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Putting Collaborative Neutrality to the Test. The Real Wikipedia. A presentation to Rollins College For Dr. Patrick C. Fleming By Gregory Kohs October 2013. Who am I?. Gregory Kohs Winter Park High School Emory University (BA) Temple University (MA, ABD)

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putting collaborative neutrality to the test
Putting Collaborative Neutrality to the Test

The Real Wikipedia

A presentation to Rollins College

For Dr. Patrick C. Fleming

By Gregory Kohs

October 2013

who am i
Who am I?

Gregory Kohs

  • Winter Park High School
  • Emory University (BA)
  • Temple University (MA, ABD)
  • Market research practitioner; research director at Comcast for 5+ years.
  • Founder of MyWikiBiz, a paid editing service dedicated to Wikipedia
    • Wikipedia’s guideline (not policy) about Conflict of Interest when MyWikiBiz was founded very gently cautioned, but did not prohibit, “vanity” content.
what do we hope to gain here today
What do we hope to gain here today?

Increase knowledge & Dispel myths

  • On Wikipedia, every statement of fact has to be backed up with a reliable reference source that supports the claim.
  • On Wikipedia, all the content is created and managed by unpaid volunteers.
  • On Wikipedia, every edit is vetted by a professional team/staff of editors who keep out erroneous information or vandalism.
  • Because of crowd collaboration, Wikipedia presents a Neutral Point of View.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation needs your donations to keep Wikipedia running.
what are wikipedia s flaws
What are Wikipedia’s flaws?

“Fact-checking works poorly. People rarely check citations to see whether they support the ‘facts,’ and there is no process whereby experts are even invited to review articles, let alone post approved versions of them. Wikipedia factual quality is, as a result, very hit-or-miss.”

“Because Wikipedians (often admins) ‘sit’ on articles and act as de facto topic moderators, they often end up being biased and frequently quirky.”

“They have no trouble letting people with huge amounts of power in the system to operate anonymously. Not even highly-ranked admins have to reveal any information about themselves, or worry about repercussions to their reputation. Hence, a perfect playground for narcissistic abusers who hide behind anonymity.”

“Though it's supposed to be the ‘encyclopedia anyone can edit,’ admins and other well-connected Wikipedians are well-known for shutting down new contributors, especially if they do not ‘toe the party line,’ whatever it might be on the particular page.”

Commentary by Wikipedia co-founder,

Dr. Larry Sanger

when to use and not use wikipedia
When to use (and not use) Wikipedia?

“… a 10-year-old is writing a little short paper for class, and they want to say they got some information from Wikipedia, I think we should just be glad that the kid's writing and actually thinking about giving credit -- due credit -- to people who have helped. And I think that's wonderful.”

“For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”

“Our [Venezuelan president, Hugo] Chavez article has been a joke for a long time, dominated by a handful of people who have systematically excluded criticism of Chavez. …this article is very very bad and a huge disappointment…”

“Given enough time humans will screw up Wikipedia just as they have screwed up everything else.”

“Rachel Marsden first approached me via email two years ago with complaints about her bio. We had never met. I subsequently reviewed her bio and I found it not to be up to our standards. My involvement in cases like this is completely routine, and I am proud of it. I decided to meet Rachel Marsden in person for the first time in early February of this year. Accordingly, three days before that meeting, to avoid any appearance of a potential conflict of interest, I disclosed my plans to OTRS and further disclosed that it was a personal matter. I recused myself from any further official action with respect to her biography. …While I find it hard to imagine that anyone really cares about my sex life, the facts are: I am separated from my wife. I considered myself single at the time of my one meeting with Rachel Marsden on February 9th, 2008.”

Commentary by Wikipedia co-founder,

Jimmy Wales

wikipedia s stranglehold on google
Wikipedia’s stranglehold on Google

SearchRocket.com checked nearly 14,000 different search terms on Google for Wikipedia’s ranking (blue bars). Then they checked again, six months later (orange bars). Out of 14,000 searches, Wikipedia ranked in the top 100 results for nearly 12,000 of the searches compared to less than 8,000 of the searches, only six months prior.

The main differences appeared in the first 30 search results (typically the first three pages of links returned by Google):

creating articles about businesses
Creating articles about businesses

Study of 100 randomly-selected articles about businesses and organizations on Wikipedia:

About 4% to 12% of Wikipedia articles are about businesses, private non-profit organizations, or product brands (depending on what you may count as a “business”; e.g., airports, amusement parks, colleges, and orchestras were excluded from this study).

Article creator was defined as the editor most responsible for creating the article about the business.

Focus more than 50% of edits on one subject? Probably has a “conflict of interest”.

Among 100 business article creators, 37 devoted more than 50% of all their edits to the one article. In most of these cases, the concentration of edits exceeded 90%.

building articles about businesses
Building articles about businesses

Next, the study looked at the activity of each article’s heaviest contributor – defined as the editor who added the greatest total bytes of content that were not promptly removed within several days.

In 61 cases out of the sample 100, the corporate article's creator was also the heaviest contributor to the article, more than any single other subsequent editor.

In only 3 of the cases of the 100 heaviest contributors was the editor blocked by a Wikipedia administrator. Reason why?

User name matched the name of the business.

Among 100 heaviest contributors, 51 of them devoted more than 50% of all their edits to the one article about the business or organization. In most of these cases, the concentration of edits exceeded 90%.

john s incredible pizza
John’s Incredible Pizza

Article Created: August 2007

By: User:Yesterparks

# of Edits: Two (2) – both about John’s Incredible Pizza

Heavy contributor: August 2009

By: User:Tudokin

# of Edits: Twenty-five (25) – all about John’s Incredible Pizza

Most recent addition: July 2013

By: User:

Location: Same county as

John’s Incredible

Pizza headquarters

Is this collaborative?

Is it neutral?

xing t echnology
Xing Technology

What it is: Audio podcast software

Article Created: October 2005

By: User:

# of Edits: Fourteen (14) – all about Xing Technology, podcasts, or Peggy Miles

Location: Washington, DC

Heavy contributor: October 2005 through February 2011

By: User:Richfife

Affiliation: Rich Fife was one of the first seven employees of Xing Technology

Who is Peggy Miles?

Co-pioneer of podcasting with Xing founder Howard Gordon. She lives in Washington, DC. IP address (Washington, DC) signs itself "pm vox", and Miles founded InterVox Communications.

Is this collaborative?

Is it neutral?

articles about u s senators deliberately wrong nearly 7 of the time
Articles about U.S. Senators deliberately wrong nearly 7% of the time

“Wikipedia Vandalism Study: U.S. Senate”; Gregory Kohs, et al; MyWikiBiz; June 2008.

Stevens attended Redondo Union High School, participating in kinky sex adventures.

4 days, over 3,100 views

  • One calendar quarter’s worth (4Q 2007) of edit data
  • 100 Wikipedia articles about the (then) current United States Senators
  • Most vandalized edits were brief in duration and juvenile content
  • But some lasted hours, days, even weeks at a time
  • Median duration = 6 minutes
  • Mean duration = 24 hours
  • Total views = 12.8 million
  • Total damaged views = 378,000
  • Most-viewed error: 93,800 page views, stating that John McCain “born in Florida in the then American-controlled Panama Canal Zone”.
  • Longest-lasting vandalism: Over 81 days, stating that Pete Domenici “capitalized on his Italian-American name in seeking unknowing Hispanic votes.”

Very few of the 100 Senators’ biographies were given the semi-protection padlock to prevent drive-by vandalism.

Jimmy Wales’ biography has enjoyed semi-protection on a continuous basis since 2007.

Stevens attended Redondo Union High School, participating in kinky sex adventures with donkeys.

2 more days, 850 more views

Some rights reserved, MyWikiBiz.com

where was mike ilitch born
Where was Mike Ilitch born?
  • Mike Ilitch is:
  • Owner of the Detroit Tigers
  • Owner of the Detroit Red Wings
  • Founder of Little Caesars Pizza

Ilitch was born in 1929, but where?




Kingdom of Yugoslavia4


Kingdom of Yugoslavia6

Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes7


Kingdom of Yugoslavia9




I decided to speak with Karen Cullen, the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Ilitch Holdings, Inc. After confirming with others in her office, she stated that while Ilitch's parents were indeed Macedonian, Mike was in fact born in the city of Detroit, Michigan.

wrcc rollins college s new radio station
WRCC: Rollins College’s new radio station?


Which reference source is cited? The Federal Communications Commission.

When does the station launch? April 1, 2014.

How many Wikipedia page views witnessed this entirely phony radio station? About 1,500 per week, since October 10, 2013. And this is the same prank pulled the last time I spoke in front of an academic audience!

look at yourself rollins college
Look at yourself, Rollins College
  • Is it wrong to mess with Wikipedia?Some editing done from IP addresses operating from Rollins College… (, .21, .22, and .23)
  • The good:
  • October 2013: Rollins student and volleyballer Jess McKelvey expanded article about Travis Passier, an Olympic volleyball player. (But then struggled with references and formatting.)
  • The bad:
  • September 2013: Someone falsely changed the name of the first dog to reach the South Pole from “Etah” to “Tanya”.
  • August 2013: Changed the weasel ‘war dance’ from a “joyful invitation to play” to “an aggressive and dangerous time to approach the ferret”.
  • August 2013: Changed the definition of magician to “The most awesome immortal mystical being that are creating a cult to take over the world and hympnotize (sic) people into a trance to become their slaves for the rest of eternity!”.
  • The ugly:
  • March 2013: Said that Bucks County, Pennsylvania “ranked in 2011 by Money Magazine as ‘The Worst County in the (sic) America’.”
  • November 2006: Modified the article about Guantánamo Bay to say, “ANAL LICKING!!! ANAL LICKING!!! ANAL LICKING!!!”.
do you view wikipedia differently now
Do you view Wikipedia differently now?
  • Additional sources that critique Wikipedia:
  • National Wiki Examiner, Gregory Kohs
  • Top 10 Reasons Not to Donate to the Wikimedia Foundation, Gregory Kohs
  • Wikipediocracy.com
  • The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen

Thank you for listening.

contact info
Contact info

Contacting the author of this presentation:

Gregory Kohs


489 Lake George Circle

West Chester, PA 19382


Phone: 484-NEW-WIKI (484-639-9454)

Some rights reserved, MyWikiBiz.com