevented from charging to do so. Heck, I wish the OpenNMS entry was better written (and I wish that my own entry wasn’t there at all – it’s a little embarrassing to me to have one). I would gladly pay someone a reasonable amount of money to put in more information on the OpenNMS entry yet not slop over into marketing or promotional-speak.

Think about it. Suppose you were the AKC and you wanted to have detailed entries for all of your registered dog breeds. If Wikipedia is to become the main source for such information on the web, wouldn’t it be prudent to higher someone to write them? Sure, there could be a single line stating that “the Standard Poodle is an AKC registered breed” and I couldn’t see anything wrong with that. Users get great information on dogs they are interested in and the AKC gets a tiny amount of promotion in exchange for paying for that information to be created.

If Mr. Wales wants Wikipedia to be taking seriously and not just another amateur endeavor, there has to be room for professionals.