Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How To Get Your Commercial Content Published On Wikipedia Without Problems: The WebTrain Story

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Writing an article on Wikipedia that provides valuable information on your market niche, while trying to provide information and link back to your own product in an ethical fashion may prove to be a lot more difficult than one would think it'd be.

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Gary Campbell, one of the original founders of web conferencing company WebTrain, went out on his own to discover what it takes to publish commercial product-related information on Wikipedia.

Gary's initial goal was to make sure that on Wikipedia's page devoted to web conferencing the information provided to those landing there to read it was as correct and truthful as possible, as to guarantee due exposure to his brand while making sure that the information offered about his and other tools in this industry was not biased in any way.

But in the process of trying to do this, he discovered a good number of things, that, had he known them before, would have saved him tons of time and frustration in trying to get his information out on Wikipedia without being treated like a spammer.

If you are planning to edit or put up content on Wikipedia relating to your own industry, you better read closely this story and to take good note of the list of very valuable tips that Gary Campbell shares with you at the end.

This is really a valuable learning experience and I am most grateful to Gary Campbell for having agreed to my proposal to write it into a story and to publish it for Master New Media readers.


How To Get Your Commercial Content Published On Wikipedia

The Story Starts Here


One of my goals has been trying to increase awareness of our WebTrain conferencing product.

Many of our competitors have millions to spend on marketing, we do not. It is difficult to compete against public companies that spend millions on advertising and Google pay-per-click.

Like most companies, we monitor our placement for keywords and use analytic tools.

Since Wikipedia is one of the first results that Google displays when searching for "Web Conferencing", and since the Wikipedia web conferencing article contains links to web conferencing provider articles, I decided to create an article at Wikipedia about WebTrain.

The primary concept of Wikipedia is that everyone has the right to create articles, to contribute to anyone else's article, and to correct article content or undo changes made by others. Everyone can also object to articles for numerous reasons.

Wikipedia "newbies" will quickly discover Wikipedia policies.

Wikipedia has extensive procedures and guidelines that must be followed. I've made my share of mistakes. Hopefully this information can assist others.

Creating My First Wikipedia Article


Being a newbie, I was not familiar with Wikipedia policy and simply focussed on writing "my" article.

When creating an article, one has to become familiar with Wikipedia's proprietary editor and an abundance of special "wiki" tags. The learning curve was not too bad for a software developer, but for most people it would be challenging.

When I created the WebTrain article, it was speedy deleted as blatant advertising. At the time, I did not understand NPOV, or "no point of view expressed". Nor did I know about the "requirements" of citing facts. I reviewed other vendor articles that were published and rewrote the content based upon what seemed to have passed scrutiny on similar articles for other web conferencing vendors. Total effort expended at this point was about twenty hours.

When I created the article the second time, it was once again marked for speedy deletion. Arghh!

I found out that I could place a "{{hangon}}" tag in the article which delays the delete. I then contacted the person who had marked the article as speedy delete and opened dialog to find out why the article was tagged.

I was told that the article did not meet notability guidelines, that I should not be creating the article (I had stated I was related to the company) and that the content was advertising. I then researched these points on Wikipedia to determine the basis of such. I replied to the person a few times, providing my arguments, and notability reference links. I did this a number of times and was then told

"You don't get it, no matter what you do, this is spam".

Luckily, a few experienced editors saw the dialog and provided guidance.

I then began to collect additional references and update the article to cite references for each fact stated. I found the process quite frustrating; other vendor articles seemed to bypass such high scrutiny, and I felt I was being treated unfairly. I later discovered that some Wikipedia editors are just grumpy.

I was asked by a Wiki administrator to change my username (which I did) and posted notices to that effect. After performing the name change using a legitimate Wikipedia process, the user which had stated "You don't get it, no matter what you do..." reported that my new account was a sock puppet of my previous name. Arghh! I did not know what a sock puppet was and a big warning now appeared on my user page stating I was a sock puppet of my previous user name. I read more policy, found out what a sock puppet was, and I learned how to request editor assistance using a {{helpme}} tag on my user page. An administrator (a higher ranking Wikipedian) came to my assistance and removed the tag.

I was asked how much time I needed to complete the article, I stated two weeks. Creating my article was an uphill battle.

Sandboxes and Notability


The article was deleted but I was allowed to work on the content using my user page. Then someone objected to my editing the article on my user page, so I had to learn about Sandboxes and moved the content to my username/Sandbox. Then another person decided (on their own) to recreate the article in common space which generated more objections. Another person accused me of re-creating the article. Arghh! More dialog.

I expended much effort looking for additional "Notability" references. To do that, I had to study notability policy and understand the requirements. I also made inquiries for further clarification. I then used Google and Yahoo, searching for "webtrain". About a thousand results were returned for each, so I started to go through them one by one. As I found suitable references, I updated my sandbox article.

During this process, I found that when posting to the article, the Wikipedia server's sometimes returned server errors. I once hit F5 to repost, resulting in a saved post, but it blanked out someone else's edit. I was then accused of vandalizing. Arghh! More dialog, more time wasted.

By this point I had expended about a hundred hours of effort. Then, to my surprise, three days after requesting the two weeks to work on my Sandbox article, I was informed that a vote had been conducted and a Keep outcome had been reached.

I was not aware of the voting process or the usual five day duration limit (two days had passed since I was asked how much more time I needed). Had I not focussed my attention on digging up references and improving the article, I have no doubt the article would have been deleted. From what I now understand, once an article is voted for delete, the process becomes far more challenging.

I moved the content from my Sandbox and updated the article. I then edited the web conferencing article, listing WebTrain as a vendor. Woot! - I was done.

I received a "Barnstar" award for diligence from an admin for my efforts. The award stated

"For your work on bringing WebTrain up to WP standards, against all odds and in an atmosphere of some distrust"

What I Learned


However difficult my experiences were, the process was educational. It forced me to become aware of policies and educated me in regards to the extensive logging and reporting features Wikipedia provides. Each article provides date stamped history of edits, who did what, exactly what was changed, contributions per member, etc.

When researching what my article should contain, I was surprised that other vendor articles did not cite any facts other than what was on their website (first party references are not allowed). And for some, they were unknown start-ups with a beta product that did not look notable. Yet they had articles.

I was curious as to why such a discrepancy existed. I reviewed editor contributions and edit histories. I learned to use their Wikipedia search feature with special syntax. I found that a few vendor articles were nothing more than a "stub".

I also found that some of the public vendors had articles that looked like product brochures. I did complain once about discrepancies, but such complaints are not welcome as everyone at Wikipedia is a volunteer.

Wikipedia Surprises


Two days after I had published the WebTrain article, an anonymous user re-wrote the entire WebTrain article. Note I did not state "my" article. Articles on Wikipedia belong to the "community", they are the property of the entire community, no single person or entity owns them. People can add negative content if third party references are provided (lawsuits, bad press, etc). So beware and watch your article.

In regards to the person who edited the WebTrain article, the edits were fair. Edit logs stated why edits were performed. I checked the editors' historical contributions and found this person had extensive experience and followed policy. I did not, nor could not object to the changes made. In fact, I was pleased with the contribution; when other people contribute, there is less chance your article will be challenged.

Prior to the WebTrain article's being approved, I began using a Wikipedia feature called "Watch". I watched the web conferencing article and the WebTrain Sandbox article for changes.

More Surprises


My watch list informed me of an edit that occurred to the web conferencing article. The changes to the article included "blanking" the "Software" topic which contained all web conferencing vendors. The edit also added a link to an article called Comparison of Web Conferencing Software.

My experience had exposed me to a rule that "blanking" is a no-no. Do this three times in a day and your account can be permanently suspended, and you will be reported as a vandal.

The comparison article was created by a three year veteran at Wikipedia. I was surprised to learn (via user contributions) that this editor had strayed from his usual interests (math, science, music).

My impression of the web conferencing comparison article was that it was either a hoax or the person knew nothing about creating a comparison for web conferencing vendors. It was also incorrect, as five of the nine points defined for WebEx were wrong. Furthermore, I could not understand the notes about an audio comparison point. And all vendors other than WebEx had no comparison points completed.

The article did not cite references and did not meet the guidelines I had become familiar with. And even though the author tagged the article as "Please assist making this article better", he allowed an entire single minute for other people to contribute before blanking the parent article vendors and linking it.

Hmm, my spidey sense started to tingle. Why would anyone post such junk, replace vendors, and force people to view an article which they had just created sixty seconds earlier? Why replace the vendors, and why not just a link to the "See also" section of the web conferencing article? I suspected there were reasons for forcing the comparison.

What To Do When Faced With Hoax or Spammy Content


I decided this was either a hoax or spam (to place focus on another article).

I did my first edit of removing content posted by someone else. I did not touch their article; instead, I removed their link in the parent article and I restored the parent article topic and links to vendors. I also added vendors who had valid articles (that were not stubs), as such should appear in the conferencing article.

I then used the watch feature to watch for changes made to the web conferencing comparison article.

Seven days later, an anonymous user started making edits to the comparison article. I assumed they found the article by reviewing web conferencing history edits (as the article would have been difficult to find - it was not linked anywhere else).

When I reviewed edits of the comparison article, I found their changes (as per "diff" in Wikipedia article history) focussed on WebEx and on a "certain" vendor.

When I checked contributions, I found that was the primary (and nearly only) editor of the certain vendor's article. I also found that had spammed all web conferencing articles and most web conferencing vendor articles, adding a link back to the same vendor article they were the primary contributor to.

Most people would conclude that is related to a certain vendor. Their spamming was limited to promoting a certain vendor. And was the primary contributor of the same vendor article.

So why were they completing comparison points for WebEx? Their edits to WebEx comparison points were incorrect as well. I decided to check out their discussion page and found they had been warned about spamming in May (a month prior).

My instincts told me that there was more to this situation than met the eye. I decided to watch's contributions and see what would follow.

A few days later, a different anonymous user made edits for a different vendor in the conferencing comparison article. I decided to checkout their IP address location and found the user was located in Houston.

When I checked out the vendor they had contributed edits for, I found out that the company is also located in Houston. After the Houston editor completed comparison points for the Houston vendor, the editor also completed comparison points for other vendors in the comparison article.

Once again, I decided to wait and see what would happen. Two weeks have now passed since (the spammer) made any edits.The author of the comparison article also took a two week break.

Then on July 1, made a contribution to the web conferencing comparison article. Four hours later, the author of the web conferencing comparison article came back from his "break" and updated the web conferencing article to include the comparison once again. However, this time, vendors were not blanked.

Yup, once again my spidey sense tingled. Both people take a two week break. Then within 4 hours, both are active.

Digging deeper, I found that when the web conferencing article was updated, a two week old copy was posted (the edit overwrote the entire article). In order to do this, a copy of the source must have been made two weeks earlier.

But why post a copy when only a one line edit is required? The author was a three year Wiki veteran. It was highly unlikely he would do this, as such a posting removes all contributions made by others in the past two weeks. This is a huge no-no on Wikipedia (vandalism). When I reviewed his previous edits, I found he had never previously made this mistake.

Two weeks no activity, then within hours, leads the charge. And the comparison article still cited no references, the integrity of the data was suspect (vendors were editing other vendor comparison points), one comparison point was exaggerated and a primary comparison point for WebEx was incorrect. And the verbiage was nonsense.

I concluded that was logging on as the author of the web conferencing comparison article. Such would explain timely edits, stupid mistakes and similar verbiage struggles. I also concluded that copies of postings were being stored offline and accessed by one person.

What bothered me most was that the article might impact a billion dollar market (Frost and Sullivan - estimate for 2008) by influencing decisions of buyers. Should such an article be allowed to exist on Wikipedia?

Time for Action


I decided it was time for action. I sought assistance from an admin who nominated the article on my behalf for an "Articles for Deletion" review, a process where the "community" votes whether to keep the article or delete it. This is almost similar to a speedy delete, excepting that in this case administrators cannot delete an article within minutes.

I provided the second nomination, stating the article was suspect. I pointed out that the article was promoting another article and that it was actually an article created by a representative of a certain vendor; I also pointed out that vendors had completed their competitor comparison points.

I was then accused of a conflict of interest so I added a comment of such. The admin who brought this article forward for me stated the review still stands as the article had issues.

In hindsight I should have only objected to no references, no original research (original research is not allowed) and that the article did not meet notability standards (the subject is notable, the article was not) rather than state conclusions and name names. Such are the mistakes of a newbie.

The author of the article voted to keep the article, stating he had no connection to a "certain" vendor and that he was merely a curious user interested in web conferencing. A few other editors asked me to clarify and prove my statements.

Good grief, what a pickle jar I had gotten myself into. I decided to seek advice. I contacted numerous higher ranking Wikipedia administrators. I considered various responses and made numerous revisions to a response and asked for further input. A response from an admin said that I should not mention the author of the web conferencing article in my response.

I read policy about being friendly and non-accusing. I contacted a few close business associates and contacted Robin Good. Robin's advice stimulated me to think of a wise person who once told me

"When getting a headache banging your head on a wall, try a different angle".

I questioned myself.

Why was I doing this? Why did I nominate the article for deletion review? What was I trying to accomplish? Is there a different approach I could take that would eliminate conflict and accomplish what is most important?

I created a decision matrix to help identify the correct course of action. After all, I've spent my life defining logic. Of most importance was that Wikipedia readers are with provided accurate, verified and non-biased information. This was my #1 concern. Of secondary concern to me was to accomplish the most important goal in a non-conflicting manner.

There were other considerations as well, but I determined the primary and secondary concerns could be immediately achieved.

I posted a notice on the "Articles for Deletion" review, stating that I was withdrawing my nomination. I did not disclose why. Since then, I also posted a notice to correct my previous statements.

I updated the web conferencing article and added a link to the most trusted, verified and free source I knew to be available on the Internet for web conferencing comparisons.

There are a few web conferencing comparison sites on the Internet, but only one that I know of which actually expends the effort testing the product and verifying claims. I also added the same link to the web conferencing comparison article using an External Links section.

Although my approach does not restrict people from viewing the questionable comparison (I never removed the existing link to their article), I was pleased that I was able to resolve the issue without generating conflict. And when people view the junky comparison, they will also see a 26 web conferencing providers / 72 comparison points link.

Advice Summary for Prospective Wikipedia Authors

I continue to watch the WebTrain article and other web conferencing articles. In my free time, I am adding references to facts relating to web conferencing articles. And on occasion, I assist others when requested.

Adding Content About Your Product on Wikipedia: Strategic Advice


  1. For people creating their first article, read the sections on Wikipedia about notability and acceptable references on Wikipedia. Blogs, paid advertising, your website and second party references are not acceptable. To get started, search for WP:Help.
  2. Research and find third party references (such as Time magazine, the New York Times, Globe and Mail, PC Magazine, etc.). These references must focus on your article and not simply mention a name.
  3. If your company was nominated for an award or has won awards, it is not notable if the award is common. Trade show awards are common and not notable. Google the award--are there 800 others results? If so, the award is not notable.
  4. When you have gathered your notability sources, your next step is to research articles that have passed the delete scrutiny process. Try to find articles related to your space.
  5. Now, start off with a one line lead. Remember, this is a dictionary. Try to make the lead content state the definition of the article, just like a dictionary. Hint - think of a phrase, and without being obvious, tuck in one or two unique SEO keywords!
  6. Create statements which can be backed up by your notability references. For each additional fact stated, cite a third party reference. If a reference cannot be cited using a third party reference or high quality unquestionable second party reference, remove the fact.
  7. Write the content from a third party, no-point-of-view perspective. Do not use words like "excellent" or "good" or "best". Don't use pictures. Do not attempt to sell or promote you company or products in any manner.
  8. Ensure your article is not "newsy". Write it like a third party reporter who is stating facts about the economy. Yes, that boring.
  9. Ensure your article it is not an article hiding as a brochure. Remember, the first goal is to get your article published, you can add additional details later so do not be too verbose. Stick to the facts with quality references.
  10. After re-writing the article a few times, pass it around the office for input and rewrite it again. Then give the content to a third-party unrelated to your company to rewrite it once again. Then compare it to articles that have passed voting scrutiny. Then adjust it again.
  11. If you follow these steps, when creating your article at Wikipedia, you will only need to learn about the editor and special tags. If you based your article on an existing article, copy the source content, edit it with a text editor, then paste the content into a new article. This will save you a ton of time as you won't need to learn proprietary formatting, reference tags, info boxes, etc.
  12. It is also a good idea if other experienced Wikipedia editors make contributions as well, since the risk of there being a conflict of interest is high when only one editor is involved in the creation of a new article. Try to find an editor involved in many subjects, single focus editors are frowned upon.
  13. Follow these steps and your article will have a good chance of surviving. And if your article is tagged for delete, add a {{hangon}} tag so it will move to a discussion forum for five days. Then be prepared to work your butt off. Do not get upset at the editor who tagged your article. Treat it as a day-to-day common issue because to many editors, this is nothing more than a day-to-day process.
  14. Be polite and request assistance. Someone will usually help within hours. And make sure to post a thank-you to all those that help.
  15. And once your article is posted, link it to relevant categories and other articles. Wikipedia wants your article to be linked. But be cautious when linking to another article; ensure the primary reason for the content is to benefit the parent article, not yours. And at all times, follow policy.


Originally written by Gary Campbell for Master New Media and first published on July 31st 2008 as "How To Increase Awareness Of Your service While Doing Good To Others: The WebTrain Story"


Gary Campbell has over 25 years of experience in the software development industry. Prior to WebTrain, Gary was President of a software development company for seven years. Gary founded WebTrain based upon the need to provide training to clients, as travel costs consumed the majority of training revenue generated.

Creating My First Wikipedia Article: winterling
Sandboxes and Notability: marcelmooi
What I Learned: New Image Photography
Wikipedia Surprises: Andres Rodriguez
More Surprises: Andres Rodriguez
What To Do When Faced With Hoax or Spammy Content: vacuum3d
Time for Action: Marc Dietrich
Adding Content About Your Product on Wikipedia: Strategic Advice: Slonov

Gary Campbell -
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posted by Robin Good on Thursday, July 31 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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