Wiki Community/Organizational accounts


    1. Argument Against
    2. Large business perspective
    3. Response to large business perspective
  1. AllegreApartments

Organizational accounts are communal accounts created for members of an organization to use to make edits to that organization's page. Examples include UrbanBodyStaff, HealthEducationPromotion, and WillowsManagement and willows. We have been seeing more and more of these accounts as of late. While it has been my feeling that these accounts are a bad thing, to the best of my knowledge, we've never discussed the issue in great detail nor have we discussed how to deal with it.

List of Organizational Accounts — prepared a while ago so out of date
Linked edit histories that demonstrate a pattern of abuse
Disable — the proposal to disallow these accounts

Argument Against

I believe that the problems with such accounts are numerous. Here are just a few of the problems I've thought of.

As of right now, I am in favor of adopting a policy that states that these accounts should be disallowed. However, I recognize that we haven't had any major problems with such accounts and such a measure may be drastic and alienating. I also recognize that perhaps the problems I've listed aren't really problems.

Does anyone have any other thoughts on the matter? Responses to my thoughts? —WilliamLewis

Large business perspective

Please understand that our reason for using a business name because it is very important for us to do what is respectful and appropriate in a community based web setting. We have set up this account with a business name to avoid the mingling of personal opinions which don’t belong linked with our general apartment updates. As apartment management staff members, we work hard to keep our “work” opinions general. For example at work, we don’t evoke personal religious opinions, as doing so might be seen as a way of isolating renters with other such opinions. I fear that by forcing us to use individual names for apartment updates, you will remove our ability to contribute open opinions on other matters in our free time. I believe the user CovertProfessor uses a name other than his own for a similar reason. I’m confused as to why the same understanding cannot be expressed to us. —ChautauquaManagement

Response to large business perspective

The reasons for businesses wanting anonymity may be somewhat similar, but in practice, organizational accounts are very different from other anonymous accounts. For one, the organization accounts are not tied to any one person. I am one person; I imagine that anyone who has read enough of what I've written can tell that it's all been written by the same person, and those who have wanted to get in touch with me by email have been able to do so. Without an account being tied to one person, there is no accountability. We've even had cases in the past where people used organization accounts without in fact reflecting the opinion of the business. This is something that businesses shouldn't want, either. Another difference is that most non-organizational anonymous users edit many sorts of pages. I think by now I have edited just about every type of page that the wiki has: pages about restaurants, pages about parks, pages about politics, etc., etc. I am not here to promote a business, which of course violates the wiki's non-profit status. I interact with other editors as an individual and work with them to find solutions when there are disagreements. I don't just pop in here to promote my own interests and then pop out. —CovertProfessor


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2009-04-02 10:27:29   I like the idea of a "role" account such as this. The problem, of course, is that there is no way to tell whether or not the account is actually related to the business it purports to be related to. For example, if I created an account called BobsShoeAndTroutEmporiumManagement, you might think that I was the manager of Bob's shoe and trout emporium, even if I am not. Or maybe you once worked for Bob and had the password to that account, but Bob fired you after that late night trout snorting incident that he caught on camera. You then might use the account to hurt Bob's business.

One possibility would be to create accounts that can only edit a SPECIFIC page, and to give those accounts a management name. But of course, there's still the problem of not knowing who is actually using the account. There might also be liability for the wiki if someone got a management only account that they shouldn't have, and used it to damage a business. (You should ask the legal experts on the wiki if that is actually an issue.) —IDoNotExist

2009-04-02 12:48:26   Maybe Wiki Spot should provide free personal accounts, but start charging for corporate accounts. —BrentLaabs

2009-04-02 18:00:47   In the same way that not using a real name to post under, or at least putting together a fleshed out personal page, is like wearing a ski mask to a social gathering; using a "Role" account is like wearing a uniform. The problem with uniforms is that anybody can put one on and impersonate the owner of a business, city official, or other role. I'd rather that the wiki didn't have to focus on validating either names or roles and could just be a place for people to come and build a helpful resource for the whole community. —JasonAller

2009-04-03 08:28:10   I think it should be be generally discouraged, but I have no big problem with it. We've seen a few cases where people get in trouble at their place of work for responding or commenting on their business pages, and in that situation, at least a "Role" account shelters them a little and gives them a chance to respond from the proper role. There's similar positive aspects of it, and I definitely think, for example, the HealthEducationPromotion account is A-ok. Some level of anonymity for some of that stuff is more than understandable.

The apartment complex manager accounts I'm more iffy about, mostly because some of them cross-edit due to sharing owners/management, and I think down the road it could potentially become a problem if they sit to nurse their own pages. Overall, I think the best thing to do is simply ask that the people behind a role account recognize the differences between the two types of accounts. We can ask that they also join and contribute on a more personal level, but I think that most people will realize how quick/easy it is to make an account (since they just did it...) and if they want to contribute at some point beyond their work priorities, they will. Otherwise, unless it starts to become a problem, I don't think we have yet need to try to preemptively weed'em out. —EdWins

2009-04-03 18:05:06   I like the idea us allowing, even encouraging these accounts. Of course real names are good, but when a business owner is speaking on behalf of the business, I want to be able to associate the user account with the business. Sometimes owners comment on reviews on their pages, and you have to interpret from the context or other posts that it is in fact the owner, but it's not always clear. In these cases, it is effectively the "business" talking anyway. I'm reading the reviews and comments to decide whether to give the business my custom, not whether to make friends with the owner.

If you want the actual name of the owner, isn't this a matter of public record? We can get it if we need it, but 99% of the time, knowing that the owner is posting in the interest of the business by using the business name just things more clear. It's not the same as hiding behind some other anonymous username because the interests of the owner are the same as the interests of the business, so there's no ambiguity. Sure, it's possible to fake it or for rogue employees to misrepresent the business, but don't we have other ways to deal with this? It's possible to do that now, but I'm not aware of this being a problem. We could just reserve the username of the business for the owner, and if the owner disputes ownership of the account, we can figure out how to resolve it, otherwise assume that the business name account is the owner. —MatthewPearson

2009-04-21 08:31:30   WikiAdmin. I rest my case. —JasonAller

2009-12-09 17:34:30   I think the recent changes that came with the Wiki Community/For Profit Restrictions are a good reason to look at this issue again. —JasonAller

2010-01-09 01:19:12   Originally I thought this wasn't a big deal, but lately I think I've seen more negativity on the wiki that I think is coming from the facelessness of these accounts. I think I now support banning them, in addition to explaining about the community ownership and dynamic nature of the wiki. In general I have agreed with MatthewPearson's comment above, but I think that most of these situations have turned out to be negative. —NickSchmalenberger

2010-01-09 09:26:39   I'm not in favor of the organizational accounts. Didn't we see an instance recently with one of the ISPs where an employee used an organizational name, only to have the owner say that the employee didn't speak for the company? It was a bit of a mess. And it is clear that when people create those accounts, they don't intend to fully participate in the wiki. All they do is hover over "their" page, watching for any change and pouncing if they don't like it. —CovertProfessor

2010-01-09 09:40:16   I am of the opinion that all accounts belonging to commercial entities run afoul of Wiki Community/For Profit Restrictions as they, by their very nature, engage in the promotion of their business and don't contribute to the community in any other way. —WilliamLewis

2010-01-09 10:58:49   I'm going to start inviting editors using Organizational Accounts to start closing their accounts and opening new ones using their real names as I see them edit. I still need to improve the language of that invitation and make sure that the instructions for closing the old account don't make it hard for them to open a new one. I suggest that several of us try to come up with such language and see if we can't reach the point at which we have pretty good instructions. good pages to link them to are Welcome to the Wiki, real name, Welcome to the Wiki/Business Owner. —JasonAller

2010-01-09 20:16:44   These accounts are a Bad Thing. But they do less harm than the myriad non-accountable and oftentimes irresponsible anonymous posters that are attracted to the wiki. Both problems need to be fixed, not just the easy one. —JimStewart

2010-01-28 11:58:29   I think we may be causing unnecessary drama with the insistence that folks using these accounts start editing under their real name. Perhaps a bit of forceful encouragement with some explanation (which was lacking in the messages left today) would be more helpful. We haven't had any actual issue with any of these accounts, as far as I know.

They leave a bad taste in my mouth, but I recognize that businesses don't want employees speaking on behalf of their organization. But we have to remember the goal here: to help improve some of the dynamics of the wiki. Causing lots of people to get upset or confused obviously won't help, and forcing an organization, against their will, to stop using their organizational account may just prompt them to stop contributing. —PhilipNeustrom

2010-01-28 14:15:26   For my part, I think ChautauquaManagement makes a very good point about why a larger business would want to be represented on the wiki in such a way. For small businesses, especially sole proprietorships, I don't think it makes much sense. Make clear your affiliation with the organization, and post as yourself. But that doesn't cover every situation. I've spent some time as an administrator of an online community in which I was also a very active participant, and there were several occasions where I wished I could easily distinguish to others whether I was speaking as an individual or as an administrator. They really were two separate personas. I also was an administrator of sorts for an online game (a GM for Shards of Dalaya, on the off chance anyone has heard of it), and the ability to toggle my identity from the character I played to my GM role was invaluable in mediating disputes and dealing with issues that came up.

In short, I think that there's a lot of value in being able to distinguish when you're speaking as YourName, and when you're speaking as a representative of a larger entity. My personal feeling is that the people behind the organizational accounts should be encouraged simply to create an account of their own, as well, and get involved with the wiki that way as well, rather than being discouraged from using the organizational account. Subject, of course, to my comment above re: organization size. —TomGarberson

2010-02-24 11:07:27   "When you signed up, you were explicitly told NOT to use a business name. You did anyway. We were serious. It was not just a suggestion. Please read the Importance of using your RealName. Close this account immediately and edit under your real name." There is plenty of discussion of this issue, but clearly no consensus, no "policy," and obviously no basis for the post by William Lewis. it continues his pattern of officious, offensive comments to business owners, and implies an elevated status as senior editor or administrator that he does not have. I would urge that his post on the LakewoodApartments page be removed, and that he allow others to engage business owners at how to best become members of the Wiki community. His posts are entirely counterproductive. —DonShor

2010-02-24 11:44:33   Ok, the link opened. "Please do not use nickname or business name" is permissive and does not lead logically to "you were explicitly told NOT to use a business name." It is nicer to ask, but it leaves open the possibility that someone will decline to accede to your request! When you order someone to do something, it implies that you have the authority to do so, and it is often counterproductive. Perhaps they could be urged to sign up as LakeshoreApartments/Leslie, or something similar which gives an identity to the organizational account. Organizational accounts can be subject to abuse, and if the business owner or manager understands this he/she is more likely to cooperate. If it sounds like some kind of policy, a newcomer to Wiki will want to know where the "policies" page is and who is in charge of them. Discussing things with a nebulous coterie of editors is like fencing in the fog. —DonShor


2010-10-18 20:40:38   Is everybody okay with AllegreApartments being used by multiple people? They've already deleted some comments and somewhat swept the edit behind the plurality of people using the account. It wasn't heinous, but the lack of accountability in the multi-person account kind of worries me, especially when there's some questionable editing occurring (and I mean that literally — there are edits occurring that I am questioning the reason behind). Personally I don't like the role accounts (in part because they imply greater authority-by-uniform, and also this lack of accountability where 'the company says it' rather than a person), but this is more a matter of the multiple individuals behind one account. It's a pretty good specific example of the multiple-people case. Thoughts? —JabberWokky

2011-04-22 20:22:02   I'm curious, what do people think of user names along the lines of "BobAtChautauqua"? Would that be a decent compromise, including the establishment of some amount of personal identity, while still establishing the association? Personally, I wouldn't be opposed to simply saying "no organizational accounts," informing those organizational accounts that they need to edit under a different name, suggest an example, and if they ignore it, just ban the account with an invitation to create a new, appropriate one.

It's worth noting that I don't think this would resolve all the problems. Management at the Willows would very likely still delete other people's photos and whatnot. Business owners who do too much promotional crap would probably still do so. But it gets rid of the notion of an excessively authoritative voice. Instead of MANAGEMENT, you're dealing with So-and-So at Wherever. —TomGarberson

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