Public access to information about your marine technology goes via Wikipedia; don't neglect it
By Ryan Skinner (email)
I defy you to find a word that - if Googled - does not return a Wikipedia page as a top-five result. Try "boiler", or "ECDIS", or "ballast", or "bunker oil". Heck, try "shoelaces", "John Fredriksen", "pussy cats" or "raspberry jam". They all take you right into the Wiki-empire.
"What does that mean to me?" You ask. It may mean a lot. If I'm a buyer looking for a VDR, I put "VDR" in my browser's address line and get this:
The first three links have nothing to do with what I'm after. The first interesting link goes to Wikipedia, where I quickly find an article titled "Voyage Data Recorder". Here I can find a fair amount of interesting information about VDRs in general, and - oh, yes - at the bottom of the page (under external links) are direct links to three VDR suppliers: Rutter, Netwave and Selma.
If I'm with Rutter, Netwave or Selma, I shout "sweet!" If I'm not, I furrow my brow "hmmm....this is the quickest route taken by VDR buyers or researchers online and they come to my competitors - not me. Ouch."
Wikipedia has basically come to define every general or proper concept in the world. It's the crowdsourced consensus for "what things are". This applies fully to the commercial arena too. It behoves every company to review how it, its products, its technology and its competitors come across in Wikipedia, and potentially take steps to improve it.
Wikipedia's value is based on its impartiality, and its guard dogs are not to be trifled with. Blatant sales efforts on Wikipedia will get deleted. But not all commercially advantageous information or articles need be blatant sales efforts. I wrote a short Wikipedia article based on a new shipping concept invented together with engineers from ABB. This is informative, but it does no harm to ABB's reputation for innovation either. In the meantime, I'll see if Wikipedia's guardians feel like it fits their guidelines, or suppress it.
I spoke with an engineer from ABB about their relationship to Wikipedia. He confirmed that the engineers actively edited articles that relate to one of their core technologies ("Azipod"). "This is not a structured activity, but based on individuals' efforts. No one person has responsibility for this."
Like it or not, Wikipedia defines our world. And you leave your company out of the world at your peril.