TIL there's a "conflict of interest" "behavioral guideline" at Wikipedia. Seems this would be easy to misuse, but it would've been useful when I tried to make the entry for the Midwest Book Review a little more informative, a site that I'm suspicious sells positive Amazon reviews, back when I stumbled over them in 2010.

Fwiw, I'd found an insanely positive review for a book I was considering buying, and the review didn't seem to include the sorts of specifics someone who'd really read the book would've used. I looked over the Midwest Book Review's history, and -- I'm doing this on memory; could be off a little -- the reviews were all very high, with the gross majority 5's. Turned out they took review solicitations.

There was a dude who wouldn't quit editing out some flavor of the following passage:

Jordan Lapp, an author, asked Mr. Cox [Midwest Book Review's Editor in Chief] why Mr. Cox felt that Amazon's rating system was flawed, and why "all of the books [Midwest Book Review] rate merit a 5 star rating." Mr. Cox answered by saying, "So I instructed our webmaster (who does all the posting for reviews generated 'in-house' by the Midwest Book Review editorial staff) to use 5 if the book was given a positive recommendation." Mr. Cox continued by explaining that, "for a book to make it all the way through the Midwest Book Review process... it merited the highest recommendation available under the Amazon rating system. Inferior books, flawed books, substandard books are assumed to have been weeded out and never made it to the 'finish line' of publication in one of our book review magazines."

They do realize those less than 5 star "reviews" would be just as more useful than the ones they let out, right? That is, I'm going out on a limb and say that those sub-5 reviews don't exist. Or at least the "in-house" team isn't paid for writing them.

Reminds you of the Seinfeld episode about car reservations, doesn't it?

"We know why we have the reviews."

"I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a clue about the book. See, you know how to write the review, you just don't know how to put critique in there. And that's really the most important part of the review. The reading and critiquing. Anybody can just write them..."

Sure, that's my take on the quote, but do note I didn't include anything from Seinfeld in my Wikipedia edit. You're welcome to make your own conclusions. ;^)

And the controversial source for this potentially damning material from Mr. Cox? The Midwest Book Review's website. The page with that quote is still there.

Anyhow, I think once you googled Cirt, the anti-editor who kept taking out my changes, enough, you found a connection. If true, this flag would've really helped.

sigh I've probably detailed that here before. The strange thing to me is how much of what's on Wikipedia can be control by those with the most endurance for making edits. Not exactly a merit-based environment at its edges (core?).

Of course what's most interesting is that it'd be possible to algorithmically track places where folks used this tool to influence Wikipedia's contents, and see if there are any obvious categories of COI usages.

Labels: , , ,