I have plenty of experience writing pages on Wikipedia, as I documented here. You can see all pages I created, along with their pageviews over the years, here.
Since April of last year, I have experimented with paying people to create Wikipedia pages, with results that I am generally happy with. My overall experience is documented here; you can also see lists of pages I have given people to create, along with the prices for those specific page creations, here, here, here, and here; note that in some cases people have received additional pay based on pageviews or for overall availability, but the prices are still a reasonable approximation to the marginal revenue.
At present, my Wikipedia page creation funding efforts are more talent-constrained than funding-constrained: I am spending money at a lower rate than the maximum amount I can afford to spend, and therefore the pages are getting created at a slower rate.
For the most part, the goal with these pages is to actually carry out a synthesis of information scattered across numerous sources and bring it online. While it's not original research per Wikipedia's policies, it does involve a complex synthesis and isn't just about posting on Wikipedia what "everybody knows". The goal is to make information easily available to any future researcher or person interested in getting a clearer idea of the topics, that they would otherwise have spent several hours trying to figure out.
A few broad themes around which I am interested in Wikipedia page creation, and that might be of interest to people reading this blog, are below.
Global health [CURRENTLY THE THING I AM MOST INTERESTED IN FUNDING WORK ON]
What: Issa Rice recently finished the Wikipedia page on the timeline of global health, and is currently starting work on a timeline of deworming. I am interested in funding similar pages on the timelines of malaria, cholera, and influenza, and might consider expanding to things like AIDS, particular cancers, senescence research, smallpox, and other diseases. I am also interested in funding pages on current and historical organizations and initiatives related to global health (such as the red links in the timeline of global health) as well as timeline pages on public health in particular countries. More possible pages to fund may emerge after some further exploration.
Work so far: See links above.
- Help potential donors and others in the field get a good bird's eye view of global health: Global health donations make up a significant fraction of the donations from self-identified effective altruists. Three of GiveWell's four top picks were in this domain, and those three charities received over $50 million in donations in 2015 (GiveDirectly, the fourth, got the remaining half of the 2015 donations, but a lot of it was a one-off Good Ventures three-year grant). Yet there is very little good, quick-to-read information that helps people put the current state of global health in proper historical perspective. I want to change that. I expect that having easier access to this bigger picture will help me better determine the importance of marginal donations to global health, and will also help others likewise. Putting it on Wikipedia makes it available to many others. There is also the possibility that others will improve the pages, though I expect improvements to be relatively rare.
- Understand global health as an example of how something went from a cutting-edge weird idea to the "safe" bet for philanthropists: This can provide insight for potential transformations of the sort for other domains, ranging from animal welfare to concerns about various kinds of existential risk to senescence research.
Migration law, history, procedures and statistics [FOR PEOPLE WITH A STRONGER POLICY INCLINATION]
What: I am interested in funding the creation of pages on various aspects of migration bureaucracy and history. My own work so far has focused on the United States, but I want to diversify (in particular, I'm interesting in improving coverage of Canada's points-based immigration system, that lacks its own article right now, and India's Emigration Clearance system).
Work so far: For examples of the sorts of pages we are talking about, here.
Why: Migration liberalization is a top interest for me personally. I would like to spend most of my personal non-day-job research, reading, and public writing time on it. Unfortunately, writing truly informed content on it often involves the synthesis of large amounts of scattered information. Having some of the synthesis done through the creation of Wikipedia pages by others will be great for me. Many of the pages are likely to be of sufficient interest to the general public that their creation is also justifiable on those grounds.
Animal welfare [ONLY FOR PEOPLE ALREADY INTERESTED IN THE SUBJECT]
What: I have some ideas surrounding potential improvements of pages related to animal welfare, and the creation of new ones. For instance, I would like to fund a timeline of animal welfare similar to Issa's timeline of global health. However, given my lack of experience with the subject, I would recommend this only to people who have prior interest in the subject, since I can't guide too well here.
Work so far: I did create the Wikipedia page on Animal Charity Evaluators, but it got deleted (you can see the pre-deletion version here). I also paid for creating, and then expanded, the Wikipedia page on The Humane League.
Why: I believe that animal suffering, both that inflicted by humans and that inflicted by nature, is an important part of global suffering by sentient creatures. I don't have clear thoughts on appropriate steps to address these issues. Nonetheless, I believe that more information on the current status and historical evolution of animal welfare will be helpful.
Specific organizations [LOWER PAY BUT SHORTER ASSIGNMENTS]
What: I am also open to funding the creation of any page that has received a grant from the Open Philanthropy Project or were considered by GiveWell or Giving What We Can.
Work so far: I have been responsible for creating Wikipedia pages of three of GiveWell's four top charities and three of its standout charities, plus many other charities evaluated by GiveWell and Giving What We Can. I also created the Good Ventures Wikipedia page. Also, Issa created a great page on the Open Philanthropy Project (funded by me).
Why: Often these pages offer a better (both more neutral and more informative-yet-concise) overview of organizations than their own websites.
If you browse through the lists of pages I have created myself and funded the creation of, you'll see that my interests span much more broadly. However, to keep this post as relevant as possible to readers of this forum, I have concentrated on areas that are likely to be of some interest to typical readers here.
If you are interested (in the topics listed above or any others that I've worked on funded before, or that you think I might fund), you may either email me at email@example.com or (if you are Facebook friends with me or have mutual friends) message me on Facebook. You can also express interest or ask questions in the comments below. Those willing to work longer-term with me will receive additional compensation in a mutually agreeable manner while still preserving flexibility on both sides.
UPDATE (ADDED APRIL 25): I have successfully recruited a few writers, and some pages have been published or are in the process of being published. I am still looking for more, and expect and hope the overall volume of activity to continue to increase.
Published already by new editors:
- Spanish translation for "Pain in animals", by Sebastian Sanchez, based on a suggestion from Jay Quigley.
- Timeline of cholera by Sebastian Sanchez, created as part of my plan for timelines for various diseases that are currently or have historically been major sources of death and grief.
- Timeline of animal welfare and rights by Jesse Clifton, at my suggestion. Incorporates some feedback from Jacy Anthis.
Published by people already working for me, since I published this post:
- Timeline of Instagram by Alex K. Chen.
- Timeline of LinkedIn by Alex K. Chen.
- Timeline of deworming by Issa Rice.
UPDATE 2 (ADDED MAY 20): If you'd like to keep tabs on the main writers who are currently doing work for me, you can check out these GitHub pages where I track their edits and the amounts due to them:
- Jesse Clifton: He has created timelines of animal welfare and pages on animal welfare in various countries and regions. While the broad direction was provided by me, the selection of many of the countries/regions to focus on was made by Jesse.
- Issa Rice: Issa had been working for me prior to my posting this, and he's continued to do more work. He has worked on pages related to global health and poverty alleviation. While the broad direction was provided by me, many of the individual page topics were decided by Issa.
- Sebastian Sanchez: Sebastian has created timelines of major disease like malaria and cholera, as well as senescence research and healthcare in China.
- Alex K. Chen: Alex has been working for me for a while and continues to work for me. There hasn't been any specific change in his work pattern, and he is not really part of this experiment, but I include him for completeness.
UPDATE 3 (ADDED DEC 22): Take a look at the new contract work portal as well as my more recent blog post seeking more global health contributors.
This is Issa Rice, one of the paid writers mentioned in this post. In addition to writing pages, I also provide feedback to some of the other paid writers on pages they are creating.
Working with Vipul has been a generally positive and enjoyable experience. He has deep knowledge of both the workings of Wikipedia as well as the topics on which he wants pages created (although this might be less true for some of the newer topics in this post). Prior to working for Vipul, I had virtually no experience editing Wikipedia pages. Vipul walked me through the basics (like making sure to create pages under one's user space, having enough citations, certain other rules for Wikipedia editing, and so forth—things that are not obvious for a new Wikipedia editor) so that I was soon able to begin creating pages. For each new topic I worked on (taxation, immigration, global health), Vipul has been willing to guide me through the basics, help find useful sources, and review the page before publication.
As someone who cares about his altruistic output and impact on the world, I'm still uncertain about the overall impact of writing for Wikipedia relative to other things I could be working on, but I think of working for Vipul as a fairly unique opportunity to gain experience and expertise on topics while getting paid.
Echo what Issa said. I've been working with Vipul to create articles on animal welfare and rights topics, and it's been a valuable experience. I've learned about Wikipedia, and more importantly I have learned a ton about the animal welfare/rights movement that will inform my own activism. I have already referred a lot to what I've learned and written about in conversations with other activists about what's effective. I think it's really good that now anyone will be able to easily access this information. Plus Vipul's great to work with.
This is Sebastian Sanchez. As well as Issa and Jesse, I've been working with Vipul in his Wikipedia editing project, starting from part–time to an actual full–time form. Vipul introduced me to a world I haven't experience before; he allowed me to build a job of intellectual profile which would have been unthinkable in this remote town of Argentina. In addition, the versatility of topics worked under Vipul's enterprise is something I value much, and I think this kind of project would be highly sought as well by workers with intellectual profile. Works under his sponsorship, like Timeline of Plague and Timeline of Influenza, proved very useful to the public. Also, many works sponsored by Vipul continue to grow today in hands of outer editors. In a few words, Vipul sponsored a big amount of content that is not only useful to the world, but is alive and keeps growing.
For anyone working on pages for EA organizations, keep in mind that (1) you probably shouldn't be an employee of that organization and (2) considerable attention should be included in a criticism section. The ACE page was removed in part because the article was "too positive", and people like me were prohibited from adding substantive critical content to it because of my affiliation with the organization (per their conflict of interest policy).
I would not recommend relisting ACE in particular without a criticism section that cites criticism from several different sources. See the AfD page for ACE and compare to the AfD for 80k Hours for more details. (Note that the 80k Hours article survived deletion by being much less positive.)
In my experience, Wikipedia is generally trying to move away from the model of having a specific criticism section, and it's considered better to try to integrate criticism and counterpoints throughout the article.
I don't think the lack of criticism in particular was the issue; it was more that although the article was a good description of ACE as it existed, there wasn't enough substantive coverage in notable, third-party sources.
Also, if you have links to possible criticisms you can send them my way, I'll add them in and evaluate based on that whether it's worth giving another shot. I did add all the information I could find about ACE when I wrote my first draft of it, but there's probably much I missed.
I'm interested in working on the animal welfare section. I'm intending to do my own research on this in the near future anyway. In particular I'm interested in trying to find evidence and arguments for the effectiveness of different approaches to animal activism.
Great. You can message me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss possible places to get started.
The ACE article got removed? Do you have any idea why? I only skimmed the article but it looked like a reasonable article.
Why are you going to a forum of altruists and trying to pay people for doing a 2 hour project? Whatever happened to just doing things for the sake of making the world better?
Many of these projects are much longer than 2 hours. Also, even if individual pieces of work are 2 hours long, the fixed costs of getting set up and getting into the flow of things are high enough that it only becomes worthwhile for people who are taking up enough projects to justify their initial investment. I also value reliability and steady communication, which add to the overall burden for the task assignee.
Ceteris paribus, the lower the price people charge, the better for me. If there are enough people who will do things for free, I'll be all the happier. However, money does help resolve frictions and disagreements about what's more important to work on. Somebody who is not perfectly aligned with my goals might use my offer of money as enough reason to work on them.
In general, I've found that the very act of offering money shows my seriousness of belief, even for people who don't need the money per se, and even if they, individually, decide to ask for less or for nothing at all.
Did you forget how Wikipedia's 35 million articles were created in the first place? Last I checked they were written by a community who just wanted to contribute to general knowledge and learning. It would be pretty lame if effective altruists were unable to meet the standard set by Wikipedia editors.
To me it shows that you're trying to buy EAs' time instead of working on problems collaboratively. Altruists throwing money at each other doesn't show seriousness of anything because it's a zero-sum game. Anyone can write a fat check, bringing people on board to a team and leading a project is the thing that requires determination.
I'm curious what you think of the whole subcategory of the EA movement that donates to EA orgs. Do you think the criticism of your final paragraph applies to that subcategory?
I have about ~2000 edits on wikipedia (alasdairedits) and have created a number of DYK articles (though not for several years). I have been thinking about getting back into wikipedia editing and this might be a good way to do so. I know that paid (i.e PR editing on wikipedia) has become a big issue recently though. I would like to know more about how your work interacts with the COI/NPOV guidelines and how you ensure your articles and offering to pay people remains within that scheme. Have you considered using the on site reward board (I don't know how active that is) which would get less related wikipedians involved
It would be good to get feed
I don't think payment per se causes any additional problems. All the content I am paying for is content I might have created myself; in almost all cases, both I and the person I am paying have absolutely no COI with the content. I am not trying to pay people to create content that I personally couldn't create for COI reasons; I am simply paying people to create content I don't have time to create.
There are some cases where people could question the notability of the content or the verifiability of the claims in the article. For the most part, I work hard to provide adequate citations for claims made in articles, and I try to make sure that the people I'm paying to create articles follow similar practices. In any case, I don't see these problems as necessarily being magnified because I am paying people to create content.
As a general rule I prefer to pay people who are sufficiently value-aligned and willing to put in significant individual effort rather than relying on WIkipedia's existing structures for content creation. The articles require significant effort to create and I want to work closely with the people creating the content to make sure that the effort is channeled well.