There's a right approach to Wikipedia conflicts

In our lead news story last week, "Tool draws attention to firms' Wikipedia edits," PR pros warned their counterparts to beware of the new tool, WikiScanner, which allows anyone to strip through the haze of Web anonymity to determine who has been making alterations to the entries on the new-media encyclopedia.

In our lead news story last week, "Tool draws attention to firms' Wikipedia edits," PR pros warned their counterparts to beware of the new tool, WikiScanner, which allows anyone to strip through the haze of Web anonymity to determine who has been making alterations to the entries on the new-media encyclopedia.

It is a message that bears repeating.

One PR pro recently told us, with some pride, about the scraps he has with an ideological opponent of his and admitted, without any fear, that he often changes his own Wikipedia entry.

On one hand, it can be perceived as ludicrous that an individual or company does not have ultimate control over documentation about its history. However, critics will counter that individuals and companies left to their own devices will paint a picture too saccharine to bear.

As is the case with much of Web 2.0, the power on Wikipedia is given to the crowds.

But there are opportunities: Each Wikipedia entry features a discussion page where individuals can offer rationales behind edits and where the aggrieved subjects can air their objections to an article. While placing a comment on a buried page might seem like a poor use of time, effecting change, as it is in all of PR, is about changing minds, not making a cosmetic change that can be easily redacted by the next interested party.

And while it may seem comforting to cast off Wikipedia as an untrustworthy source of information, its Google rank, usage statistics, and place in the contemporary lexicon prove that it's a widely visited, widely disseminated site. The only way to survive there is to use the discussion feature, enlist unaffiliated advocates (by appealing to their interest in the truth), and get to a place where the facts are right and the opinions are fair.

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