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I Got Fired For Editing Wikipedia

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 (THL), 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.

Mike Wood - Wikipedia Paid Editor

Mike Wood — Wikipedia Paid Editor

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 (TCL)) 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).

Click for larger image

Administrator Elen of the Roads targets Mike Wood

After the Business Insider article was published, a Wikipedia editor posted it on the talk page of Jimmy Wales, stating “catch me if you can.” I am guessing that the challenge was accepted. Within 24 hours, my employer was contacted by email and telephone, informing them I was editing Wikipedia from their servers. This much was true, but not in violation of any company policy.

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 WoodMike 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

20 comments to I Got Fired For Editing Wikipedia

  • The Master

    Mike, I’m enjoying your book so far, thanks for the advance copy

    • Glad you enjoyed it. It could actually be multiple volumes if I had time to compile all the stories about the Wikipedia bureaucracy.

  • For more information about Mike Wood, he recently appeared at the tail end of a segment on Full Measure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wsu-QGi-ZWY

  • Umma

    Waaa! I’m a paid editor that got caught editing Wikipedia against their rules, now Imma rant and rave about how bad Wiki is Waaa, Mommy! 😛

    • You obviously didn’t read the article as there were no rules violated. Are you are confusing the recent TOU implemented by the WMF as being something that should apply retroactively to conduct that happened years before? Would love to discuss on the forum.

      • Umma

        HA HA – I’m a LONG TIME Wikipedia editor (not a sysop ) – COI has been against the rules for a VERY LONG TIME – and by extension paid editing. It’s not something new. Try again, troll!

        • The Master

          You obvioysly haven’t read the actual COI guideline because it doesn’t say what you think it says. Typical Wikipediot.

          • Rob Hoffmann

            But you know that what the guideline “really” says is irrelevant – it’s what whichever admin is rampaging wants it to say that’s relevant.

            Nothing changes. Ever.

        • My question is this. If paid editing has been “against the rule” for a very long time, why did the Wikimedia Foundation need to add it to terms of use in the last couple of years? After all, if it was already against the rules there should be no need to create a term of use for it. Hiding behind sarcasm and insults really doesn’t help your contention as readers on this site are a little more sophisticated than that.

  • A “hard block” on an IP address does not prevent anyone using that IP address from accessing Wikipedia – it prevents them from editing Wikipedia. It’s explained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Blocking_policy: “…hard block … disables all editing whether logged in or not, other than administrators and other IP-block exempt users.”

  • Instigator

    The correct title would be “I got fired for using company property to run a side business during my breaks”. The fact that the operator of the site you were using/abusing was Wikipedia is a minor thing. You could have been writing Amazon or Yelp reviews for cash and it would have been the same.

    • No, he wasn’t fired for that reason. Read the blog post a bit more closely.

      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.

  • Kuka

    Moral of the story: Never use your real IP on WP else you can probably mess up your life.

  • MysteriousStranger

    One thing I don’t get: Was your entire office unable to even READ Wikipedia, or just unable to edit it?

    • Adam

      “Clean starts” are only available to people who aren’t currently under sanctions – otherwise all you are doing is creating a new account to evade a sanction on the old. The intent is to allow people who haven’t done anything wrong, and are not being sanctioned, to start afresh. They are not to be used to continue to edit while blocked under the old account. So it is not surprising that an administrator didn’t accept a “clean start” account while the user was blocked – the UsedEdgesII account did not meet the requirements for a clean start account, and blocking it was the correct action.

      However, to be clear Mike Wood was not blocked for paid editing, as that was not specifically against policy at the time (and isn’t now, although there are disclosure requirements). Mike Wood was blocked for deceptively creating a large number of alternative accounts presumably in order to evade scrutiny with his paid editing. He was banned for continuing to create those new accounts in order to engage in paid editing after he was blocked. I do not know the situation at the moment, but if Mike Wood continues to engage in undisclosed paid editing by using new accounts to get around the ban, he is acting against the Terms of Use of the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia’s polices.

    • Adam

      Just unable to edit – they would still be able to read it, and they could potentially edit Wikipedia if they requested an IP block exemption. The purpose of the IP block would be to prevent Mike Wood from creating new accounts from that network.

  • EricBarbour

    I see this place is still infested by Wikipedia dickweeds. Congrats, little shits, you’ve mastered the art of Smug.

  • Angry guy

    Utter Rubbish
    You broke a rule and got blocked.
    And then you say you did nothing.
    Wikipedia is not evil, it can be unreliable but it is not evil.
    I suppose you think 9/11 was a CIA job as well…..

  • Angry guy

    And we are not smug, only you are.

  • Claudio

    I don’t know what is worst, personal info getting disclosed or people supporting it.