By Mike Wood
“Come directly to my office when you get in.” That was the text I received from my boss while making my 45 minute trip into work. The text wasn’t a surprise as I had received the same message before, but the result of that visit was much different than any of the previous ones.
Working for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (T–H–L), I had quite a bit of responsibility. I was the Chief Gaming Inspector in charge of a dozen or so enforcement agents who oversaw the regulation of gaming at two of the largest Native American casinos in the Midwest. Getting called into the office was routine based on the many incidents that took place during the midnight hours of casino operations.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. After all, being terminated from employment is not something you readily forget. And yes, I was terminated.
My boss began typing on my computer and seemed to be searching for something, but ignored my inquiries asking if I had done something wrong. I told him if he was looking for something in particular I would be more than happy to help him find it. It was then that he informed me what had happened. Someone from “Wikipedia” (meaning the Wikimedia Foundation) contacted the casino by email and telephone, stating I was using company servers to edit Wikipedia.
The title of this article is fitting since an article I wrote with a similar title is what served as the catalyst for my privacy being violated, ultimately leading to my termination. The article, entitled I Get Paid To Edit Wikipedia For Leading Companies was published in Business Insider on January 9, 2013. The article was highly critical of Wikipedia, its bureaucracy of volunteer editors, and even its co-founder, Jimmy Wales.
The article was posted live on January 9th, my employer was contacted on the 10th, and my termination took place on the 11th. The timing of the article with my termination was not a coincidence.
Wikipedia editors had been waiting for their chance to violate my privacy. On November 8, 2012, a message was left by an admin (Elen of the Roads (T–C–L)) on a sockpuppet investigation stating “UsedEdgesII I have also blocked, which might seem unkind but then he’s already been blocked as User:Morning277…while editing from the same closed proxy IP belonging to a casino, which I am now going to seriously hard block.”
Not trying to be a conspiracy theorist, but that administrator disappeared from editing a short time after the incident took place. I should also point out that this admin was pissed off as I had started the account UsedEdgesII under a “clean start” but did so for what she said was “without her permission.” Funny as permission from her was not needed, but that’s the way it goes with the Wikipedia bureaucracy. The purpose of the policy is to reconcile past mistakes (which I was by disclosing my activity), and avoid harassment (which actually backfired, hence this article).
A hard block was placed on the casino servers so anyone attempting to access Wikipedia from that location would not be able to. The embarrassment of being contacted and the likely threat made to bring it to the media’s attention was enough for my employer to fire me.
The official reason? Inappropriate use of company computer equipment.
I was a salaried employee but still required to take my lunch and other breaks. There was no working through your lunch time and you were expected to be there a total of 9 hours (with 8 of those spent on work). Using the internet during our breaks was not only acceptable, but a common practice among everyone there, including my boss.
So here we are, three years later. I am still making money from editing Wikipedia. The bureaucracy of the site has only gotten worse which has made my new profession even more viable. Having authored a new book, and collaborating on a regular basis with a team of editors, I am able to assist clients in every aspect of Wikipedia.
While the violation of someone’s privacy (especially causing the termination of someone’s livelihood) is not something to take lightly, I guess I should thank everyone involved for pushing me into a more profitable career.
Mike Wood makes a living editing Wikipedia for pay – check out his blog, his podcast, and his book, Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool, on his site: Legalmorning.com