Wikipedia and Astroturfing

Clay Shirky notes a cycle of references created by a few people with the effect of promotion: a Wikipedia article for Symphony OS is referenced in a Slashdot article, which is then noted in the Wikipedia article:

This is an interesting kind of spam, or maybe we could call it a reputation hack.... They create a Wikipedia page, point to it as if to demonstrate independent interest for the project in their potential slashdot post, then point to the slashdot effect on the Wikipedia page as proof of said independent interest. Voila, an instant trend.

The Symphony Talk page reminds me very much of one of the Lamest Edit Wars Ever over very similar issues with SkyOS: “Fast & furious kindergarten catfight with accusations of GPL violations, advertising, lying and fanboyism.” One difference is that Symphony is actually Free Software, so while there is an argument about advertising, implied dishonesty and fanboyism, the GPL hasn’t been an issue – yet! (Accusaion of GPL violation sometimes strikes me as similar in some sense to Godwin’s Law; while license violations may be a substantive accusation, the discourse has no doubt gotten heated by then.)

Shirky also thinks that referencing the consequent Slashdot Effect on the Symphony OS site doesn’t merit inclusion. (Personally, I don’t mind and I don’t read the Slashdot Effect as a reciprocative authority.) After Shirky removed it, EliasAlucard reverts the removal commenting “Why is trivia being removed by that anon user ‘Clay Shirky?’ As far as I’m concerned, he has nothing but distaste for this article, and his edits shouldn’t be reckoned with.” Unfortunately, here and on the Symphony Talk page EliasAlucard is not representing himself – nor the article – well and is failing to uphold numerous Wikipedia norms of good faith and writing for the enemy. (In Wikipedia, we encourage folks to try to see the perspective of the other, not write them off.) Also, the Slashdot effect claim is without attribution and citation of evidence. So I’ve included that link at least.

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