Submissions:2019/Can Software Help Address Wikipedia's COI Problem?

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2019.


Can Software Help Address Wikipedia's COI Problem?


Tech & Tools

Type of session:



ABSTRACT: WikiWatch is a new tool that has been developed to make Wikipedia more intelligible to outsiders and COI edit requests easier for Wikipedia editors to consider. This presentation explains its motivation, design and asks for user feedback on a development prototype.

Wikipedia's editorial processes are famously difficult for outsiders to understand, and no one learns this lesson harder than the companies and organizations that create conflict of interest (COI) situations by trying to influence their own coverage on Wikipedia.

Over the years, Wikipedia has evolved various processes for dealing with COI in various forms: the COI Noticeboard (WP:COI/N) to identify undisclosed paid editing (UPE), the Edit Request (WP:EDITREQ) queue to centralize petitions for changes, and Articles for Creation (AfC) for establishing new articles. Simultaneously, a small industry of writers and consultants, with widely varying knowledge and skills—not to mention ethical standards—has arisen to offer Wikipedia-related services to paying clients.

While there is no question Wikipedia has become more sophisticated in responding to COI over the years, many problems continue to exist. There are challenges facing both sides: companies and organizations are poorly equipped to understand the non-hierarchical editorial processes of Wikipedia. At the same time, the Wikipedia community lacks the administrative capability to communicate effectively with such entities.

Can this confusion be mitigated? What if an intermediate layer placed between them could help to mediate their communications and help each side better understand the other? Could a software program designed to help non-Wikipedians follow what is happening on the Wikipedia pages they care about think more rationally about how to engage? What if there was a more streamlined method for these companies to ask for a hearing in a more constructive way?

These are the questions inspiring the design of a new Wikipedia insights and engagement tool designed with the non-Wikipedian in mind. This software, called WikiWatch and becoming commercially available this month, intends not just to make Wikipedia more intelligible to outsiders, but to make COI edit requests easier for Wikipedia editors to consider. This presentation will explore the underlying assumptions, specific features, and expected benefits, and invite community members to ask questions and give feedback.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

William Beutler

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Beutler Ink

Estimated time:

45 minutes

Preferred room size:

25 persons

Special requests:

Clarity about A/V connector

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

Yes, WCNA and Wikimania

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)