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Wikipedia Used For Apparent Viral Marketing Ploy 201

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the inevitable-abuses-of-trusting-systems dept.
jangobongo writes "An article over at BoingBoing discusses what appears to be a viral marketing ploy appearing in a Wikipedia entry. Quote: "Someone has apparently abused collaborative reference site Wikipedia in a viral marketing campaign for a BBC online alternate reality game." "
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Wikipedia Used For Apparent Viral Marketing Ploy

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:41AM (#13319861) Homepage
    What's so wrong with it:

    It's well written, doesnt appear to violate NPOV, contains appropriate factual information that would be useful to somone researching the thing years from now.

    Who can better contribute entries than the creators of things, as long as they are carefully watched over by the editors? After all these are the people who have the largest chunk of the story first hand.
  • by Approaching.sanity (889047) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:41AM (#13319865) Homepage
    Please, Wikipedia is maintained by everyone. And not everyone is an advertiser. A few hours, maybe a few days and everything will be stable again.

    A bit of sensationalist nonsense is all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:43AM (#13319869)
    WHAT are these "editors doing" ?!
    on the linked boingboing-article:

    Update: 5PM Sunday -- reader Mike Harris says,

            The article has now been totally rewritten by a user named Uncle G to factually report on the game.

    The corresponding discussion page now includes mea culpas from persons responsible for two of the bogus entries. One of them, "Jon_Hawk," identifies himself as someone unaffiliated with the BBC who just digs the game.

            Please do not use my edits to slander the BBC. If this were part of a viral campaign, the grammar of the article would almost certainly be better. I suspect the article would have been created at the same time as the game started also. Jamie Kane was mentioned on several blogs on Friday - did not one of you consider it was created by someone who reads such things? I'm nothing more than a student. I'm sincerely apologetic for purposefully omitting the true nature of Jamie Kane.

    But the other, "MattC," identifies himself as a BBC employee:

            I created the Boy*D_Upp page from inside the BBC network on Friday evening after stumbling across the Jamie Kane entry linked from the Pop Justice forums. My action was in no way part of an orchestrated marketing campaign on behalf of the Jamie Kane project team nor was it intended for my page to be attributed to the BBC, which has been implied. It was nothing more than common garden vandalism for which I am sorry.

  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:47AM (#13319878) Homepage Journal
    Happens all the time, and has done to a greater or lesser extent since 2001.

    It'll be clear in about a week, which is how long wikipedia's processes (and there are plenty of applicable processes) tend to take.

    Nothing to see here...
  • And in other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:48AM (#13319883)
    Online news and discussion forum 'Slashdot' has apparently been used in an almost cleverly self-referential viral marketting ploy.
  • by Jarnis (266190) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:49AM (#13319884)
    Why are people overreacting?

    Wikipedia is Working as Intended(tm) - someone posts a bullshit viral marketing article, and it gets edited to be a proper article about the game.

    Anyone can put bullshit to Wikipedia. Anyone can edit said bullshit. Anyone repeatedly abusing their ability to post or edit will see their ability to do so removed - by their peers. Ultimate peer review system. End result is usually positive - like in this case.

    It's pointless to get worked over a 'bogus' Wikipedia entry. Wait 48 hours and look at it again, and most likely the wheels have turned and it's either nuked or edited.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:52AM (#13319895)
    Thats all very well, but the article isn't about Wikipedia so much as the BBC. It was the Beeb that put up the fake article about a fake dead pop star.

    It was also a BBC man (from their own network IP range) that put up the fake Boy*Up (?) article too. Although he says he acted alone and not on behalf of the BBC, what are the chances of a BBC man putting up an article connected to a fake BBC website coincidentally? Pretty slim.

    Sure it and a few others were spotted pretty quickly, but the big story isn't the vandalism, its that the BBC did it.
  • by putko (753330) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:53AM (#13319902) Homepage Journal
    Although what the BBC has done seems calculating and self-interested, it doens't seem so unlike the folks that fill up the Wikipedia with the Star wars entries about every single character under the sun(s), and not just the coolest ones [wikipedia.org].

    And now that I think of it, perhaps the Star Wars money-machine has paid fanboys (or fed them info) so that they could go out and write up that stuff. I know I spent hours poring over it.

    Regardless, by the time this is over, I think the BBC's name will be "bukkake". Not "mud" -- "Bukkake". For more info on the term, I refer you to the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].
  • by leuk_he (194174) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:55AM (#13319906) Homepage Journal
    Note the talk page:
    "Crappy marketing. Get rid. --4bnormaldotcom 10:01, 14 August 2005 (UTC)
    Viral marketing, delete --MisterBijou 14:05, 14 August 2005 (UTC)
    Delete. Shame on the BBC. --Uttaddmb 15:17, 14 August 2005 (UTC)"

    Note the group think. jsut like slashdot: there is only one thruth, and spam is not one of them. But note that this article can be merged into a fine description of the game. Deletion should not be part of this. (redirect: fine: delete why?
  • by davmoo (63521) on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:55AM (#13319907)
    This is not the least bit surprising.

    Every time a new technology or a new way of doing something appears, someone else figures out a way to possibly abuse it and make a buck with it. That's how the world operates.

  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday August 15, 2005 @04:57AM (#13319911) Homepage Journal
    It was the Beeb that put up the fake article about a fake dead pop star. Its that the BBC did it.
    A BBC employee did it. That's not the same thing as "The BBC" doing it, or the suggestion that it was BBC policy. (Do you really want to go back to the time where everyones email had "Not speaking for my employers" pasted into the signature)
  • by blyloveranger (525451) <blyloveranger.yahoo@com> on Monday August 15, 2005 @05:17AM (#13319951)
    I think my favorite part of the article is when someone says:

    .I've marked the Boy*d Upp and Jamie Kane articles on Wikipedia for deletion. Hopefully this will teach people that Wikipedia isnt the place for viral marketing.

    Since I can only imagine how many more people have seen the wikipedia page and heard about the game, after people started making a big deal about it and writing articles about it. I can only imagine what all viral advertizing firms are thinking. Damn, well I guess we can't use wikipedia to try to gain recognition for our product, because if someone notices, our pages will get slashdotted then no one will be able to view them, because too many people will be viewing our product... Oh, wait...

    Despite that, I am still not sure what the big deal was in the first place. It was just good fun, and didn't really harm anyone. What is wrong with a wikipedia page about a fake artist, as far as some people are concerned (see earlier slashdot article about mmorpg) there actually is/will be no difference between reality and what is found on the internet, so in those terms the BBC is actually ahead of the game.
  • by citizenc (60589) <cary@glidedesiCHEETAHgn.ca minus cat> on Monday August 15, 2005 @05:46AM (#13320008) Journal
    Seriously. The article was caught, according to Wikipedia's timestamps, within 7 hours:

    14:26, 12 August 2005 [wikipedia.org]
    21:25, 12 August 2005 [wikipedia.org] - "The factual accuracy of this article is disputed."

    Isn't this EXACTLY how Wikipedia was designed to operate? ;-)
  • by munpfazy (694689) * on Monday August 15, 2005 @06:05AM (#13320040)
    >Every time a new technology or a new way of doing something
    >appears, someone else figures out a way to possibly abuse it and
    >make a buck with it. That's how the world operates.

    Usually, I'd agree with you.

    But this seems to be the exception, in two ways.

    The first (and less interesting) is that it wasn't actually an organized marketing ploy at all, assuming the two posters are to be believed. (It would certainly seems rather un-BBC-like if it were, and news if only for that reason.)

    But, what's really interesting is that it failed. Unlike virtually every other medium out there where marketing agreements and dinner party handshaks force thinly disguised adverts on the audience, here's a case where an information delivery system proved so robust that within days it annihilated even a barely visible and seemingly harmless attempt at marketing.

    In a world where television journalists hawk movies and products, newspapers add bylines to industry press-releases and ink them without so much as a word change, and public radio hosts are forced to recite advertising copy, it's incredible to find a forum which not only avoids active advertising deals but ruthlessly attacks at the first sign of marketing infiltration.

    Score one for wikipedia.
  • by Impeesa (763920) on Monday August 15, 2005 @06:34AM (#13320086)
    But of course. By posting it here before it makes the usual rounds, it will trigger the Slashdot reflex - though hordes will click the link, none will actually RTFA. Thus, the entire enormous Slashdot crowd will be aware of it, and won't bother clicking the link next time they see it, but they won't know what game or company it's for. There goes the marketing part of their viral marketing campaign. :D
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2005 @06:55AM (#13320124)
    You make the argument that wikipedia is filled with self-serving pages which to some extent, I will concede is true, but you have failed to describe why this is wrong. Their existence hurts nothing. If you looked them up, then they must be of at least some importance.

    In addition I take cause with your phrase of "an open project like theirs". As an open project it is ours. If you find a page that you feel has a problem, edit it. If you find a page that doesn't cover both sides of an issue add your side to it.

  • Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stalyn (662) on Monday August 15, 2005 @07:00AM (#13320132) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia has bias but what human institution doesn't? At least with Wikipedia we can see it at such a large scale one could actually examine it in great detail ( dissertation perhaps ). Anyway my point is the key is not to eliminate bias ( which might be impossible ) but to recognize it. I think Wikipedia teaches us all that lesson.
  • by SecretAsianMan (45389) on Monday August 15, 2005 @07:28AM (#13320187) Homepage

    A BBC employee did it. That's not the same thing as "The BBC" doing it

    When you are an employee, during work hours, you are a representative of your employer. Your public actions will have some impact on the public image of your employer. It is the burden of the employer to hire employees whose actions will not damage the public image of the employer.

  • Self Promotion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Monday August 15, 2005 @07:42AM (#13320221) Homepage
    NPOV is far from the only guidelines at Wikipedia, though. There are two other issues... Self Promotion and Original Work.

    Now, it is true that a creator or someone involed can often be a good source of information. I write for a few entries in such a position. However, I've also authored what I thought werea few good factual entries, but rightly (it took a bit of pride swallowing to admit) removed (as original Works, not self promotion).

    If you are self promoting, the entry will be wiped out. For instance, you cannot make a personal entry. Just because you as Joe_Blow include factual information, doesn't mean you are a "significant person" to be put in an encyclopedia.

    Second, you may have a great theory for how the universe started or a unifying theory of all things. Unfortunately, if you are not published elsewhere first, and get some level of recognition, do not post it to Wikipedia. Instead, post it to Wikibooks or elsewhere. If you get some recognition, gain some sources that site you, then you can move it over to Wikipedia (provided you either A) present it entirely as NPOV or B) Segregate your opinion into one section, and provide another section and openly encourage others to present arguements against).

    The original (and this current) seems like advertisement... still. This is info you find on the game's site, not Wikipedia. Is Wikipedia going to do an entry on games barely over a week after release now? Unless it has even some minor social impact, it should be deleted... and that's where my vote is going. Scrap it, and tell the BBC to go pay for its advertising on Google like everyone else. It got free press from /., so, good job for their PR team, now it's time for them to quit screwing around with the legitimacy of earnest sites like Wikipedia.

    I've voting deletion.
  • by Bastian (66383) on Monday August 15, 2005 @08:09AM (#13320288)
    When you are an employee, during work hours, you are a representative of your employer. Your public actions will have some impact on the public image of your employer. It is the burden of the employer to hire employees whose actions will not damage the public image of the employer.

    That's all well and good, and I agree with you about it, but it does not mean that a BBC employee's actions are automatically the BBC's actions as well.

    If it turns out that this employee was doing this for fun rather than for work, the BBC's screw-up wasn't abusing Wikipedia, the BBC's screw-up was not keeping a tight enough leash on this person. Is different, it is.
  • by Shaper_pmp (825142) on Monday August 15, 2005 @08:54AM (#13320483)
    Just a thought, but how do you tell the difference between "groupthink" and "a bunch of intelligent people who've independently reached the correct opinion"?

    Obviously, not all opinions are equal - everyone's entitled to their own one, but "I think all black people should be rounded up and deported" should obviously be given less credence than "I think 1 + 1 = 2".

    Therefore certian opinions are more "correct" than others - they more accurately reflect objective reality, or have a more rational/logical base.

    If lots of intelligent people agree on a particular conclusion, it could just be because that conclusion's the right one. Or at least, the best one suggested yet.

    In this example, Wikipedia is supposed to be an impartial, factual resource, or at least as close to that ideal as possible. Marketing (and especially covert marketing) has exactly the opposite agenda, by definition - it's inherently biased, since it's sole purpose is to convince you that something's great or true, regardless of its actual quality or veracity.

    An objective, factual article on the reality game is still advertising it - it's still spreading awareness and propagating the meme. Given this, if/when a company is proven to have pissed in the communal well for private gain, I'd consider it appropriate to remove all content directly related to said spam, since even a factual article left behind still represents some benefit to the company.

    The lesson here is simple: Submit good, factual content and it'll stay, bringing some small benefit both to Wikipedia (additional content) and your company (subtle, low-key advertising). Attempt to subvert Wikipedia by spamming or posting biased articles, and have the entire meme you're trying to push excised from the site. This way Wikipedia wins ("no content" is better than "deliberately misleading content"), and your company loses (no advertising whatsoever, even low-key factual articles).

    Ok, in this case the deletion request was posted before the re-write, and the submitter turned out (apparently) to be a private individual rather than an "official" BBC employee, but I think the principle is sound - when spammed, delete the spam page complately, and subsequently accept re-writes if they're deemed impartial enough, taking into account any connection between the spammer and the new submitter.

    Sorry - I know that doesn't fit in with the standard trendy "site X is t3h suXX0rZ! T3hy i5 t3h gr0uP7h1nK!!!111!!!1one!!11!1" whinge, but I'd like to think that's because it's maybe slightly closer to objective reality... ;-)
  • I say good. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _aa_ (63092) <j@uaau.LISPws minus language> on Monday August 15, 2005 @09:22AM (#13320629) Homepage Journal
    Anyone can modify a Wiki, and anyone who thinks a Wiki is some perfect document free of unsavory influence is a dullard. I would be more concerned if marketing DID NOT find it's way into a Wiki. Look around you. Right above me as I type I am bombarded with logos and ads and OSDN navigation bars (or I would be if they wern't disabled or AdBlocked). Marketing is so much a part of our lives, there would be something wrong with the openness of Wikipedia if marketing did not find it's way inside.

    I hate ads as much as the next guy, but you're not going to stop this practice by broadcasting it on /. for every tom, dick, and harry to read. Just mark it for deletion and move on. It appears the BBC didn't really sanction this, but, now that marketers have seen the kind of press this has gotten, they're going to be all over it now. And then it will become ineffective and they'll move on to something else. It won't ruin Wikipedia anymore than subscriptions ruined slashdot.
  • by Shaper_pmp (825142) on Monday August 15, 2005 @09:49AM (#13320819)
    "Damn, well I guess we can't use wikipedia to try to gain recognition for our product, because if someone notices, our pages will get slashdotted then no one will be able to view them, because too many people will be viewing our product... Oh, wait..."

    Yeah - the first few times it happens it'll be News, because it's an overt attack on what aims to be an impartial information resource. After a couple of attempts it'll hopefully cease being news, and each new spam article will just be quietly disposed-of, with no free publicity for the company concerned.

    As an aside, this is a general problem of mass-media - you can get famous, easily, for doing something antisocial, so for those who seek fame (advertisers), doing something antisocial is the quickest way to achieve their objectives.

    For example, witness the "road rage" craze a few years ago in the UK (possibly elsewhere, too). One guy cut someone up in his car. The other guy chased him down in the car, pulled over to the side of the road and beat him to death with a tyre-iron (or similar). He then jumped in his car and drove off, leaving the dead guy's girlfriend sat traumatised in the car.

    The media immediately dubbed this "road rage", and within weeks incidents of roadside beatings were cropping up all over the place. The punch-line of the whole thing is this: when it came to trial, no-one could prove that there was another person involved, and eventually (IIRC) the girlfriend was actually convicted of the murder, having made the entire incident up to cover her murder of her boyfriend.

    Nevertheless, "road rage" incidents continued to be reported for years afterwards, eventually dying out to the present once-in-a-blue-moon frequency we have now.

    People believe what they're told, and follow the herd. Deny antisocial types like Wiki-spammers the oxygen of publicity, and you remove the single reason for them to do it.

    "Despite that, I am still not sure what the big deal was in the first place. It was just good fun, and didn't really harm anyone. What is wrong with a wikipedia page about a fake artist"

    Well, the fact that Wikipedia's supposed to be an informative resource, and such things are deliberately misleading. Seriously, there's a place for deadpan humour and there's a place for fact recording. If you really can't see what's wrong with deliberately passing off fantasy as reality then you should seek psychiatric help immediately, or wait until you naturally age past five.

    Mixing reality with fantasy is great, as long as you know it's happening (eg, the Illuminatus Trilogy, one of my favourite books). Confusing fantasy with reality when you believe the material to be strictly accurate is extremely dangerous - at best you get a history you can't trust an inch, and at the worst you get religion.

    "as far as some people are concerned... there actually is/will be no difference between reality and what is found on the internet, so in those terms the BBC is actually ahead of the game."

    Very amusing. So do you seriously not understand the importance of having at least one single accurate record of factual history, or are you just frantically trolling?

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