Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to earn money from Wikipedia?

Work for just one or two hours a day and earn up to $12,000 per month. If you are an admin in the Wikipedia, then you can earn much more than that amount. 

Sounds too good to be true? Well… it is true.  Being an active editor in Wikipedia since 2004, I never thought it can be a source of income. In April 2011, I was contacted by a guy named Prince Matthew on my Wikimail (quite sure that it is not his real name, but I came to know that this guy owns a 2,000 acre rubber estate in Kottayam district). He had a very strange offer – He will pay me USD 12,000 if I side with him in a soon-to-be –starting Wikipedia edit war. 

I was astonished at first by the offer. So I asked him to clarify. He gave me the details. All I have to do is to work with a 4 member team to change a Wikipedia article. The article he was mentioning was Nair. As we have seen recently, the article has been changed almost entirely, from this version to this. He even offered me to pay a first instalment of $12K as advance payment, either through Paypal or in person! I told him I need some time to think about it, and promised him to contact later. 

Being a resident of Kerala, engaging in this sort of activities seemed too risky for me, even if it can get me enough money to live a life of luxury. My decision not to participate in this edit warring was probably inspired by the arrest of KV Shine, an Ezhava blogger who was charged in 2010 by the Kerala Cyber Police. Prince’s edits are more than likely to anger the Nairs, and he wanted to mask his identity by posting using Muslim/ Ezhava usernames. Regretfully I informed him that I am not that interested in the project.
Although I opted out of this venture, I kept my ears open. Within a week, Prince recruited three Wikipedia editors and one admin. These users were:

Boing! said Zebedee (This was the sole admin)

First to be recruited was CarTick. Being the son of a well known Dalit Panthers of India leader from Tamil Nadu, he is ideologically opposed to Forward Caste communities like Nairs. An offer of $12,000 per month was more than enough for him to join the project. The other three including the admin, were from Liverpool in England. They were not having any ideological reasons to attack the Nairs, but only the monetary factor to join the project. 

The work started in mid-April 2011. The four editors were asked to contribute to non-Nair articles for two-three months, in order to mask their intentions.  Sitush started editing the article page from 3rd May onwards, while his colleagues waited for some more time before joining him. But unfortunately their task was not an easy one. Nair article till that time was maintained by a very strong Cabal lead by a guy called Suresh Varma. This Cabal consisted of at least half a dozen other editors, including Chandrakantha Mannadiar, Anand Nair, Linguisticgeek, Shannon1488, KK.etc.

But as we say, fortune favours the brave. As I could find out from a chat with one of the members of the pro-Nair Cabal, the leader Suresh Varma, was arrested and sent to jail for tax evasion in February 2011. Another editor died in a car accident a month later. This was the opportunity Prince and his cronies had been waiting for a long time. 

Cartick started the edit war, and was supported on the talk page by the other two editors. In the absence of Suresh Varma, the Nair Cabal was a disorientated and emotionally driven bunch of inexperienced editors. Very soon, with the help of the admin who is on their side, Prince Matthew and his editors were able to block and ban all the members of the Nair Cabal. 

Soon, another problem surfaced. An irate bunch of neutral editors like RajKris and morelMWilliam jumped in to the talk page and started pointing out the inconsistencies of the edits and abusive use of the Admin Power. They were joined by a bunch of mostly Nair newbies. Prince decided that he himself should act now. He created a bunch of sock accounts like KondottySultan, Chekon and Govindsharma. (Each of this accounts were created with a unique purpose. They will hide his real Christian identity. But more importantly, people will think that Kondotty Sultan is a Muslim, Chekon is an Ezhava and Govindsharma is a Brahmin. So he hoped to turn the Nairs against Muslims, Brahmins and Ezhavas in one go!). 

One of the Nair Cabal members, whom I talked to claimed to know Prince's real identity. He claimed that during the college years, Prince had a crush on a Nair girl. But she rejected him, since he is a Christian.  (They claim that they are descendants of Brahmins who were converted by Saint Thomas. But non-Christians in Kerala claim the story is total nonsense and that they are converted Pulayas and Parayas, who tried to escape from the evils of caste system). Prince is single to this date and two decades old revenge is still fuming in his mind. I am still quite suspicious of this story, but the Cabal member pointed out a reply made by one of his sock accounts to a post made by two Nair girls in the Wikipedia talk page. It seems that there is some truth in what he said.  

Prince started posting degrading and offensive propaganda using his sock (proxy) accounts. Sitush adopted a new approach. He will cut down 90% of it saying too offensive, but will let the remaining 10% stay. Hardly anyone among the neutral editors (William and Rajkris) knew about this mutual understanding between the two.  

By the end of June 2011, the aim had been largely accomplished. The article was completely changed to paint the Nair community in a very bad light. Sitush and his gang of editors were happy with the payments they got, while Prince, whose annual income exceeds 8 million USD hardly, cares about the 1-2% of his annual income going for the pastime. The neutral editors, RajKris & Co. couldn’t concentrate or fight a full fledged war against these professionals and soon gave up. 

These sorts of instances come up more and more with Wikipedia getting wildly popular nowadays. People who want to use it as a tool for propaganda dissemination will continue to hire paid editors like Sitush, who did a wonderful job within the last two months. 

So what we should do in case we want to earn some money? You just should have the right contacts; you should advertise a bit about yourself in various forums and hope for the best. If you are willing to take the risk, this is going to be a gold mine, as I don’t know any other job which will pay you $400 for a single hour of work.