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1/23/2007
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Microsoft Pays Blogger To 'Correct' Wikipedia Entry

Topologi's Rick Jelliffe will offer Redmond's spin on public articles pertaining to the ODF/OOXML standard.

A blogger on a popular technology Web site says Microsoft has offered to pay him to post information on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.com to "correct" what Microsoft claims is erroneous information about a key software standard.

On his blog on Oreillynet.com, blogger Rick Jelliffe on Monday posted an entry titled: "An Interesting Offer: Get Paid To Contribute To Wikipedia." In the blog, Jelliffe writes: "I was a little surprised to receive e-mail a couple of days ago from Microsoft saying they wanted to contract someone independent but friendly (me) for a couple of days to provide more balance on Wikipedia concerning ODF/OOXML."

OOXML is a Microsoft-sponsored variation of the Open Document Format electronic publishing standard that has drawn criticism from some tech standards advocates.

In his blog, Jelliffe, who is chief technology officer at XML software developer Topologi Pty., said Microsoft needed its own blogger-for-hire because "they are frustrated at the amount of spin from some ODF stakeholders on Wikipedia and blogs." Jelliffe said he'll likely accept the offer. "FUD [fear, uncertainty, and doubt] enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see," wrote Jelliffe.

Jelliffe didn't disclose the financial details of Microsoft's offer.

Wikipedia officials say they are less than impressed with Microsoft's pay-for-play campaign. "At a minimum, it could be viewed as unethical," says Wikipedia general counsel Brad Patrick. "This is a hot issue, and Microsoft wanting to soften the edges on an entry raises concerns about the perceived independence of both Wikipedia and Microsoft," Patrick says.

Patrick said he believed that Wikipedia officials haven't yet contacted Microsoft officials about the matter.

A spokesman for Microsoft says Wikipedia forced the company's hand by refusing to correct information Microsoft says is inaccurate.

"For instance, we tried to flag a name change," says Microsoft's spokesman. But editors at the online encyclopedia refused to update the entry "because they said there was no consensus on the new name" for the Microsoft Open XML format, which the company has ceded to international standards group ECMA. "At that point, we realized we needed to enlist some help," says the spokesman.

The spokesman insists the whole thing is above board because Jelliffe disclosed Microsoft's offer of payment. "There was no effort to hide anything," says Microsoft's spokesman.

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