User talk:Jimbo Wales/Credential Verification/Archive 3

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I archived the old version to reboot the discussion.

This discussion is about how to best achieve credential verification along the lines of my proposal. No changes to current policy are contemplated, so there is no reason to act as if this is a proposal which can be accepted or rejected. Since current policy allows for this, then if you want to stop it, then you need to propose a policy which would essentially ban people for being responsible about saying who they are in Wikipedia.

Virtually all of the objections were completely off target and misunderstood the proposal completely.

The only questions being discussed here are how to make the process as good as possible.--Jimbo Wales 04:33, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I think the problem is that people assumed this would be mandatory, combined with the fact that this was the de facto center of discussion for all credential verification policies, even the truly mandatory ones. -Amarkov moo! 04:36, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. What I am proposing is that people create and start to use a new set of userboxes, derived from the existing ones. All the existing PhD, MD, and JD userboxes (and perhaps some similar but we should probably start small) should have two versions: verified and unverified. People can choose which they want. Those who are in the camp that credentials are bogus and we can't trust anyone anyway should pick the unverified templates. Those who believe in the wiki way and trust that the community has the good sense to move forward productively in assessing claims should pick the verified ones. No policy changes are required, only action on the part of good people to improve the encyclopedia in a spirit of constructive honesty and transparency. Rather than come up with a priori reasons why it can't work (with that, we could have never gotten to where we are in the first place), we can just move forward and learn and solve problems as they arise.
So now I want us to discuss how to do this. What should the userbox say? What should the design of the verification page be?--Jimbo Wales 04:42, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
You mean something like this? Mak (talk) 05:16, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Jimbo, I am concerned by your above statement "Those who believe in the wiki way and trust that the community has the good sense to move forward productively in assessing claims should pick the verified ones." Are you implying that anyone who chooses to forgoe this idea of "voluntarily" verifying their credential is no longer "in the wiki way". Is that what you mean? If so, then it doesn't sound very "voluntary" to me. It sounds more like "now do this, or be ostracized". This seems like a Hobbesian choice. Johntex\talk 05:22, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I think if someone follows in EssJay's steps and claims to have a PhD but refuses to give any further information or verification when asked, the community will tend to view that very unfavorably. And reasonably so, I think, in some cases. There can be good reasons and explanations and all that.--Jimbo Wales 06:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

What will you require, faxing of diplomas or snail mail on institutional letterheads to the wiki office? How do you envision verifying this? Userboxes for ID may be fine, but I am more concerned about the process, and the potential for loss of privacy. -- Avi 04:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

The process is entirely voluntary, and has nothing to do with the office. You might want to read up on PGP keysigning parties to give you some ideas about how this might work. I don't understand what you mean about loss of privacy, then. You can give whatever information you want to whomever you want, or not, and the community will comment accordingly.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Jimbo Wales (talkcontribs)
I continue to remain unconvinced that there is any merit to having any such process. Credentials mean little or nothing on Wikipedia; the lesson we need to take from Essjay's misconduct is not that we need to verify credentials but that we need to be more assiduous in disregarding them. Given this, having a procedure for verification of credentials when credentials don't matter anyway seems somewhat BEANSy to me. [1] Kelly Martin (talk) 04:51, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I think the great merit to the proposal is that wikipedia is steeped in openness and transparency. People who tell lies about themselves undermine that openness and transparency. People should be encouraged, around issues that matter, to be open and transparent. Explaining to others, when true, how you came by your expertise in a certain field, is a good and healthy thing. (I disagree strongly with those who think that credentials are only used to beat up other contributors... this is an insult to the many fine PhDs we have working around here who adhere very strongly to be best standards of scholarship.) And we now have a means by which the community can adhere.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Jimbo Wales (talkcontribs)
Sounds like WP:IAC to me Kelly Martin. (Netscott) 04:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I would like to add that this absolutely is a proposal that can be accepted or rejected. If the previous discussion here is any accurate representation of what the whole of contributors to this encyclopedia believe -- and if some of the scenarios suggested by objectors do come to pass -- there will be many people leaving this project and fewer joining.
We learned from the Siegenthaler business. The media's criticism then was right, and we stepped up our focus on verification to meet the challenge. If we respond to the Essjay business by creating a privileged class of users whose credentials are stamped with approval, we're dividing the community into tiers that don't benefit it.
Perhaps we have a different idea of what is "the wiki way." ptkfgs 04:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Of course this proposal can be rejected. If you want, you can try to get support for a policy of banning people who volunteer to go through a verification process. I doubt if you will get very far with that. :) So in fact, the chance of this being rejected is very close to zero. Show me if I am wrong.
As far as I can tell, you did not even read my proposal when you wrote "privileged class of users". So, you know, if you don't want to claim credentials, then don't. But don't get in the way of others who want to do so. That is what "the wiki way" means... let others do good work in peace.--Jimbo Wales 06:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, I should probably clarify that I believe that this will have the effect of creating a privileged class of users, even if it does not explicitly create privilege in its provisions. We already tend to discount IP's in deletion debates, and I can't see that this will do much besides add a similar division between verified degrees and others in content disputes. ptkfgs 07:06, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Jimbo, may I ask how you would respond to my first three questions-headings here? In a nutshell:

  1. Even after Essjay is it truly necessary or more "damage control" where long-term negative effects may outweigh short-term goodwill gains?
  2. How will real-life private information be safeguarded; especially if the user has no control over to whom to reveal the information?
  3. ad verecundiam - or, will people with degrees be able to brush off those without by the mere virtue of them having said credentials?

-- Avi 04:58, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I am happy to respond to these three points, although all three of them are really beside the point.
  1. I see no long-term negative effects to honesty, openness, and transparency.
  2. The user has absolute control over what to reveal. Absolute control. Did you even read the proposal?
  3. Ask yourself how well brushing people off by claiming credentials has ever worked in Wikipedia. Anyone who does that is quite properly laughed at, and I see absolutely no reason for that to change.--Jimbo Wales 06:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Not so. Essjay was not laughed at for using his fake credentials in content disputes -- he was promoted to the highest levels of Wikipedia and given access to confidential check-user informaton. If you didn't know about Essjay's false claims from Wikipedia, where people ostensibly know each other as a community, surely you read his claims in the New Yorker article. You didn't laugh when you realized a person who claims to be a tenured professional had time to work for you as an entry-level employee at your start-up. You hired him. The problem isn't that people are not "quite properly laughed at" for constructing a Wikidentity around lies -- the problem seems to be an aversion to exposing lies, a presumption that the only "bad faith" is an expression of doubt about the Wikiway, and a tendency to attack those who expose lies, as I have just exposed yours here. MaxMorf 01:37, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Actually, I think the proposal is okay in its current form (including my edits to it). I would have taken a different approach, but I can live with this - as long as my edits end up sticking to address the concerns I've been raising. I would have concentrated on due diligence re the identities of spokespersons and people in authority - but at least some of that will happen, too. It looks like checkusers will be vetted in future, and I'm sure spokespersons will be more carefully vetted as well (in practice). That doesn't go quite as far as I'd have liked, but you can't get everything you want. Metamagician3000 05:09, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
There seems to be massive confusion about various points. Checkusers have already for a long time been required to disclose their real identity to the foundation. That is a totally and completely separate issue, having to do with the foundation and legal matters, and is of no relevance to this discussion. Having said that, of course I agree with you that checkusers and spokespersons need to be carefully vetted. I like your edits, as far as I have seen, and I still encourage modification to the proposal to make it broadly appealing.--Jimbo Wales 06:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Checkusers have not, in my experience, been required to identify themselves, at least not until recently. Essjay was a checkuser for almost a year before his identity was disclosed, and it was disclosed to Wikia before being disclosed to Wikimedia. I don't believe that Jayjg's identity has ever been disclosed, and yet he continues to be a checkuser. I strongly argued for disclosure, back when we discussed this last April but my proposal was not adopted, mainly because of Essjay's objections. Please, when did this "long time" begin? Kelly Martin (talk) 11:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Separate from the specific proposal, yes, but I guess some of us interpreted this page as for discussion of any proposals, or lessons learned, arising from the Essjay incident, not just for discussion of your specific proposal. Recall that there had just been a very broad discussion on your userpage. So I'm a bit resistant to the idea of "massive confusion". More a difference of perspective. That said, I'm glad the Foundation is already doing that; as for the specific proposal, my concerns have been addressed (unless something changes), and I'm happy enough with the outcome of all this. Metamagician3000 07:25, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Er, so what Jimbo seems to be saying is that this is really a proposed essay about what people might like to do? Mak (talk) 05:44, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I would be a bit stronger than that. I think we need to experiment with it, test it out, see how it is working, and then elevate it to a guideline of encouragement and best practice. I have not seen anyone actually defending the idea that we should do the opposite: encourage people to both list credentials *and* refuse to verify them. So I think in due course people will begin to see that not listing your credentials is perfectly fine. And listing them is perfectly fine, if you are willing to give evidence for them (as I think most people will be). But the middle ground is fishy.--Jimbo Wales 06:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Reading this last comment of yours, you have my complete support. I do think that if folks are going to make claims about their achievements, especially about their educational attainment, then they should provide some proof to such effect. I still have concerns about the privacy issues, but I suppose this can be worked out.--MONGO 07:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
It's gettting rid of the fishy part that's the problem. I think that is the most important part because otherwise you have a user building trust in the community while representing a possible lie. There is nothing that prevents another EssJay without getting rid of the fishy part. How do you handle an editor that has a PhD but doesn't want to disclose their credentials? On it's face it's fishy, but if hte answer is that he works in industry and is afraid this disclosure will reveal his employment or some other personal detail? Under this new policy, this editor would still list his credentials. He could edit for years gaining the trust of other editors in the community and rise to high levels in the community. Also, the piece that could be worse is when someone defrauds the vetting process and actually is "verified" to have a credential that they do not. It's one thing to have completely anonymous editors within the internet using psuedonyms and fake IDs. It's quite another to validate a false identity of that person. "24 year old fools trusting wikipedia community with claims of fake PhDs" vs "Wikipedia vouches for 'expert' editor with fraudulent credentials". Someone WILL defraud the system. It's only a question of damage which is what we learned with EssJay. The question that I have is will the vouching procedure provide enough of a benefit to outweigh community overhead bureaucracy and the damage that will be caused when it is defrauded. --Tbeatty 07:39, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

One question for the sake of clarity: several now archived proposals revolved around the idea of mandatory disclosure of real life identities of admins, checkusers, arbitrators, etcetera. Have those proposals been discarded, put on hold, or are they still under discussion? Has the discussion on this particular talk page been "reduced" to optional voluntary credential verification for editors? Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 12:25, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Why must this be proposed at all?[edit]

It says, in effect, "blah blah blah create a userbox with a subpage where people can try to verify credentials blah". Why does that need to be policy to work? I could go set that up on my userpage right now if I felt like it, and there would be absolutely no grounds to remove it. Just go ahead and do this, without any need to give any impression that our policies are concerned with editor's credentials. -Amarkov moo! 05:25, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

"No changes to current policy are contemplated" .... "So now I want us to discuss how to do this. What should the userbox say? What should the design of the verification page be?" Jimbo, above. In short, it's not policy and he is doing this, but asking for advice on how best to do it. Derex 05:48, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes it also says (emphasis mine):

This is a proposal to come from the community, and not be imposed by the WikiMedia Foundation. Please assume in your edits that this is a proposal which should be designed to achieve broad community support. If you just hate the idea completely and totally, then please argue that on the talk page, but please do let people try to achieve something useful and balanced here in the meantime.

That certainly sounds like a policy proposal to me. Johntex\talk 05:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Then, feel free to edit that section to clarify that it's not. Jimbo is entirely correct that no policy change is necessary to implement this, and he's quite explicit above that it is not currently intended as one. Derex 06:25, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
OK, I was just trying to discuss first vs making a potentially conroversial edit. I've changed it to say that this is a proposal from Jimbo. Johntex\talk 21:56, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

A quick question[edit]

I realize I am quite late in this conversation, but I have been reading for the past while and cannot seem to figure out if this is intended to be implemented in the manner described in the Wiki of Trust. Due to the reality of stalking, I would be far more comfortable with this process if it were implemented in this manner in order to protect privacy. --Kukini hablame aqui 05:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes that is exactly what I have in mind. I don't think we need explicit central authority, and I am not eager to get the office involved at all, as the office is quite busy with business stuff and this is really a community editing matter. There are many Wikipedians of sufficient stature and trust that a confirmation of credentials by them would carry great weight. I think we can be totally open ended and see how it evolves, and tweak it later if we need to do so.--Jimbo Wales 07:01, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
That sounds workable enough. As it will be a voluntary process and user identity will be protected. --Kukini hablame aqui 07:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

This certainly answers my questions above, as it was those questions which prompted the essay linked above Smile.png. In terms of implementation, however, it has to start somewhere. I am cognizant of keysigning parties, although not an expert (I've never set up a Sassman hash for example). I like the idea that the box links to a subpage where "signators" place their verifications. If we wanted even more verifiability, we could actually use PGP keys to sign, such as:

Hash: SHA1

I certify that user Avraham is a swell guy. -- Avi
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32) - WinPT 1.2.0


Anyone who trusts my wikipedia-specific PGP Key will see that the signature is valid. Of course this may well be overcomplicating things, and may tend to exacerbate the fears raised of enhancing social divides. -- Avi 07:55, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

How do I know you're not a sock of this "swell guy" Avraham? More seriously, a verification is only as good as my trust in the verifier. Whether one uses PGP or Wikipedia logins for authentication, you'd still have to get some pretty well-known people on board as verifiers to get a trusted system. Having a notary system with 5 or 6 main volunteers (perhaps checkuser clerks) to check credentials would help. That reduces the burden of establishing trust in verifiers, because there are few to evaluate. Otherwise we might be confronted with establishing trust in a new and different verifier each time one examines a credential verification. Derex 08:10, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. I was just thinking of tapping in to the existing infrastructure of PKE systems. Also, it's a bit harder to compromise PGP keys, and with the world-wide network of keyservers, it's pretty easy to ge a key and list the signatures. But I agree with Jimbo that actally using these is overcomplicating matters. We need to piggyback off of the theory, not the practice. Which is why the userbox/signature page is a good idea and why I also brought up a Thawte-type system in the essay as well Smile.png. -- Avi 14:36, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Well I don't think pgp signatures are necessary or even desirable in this context. I think Wikipedia user logins are fine. If a user posts that he is a Professor at Harvard, and lots of people check the claim (by visiting his official web page at Harvard, say, where he identifies himself as that person, or possibly even by emailing him), and say so, then that seems like more than enough for me. We have a lot of verified (in this sense) PhDs already, always have. No need to deal with worst case scenarios first.--Jimbo Wales 09:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

that's an easy verification case. What if your a PhD in inustry that has no web page and no organziation to vouch for you? I think there needs to be two assumptions: 1) Experts in various field will have different types of necessary verification and 2) people will find a way to defraud the system. The key is to find a program that does not collapse under both of these scenarios. My concern is that defrauding the verification system will far more dire consequences to wikipedia reputation than any single abuse of an editor. The whole premise of wikipeida is that content is the responsibility of each user. But now the community as a whole will be vouching for the credentials of editors. I think it should be more like "barnstars of credibility" or "barnstar of verification". I will be bold and propose this. --Tbeatty 03:44, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Fundamental issues[edit]


Something I don't see adequately addressed as yet. What problem is this supposed to deal with; abuse of credentials in content discussions, or lack due diligence in appointing individuals to positions of implicit and explicit authority in Wikipedia?

Neither! I am trying to be as clear as I can about this but I don't know how else to say it. The problem is that we the Wikipedia community were hoaxed by someone claiming to be a PhD when he wasn't. We need to find a way to help avoid that in the future. One way to avoid that is to have a standard custom for how people should verify such claims, or else at a minimum state publicly that they are not willing or able to verify the claim. This has nothing to do with checkuser or access to private data, nothing to do with being an admin, etc. (positions of implicit and explicit authority in Wikipedia). It has to do with transparency and trust: both public and internal trust.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
What do you mean "we . . . were hoaxed"? I'd never heard of Essjay until I saw someone on the Wikipedia Review pointing out to Daniel Brandt that Essjay's online persona at Wikipedia was morphing from a 30 something tenured professor into a 20 something Wikia employee. After that, I watched the situation unfold and was astonished to hear that The New Yorker's fact checker had failed to verify Essjay's academic credentials, but even more astonished to see your initial reaction when you were confronted with the truth. I firmly believe that such negligence can be excused with an apology and a promise to be more careful in the future, but as someone who has repeatedly asserted your lack of culpability in ignoring Essjay's credentials, I am also very disappointed to see you recapitulating (once again) the red herring of credential verification rather than addressing your failure to vet Essjay before appointing him to ArbCom.
In sum, there were no Weapons of Mass Deception (WMDs) in place at Wikipedia, just a perfect storm of gullibility and about a thousand anonymous and alias-wielding admins who are still in positions of trust, with only one of them outing *HIMSELF* as a fraud. How does your proposal address that? -//- Internet Esquire 17:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

As it is, all I see an effort to do something yet I don't see any real substance to the justification, or consideration of the consequences.

I don't see what kind of substance you are looking for exactly. We want to avoid the EssJay case where someone got away for years with the claim of credentials, widely assumed to be valid because we have always been naive and trusting of course (and should continue to be), and this is a way to do that. Very straightforward. I think there has been a lot of consideration of the consequences. For example, concerns have been raised about whether this means that people who have verified credentials get some kind of free pass in editing. The answer: no. I think it fairly clear that the entire community would laugh at someone who tried to pull that.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

The content policies already mean that any claims of academic or professional authority shouldn't influence, and taking a look at Knowledge management should indicate that all it does is escalate the content related arguments when academics from two different camps within a discipline start to lay into one another.

By coming up with a policy that isnt really a policy then we end up with an ambiguous situation where people are allowed to make claims about themselves, substantiated in some way or another, yet can't actually exploit that. Given the amorphous nature of the content policies, subject to amendment by anyone who happens to wing past, how long will it be until there is movement to give authorities some form of free-pass on content inclusion.

My guess is forever is how long is will be. I see no support from anyone anywhere for such an idea. Ideas with zero supporters and which make no sense don't get very far in Wikipedia. The idea of creating a privileged class of editors who have a free-pass is just such a nonsense idea that no one supports. It is worth raising as a concern about any new policy in this general area, as people have. And it is worth taking a look at existing rules about this (there are existing rules, you know) and making sure they are clear enough.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

How do you propose to deal with currency of qualification? Merely having a Doctorate or Masters degree in a subject does not imply current expertise, my Chartered Manager qualification needs refreshed every three years whereas someone with a Doctorate in some management disciplines dating from even the '80s will be hugely out of date.

Why does this need to be "dealt with" at all? Currently if someone says they got a PhD in 1970 or in 1999, they just say it. They might be lying. At least one person WAS lying. What will change now? People will have the opportunity to show their credentials in a systematic way with a process for verification. What those credentials actually mean in practice would be of course an open question depending on context.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I see a lot of value, to the collaborative knowledge creation process, in knowing something of our peers within that spiral so I'm quite happy with any direction which encourages that. To really get into that it would be helpful to explore that in the round, rather than focus on one aspect of credentials at the expense of developing the ability of the user community to work round the spiral.

Yes, I totally agree with all of that. Credential verification is one aspect of what should be viewed as a wider project for building trust.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)


ALR 07:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Even if the credentials are verified, that does not mean that you have to, or even should, defer in the slightest. It is more to ensure that if someone is using arguments like "willing to hang their Phd" on Catholicism for Dummies, that they should be willing to verify that they have it. -- Avi 07:59, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Given the firs tsentence, so what to the second?ALR 08:26, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
You do not have to pay any attention to credentials ever. Others may choose to pay attention when they deem it appropriate. If others wish to do so, then it is best that the credentials be genuine. Derex 08:30, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Derex, very well put.--Jimbo Wales 09:22, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
So how long until we're under pressure to modify the content policies to account for those that wish to claim credentials? And it still doesn't deal with currency and relevance, just how appropriate is an advanced degree in Supply chain from even the early 90s?
ALR 09:14, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
If you can find me even ONE person who thinks we should have a policy to give an advantage to people who have an advanced degree in editing disputes, or that saying anything remotely resembling "I have a PhD so get lost" is appropriate, then I can start to take this as a viable concern. But since I see that everyone, including perhaps especially ME is opposed to that, I don't understand why it should be foremost among our concerns.--Jimbo Wales 09:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
"If you can find me even ONE person who thinks we should have a policy to give an advantage to people who have an advanced degree in editing disputes." That would be many of the people behind Wikipedia:Expert_retention. C.m.jones 10:06, 16 March 2007 (UTC)


Thankyou for taking the time to respond to my concerns. I get the impression from each of them that this is more about how to create trust. Assuring ourselves that editors who choose to elaborate on themselves are being reasonably honest about those facets of personality which they choose to highlight.

Credentials are just one part of that, and the focus on purely academic credentials is very narrow IMO. A big criticism in my field is that academia is out of touch with the pace of change.

With that in mind would it not be more useful to come up with something which covers ones WP personality as a whole, rather than just a badge, which it seems you're agreed has no practical purpose in the knowledge creation process?

My main concern with the process of policy creation by musing is rooted in organisational behaviour. We have lots of policy wonks who apply policies, guidance, custom and tradition to the letter rather than the spirit. In some cases that's because they lack life experience, in others it is related to personality type and life experience. I would suggest that it is short-sighted to suggest that any policy exists in isolation and that this proposal will not have consequences further down the line. If this is to be anything more than being seen to do something then that needs to be accounted for before anything is settled.

ALR 09:44, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

workable ideas[edit]

I’m thinking of a three level system:

1. WikiMedia Foundation vouched IDs and certifications. I anticipate at least one such vouched ID per nation.
2. IDs and certifications vouched by a #1 ID.
3. IDs and certifications vouched by #1 or #2, standard lower than #2, and allowing for verified credentials of contributors remaining anonymous on wikipedia.

Level #1 and #2 verifications should be at a standard comparable to that required to open a bank account or obtain a passport. #1 and #2 IDs will be substantially public. #2 allows for scalability. #3 allows for many valued contributors who do not wish for substantial person details to be made public. SmokeyJoe 10:13, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Your proposal at least address the sockpuppet problem. However, we should take it as a given that the foundation does not want an official role in this. As I pointed out in the earlier discussion, if someone has an official Web page, such as a university faculty member, they can include a link back from that page to their Wikipedia user page or acknowledge on the official page that they contribute here. That is pretty close to iron clad. If a university or corporation allows someone to create a phony staff member on their official Web site, we can hardly be blamed for taking that at face value. And no further attestation is needed. Anyone can follow the link from the Wikipedia user page and see for themselves. Perhaps people in that position could serve as the #1 ID you propose. --agr 11:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I would expect that someone will have to take an official role, and who should it be other than the foundation. The idea is that "wikipeda/wikimedia is going to state that something is "verified"". What if they are negligent?
Fabricating links, sites, positions etc within a university or corporation is easy, especially if you do it from inside, and probably even from outside. In fact, I don't think that anything supplied electronicly is reliable. I would expect to be able to receive a hard copy verification of any claim, for a reasonable fee. SmokeyJoe 05:37, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Someone with moderate skills can probably at least temporarily fire up a web-server on an internal box, say at However, it's considerably more difficult to get that web-page linked to from the top-level web interface, say at, which would require some actual cracking unless you happen to be sysop. So, checking for a higher-level weblink could be a basic security measure. There's also a good chance of getting fired/expelled/prosecuted if you do it from the inside. From the outside, I suspect anyone cracking a university has far more exciting things to do than fake a wikipedia credential. Derex 08:14, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Something's just not right here[edit]

Woah, hold on, Jimbo. Something's just not right here.

First you apparently tell press sources that this policy change IS going to happen, which then gets picked up in dozens of sources as if Wikipedia has made a new definitive mandate.

Then, you "propose" this as a policy and it is widely rejected by the community. Then, you remove the {{rejected}} tag from this proposal.

Then you archive everything and make your new lead post. In it, it sounds like little other than that you are saying, in essence, "Hey, look folks, this IS going to happen, because I am MANDATING or PUSHING it so. Rejection is NOT an option. You get to tweak my proposal and do the work of implementation, but it all stops right there."

Then, you juxtapose that with a simply wild and frankly ludicrous statement about if the community rejects your proposal, "then [it] need[s] to propose a policy which would essentially ban people for being responsible about saying who they are in Wikipedia".

Did I just read what I read??

And then later you say your proposal CAN be rejected, but then reiterate the patently wild claim that the other option is that we need to create policy for and do the "opposite: encourage people to both list credentials *and* refuse to verify them".

And the Board has said here it is divided over the issue, and has clearly stated in the archives that all this proposal is is just that, a proposal, and from Jimbo Wales as only the Wikipedia user, which you acknowledge as so.

Or is it?

Because you are nevertheless maintaining in so many words, "If you don't want MY proposal, the only other option is its polar opposite, a policy saying people can be irresponsible about their self claims! This change IS going to happen, and I even told the press so."

Look, if this is some mandate of some sort that IS going to happen because you as de facto head of Wikipedia say, or whatever, then say so and cut with all pretense.

Otherwise, perhaps you should read the other policies people have proposed. Or perhaps you should go in and do some strong-arming with the Board and with Brad to invoke WP:OFFICE. But please, at the least, quit the apparent manipulative communications toward this community.


C.m.jones 09:50, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Although I feel that C.m.jones' posting above is a little strongly-worded, I would concur that any policy changes must be agreed by the community, regardless of what has been said to the press. If the community chooses not to give consensus to any policy change regarding credentials, then no policy change should be made. I do not wish to attack the Wikimedia Foundation or any other entity by making this statement, and I absolutely understand the rationale behind this idea. But I think that the community's view should come first. Walton Vivat Regina! 11:36, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I concur with C.m.jones; the reason why the how to discussion hardly got off the ground was that there was so many people recording how they were appalled at the proposal. LessHeard vanU 13:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
"discussion hardly got off the ground" <-- I agree that "Virtually all of the objections were completely off target and misunderstood the proposal completely." I'm puzzled as to why a relatively simple proposal (a good faith effort to improve the Wikipedia project, the an exploration of an idea) has generated so much off-topic hand waving and shouting. And now when the initial flurry of off-topic objections have been ignored, do we really we need another off-topic diversion into the seemingly chaotic process by which the Wikipedia community explores new ideas? Why do some people favor such diversions over the task of trying to improve the project? --JWSchmidt 16:32, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Um... because a lot of people (some including those with Phd's, which require some understanding of the English language) read it as asking how something could be implemented without asking whether it should or needed to be implemented? Don't you believe that the reason why something could or should be done need addressing as much as the how and when? You say that the proposal it will improve Wikipedia; can you cite your sources? Or are you unwilling to have that debate? LessHeard vanU 18:02, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia currently includes unverified claims about the credentials of participants. Why not explore ways to verify those claims? The original argument by Jimbo from 2 years ago suggested that by having a system for verifying credentials of Wikipedia participants more people would be able to trust Wikipedia. --JWSchmidt 21:24, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I am relatively new to Wikipedia and perhaps do not have a very deep understanding of all the "politics" behind debates like this, but having followed the posts here for a while, I do not understand how Wikipedia can improve its image (damaged by the Essjay scandal) to the outside world by adopting as a solution (as some editors have proposed), a ban on Users putting up any credentials at all! As Jimmy Wales has pointed out, Wikipedia does have many experienced and well qualified professionals among its editors; are we to effectively "bin" these valuable assets just because we refuse to explore possible solutions to prevent another Essjay scandal? Ivygohnair 00:02, 18 March 2007 (UTC

Thou Shalt Burn If Thou Lie!

Common Ground[edit]

Let me make a couple of observations from my novice mind:

  • Editors can already post their credentials, academic or otherwise, on their user pages.
  • There is no system in place, at present, to verify such a claim.
  • A user can post links to verify his claim of credentials already if he chooses to do so.
  • Jimbo's proposal attempts to create such a voluntary verification system.
  • There is no claim, suggestion or proposal that such verification be mandatory. Rather it would be tool for an individual user to choose to use if and when he desires.
  • Concerns about super-user status are respected but I think perhaps overstated. The community simply will not accept super-user behavior from anyone.

Now, let me suggest simply:

  • Create the userboxes for those who wish to use them.
  • View the boxes as strictly voluntary.
  • Allow them to be used for a probationary period of maybe 6 months and then reevaluate to see if the community has been disrupted by them. At the end of the probationary period we will have another discussion and remove them if that is the consensus.

I suspect the validation of credentials will be less useful than Jimbo thinks and I also would guess they would be less harmful to the community than others suggest. As usual, reality lies between the two points of view. JBEvans 11:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I still feel that we should, as a community, strongly recommend against falsifying information. And that editors who wish to retain pseudonymity should be recommended to do so by withholding information not fabricating misleading information. Information published under falsified identities, rather than pseudonyms, has almost zero credibility to readers, so needs to be avoided. However, I don't feel that need necessarily have some power of enforcement behind it, beyond peer pressure of it being identified as a poor choice. --Barberio 12:02, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I think that goes almost without saying. But remember, credibility does not arise from credentials or known identities. The concept of credibility here comes from the community-based policing of articles. JBEvans 12:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
While it should go without saying, the Essjay issue has demonstrated that it does need saying. --Barberio 13:36, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Not such a big deal[edit]

A lot concern, mine included, has come from the idea that this was a policy change introducing a sort of certified super-expert. However, on looking around it's evident that the credentials tags already exist and are widely used: any damage is already being caused, to the extent that anyone takes any notice of them.

This proposal makes more sense considered as a supplementary procedure allowing users to provide some verification of their claimed credentials, subject to the verification being subject to the kind of checking expected under WP:A and with a reminder that credentials are not to be used in place of attribution. A standard infobox could go at the top of such "credentials" user pages making this plain, and linking to one or more of the useful pages such as WP:IAC which have been produced. This box could also add the page to a category so that it's easy to find a list of who's claiming credentials: over time there could be different infoboxes and subcategories for different disciplines, making it easy to find an expert for consultation.

In my opinion the link to the "credentials" page should simply be "verification" in small lettering, avoiding the idea that the user has been "verified". Such a link could eventually go on all relevant userboxes if this works well, with the default link going to a standard statement that for privacy reasons the user has chosen not to divulge personal information, and so the credentials are not verified.

Introduction of such a procedure could be done by sending a form message to the talk pages of users who have claimed the relevant credential, pointing out that the Essjay affair has highlighted the possibility of fraud and asking if they would wish to use the procedure, or provide their comments on what improvements are needed.

Just my thoughts, but it's pretty clear that such an optional procedure would be less disruptive than trying to get all those displaying such userboxes to remove them . .. dave souza, talk 12:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I concur. Let's keep it simple. JBEvans 12:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Alternative policy proposal[edit]

"Don't lie about yourself on Wikipedia. If you make statements about yourself on Wikipedia, be prepared to back them up." I think that captures the essence of this proposal, without all the folderol about userboxes and subpages and whatnot. Kelly Martin (talk) 12:27, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I would like to add to that: "If you do not wish to back them up, you may expect to see other users disregarding those statements altogether", or something to that extent. Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 12:31, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Seconded. >Radiant< 12:31, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
agreed (thirded (smirk)), if there are consequences for those who are caught lying AlfPhotoman 12:38, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  • I'd say that yes, there are. >Radiant< 12:50, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. I think the proposal Jimbo has offered essentially just does the "backing up" in advance. JBEvans 12:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Another ill thought out policy proposal! Have you thought of the damage that could be done if User:Bishzilla thinks you're making accusations of lying about self-description? Best stick to minor procedures implementing existing policies!! .. dave souza, talk 13:02, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Then we just have to be biblical about it, if someone accuses the other of lying with bad faith and it is established that the other is not, someone faces the same consequences as if the other had been caught lying. AlfPhotoman 13:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Inside the tent, being positive, giving it a go, etc.[edit]

I think we should give it a try, now we've come this far. I'm prepared to put up a couple of little userboxes (LLB and PhD) if someone else will make them and if I can be "verified" while also remaining anonymous. If all that can be done, and with my concerns in general having been addressed, I think it would be churlish of me not to give it a go. Metamagician3000 13:52, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

OK, Let's give it a go. Here's a userbox, and I'll send you an email to see if I can verify you.

{{user degree/PhD verified}}

A Musing (formerly Sam) 15:27, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

{{User degree?}}

That's fine, and many may prefer using that, but the current exercise is really intended simply as a good faith test run for Jimbo's proposal, to see what issues the test run raises. Let's give it a try. A Musing (formerly Sam) 15:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I think it makes more sense to have the link attache to a subpage of the user "\verified" for example, on which the user can make the claim and people can sign their verifications, so that if I see someone *I* trust verifying the claim, I don't have to demand yet another e-mail. -- Avi 15:37, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Quite right - I've changed the userbox accordingly and created the page. I've emailed Metamagician. The key is that he will likely need to give me some personal information, which he may or may not be comfortable with. While I'll commit to keep it confidential, he doesn't know me from Adam. A Musing (formerly Sam) 15:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Here are my userboxes. The first I've had for a very long time, the second I created from Jimbo's suggestion about those who choose not to opt in. Mak (talk) 16:48, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

BM This user has received a Bachelor of Music degree. Toilet 370x580.jpg
BM? This user's BM is unverified. '
May I ask why you used a toilet and a turd? Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 16:49, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
It's kinda a long story. Basically, my degree is called a BM, which many people take to be short for Bowel movement. Plus, having a bachelor of music degree is like flushing your money/life down a toilet, and in addition two of the music buildings on the campus of the school I went to look like toilets from the right angle (Jimbo might know what I'm talking about ;) Now, the second one, the juxtaposition was just too obvious - my BM might just be bullshit. Mak (talk) 16:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for getting the ball rolling to try the idea out. To repeat, my suggestion is that the link should simply be piped like this: [[credentialsunverified|verification]] (avoiding the idea that the user has been "verified"), with the default link to "credentialsunverified" going to a standard statement something like this –
These credentials are at present unverified: it may be that the user prefers not to divulge personal information for privacy reasons, as all users are entitled to. Note that credentials carry no weight in article discussions, which must rely on attributable sources and neutral point of view. For further information see the credentials procedure.
The idea is that there should be no obvious difference in credentials userboxes between "verified" and "unverified" editors, and no pressure on anon editors to start giving out personal info if they don't want to. This is still a trial run, and the comments of those who actually use the degree type userboxes from Wikipedia:Userboxes/Education should be sought – many of us who are commenting here don't use such userboxes. .. dave souza, talk 17:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
If you don't like being a Bowel Movement you should have emigrated, so you would have a B.Mus instead. Of course, this also applies to those with BullShit (BS) degrees :-P Nil Einne 17:40, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
All right. I've given the information to A Musing (formerly Sam) and I'd already given it to Jimbo. They'll be able to report on their experience. What they have to convince themselves of is (1) my real-life identity and (2) that that person has a PhD (and a law degree, but we'll stick with the PhD for this exercise). That two-stage process will be a useful, good-faith test of how hard it is for someone who wants to preserve a degree of anonymity at Wikipedia. I'm now awaiting contact from one or both of them. I'll also put the userbox on my userpage somewhere, pending the outcome of the exercise. Metamagician3000 23:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I got Metamagician3000's information, and have been able to verify that, assuming he is who he says he is, that person has a PhD as reported both on a web page for a reputable University and according to reputable academic journals in which he's published articles (I verified this using Google Scholar). I've sent an email to the address shown on the reputable University's web site, and am awaiting a response. So, if this works, when this process is done, at least one Wikipedian with no prior contacts will have his information and will have verified it through trustworthy, public sources; I'll report back to the Community that he has satisfied me of the credential, and the process has been relatively painless and not very time consuming for either of us. A Musing (formerly Sam) 00:53, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I've written back to formerly Sam from that email address. The process seems painless so far. Metamagician3000 01:26, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
All verified. I've entered the information on User:Metamagician3000/phdverification, which can also be accessed via that userbox above. Congratulations, Metamagician, you are the first verified PhD.A Musing (formerly Sam) 01:50, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. :) This wasn't a big deal for me, but maybe what we've just done will achieve some good. The process was not difficult, and it might give confidence to anyone who would like to be "verified" while also preserving whatever anonymity they began with. It can be done with no real pain. Metamagician3000 02:02, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

In the section #Support, below, Metamagician3000 says, "having two people do it each time would get bureaucratic". <-- I do not understand that. You seem to be indicating that in order to not make public the real world identity of Metamagician3000 you are willing to share your identity with one or at most two other Wikipedians and then everyone else should trust a report from that one (or maybe two) person. If Metamagician3000 is unwilling to reveal identity to other people, maybe the degree verification template should say something like:

Graduation hat.svg This user claims to have a Doctor of Philosophy degree. User:A Musing reported that this has been verified by email as described at: User:Metamagician3000/phdverification.

--JWSchmidt 15:32, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

How many times do I have to say this? In my particular case I have given copious information to two people: Sam and Jimbo. However, I don't think that that should be imposed on every person who goes through the process. If the community wants to disagree on that, fine. We could adopt a two-person standard, but I think it will scare others off if they all have to do that. Ex hypothesi, we are talking about people who have a reason not to reveal their real-life identities, so the more people they have to give the information to the less attractive it will be (as well as becoming more time-consuming). I also don't understand your later comments. Yes, the whole point of the system is to allow for verification to be quick and easy, as long as the methods used are rigorous. If I have my real-life identity on my userpage, someone (or more than one if collusion will be suspected otherwise) will still have to write to that person and confirm that they really are the person who edits Wikipedia as "Metamagician3000". The point of this exercise was to show that verification could be done quite quickly not only in such cases but also in (at least some) cases where the user wants to maintain anonymity. It accomplished that. I hope it gives some other people confidence to give it a try. Metamagician3000 23:25, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I think care should be taken in using the term "verified" on these templates. My suggestion was aimed at making the template more informative with respect to the method of verification. Why not make it clear right on the template what the method of verification was? In my mind, there is a significant difference in the "quality" of a verification of credentials that I can carry out myself and a claim that someone I do not know has verified someone's credentials. It might be useful to have credential templates for several "levels" of verification, for example:
1) no verification
2) verification where you have to trust a third person's claim that they verified some credentials,
3) cases where a Wikipedian has made known their real world identity and provided a way for everyone to check their credentials. --JWSchmidt 01:23, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Another point is that for simplicity's sake, I think there should be only one verification subpage, on which will be signed verifications for all boxes, and all userboxes would link to "user/verification". -- Avi 03:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Singling out of academics[edit]

  • Well, at the beginning of this debate, I was ambivalent about this proposal. But the more I think about it, the more opposed I become. But it is not for the reasons that are often listed. I have already explained how I think it will drive untenured humanities faculty away (see Jimbo's archived talk page). But it also seems to me that this policy is being created only in reation to the essjay controversy (not a good reason to create a policy - one person) and without very much thought. Users can claim to be experts in any number of fields: law enforcement, medicine, teaching, actuarial science (there are exams, certificates and degrees in all of these fields). It seems unfair that PhDs are being singled out because of essajay.
I see no reason for PhDs to be singled out. I support voluntary verification of all kinds of things.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but the proposal states that only advanced degrees would be affected at this time and how would all of these other kinds of verification be done? None of this is being thought out is my point. Awadewit 18:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

In a sense, under this policy someone can continue to lie about anything but an advanced degree - why is that?

It is wrong to lie to the community about anything.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes it is. But lying happens and apparently it is only the lying PhDs who are going to punished (that is, you cannot claim the degree without verification). Awadewit 18:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Actually it is only the lying non PhD holders, who wrongly claim they do have said degree, that are being currently targeted. Anyone who has a Phd is having the option of having their honor (sic) protected. LessHeard vanU 21:31, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Well Jimbo, there is a large body of the community who feel they are entitled to lie about themselves, with the claim that it is to 'protect their identity by misdirection'. This argument has been made in many many places, by a significant and vocal group. Does 'It is wrong to lie to the community about anything.' cover them too? --Barberio 20:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

The argument seems to be going: essjay lied, wikipedia users feel betrayed, wikipedia and its supporters are upset that it was besmirched in the media, wikipedia wants to root out all of the other lying PhDs. This is a highly problematic chain of reasoning; policies should deal in generalities, not specifics.

It would be a problematic chain of reasoning if anyone actually was engaging in it.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Implicitly they are. Awadewit 18:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
You might also see the beginning the essay at Wikipedia:Credentials are irrelevant. Awadewit 19:13, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Like a lot of the policies on wikipedia, I might add, this policy seems to address one small issue. It is not being thought about at a broad level. Policies should anticipate problems and try to encompass the entire situation as one sees it at the time, not simply react to one unfortunate incident. To make what will probably turn out to be an unfortunate analogy, in policy-making one should try to be like the American or French constitution drafters, who drafted large, sweeping ideas and anticipated that they would be changed. One should not aim to be the U.S. House of Representatives which responds to every shift in the political winds and proposes often crazy laws that the U.S. Senate has to tone down.

Well of course I agree with that, and I think this proposal is clearly designed to be exactly that.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  • If this policy goes into effect, I will simply have to remove the information from my userpage that discusses my academic work. In my field, I cannot afford to verify myself yet (I could be punished on the jobmarket).
I think you really must radically misunderstand the proposal if you think it could cause you to be punished on the job market. Can you explain further why you think that? There is no requirement or need for you to reveal any information publicly.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I am concerned that a culture of verification will develop. People with PhDs will feel pressured to verify their PhDs when they see others doing the same; academics may not feel it is appropriate to contribute without verifying themselves. I do not believe that the situation will remain a simple "I choose to verify"/"I choose not to verify" binary decision. Social and political pressures come to bear in wikipedia just like any other environment. If such a culture were to develop, I feel that it would be disastrous for humanities contributors. In the humanities, wikipedia is viewed with much greater skepticism than in the sciences. If such a culture of verification were to develop, I feel that it would drive away humanities scholars because they would be wary of revealing their presence here. I already feel that I have to hide my wikipedia activities from my colleagues. For untenured faculty members or graduate students, being coerced by a culture of verification or even encouraged to reveal who they are might be detrimental to their career (the situation is less tenuous for tenured faculty). I really am not kidding. Think about it this way. Say a junior faculty member in an English department who specialized in Charles Dickens rewrote the Dickens page. The user announced this on their userpage (as many wikipedians do). They became busy writing their book. Their book on Dickens is now published. They are up for tenure. The tenure committee finds out they have been editing for wikipedia. They look at the Dickens page. It is now rubbish because the user hasn't paid attention to it (he or she has been writing the book on Dickens). The committee doesn't understand that the user is not responsible for the latest edits. Disaster ensues. This may sound like hysteria, but hiring and tenure can be really insane processes; they are sometimes decided on the weirdest criteria. The problem is this: there are way too many qualified candidates (in English about 200 people apply for each job; at places like Harvard, many more - those odds are not good), so the decision on who to hire often comes down to silly things. Say a hiring committee chooses 20 of that 200 that they feel are better than the rest. How do they choose between the 20? Sometimes it can come down to things like "That person writes for wikipedia? Why do they waste their time doing that? We don't want them." Some examples from The Chronicle of Higher Education in recent months:
  • how the wrong sense of humor can sink your job prospects, "Sense of Humor Preferred," Friday, February 9, 2007
  • how getting ill during the interview can lose you the job, "And It Was Going So Well, Thursday, February 1, 2007
  • how "forthcoming" books are frowned upon in tenure decisions, "Is Your Book Really Coming Out?" Tuesday, March 13, 2007Awadewit 18:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I understand the underlying concern, which actually extends past tenure, because one's reputation is everything in academics. So, in the present state of Wikipedia, I also would be very hesitant to have articles here associated with me. I think it's quite silly that such might be a concern, but the pressures are in fact real. What I don't understand is why psuedonyms don't resolve the issue. That's one reason why we need to allow a trusted means of verification where only one or two trusted people need to see the real personal details. Derex 22:28, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Now, is it better for wikipedians who come to my userpage to think that I am a rather blank person or for them to think that I might have an advanced degree in a particular field? I think that it is better for them to know; they can hedge their bets. My degree has already been referred to by people who have visited my userpage and I have been asked to review articles based upon it (which, of course, suggests that not all wikipedians sniff at credentials). Awadewit 14:08, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

And if you want to say that you "might" have an advanced degree, there is nothing in the proposal stopping you from doing it. Where did you get the idea that there might be? Is there something I could clarify for you?--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
When I said "might" I was implying that users can doubt what is on my userpage if they so desire. Awadewit 18:54, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree it's not a good idea to create a policy just because of one person, what you seem to be missing is that this policy isn't being created because of one person. Rather one person highlighted a deficiency in the way we currently operate in that wikipedians can very easily claim to have a degree but we have no way to verify they do and so it's possible they're lying. It is fairly often that one person or one event does in fact highlight a policy that results in a change in policies. For example, Seigenthaler was largely responsible for emphasing some flaws in the way our current policies and lead to BLP and AFAIK the change preventing anons from creating new articles. This isn't just in wikipedia too. In governments and companies, single issues often highlight key problems which may result in things like law changes. This doesn't mean people are changing things based on one issue, rather the one issue highlighted a problem (often one that people had been considering but were't giving enough attention) that people realise needed to be dealt with. Also, remember that altho we're not 100% sure how this would work, most of us hope and expect anonymity will be largely perserved for those who desire it. If not, one key thing to remember is currently, there is no suggestion this will be compulsary. What may happen is people will ignore your credentials if they are not verified. You may think this is unfair, but think of it this way. If I'm looking for an expert, is it better that I trust you who claims to have an advanced degree in the field but may or may not have an advanced degree or someone who I'm resonable certain does have an advanced degree in the field? Obviously the later. Nil Einne 17:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
As discussed above we don't need a policy change to try this out – my suggestion at #Inside the tent, being positive, giving it a go, etc. is aimed at avoiding any pressure to divulge verification details if you don't want to, The idea of automatic categories being added as discussed at #Not such a big deal would make it easier to contact several users with expertise in a field, asking them to provide WP:A sources to support their advice. .. dave souza, talk 17:14, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree completely about not having pressure for anyone to divulge verification details.--Jimbo Wales 18:00, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
But Nil Einne's point is precisely the problem I am pointing to above - a culture of verification will develop. Nil Einne says that he would be more likely to trust someone who is willing to verify their degree (which I completely understand) but not everyone is in a position to be able to do that (as I try to explain above). You are disadvantaging young scholars in the humanities in particular, in my opinion. And if there are any humanities scholars contributing to wikipedia, more than likely the bulk of them are young (humanities scholars seem to adopt new technology slowly, for some reason). By the way, I did a quick survey of the number of wikipedia users who claim to have a degree in a particular field (via userboxes). The majority (if not vast majority) is in the sciences and related fields. This is why I feel that a policy which would drive away humanities scholars in particular should be avoided. Awadewit 19:01, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
This would clearly be a deeply tragic outcome for humanities scholars. What I can't understand is why they can't do as I do, and give no indication of their degree. If you want to be anonymous, either show a degree without any verification (which, as I've suggested, could be pretty discreet, and fully explained if anyone does click on a link in the voluntary userbox if they choose that one), or don't show what degrees you have. Is that such a problem? ... dave souza, talk 21:24, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
As I understand it, there's no need to reveal your true details to anyone but a trusted verifier. If you really do trust no one at Wikipedia, then I suppose you couldn't verify. But if there's anyone here you'd trust seeing your details, you could have both verification and the credential. In a sense, you already do this, because a checkuser could almost certainly identify you with a little cleverness unless you go through a proxy. Derex 22:35, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Why this is an unnecessary bad idea[edit]

For several reasons.

  1. Whether your credentials are real or fake is irrelevant to the fact that using credentials to win content disputes is wrong: it's just a form of bullying. What matters is not whether the number of letters after Editor X's name: it's whether Editor X is sourcing their content properly.
    I fail to see any relevance to this argument at all to what I have proposed. Did you even read it? I fully support strengthening the policy against bullying by using credentials, but that has virtually nothing to do with what we are discussing.--Jimbo Wales 18:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

For the record, Mr Wales, I have never been "bullied" by any editor with a Ph D since I started editing 6 months ago, but have had many harrowing experiences with very young editors :-) Ivygohnair 00:10, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

  1. It has relevance. My one problem with this that IMO the unintended effect will be to create two classes of Wikipedians: those who have verified credentials, and those who have not. That is not a healthy situation. Part of the reason why "I've got a PhD so shut up" is not really a problem at the moment is that everyone knows that that PhD could be nonsense. This whole business rather reminds me of Tom Lehrer's Irish Ballad send-up: one charming female, after massacring her entire family, does not deny her crimes to the police because "lying she knew was a sin". The parallel is there: we're going to waste a lot of community time chasing after a minor problem that will accentuate the big one, which is the lack of referenced content. Credential verification will, in my opinion, not stop liars - who will find a way if they are desperate enough - and will create a class of superusers who will feel they get to flout the rules concerning content additions. That's my worry. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  2. Essjay faking his credentials was not, in itself, that big a problem. The top brass here knew and didn't give a damn. Unfortunately, nobody checked to see whether he'd used those fake credentials to win content disputes, which would be wrong anyway even if his credentials were genuine. Then he lied to the New Yorker, which brought Wikipedia into disrepute, but that's something else altogether. Incidentally, he also wrote completely unsourced POV articles that were completely crap, probably the worst sin of all.
    I think you are trolling when you say people didn't give a damn, but in any event, the rest of your points make no sense to me. All of those things were problematic.--Jimbo Wales 18:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    Mr Wales, please. I don't troll, ever. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    You could advance the discussion several miles, Mr. Wales, by not accusing your critics of bad behavior when they challenge you. You could advance it even further by phrasing your complaints in plain English rather than using geek-speak words like "trolling" that convey negative conotations without accurately describing any particular objectionable behavior. You could hit a virtual home run if you could stand by your printed apology at least long enough for the letter to make it to the news stands. You have already stipulated, in a letter to New Yorker, that you made an error in judgement. You can't now turn around and credibly accuse people of "trolling" for recognizing the same error in judgement that you have specifically acknowledged. If you gave a damn before you were caught red handed, please describe the actions you took to confront the deception about which you knew or should have known. Not taking action in the face of wrongdoing where one is in a position of authority is to "not give a damn" at least in the slang you establish by precedent as the prefered mode of communication in Wikipedia discussions.
Even if this were the first time you admitted error in the national press then returned to Wikipedia to disparage someone who discusses the same error here, it would still be wrong. Problem is, it's not the first time, nor the second nor the third. It is your modus operandi. You speak in public of this project being run by love and trust, but you don't love us enough to be honest with us about your own flaws, even when you have admitted those flaws in public. Did you think that once you confess your sin in the national press, it goes away? It doesn't work like that. It's not confession. The error you admit in the national press stays with you for life. It becomes part of your biography, and of your unauthorized biography. Your choices are very limited in the matter. Either you bash anyone who continues to discuss the relevance of the error, or you consistently admit the error, with each admission hopefully advancing your explanation of how it occured and how you intend to prevent it in the future. And by prevent it, I don't mean prevent people from lying about credentials -- I mean prevent yourself from not giving a damn when people are lying about credentials while you are aware of their lies, and prevent yourself from looking the other way when you are aware of any problem that affects others but about which you might otherwise not give a damn until confronted in the national press.
Jimmy, we tried to talk with you about these sort of things here. You didn't listen and you insulted us for raising these concerns, so we took it to the streets. You can wise up now, or we can continue doing what we are learning to do better with each passing day. You might think you can run this project by only greasing the squeaky wheels, but the truth is, some of us can whisper up a storm. You need to listen to the quiet voices that unnerve you instead of accusing them of trolling. MaxMorf 01:14, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I see from your edit history that you only have a few edits to Wikipedia, all to this talk page. I find that very unlikely for a new user. You seem to have quite a lot of prior experience with Wikipedia. Would you please be so kind as to inform us about your main account? AecisBrievenbus 01:39, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I have no "main account". I don't need to be part of your club to study how it works. I watch this fray. I knew who Essjay was before the New Yorker told me. I knew he was working for Wikia under a different name than his Wikipedia name. I know a lot more, which I may disclose to whomever I see fit at the time and place of my choosing. MaxMorf 01:53, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
  1. The success of Wikipedia has been built on an egalitarian model: the same rules - namely WP:ATT/WP:RS - apply to a Detroit street cleaner with an interest in rocket science and someone working at Cape Canaveral. The rules are the same for everyone; you have to reference your stuff to reliable third-party sources and you have to write neutrally, or else you get reverted. Wikipedia's major problem is unreferenced content, not faked credentials that shouldn't matter anyway.
    Just because something is not the major problem, does not imply that it is not a problem.--Jimbo Wales 18:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    You fix your lung cancer before your muscle pull. Our lack of properly referenced content is the major problem. Essjay only really hurt Wikipedia through the bad publicity incurred: this proposal, as it's voluntary, will not stop future Essjays, and will probably hurt us reference-wise. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  2. For us to pressurize those who label credentials on their userpage and then don't wish to verify them is entirely wrong. Why can't people keep their privacy? So long as they aren't winning content disputes via credentials or lying to the New Yorker there isn't a problem.
    For me there is a huge problem: they are lying to the community, and lying to our readers.--Jimbo Wales 18:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    It would contribute to the popular understanding if you would tell us when this first became a problem for you, and why you didn't previously consider it a problem. MaxMorf 01:29, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
    I didn't say anyone was lying: merely that they had put - presumably genuine - credentials their userpage that they did not wisdh to verify, and that we should not force them to verify those credentials. Crossed wires here, perhaps. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    This seems like a mistake. Just because a credential is unverified does not make it a lie. Would you please consider a clarification here? Johntex\talk 19:18, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
    It's as if you are assuming someone who states they have an academic credential is less reliable than a user who claims anything else (such as having a particular IQ or knowing mulitple languages). Why do these other users' claims not need to be verified? It has already been established multiple times, I believe, that the credentials are not going to be used in debates, so again, I ask, why focus on academic credentials? Awadewit 19:26, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  3. All that's needed is for a couple of sentences to be added to one of our policies or guidelines somewhere, maybe WP:USER or WP:ATT. "Don't lie about your academic credentials on your userpage, and don't involve any credentials you do have in content disputes. WP:ATT is what matters, not your credentials". Problem sorted: no need for a lengthy and involved process that it seems the community has but little interest in. Maybe even add a sentence to WP:BLOCK: "persistent use of I'm a PhD, so shut up is frowned upon and may result in a brief block".
    Those things already exist, but fail to address the problem at hand.--Jimbo Wales 18:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  4. Although not the intent, I'm deeply uneasy about what effect this could have to the atmosphere here. Would this not make it easier for those with verified credentials to own articles, dominate newbies - all because their credentials are somehow viewed as especially prized? Could it not give those with verified credentials the impression that they are some kind of editor that we find especially valuable? Why do we need to go through with this verification credential process when it's redundant to other, far simpler measures that could be taken, and is fundamentally unwiki? Regardless, this will not stop future Essjays. Moreschi Request a recording? 14:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Replies to Moreschi comments above.
1) "using credentials to win content disputes is wrong....What matters is ... whether Editor X is sourcing their content properly" <-- we all agree, but there are reasons why it makes sense to have a credentials verification process.
2) "nobody checked to see whether he'd used those fake credentials to win content disputes" <-- So what is your point? This seems to me a reason for having a process to check credentials. If we started paying more attention to people who claim credentials we might even become motivated to make a bot that can flag statements by editors such as "my degree" and "as a professor".
3) have you read the original reasons that motivated discussion about checking credentials? What about the issue of how the world perceives Wikipedia?
4) even just a claim about credentials can change how people react to you
5) "a couple of sentences to be added to one of our policies or guidelines somewhere" <-- you "solution" does not address the reasons for having credentials verification, your "solution" does not address the issues that motivated the credentials verification proposal. "the community has but little interest in" <-- you are not interested in how the world perceives Wikipedia?
6) "fundamentally unwiki" <-- Wiki is a tool for collaborative editing of webpages. How does verifying credentials amount to something that is "fundamentally unwiki"? --JWSchmidt 15:34, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

"Whether your credentials are real or fake is irrelevant to the fact that using credentials to win content disputes is wrong: it's just a form of bullying. What matters is not whether the number of letters after Editor X's name: it's whether Editor X is sourcing their content properly." True, but that is not the only way credentials are used. Let's take the following example: I know absolutely nothing about maths. I can add and subtract, I know Pythagoras, but that's about it. I may come across a maths-related article that seems patent nonsense to me. I will not know for sure, however, because, as I said, I suck at maths. I will need to contact a mathematician to check the article. That editor will tell me that the article is indeed patent nonsense or that it's valid. At this moment I have no way of checking the editor's background, I have to assume that the maths credentials are indeed correct and that the editor knows what he/she is talking about. Those credentials may convince me that an article needs to be kept or deleted. A system of optional voluntary credential verification can provide us with a reference desk or a noticeboard, so that we know who to turn to. There will always be people who know something that I don't know, which is the key principle behind a community project like Wikipedia. Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 15:51, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Hopefully, that's what you wouldn't do. Hopefully, you'd go to someone with a long history of contributing well-referenced, high-quality neutral material for maths articles, regardless what it says on their userpage, and say "Hi! You seem to a top-hole chap for maths references. Would mind checking out some stuff and telling me whether or not Article Y is patent nonsense?" - etc. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I think this is right. There are times we need experts, and I've found a few I rely on in certain areas and ask questions of. The need for experts is acknowledged when people use templates like this one:


But we never know what kind of expert we're getting. I am nervous about some elements of verification: it will almost certainly require giving up anonymity for at least an email or two, and many may be reluctant to do that. But I suspect verification will cut down on bullying, since now one response to the bullying from the false expert will be: OK, so you think you know alot, verify it! (Of course, we should all remember, there are plenty of PhD's that still aren't worth relying on). A Musing (formerly Sam) 16:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

(edit conflict) The point is that if we want to appoint experts we need to know if they really are. A PhD can mean all kinds of things. So far the most I have seen this template is when someone finally messed up an article to incoherency and tries to safe face. AlfPhotoman 16:10, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
The correct way to make use of experts is to ask them to cite verifiable sources to support the wiki content that has been questioned. --JWSchmidt 16:50, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I think the bullying thing is a red herring. Say I have a PhD in English literature dating from the 1980s. How is that going to help me in a content dispute about, say, thermodynamics? Even in my narrow field, I may be out of date. If all we are going to say on our userpages is "I have a verified PhD", well it might be evidence that we are (or once were) devoted to scholarship and probably have some sense of scholarly standards, and it's doubtless a good thing that such people contribute to Wikipedia. But that's all it's evidence of. I see no harm in being able to make that innocuous claim and have it verified (if it can be). It might also do some good. It will not only show that we do have people around with a commitment to scholarship but also put additional pressure on people not to claim PhDs that they don't actually have. I don't think it can do much more one way or the other - it won't solve all our problems - but it's probably worthwhile doing if we can get it to work smoothly. Metamagician3000 00:09, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

...and it worked smoothly in the trial run above on the page. Metamagician3000 02:47, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

I would certainly assume we intend to specify the field of expertise. Otherwise the whole thing is quite useless. Derex 08:20, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
To the level of granularity that this seems to propose, it may be useless anyway. If all I know about User X is that he has a PhD in biology, I still don't really know anything useful from an article-content perspective. Maybe he worked on social behavior in great apes and maybe he worked on proteasome-independent protein degradation pathways, and there's no reason to think someone who knows one area well will have any more than a layman's knowledge of the other. A wikipedia editor's CV is his contributions list; that's orders of magnitude more useful in identifying knowledgeable editors in a specific field than a hypothetical verified-PhD userbox. Opabinia regalis 18:13, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Suggestion seems to miss the real issues[edit]

I think the idea is silly. Beside doubting that many would care enough to try enforcing such a plan, I don't see how anyone would benefit. The fault was Jimbo's for giving a guy such a prominent position without properly checking himself; this move is clearly a reaction to this mistake. Like many event-based reactions, this one goes way over the top. If people claim they have a PhD. - let them claim it; we will find out soon enough if this has any implication for their knowledge just by their edits. The best reaction is the one we've already got; the natural reaction of the community to be suspicious of credential claiming. I'm also highly skeptical about the worthiness of reacting to The New Yorker and spin-off articles in other publications. A dishonest admin told porkies about his credentials on an all-access website? Wow, what a story... what a big deal ... how shocking this is. The real story of course is that this guy tricked the Foundation and/or senior admin and got away with it for a long time. It was the Foundation and crappy or irresponsible journalism that was really at fault. Therefore, to me it is highly obvious which group of people have to adjust their approach, and it ain't the community. Burdening the wiki community with another routine task that further impinges on their privacy just ... well ... misses the point. And yes, I know the ordinary person generally pays for the mistakes of more powerful people; but this is Wikipedia for goodness sake! Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 16:09, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I have only one question for you: just how, exactly, does this go way over the top? You want to forbid people from allowing others in a systematic way to verify their credentials? That sounds way over the top to me.--Jimbo Wales 18:08, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I think I explained my opinion on this. If people want to claim academic credentials and seek people to verify them, they can do that already. In the context, no action is my stance. You can surely rely that the suspicion created will encourage this, and I'm sure this has left you suspicious enough to ensure verification when you need this. Why take any action? Is it to appease the media? Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 18:21, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I am sorry, but it was not an irresponsible journalism of the New Yorker. In fact it was damm good journalist AlfPhotoman 16:16, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
No, uncovering it certainly was good journalism ... I totally agree. Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 16:17, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm a journalist myself (is this a claim to credentials? ;-)), and I agree that the New Yorker is to blame for all of this as well. It is common procedure to quote someone anonymously, but you should always know who you are quoting anonymously. If you don't know who you're quoting you shouldn't quote them. Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 16:19, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Ok, lets have a fight among professionals. You call a organization and ask for an interview partner and the organization gives you a name and say: That's the man. Do you turn around and say: "gimme his credentials foist"... no you don't unless you plan a right out attack article. If you read the original New Yorker article you will find that it was genuinely based on good faith. If the assigned interview partner feeds a journalist a big line of bullshit it is hardly the journalists fault. AlfPhotoman 16:33, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
That would depend on the relation between the organisation and the interview partner. For most organisations the relation is clear, there is a clear connection between the organisation and the interview partner. The interview partner provides his or her real name, the position can be verified and the person is on the payroll of the organisation. Essjay was and is an independent individual at the time of the interview, a freelancer so to speak. That should have warranted caution. The article spoke of "a user known as Essjay, who holds a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law and has written or contributed to sixteen thousand entries. A tenured professor of religion at a private university, Essjay made his first edit in February, 2005." It didn't say Essjay claimed to be this, it said Essjay was this. The journalist should have asked Essjay for his real identity. If he had provided it, she should have checked it with the university in question. If he hadn't, she should have been cautious. She chose the present an unverified alias as a real identity. A journalist who (naively?) fails to check facts can be blamed just as much as the person who provides the incorrect information. Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 16:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Ok, read the article[] and you will notice that Essjay's interview was not the core of the article but more the side-padding. It was never intended to write an article about a Wikipedia admin. And that was the usual request we make every day saying : do you have a quote I can use?. Well, we did ... and send them Essjay. Sorry, but this is hardly something we can blame on the New Yorker AlfPhotoman 16:56, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
My understanding was the New Yorker wanted to know EssJay was but he refused to tell them. (This wouldn't be surprising since my understanding is he fought hard to prevent any requirement his real identity be revealed as he was promoted.) He had been, amongst others things, recommended by Jimbo Wales and was a trusted wikipedia, so I presume it seems resonable to them to trust him, even if he refused to reveal his identity. I'm not saying the New Yorker may not have made mistakes, but it seems rich to me to say that they are as much to blame as EssJay. EssJay lied to many people, including a journalist who was writing a story. There is no way IMHO this is comperable to slightly lax journalism. Nil Einne 17:13, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
As someone with fully verified credentials as a complete non-expert in this area, it seems to me that the New Yorker could have easily written something like "claims the following credentials" rather than "has the following credentials", and such a disclaimer would have let them off the hook but still left Wikipedia with a problem when the deception was uncovered. .. dave souza, talk 17:19, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
To be absolutely clear: I did not recommend EssJay to the New Yorker.--Jimbo Wales 18:08, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
That has something to do with the approach to a story, friendly or unfriendly. If you have the friendly approach there is no reason for you to doubt whomever/whatever you want to write about and you don't take slight finesse into account. That said, we all make errors every day, journalists make errors every day but to put blame on a semantic side-show for something that we are to blame for is about as bad as the scandal (sorry, incident) itself AlfPhotoman 17:24, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
The journalist was clearly at fault; she knew what wikipedia is, and should have kept that in mind. I guess singling out the New Yorker isn't that helpuful; but journalists of publications that make a big deal over this kind of thing are cheap. That's that. The focus should be on what happened, not vague aspersions on the gigantic wikipedia community (chances are, we have a wikipedian serial-killer!). But let's not get too tied down to the cynicism and naivety of some journalists, without remembering what actually happened. Jimbo messed up; he made a human error. The media can be vultures, and that's the real world; and there are huge numbers of people suspicious, contemptful or envious of wikipedia. He is head of this now famous, high-profile organization not because of business, administrative or PR acumen, but because he founded it. He's going to make mistakes along the line as he grows in experience, and this whole thing was one of them. Did he ever even meet him? And if he did, maybe the guy looked older, but 24 year olds don't have PhD.s! In my mind he's making it worse by pressing this. Now, he may think I'm missing the whole point, but he's the one who's linking these changes to the essayjay "scandal". If he and others want to introduce a cadre of verified "experts" (probably inevitable in the long-run anyway), then that's a separate issue. Making it seem like a necessary response to these happy events is what bothers me. Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 17:48, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Now wait, you are giving all the right reasons for changing some things on Wikipedia, yet you say you are against it... isn't that just a little schizophrenic ? And, sorry to tell you, there are 24 year olds with PhDs (not common but possible) AlfPhotoman 20:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, there are people with three arms too, doesn't mean anyone is likely to encounter them. As for the schizophrenia ... I know better than to respond to such comments (esp. with all the admins lurking here ;) ). I suggest you'd do better attempting to break down and analyse my comments; much more useful for all of us than blurting out lazy responses like that! Regards, Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 20:55, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

About building trust?[edit]

Jimbo keeps saying that this proposal is about building trust. Because it was revealed that one person lied about credentials, now everyone ought to "put up or shut up"? Those who don't wish to reveal personal information about themselves in order for them to be checked up on don't wish to follow the wiki-way? Florence Devouard, Kat Walsh, Kelly Martin, Antandrus, and others who strongly disagree with this proposal are hysterical? This is all bosh. (User:Makemi)

What are you talking about? I have been quite clear on this: people who don't want to reveal personal information need not reveal personal information. Misrepresenting the proposal is not helpful.--Jimbo Wales 18:10, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

This community was built on assuming good faith. When you assume good faith, you risk being burnt. You don't stop assuming good faith just because you got burnt once. You keep assuming good faith of your fellow contributors, because in the end it's healthier for the community, you as a user, and the person you are assuming good faith of. When you assume that people are telling you the truth, they are more likely to tell you the truth. When you assume that everyone is a liar until they prove otherwise, you tempt people to try to get things past you.

I think Jimbo is not seeing the real problem with the "Essjay situation", which was really his handling of it in the first place and his later statements to the press. No one is going to be surprised if someone lied in a huge organisation. It happens all the time. It's what happens to those people when those lies are revealed that really says something about the organisation. In this case, the liar was promoted to positions of trust by the most trusted user in the community.

Jimbo, have you really looked at Essjay's edits? He created one article. One. He made about three hundred non-reversion edits to the mainspace. That is a tiny tiny editorial contribution. He made larger contributions to the Wikipedia space and to his own userspace than he ever did to the actual encyclopedia.

Wachet auf. This proposal is not going to solve anything. It's not going to build trust within the community. It's not going to make Wikipedia a better encyclopedia, and it's not going to make it a more reliable encyclopedia. At best, it is unneccessary bureaucratic growth (instruction creep, if you will). At worst, it will de facto, if not de jure, create another class of editors. How will it not become a policy? Because the host will reject it. Not by blocking users who follow it, but by avoiding it, and continuing to speak out about how utterly misguided it is, no matter how many times the discussion is "rebooted". Mak (talk) 16:19, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

He created one article. One.
Says it all. Really! Perhaps if a good history of editing articles were taken more seriously as admin credentials than a few months of being a nice homobot, Jimbo and Wikipedia would never have to face this image problem and wiki would be better generally! Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 16:26, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Out of curiosity, which article did Essjay create? Cows fly kites Main: Aecis/Rule/Contributions 16:29, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Exultet. Mak (talk) 16:38, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Creating a system by which people can verify credentials does not mean we "assume that everyone is a liar". Creating a system by which people can verify credentials is being explored as a way to improve the project. Please assume good faith with respect to the proposal. --JWSchmidt 17:01, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I did AGF. I read it. I saw the debate. I read Jimbo's later arguments. I think it's a terrible idea. I think it's a failure to assume good faith on a large and systematic level, which is problematic. A lot of long-time contributors agree with me. That doesn't mean I didn't assume good faith. It doesn't mean I'm hysterical. Mak (talk) 17:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
What Mak said. -//- Internet Esquire 17:49, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Mak, I do not understand where you are coming from. Could you tone down the rhetoric and just state your objection for me simply and plainly so that I might better understand it. I am the biggest advocate around of assuming good faith. I have not heard your arguments yet against this proposal. Do you think people should be banned from engaging in a process of trust building with the community? Why? Why does someone stepping forward to say "I want to be transparent about who I am" have anything to do with not assuming good faith?--Jimbo Wales 18:13, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
And I don't think it's as simple as just editors voluntarily verifying their credentials, not just about trust building. For starters, that isn't why we're here (having this discussion); we're here because of the Essjay mess. Like it or not. this is going to have a major effect on content contribution in the community, and I do not think that effect will be altogether positive. This is not simple in the slightest. The ramifications of this are something we want to think carefully about. I am wary of situations developing where good-faith contributors get slapped aside in trying to improve problem articles by the trolls because they haven't got, or don't want, the verified credentials that others do have - to name just one scenario. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Jimbo, there's a difference between expressing your opinion and rhetoric. Incidentally, I don't troll. In response to your point abov, you appointed Essjay to the ArbCom after you knew something of his liberties with the truth. Right or wrong? I know this irrelevant, I'm just trying to explain my "didn't give a damn" point above. Moreschi Request a recording? 19:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

"Those who believe in the wiki way and trust that the community has the good sense to move forward productively in assessing claims should pick the verified ones." You are saying that the "good guys" will choose to be verified. Being verified means that you have to reveal something about yourself to someone else. There's no way to become verified otherwise. I don't think I'm using rhetoric that needs to be turned down, and I have mentioned this problem with this proposal before, both on your talk page and on this talk page, and if I'm becoming more strident (not hysterical) it's because no one is addressing my concerns. If you are proposing that we should only trust those users who are willing to be verified, that's assuming bad faith of those who choose not to be verified. Assuming good faith is about assuming that people are telling you the truth and acting in a way that they think is positive. When you ask someone to prove something, that is not assuming good faith. If I write that I have two dogs, and someone asks me to prove it, they are not assuming that I am telling the truth. If I write that I have a degree, and someone asks me to prove it or not be considered a positive member of the community, that is not assuming good faith. Mak (talk) 18:21, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
By the way, those who wish to build trust with the community in this way already do so, and can continue to do so without a policy about it. Mak (talk) 18:23, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Just dropping in to express my complete agreement with what Mak has to say above. Kelly Martin (talk) 20:16, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
What Kelly said. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:17, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Mak as well. "Assuming good faith" includes the word "faith" by the way. In the Oxford English Dictionary, "faith" is historically linked not only to religous faith but also to the law and politics (fealty). In neither of these contexts is evidence ever required. According to wikipedia's own page WP:AGF, "Editors should not accuse the other side in a conflict of not assuming good faith in the absence of reasonable supporting evidence," so I would assume that one should not assume that a user is misrepresenting his or her credentials unless there is "supporting evidence" such as an English professor who does not know who Charles Dickens is or that sort of thing. Awadewit 15:16, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

"Assuming good faith is about assuming that people are telling you the truth" <-- I do not see that at Wikipedia:Assume good faith. Wikipedia depends on verification of claims. If you do not want to allow others to verify your claims, why bring those claims into Wikipedia at all? What is wrong with creating a system to help Wikipedians verify claims? "good-faith contributors get slapped aside" <-- is the fear that by having some Wikipedians with verified credentials other Wikipedians will become "second class"? I think that is an irrational fear. "appeal to credentials is a fallacy and is firmly rejected" --JWSchmidt 21:42, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

We know that appeal to credentials is a rejected fallacy: my fear is that this proposal will accentuate it as an unintended consequence. Wikipedia articles depend on claim verification, sure, but for us, the users? That has not happened before, and IMO there are rational reasons why it is not needed now. Moreschi Request a recording? 21:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Can we not make a distinction between article space and userspace claims and verification? Mak (talk) 21:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
These things are relative. If you say you have two dogs, I will assume in good faith that you do. BUT if you say you have a million dogs and the world's largest dog kennel, I'm not demonstrating bad faith to be skeptical of your claims. The same if you claim to be 6 feet tall vs. 10 feet tall. See the difference? It's Baysian logic. If you claim to be a professor of physics whose Ph.D. was in relativity, but it's clear in discussion that you have no idea what a tensor is, and can't use differential geometry, then we have a big problem. Either a total miscommunication, later brain damage on your part, or perhaps loss of English-speaking mode, or else a great big lie. Either way, it deserves investigation.

And by the way, I missed out it had been proven that credentialism, for those who are willing to give up their anonymity, has somehow been proven te be a bad or un-useful thing. On the contrary, all it does is shift some of the responsiblity that all our cited published sources now take, onto Wikipedia. This is possible.

Now, you may not want to DO it, but it's completely possible, and since credentialism is ultimately how all of our CITABLE SOURCES work (not counting scientific repeatability, which is another issue), then it's certainly possible in practice. By the way, when I send a manuscript to the Journal of Widgets and Wadjets, and claim I have a Ph.D. and I'm at the University of XYZ, they probably won't ask to see ANY credentials proving this, especially if it's a good manuscript. And the reviewers (except in experiments) are not blind to my name or my credential claims (though I am, to theirs). But if it turns out later that I lied about any of this, I might not get published anywhere in anything, for the rest of my scientific career. We could also do something like THAT for Wikipedia: verification and punishment only after issue has been brought up (like faked data in science) and an investigation has turned up clear dishonesty. SBHarris 22:23, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Firstly, I felt patronised by parts of your comment. Being patronizing is not conducive to positive communication. Clearly, claiming something which is obviously false and claiming something which is perfectly reasonable are different classes of claims. Assume good faith doesn't say you have to purposefully obtuse. Claiming that you have a doctorate is not in the same realm as claiming you are ten feet tall. Jimbo, take note, already your supporters are asking for special treatment - "On the contrary, all it does is shift some of the responsiblity that all our cited published sources now take, onto Wikipedia." So we will take the word of verified credentialists over the word of published sources? We cannot and should not take this step. I don't think this is at all what Jimbo is proposing, but I am not surprised to see such comments already, and I wouldn't be surprised if they continue until this is thoroughly quashed.
Remember administrators? They are not supposed to be a special class, but even when we don't ask for it, extra weight is given to our comments, and people assume that if they revert an administrator they will be in trouble. Journalists assume that administrators have special editorial powers, as do many users. Even though people are constantly reminding others that admins are just people with extra tools, they get treated as a separate class. Once a class is defined on Wikipedia, I think this differentiation is pretty much inevitable. Hierarchy is just an annoying part of human nature, and we have be proactive in countering it, by doing things like discouraging unnecessary classes of editors, like "Certified PhD"s. Mak (talk) 22:45, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
No attempt to patronize, AGF. But extreme examples prove points. Suppose I said I was 7'6"? 7'9"? Was a full professor in canon law and made my students read by Wiki article on Catholocism for dummies, even as I killed sockpuppets from my portable laptop, sitting in classes I teach. Hmmmm. And that plus a cherry on top? How much does it take?

I'm trying to get you to see that the "word of published sources" is not that great. Mostly, published sources haven't checked the claimed academic credentials of their contributors any better than Wiki proposes to (which is not at all, at this point). BUT THOSE CLAIMED CREDENETIALS make a big difference in whether or not many manuscripts ever see publication and BECOME pubished source, citable on Wiki. You see the problem? If it's valid one place, it's valid in another. There is no question of "appeal to credentials" being a "fallacy". For if it's a fallacy, since it provides a big part of our present WP:ATT citation policy and the way citable cites are CREATED, then it's a fallacy THERE, too. That leaves us with NOTHING to stand on. SBHarris 23:13, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Hi - you say "extreme examples prove points", so take this case as an example. Just suppose we had an editor who claimed (whether 'verified' or not) to be a Ph.D and a Fellow of the Royal Society on his user page. Leaving aside that Wikipedia was a mere glint in Jimbo's eye at the time, suppose such an editor asserted in 1993 edit disputes that it was accepted Fermat's Last Theorem had been proven, and it turned out there was a subtle error in the proof which was only remedied the following year etc etc, take the point I guess. So you see, the essential issue is one of epistemics, not of credentials.--luke 03:21, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
  • (outdent). There's no doubt that espistemics is the root issue. We're merely trying to use credentialism as one tool to aid in the Baysian fight to find out whether statements from given people are more likely to be trustable. It's always going to involve probability. If you ask the doctor with degree on the wall a question about your heart, you may get a fake doctor, a dumb doctor, or a doctor who's out of date, or even one who is indeed up on current best medical opinion---which is in fact wrong, and due to go the way of the dodo, according to new and better research that hasn't been published yet. You take your chances. But in all cases, your chances are better the guy with the sheepskin, than asking the guy on the street, or your plumber, the same question. Are we not agreed on this? SBHarris 21:24, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Well to answer your question as posed: not in all cases, for the kinds of reasons you gave - but now take a look at this trust model because there's just been a lot of debate on how exactly a system "in the hands of the community, not the Wikimedia Office" will work. And what about these quotes from Jimbo: "We don't vet people on their credentials [before they can contribute], so maybe we're anti-credentialist" and "There's a real passion for getting it right."[2] I'm not sure which model will work better judged by accuracy etc, but time will tell I guess--luke 07:48, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Anonymous verifications[edit]

Should we contemplate anonymous verifications yet? Most proposals for anoymous verifications have been in the form of a trusted user verifiying other users. This obviously still requires a person to give up their details to someone but the idea is they don't have to reveal it to the general world. The key issues are of course who is trusted and how much work are we going to be loading onto these people? Some people have suggested checkusers. One thing to remember that there are two aspects of trust. One is that we trust these people to do their jobs properly in verifying users. The other is that we trust these people to keep users anonymity. We can help improve the first one by using multiple verifications, but that obviously makes anonymity issues more complicated as well as creating more work Nil Einne 17:46, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Why not Ignore All Credentials?[edit]

Jimbo wrote

"This discussion is about how to best achieve credential verification along the lines of my proposal. No changes to current policy are contemplated, so there is no reason to act as if this is a proposal which can be accepted or rejected. Since current policy allows for this, then if you want to stop it, then you need to propose a policy which would essentially ban people for being responsible about saying who they are in Wikipedia."

As I have said before, the idea of verifying credentials on Wikipedia is a bad one, and THERE SHOULD BE A POLICY in place stating that any information which people choose to set forth on their Wikipedia user pages is inherently unreliable and *NOT* subject to any sort of verification. That is one of the major subpoints of my alternative proposal to Ignore All Credentials. // Internet Esquire 18:41, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

but in practice many won't ignore it. It's like telling a jury to ignore a witness who has already given testimony.DGG
How do you propose to make newbies who haven't read your policy follow it? A lot of the allegation about E was that by putting credentials on his user page he unduly influenced the credulous. Many users (quite legitimately) display the credentials userboxen linked earlier. What are your proposals for them? Why add a new policy when we can easily add a minor procedure for implementing current policies?.... dave souza, talk 18:52, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
This is a red herring. Have you read my proposal and the accompanying Talk Page where I point out Jimbo's apparent support for such a policy on my Talk Page? // Internet Esquire 21:10, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
See #Not such a big deal above.... dave souza, talk 20:40, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
This would make a good guideline because like it or not people can fall for appeal to authority arguments. That said I would caution Netesq on the WP:JIMBOSAID logic. :-) (Netscott) 19:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Point well taken, but "Jimbo said" logic is the only reason we're still having this "hysterical" discussion. // Internet Esquire 19:09, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
The cheese does indeed appear to be standing alone. I'm having trouble seeing how this can end quickly with anything other than an imposed solution.MikeURL 23:27, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
NO, no, no... this is all backwards... we should all be required to fake our credentials ... if everyone has to lie, then no one will shocked when it turns out someone did. Plus we can have a fun contest to see who came up with the most outragious claims.
OK, seriously, when I first came to wikipedia, I assumed that at least half of the people here were faking their information on their user pages. It wasn't that I was assuming "bad faith"... it's just that doing so is so common on line that I assumed that people would do so here as well. It didn't bother me. it doesn't bother me now. I simply don't see a need for credential verification, because I don't care what people put on their user pages. Blueboar 20:36, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. I don't care either. It's what they do, not what they say. Moreschi Request a recording? 20:37, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
"Why not ignore credentials" <-- Verifying credentials can be useful because it would allow Wikipedia editors to continue to utilize user boxes that proclaim their credentials and that helps editors find fellow Wikipedians who have needed expertise in specific knowledge domains. Verifying credentials would help some people outside of Wikipedia recognize the fact that Wikipedia does have expert contributors. Having a system that makes it clear that some Wikipedia editors are credentialed experts would encourage more trust in Wikipedia and wider participation at Wikipedia and help the project. --JWSchmidt 22:05, 16 March 2007 (UTC)~

My comment earlier supports this view. We cannot ignore the fact that we have a problem with credibility vis-a-vis the outside world. Any proposal that can improve our credibility is worth exploring.Ivygohnair 00:27, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Proposed Accountability Guideline[edit]

  1. Candidates for high office (above just admin) at the English Wikipedia are ineligible if theIr identity is unknown to OFFICE
  2. Honesty is expected by all parties involved in making desicions that affect article content and harsh consequences can be expected for substanitive lies.
  3. Important claims on user pages should be sourced or removed.

WAS 4.250 22:17, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

(1)Why can't we trust people who the OFFICE doesn't know exactly with a few extra buttons beyond sysop? (3)"Important claims on user pages should be sourced or removed." Why? Why can't people assert their qualifications and want to retain their privacy at the same time? Moreschi Request a recording? 22:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
(1)At some level of power accountability is needed. Maybe that level is only for checkuser; maybe it should include arbcom or others. That is an implementation detail. We could start with checkuser only and add other higher offices as the community wishes. (3)The key is important claims. Which claims are important can be a community choice. If the community thinks a user page claim is important, then it should be sourced or removed. WAS 4.250 22:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
What is an important claim on a userpage? Anything which fosters an understanding and appreciation between the editor and the community, that is everything? Or is academic qualification, or professional status, the only important information required (and thus verified)? LessHeard vanU 22:49, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Let the community decide. WAS 4.250 22:57, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
In practice, that is: let the most officious, literal-minded, and rule-bound members of the community decide, since they're the only ones who can be expected to waste time demanding sources for people's userpages as opposed to, say, spending the same amount of time adding sources to the actual encyclopedia. As I mentioned in the now-archived thread on a similar topic - there are massive problems with the idea that personal claims can be sourced in a meaningful way (how would one 'source' that one lives in California, is a woman, is married, was once in a polyamorous relationship, suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, or is a hobbyist carpenter, without losing anonymity?) - but those are matters of implementation, and this idea is too terrible to merit much thought on implementation. Opabinia regalis 18:05, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

...since they're the only ones who can be expected to waste time demanding sources for people's userpages as opposed to, say, spending the same amount of time adding sources to the actual encyclopedia.

COMMENT: But you realize the irony of the fact that the "actual encyclopedia" contains many biographies of living persons (BLP)s which are aggressive, inasmuch as they resent personal information posted about the person which wasn't authorized to be there, by the person. And which the person in some cases would delete, if they could. Wikipedia does this and won't give up the practice, no matter what the protest. Information there about ordinary people of note, even negative information, is permitted, so long as it's "VERIFIED" according to the dictates of WP:ATT. Which means in practice that somebody printed it somewhere, in a source that seems trustable (or it appeared in more than one of these, though there's no way of knowing if one of them got it from the other). No amount of protest that any such "information" can really be actually verified as TRUE, in any kind of reasonably trustable way, has sufficed to torpedo this policy of including it in BLPs. Push this argument too far, in fact, and you'll finally get to the irrefutable idea that Wikipedia isn't concerned with Truth, anyway.

AND YET, when it is proposed to include some small subset of the same kind of information, as biographical material on Wiki-administrator userpages, by the free choice of the administrators, as a condition of their receiving power to do administrative functions at Wikipedia, NOW suddenly observe how all these arguments flipflop 180 degrees, and information about all living people becomes unreliable, and not to be trusted anyway. We are now told that such information is uncheckable, inherrently unverifiable, unvettable, irrelevent, uninteresting, unhelpful, meaningless, unkind, and maybe downright dangerous.

Personally, I don’t think you can have it both ways. By what good argument does Wikipedia include personal information about people, for no reason other than the fact that it's printed elsewhere and the person is somehow "notable," but at the same time cannot include the same type of information about its own administrators, who become arguably notable by mere virtue of gaining administrative power at such an influential place as Wikipedia? Is this not as important a function in society as being drummer in some rock band that has one record? Inquiring minds want to know. SBHarris 22:47, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

The holy grail . . . or things that are not to be moved[edit]

So far I have encountered very few things that are perceived as static, unmovable and forever. That Mary was a virgin, that JC resuscitated after three days, that the Prophet rode to heaven on a white horse from the al-Aqsa mosque and that the Buddha sat under a tree until inspired comes to mind.

In these past six days I have discovered that there are several more articles of faith that are just as fervorously guarded as the articles of faith of various religions. Wikipedia is anonymous, all Wikipedians are the same (notice I did not say equal) and Wikipedia is good as is. There is nothing that has to be changed.

There seems to be a reflex of ignoring the reality to the point that I can only compare it to that reunion of theologists around 600 A.D. where they spent seven years discussing the sex of the angels (no consensus) or around 800 A.D. when they discussed if women had a soul (no consensus tending to no).

It is not the first time that Wikipedia is the principal player in a major scandal. This Essjay controversy (that we would like to blame on a journalist) by itself would not have caused such big waves if there had not been the Fuzzy Zoeller scandal, the Seigenthaler scandal, the Sun- Sentinel scandal and, and and.

What was the reaction of the community every time? We don‘t have to change anything . . . everything is OK . . . Look at our page views increasing . . . our Alexa ranking is doing great.

And while even the most well intended critics can only shake their heads at the attempts of the foundation to regain some trust that unequivocally is voted down by users there is a loss that everybody prefers to ignore THE LOSS IN CONFIDENCE. Hey it does not really matter, we lock ourselves up in our parallel universe and all is OK. We are making an encyclopedia.

The question is why? What good is an encyclopedia that is trusted slightly less than Idi Amin? No, please don‘t start on this but we have 30% more page views. Every time there is a scandal it goes up and right after it down again. My take is more that everybody who suspects being marginally notable goes and checks if there is some puerile assertion about him/her in their respective articles and the ambulance chasers to see if they can get some work out of this.

Now the question is if we want to do Wikipedia as a closed entity in itself being its own purpose or do we want to make an encyclopedia in the spirit of the first encyclopedists , a work to educate the masses.

If we say, we want to be an encyclopedia we have to start by generating trust and by drawing consequences out of this scandal.

It would not even have to be a radical step. Just a simple: who lies gets blocked, or: who causes damage by lying about his qualifications gets blocked for life would suffice. But it seems that there is fierce resistance at even these self-evident proposals. Not only that, there are clear indications that even when evident nobody bothers to correct any of these unsustainable situations.

If Wikipedia comes to be a purpose in itself I suggest we should be honest about it, stop asking people to donate for our fun and pay dues like on second life and we can happily go on discussing the sex of the angels. If not we have to take all measures necessary to regain trust even if they seem to be diametrically opposed to our views of ideal community.

I know that it is time for my helmet again, but clobbering me won‘t solve the problems. Bringing about a solution to solve the loss of trust problem will . . . and that is up to the community.

AlfPhotoman 22:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I love your suggestion: "who lies gets blocked, or: who causes damage by lying about his qualifications gets blocked for life." In response to "What was the reaction of the community every time?" I don't know about the resons for not changing things after other controversies. But I think the general reason for this controversy is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Essjay lied about his credentials. So? Did he contribute incorrect information? Essjay lied to the media about his credentials? Holy Crap! Let's change everything! That was our inital kneejerk response to the media's increasing criticism. However, after spawning about a dozen ideas and debating their merits and drawbacks, we started to calm down and realized Wait...Why are we doing this again? Is this really a serious, systemic problem that needs to be addressed by new rules? Do these proposals really address the issue? Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 23:06, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure trying to invoke some people's contempt for religious precepts is that helpful. People here have voiced many good reasons for their objections, mischaracterizing them surely brings little to the discussion. Moreover, wiki is so large and there are so many idle and cynical journalists out there that there are always gonna be "scandals" uncovered (it always makes be laugh that such a big deal is made of these stories). Wikipedia has its flaws, and it's important people know this. Wikipedia is the starting point, not the ending point of research. On the other hand, the huge number of good editors ensures that the most important articles and the vast majority of the rest will always be reliable, and no slanderous journalist will change this. Wikipedia never claimed to be perfect. The idea behind it necessitates occassional imperfection, but at the same time brings the internet information world so much more. Now, please don't misinterpret me; I'm not saying wiki shouldn't aim for any better; but seriously, do you really think these "scandals" can be avoided? And if you do, in what way is this proposal actually gonna help? Calgacus (ΚΑΛΓΑΚΟΣ) 23:01, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Fine. Permanent blocks for lying, which of course includes those who represent themselves as something different to the truth, where it damages Wikipedia and or its mission. Misrepresentation where it does not cause damage should be dealt with in a different way, perhaps persuasion and education. I can live with that.
Please, however, don't impose an option by which a selected grouping within the community can have claims made on their userpages indicated as being verified. It isn't the selected grouping you need to convince, though. It is the majority not covered by the verification system, those who it is implied may contain a small number who may (for whatever reason) represent themselves as being members of the aforementioned for gain. It may just be found that the implication is resented that only those not endowed with academical qualifications may both lie and damage Wikipedia by saying that they do.
Lying is bad. Lying will not be tolerated. Lying in such a manner to cause damage to Wikipedia will result in an indefinite ban. No exceptions. No special cases. And no pre-emptive verification of claims. Everyone.
I would commit my soul to this. LessHeard vanU 23:08, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Um, do you have verifiable evidence that you have a soul? Now if you were committing your PhD on it, that's something more easily verified ;) The idea of treating flashing of credentials as disruptive editing did occur to me, but it seemed so much less important than the activities listed in that guidance that seemed really over the top. There's a bit of irony in the NYT being one of the first mainstream news organisations to pick up this story, when of course their reputation as a reliable source was irrevocably damaged by Jayson Blair – or was it? Maybe scandals don't matter so much, but a procedure which is carefully kept within existing policies could help to clarify those policies to expert editors, and give them the appropriate level of respect. Which sooner or later has to be earned by edits, not certificates. ... dave souza, talk 23:35, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I certainly wasn't going to commit my reputation on it, I have a fair understanding of the standing of that! :~) (that is, my non-Wiki reputation - I haven't the foggiest if I even register on here) I think the "PhD" as cudgel argument has been discounted as a very rare occurrence, which I have no problem with. I am just concerned with the larger communitys reaction to the news that those with degrees and suchlike are going to be protected (or have the option, at least) from having those without such awards pretending they have, ie. it is the larger community the great and good must be protected from. I know that this is not what is intended (much like I know I have a soul) but nobody has indicated an understanding that there might be that perception, or thought of the possible consequences...
Newspapers...? Aren't those the ones who get reporters to pretend to be someone else so they can get inside information on situations and then decry them to the world? Investigative journalism? They win awards for that, don't they? They also declare that they cannot always name the source of their information, sometimes in a Court of Law, and that everyone must simply recognise the credentials of the journalist as to the truth of the matter. Well, aren't we lucky that they found out about one individual from the Wiki community faking his qualifications...
Luckily I have not mentioned my possible possession of a soul on my talkpage. I shall be careful not to mention it again in future. ;~) LessHeard vanU 00:06, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Rather than view this discussion about credentials verification as the result of the Essjay controversy, it might be more constructive to frame the proposal as part of our general effort to increase the quality of Wikipedia content. Can the encyclopedia be improved by verifying credentials claimed by editors? I think it can. User boxes that explain the abilities, talents and expertise of editors help us find collaborators for difficult editing tasks. A system that would show the outside world that there are experts editing Wikipedia would encourage more people with expert knowledge to trust Wikipedia, participate, share their specialized knowledge through editing and improve the quality of Wikipedia articles. --JWSchmidt 01:14, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
To the extent that the objective is to prove to the outside world that wikipedia is edited by experts, the evidence for that must be believable by the outside world. That is not the case with one user vouching for another user when neither has a verifiable real world identity. WAS 4.250 08:13, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
When a Wikipedian will not openly reveal their real world identity as part of the credentials verification process it seems wise to remain skeptical about their claim of having credentials. At best you can say user X claims that user Y has credential Z. --JWSchmidt 15:52, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

What about the earlier proposals?[edit]

I asked this question in #Reboot earlier this afternoon, but it hasn't yet been answered. Several now archived proposals, Wikipedia:Administrators accountability most prominently, revolved around the idea of mandatory disclosure of real life identities of admins, checkusers, arbitrators, etcetera. Have those proposals been discarded, shelved, put on hold, or are they still under discussion? Has the discussion on this particular talk page been brought back to optional voluntary credential verification for editors? AecisBrievenbus 22:45, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

The community made its opinion clear about those proposals. We need to use knowledge from that discussion to advance proposals that will find consensus. See my accountability proposal a couple sections up for such an attempt. WAS 4.250 22:56, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I see at the present time no reason to require disclosure of real life identities for anyone other than checkusers. Certainly for admins, it makes zero sense to me. It doesn't solve any problem we actually have or think we might have.--Jimbo Wales 14:50, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Jimbo, can you just remind us (well me) of one thing? Do all arbcom members have checkuser access? I probably should know the answer to this, but it's slipped my mind. Metamagician3000 00:34, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I didn't know this until just a moment ago, but apparently there's an automagically generated list of CheckUsers. Names in bold are current ArbCom members (unless I overlooked somebody).
* David Gerard (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Dmcdevit (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Fred Bauder (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Jayjg (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Jdforrester (talk · contribs) ‎(boardvote, checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Jpgordon (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Mackensen (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Morven (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Raul654 (talk · contribs) ‎(Bureaucrat, checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Rebecca (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Redux (talk · contribs) ‎(Bureaucrat, checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* The Epopt (talk · contribs) ‎(checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
* Tim Starling (talk · contribs) ‎(Bureaucrat, checkuser, developer, oversight, Administrator)
* UninvitedCompany (talk · contribs) ‎(Bureaucrat, checkuser, oversight, Administrator)
Anville 22:37, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Confidential disclosure of real life identities makes at least as much sense as verified credentials. The former highlights the fact that anonymous alias-wielding admins are security guards rather than janitors, whereas the latter proposal is a solution looking for a problem and has created an astonishing amount of "hysterical" discord. Make no mistake about it, verified credentials is the first step towards the imposition of a Larry Sanger-esque type of credentialist regime at Wikipedia, and it will remain no more voluntary than income taxes are. // Internet Esquire 16:16, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

My concerns with this[edit]

I'd like to try to sum up all of my concerns with this proposal.

  • Why should we verify credentials? Some have said that they could consult an expert to verify what they have added to a page. If they followed WP:ATT and the information was added from reliable sources, why would there be a question about accuracy? If there is a question about the accuracy of a source, don't use it.
  • Who declares a user's credentials to be "verified"? An admin, Jimbo, the user themself, anyone?
  • "I have known this user in real life for 10 years, and can certify that he was a professor at Las Vegas State University for 7 of those 10 years. As he is now no longer in academia, his status is not provable via the web. I give therefore my personal testimony." How many statements like that would be required? What if a former prof or someone doesn't have any friends who edit Wikipedia? Will comments by anons be accepted? What about possible SPA's or sock puppets?
  • Also, the proposal is voluntary and simple. Based on the concern of sockpuppets above and also other concerns people mentioned before (photoshopped diplomas, meatpuppets saying "no they aren't a PhD", faked university webpages, etc.) I think this could be too easy to defraud. On the other hand, if the system is very secure (other ideas), it will probably be so much work that few, if any, users will participate. If someone told me that if I wanted to, I could go in my records, get a paper, scan a copy of it, print it, have it notarized, and then mail it to Florida, all for little actual benefit, I would tell them to stop wasting my time.
  • For the above reason, it would be better not to implement this as a guideline or policy and just let users do it if they want. If we enact this and it is later discovered that a verified user is actually a fraud, the media will go to town. The response won't even compare to the Essjay debacle.
  • This proposal does not make a distinction as to how to handle credentials used in disputes. While it does say "appeal to credentials is a fallacy and is firmly rejected," it doesn't explain what that means. Could users be blocked for repeatedly trying to use credentials in disputes? Would there be any differences in how verified credentials in disputes would be handled as opposed to unverified ones?

These are legitimate concerns that I think need to be addressed. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 22:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

"If there is a question about the accuracy of a source, don't use it." Evidently you're not editing articles about Late Pre Roman Iron Age – all sources are questionable. .. dave souza, talk 23:39, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  • The proposed optional verification is voluntary, simple and can be beaten by the determined fraudster. Who will have to be pretty good at the subject to fool real experts with edits open to verification.
  • After all this fuss, users trying to use credentials in disputes are likely to be gently warned, and if they keep doing it will be subject to a RfC, or possibly temporary blocking if they take it to the point of WP:DE. That's how existing policies look to me, feel free to enlighten me if I'm wrong. .. dave souza, talk 23:49, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  • "The proposed optional verification is voluntary, simple and can be beaten by the determined fraudster. Who will have to be pretty good at the subject to fool real experts with edits open to verification." No one would have noticed (or possibly even cared) that Essjay lied if it wasn't revealed in the media. No one questioned his credentials. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 00:14, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay seems to have done little editing to push with his false credentials in the face of arguments from real experts (maybe Catholicism for Dummies is actually pretty good), and at least one of the diffs presented as evidence seems to show him graciously backing down in an argument while wryly waving his assumed expertise about. Most people wouldn't have bothered to look at his userboxes if he used them, the difference is that a journalist would be expected to click on a "verification" link and, if my suggestion were adopted, either get a "not verified" message or an elaborate hoax which at least had some searching scrutiny from the community. .. dave souza, talk 00:41, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
So who/what are we really doing this for? The good of the Wikipedia community or the media? Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 00:55, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
"consult an expert to verify what has been added to a page" <-- the way this works is that the expert points to verifiable sources that either do or do not support what is in a Wikipedia article.
"Who declares a user's credentials to be verified" <-- rather than have a "declaration", why not have a procedure that anyone can use in order to make their own verification? For example, if a Wikipedia editor claims to be a university professor with a PhD (Dr. FooBar), they should provide us with a link to their university's biographical page for Dr. FooBar, a page which tells us where FooBar got his PhD. It should be possible to set up an automated email system by which the "email this user" feature of Wikipedia could be used to request a return email from Dr. FooBar's .edu email address saying, "This is an automated reply to your request for email confirmation. Dr. Foo Bar edits Wikipedia as user FooBar."
"faked university webpages" <-- Please explain how such falsification would work. Biographical pages for university professors are part of an interconnected web of pages in a .edu domain. How could you fake a university website or webpage and not get caught?
"Could users be blocked for repeatedly trying to use credentials in disputes?" <-- it would be easy to add that to Wikipedia:Blocking policy as a specific example. The blocking policy already says we can block an editor if their, "conduct is inconsistent with a civil, collegial atmosphere." Part of our "atmosphere" is not using appeals to authority. I think it is the case that at Wikipedia, "appeal to credentials is a fallacy and is firmly rejected," so I would say that repeatedly trying to use credentials in editing disputes could lead to a block. --JWSchmidt 00:55, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
There is a discussion now in Archive 2 about faking .edu pages and email addresses. Basically, people said it could be done but it would eventually be detected. The question was how long would detection take? See the whole discussion here. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 01:14, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Are you goung to call me a liar just because my three doctorates from the 1950's come from a country that no longer exists? WAS 4.250 08:19, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

i am confused[edit]

back in the day, i thought he was saying to eliminate my userboxes. should i put my userboxes up again? seriously, please answer my question.--Ghetteaux 22:55, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Userboxes that help Wikipedia are good and userboxes that hurt wikipedia are bad and part of this discussion is about if acedemic claims help or hurt wikipedia and no consensus has been reached on that. WAS 4.250 23:02, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
All userboxen are teh eval, but I gave in lately and added a couple. The userbox pushers seem to have won. .. dave souza, talk 23:42, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
The babel templates that say things such as "This user is a native speaker of English" are useful to the community. We also have userboxes like Wikipedia:Userboxes/Profession and Wikipedia:Userboxes/Education <-- some of these might be candidates for inclusion in a credentials verification process. --JWSchmidt 00:18, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
The userboxes that are evil are the ones that support some social, political or religious view and are created in template space. They are a aeparate issue from this discussion. Metamagician3000 09:57, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Fair enough, just my memory of there being a lot of fuss about them at one time led me to avoid them. .. dave souza, talk 10:04, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Missing section(s?) in Archive[edit]

Google Cached image of this page Shows us a whole missing section from the archive.. (entitled: Relevance?) Did I miss a discussion about not including that section in the archive, or have I just gone blind? EnsRedShirt 01:50, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

It's there. Perhaps you were looking at the wrong archive. --cesarb 02:08, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Nah I am just blind as a bat and couldn't find it because it was in a different place then where it was on the page originally. Thank you. EnsRedShirt 02:12, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
The bot archives the sections out of order (it's more or less the order in which they finished, instead of the order in which they started). --cesarb 03:30, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

I'm sorry, I'm a relatively new user (3-4 months), but I don't really understand why some people's comments are being deleted (however distasteful they may be). I'm not quite sure why some comments are being deemed "out of order." Is there no "free speech" policy akin to the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment on wikipedia? I would appreciate an explanation. Also, who decides what is "out of order"? Thanks. Awadewit 15:45, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Greetings Awadewit, thanks for your honest question. Though Wikipedia is not censored it is also not a forum for unregulated free speech. This talk page is for discussing the Credential Verification proposal(s). Per Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines talk that is not in line with discussing how to improve/implement (or not) this can be removed by anyone. This isn't a forum for off topic discussions. (Netscott) 15:51, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
'Out of order' in this case just means that the bot archives sections in the sequence in which they went 'stale'; the sections whose last post occurred more than x hours/days ago are archived. Thus the section order in the archives is inconsistent with the section order on the original page. If we could get the bots to start figuring out which comments are 'out of order', as in trolling, there's a lot of talk pages that would become much much easier to read ;) Opabinia regalis 17:48, 17 March 2007 (UTC)


As most of my concerns (above) have been sufficiently addressed and I no longer think that people were ignoring them to cover up flaws, I have to say I support this proposal. I would like to see some clarifications/additons though. It would be nice if there were something similar to WP:ATT's multiple, independant, reliable sources provision. Basically, something that would require that at least 2 sources be used for verifiation. I think that would increase the security of this greatly without making it more difficult. For example, using User:Metamagician3000 as an example, it would require User:A Musing's comment AND a link to a page that identified him or something else that may or may not reveal personal details, perhaps a second confirmation by another user. As I said, that would drastically reduce the chances that it is a fraud and the chances that the first verifier is in cahoots with the verifiee (I think I just made up a word there). Also, a provision that would exclude anons and apparrant SPA's would add no extra work to verification but would also increase security. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 04:12, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

In my particular case, Jimbo also has the information and could replicate what User:A Musing did if necessary. But having two people do it each time would get bureaucratic. And there's no way it would work if people had to put identifying material on their pages. The point of the exercise was to test whether it could be done painlessly while preserving anonymity. The answer was yes. But if you want to make it more difficult and/or not preserve anonymity it won't work,IMHO. Too many good people would have good reasons not to want to be involved. Metamagician3000 04:39, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
If Jimbo (or any other user) could replicate the comment, that would be fine. I didn't say it would have to require a loss of anonymity. The main reason is to prevent users from working together to defraud the system. The odds of 2 established users knowing each other and working together in a lie aren't very high, but 3 or more users working together are even more unlikely. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:04, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
This proposed procedure is easy when users give their real names, and any such user wanting to show verification of their claimed credentials is already free to do so. The difficulty with anonymity is that it needs a trusted party to be given the real identity: presumably there would have to be some sort of election process to agree trusted parties authorised to take on this rôle. Something perhaps best sorted out in detailed discussion with those in the category using the credential userbox. .. dave souza, talk 10:03, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

There doesn not need to be an election, per se. The idea is that if you trust someone, they can verify you. And if a lot of people naturally trust someone, that person, will perforce become a "notary" as it were. But if I see that one or two people vouched for you, I'll make my own decision based on those people; you don't HAVE to give your info to anyone you don't trust if you don't want to. Eventually, the idea is that someone you trust vouches for you, and I, even if I don't know THAT person, have a "chain of trust" that leads to that person, so I'll trust that credentialing. Appointed "notaries" are a shortcut. -- Avi 03:10, 18 March 2007 (UTC)


I proposed an alternative to separate userboxes that I think will better fit in with the community. It's along the lines of barnstars and they are given as a users credentials are verfied. A user can put PhD userbox on their credential page. It's the same as the other credentials. Users can then verify it and put in a credentialstar. I envision each editor interested in credentials maintains two user pages: one for their own credentials and one for their verifications. When they verify another editor, they put their CredenceStar on their own verification page. This is automatically reflected in the other editors Credential page. Editors interested in assessing the validity of another editors credentials can visit the credential page to see who has verified their credentials and how many different editors have done it. --Tbeatty 04:42, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

I'll give you a Ph.D. credential-star if you give me one. WAS 4.250 08:27, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
No different than the "I'll verify your userbox if you verifiy mine." Fraud will happen. Just need a way to overwhelmingly swamp it. --Tbeatty 14:49, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't know, it looks kind of like rewarding users for having good credentials. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:10, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
It's rewarding users for having verified credentials, rather than initially separating them into verified/unverified credentials. I don't think anyone would ever believe an unverified credential so I'd rather not make that distinction. --Tbeatty 03:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
What I mean is: are credentials, verified or not, something that we should be rewarding users for having? IMO, the answer is no. Stars are what we give for exceptional conrtibutions to the project. Other users may feel left out, as they don't have a PhD, so they'll start creating lower and lower stars. Master's stars, Bachelor's stars, Associate's stars, certificate stars, HS diploma stars, GED stars, ... . (the last 2 might be an exaggeration, but it helps to get the point across) Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 03:45, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
In the proposal, stars are only given in repsonse to claims of a credential. If someone claims a BA, they could/should receive a star if it can be verified. The star isn't to reward the credential, it rewards the verification and all verifications should be rewarded. --Tbeatty 15:56, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Why don't we just give it a go and see what happens?[edit]

Don't get me wrong - I think this is pretty unworkable and also irrelevant as wikipedia is built on verifiability ... but the press is watching, wikipedia's integrity is questioned and Jimbo has spoken ... so why not quit the bellyaching and give it a go? We already have multiple tiers of users as some admins act like they are above the rabble and a lot of editors think god has spoken when the Arbcom makes a decision. Somehow we make it through and find workarounds. The best solutions are always nearest the problem so until we try and stumble we will never know if we can make it work. My only sticking point is a total insistence that checkuser is NEVER given to a user that has not been properly verified by the foundation. I have always found in difficult situations that the best course is to let an idea fly - it will either stay in the air somehow or plummet out of existence, but at least the backbiting is reduced because we gave it a go. Sophia 22:34, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Okay, lets try it and see what the reaction is on Wikipedia. Not the press, not the institutes, and not those editors who have PhD's but the other editors who will become aware that there is now a group limited to whose members have degrees. Let us clear the pages on Village Pump so we can answer the concerns of these editors who believe that somebody has just been given approval by WP to wear a shiny badge saying "listen to me, I'm an expert" and calm the tempers of those who consider that WP has just branded them a potential liar that the place needs protecting from.
If you feel the time is right to test this proposal then it might be best to have some procedures in place to deal with any negative reaction from the rest of the community. LessHeard vanU 23:05, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
You know what would be even better? If we waited to see what the reaction on Wikipedia is to actual use of the system. There's been quite enough reaction to fantasies of experts run rampant, when there's no evidence this has ever happened in the past. As to shiny badges and classes, we have a thousand people here who not only can say shut up, but can actually enforce it by blocking opponents. Really, we ought to banish adminship or else "I'm an admin, so shut up or I'll block you" will become rampant. Except that it hasn't, and neither has expert bullying. Derex 23:15, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Why don't we just "give it a go"? Because the community has overwhelmingly rejected "voluntary" credential verification as a bad thing. A better question: Why ignore the consensus and steamroll over the community's wishes? // Internet Esquire 23:42, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
"the community has overwhelmingly rejected "voluntary" credential verification as a bad thing" <-- I'd like to see a list of the reasons why developing a system to verify claims about credentials is bad. How is having some verified claims about editor credentials worse than just keeping all the currently unverified claims? I've heard some people suggest that there be a ban on making any claims about credentials, but I do not see how that helps improve the project. I think a system that lets the outside world see that we have credentialed editors as Wikipedians is good for the project. Some people fear that verified credentials will lead to arguments from authority, but everyone agrees that appeal to credentials is a fallacy and is firmly rejected. --JWSchmidt 01:04, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
No, really, lets get a working model together and give it a go! I may be wrong about the reaction, which would be great, but I think there should be a contingency plan just in case. There are enough editors with PhD's willing to use a verification system for there to be a useful trial. It can then be determined how the community feels about it. How the rest of the potential userbase feels about it and how it can changed reflect their concerns need only be addressed once the trial is deemed a success, and the method established. It would still need for the userbase to determine if it need become a standard option, and the concerns all others addressed too, but it may be best to see if there is an indication that the community will accept it as being for the good before we get to that stage. I only caution that we should be prepared for a backlash if it does not go down well in the community (and there is quite a bit of Admin bashing in WP). LessHeard vanU 00:19, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Just wondering exactly what it is we'd be giving a go to? The proposal itself has become a mixed up jumble. If we're going to suck it up and give it a shot (I support that by the way) what are we giving a shot to?MikeURL 23:36, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

I think there should be a second trial if someone else is prepared to give it a go. Remember, if you want to be "verified" (at whatever level of granularity you think is desirable) you will have to convince another user of two things: (1) the person you claim to be in real life has the qualification(s) you want verified; (2) you really are that person. You will need to have two email addresses: one that you use for Wikipedia business, for an initial email to your trusted user; and one that is demonstrably that of the real-life person you claim to be (so that your trusted user can contact him or her and ask whether he/she edits Wikipedia as "Foo"). You will also, of course, have to divulge a fair bit of information about yourself to the trusted user. Beyond that, it turns out to be straightforward. If there is another trial, I'd rather not be involved this time, though I might be prepared to give my details to yet another user at some later point. For now, though, it's better if some new participants try it and report their experiences. Takers? Metamagician3000 23:56, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
You might want to "hijack" Wikipedia:Credential_verification just to write out the particulars. Jimbo's page on this is a little messy.MikeURL 01:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I have no issues with trials. Worst case they work. --Kim Bruning 00:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't mind being a guinea pig in the first trial but I don't have a PhD. Does that automatically disqualify moi? :-)Ivygohnair 00:49, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Second trial, actually. See above on this page. :) If you don't have a PhD, but have some other credential that could be verified in the ways we've been describing, it would also test whether the method (or some other method that you might have in mind) works smoothly. Metamagician3000 01:00, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, if Ivygohnair accepts, we could use them as a control or double negative test along with editors with a PhD. We assume that Ivygohnair claims to have a degree and test the verification system on them as well as the doctorate holders. We can check that it does weed out false claims.
Of course, we would then have to ban Ivygohnair for lying but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make... LessHeard vanU 01:24, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks and no thanks :-)Ivygohnair 02:02, 18 March 2007 (UTC) Here is the user box used to "verify" Metamagician3000's phD in the first test run:

Graduation hat.svg This user has a Doctor of Philosophy degree that has been verified as shown on the following userpage:User:Metamagician3000/phdverification.

If someone else gives it a go, its just a matter of copying the userbox, changing the identified user from Metamagician to whoever the next subject of our experiment is, and going through the process of having someone verify them. I did the first verification; I think the next would be best done by two wholly separate people. A Musing (formerly Sam) 01:50, 18 March 2007 (UTC

Well lets try putting together a higher degree verification project. I have no idea how we can make it work as most Universities will not give out information to just anyone. You could verify from my husband's company website that he has a Ph.D. but as it's his company how much value does that add? People fake qualifications in business all the time. Having said that he has published papers which are generally available but he does not have an unusual name - or could have changed it to identity steal. For my current teacher training course they wrote to my old University to confirm my degree but I'm not sure how practical that is or whether they would answer enquiries from just anyone. Criminal Records Bureau checks in the UK require a passport/birth certificate and utility bills plus residential details for the last 10 years.
So how can it be done? Anyone with any specifics? How do businesses verify qualifications other than by seeing the original documents?
The one idea that I have seen so far that would be easy to implement to confirm identity was similar to Paypal verification - ie a $1 charge is made to your credit card to confirm that you are who you say you are. It is not fool proof but nothing is. At least wikipedia can show that it has done the best that it can to verify identity to a level that even Paypal finds acceptable. This still leaves the higher degree problem but active researchers should be on their faculty websites and quite honestly a 20 year old PhD from someone no longer active in the field should not really be relevent and would not need checking.
I personally will continue to ignore all credentials as I know from experience that researchers, although experts, work in very narrow fields, have a very specific POV on their subjets and often do not represent the balanced picture. But if having them on board gives wikipeia more credibility to the outside world the great! Sophia 08:53, 18 March 2007 (UTC)


I have uploaded my credentials (copy of my BA Hons degree and the Sorbonne diploma) on my User Page. It's just a trial and the quality is bad (could of course be improved). But it's readable and verifiable. This in my humble opinion, is the solution for people who don't mind revealing their true identity.Ivygohnair 10:59, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

This user page: Ivygohnair is an excellent example of use of WP:BLP and/or WP:ATT on user pages as recommended by SlimVirgin and myself. For important claims, source it or delete it. WAS 4.250 12:01, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
It looks fine to me. That's certainly one reasonable option for verification, particularly for people who cannot be checked through the web-page of a neutral institution, such as a university faculty list. Like anything else, it could be faked with some effort. However, the goal here is not perfection, but simply a reasonable barrier to fraud. Each editor is free to judge the credibility of such a scan as he sees fit and accord it whatever weight he deems appropriate. Derex 11:10, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Or do whatever background checks he wants to do. I think transparency is the key word here.Ivygohnair 11:28, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I think a reasonable, or low, barrier is worse than no barrier. It won't stop the sort of person that you want to stop, and it will inspire false confidence to the unsuspecting. Someone in the mood to cause continued confusion would be likely to bother doctoring a scanned degree or certificate. SmokeyJoe 11:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
You don't trust people to judge for themselves? My bias is that information is never harmful, and this is just one way of providing more. Derex 11:41, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it is OK that unproven information provided at face value, as long as it is clearly understand that the information is provided at face value only. It is not OK if unproven information is purported to be “verified”, but is actually inadequately verified. SmokeyJoe 00:15, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Fair enough. As Amarkov suggests below, perhaps the word verified should be removed. Maybe "evidence" instead? Derex 00:20, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Nonsense on stilts[edit]

I'll repeat what I've said before on this page; this is all an hysterical overreaction, and makes little or no sense.

  1. Wikipedia explicitly rules out appeal to one's qualifications, credentials, etc. It doesn't matter if someone has a string of degrees and publications in an area; they have to edit according to exactly the same rules as anyone else, giving verifiable sources, etc. It's thus of no interest to us (at Wikipedia) whether someone fantasises about having a doctorate and teaching at a university when they're actually an unemployed rat-catcher with two "O"-levels; we only care about the quality of their edits. (There's nothing in the proposal to suggest that this policy will be changed [though some of the language is a bit vague].)
  2. Far more common than an appeal to academic qualifications, in fact, is the appeal to geographical or biographical qualifications. For example: "I live in this town...", "I went to that school...", "I breed cats...", "Lloyd George knew my father...", etc., "...therefore I have a privileged position on this article, and people should shut up and let me write whatever I want." If there were any logic to the demands that we change our policy on user pages, it would extend to such claims; no-one should be allowed to say that they live in a particular place, went to a particular school, do a particular job, etc., unless they can prove it. Instead, of course, we just point out our policy of giving sources.
  3. If someone lies to a newspaper about their qualifications, that's up to them — and up to the newspaper to take whatever action is appropriate. We should simply explain our policy on qualifications, and leave them to it. Wikipedia is always going to get adverse publicity sometimes, and I doubt very much wheteher it has much effect on us. (Of course, if anyone were planning to make money for themselves out of all the freely-given work of editors, I could understand the fear of bad publicity — but no-one would be that slimy, would they?) --Mel Etitis (Talk) 11:31, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

— Mel Etitis, on his user page. Derex 11:36, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

And the point of this quotation is? --Mel Etitis (Talk) 11:38, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Mel, you're clearly opposed to appeal to qualifications, so could you say why you find it helpful to state that "I'm a philosopher by profession, teaching in the University of Oxford, and spent many years teaching English as a Foreign Language, also in Oxford." Of course I could add the same to my user page, and assuming good faith you'd have to accept it. ... dave souza, talk 11:57, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Helpful? Why should it be helpful? I'm saying a bit about myself, as most people do on their User pages. I'm not using my credentials or qualifications to make editing changes, or to defend my edits. People can believe me or not — what difference does it make? --Mel Etitis (Talk) 13:24, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia currently includes unverified claims about the credentials of participants. Why not explore ways to verify those claims? The original argument by Jimbo from 2 years ago suggested that by having a system for verifying credentials of Wikipedia participants more people would be able to trust Wikipedia. Some folks have suggested that we just ignore credentials, but verifying credentials can be useful because it would allow Wikipedia editors to continue to utilize user boxes that proclaim their credentials and that helps editors find fellow Wikipedians who have needed expertise in specific knowledge domains. Verifying credentials would help some people outside of Wikipedia recognize the fact that Wikipedia does have expert contributors. Having a system that makes it clear that some Wikipedia editors are credentialed experts would encourage more trust in Wikipedia and wider participation at Wikipedia and help the project. Appeal to authority is not part of the culture of Wikipedia: "appeal to credentials is a fallacy and is firmly rejected". "hysterical overreaction" <-- please assume good faith, this proposal is an exploration of ways to improve the encyclopedia. --JWSchmidt 15:25, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
You've listed a set of claims against which I've argued above; I'm not sure why you think that repeating them has any force. As for assuming good faith -- I'm not assuming anything else; it's possible (indeed almost necessary) to be hysterical in all good faith. (Why, by the way, not assume good faith concerning people's claims to qualifications? Merely because one person was discovered to have been lying? Then why should we assume good faith about anything ever?)
The one point you mention that I didn't discuss is the claim that certified credentials would help other editors to find an editor with expertise in certain areas. To what sort of help are you referring? Help finding verifiable sources? It's not clear to me that that's sufficient reason to institute all this otherwise pointless extra bureaucracy. If someone claims falsely to know about palæontology, and is asked for help, they'll probably be unable to give it; is that such a tragedy? I often can't help when I'm asked about philosophy; being qualified doesn't mean being omniscient. Someone with less expertise than I might be able to help on a specific topic upon which I'm ignorant.
In any case, your argument applies equally to the question of people living in Bolton, or having been at Winchester, or being cat-fanciers, etc. --Mel Etitis (Talk) 18:05, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
"pointless extra bureaucracy" <-- If you have no interest in exploring ways to verify claims by Wikipedians about their credentials then you can just ignore this proposal. Some of us are interested in exploring the idea that verifying claims about credentials can help the project. --JWSchmidt 18:49, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Mel, of what relevance is it that this proposal does not solve the Bolton cat-fancier verification problem? It solves a different problem. Your objection seems in essence to be that this won't help. Given your own characterization of the present state of affairs on Wikipedia, I'd find a strong argument that it will actually hurt much more compelling. Derex 22:35, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

To square one[edit]

I think we are getting into actionism before we address the real problem. It may be good to consider the first steps before getting into the verification process.

I have looked around a little at the category Wikipedians by education(?) and discovered a shockingly large amount that have never made an edit in the field they claim to be professional in. This could just mean that they don‘t want to be encumbered by their job in their free time. It can also mean that they go after the Spanish saying : “No flies will enter in a closed mouth“. I can understand the first position because I generally have to be forced to take a camera when I am not working.

The second position can be of concern, and if I may not assume good faith for a second, because the least evident way to hide the fact that the credentials are homemade is not to get into details of ones supposed area of expertise. That way no errors can be made that make it evident that one has most of his knowledge out of a X for dummies book.

The way forward I see is that we remove ALL indications of credentials for a period of various weeks and after that start the verifications process. That way we can assume in good faith that everybody had their diplomas and that those who don‘t have their credentials verified are not interested in the verification process. AlfPhotoman 12:54, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I dig this: It's like the new S Korean Secretary General of the UN (what'sname) giving everyone the sack and then calling back those he wants!(lol). Might work. Anyway this gives other Essjay's "uncovered" an honourable way out.Ivygohnair 13:16, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

hey, you notice everything. Yes in general terms that is the idea, no need for more hurt feelings. We have to remember that the system as it was before the Essjay "incident" ignored if not encouraged the do-it-yourself credentials. AlfPhotoman 15:21, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I really wouldn't claim to be an expert but having very briefly edited on the Nuclear power article I decided not to bother as I was dealing with people who didn't know the difference between fission and fusion (I have a B.Sc. (hons) in Physics and Astrophysics) and who got nasty quickly. I suspect real experts find this even more frustrating and will avoid their specialist subject. Let's just WP:IAC and verify those who are contributing in their field if only to give wikipedia some good press for a change.
Evolution is always easier that revolution so why not just phase in an approved userbox to those who have been officially verified. The old credential userboxes will fall by the wayside over time. We don't want userbox deletion wars again!!!!
Also - for an article written to be accessible to the layman, X for dummies books are not a bad place to start! Sophia 13:09, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I know it is frustrating to work on an article until it is up to professional level and then someone shows up who has just seen a documentary on PBS and reduces it to imbecility. Happens over and over again. That is why having bona-fide experts, of whom we know that they are, is such a good idea because they can indicate where, besides X for dummies or PBS documentaries, the sources can be found to support the article in their previous version AlfPhotoman 15:56, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
The beauty of WP is that nothing good is ever lost, and the nonsense can be reverted away. An expert, qualified/accredited or not, should be able to supply the references required to support the statements made. I don't believe that having a particular userbox on an editors userpage is going to stop either the requirement to back up what is written or stop well intentioned poor editing of an article. It will never even have a hope of stopping bad intentioned editing. LessHeard vanU 21:19, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
And what exactly is the point of such a userbox? If people with credentials are going to be given special editing privileges, I could understand it — but I take it that they're not. --Mel Etitis (Talk) 13:27, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
The section #Nonsense on stilts above raises a serious point – someone can be rigourously opposed to misuse of credentials and verification, yet find it helpful in some way to note them on their user page. You're suggesting a new policy which would probably be a lot more disruptive than the cautious testing out of a procedure within existing policies. There's a need to find a way of helping experts to overcome the frustrations and problems outlined by Sophia. By the way, I don't edit much in my area of "expertise" because my interest is in finding out about new subjects. That's all. .. dave souza, talk (modified) 13:20, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Some consider the admin "badge" to confer special editing privileges (the number of times I've heard - "but that's an admin - you can't revert their change" even if they are clueless). Look at how the bureaucrats and arbcom members are regarded. We have different ranks of editors as it is - more fool anyone who takes these titles seriously and doesn't rely on verifiability and reliable sources as the metric for good editing. Let's strenghten these policies and use the verified credentials for what it really is - a way to show the world that smart people really do make these articles. I have had the privilege of working with some seriously clever people who have really changed the way I think and taught me immense amounts. That's why I edit here despite my general contempt for some of the hierarchy goings-on.
So have 3 types of user - anonymous, those with personal information on their userpages, and those with verified credentials. Then if the press want to talk to someone the foundation has a preapproved list to choose from. At the heart of it all will be WP:V and WP:RS - the ONLY deciding factors for article editing. Experts should have access to the best resources so should be able to reference their edits anyway. I used to have my degree on my userpage more out of general "me" info but I never claimed expertise and was aware that as I graduated some time ago I may be out of date on some points.
The current problem was caused by complacency and gullibility which are not the same things as AGF. Whatever the reasons, the world is expecting some sort of action to verify expertise thanks to Jimbo so this could be a chance to show them that we are not all 14 year old Pokemon experts. Sophia 14:08, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Personally, I'd say that by their fruits shall ye know them (and I'd agree whole-heartedly about admins). --Mel Etitis (Talk) 14:12, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks Mel - you managed to capture what I was saying perfectly and so succinctly. Sophia 14:28, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

"a shockingly large amount that have never made an edit in the field they claim to be professional in" <-- I'm not sure why anyone should be shocked if experts do not edit Wikipedia pages in their area of expertise. People with an advanced degree have experience in how to communicate with other experts in that field. Such expertise does not always translate into skill or interest in writing encyclopedia articles. Wikipedia has many articles that were written by experts and on the talk pages of those articles are comments like: "Could someone please translate this article from jargon into English?" I suspect that many experts do not edit in their area of expertise because they know that they have trouble converting their expert knowledge into text that can be understood by non-experts. I think it would be a waste of time to go on a search and delete mission for all existing user page claims of credentials by Wikipedians. "Wikipedia provides user pages to facilitate communication among participants in its project to build an encyclopedia". Wikipedians find it useful to share information about their skills. This type of information sharing helps fellow Wikipedians find expert help for tricky editing situations. This proposal builds on the existing foundation of information sharing that already exists and is an exploration of how to improve the existing situation. I suggest that we either assume good faith with respect to existing claims of credentials or ignore all such claims. Let's just get on with some experiments in how to verify claims of credentials. --JWSchmidt 15:49, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

These are sweeping statements: Quote:to hide the fact that the credentials are homemade is not to get into details of ones supposed area of expertise and: we remove ALL indications of credentials for a period of various weeks. We cannot implement these without a new policy. How about WP:Search and Destroy? Dr.K. 17:46, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I've been told (paraphrased) "You are an expert, therefore you have no idea what you're talking about" one too many times. I try to stay away from subjects I know too much about :-P --Kim Bruning 22:02, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
It is boring to me to edit something I know all about. I like to learn a little, edit a little; that's fun to me. WAS 4.250 22:15, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Precisely. That's why a few discussions up I proposed a Wiki Hall meeting to meet the PhD's so that we can avoid having these discussions. PhD's are people too. They like movies, good food, islands, castles etc. What's wrong about writing about them? I come here to relax not write about Robotics. Dr.K. 22:42, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

What if we "verify" but get it wrong? Are we liable, even culpable?[edit]

Jimbo, ISPs that also hosted content, back in the day of the big proprietaries, got out from under defamation lawsuits over that content if they didn't screen it, because screening content and leaving the defamation up made them at least contributorily negligent. Things change; laws change; but you might want to have your legal staff look very hard at the liability aspects of claiming to "verify" credentials. Can your staff realistically expect to identify forged credentials? How about diploma mills? Someone claims credentials, gets "verified" by the WMF, and turns out to be a fraud -- what's the WMF's liability in that? You-all might be better off staying fifteen feet away, i.e. not inside touching distance with a ten-foot pole, and just telling people all such claims are not verified by the WMF, caveat emptor lector, etc. -- BenTALK/HIST 16:45, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Um... this proposal isn't for the Foundation to do any sort of credential verification. There are other proposals that do intend that, but this proposal is just for users to verify the credentials. Either way, though, I don't see how fraud over credentials on Wikipedia could possibly harm anyone else. -Amarkov moo! 17:04, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
I am worried about the media reaction if we have another Essjay-type incident with a user who is verifed, but the odds of that happening aren't very high and it wouldn't legally affect the Foundation .(it would be a PR nightmare though) Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:08, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

It would seem that as part of any process to enforce the policy as written that there should be an accompanying obligation on those seeking verification to provide Wikipedia with an enforceable indemnity agreement. For example, say someone holds himself out to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and provides verification of his credentials to Wikipedia. The editor in turn drafts a portion of an article purporting to set out whether a particular expense is deductible. That information turns out to be wrong and readers who utilize that advice in filing taxes find themselves liable. Setting aside the post-COPA provisions with respect to exempting much of the web host liability for third party conduct, the momentum with respect to holding websites accountable for financial transactions and professional advice has been to increasingly moving towards liability.

I know that certain advocates on the topic such as Dr. Markus Jakobsson of Indiana University are pushing for greater responsibility for websites that negligently carry false and misleading statements and protocols (i.e., phishing) created by third party users. In fact, the political movement under various consumer protection acts (particularly in the E.U.) is to provide more protection rather than less. One avenue for website protection under consideration by, among others, the ABA's Computer Law committee, is to introduce a bonding scheme that websites can require that third parties be able to demonstrate financial responsibility. With professionals, this would likely entail either maintaining of malpractice insurance satisfactory to the website or some form of letter of credit, in addition to having a system to verify that these protections are renewed on a regular basis. So in addition to requiring that the person in the above example legitimately is qualified educationally as a CPA, there would also be an accompanying need for Wikipedia to verify that the person is insured against claims of negligence. There is a maxim that can be applied here: "equity does not aid a volunteer." Even if you are not getting paid for professional advice, you are liable for misinformation.

Of course the "easy" way out of this is to not allow anyone to flog any degree. But since representations have already been made to the press to the effect that Wikipedia will allow persons to present expertise accompanied by an insistence on verification, it would be somewhat of a public relations disaster to back away from this position. 04:15, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I was thinking along these lines when I suggested "workable ideas" above. Top level verifications are made by the Wikimedia Foundation. Lower level verifications are made by people verified and trusted by the Wikimedia Foundation. At each level, "verification" uses a method similar to that required to open a bank account or obtain a passport. This means the method would easily be defensible as doing a reasonable job. Electronically transmitted copies would not be OK. Verified/certified copies, at a minimum, would need to be sighted. In the US, I believe that this means a public notary would need to cerify/certify copies, if originals are not to be produced. Other countries have systems different but similar to public notaries, and in each country the verifier will need to be familiar with the local method. Under this method the Wikimedia Foundation will have made a reasonable effort to verify, and if they don't then culpability falls to them, or to some volunteer who has willingly accepted the risk (I don't intend to volunteer).
I would expect many people to bother. I wouldn't. I don't see any real and useful purpose in claiming to have qualifications. However, someone might. I don't see why they shouldn't be able to, but neither do I think it should be easy. SmokeyJoe 05:29, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
That's a bit much. I've never been asked for a hard copy of a credential for any job, much less a notarized one. The objective here is to make it somewhat more difficult to fake a credential than simply typing "I have a PhD". If someone goes to the effort to fake an internal university web site when that gives them no special privileges here, then they are truly disturbed. But the damage they could do is also limited by our standard editing policies. Balance in everything; we're trying for good not perfect verification. Derex 06:19, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
really? Usually, there are two cases that I have run into. One is regarding professional licensing. They require certified transcripts from the university. They come with an envelope seal and licensing body reviews them. There are statutory requirements that need to be met. The second is industry which requires credentials for an entirely different purpose. They only require a signed authorization to obtain a transcript from the University. I alsway understood this to mean that they only needed it if they wanted to fire you and were looking for a technicality such as lying. Of course if licensing is statutorily required they verify that, but not degrees unless they want to fire you for lying. Neither of these are particularly appropriate to Wikipedia. I guess WMF could store transcript release authorizations for future use if necessary. --Tbeatty 07:00, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
As for culpability, the credentials of the editors is a far less concern than the content of the articles. Since WMF does not assume legal responsibility for content. WMF says that individual editors are explicitly and individally repsonsible for content. Certainly for a lesser thing such as credential claims of editors, this will fall to editors as well. I suspect WMF will only get involved in credentials if it falls under BLP and they are notified and it becomes an office issue. The flip side is that the WMF will never preempitvely become involved in credentials as this opposes their fundamental stance that content is the responsibility of editors. --Tbeatty 07:00, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I have to confess that I have never seen it set out anywhere here that "WMF says that individual editors are explicitly and individually responsible for content." It would not surprise me to find this on a policy page somewhere although, if I missed this, I am certain others have too. From listening to radio programs hosted by experts of various sorts, there is usually some form of disclaimer up front to the effect that the program is for informational purposes, should not be substituted for actual professional advice, etc., etc. If Wikipedia is going to undertake to verify and endorse professionals, for its own protection it should attach a very explicit disclaimer to each page the "verified" person edits. This would take the form such as "any edits made to this page by persons verified to hold licenses or degrees in a particular expertise are not to be relied upon as professional advice and readers should consult with professionals in the involved field to address any particular concern." As litigious as many people are, I would certainly not rely on a generic disclaimer somewhere on an policy page. 12:13, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

One of the key things to remember here is that if we 'verify' someone, that means the details should be available for others to use to verify themselves. Therefore, any media worth their weight should do the same. Remember in the essjay case, he wanted to remain anonymous so they were unable to verify anything Nil Einne 17:27, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Begging the question[edit]

In a certain respect, this whole proposal is simply comical. So, let's say that User:Who_is_he_A claims a PhD in Widgetry, and User:Who_is_he_B comes along and says "I confirmed it". Okay, so who the heck is "User:Who_is_he_B" and why on earth should anyone place an ounce of credibility in an anonymous user's word that he "got an email" from "User"Who_is_he_A", which breaks no original research as well??? Why not just make a simple policy that says, "If you claim any sort of credentials on your userpage, they must be verifiable by reference to reliable, third party sources. Uncited claims of credentials should be ignored, and users should remove them on sight." C.m.jones 07:35, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

That won't work. For named users, how do you know the Wikipedia user corresponds to the expert from the public source you cite? The idea is to confirm that in a credible way, such as emailing from a verifiable address. Second, it conflicts with legitimate privacy concerns of pseudonymous users, who may only choose to disclose details to a few verifiers. The problem of public trust in the verifiers is a serious one, and has been raised before. I think #workable ideas goes some distance towards that. It would be particularly helpful if a few people using real names would be willing to act as verifiers. That way, there would be a real-world reputational cost to enabling fraud or disclosing identities. btw, OR policy applies only to article space. Derex 07:56, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
These reasons and more are why the community has firmly rejected credential verification. WAS 4.250 08:06, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Another issue is that User:Jimbo_Wales/Credential_Verification#Use_userboxes is a completely unrealistic scenario, which Jimbo very falsely and (I would say since he seems smarter than that) disingenuously claims is a "typical scenario" he picked "randomly". User:DrNixon is one of the few Wikipedian PhD claimers who use a portion of or all of their real name, as shown at "what links here". This means a user trying to verify his credentials had a lead with which to do their original research. Moreover, in the scenario (before I just changed it), Jimbo is using himself as an example--himself who is the de facto head of Wikipedia and who is a public figure who uses his real name. But that is a completely bogus example because it is so very far, far, far different from a "typical scenario". Rather, the persons doing the original research, the users who will be "verifying" claims, will be almost universally anonymous users. How credible is it when the public reads that User:Anonymous-user or any other pseudonymous Wikipedian has verified anything??? Not in the mere slightest. Some will claim, "But this is for Wikipedians! Oh, and I trust User:Anonymous-user! He is a very valuable Wikipedia!" Well, guess what. They said the same thing about Essjay! All along, this proposal has used apparently manipulative, very non typical scenarios, to make its point. It begs the very question it says it tries to solve. - C.m.jones 08:12, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I agree that the Nixon case is likely not typical. However, I suspect there's enough cleverness around here we can work out a more robust scheme. Do you have any proposals about how to handle the more typical case of pseudonymous users? Derex 08:20, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I gave it in my lead post in this thread. C.m.jones 08:23, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
But that seems not to work for either named or pseudonymous users, as per the second post in the thread. Or do I misunderstand your proposal in some way? Derex 08:27, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Here's the whole proposal part of the proposal, the rest is in a below post: All claims of credentials on userpages must be cited to reliable, third-party sources. Uncited claims shoudl be ignored and should be removed by users who find them.

Everyone can still contribute. The proposal affects only those who wish to claim credentials. Isn't Wikipedia all about your arguments and sources, and not your credentials anyways?


Ok, suppose hypothetically you were to add a credential to your page claiming to be the published academic author Catherine M. Jones. You back that up with a link/citation to this reliable source. (I'm guessing this isn't actually you, as it doesn't appear to be a medical doctor or lawyer.) Fine, we have a cited, reliable, third-party source that Catherin M. Jones has publications in that specialty. But, how do I know that the wikipedia user and the referenced user are actually the same person? You cannot possibly know this without some of what you call original research. Jimbo's solution is to email the person at the address given in the reliable source C.M.Jones@* Your proposal cannot possibly accomplish this unless I totally misunderstand you. Derex 08:47, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
The idea here, I believe, is not to have a "Wiki-approved" stamp; the foundation wants to stay out of this. And yes, if you do not believe the person verifying the claim, then it should mean nothing to you. Correct. And even if you do believe the person verifying the claim, you still should not give any more "authority" to the holder of the credential than you would have without the verification. It is only to show that someone claims to have checked it out, and if you believe person B, you too will accede that this person has the credential. Now what? Busines as usual. -- Avi 08:34, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Look, there is no way to ensure User:Dr. Bob Miller is really him if a 24 year-old college drop out claims he is him and cites himself to the real Dr. Bob Miller's department webpage at Acme University. However, it is serious crime to impersonate a real-life person, something that Essjay never did (thankfully). Few will be willing to risk serious jail time to make such a claim. In the policy I propose, this should be mentioned and perhaps detailed.

But if you want, go ahead add to my proposal the ability for people to email Dr. Bob Miller. But by golly, the basis of that is the citations in the first place. And this business about unverified claim holders may still have PhD's, that is pure garbage, and it allows for fraud like I outlined above. If someone claims a PhD and it cannot be verified by citations, the claim should be removed on sight, and the user banned if he or she persists in re-adding the info to his or her userpgae.

Yet some Wikipedians will cry, "But we have to AGF for users who say they have PhDs that cannot be verified!" Honestly, how gullible and removed from the real world can you get? Have we not learned any lessons here about fraud and assuming the contrary of good faith? Either the PhD or other credential claimer is willing to "out" him or herself on Wikipedia as such, or the claim should be assumed to be either 1) not worthy of inclusion on the userpage; or, 2) fraud. C.m.jones 08:38, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

"If you want, go ahead add to my proposal the ability for people to email Dr. Bob Miller" ... isn't this precisely Jimbo's proposed "typical case" then? If so, then it seems you object primarily to pseudonymous credential verification. Do I understand you correctly? Derex 09:04, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

1) Contrary to the policy, there needs to be a "sudden mass prohibition on claiming unverified or unverifiable credentials." It's called a new policy! All claims of credentials on userpages must be cited to reliable, third-party sources. Uncited claims shoudl be ignored and should be removed by users who find them." That itself, however, will not occur overnight.

2) The whole section "Unverified credentials may still be real" is pure gullibility and should be removed forthwith. Uncited credentials should be assumed to be meaningless at best, fraud at worst, and worthy of removal in all instances.

3) All users who post cited claims of credentials on their userpages will be subject to verification of their credentials by a Wikipedia user whose real-life identity is public within the community and is him or herself subject to verification by other by Wikipedia users whose real-life identities are public within the community. If the claims of a claimed credential holder cannot be verified they will be removed, and if fraud is suspected the proper authorities will be notified.

If you want do deal with this in a manner that does not beg the very same question it is supposed to solve, that is a more authentic start on how to do it.

C.m.jones 09:21, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I think I understand your position now. And that would certainly be effective at eliminating false credentials claims. However, it also would eliminate a great many true credentials claims, and the underlying premise of the proposal is that true claims are beneficial. You may disagree with that premise, but that's a different discussion. I would like to find a way to verify pseudonymous claims, while still generally preserving privacy. I do think that's possible within reason, although probably not in an absolutely fraud-proof way. As you point out in your opening contribution, the verifiers must be trusted since not just anyone could recheck (otherwise it wouldn't be preserve privacy). That's the main design challenge remaining, in my view. Derex 09:44, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

The design challenge while preserving anonymity is insurmountable, which is why I keep saying this policy proposal as it now stands begs the very question it says it tries to solve. To now, the insurmountability has been cleverly hidden underneath Jimbo's "random selection" of a real-life named PhD, Dr.Nixon, whose claims were verified by a real-life named verifier, Jimbo Wales himself. That's anything but a "typical scenario" and it is not one about anonymity, folks. So don't be duped.

If a PhD-holder or other credentialed person wishes to make their claims as such, they need to cite them to reliable third-party sources. This will "out" them. If they are unwilling to do this, fine. They may make their contributions just the same but without claims of credentials. That preserves their privacy.

However, if they wish to wave their credentials, it will come at a cost of anonymity. And if they wish to cite their credentials so they are verifiable to third-party sources, the community needs to know that Wikipedians whose real-life identities are known within the community (as in Jimbo's example of a "typical scenario", using himself as the verifier) have verified that the person claiming the credentials really is the person they say, that fraud is not being committed.

Like it or not, you cannot preserve anonymity in a scheme of verifying credentials, because the trustworthiness of the verification hinges upon the real-life reputation of both the person making the claims the person verifying them. You cannot have the claims of User:Dr.Anon verified by User:Anonymous-user and have it mean anything credible whatsoever.

At best, this proposal as it now stands would be a mere feel-good show designed to keep some Wikipedians real busy thinking they are "doing good". And it will likely be considered as "begging the question" in the press, just as I am saying. Moreover, it will certainly be considered laughable to Wikipedia's critics. And they'd all be right, for the reasons I have given.

C.m.jones 09:55, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Sure. But, I think we can do better than random anon verifying random anon. For example, I suggested having a few volunteer verified real-name academics who would verify others while preserving generally preserving privacy. That imposes a real cost to verification fraud, because someone's real-life reputation is on the line. In academics your reputation for integrity is of course absolutely paramount, because most work is never replicated (in my field, anyway, and I suspect in yours). You may actually be right that the design challenges are insurmountable, for example it may be impossible to get such volunteers. But I don't think we've actually tried very hard to surmount the challenges yet. So, I'm not yet convinced of the futility. Derex 10:23, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
No. That becomes a tangled web subject to abuse. Look, the most prominent expert in the world in a field can still contribute anonymously to Wikipedia. They just cannot claim their credentials while preserving their anonymity. As for the "impossible to get such volunteers", I very much do not think so. C.m.jones 10:34, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
What sort of abuse are you thinking of? It seems to me the incentives for honesty are pretty strong there. Derex 10:44, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
We could not even get more than a bare majority to agree that we should have an honesty guideline. We have numerous people with sock farms who think its great fun to play wikipedia as if it were a game and a majority of admins who say they like having wikipedia as a fun whack-a-vandal game. Unverifiable phd claims that are claimed to be verified by other anon users is just asking for trouble. WAS 4.250 11:48, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely, which is why I suggest the opposite of that approach. Derex 12:19, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
WAS, please read Whac-A-Mole, irony and WP:RCP.. dave souza, talk 12:54, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
OK I did. Now what? What are you trying and failing to communicate? WAS 4.250 22:06, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Please remember to be civil Wikipedia:Civility. And no, I'm not quite sure what he's trying to say either altho I guess it's something like the irony is, RCP is set up to be like a whac-a-mole game? Nil Einne 17:24, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
To explain as requested: WAS stated "a majority of admins who say they like having wikipedia as a fun whack-a-vandal game", Whac-A-Mole#Colloquial usage states "The term... has been used in the computer and networking industry to describe the phenomenon of fending off recurring spammers, vandals or miscreants. The connotation is that of a repetitious and futile task: each time the attacker is "whacked" or kicked off of a service, he only pops up again from another direction." There's been a tendency on this page to disparage admins: having done very little of it, I've great admiration for those who tackle RCP and appreciate the ironic comment. It does tend to blunt one's faith in AGF for anon IPs, but the job needs done. .. dave souza, talk 20:36, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Trust me, I'm a doctor...[edit]

Sorry, just been dealing with someone who's added to my user talk page "i'm an MD and Homeopath, so it's not a matter of belief like you described it, for the past 15 years i've been using homeopathic remedies with excellent results" when wanting an uncritical article about a homeopath. Anyway, this illustrates the point that it does happen, and to get an idea of the scale of what we're discussing, I've had a look at PhDs as the credential which is most discussed.

  • Category:Wikipedians with PhD degrees lists 234 editors who presumably feel that it's worth that much mention of their qualification
  • The PhD userbox is used by 49 editors, of whom about 16 clearly show their name, and another four give a name such as DrNixon which could be checked out or would probably be clear to colleagues.

My suggestion is that these proposals and alternative suggestions be put to these 49 editors for comment. The rest of us are already getting along with taking as little notice as we deem appropriate of these claims to credentials, and all the proposals I've seen would have the effect of reminding the editors with PhDs to avoid mentioning them when discussing article contents.

  • Disclaimer: I failed my O-level Arithmetic, so the above numbers are subject to checking. .. dave souza, talk 11:49, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
There are actually many, many more than that who list such degrees on their pages. Most don't use the userboxes. I know this because I once set about compiling a list, when I had some ideas about how to more efficiently use such resources. You can find them especially through Wikiproject member lists and careful Googling. Many hundreds of PhD claims alone. I presume you referred the homeopath to our core policies? I'd personally be fascinated to know if he actually is an MD as well. Derex 11:54, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
A search in userspace for "PhD" returned over 13,000 results, though many are just PhD students. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 18:02, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
If he doesn't have one, I know where he can buy one. We aren't going to discriminate against small third world schools that have gone bankrupt are we? WAS 4.250 12:07, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Where? I could always use something to hang on the wall, as I never did collect my own skeepskin. Derex 12:10, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

I removed a sentence from the proposal that jumped from using the data above to implying that few Ph.D. holders use part of their name. The reason being that in the WikiProject I am active in, few, if any, of the Ph.D.s put themselves in this category or use a userbox to advertise the fact, although a number use part of their name, cf Wikipedia: WikiProject Mathematics/Participants. I regularly see new editors whose name is indicative of them being a professional mathematician, although in most cases, I can't be certain if it is true (although sometimes I can get corroborating evidence from their edits). Some people also don't use part of their name but give a link to their homepage or indicate their identity explictly on their user page. In any case, it seemed to me that the sentence I removed was trying to make some sort of point rather than explain the proposal accurately. --C S (Talk) 05:25, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, to me the figures show over a third using their real names. This is a significant minority, though a majority prefer anonymity. The way I see this proposal is that it works with userboxes: anyone not using a userbox will expect their claims to credentials to be ignored, and all will be assessed by their edits rather than their claimed degrees. .. dave souza, talk 20:45, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Creating (con)fidence without any actual real verify-ability[edit]

You don't add stability to a house of cards by adding additional floors (stories, layers). There is no foundation to a credibility scheme that rests on anonymous people making claims. It is in fact a confidence scheme designed to create confidence without any actual real verify-ability unless real world identities are accountable for claims. WAS 4.250 22:49, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

What proposal involving real names in the verification process do you favor? Derex 22:59, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
See the WP:BLP and WP:ATT proposals at User:Jimbo Wales/Credential Verification#See also and the straw polls archive of this page. WAS 4.250 05:23, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
One way would be to only request verification help from those who've disclosed their real names. 99of9 02:36, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Why is confidence without real verifiability bad? As long as we make it clear that completely anonymous people can verify these claims, why is it our problem if people derive confidence from that? -Amarkov moo! 23:04, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
maybe 'cause confidence is good, control is better(Lenin)? Now without jokes, it does not matter if or who we trust, what matters is if the reader trusts us. If we cannot get the reader to trust us we might as well quit the whole project. AlfPhotoman 23:25, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
The word that is to be used in the user boxes is "verified." Here's how Wiktionary defines "verify":
  1. To substantiate or prove the truth of something
  2. To confirm or test the truth or accuracy of something
  3. (law) To affirm something formally, under oath
That is not what the process being discussed achieves. So we will be misleading people. That is our problem, not theirs.--agr 23:32, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
Then we strip the word "verified". Simple. I'm not intending to say that we can't have another process that truly does verify credentials, but having one like this is perfectly fine. -Amarkov moo! 23:50, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
A process that creates confidence without actual verifyability or accountability is a confidence trick (con game) that is disreputable to everyone involved. WAS 4.250 05:27, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Precisely, and that is what this proposal for the very most part is. See User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Credential_Verification#Begging_the_question for why and how to solve it. C.m.jones 06:07, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't have a problem with userboxes that said "PhD" or whatever and had just a link labeled "Evidenced by" leading to a page with whatever the user chose to present as evidence for the degree. I'd like that page, in turn, to have a standard template heading with a link to a cautionary guideline.--agr 10:29, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

My two cents[edit]

I think exploring various solutions and being non-dogmatic are important here. There are three ways we can possibly go. 1)do nothing and risk having very very bad press (I don't think Mr Wales is willing to accept this 2) take the drastic step to ban all mention of credentials on user pages (oddly enough, some editors actually seem to recommend this) which to me seems like going one step backwards towards the stone age and 3)look at whether we can make credentials verifiable.

Re 3), for people who are willing to reveal their true identities, it should not be a problem like I have shown in my user page with scanned-in documents that can be verified by anyone. Left to establish that I am really me and not some nut posing as Ivy Goh Nair. For this Mr Wales email suggestion is a good one provided some editor(s) known to the Foundation is (are) willing to do the emailing and checking.

It is going to be more difficult for people who wish to remain anonymous on the site, but some of the proposals above seem workable and definitely worth exploring. Ivygohnair 16:30, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

I agree completely. A Musing (formerly Sam) 20:44, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Also agree, with the addition that 3) can be seen as giving users claiming credentials an opportunity to provide verification rather than an attempt by Wikipedia to award or enforce "verified" labels. ... dave souza, talk 20:51, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
I didn't even think about that. If we do allow scanned diplomas, certificates, etc., we do need to verify the name. Otherwise someone could just Google "PhD diploma" and post one on their userpage. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:58, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
When a real-name person starts claiming to be a particular person (of the many typically sharing a name) then we should be particularly careful to verify identity. Imagine if someone with a grudge against Ivy used that name and credential to fill Wikipedia with (for example) racist edits and sentiments, in an effort to discredit her. The real Ivy would have a right to be very upset about that situation. I don't know that Wikipedia would have any legal culpability there, but I think it has an ethical obligation. Note that admins already de facto enforce this standard for people using celebrity names. This is only about credentials in that they tend to uniquely identify a person, whereas a standard real name often does not. Derex 21:24, 19 March 2007


Hey you are right! Someone has already hacked into my wikipedia account and posted things on my behalf (see my talk page). So we have to be careful here. Having said that, it is not such a disastrous scenario for the imposter will soon be unveiled by the aggrieved person himself/herself.Ivygohnair 21:40, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Only if the aggrieved person knows about Wikipedia. Even then I'm not sure. For all I know, a student I failed has signed up with my real name and is busily making me look like a complete incompetent in my field. That would make me exceedingly upset. Since I don't usually edit my field, how would I know? I'd probably only know if there were an attempt at verification. Derex 21:55, 19 March 2007 (UTC)


this wiki thing rocks! - you pop in, and find all sorts going on in the basement.......

anyhooo... what the whale is saying is so totally obvious that it's the easiest thing in the world to agree with - i mean, there's not alot there to have a beef with really.... which is kinda the idea i guess..

the whale man is famous - and he's pissed with you guys for lying about stuff, so he wants to say to the good folk he hangs with that he's doing something about it. 'cept he's not really - 'cos it's just an idea that's out there - do this if you dig it!

i'm seeing a man who doesn't want to be the man....

whyeowhy, MPhil SpaceMan, ChildofLoveandtheUniverse, Eternity!

The above unsigned post was by Why oh why not? (Talk | contribs)09:20, 19 March 2007Ivygohnair 09:44, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Begging the question (repeated)[edit]

Below is a sketch of an alternate proposal:

In a certain respect, Jimbo's whole proposal is simply comical.

Let's say that User:Who_is_he_A claims a PhD in Widgetry, and User:Who_is_he_B comes along and says "I confirmed it". Okay, so who the heck is "User:Who_is_he_B" and why on earth should anyone place an ounce of credibility in an anonymous user's word that he "got an email" from "User"Who_is_he_A"???

Another issue is that User:Jimbo_Wales/Credential_Verification#Use_userboxes is a completely unrealistic scenario, which Jimbo very falsely and (I would say since he seems smarter than that) disingenuously claims is a "typical scenario" that he picked "randomly".

In point of fact, User:DrNixon is one of the few Wikipedian PhD claimers who use a portion of or all of their real name, as shown at "what links here". This means a user trying to verify Nixon's credentials was given a lead by the user. That is anything but typical.

Moreover, in the scenario (before I just changed it), Jimbo is using himself as an example--himself, who is the de facto head of Wikipedia, and who is a public figure who uses his real name. But that is a completely bogus example because it is so very far, far, far different from a "typical scenario". Rather, the users who will be "verifying" claims, will be almost universally anonymous users. How credible is it when the public reads that User:Anonymous-user or any other pseudonymous Wikipedian has verified anything??? Not in the mere slightest.

Yet some will claim, "But this is for Wikipedians! Oh, and I trust User:Anonymous-user! He is a very valuable Wikipedian!"

Well, guess what. They said the same thing about Essjay!

All along, this proposal has used apparently manipulative, very non-typical scenarios, and ones based on non-anonymity, to make its point.

In sum, this prposal as it now stands begs the very question is says it is trying to solve.

Do you want a real policy? Read on.

1) Contrary to the current policy proposal, there needs to be a "sudden mass prohibition on claiming unverified or unverifiable credentials." All claims of credentials on userpages must be cited to reliable, third-party sources. Uncited claims should be ignored and should be removed by users who find them. That itself, however, will not occur overnight.

2) The whole section "Unverified credentials may still be real" is pure gullibility and should be removed forthwith since it allows for fraud. Uncited credentials should be assumed to be meaningless at best, fraud at worst, and worthy of removal in all instances.

3) All users who post cited claims of credentials on their userpages will be subject to verification of their credentials by a Wikipedia user whose real-life identity is public within the community and is him or herself subject to verification by other by Wikipedia users whose real-life identities are public within the community. If the claims of a person who claims credentials cannot be verified they will be removed, and if fraud is suspected the proper authorities will be notified.

There is otherwise no way to ensure that User:Dr. Bob Miller is really him, should a 24 year-old college drop out claims he is him and cites himself to the real Dr. Bob Miller's department webpage at Acme University. The policy needs to detail how it is serious crime to impersonate a real-life person (something that Essjay never did, thankfully). Few will be willing to risk serious jail time to make such a claim.

Everyone can still contribute. The proposal affects only those who wish to claim credentials. Isn't Wikipedia all about your arguments and sources, and not your credentials anyways?

If someone claims a PhD and it cannot be verified by citations, the claim should be removed on sight, and the user banned if he or she persists in re-adding the info to his or her userpgae.

Yet some Wikipedians will cry, "But we have to AGF for users who say they have PhDs that cannot be verified!" Honestly, how gullible and removed from the real world can you get? Have we not learned any lessons here about fraud and assuming the contrary of good faith? Either the PhD or other credential claimer is willing to "out" him or herself on Wikipedia as such, or the claim should be assumed to be either 1) not worthy of inclusion on the userpage; or, 2) fraud.

If you want do deal with this in a manner that does not beg the very same question it is supposed to solve, that is a more authentic start on how to do it.

The design challenge while preserving anonymity is insurmountable, which is why I keep saying this policy proposal as it now stands begs the very question it says it tries to solve. To now, the insurmountability has been cleverly hidden underneath Jimbo's "random selection" of a real-life named PhD, Dr.Nixon, whose claims were verified by a real-life named verifier, Jimbo Wales himself. That's anything but a "typical scenario" and it is not one about anonymity, folks. So don't be duped.

If a PhD-holder or other credentialed person wishes to make their claims as such, they need to cite them to reliable third-party sources. This will "out" them. If they are unwilling to do this, fine. They may make their contributions just the same but without claims of credentials. That preserves their privacy.

However, if they wish to wave their credentials, it will come at a cost of anonymity. And if they wish to cite their credentials so they are verifiable to third-party sources, the community needs to know that Wikipedians whose real-life identities are known within the community (as in Jimbo's example of a "typical scenario", using himself as the verifier) have verified that the person claiming the credentials really is the person they say, that fraud is not being committed.

Like it or not, you cannot preserve anonymity in a scheme of verifying credentials, because the trustworthiness of the verification hinges upon the real-life reputation of both the person making the claims the person verifying them. You cannot have the claims of User:Dr.Anon verified by User:Anonymous-user and have it mean anything credible whatsoever.

At best, Jimbo's proposal as it now stands would be a mere feel-good show designed to keep some Wikipedians real busy thinking they are "doing good". And it will likely be considered as "begging the question" in the press, just as I am saying. Moreover, it will certainly be considered laughable to Wikipedia's critics. And they'd all be right, for the reasons I have given.

C.m.jones 06:47, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Since we're repeating ourselves, you have not yet raised a substantive objection to a simple solution: Dr Anon can be verified by Prof Real Name. No one has yet provided a reason why both ends of the transaction have to be public. Derex 08:07, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
You are correct. So long as there is some real world identifyable reliable entity that is willing to be held accountable for a claim then that claim can be considered verified and the reader can decide for themself exactly how much trust to put in that entity's claims. WAS 4.250 08:59, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
To date i don't believe there has been even one volunteer willing to take that job. I don't think it would work very well but I'd watch the attempt with interest. However, it starts with a volunteer. In any case, Jimbo has insisted pretty strongly that the wiki of trust (meaning anon verifying anon) is sufficient. I don't even know why he is asking for input. "Here is my fatally flawed plan, please implement it in such a way that makes it work". Good for creating 100s of pages of writhing but not all that helpful in making a useful guideline/policy (or even essay). I think he just needs to fiat it out there and be done with it.MikeURL 18:03, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
I would be willing as a real-named person to volunteer my time to verify non-anonymous credentialed persons. To do the same for pseudonymous persons, I'd only be willing to do it if I were a paid employee of the Foundation. Why the latter only if paid and a legal employee? Because verify ing credentialed pseudonymous persons exposes me or anyone else doing it to an unacceptable level of risk, and hence legal liability. C.m.jones 18:57, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

I am willing again to be the first guinea pig for this. You can email me and get a reply from me personally but this is not fool proof is it? My email address can be a fake, as being retired I do not have an email from a company, organisation nor institution. So I may have to provide the email address of either one of my two daughters who share my surname,Goh Nair,and who have email addresses from universities (Upenn and Imperial College of London). This daughter will then reply to you and certify that I am indeed her mother, Ivy Goh Nair, and also that the email address I gave you is not a fake. Will that do or is it too complicated?Ivygohnair 20:47, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

DEAL! Are we done?MikeURL 19:00, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
This would mean that pseudonymous persons may not claim credentials. They may contribute irregardless. C.m.jones 19:01, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
They may not claim C.m.jones verfied credentials. So, we just need a known entity, like Jimbo, to verify you (ya know, because you have to put your real-life rep on the line) and we're in business. Maybe you should set up a user page?MikeURL 20:01, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

I think wikipedia will be making a big mistake if they do not find an acceptable way to verify anon users' credentials. In the end the bulk of our experts or professionals will belong to this group and not retired oldies like me. Even though a PhD holder is editing WP from his personal laptop at home during his free time, he might still get into trouble at his job, for many universities/companies/organisations frown upon this kind of activity.Ivygohnair 07:50, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

That type of PhD may contribute to Wikipedia all the same, only anonymously, apart from waving his or her credentials. If someone wishes to wave their credentials, it must come at the cost of anonymity, real-life citations, and verifiability. C.m.jones 08:18, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Waaaah, are we on the way to becoming one of the most transparent (honest) sites on Web 2.0?Ivygohnair 21:01, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I think Jimbo just needs to reboot wikipedia once more. This bug that is popping up is persistent. Maybe a hard reboot is needed.MikeURL 03:14, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

A proposal that could actually reach consensus[edit]

See User:C.m.jones/Claimed_credentials_of_Wikipedians. C.m.jones 08:45, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

This is almost like doing nothing[edit]

If we think that there is nothing wrong with Wikipedia today and that it's credibilty with the outside world does not matter a fig and the whole Essjay affair was a "storm in a teacup", (largely the fault of a troublesome and incompetent New Yorker journalist and of Mr Wales himself), then Mr Jones proposal will do. Oh yes I am sure it will reach consensus in a jiffy. I read in some admin's talk page that 80% of Wikipedia's editors today are Male and under 20. Of course it will reach consensus in a jiffy, Mr JonesIvygohnair 09:28, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

At least Mr Jones, don't bury the part about Users having the possibility of having certified credentials in the the text as if it is a wart you have to keep but are ashamed of. Shouldn't you give it prominence as this is what the whole argument is about, or is this the normal WP "Speak"?Ivygohnair 09:36, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

This alternative says "place no credence or weight to such claims until they have been verified by reliable third-party sources". But, it doesn't say how they might be reliably verified. Isn't the whole point of this discussion trying to determine how to actually verify credentials? Derex 09:40, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

It says "...until they have been verified by reliable third-party sources." A third party source would have to publish how user Derex is a credentialed whatever before you could cite it on your userpage and it could be considered "verified". You could still place whatever you want on your user page, however.

Look, you can go for something that will achieve something or keep going for something that will achieve nothing because consensus is not possible. I am just being realistic. C.m.jones 09:45, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

I think you are being more than realistic, you sound like Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide when he said "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".  :-)Ivygohnair 10:27, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

There is probably not a single external citeable source that says "the Wikipedia user XXX is actually Dr. YYY of ZZZ University, Ph.D." So, your policy might as well be "do nothing". I don't understand the rationale for your position, which seems largely to be based on extending article-space policy into user-space, for which it was not designed. Derex 09:55, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
Exactly, we have policies/concepts for article space and we have policies/concepts about how we relate to other users. It doesn't help to get them confused. Metamagician3000 10:38, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

This "realism" consists of claiming that the the scenarios which have attracted concern are insurmountable problems, and doing nothing about them other than adding an unnecessary policy giving a weak disclaimer. The "verified by reliable third-party sources" begs all the questions we've been discussing, inviting the ingenious frauds already proposed. Saying "place no credence or weight to such claims until they have been verified" implies that we should then give weight to credentials, which goes against current policy. Many people clearly want to refer to their credentials or position as part of describing themselves, Jimbo's proposed procedure reminds them of how such credentials don't carry weight in discussions, at the same time offering them an optional procedure to help them to show that they're not a fraud. With care, this can provide a useful reinforcement of existing policies. .. dave souza, talk 10:29, 20 March 2007 (UTC) amended 10:48, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Er, can you be more explicit, do you agree with Mr Jones' draft proposal or not?Ivygohnair 10:41, 20 March 2007 (UTC) – I agree in principle with Jimbo's proposals as a procedure offered to those claiming credentials, comment amended to clarify. .. dave souza, talk 10:48, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

"insurmountable" sounds pretty final indeed. We must all try to avoid "la langue de bois" (forked tongue).Ivygohnair 10:52, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

To be explicit, several critics of Jimbo's idea claim that we can't prevent fraud or people taking notice of credentials, so we shouldn't even try, or should ban display of credentials. In my opinion this Jimbo's proposal can be useful, and doesn't need a new policy. .. dave souza, talk 10:58, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Useful to who? (besides possibly the remaining "Essjays" in WP). In my opinion this (the ban) would be like "cutting off our nose to spite our face" :-)Ivygohnair 11:10, 20 March 2007 (UTC) – Sorry, again I meant Jimbo's proposal .. dave souza, talk 11:18, 20 March 2007 (UTC) thanks for the clarification :-)Ivygohnair 12:18, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Trusting verifiers[edit]

Well, folks, take the trial run that I did above with A.Musing. To believe that user X (the person being "verified") in such an example is faking the qualification claimed, you have to believe either that (1) person X and person Y (the "verifier") are being dishonest or (2) that person Y was tricked. If person Y provides a bit of detail about what he/she did, this can render (2) rather unlikely. Such a "verification" is much better than a situation where person X simply claims the qualification with no one else vouching for it. What we did in the trial run was fairly quick and easy, but I stand by the claim that it was rigorous.
However, perhaps we need to make sure person Y is always someone in good standing - someone unlikely to be person X's sockpuppet. Obviously, we could tighten it up further in various ways, e.g. by insisting that there be two "person Ys" or (at one extreme) that person Y must always be Jimbo, or that person Y must be someone who has revealed his or her real identity publicly, or whatever. Much as I, personally, don't want to introduce more bureaucracy or more exposure of identity to scare people off, the question of how far we have to trust person Y in such cases - and what we can do to make it more likely that person Y is not a sockpuppet or a meat puppet, or simply colluding in some way for some odd reason - is legitimate. We have to reach some kind of conclusion about how far we are prepared to trust the person Y's in these exercises. But I have to say that a lot of what is being put forward against Jimbo's general proposal at the moment seems like unreasonable negativity. Metamagician3000 11:06, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
My own view is that person Y need be no more than a well-established user, but that's not the only reasonable viewpoint of course. Metamagician3000 11:10, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
There seems to me to be a good argument for having a list of "verifiers" whose name is known to the foundation, as well as a disclaimer on the lines of although every effort is made to achieve a reasonable Standard of care, we are no more able to give an absolute guarantee against fraud than any other publisher. To repeat an earlier point, it's probably best not to award a "verified" label, rather to present "evidence of credentials" or some similar wording. .. dave souza, talk 11:20, 20 March 2007 (UTC) amended 11:26, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Dave that a modest set of volunteers checking "evidence" would be ideal. Whether these (notaries?) are known to the foundation or are simply themselves verified real name users doesn't matter much. Jimbo could almost certainly recruit a few such volunteers. However, a simpler approach would be to simply spell out very clearly what characteristics would make a verification more trusted. Then, leave it to editors to do what they will. On the issue of 'established users', keep in mind that one objective is to convince the public (as a form of advertising) and the public won't have any idea that AnonUser is an established user. I think we're nearing the point where it would be very useful to hear from Jimbo again. Derex 11:35, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
Dave, you may be right about the language - I've been sticking with the word "verified" and its cognates for continuity and as a kind of shorthand. What we end up with might be more like what you're saying. Derex, I agree that it would be useful to hear from Jimbo again. He won't need to read much of this page, in my view, though this section should be useful to him. Metamagician3000 12:00, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Where should attestations be kept?[edit]

Since the beginning of this discussion, it has been assumed that letters of attestation would be kept on a subpage of the user page for the user whose credentials were in question. This may be a bad idea. It would be easy for a user to add forged letters. The edit history could be tampered with, or the user could create a sockpuppet with a name almost identical to a user with a complex name and use that sockpuppet to enter his forgery. Few would look closely enough at the edit history. to detect this.

I propose that all letters of attestation be kept on the user page of the person who wrote the letter, either in the talk page or in a separate sub page, if this user plans on writing lots of letters. The letter writer would presumably police any unauthorized changes to their page. The user whose credentials are in question would simply point to these letters. --agr 13:09, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

I concur, more so because every user sees changes on his page as soon as they occur, which limits the chance of abuse, or we have to create a new type of wiki-bureaucrat, the registrar, who is responsible for keeping and maintaining testates of editors. AlfPhotoman 13:18, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

I also agree:

For Users who are using their real identities and have posted attestations (scanned degrees or other documents) on their User Page, a template certifying that his/her true identity has been verified by WP could be put both in his/her user and talk pages.

For anon Users, templates saying that their credentials have been verified by WP (such as the one already proposed above) could be added to both their User pages and talk Pages.Ivygohnair 13:30, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Do you see how this proposal is already getting layers of bureaucracy and not assuming good faith? And how even its proponents see how easily it can and will be gamed? This proposal is a waste of editor time and resources. Having userpages as meticulously sourced as biographies of living people is a complete waste of time and resources, and is grabbing the wrong stick altogether. There's a reason Ivygohnair's page is sourced like a good biography - because it started out as an auto-biography in article space. There's already enough confusion about article space and userspace in the public mind, see the thread on the mailing list. Userpages are for helping other editors get to know us a little bit to help us work together to write a better encyclopedia. A complete and sourced userpage is not necessary for this. "Verified" credentials are not necessary for me to work with another editor. If they claim they have a PhD and I don't believe them, I can just treat them respectfully and not take their word as gospel. If I do believe them, I'll treat them respectfully, and not take their word as gospel. Pretty simple. Mak (talk) 15:16, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
No, to your initial questions. Honestly, I don't see that. I do see a huge waste of time and resources repeatedly discussing why this can't work instead of discussing how best to design it. Discussions about the merits of the idea have their place, but they keep hijacking threads about practical design issues and interrupting constructive work. Derex 23:11, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

That is true about my user page. I don't expect others to have my format at all, but that begs the question of whether we really ought to introduce reforms vis a vis credibility of WP to the outside world in the aftermath of the Essjay affair. I for one think we do, but apparently many editors (among those who habitually speak up anyway) seem not to think so. It would be interesting to see how this ends.Ivygohnair 15:41, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Mak, I would like to try to persuade you that Mr Wales' proposal is good for WP. What better way than to take you as an example. Your User page states that you have an unverified Bachelors of Music in Performance. Under the present set-up we have to ASSUME good faith and take your word for it. You have been appointed an Admin in WP and have created several articles on early music and no doubt carried out a lot of administrative duties, related or not related to your field. Now supposing you are not what you are (but rather a teenager interested in music or a college music major drop-out) the following would be the least of the prejudice you would be causing to the community and the readership of Wikipedia at large (the millions of people and students who swear by WP)

a)At the WP voting process to appoint you as an Admin, your "false" credentials must surely have given you more weight in the vote in your favour. b)When you created/edited those articles on music, other editors must have been more accepting of you than if you had been simply John Doe without any credentials. c)Your administrative duties, especially the punitive ones, must surely be more readily swallowed by other editors because of your credentials.

Now don't give me those inane arguments already thrown around that no one in WP can use his credentials when editing etc or they will be banned. Noone in his right mind will do that as he really doesn't have to, does he? Anyone can read what is on his user page and we do scrutinize each other's user page, don't we? Especially when there is a conflict. It is like a well-dressed man in a suit and a shabbily dressed homeless person both approaching a salesgirl. Definitely the former will be treated better although neither he nor the sales girl will admit it publicly.

Since I do assume good faith and believe you do have your degree, Mak, you should switch camps and join with those of us who feel that Mr Wales proposal is not only good but neccessary for WP because of the credibility problem we are facing today.Ivygohnair 17:09, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

The credibility problem we face today is not caused by credentials, fake or otherwise. Another half-decade and Essjay will be long forgotten. Wikipedia's long-term problem is our lack of referenced content: this is why this proposal is bad for Wikipedia on a large scale, because it will encourage people to flout the rules just because they have "verified credentials" that others don't: we will see more article ownership, less thorough referencing, and more of "I'm a PhD, so shut up" - something we quite rightly don't take seriously at the moment, because we know those "qualifications" could be meaningless. Wikipedia's extraordinary success to date has been built on our egalitarian model: let us not throw that away just because some guy cheated us all - and, let us not forget, it's hard to see how this "voluntary" process would have stopped EssJay. My respect for Makemi as an article writer is based upon the way in which she references her stuff well, not any alleged credentials. I suppose I could verify those credentials on 2 seconds flat if I wanted to, but I haven't. Why? Firstly because I'm too dammed lazy, and secondly because it doesn't matter anyway. Moreschi Request a recording? 17:30, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

"The credibility problem we face today is not caused by credentials, fake or otherwise."

Indeed, the credibility problem facing Wikipedia is the result of an irrational bias that favors credentialism and traditional forms of fact-finding over more egalitarian open content systems. To wit, while there is no adequate substitute for due diligence, credentialists will often emphasize the process by which people obtain credentials as a way of indemnifying themselves against the inherently risky act of trusting someone else's expertise. Similarly, providing a "voluntary" system for verifying the credentials of Wikipedia contributors will allow people to embrace the illusion of due diligence rather than being forced to think for themselves. // Internet Esquire 18:25, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
It's not a matter of people being too lazy to think for themselves, as not really having enough time or education for it. It's rather the same as when you need a doctor or dentist. I'm curious as to what you personally do. Perhaps you don't use traditional medicine? The problem with true "egalitarian open content systems" is that they're full of garbage, just like USENET. That fact that Wikipedia creaks along even as well as it does, is partly as a result of people who have credentials in the real world getting enough confidence in them to stand up in arguements with a little extra backbone, PLUS the fact that citing secondary sources ala WP:ATT usually amounts to credentialism at second-hand. Essentially NONE of those sources would have been published in the first place had they not been submitted to the publisher under the auspices of somebody claiming realworld credentials. If you don't believe me, just TRY submitting a manuscript to Am. J. Widget under the name of "John Doe" while making it clear that you claim no status at all, and indeed are a pseudonym author, and wish your writing to be judged solely on merit of content. It simply won't work. You can argue all you like that it SHOULD work, but in the REAL world, the one we all live in, it does NOT work. So I wish you'd stop promoting a utopian vision which doesn't have any antecedants closer than Wikipedia itself, which is what has problems, and is what we're trying to fix. An no, open source computer coding doesn't count, because whether a program works or not, can be verified independently far more easily than facts about nature gained at great time and expense. So just because something works for LINUX really has no bearing on our problem here. SBHarris 19:54, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
Philosophical debates aside, it does make practical sense, I think, for any evidence, or whatever, to be maintained in the userspace of the "verifier" (who can have the responsibility to monitor it) rather than the "verifiee". Metamagician3000 22:36, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

"It's not a matter of people being too lazy to think for themselves, as not really having enough time or education for it."

You're conflating two separate arguments here and putting someone else's words in my mouth. To wit, I never said that people are "too lazy to think for themselves," and the reputation risk-taking behavior that I actually *DID* describe has been well documented by Dan Simon at his i could be wrong blog.

"It's rather the same as when you need a doctor or dentist. I'm curious as to what you personally do."

Scholarly research is nothing like consulting a doctor or dentist. However, in those instances when I do need the services of a doctor or dentist, I ask a lot of questions, and if I don't get some straight answers, I do not defer to their expertise; I go elswhere. On this note, I was diagnosed with two cavities several years ago that I chose not to get filled because I would not allow Delta Dental's approved dentist to use mercury amalgam and Delta Dental would not pay for composite fillings. Notwithstanding the assurances of the Delta Dental dentist that mercury amalgam was totally safe, I waited for my dental insurance to lapse, and then I visited another dentist who used only composite fillings, and the second dentist assured me that I had no cavities whatsoever. I could go on with a long series of anecdotes about sub-standard medical and dental advice that I've challenged and rejected, but I think you get the point.

"[J]ust TRY submitting a manuscript to Am. J. Widget under the name of "John Doe" while making it clear that you claim no status at all, and indeed are a pseudonym author, and wish your writing to be judged solely on merit of content. It simply won't work."

I wholeheartedly disagree. Indeed, that is *EXACTLY* how law review journals go about publishing student written articles.

"I wish you'd stop promoting a utopian vision which doesn't have any antecedants closer than Wikipedia itself, which is what has problems, and is what we're trying to fix."

I am not "promoting a utopian vision" of any kind. That's a straw man argument. And if you think that credentialism is the cure for what ails Wikipedia, you couldn't be more wrong. // Internet Esquire 22:40, 20 March 2007 (UTC)