User:Bcasterline/Credentials are harmless

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It is widely acknowledged that experts, including academics and other professionals, are important. Aside from content, they provide credibility. Their contributions may be non-essential to the project's viability, but the encyclopedia is clearly aided, not hindered, by their participation. Following the Essjay controversy, however, a number of essays have been written opposing Jimbo's proposed process of verifying expert's credentials, one even suggesting that the process might ultimately "destroy the concept of anonymity, equality and community that is fundamental to the Wikipedia ethos." A policy has been proposed to "ignore all credentials" instead. This reaction is excessive.

Existing policy works[edit]

WP:ATT makes it clear that content must be attributable to a published source and must not be original thought. Additionally, WP:NPOV makes it clear that all significant viewpoints must be included, not just the most personally agreeable. These policies already prevent anyone from using Wikipedia as a vehicle to express their own opinions, no matter their credentials.

To provide a method for the verification of credentials is not to circumvent cornerstone Wikipedia policies like ATT and NPOV. The opposite is true. While not everyone is well-equipped to assess the reliability of a source, for example, an expert with years of experience probably is. Verified credentials would allow experts to enforce the policy better, not get around it.

As long as existing policies are enforced and guidelines are followed, there is no room for abuse -- only improvement. Credentials (verified or not) do not give anyone an upper hand. They are harmless.

Specifically anti-credential policy is harmful[edit]

Is it really necessary, then, to go out of our way to attack credentials? Calling them "useless", "irrelevant", something to be "ignored", and something "nobody cares about" does not help Wikipedia. Instead, it's an "in your face" to experts and academics for whom credentials matter. It hurts Wikipedia by creating an anti-intellectual atmosphere which discourages their participation and encourages mistrust among academics and the everyday user in general.

In sum, Wikipedia is already well protected from the undue influence of professionals by established policies. A process of verification will not preempt those policies; in fact, it may strengthen them. That said, verification is not necessary to the project, and this is essay is not intended to advocate such a process. But an environment receptive to the input of experts may in fact be necessary to Wikipedia's long term success. An environment hostile to their participation is at best unnecessary, and at worst harmful, to the project.

See also[edit]