5

In this recent answer, user Aubrey speaks about the use of images from Wikimedia in posters.

I think that she should disclose the fact that she is president of the Italian branch of Wikimedia; this bit of information currently appears on her profile, but not in the answer itself.

In the comments, she seems to disagree with my view, so I think I should ask for further opinions from users and moderators.

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18

I don't think there is any significant problem with the answer as it stands. Here is why I differentiate it from the "advertising" posts that have been problematic in the past:

  • Most advertising posts introduce the subject that they are advertising (e.g., "problems with students cheating on exams? why not use Cheat-Be-Gone, now with lemon scent!"). Here the OP introduced the subject, and simply drew an answer written by an expert.

  • I found the post mostly simply adding clarification and information, rather than advocating Wikimedia vs. other sources. This is a post that could easily have been written by anybody familiar with the resource---in fact, much of it are things that I would consider nearly "common knowledge."

That said, disclosure never hurts, and in this case would probably be nice simply in adding to the authority of the answer. For example, when I write an answer to a post about how journals work, I will often mention the service I have done as an editor simply as part of credentialing my answer. I thus think that this answer could be enhanced by disclosure, less for ethical reasons and more to make clear the expertise of the author.

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  • 2
    You beat me to the answer, and said it better than I did. – StrongBad Dec 26 '14 at 13:50
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    Lemon-scented Cheat-Be-Gone? I'll take six. – Pete L. Clark Dec 28 '14 at 3:38
  • @PeteL.Clark You have a problem with lemon-scented cheats? Over here, they don't tend to smell that nice. – David Richerby Dec 31 '14 at 21:27
10

I would like to make some clarifications.

  • my name is Andrea, but I'm a man :-) (not a big deal, but let's set things straight)
  • I'm no Wikimedia executive. I'm a volunteer in Wikimedia projects, and I'm also a volunteer in the no profit association called Wikimedia Italia. I actually wrote it in my comment. The Wikimedia movement is a complex thing, but what is probably necessary to know is that being the President of Wikimedia Italia it's not my "job". My paid job is being a "digital librarian": in the past, I also worked for the University of Bologna in their open access journals library service.

Of course, and that is probably the thing we want to discuss, I am biased towards open access and open knowledge. I'm an advocate (someone would consider me an activist), and I understand my answer is not neutral, because I'm not. I alsways try to ground my answers and comments with reason and facts, but I do have a strong opinion regarding certain topics. I cannot help it :-)

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  • 10
    I just want to take a second and welcome you to AC.SE. In no way should you take this discussion to be an attack on you or your answer. I think your answer is great and I bet your experiences can be really valuable for our community. Your answer has simply brought up an issue with how the community wants to manage AC.SE going forward. – StrongBad Dec 26 '14 at 19:25
  • Thank you @StrongBad, your comment is really appreciated. I felt very welcomed here in ac.se, and, really, I hold no grudges whatsoever. I understand how the community wants to preserve itself from self/promotion (I'm from Wikimedia communities, and I know how much this problem can hurt a project like yours). I just want to clarify my position as a passionate, biased volunteer :-) – Aubrey Dec 26 '14 at 19:47
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    Sorry for the gender mismatch - I was misled by the username. :) – Federico Poloni Dec 26 '14 at 20:39
  • It always happens. I'm periodically invited to Gender Gap initiatives by female wikipedians :-D – Aubrey Dec 26 '14 at 20:43
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    Good news and bad news about names: Bad --- People have assumed that the s at the end of my first name is a typo and that I am (therefore) female. Good --- This double error has become less frequent in recent decades. Maybe in another few decades, people will stop making the (single) error about Italian "Andrea". – Andreas Blass Dec 28 '14 at 18:08
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    What I find amazing is that Andrea comes from Greek "aner, andros", which means "man, warrior". We'll wait for another decade for people to realize that. – Aubrey Dec 28 '14 at 18:23
6

I don't think there's a huge conflict of interest here, as the user in question is not in a position to profit directly or indirectly from increased Wikimedia Commons usage.

That said, it certainly doesn't hurt to provide that information upfront when one is talking about something that could appear to be a conflict. However, I would be careful about making more requirements. I think the existing rules are sufficient.

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    I do not understand why you and other posters use the presence of profit as a criterion to judge neutrality and appropriateness; it is a much broader issue. A better criterion is the one used by Wikipedia (no sarcasm intended): when advancing outside interests is more important to an editor than advancing the aims of Wikipedia, that editor stands in a conflict of interest., and further down If you edit articles while involved with campaigns that engage in advocacy in the same area, you may have a conflict of interest. – Federico Poloni Dec 26 '14 at 20:38
1

As an addendum to other answers, my perspective is that once the conflict of interest is fuzzy enough, there is a benefit to leaving it out: people don't care too much, and would rather spend their time reading something else. As an analogy, academic talks also often omit details in proofs to maximize the information/time tradeoff. Those details are relevant, but not worth people's time.

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-3

My opinion is that full disclosure of this potential conflict of interest is necessary in the answer itself.

  • The question is "would use of Wikimedia images be considered unprofessional"; it is a subjective question, and it is clear that being president of a national Wikimedia branch affects significantly her view on this topic. The fact that she is not paid for this position is irrelevant.

  • Disclosure of this fact in her profile is not sufficient: first of all it is information that should not be one click away from the answer, and more importantly profiles (unlike answers) can be changed at any time without notice.

  • Her answer is (unnecessarily) apologetic of Wikimedia images in several passages:

it is possible to find great images in Commons

There are great pictures on Commons.

There are many professionals who use their free time to provide Commons (and hence Wikipedia articles) with illustrative, clear graphics.

      It should be made clear that this is not the opinion of an independent academic user, but the one of a person who is significantly involved in the project.

  • "Should I always disclose my opinions beforehand?" -- this looks like a straw man from her part.

I have nothing against her, Wikimedia or her answer, and I welcome her contributions to this site, but I think that an user should disclose this kind of information whenever they reference explicitly an organization in which they are actively involved. We have had some cases of advertising of one's own projects on this site, and it is always better to err on the side of transparency.

(full disclosure: I have contributed to Wikipedia by editing a few pages in the past.) :)

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  • I would hate to see answers include comprehensive full disclosure statements. I am not really sure how it even works on a CC licensed piece of work. – StrongBad Dec 26 '14 at 13:51
  • @StrongBad I do not understand what the problem is with the answers being a CC-licensed piece of work. – Federico Poloni Dec 26 '14 at 19:19
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    What happens to the disclosure if I edit your answer? Do I leave it, delete it, or add another line? – StrongBad Dec 26 '14 at 19:21
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    @StrongBad: You leave it. Any edit that would change the answer in a way that this disclosure is not necessary anymore would be a too strong edit in my opinion. – Wrzlprmft Dec 27 '14 at 16:33
  • If necessary, I can put a full disclosure statement expliciting my volunteer activity, and even my bias towards open knowledge/OA. Really, it's no big deal. I just wonder if this would mean to ask kinda everyone to state their bias in all answers. I've read many Q&A where there were opinions and interpretations, and not just neutral expositions of facts. – Aubrey Dec 27 '14 at 17:06

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