The Wikipedia / Wikia conflict of interest

Jimmy Wales and I have been debating back and forth on email about my perception that he has a massive conflict of interest between the interest of his for profit wiki company (called Wikia) and his role as the founder/co-founder of Wikipedia. I’ve agreed to keep those discussions private and I’m a man of my word.

My position on his conflict is based this on the fact that he is pro-advertising when it comes to his for-profit company Wikia, and against advertising on the non-profit Wikipedia.

Why would someone be pro-advertising on one wiki and and anti-advertising on anther? It doesn’t add up to me frankly. I have two main reasons why one might be–AND I’M NOT SAYING JIMBO HAS AN ETHICS PROBLEM OR THAT HE’S DONE ANYTHING WRONG. Far from it, I think he has a *perceived* ethics problem–we call that a conflict of interest in the business. That conflict is so great that he really needs to step away from ANY discussion about advertising and funding of the Wikipedia.

As I explained two weeks ago, Wikia and a fully-funded by advertising Wikipedia would compete for Wikipedians–the people who edit wikis–as well as future wiki projects. For example, why wouldn’t the Wikipedia do free wiki hosting like Wikipedia? That seems like a great extension of the Wikipedia mission.

On the second note, about competing for talent, it turns out Wikia has already been hiring Wikipedians. That’s not surprising to me, I had a sense they would pull their people from the unpaid masses hard at work at Wikipedia. Frankly, I think its a great idea and that those folks should get paid for their work. Of course, I think the Wikipedia should pay them! Why shouldn’t the Wikipedia bring in$50M a year in advertising and hire 100 editors to fact check articles?!

Of course, in this example Wikia has hired someone who apparently lied about their credentials on Wikipedia and to the New Yorker magazine (of course, Jimbo hiring a liar “away” from the Wikipedia is probably a good thing in many way… but I digress).

Her is the email of them being hired:

Angela wrote:
> I am very pleased to let you know that Ryan Jordan (known as
> User:Essjay) will be joining Wikia's Community Team next week.
> Ryan has been involved with Wikipedia since February 2005. He is an
> Administrator, Bureaucrat, Checkuser, Oversight & Boardvote on the
> English Wikipedia, and an admin on Wikimedia's Meta wiki, Wikimedia
> Commons,and Wikiquote. He has experience in running a number of
> different bots on the English Wikipedia and is chairman of Wikipedia's
> Mediation Committee.
> Angela
> --
> Angela Beesley

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