Statement of ethics

Note: In the interest of transparency, any significant changes to this document will be noted at the bottom, along with explanation where needed. If you do similar work related to Wikipedia or other online peer production communities, I encourage you to adopt this statement of ethics in full; if you wish to adopt it with changes, though, contact me for permission. -Pete Forsyth

Paid services, conflicts of interest, and agenda-driven editing have always been areas of legitimate concern in Wikipedia and related projects. One of Wiki Strategies’ core offerings is advice on how to structure and execute projects in an ethical way; our pages on ethical editing and our process describe how we advise our clients to approach their work on Wikipedia. Since our own role differs somewhat from that of our clients, this page describes the ethical guidelines we apply to our own work.

Broad commitments & principles

We incorporate the following principles into the design of all our engagements:

  1. We adhere to Wikipedia’s policies, and the policies of other collaborative web sites and communities we engage with.
  2. We endorse the Wikimedia five year strategic vision, published in 2010, and seek to advance its goals in our work.
  3. Wherever we make contributions or edits to collaborative web sites, we aim for a high level of transparency; and we expect our clients and partners to do the same.
  4. The reputation of Wiki Strategies or its personnel – whether positive or negative – should not unduly influence the reputation of our clients. In cases where we are not taking any direct action on a collaborative site, we generally do not disclose our connection to a client.

Teaching, training, and workshop facilitation

When we bring up ethical issues relating to online collaboration, we do not shy away from nuance. We aim to be clear in our recommendations, but also teach our students or audience about the various, sometimes competing, theories about ethical behavior relating to Wikipedia and similar projects. Where relevant, we invite those with competing views to present their views in our trainings and events.

Teaching and training projects involve working with a wide variety of Wikipedia articles. As a general rule, we guide our students in doing their own work; but sometimes it is worthwhile for us to engage directly with them on Wikipedia – to demonstrate something, or to add context in a discussion. When we do so, we adopt a “light touch,” doing no more than we deem necessary; and we also clearly disclose our relationship to the student. In the case of large ongoing projects, we will also post a clear “notice of paid work relating to Wikipedia” on our user talk page(s).

Facilitating broad contributions

Increasingly, cultural institutions and other organizations seek to increase their impact by improving Wikipedia articles, publishing collections of media on Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource, etc. When we work with such organizations, we generally prefer to help them develop the internal resources to execute their own projects; but from time to time we do contribute directly to Wikipedia and other web sites. In such cases we adopt a “light touch,” so that the project may build a reputation on its own merits;  and we clearly disclose our business relationship in connection with all substantial edits.

Article composition and publishing

This section concerns projects described on our “article composition” page.

Some of our projects are narrowly focused on improving one, or a few, specific Wikipedia articles. In these projects, our clients work transparently on Wikipedia. Wiki Strategies limits its role in these projects to advice and coaching. We seek to avoid any direct impact on our clients’ reputation in the Wikipedia community; we therefore do not make any edits to Wikipedia relating to these projects, or ask for favors from other Wikipedians on behalf of our clients. This includes Wikipedia articles and all other Wikipedia pages.

In addition, when negotiating these projects, we explain that clear disclosure of any real or perceived conflict of interest is a necessary precondition for working with Wiki Strategies. In the unlikely event that one of our clients were to contravene that condition (for instance, by using a sock puppet account, or by asking an associate to non-transparently add material to Wikipedia), we would first seek to guide the client in taking corrective action; and if unsuccessful, we would end the engagement.

The contents of this page are available under the CC BY-ND license. If you would like to publish a modified version, please inquire; we will most likely approve any improvements, and perhaps incorporate them into our own version, at our discretion.