Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Free Web Traffic Ahoy!

I've just been having a wee poke around with the Wikiscanner. For those who've not seen it, it allows you to track anonymous Wikipedia edits through IP addresses.

See if you can see what all of these edits from the last 28 days have in common. Deep breath...
  1. Conrad Black
  2. John N. Gray
  3. Gustave Courbet
  4. Ingmar Bergman
  5. Cobalt Bomb
  6. Travels in the Scriptorium
  7. The Lay of the Land
  8. Martin Amis
  9. The Mission Song
  10. John le Carre
  11. J. G. Ballard
Have you guessed what it is yet? OK, I'll tell you. Every one of the above edits was to add a link to articles from either The Times or the TLS.

And can you guess who the IP is registered too? Go on, have a guess...


Marcin said...

I rather think that the point of wikipedia is that it allows web publishers to do this on an equal basis.

CuriousHamster said...

I have to disagree on that. There's specific rule against this:

Due to the rising profile of Wikipedia and the amount of extra traffic it can bring a site, there is a great temptation to use Wikipedia to advertise or promote sites. This includes both commercial and non-commercial sites. You should avoid linking to a website that you own, maintain or represent, even if the guidelines otherwise imply that it should be linked.

News Int. are being a bit naughty.

Marcin said...

That rule is essentially ridiculous. If wikipedia is to have comprehensive bibliographies, it makes perfect sense for commercial organisations to introduce links to their own articles. They are, after all, the people who are most aware of what content they have, and were able to spend money on producing that content.

Even if the owners of wikipedia have banned this, as is their right, I still think that it is a stupid exercise of their rights. Imagine that there is an obscure topic on which an expert maintains a website, which contains the essential data which support research, and arguments that would otherwise be put forward in a wikipedia article. If the data are published elsewhere in a manner which is not free, then the verifiability of any content such an expert might put on wikipedia is reduced if he can only cite publications which he himself did not publish, and which other readers cannot freely access. The same applies to articles which News International have treated in this way, although to a lesser extent.

CuriousHamster said...

I can see your point regarding experts in a specific field.

But Wikipedia's big cheeses would probably argue that the rule is needed to control gratuitous self-promotion and that it acts as a very basic peer review process.

In the example you gave, the Wikipedia rule stops every self-proclaimed expert from adding links to their own work. Instead, at least one independent and impartial person must think something is important enough to be included before it can be added.

So, although there are some clear disadvantages, I think a rule like this stops Wikipedia being filled with links to lots of dross and is probably essential.

Anonymous said...

Have a look around Michelle Tempest and friends...

Chris Paul said...

Don't think News International are being even slightly naughty. They are providing links to corrobrations and citations for existing stories. They are certainly not saying, and this is a just an example, "hello I'm Iain Dale, buy my latest blogging book".

Find us some people tearing up and vandalising wiki pages we like rather than fecking librarians at newspapers dotting i's and crossing t's by providing back up to the encyclopaedia's many loose claims and assertions.

Are they tipping out links to other papers cuckoo style? That would be an excellent story. But this is more of a so what? kind of story IMO,

Chris Paul said...

PS It is stop spammers promoting viagra, cialis, knob pills, lonely teens with pictures and naturally way of securing your internet banking.

If Times librarians adding links is against the rules then the rules is fools.

CuriousHamster said...

Chris, you forgot CHEAP MORTGAGES!!!!

To be fair, I'm not arguing that this is a huge story or anything but I do think it's a bit naughty.

Take a look at the first edit in the page about Conrad Black. The link added by the Times person is a TLS review of Black's book on Nixon. They've placed it first, giving a review of one of Black's books prominence over all the other more general links about Black which were already there.

That's clearly not a good edit. I don't think you need to be hugely cynical to suspect that the prominence given to that link is due to the editors affiliation with the Times rather than any genuine concern to improve the article. As such, I'd argue that the rule is necessary and should apply to the Times spammer.

CuriousHamster said...

Anon, since I've no idea who that is, it may prove difficult.