Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wikipedia and Google's Knol: How to use them for your non-profit's benefit

Google is coming out with its own version of Wikipedia called "Knol." Now not only will Google be searching and saving all the world's information, it will be encouraging users to create profiles and post their own knowledge. Yes, there are privacy concerns (will Google results be biased?). But as a non-profit, Knol will be yet another way for you to get your name out there in the the digital world.

What are the benefits to participating in resources like Wikipedia or Knol? Well, primarily credibility. Yes, anyone can add themselves to Wikipedia, but not anyone will stay - the subject of the entry must be of interest to the general public, and have been covered by other sources.

In addition (and just as importantly), you will likely get a good deal of referrals from your Wikipedia entry (and, I'm assuming, your Knol entry). More traffic = more awareness, which hopefully leads to more volunteers, funds, or beneficiaries.

A few important things to keep in mind as you write your Wikipedia entry:

1. Write the entry in an unbiased tone. Yes, we know your non-profit is the best ever and deserves donations from everyone, but Wikipedia is all about providing accurate information. Your entry will get taken down by ever-vigilant editors if it is not factual.

2. Cite external sources. Again: Cite. External. Sources. Other websites (not your organization's site), press coverage, books, facts/data reports. This is a bit of a catch-22. You may be writing your Wikipedia entry because you want to attract outside interest, but you need outside interest in order to have a Wikipedia entry. You can have a short entry without external sources, but it won't have much credibility with the editors.

3. Edit the post from your home computer or a public computer. You may remember the scandal involving government employees editing entries to favor their own views or the administration. Or perhaps you recall the Diebold employee who deleted paragraphs criticizing the company’s electronic voting machines? Your IP address is being recorded, and the world is watching. Don't give them reason to doubt what may be perfectly valid information.

Don't forget to reference Wikipedia's rules of engagement. Also, including an image or two never hurt.

Privacy may be the one gift Santa won't be bringing this year, but try to use that to your organization's advantage. I know OYFP will be, as soon as we find the time to get the press to write about us to we can have external sources to cite! Sigh. The never-ending battle.

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