Wikipedia:Reliable sources for software articles
|This essay contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors on the reliable sources policy application in articles about software. Essays are not Wikipedia policies or guidelines. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.|
The Wikipedia articles should rely on and reference reliable sources. Being an essay, this document provides a commentary on application of corresponding policy to the articles about software. Software includes all code or programming meant to be operated by a computer or dedicated computing device such as a game console.
The sources normally considered reliable
The sources of unquestionable reliability simply do not exist; though generally the following criteria define the source that would likely be seen as reliable by the majority of editors:
- The books, scientific papers and mass-media articles by the authors who are both generally accepted as the experts in the field and are independent from the topic of the article.
- The books, mass-media articles and blogs, published by the people and organizations with a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking.
- The articles in the online media, which is generally accepted as a reliable source of software-related information.
The adequateness of sources
The choice of sources should heavily rely on the material they are supposed to support.
The primary sources
The primary sources should be used with care. Though the authors of software possess the deepest possible knowledge of the software's features and implementations, their approach to sharing information can be heavily influenced with the goals of promoting the software. Avoid using the primary sources for commercially available software description.
The primary sources should not be used if the issue is argued in the third-party sources. In cases when such arguments are encountered, the claims of primary sources can only be cited in combination with independent third-party sources explicitly supporting such claims.
If the style of the source appears to be promotional, this source should not be cited. Never use primary sources to support the claims about the software's reception (such as popularity or user base).
The communities of users
The games' fan sites and user communities can be a valuable source of the in-depth information about the software. Still, such sources ordinarily lack any editorial control and may contain the false information, so generally they should not be cited until the statement they are supposed to prove is not cited elsewhere; even in that case such information should be removed from the article if anyone expresses doubts about its inaccuracy.
Never cite forum posts and the writings by unknown authors. Avoid quoting such sites or reusing quotes from there.
The directories and download sites
The sites that are supposed to inform users about the existence of software and/or provide the downloads (such as Softpedia or SourceForge) can only prove the availability and release dates of the software; though primary sources are still preferable in determining these facts. The publishers' descriptions on such sites should be considered yet less reliable than the primary sources. The editors' reviews in such sources should also be used carefully: many download sites review the software by paid subscribers (such information may be only accessible by the paid subscribers themselves), and thus the reliability of such sources is questionable.
The exception to this rule are the software repositories, which can provide the information of the feature set of the program on a platform these repositories serve: as a general rule, such information is verified by the repositories' maintainers, which is in fact a professional, knowledgeable review from the unbiased editor.
The online media and blogs
The decision to cite an online media should be based on its reputation for fact-accuracy and depth of coverage, which should match the claim's impact on the article. The important claims should be backed with solid, undisputable reputation.
Nevertheless, if the source has a known, widely acknowledged bias, the same rules as for the primary sources should be applied to the material that is related to such bias.
It is also important to make difference between the blog, hosted by reputable mass media source, and the mass media source itself: being a blog post, the cited source may or may not be subject to editorial overview and/or reputation of the source for fact checking, independence of the top and other properties of publisher, which make it reliable.
The less important are the claims, the less strict rules should apply. E.g., the claims about product X being criticized for reason Y could be supported by virtually any source, including the uncontroversial /. posts, reputable blogs (e.g. Lifehacker) and local newspapers.
The depth of coverage
The sources specializing in the field of computing and software should be generally considered more reliable then the general public sources. The editor of Washington Post is likely to possess less knowledge of the software topic then the editor of Ars Technica. Thus the description of the features, algorithms or implementations of the software one should be supported with the sources known for better understanding of such details.
The mailing lists and conferences
The mailing list and developer conferences (like FOSDEM) closely related to the subject are a valuable source of community-reviewed information from the people and organizations with the in-depth knowledge of the subject. Though, reading the whole thread of a mailing list discussion (or the reviews of the conference) before actually citing the material may save a lot of editors' time and effort.
- Eg., it's OK to cite a fan site in description of a games' storyline development or the similarities of software.
- If You found a valuable quote on fan site, find its source. If no such source is found, don't trust this quote at all.
- Eg., Linux distributions' software repositories or AppStore-alikes.
- Unless such source is known for deliberate false or provocative statements.