For whatever reason, Wikipedia (WP) still ranks high in Google search results. Although Wikipedia has been losing regular editors at a fairly steady clip since 2007, its “Google-juice” ensures that it retains significant cachet in the online environment. A large number of people still apparently check Wikipedia first when inquiring about a particular topic. For this reason, activists or proponents of certain ideas, movements, philosophies, subjects, ideologies, or theories presumably have a strong interest in influencing the content of the WP articles on their topic of interest. Doing so is not always easy, because other groups with opposing viewpoints on that topic and who are active in WP may stand in the way, often enforcing the “house POV (point of view)” on that particular topic. This isn’t really fair for the outsider group. So, this post is intended as a guide to help your outside group take over the topic of your choice in Wikipedia.
The in-house protectors of certain topics in WP have a significant advantage. They understand WP’s arcane policies and guidelines and know how to keep opposing editors at arm’s length. If you follow this guide with a sufficient number of people to back you up, however, you should be able to wrestle away control of any topic in WP. Established WP activists are sneaky and will try to trick you into making a mistake that they can use to get you banned or blocked. This guide should help you avoid those traps.
First, get your group together. Go out and recruit people to help in your effort. Wikipedia is structured to use crowdsourcing, which means that the larger crowd ultimately controls the content, all else being equal. The numbers that you need depends on the sensitivity of, and interest in, your topic. Taking over topics such as the Democratic or Republican parties, for example, would likely take more people than an obscure fringe political party. To be safe, recruit as many people as you can.
Next, set up your meeting and coordinating space. I suggest anonymous Facebook (or Google+) pages. In the past, editing groups using email to coordinate their efforts have been compromised. Facebook seems to be more secure. Have all your members put their Facebook walls on highest security settings so you can communicate securely and privately with each other. Designate three or four people who will lead your group and will be the main players in your plan to take over the topic.
Register your WP accounts. The leading participants in your group should register WP account names that look like the names of real people, i.e. “Ken Burroughs” and the like. This makes the account look more serious and credible. Don’t choose an account name that has any relation at all to your real name. The members of your group who will be giving background support can choose whimsical names like most WP editors do. Make sure you only register one account, and don’t edit while logged-out. If you have an old WP account, scramble the password and never use it again.
Now, all of you start editing. Edit topics that are NOT related to your primary topic of interest. Make at least one innocuous edit a day and continue with this indefinitely. Don’t post on each others’ talk pages and don’t edit the same articles as each other. To make it easier, I suggest that each person edit an article related to their favorite sport or hobby. Don’t engage in edit wars or get into any arguments with other editors. If you see an opportunity, help another editor copyedit an article on a harmless topic in which you share an interest. This will help you make wiki-friends who may come to your defense later if needed. Avoid WP’s administrative noticeboards and forums like the plague. Put the article(s) that belong to your primary topic of interest on your watchlist, but don’t touch them yet. Just watch what happens with them and unobtrusively watch the discussions, if any, taking place on the articles’ talk pages.
After innocently editing for a month or so, it’s time to get started on your real reason for being there. One of your group’s leaders needs to go to the topic/article in question and make a test edit. The edit needs to be arguably within WP’s policies, but be something that advocates on the opposite side of the issue would probably find disagreeable. This could be using a controversial source, changing the wording in the intro, or adding additional detail to the article that supports one side or the other. After making the edit, watch and see what happens. Is it immediately reverted?
If not, then go ahead and continue shaping the article in the way that you want. If your edit is reverted, or if you eventually start running into opposition from other editors, then it’s time to start using your group tactics in order to prevail. Whatever you do, DO NOT engage in a revert war with opposing editors. Don’t even revert them once, no matter how much you think you’re in the right. If you do make any reverts, it may be used against you later in WP’s administrative forums. Don’t argue with them on the article talk page. In fact, don’t respond at all to the revert even if a message is left about it on your talk page. You still want to try to stay off the opposing group’s radar at this point.
There are several ways to now proceed in getting the article changed to the way you want it, but I think the following way is the best. It requires a lot of time up front, but once complete will require only a little daily time by your group members to maintain.
Open a blank page in your “userspace” and completely rewrite the article from scratch the way you want it to read. Make it as good as you can get it. If you write it to support your POV, try not to make it too obvious. Use as many sources as you can. Make it a really great article. Try to have it done within a few days. One way to do this is to have already written the article in wiki markup on a word document on your home computer. Then, just copy and paste it into the page in your WP userspace.
Once done, start a discussion on the article’s talk page with a link to your draft in your userspace. Announce that you are proposing to replace the current article in its entirety with the draft in your userspace. The regular editors of the article will likely give various levels of disagreement. If they ignore you, then go ahead and copy your draft completely over the article in question. This will force their hand which is what you want to do.
When the other editors make it clear that they will not allow you to copy your draft over the current article, open a content request for comment (RfC) about your proposal to replace the current article with your draft. Once the RfC opens, announce on your Facebook wall that the RfC is open and invite your group to engage. Your group members should now all pile in to the RfC and support your proposal. Be patient and allow the RfC to run its course. RfC’s sometimes run for 30 days. The opposing editors may fly off the handle once they see all these other editors they’ve never seen before showing up to vote against them. Ignore them and any comments or questions that they pose and wait patiently for the RfC to close.
Now, it’s possible that even though you have the numbers on your side, a WP administrator intent on preserving the house POV will swoop in and close the RfC in favor of your adversaries. Likely culprits include administrators MastCell, NuclearWarfare, Future Perfect at Sunrise, and JzG. If that happens don’t worry about it. Once an administrator has gotten involved in the article with a controversial decision like that, they will have to leave it alone from then on or it will look too obvious that they are using their administrative tools to promote a certain POV, which is a big no-no. Just go reorganize your draft article, then start another content RfC about it in a month or so. Again, announce it on your Facebook wall so your group can again pile in and support your proposal. Because you have the numbers, your proposal will eventually pass and you can replace the current article with your version.
Once you have the article you want in place, use your group numbers to shout down any major proposals to change it. Whenever someone tries to make a major change to the article, start a discussion about it on the talk page and link to the discussion on your Facebook wall so your group can pile in and make a consensus against the proposed change. Again, don’t edit war. When you control all conversations on the talk page with your numbers, you don’t have to edit war because you will always have consensus for keeping the article the way you want it.
Your WP insider adversaries will likely employ several tactics to try to trap you and your group members and get you all kicked-off of Wikipedia. First, they will initiate, either overtly, covertly, or both, sockpuppet investigations of you and your group members. You can beat this by simply not socking. Make sure all your group members understand that they must operate one account only and cannot, ever, share their accounts amongst themselves. If many of your group members work out of the same office, such as if you are a public relations firm or a political advocacy/lobbying group, then tell your group members to only edit WP from their home computers and not their office computers. Otherwise, a sockpuppet check may notice that many of the accounts are using close IP addresses, which will set off alarm bells within WP’s administration. The more geographically dispersed your group members’ residences are, the better.
Second, your adversaries will attempt to insult, belittle, provoke, and troll you and your group members on the article talk page(s) or on your user talk pages into making personal attacks. They may follow your group members to other, unrelated articles and try to entrap them into doing something wrong, such as revert warring. They may ask you, on WP or by email, if you have a relationship to the topic in question, if you know any other editors in real life, or have an account on Wikipediocracy. Ignore them completely. Never respond to any comment that attempts to personalize the debate over the topic. Since you have the numbers on your side, there is no reason to engage with them at all beyond what has already been detailed above. They may recruit friendly editors, unknown to you, to troll you on their behalf. Again, ignore any attempt by any WP editor to obtain personal information or to get a rise out of you. A good rule of thumb is that if another WP editor does something that makes you angry, immediately close WP and don’t return to it until at least 24 hours later when you have cooled down.
Finally, the enemy will try to link you all together by dragging one of you to a WP administrative forum and seeing how many editors show up to support you. If that happens, tell your group on Facebook not to get involved. If you lose one or two members to an unfair block or ban, so what? You still have the numbers you need to keep the topic the way you want it. If you get blocked or banned, stay involved on Facebook giving advice and suggestions to the rest of your group as they continue maintaining your topic. Don’t violate your ban by creating another account or editing without an account. Your adversaries will be watching to see if you do that and will use it against your group.
As you edit WP you will become more experienced in dealing with the passive-aggressive machinations and sneaky tactics employed by your adversaries. Remember, you have beaten them at their own game. Enjoy the fruits of your labors as you use Wikipedia to promote your cause. Happy editing!