Microsoft said to have offered payment for Wikipedia edits

Australian software engineer says he will probably accept a contract from Microsoft to edit Wikipedia entries

A software engineer in Australia has said he was offered payment by Microsoft to edit certain entries in the Wikipedia online dictionary.

Rick Jelliffe, chief technology officer of XML tools company Topologi, said he will probably accept a contract from Microsoft to edit Wikipedia entries on ODF (OpenDocument Format) and OOXML (Microsoft Office Open XML), competing document format standards.

In a blog posting on the O’Reilly website, Jelliffe said he recently received an email from Microsoft saying they wanted to contract someone “independent but friendly” for a couple of days to provide “more balance” on Wikipedia concerning the ODF and OOXML formats. He said he rarely uses Microsoft products and does not imagine he is viewed as a Microsoft enthusiast.

Jelliffe, who lives in Sydney, wrote The XML & SGML Cookbook. He says he has added material to Wikipedia entries in the past, and doesn’t consider himself as being hired to add pro-Microsoft information, just to correct errors.

His disclosure unleashed a heated debate about the ethics of a company paying someone to edit Wikipedia entries, and the effect such payment has on the credibility of the site. “From now on we should take the Wikipedia entry on OpenDocument with a grain of salt,” wrote Daniel Carrera, an ODF developer, in an email.

A representative from Microsoft’s external press office in the UK couldn’t confirm that Microsoft had made the offer to Jelliffe.

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