Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)/Archive 31

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Jimbo quote

I have seen a quote someplace where Jimbo wrote, or said in a speech, that the name of the NPOV policy is misleading because it is not really neutral, but balanced in accordance with the prominence of the views. Where can I find this quote?--Filll (talk) 02:21, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Reading the policy is the best way to understand the policy. And Jimbo said arguments are less then stellar. Prodego talk 02:30, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

Jimbo is an objectivist. Most Wikipedia users are wishy-washy collectivists, relativists, and subjectivists. See Sophism and anti-intellectualism. He established the NPOV policy, not as a false compromise or appeal to the middle, but because most people are not Objectivists or particularly rational, so arguing arguing "objective truth" would be a nightmare. Instead, people are supposed to argue over "objective verifiability." The objective part, however, has been wiped out of Wikipedia by the collectivists, hence the reason things like this and User:Shii/Hoaxes happen and The Community ™ doesn't do anything to stop it.

Frankly, I would like to know who this user, The Community ™, is and why they have not been blocked for harming Wikipedia.

The best way to edit Wikipedia is to glance across the policy pages, then think critically about what you're doing. If WP:NPOV is unclear, irrational, or downright harmful for Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, it should be ignored even if The Community ™ says otherwise.   Zenwhat (talk) 03:06, 26 January 2008 (UTC)

  • You forgot to mention that some of us are realists. Hiding T 11:06, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

Following the implicit suggestion I found in User:Zenwhat's comment, I have created a sock puppet, User:The Community. It is now possible to block The Community, should The Community edit contrary to policy, though this is highly unlikely (see the User and Talk pages for why it's unlikely; indeed, in the immediate situation, The Community won't be editing outside of the User and Talk page at all unless authorized by the actual community, or, more accurately, by those participating, and The Community (currently me logged in as such) won't make contentious edits even on those pages, except as the servant of those participating, as would any legitimate temporary chair of a democratic meeting. Given that the process doesn't exist yet to fairly represent the whole community through those participating, I wouldn't expect any outside edits in the near future. But you never can tell. How long does it take for a crystal to grow? Depends on conditions. Some might prevent any crystal formation at all. Some might want to watch User talk:The Community but a special subpage might be created for authorized announcements, and watching that page would involve much less traffic. Maybe none! (By the way, if someone objects to the name of this user, there is standard process for dealing with that; however, the most *efficient* way to object might be to simply request that some different name be used. I'd not be opposed. However, if you are an administrator, and you see *any* uncivil, contentious, disruptive, or otherwise improper post by The Community, that user is acting contrary to his own guidelines, or the account has been compromised. Please block it immediately. It will do no harm, and can always be undone if there has been some mistake.--Abd (talk) 17:07, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Some thoughts on categories

Our category system is a mess. What my thoughts for improving it are fairly simple. Apply all categories that apply. If its about a german doctor, the article should be three categories, Germans, Doctors, and German Doctors. Where German Doctors is a subcat of Doctors. it would make working with categories simpler and help avoid categorie loops. (it would also need a bugzilla request so that all sub cats appear on the first listings of a category page.) thoughts? βcommand 16:47, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

  • Um. How would you categorise George H. W. Bush? Presidents, The United States, Presidents of the United States, 1924, births, 1924 births, American, anti-communists, American anti-communists, businesspeople, American businesspeople, Episcopalians, American Episcopalians, humanitarians, American humanitarians, military personnel, military personnel of World War II, World War II, American military personnel of World War II, pilots, American World War II pilots, Bonesmen, Bush family, Cold War, leaders, Cold War leaders, Directors, Central Intelligence Agency, Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, George H.W. Bush, Knights, Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Living people, Members of the United States House of Representatives, Texas, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Texas, Parents, Parents of Presidents of the United States, Connecticut, People from Greenwich, Connecticut, Maine, People from Maine, Midland, Texas, People from Midland, Texas, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, People from Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Phillips Academy, Alumni, Phillips Academy alumni, US Distinguished Flying Cross, Recipients of US Distinguished Flying Cross, Republican National Committee, Chairmen, Republican National Committee chairmen, Republican Party (United States), Republican Party (United States) presidential nominees, Republican Party (United States) vice presidential nominees, Shot-down, Aviators, Shot-down aviators, Texas Republicans, Time magazine, Time magazine Persons of the Year, Ambassadors, ambassadors to the United Nations, United Nations, United States ambassadors to the United Nations, Navy, United States naval aviators, Officers, United States Navy officers, Presidential candidates, 1988, United States presidential candidates, 1988, Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents of the United States? Hiding T 17:31, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
there would to be a little more care, but Ambassadors, ambassadors to the United Nations is a good example. Some of the extreamly broad categories should be avoided. βcommand 18:49, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
I think we discussed something like this before. Hang on. Hiding T 18:54, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
I never quite understood what got worked up at Wikipedia:Category intersection but is that something similar? I remember asking ages ago if we could use the tagging system used and was told we did. Nearly. Hiding T 19:00, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
Hiding what I am thinking is have the two types of categories on the same article. (From the page you linked). βcommand 19:15, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
How would Ambassadors be avoided as too broad but doctors be ok? I know there are problems with the category system, but exactly what problem are you attempting to fix? "It's a mess" isn't exactly specific; it sounds almost like you have a solution in search of a problem. --Kbdank71 19:09, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
Kbdank71, that was a grammer mistake. βcommand 19:15, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
As for the mess I was talking about, I regularly see loops in the category structure, along with problems navigating the category system. there are a lot of times where your looking for an article but its placed in some random intersection category without being in a primary category also. βcommand 19:20, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
I agree that is a problem, but I'm not sure what the fix is. For example, there is nothing stopping anyone right now from fixing any categories that loop like that, and no changes in category policy will prevent someone from mistakenly categorizing an article improperly. --Kbdank71 19:36, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
By fully populating Primary categories it elimantes the need to use subcats for bot work, and increases the navigation of categories. if we know John Doe is a doctor, but not a german doctor, we can use the Doctor category. instead of hunting through the nationality sub categories looking for the guy. that way if by chance he is in the wrong sub category, you dont have to hunt for an hour looking through each one. βcommand 20:03, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
And I think a clump of links separated by pipes is aesthetically displeasing; is anything ever going to be done about how that looks? x42bn6 Talk Mess 18:09, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
Guyz tis discussion is not policy related. Pls use the proposals section WP:VPR and read the proposals to avoid duplication of topic. --WonderingAngel-aesc78 (talk) 19:12, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

White Cats approach

My belief is that some people are trying to write articles using categories. Often very minor detail of a person ends up being a category. I want to point out to my essay at this point -> WP:DNWAUC.
First off, we should focus on citizenship rather than ethnicity/nationality whenever possible. Often ethnicity isn't a very objective criteria for categorization. Of course a persons ethnicity is something very significant and this can be presented in the article in great detail. But it is a poor criteria for categorization.
  • If the person changed citizenship or holds multiple citizenships (something rare) he or she can be tagged with multiple categories.
  • Granted there are many countryless minorities and "nations" out there which are actually the root of the problem we are facing in categorization. For example how do you even try to categories a living example of a melting pot? Such as a person who has 4 or more parents/grand parents of different ethnicities? Ethnicity is a cultural concept so the definition of who qualifies as a 'White' (Would a 75% or more 'White' count? Or consider the case of a person having a very distant non-white relative), 'Black/African American' (is Bill Clinton an African American? Media seem to say so (jokingly no doubt)), 'African' (Do non-blacks in Africa count?). I can list endless problematic examples without even trying.
  • In the case of some historic figures there is a serious disagreement of which "nationality" they are from and citizenship didn't exist back then. People were instead subjects of a King/Queen or whatever. They can be categorized accordingly. It isn't very helpful for us to have a living person in a modern-era country and person that lived several centuries ago in a country that no longer exists today in the same category.
As for the example above (George H. W. Bush). I list the existing categories in the article:
  1. Semi-protected
    • (maintenance)
  2. Articles needing additional references from December 2007
    • (maintenance)
  3. All articles with unsourced statements
    • (maintenance)
  4. Articles with unsourced statements since November 2007
    • (maintenance)
  5. Articles to be expanded since December 2007
    • (maintenance)
  6. All articles to be expanded
    • (maintenance)
  7. Articles with sections needing expansion
    • (maintenance)
  8. Presidents of the United States
    • Official post, fine if you ask me.
  9. 1924 births
    • Date of birth, fine if you ask me.
  10. American
    1. American anti-communists
      • Excessive, persons political opinion. Article worthy for sure but this is not an objective category.
    2. American businesspeople
      • Occupation, fine if you ask me.
    3. American Episcopalians
      • Official post, fine if you ask me.
    4. American humanitarians
      • Excessive, persons political opinion. Article worthy for sure but this is not an objective category.
    5. American military personnel of World War II
      • Excessive. Article worthy, not category worthy.
    6. American World War II pilots
      • Excessive. Article worthy, not category worthy.
    • First of 'American' does not JUST mean "from United States" Canadians can fall into this category. Thats the major problem with all of these.
  11. Bonesmen
    • Official affiliation, fine if you ask me. This once could be renamed so it makes more sense.
  12. Bush family
    • Perfectly fine. However either this or 'George H.W. Bush' category is excessive.
  13. Cold War leaders
    • Belongs to the article and is a poor choice as a category.
  14. Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency
    • Official post, fine if you ask me.
  15. George H.W. Bush
    • Perfectly fine. However either this or 'Bush family' category is excessive.
  16. Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
    • An award. Definitely significant in a persons life but not very useful as a category. It should be mentioned in the article in great detail. Just it is a poor category.
  17. Living people
    • (maintenance)
  18. Members of the United States House of Representatives from Texas
    • Not really sure what this supposed to be. The person in question is no longer a member of the "House of Representatives". And I don't particularly see the point of categorizing him under 'Texas' rather than the term(s) he served.
  19. Parents of Presidents of the United States
    • Excessive. Being a parent of a president is no achievement nor is it in any way definitive. Article worthy for sure but not category worthy.
  20. Location
    1. People from Greenwich, Connecticut
    2. People from Maine
    3. People from Midland, Texas
    4. People from Norfolk County, Massachusetts
    • Just where exactly is he from? Wouldn't birth place be a more rational way to categorize people. Any Navy serviceman may end up living in unrelated parts of the world for long durations of time.
  21. Phillips Academy alumni
    • Official affiliation, fine if you ask me.
  22. Recipients of US Distinguished Flying Cross
    • An award. Definitely significant in a persons life but not very useful as a category. It should be mentioned in the article in great detail. Just it is a poor category.
  23. Republican National Committee chairmen
    • Official post, fine if you ask me.
  24. Republican Party (United States) presidential nominees
    • How useful is this? There are very few candidates in every election hardly enough to fill a category. Wouldn't a list be more useful than a machine generated category?
  25. Republican Party (United States) vice presidential nominees
    • How useful is this? There are very few candidates in every election hardly enough to fill a category. Wouldn't a list be more useful than a machine generated category?
  26. Shot-down aviators
      • Excessive. Article worthy, not category worthy.
  27. Texas Republicans
    • How useful is this? Being a republican alone isn't something significant. Now he was succesfuly elected and thats a good category. This one is excessive however.
  28. Time magazine Persons of the Year
    • An award. Definitely significant in a persons life but not very useful as a category. It should be mentioned in the article in great detail. Just it is a poor category.
  29. United States ambassadors to the United Nations
    • Official post, fine if you ask me.
  30. United States naval aviators
    • Occupation, fine if you ask me.
  31. United States Navy officers
    • Occupation, fine if you ask me. However this is excessive when user is already categorized under 'United States naval aviators'
  32. United States presidential candidates, 1988
    • How useful is this? There are very few candidates in every election hardly enough to fill a category. Wouldn't a list be more useful than a machine generated category?
  33. Vice Presidents of the United States
    • Official post, fine if you ask me.
-- Cat chi? 19:26, 6 February 2008 (UTC)


You lost me after the, somewhere in Albuquerque I believe.Wjhonson (talk) 04:30, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
It seems to be a complete reform of the way people categorise things. Some valid points, but would take years to do. I think WP:OVERCAT (via WP:CFD) is already keeping out the worst stuff anyway, and what is left isn't too bad. Carcharoth (talk) 07:10, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Please don't discuss detailed category proposals here. It is better to post a notice and centralise discussion on one of the category-related pages. White Cat, I suggest the talk page of WP:OVERCAT. 07:24, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
I merely investigated categories on the given example as an example. I tried what you suggested and it had taken me nowhere. We do need a reform in categorization.


I'd like to provoke some discussion on the mathematical articles in Wikipedia. If this is old ground, perhaps someone can direct me to earlier discussion on the topic or to relevant policies.

In my view, many of the mathematical articles are close to useless. They have been written by expert mathematicians, who express themselves precisely, very likely expertly and accurately, and with formality. This puts the articles out of reach of people who are not themselves strong mathematicians.

It is for this reason I think that I chose the word useless carefully. The people who know enough maths to understand the articles probably know the content; and for those who don't know, the article sheds no light.

I'd like to see all articles on mathematical topics start with narrative, using words and not algebra, explaining in terms that a 16 year old could understand, what the function seeks to perform, and why it matters. It should not plunge straight into any symbolic maths.

As an example of an article that I consider bad, see the one on Fourier Transforms.

This issue is not confined to maths, of course. Some of the medical articles are highly technical too. But compare the Fourier Transform article to the one on Cancer, which anyone can read without needing a medical dictionary at their side.

I suppose the root of this issue is what an encyclopedia is for. Is it to hold the latest, definitive knowledge on a topic, to the most expert level, or to provide a reference for ordinary educated people about unfamiliar subjects? I think that the first is impossible, since a multi-topic encyclopedia can never compete on detail with a highly specialised journal dedicated to a particular field. It's certainly for the second that I come to Wikipedia.

David Colver (talk) 15:11, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia contains what editors have chosen to write, which often isn't what's ideal. That's why one standard response, when someone points out a problem, is to suggest that they simply fix it. In this case, I suspect that if you were to add some introductory, easily understandable text, absolutely no one would object. Certainly there is no policy or guideline here that says "Wikipedia is intended to hold the latest, definitive knowledge on a topic, to the most expert level".
Wikipedia:WikiProject Mathematics has a "house style" for mathematics articles. I've not looked at it, but if you think it is problematical, you might suggest changes at that project, and if they're not amenable, bring the subject back here for further discussion. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 15:51, 2 February 2008 (UTC)
While I fully support your desire to make Wikipedia's mathematics coverage more accessible, I have to take issue with your claim that it is currently entirely useless. It is not the case that people who can understand the more technical articles already know the material; I (a graduate student of mathematics) find Wikipedia constantly useful and interesting, as does at least one of my lecturers.
Your dichotomy between 'the latest, definitive knowledge on a topic' and 'a reference for ordinary educated people' is also false: in the case of Fourier transform for example, it is almost entirely incomprehensible to the layman, but contains nothing that has not been known for half a century at least.
What this article needs (and what is suggested by Wikipedia:Manual of Style (mathematics)) is a good introduction explaining the definition, purpose and applications of the Fourier transform in vague but accessible terms, followed by the more technical material.
Unfortunately, this introduction is by far the hardest part to write well, and is often lacking (as in this case). It is to be hoped that more articles will be edited into this form, or even acquire their own 'accessible' companion articles, such as the FA introduction to general relativity, but it's an enormous task. Algebraist 16:54, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Telling somebody, "Go fix it," is extremely insulting. Also:

Your dichotomy between 'the latest, definitive knowledge on a topic' and 'a reference for ordinary educated people' is also false.

You can't be serious?   Zenwhat (talk) 17:02, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I am serious. As I explained, there is a lot of stuff in the world that is neither the 'latest' knowledge in a topic nor comprehensible to 'ordinary educated people'. For example, many people would not understand our article Euler-Lagrange equation, but almost all of it was known more than two hundred years ago - hardly the 'latest' knowledge. Algebraist 17:26, 2 February 2008 (UTC)
It is a false dichotomy, and WP:SOFIXIT is a standard response if everyone knows of a problem that isn't likely to be worked on by a lot of people. What sort of usefulness are you looking for? Applications are listed at Fourier analysis. Understanding the notation makes understanding the concept that much easier. "The people who know enough maths to understand the articles probably know the content" is probably not true either. I know most of the notation and individual concepts in Fourier transform, but I can't grasp what it means until I take some time to go through it. The articles serves as a great general reference for me if I ever decide to learn it. Remember though that we are not a manual or how-to guide. Converting symbols to text is going to sound cryptic and awkward a lot of the time. There's a reason mathematicians use precise language to specify exactly what is meant. –Pomte 17:55, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Can I ask Algebraist why he comes to Wikipedia for information in the subject in which he is a graduate student? It seems to me that experts doing that provides both the supply and the demand for the content of which I complain.

I don't think that material of that level belongs in an encyclopedia; and if it does, it certainly doesn't belong there at the expense of accessibility to less expert users. This, I recognise, is just my opinion which is clearly, on the evidence of the maths articles I've looked at, not widely shared, which is why I raise the topic as one of policy.

But I'd like to ask, as a genuine, unloaded question, not intended as a criticism: Why come here rather than to a text book, a journal, or a subject-specific web site for a topic on which one is already quite expert? —Preceding unsigned comment added by David Colver (talkcontribs) 21:53, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

You suggested that articles should be written so that at maximum, a 16 year old could understand them. Why would someone who has not already taken college level math classes or have some knowledge about some other complex math topics care about topics like Fourier transform? Mr.Z-man 23:31, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Because they are interested in gaining knowledge. Does this not hold true for the average Wikipedian?   Zenwhat (talk) 00:13, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

Not necessarily, I use other things other than Wikipedia to learn. That aside, a lot of articles should have an implicit level of understanding beforehand. One will not understand Leibniz integral rule without knowing about calculus and even further limits and more, for example. But I would not expect Leibniz integral rule to contain information about the formal definition of a limit - I'd simply link it from the article. I just simply think that some articles cannot be dumbed down and should not be dumbed down. See Wikipedia:Make technical articles accessible, which states that, "Articles in Wikipedia should be accessible to the widest possible audience. For most articles, this means accessible to a general audience." and I can accept that. x42bn6 Talk Mess 00:28, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

It should be noted that this is not an issue exclusive to wikipedia - mathematical text books and lecture courses vary in the style by which they present their material, and similar is true of all academic fields. I am a firm believer that it is possible to present most works simply so that most people can understand the rough idea, know where to go to learn the precursor knowledge, and return and find the detailed coverage similarly instantly accessible. However there are a large number of people who would argue otherwise, for a number of reasons. LinaMishima (talk) 00:21, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

In answer to David Colver's question a long way above, I do of course learn mathematics from other sources, but journal articles are in general massively higher level and more up-to-date than Wikipedia articles, as well as much harder to understand. Reading an article is a serious effort. Textbooks are specialised, have to be found in libraries, and are not generally well structured to give a quick overview of a topic, and I have yet to find a subject-specific website with as good a coverage as Wikipedia. I don't learn mathematics as such from Wikipedia, but it's a very good place to look things up if I want to know (say) the difference between MK set theory and NBG set theory in a hurry. Algebraist 01:32, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

It is very old ground. I suggest David Colver might find Royal Road#Cultural references to the Royal Road enlightening. —David Eppstein (talk) 01:52, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

I like the Royal Road anecdote.

That said, we are sort of evolving our math articles towards a less mathematical, more historical style (see, for instance, calculus.)

I also know of some people who got their crash course in the finite element method from Wikipedia, even though that's not a history-lite article.

Loisel (talk) 04:43, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

An implication of what I wrote above is that no article should contain content inaccessible to a 16 year old. I don't seriously believe that. Wikipedia would be much less interesting and useful if it limited itself in that way. But what I do believe is that Wikipedia's duty to serve, to the maximum extent possible, people with the knowledge of a topic of an educated, bright and inquisitive 16 year old is of higher priority than its duty to serve graduate students or professors in a subject, since the latter group will already be surrounded by sources they can turn to to access the best and greatest thinking on the subject. At the moment, the serving of the near-experts is being achieved at the expense of access by the lay reader.

A lot of what I'd like can perhaps be achieved by emphasising the history of a discipline. How did the pioneers gain the insights that led to the current knowledge? Often they were starting with knowledge entirely accessible to my hypothetical 16 year old (Though perhaps not, I accept, in Fourier analysis.) For this reason I'm delighted to read of "a less mathematical, more historical style" in articles such as the one on Calculus, which I've looked at and admire. David Colver (talk) 10:04, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

I've mentioned this before in many places, but it may be helpful to think of WP as a nested family of overlapping. encyclopedias, rather than a single monolithic encyclopedia like EB. Within the general encyclopedia are encyclopedia's of military history, mathematics, and literature. Within mathematics, there are encyclopedias of geometry, algebraic topology and the history of mathematics. These encyclopedias overlap considerably, and many articles have to work well on multiple levels.
I agree with you that the goal should be to make every article as accessible as possible, but also every article should be comprehensive and balanced, so this does not mean throwing out advanced content or over-emphasising the history at the expense of the formulae. An article such as calculus should broadly be accessible to your 16-year old, but very little of homotopy groups of spheres is: nevertheless the latter does cater quite well to a likely readership of college math students. And some of our articles may only ever be broadly accessible to professional mathematicians. They aren't useless: indeed I consult Wikipedia regularly in my professional life.
While the Village Pump can raise awareness of these issues, it's not possible to set priorities here, because we're just a bunch of volunteers who edit the articles which interest us. Priorities are determined by what we all do with our editing time. It is a difficult challenge to make math content as accessible as possible and there aren't enough dedicated Wikipedians to achieve this overnight, but we're working on it. Geometry guy 10:32, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
I think the majority of maths editors on wikipedia would agree with David in that it is good to try and make the articles accessible. This is not always an easy task, once I asked a non mathematician to try are rewrite the lead on Addition and it nearly sent him nuts, it takes special skill to try and explain these concepts simply without loosing the important details. I generally think things are improving in this direction, the situation was much worse a couple of years ago and there has been more focus on the ,more basic articles like calculus. --Salix alba (talk) 14:37, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
It seems to me that mathematics represents one of a number of subjects whether there is a fundamental conflict between two goals, and the wise course of action is to admit the conflict and to consciously choose which goal is more important and give guidance based on this choice. (A particularly unwise course of action is to simply punish people for violating policy when their work results in either goal remaining unmet.) One goal is providing work vetted by experts; in this and similar fields, such work is written in jargon virtually incomprehensible to outsiders. A second goal is to provide an accessible encyclopedia for the general public. Meeting the first goal means accepting articles consisting of jargon. Meeting the second goal means accepting that editors will attempt to translate the jargon used by experts into more comprehensible language and that this translation will be, to some degree, original research. If we want an accessible encyclopedia we are sometimes going to have to accept that such a compromise is acceptable. If we want to have tighter WP:OR and WP:V requirements, we are going to have to accept that articles will sometimes have to be written in the language of experts, in language incomprehensible to outsiders. Choosing well is vital to Wikipedia's success. We routinely permit editor translations for foreign-language sources, despite the potential for introducing OR, because we perceive we have no choice if these are the best sources on a subject available. It is not always clear to me what makes expert-language sources different. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 22:25, 3 February 2008 (UTC)
I like your analogy to foreign language articles - some people in science really do speak in a different language! I should note that jargon-speak is never a requirement of research - at most it is a result of required word counts. LinaMishima (talk) 22:35, 3 February 2008 (UTC)

Zenwhat: Because they are interested in gaining knowledge. Does this not hold true for the average Wikipedian?

x42bn6: Not necessarily

ROFL. To demonstrate my point, x42bn6, see this venn diagram I made. [1]

Your assertion is a red herring for strictly symbolic logical reasons: I asserted, "All people who read wikipedia want to learn things." You asserted, "Not necessarily. Some (me specifically) want to learn things from Wikipedia and from outside sources."

As for the other comments:

  • "It should be noted that this is not an issue exclusive to wikipedia" -- two wrongs make a right
  • "I don't learn mathematics as such from Wikipedia, but it's a very good place to look things up if I want to know (say) the difference between MK set theory and NBG set theory in a hurry." -- "Learn" bears certain inappropriate connotations. Technically, there is no difference between "gaining knowledge" and "learning things" except the different connotations and difference in distinct definitions (to "learn" often means a formal way of gaining knowledge). To be clear, you do come to Wikipedia to gain knowledge, which was my original assertion. For this reason, all articles should be accessible to the common reader.
  • "I think the majority of maths editors on wikipedia would agree with David" -- appeal to popularity

With that said, among all the comments above, Shirahadasha's seem most reasonable. A compromise is required, but such a compromise should be rational. When an encyclopedia is developed, it gears itself towards a particular audience and addresses that audience in an appropriate way, in a means it can understand. Wikipedia should not be regarded as a bunch of encyclopedias, because Wikipedia should be geared towards a single audience: the general public. To assert that some articles should be technical while others should not be is an irrational standard. Wikipedia's credibility and authority is judged by Wikipedia, in full, since all content is generated in the same way by the same community. As such, there should be a single standard and there currently is. Wikipedia has the appearance of being many encyclopedias overlapping (not to mention a source for fan analysis, unencyclopedic directory lists, a map of the world, a soapbox for religion, and a place for gossip, rumors, and internet memes) because lack of the "rule of policy" has caused the wiki-process to disintegrate into chaos.   Zenwhat (talk) 00:34, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Rumours of the wiki-process's demise have been greatly exaggerated. If you want "rule of policy", I suggest you go right back to the beginning and read pillar one, sentence one: "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written for the benefit of its readers. It includes elements of general encyclopedias, specialized encyclopedias, and almanacs." (My bolding.) In WP:N and WP:NOT, the meanings of "knowledge" and "encyclopedia" are clarified by excluding certain types of information, such as directories and non-notable content, but nowhere is "knowledge" limited to that which is understandable by the general reader or educated layman.
As a notable Wikipedian :-) once put it,
"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."
He did not say "all human knowledge which is understandable by the average reader or the general public". And what is the nebulous single audience called the "general public" anyway? Wikipedia is for everyone, not a single audience. So while your heart is in the right place, and I agree that we should try to make every article as widely understandable as possible, when it comes to what Wikipedia is and what it should be, you are simply wrong. Geometry guy 12:05, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

In my personal opinion it would be damaging to Wikipedia to simplify existing content just to make it more readable for younger people, people with no knowledge in a particular field, etc. However there are solutions to the current problem of over-complex articles and that is to create/expand Simple English Wikipedia (Mathematics) or perhaps start a new introduction article in a similar vain to Introduction to evolution, hope that helps. --Sin Harvest (talk) 12:57, 4 February 2008 (UTC) Hmm just wanted to point out Wikipedia:Make technical articles accessible as well.--Sin Harvest (talk) 13:02, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Simplify is a bad word, simply because so many people view it as being synonymous with 'dumbing down', which does not always have to be the case. The link you found, Wikipedia:Make technical articles accessible is the meaning that I believe people here are intending. Often the simple choice of language and structure determines reading complexity far more than the underlying subject itself. See also Wikipedia:Explain jargon and Wikipedia:Many things to many people. If a simple version is required for a layperson to understand a subject (assuming they have learnt the prerequisite material), then it is a good indication that an "introduction to..." article is almost certainly required. LinaMishima (talk) 14:22, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

I think the "ideal" on Wikipedia technical articles - whether on mathematics, history or otherwise - is an introduction simple to the layman that gets more complex and useful for the more dedicated mathematician as you read further down the page until you get to the most complex and technically difficult topics and notation at the bottom making it useful for everyone - I honestly think there's little disagreement by anyone about that. Of course, this is an ideal, but based on the wiki model and people's interests, this leaves many articles in a mixed state and those who are more technical and have an interest in mathematics are more likely to edit and are more likely to make notation-filled contributions. WP:SOFIXIT may seem impolite, but really it's based on the best of intentions - the articles aren't complex because of some intention to make it so, but rather because nobody has cared enough to contribute to those articles to make them more accessible. And, of course, sometimes there has to be a compromise as some topics can't be simplified in a way simple enough for the layman or pages that are split into subarticles so it isn't really possible, but there really isn't a conspiracy to make articles dazzlingly complex, it's just the way it goes. -Halo (talk) 22:09, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

It would seem there are two issues making simpler language difficult. One is the tendency of the active editors to speak in jargon. Another is the tendency of the reliable sources to speak in jargon. The editors who take the trouble to translate complex technical sources into simpler language are conducting what is, from a strict policy perspective, original research, and editors who strictly enfore the WP:NOR policy have sometimes reverted them. We can potentially address the policy conflict problem, if we wish, by making a decision to relax WP:NOR a bit in these areas. Finding editors who speak both jargon and plain English is the harder problem. Best, --Shirahadasha (talk) 22:28, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
In practice, we do permit quite a bit of leeway for editors to translate from technical sources to plain language in mathematics articles. — Carl (CBM · talk) 22:41, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
The actual phrasing and explanations being 'original research' shouldn't really matter as long as the topic is verifiable and true (and that could be backed up with sources even if additional technical knowledge is required). Similar to law articles on Wikipedia that are rephrasings and refer back to the law themselves, I don't really see it as an 'original research' issue as it can still be verified. -Halo (talk) 22:57, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
reply Shirahadasha. Jargon is a tricky one, if I mention a Group that is a short hand for a quite involved concept, it takes 4 lines to define mathematically, which in turn uses other (jargon) concepts. To define in the simplest possible way for the layman takes several paragraphs see for example Algebra#Abstract algebra. Mathematics is a very constructive field, certain concepts depend on other concepts which in-turn depend on yet others. It quickly becomes impracticable to full explain all the concepts in an article. --Salix alba (talk) 23:08, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
  • I came across the Direct sum article in a random search recently. As a regular patroller of the AFD discussions, it was shocking to me that it had no references, citations or assertions of notability - none of the usual assets which are so fiercely demanded in AFD. If this were on a comprehensible topic like a TV show or D&D, the article would be in trouble for its lack of verifiability. But an article on mathematics is more in need of verification than an article on pop culture. If the latter is wrong then it's no big deal. If some maths is wrong then this misinformation could be deadly. As my supervisor at college put it when he reviewed a submission on numerical analysis - ""if you had built a bridge using this answer, it would have fallen down!" So, it seems ironic that the cruft-hunters are so actively improving the quality of the froth while the non-controversial subjects like maths are neglected. This does not seem healthy. Colonel Warden (talk) 23:30, 7 February 2008 (UTC)


Does the writ of ComCom ([2]) run in Wikipedia article space? Or indeed in any WP content? 'Cos it sure looks like they think it does:


  1. {{Wikia is not Wikipedia}}
  2. These edits to Wikia, pushing the message that the two organisations have nothing to do with each other (which I understand is "desirable" but is not true).
  3. And this talk page where it appears that ComCom believs it can delete stuff from WP. (In this case they are probably right - but that doesn't mean they have the "power" to do it.)

According to the resolution that established ComCom, and it's page on Meta, there is nothing that says it should be using the projects for communications, and indeed I believe the idea would be widely opposed by the community.


Rich Farmbrough, 21:27 5 February 2008 (GMT).

What makes it worse, is that Angela, an executive of both Wikia and Wikimedia sits on ComCom, who seem to be pushing the template. Rich Farmbrough, 21:37 5 February 2008 (GMT).
I agree that this is a serious problem. Unfortunately, it's a Foundation issue, and the community is inarguably subordinate to the Foundation's Board of Directors Trustees. Who are the community reps on the Board, again? Sarcasticidealist (talk) 21:48, 5 February 2008 (UTC)
I've e-mailed User:Mindspillage, who I believe is one of the community reps on the Board of Trustees, about this. Hopefully she can shed some light. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 22:33, 5 February 2008 (UTC)
Angela, an executive of both Wikia and Wikimedia. I don't understand that comment. Angela resigned from the Board of Trustees of the foundation in July 2006, and is not an employee; in what way is she an "executive"? (She is chair of the Advisory Board, but that her gives her no power to direct the foundation in the way that an "executive" can do.) -- John Broughton (♫♫) 22:30, 5 February 2008 (UTC)
You are quite right, I had forgot that, but nonetheless she is (according to the Meta page) on ComCom. And if ComCom has the power that is being claimed for it, it is pretty executive as far as the projects are concerned. Rich Farmbrough, 09:08 6 February 2008 (GMT).

I don't see what the problem is here. If they were trying to whitewash the page, they could've done a lot better than that.

The idea that "Wikipedia is secretly a tax-shelter for Wikia," is a conspiracy theory. It's not as bad as "Google is run by the CIA," but still, it's a conspiracy theory.   Zenwhat (talk) 01:20, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Not a conspiracy theory I had heard, but the encyclopaedia should document it if notable, and ignore it if not. Rich Farmbrough, 09:08 6 February 2008 (GMT).
Document it if notable and covered by independent non-trivial RS. Lawrence § t/e 16:51, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

There seems to be a misunderstanding of the difference between the Wikipedia: namespace and the main editorial namespace. Would this sort of action on Wikipedia be acceptable for an admin who happened to work for any other organization? I'm also interested by a mention of the mythical "Internal", which I presume to be either the Internal wiki or the private mailing list Internal-l. Since when was a private post on either of these considered a suitable replacement for references? GreenReaper (talk) 19:15, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm a little late on this, but it's likely to be deleted shortly: WP:Templates for deletion/Log/2008 February 5#Template:Wikia is not Wikipedia; it appears that this wasn't so much a Foundation-imposed editorial move as it was something masquerading as a Foundation-imposed editorial move. Sarcasticidealist (talk) 07:16, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Policy on song lyrics?

I've noticed that every song listed on Wikipedia has just about everything you could want to know about the song, except for the lyrics of the song itself. Is there a policy against this? (presumably it has something to do with copyright?) could someone enlighten me?Sirmadness (talk) 18:57, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

The song lyrics are copyright, and copyright protection means that other entities, such as Wikipedia, does not have the right to republish them without proper permission. This also extends to linking to websites that THEMSELVES violate copyright. 19:00, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
In other words, We don't write the songs. We write about themTM. Cheers, Keeper | 76 | Disclaimer 19:05, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
Some old out-of-copyright folk songs feature lyrics, especially if they're short (if they're long they may be moved to Wikisource and only relevant bits excerpted). Lyrics that still fall under copyright cannot be featured as Wikipedia is quite strict about following copyright law, in order to be reusable by vulnerable commercial entities and in print form. Dcoetzee 19:52, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
While your statement about us being strict is accurate, bear in mind that this isn't really a fair use issue. We can't usually reproduce song lyrics wholesale under fair use & it's not just commercial entities and print forms that we have to worry about in this instance Nil Einne (talk) 14:53, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
The style guideline on this issue is at Wikipedia:Lyrics and poetry.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 18:00, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Vandalism by IPs

I propose that any vandalism committed anonymously, should result in the banning of the IP address that was used to commit vandalism. I know it's not a perfect solution (IP addresses can be changed; another computer can be used), but it would cut down of the amount of vandalism committed. --SMP0328. (talk) 01:38, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Unless you mean "indefinitely", we do that already. We don't ban indefinitely (usually) because it punishes potentially well-behaved anonymous users. — Trust not the Penguin (T | C) 01:50, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
I have read the Talk pages of multiple anonymous users who are vandals. What happens is that the anonymous vandal is repeatedly warned to stop vandalizing an article, then a final warning is given. At that point the anonymous vandal stops vandalizing that article. They know that they can repeatedly vandalize until the final warning is given. My proposal would ban the anonymous vandal from the start. To protect the innocent, you can limit this proposal to blatantly obvious acts of vandalism (e.g., blanking a page, adding vulgarity, etc.). --SMP0328. (talk) 02:05, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Banning all IP's would pose a problem, considering the amount of wikipedia is created by IP's. By doing this we might chase away a potential user, perhaps ones that might even become admins.--Sunny910910 (talk|Contributions) 02:10, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Please. I've seen IP's blocked indeterminately (no time limit set) and even IP ranges blocked without time limit, just to get at one sockpuppet suspected of being a user who has gotten under some administrator's skin. For example: user: Nobody knew whether this was a school (for all I know, it is), and in fact at one point, the ISP Broadweave's whole IP range was blocked to get at one guy editing on behalf of So, yeah, it's usually not done. But when it is done, it's not done because of simple vandalism, like erasing a page and writing obscene words. No-- it is always a crime against the encyclopedia something far, far worse: a political disagreement with an administrator who has clout, and who feels humiliated or threatened. Then not only is the nameuser blocked, but any IP user with a similar edit pattern, guilty until proven innocent.

Instead, it would nice if we could have nice long blocks of IP's for actual clear vandalism (do we remember what that is, anymore?), not political-opinion crimes or defiance. SBHarris 02:12, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

I'm not proposing banning all anonymous users. I'm proposing banning anonymous users that commit blatantly obvious acts of vandalism. Anonymous vandals don't positively contribute to Wikipedia. --SMP0328. (talk) 02:16, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
To address your original example, the warnings can just be escalated to immediate ones to deter vandals, and there's always WP:AN/I for the smart ones. — Trust not the Penguin (T | C) 02:20, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
So let me get this straight, are you proposing to create quicker ban on an IP when it creates an edit that is considered blatant vandalism? In otherwords that we assume bad faith?--Sunny910910 (talk|Contributions) 02:25, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Assuming you're replying to me, I meant that in the context of long-term abuse. Warnings get quicker as it becomes more obvious or collects on a specific IP. — Trust not the Penguin (T | C) 02:27, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Doesn't blanking a page, or adding vulgarity to an article speak for themselves? If there's no way that an edit can be interpreted to be anything other than vandalism, then it's "blatantly obvious vandalism." Basically, the standard of proof would be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. --SMP0328. (talk) 02:33, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Which is why we have warnings. Some people vandalize once then stop, others give up after the final one, but in either case a few harsh words get the job done. Blocking is a last result for those who don't get the hint. — Trust not the Penguin (T | C) 02:35, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
You guys are too nice, and the anonymous vandals know it. They don't deserve it and Wikipedia would be better off if the anonymous vandals weren't treated with kit kid gloves. --SMP0328. (talk) 02:42, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
The term is "kid gloves" and what you're proposing is done to death. It's not going to happen, as it violates the very core of Wikipedia. -- Kesh (talk) 03:05, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
I didn't know being kind to anonymous vandals was part of the core of Wikipedia. Maybe that part of the core should be reexamined. BTW, my proposal is not among the list of previously rejected proposals. --SMP0328. (talk) 03:11, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Man! You guys type too fast, I've had 3 edit conflicts already.--Sunny910910 (talk|Contributions) 02:37, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

  • <outdent> You saw in definitely blocked IP for suspected sockpuppetry. Now, an example of a REAL IP vandal site, not just somebody with strong opinions on naked short selling. Take a look, for instance, at user talk: two years of nonstop vandalism with no redeeming value. I have recently gotten an admin to agree to a 6 month block if they do it again. But it should have done long ago. SBHarris 03:13, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
Given your example, perhaps warnings should not be reset every month. That way if a month passes and the IP vandalizes again, if he had a lvl2 warning, he would recive a lvl3 warning instead of a lvl1 warning again.--Sunny910910 (talk|Contributions) 03:23, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
How about only 1 warning? Jedibob5 (talk) 04:14, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
One severe warning? Makes sense I suppose. I think we should drop the test templates, blatant vandal and all the others. I've always thought it was ridiculous that a vandal had to be warned at least four times before receiving a block. Lord Sesshomaru (talkedits) 06:01, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

I say people should have to register period.   Zenwhat (talk) 08:00, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Also done to death. Defeats the anyone can edit axiom. — Trust not the Penguin (T | C) 08:23, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
The problem with that proposal "(people should have to register period)" is that the anon would register a username and change it as he went along. The opposite is true - the anon thinks that he is invisible (which he isn't) and allows us to de-fang his efforts more easily. The strategic position of knowing who the vandal is (by IP address) helps rather than hinders. Consider the following; "No edits as an anon". OK, fine! I'll come in as a username then. So now we need to adhere to the rules of the WP whois protocol which is designed to be difficult in order to protect the "innocent". Who wins? The anon with his nom du jour, thats who! --hydnjo talk 08:30, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
What of my severe warning proposal? Anyone can edit, fine, but I don't think people need three to four warnings to get blocked for obvious vandalism. I think we are open to attackers very often because Wikipedia gives too many chances. Lord Sesshomaru (talkedits) 14:23, 7 February 2008 (UTC)
There's no rule that says vandals have to have a full set of 4 warnings, they aren't entitled to any. If the vandalism is particularly bad, don't assume good faith and start with a level 1 or 2 warning, skip straight to 3 or 4. The {{uw-vand4im}} template exists for a reason. The problem is determining obvious vandalism from test edits and good faith attempts to edit pages that don't meet our standards - those types of edits should not be met with bad-faith assumption warnings. If an IP has received a lot of previous warnings and blocks, and there is no indication that it is shared, there is no reason to restart with low-level warnings again. Mr.Z-man 18:33, 7 February 2008 (UTC)