Wikipedia:Attribution/against the merge

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This has been copied from User:Coppertwig/Stability of policy.

This essay attempts to summarize the arguments against merging policies into WP:ATT or against particular implementations. It contains points distilled from various discussion pages.

Reasons not to merge the pages[edit]

  • The change is unnecessary.
  • People are accustomed to giving links to WP:NOR, WP:V or WP:RS as a concise way of making a point. If the page contains other rules too, the point may not be clear. Links in past messages will also be affected. The resulting confusion is apparent in many arguments around Wikipedia, as editors are getting confused about two very different concepts.[1]
  • Reducing all policy to one thing is just not going to be helpful. [2] Eliminating the separate explanatory pages of what are, in fact, different ideas, is not a good idea.[3] We might as well have a single policy for everything, and just call it "WP:write an encyclopedia".[4]
  • When there is a dispute about any part of the page, the status of the entire merged page may be thrown into doubt. For example, a dispute concerning the reliable sources section would put template:disputedpolicy on the page, with the side effect of weakening the message on no original research; or the whole page might be blocked from editing.
  • Possible consequences have not been assessed, as pointed out here.

Reasons not to include WP:RS in the merge[edit]

Reliable Sources needs the flexibility of being a guideline, not a policy. Trying to tie down what types of sources are reliable, given the different kinds of sources that are used in different fields, is a next-to-impossible task. The issue seems to be a matter of opinion rather than an objective fact, and the attempts to reach consensus have led to dramatic changes. It is therefore not suitable to be raised to policy status by being merged with other policy pages.

Reliable sources may be more related to Wikipedia:Neutral Point of View, particularly WP:NPOV#Undue_weight than to WP:V/WP:ATT. Also see the essay Wikipedia:Reliable_sources_and_undue_weight. Including it as part of WP:ATT encourages a more binary interpretation of reliable sources, with the threshold for inclusion being "attributability to a reliable source". WP:NPOV#Undue_weight tries to more significant opinions more weight than less significant opinions. If significance and reliability are seen as related, degrees of reliability should determine due weight, rather than having a clear-cut binary threshold for inclusion.

Problems with the wording suggested at WP:ATT as a merged version of the pages[edit]

"Verifiability, not truth"[edit]

Moving away from "verifiability", which includes the meaning of "truth" within its definition, brings in two problems:

  • In itself it changes the meaning and purpose of library research from a search for meaning about the real world to a search for empty words.
  • It frees the phrase "not truth" or "not whether it is true" to become an invitation to users to knowingly post false statements such as falsified peer-reviewed scientific results. This will only add to Wikipedia's reputation of being unreliable.

WP:ATT does not accurately represent WP:V. Search for the words verifiability or verify in the policy text of WP:ATT; you will get zero hits – because WP:ATT has removed the editor's duty to ensure that some secondary source has verified the assertion that the editor will make leaving it up to an editors' wrangle whether a clearly attributable quotation is mainstream science or NPOV enough to include in a page.

Proponents of the new wording "attributable ... not whether it is true" say that it means the same thing as the old wording but that the old wording is more easily "misinterpreted". However, who is to say that a given interpretation is a "misinterpretation" rather than a valid interpretation? Proponents have not given a yes or not to this question: Are you really suggesting that an editor who knowingly includes cited, but false, information, is helping write the encyclopedia?


The word "attribution" is a relatively uncommon, unfamiliar word and can be confused with the GFDL requirement to provide links attributing material to the Wikipedian editor who contributed it. Words such as "source", "reference" or "verify" are more familiar.

"Directly referenced for the point"[edit]

WP:ATT leaves out the "directly referenced for the point" doctrine of WP:RS, weakening it to "directly and explicitly supported by the cited sources", leaving it up to an editors' wrangle whether strings of clearly attributable assertions of fact and quotation are Original Research, pseudoscience, or POV.

Without the "directly referenced for the point" requirement of WP:RS, WP:ATTFAQ can be seen as contradicting WP:NPOV by allowing fully attributable facts to be strung together in an assertion that is fully attributable in each small piece but false, wrong, and hurtful in the overall assembly.

WP:ATTFAQ lowers the standards of WP:RS by ranking "reliability of sources" by factors such as "editorial oversight" and "declaration of sources" that do enhance attributability of individual facts and quotations but totally ignore the WP:RS and WP:V requirement to verify that the assertion in the Wikipedia page has support "directly referenced for the point."

Things that have been left out of the merged version but are still needed[edit]

However, research that consists of collecting and organizing information from existing primary and/or secondary sources is, of course, strongly encouraged. All articles on Wikipedia should be based on information collected from published primary and secondary sources. This is not "original research"; it is "source-based research", and it is fundamental to writing an encyclopedia.

Problems with the process by which the page WP:ATT was developed[edit]

Through the four-month process of editing WP:ATT, no merge tags were kept on the pages allegedly being merged until eight days before the deed was done. Although many editors participated in developing WP:ATT, many others were surprised when longstanding policies that had been marked as "policy" were suddenly demoted. Even some participants in the discussions were blindsided by the way WP:ATT was adopted.

Among the editors who were involved in developing WP:ATT, there was significant dissent [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10][11]. Objections were raised in the week prior to the declaration of a "consensus", and these objections were to a large extent ignored rather than thoroughly discussed; it's not clear what if anything the word "consensus" actually meant in that context.

Some users who attempted to edit WP:ATT have received messages from an admin telling them not to change policy pages: [12] [13] If this sort of thing continues in the future, it may be very difficult to achieve changes in the new wording; even users attempting to revert to the original wording of the original policy pages might be criticized for "changing" policy and threatened (implied or explicit) with admin action. Therefore, before approving a new page with new wording, we need to be sure that either we're happy with the new wording, or that we have a process in place that will allow input from a broad spectrum of users.

Problematic implications for Wikipedia culture[edit]

Every day, new users are joining the ranks of Wikipedia's editors, and some of them become high-volume editors. In a certain sense, this is like joining a culture: they learn the tools and learn the language. When a new editor can participate in discussions that use acronyms such as "NPOV" and "NOR", they may feel that they finally "belong" to the Wikipedia community. Therefore, the possibility that a small group of super-editors can actually change the very language that Wikipedians use suggests that Wikipedia is more of an aristocracy than a democracy or anarchy.

"Does Eros owe you money?"