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Jimbo, Alfresco, Oh no!

By Gregory Kohs

On Tuesday, November 5th, partly cloudy skies, windy gusts, and cool temperatures will engulf Barcelona, Spain, as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales delivers a paid keynote speech to a conference of information technologists, meeting at the Alfresco Summit. What Jimbo will be leaving in his rear-view mirror are the heated arguments taking place on Wikipedia, regarding a controversy about purportedly 250 “sockpuppet” editor accounts that stand accused of conflict-of-interest and paid advocacy editing. (The story was broken by Simon Owens at The Daily Dot.) That news spawned coverage in over 100 different media outlets, including TIME, BBC News, and Wall Street Journal. Many of the follow-up articles focused on concerns that Wikipedia is doomed, with “editor churn” a growing and intractable problem, and questions arising about whether an “anyone can edit” model can ever produce a truly neutral and reliable reference. Maybe Jimmy Wales’ prophecy is coming true, where he said, “Given enough time humans will screw up Wikipedia just as they have screwed up everything else.”

So, if his project has been corrupted by paid shills anyway, who can blame Jimbo for jetting off to the City of Counts, when he’s counting on what is likely a handsome five-figure payment for delivering 50 minutes of talk? What most of the world doesn’t know, is that Jimmy Wales thinks he has a silver bullet to save Wikipedia from infiltration by money-hungry vampires who work in the form of undisclosed sockpuppet editors with paid agendas. He calls it his “Bright Line Rule”. It is simply this:

“Do not edit Wikipedia articles directly if you are a paid advocate. Instead, contribute proposed edits to the talk page, and escalate to appropriate venues on Wikipedia if you are having trouble getting people’s attention.”

Jimmy Wales maintains that this will always

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