For those of us involved in marketing and/or corporate communications, trying to make sure the organization is not misrepresented in the media, it's not enough to pay attention to press releases, media kits, and getting the 'brand police' department to flex some muscle.
Some people's and many organizations' image are not managed by appointed brand guardians, designers, or copywriters, but by unpaid workers at Wikipedia. Say what you like about the 'bias' of Wikipedia, but there are people out there, the hoi polloi, who have absolutely nothing to gain by the work they do into the wee hours of the morning but they do it anyway.
If you've only gone to Wikipedia to find out "things you would have known had you paid more attention in high school" ( to borrow a phrase from the NPR quiz "Wait, wait, don't tell me" ) I invite you to take a peek behind the curtain to see a fascinating work in progress.
A few days back, as the news broke of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston's release, I clicked on the discussion tab of Wikipedia, as editors hurriedly updated information about him. (The Discussion page is a place where those who edit content talk to each other about the accuracy of facts, and importance of detail.) I bet none of these Wikipedians are connected to the BBC or to Johnston, but they were debating whether this page should be about his life, or his kidnapping, whether he was even 'notable' enough to merit so a page on him.
Similar discussions go on about the much-used term "Web 2.0" where editors meticulously remove 'retarded' pictures someone keeps adding, and police and other types of mild vandalism.
Now to corporate marketing: Go over to to the entry on Sun Microsystems, and you'll see an interesting debate has taken place. On the 27th February, one editor scolded:
"Sun is THE leading contributor of [sic] open source software (emphasis mine)? this is rubbish, and reads as though it was written by somebody from Sun marketing."
What's interesting, is that the editor says he's not a hardcore Wikipedian, but asks someone to please step in and make the change. Someone has. The entry is now very balanced. As the editor says, allowing the simple use of the word THE, is
"akin to Bill Gates' claiming that Windows Vista is the most secure operating system ever produced - pure hype, and demonstrably false."
It's the hoi polloi at work, folks. You may fire off the most creative press release one evening, or launch a campaign that's getting rave reviews, but do you appreciate what someone with a screen name like NapoliRoma is saying about you on Wikipedia late at night?
We oughta get used to it, and rethink what our business cards say we are responsible for!