We are proud to be one of the first agencies to have pledged to abide by Wikipedia’s guidelines as set out for communications agencies. Encyclopedias from d’Alembert and Diderot to Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia are of inestimable importance to the advancement of human knowledge. Which is why the processes of Wikipedia must be protected, because generations to come will benefit from the knowledge imparted.
Our pledge was to Wikipedia, but underlines a stronger conviction, the fundamental belief that we should respect the values of the open source community. This means recognising that people have the right to study, change and share content online. We believe that when people come together they become more than a sum of their parts. In the words of Clay Shirky from his book Cognitive Surplus, “Wikipedia took the idea of peer review and applied it to volunteers on a global scale, becoming the most important English reference work in less than 10 years. Yet the cumulative time devoted to creating Wikipedia, something like 100 million hours of human thought, is expended by Americans every weekend, just watching ads.”
I consider myself a child of open source, having once been one of hundreds of active developers on the Linux Ubuntu project and pushing the capabilities of GML pre-2006. The programming skills I acquired over the years weren’t taught by school, but self-taught after lessons, as part of a passionate programming community who sought to make the world a better place. It’s these values that some PR agencies will never understand unless they play an active role in open source communities.
We have been working in accordance with the rules of Wikipedia and acting openly and transparently since well before 2008. This new charter agreed between Wikipedia and the PR community is a chance for change and hopefully, in time, for solid relationships to build between both parties.
If you work in PR, make the pledge. Otherwise, don’t use Wikipedia.