Wikipedia for Hire: Is it Kosher?

I am a big fan of Wikipedia (except when my students cut and paste from it right into their assignments). It's a brilliant model of collaborative information publishing.

But now there's a brouhaha brewing because some folks are cashing in on writing for the so-called "volunteer" encyclopedia.

It's too bad - but it was only a matter of time.

Here's the scenario from the AP behind this great ethical dilemma of the day.

Idea of Paid Entries Roils Wikipedia
By Brian Bergstein, AP Technology Writer

Microsoft Cash Offer Raises Question: What's Wrong With Accepting Money to Write on Wikipedia?

BOSTON (AP) -- When a blogger revealed this week that Microsoft Corp. wanted to pay him to fix purported inaccuracies in technical articles on Wikipedia, the software company endured online slams and a rebuke from the Web encyclopedia's founder for behaving unethically.

The imbroglio will soon pass, but it raises a bigger question: Why is it so bad to pay someone to write something on Wikipedia?

The "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" requires articles to have a "neutral point of view." But most contributors surely have some personal motivation to dive into a subject, whether it's adoration of "Star Trek" or a soft spot for geraniums.

What's to say contributors who get paid have a harder time sticking to the golden path of neutrality? And doesn't Wikipedia have a built-in defense mechanism -- the swarms of volunteer editors and moderators who can quickly obliterate public-relations fluff, vanity pages and other junk?

That is precisely what ran through Gregory Kohs' mind last year when he launched MyWikiBiz, a service that offered to write Wikipedia entries for businesses for $49 to $99....

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