Company are the central subjects of Wikirate.org. But how exactly do we define the word? The short answer: on Wikirate a company is a legal entity that you can't hug. All Wikirate Company are recognized by law as a "legal person" – that is to say: not actually a biological person but legally treated like one.
It's worth noting that speakers of British English and American English treat the words "company" and "corporation" rather differently. In the US, the word "corporation" usually refers to a rather large business, whereas a "company" can operate out of a basement. In the UK, it's generally the opposite. Wikirate.org is using the word in more of the US sense; there is no minimum size for qualifying as a company. In fact, the only requirement for qualifying as a company on Wikirate.org is that there be an actual legal (non-huggable) entity.
This definition is, in itself, rather clean, but it also presents some significant data challenges, including scope, interrelatedness, and dynamism.
By this broad definition, there are over 100 million companies in the world. Surely the Wikirate community can't possibly hope to gather enough information dozens of Articles and thousands of Metric for that many companies?
True; we can't and we don't. We will never know as much about the local web design shop as we do about Apple. But the beauty of Wikirate's approach is that it scales down. Many small companies will have values for a few metrics at most, some medium-sized companies will have an article or two, and only very large companies will have a wide array of Articles.
Our vision is not to have complete knowledge of every aspect of every company in the world; it's not even entirely feasible to have complete knowledge of a single company.
Instead our vision is that our collective knowledge of companies is abundant, credible, organized, digestible and proportionate to the companies' impacts on the world.
The network of corporate relationships is complex. Incredibly complex. This is true of supply chains, ownership, competition, collaboration... How will Wikirate handle this vast network?
The short answer: by mapping it. If we understand who owns whom, who sells to whom, etc, then we can begin to make the vast network navigable. While this network functionality is not an immediate priority for Wikirate's website development team, it is a central focus of what we call Wikirate 2.0.
This is not to say that the Wikirate community will do all the mapping. In fact, another open project is already well underway at opencorporates. Wherever possible we will make use of and contribute back to their work.
What's different about WikiRate is that we will use this network mapping to organize wiki and ratings information about companies based on their corporate relationships.
The general idea is that if Holding Company A fully owns Manufacturing Company B, then B's ratings should have an impact on A's. Network ratings will let you rate a company on the company it keeps.
How exactly one rating affects another is up to Metric Designers - Wikirate community members who create corporate metrics out of raw or processed data. A challenge like this is too much to tackle with a single master design; it requires a community of thoughtful designers and the right tools for collaborating and identifying the best solutions.
Companies shuffle. They merge, they acquire, they arise, they dissolve... Sometimes a brand moves from one company to another. Some irresponsible companies change their ways, other responsible companies develop bad habits. How will Wikirate.org handle all of this change?
Again, the map must fit the territory. Wikirate is not just about snapshots, it is about narratives. Companies have complex narratives, and the Wikirate community is working to tell them. When you visit a company page on Wikirate, you will first see the most up-to-date information available, but you can always dig deeper to see more.
All Claims and Metric Values on Wikirate are broken down by year (or a range of years). As companies change, stale values recede into the background and current values rise to the forefront, but rarely if ever are data deleted altogether. Even if a company ceases to exist, its history will remain on Wikirate.