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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 24, 2007 at 11:09 AM

The guy behind Microsoft’s Wiki woohoo

That would be Doug Mahugh, a Microsoft technical evangelist who was straightforward about why and how he recruited a blogger to correct a Wikipedia entry about the Open XML technology he works with in Redmond.

I wish I’d read Doug’s blog postings before I ranted about Microsoft flubbing this one.

A wire story on Microsoft’s Wiki flub is one of the most-read items at our Web site today. I wish it included Mahugh’s perspective, which is really the story of how this all came about.

Doug tried to set the record straight on Slashdot, and even posted the original e-mail he sent to Rick Jelliffe, asking for his help fixing the entry:

The premise of this thread is a lie. Nobody ever contacted Rick and asked him to “make edits and corrections favorable to” Microsoft. Also, nobody from Microsoft PR contacted him. I am the person who contacted Rick, and I am a technical evangelist specializing in the Open XML file formats. And here is what I asked Rick to do:

“Wikipedia has an entry on Open XML that has a lot of slanted language, and we’d like for them to make it more objective but we feel that it would be best if a non-Microsoft person were the source of any corrections … Would you have any interest or availability to do some of this kind of work? Your reputation as a leading voice in the XML community would carry a lot of credibility, so your name came up in a discussion of the Wikipedia situation today.

“Feel free to say anything at all on your blog about the process, about our communication with you on matters related to Open XML, or anything else. We don’t need to ‘approve’ anything you have to say, our goal is simply to get more informed voices into the debate … feel free to state your own opinion.”

I understand and accept that longwinded discussions of lies and their theoretical ramifications is a fascinating hobby for some, but since it’s 100% my own personal actions that you’re talking about, I just want to be very clear: the premise of this thread is a lie. Wikipedia’s definition of “Microsoft (sic) Office Open XML” is not fact-based, and I think it would be a good thing if there were more participation by persons like Rick who are knowledgeable and interested in the actual facts of file formats, and less participation (or at least less influence) by those with specific agendas based on specific corporate interests.

Call Microsoft evil if you must, but in this case it’s Doug Mahugh you’re talking about. PR didn’t know I contacted Rick. Hell, my own manager didn’t know, although it seems likely he knows by now. You’re talking about my actions alone, so I think my opinion is relevant. And in my opinion, the premise of this thread is a lie.

Mahugh’s blog also provided helpful links to Jelliffe’s post that got the story rolling.

Dave Winer added some context about Wikipedia, but I’m still waiting to see what Frank Shaw, president of Microsoft’s PR firm, says about the flap on his blog.

Wikipedia godfather Jimmy Wales hasn’t said a peep about the situation on his blog (is he using a different site now?), but he did give nod to Microsoft last April for trying a Wiki-like editing process at Encarta.

Comments | Topics: Microsoft


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