Wikipedia talk:Attribution/against the merge

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

Rules for editing the page[edit]

(Adding comment at top) For more than one reason, I've decided to request that nobody except myself edit this user page. Everyone is welcome to post on this talk page. People are still very much welcome to submit material to go on the page -- just post it here on the talk page and I will try to develop an essay based on it. I hope soon to move the contents to policy space as was done with SlimVirgin's essay. --Coppertwig 21:51, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

In brief: If you're against the merge, go ahead and edit!

Details: You may change the headings of the sections, but try to keep the number of sections and length of each section reasonably small; more detailed information can go in subpages in my or other user's userspace.

If you are in favour of the merge and in favour of WP:ATT as the merged version, you may not edit this page. If you are against the merge or against some aspect of how it's being carried out, you may edit here, except that I reserve the right to impose additional restrictions including restricting or banning specific individuals. Individuals should respect the WP:3RR rule, except that as the user whose user space this is in, I am not limited by that rule but can do any number of reverts. I intend to try to set aside personal biases and help develop this page into a balance, concise summary of the anti-merge positions including positions I don't personally agree with. Some of the things I write into the page may be my personal views, and some of the things I write into the page may be views I don't agree with but that I believe one or more other users agree with. Feel free to comment on these rules here or on my talk page. Users are also free to use this as a regular talk page to discuss the main page. --Coppertwig 23:49, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

You do realize how wrong this is, don't you?... If this were just your own personal rant page I would not really mind ... as a sub-page of your user page you can say what you want... however, since you have also asked others to come here and comment at this page, it is more than just a personal user page. As you have advertized it, it belongs to the community... and, thus, should be subject to all of the rules of wikipedia. To say some people may not edit, when you have invited them to do so is not the wikipedia way. It also comes across as being WP:POINT.
Feel free to delete this (you probably will anyway). I just wanted to say my opinion. Blueboar 23:48, 26 March 2007 (UTC)
It is supposed to present arguments against the merger. You seem to support the merger. So if you did edit it, you would need to be particularly careful that you were advancing the anti-merger position. --Audiovideo 01:42, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who are in favour of the merger are not welcome to edit this talk page. You may send me messages on my user talk page, where I would be happy to discuss with you the new wording "attributable ... not whether it is true".
Sorry, that was a mistake. I acted hastily there without thinking it through. All users are welcome to post messages on this talk page. For now, only users as specified above can edit the user subpage. That might change. See WP:AN/I#Disruption and polarization by User:Coppertwig. --Coppertwig 17:41, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Users in favour of the merger are not invited to edit, not even if they manage to do so in an impartial manner. These rules are open to discussion and negotation -- use my regular user talk page if you're not a user who is against the merge. Are users opposed to the merge invited to edit the pro-merge document? --Coppertwig 01:48, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Maybe SlimVirgin is against some aspect of the merge? The user can send me a message to negotiate. --Coppertwig 01:50, 27 March 2007 (UTC)


I see. Very nice. The move does have a certain elegance, symmetry, and grace. I can see it! --Rednblu 22:00, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Note that I created this page in my userspace (where it is at the moment) which is why I (mistakenly) thought it was OK to limit editing to a particular group of users. --Coppertwig 13:36, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Which page can't we edit?[edit]

At the top of this page, it says "This has been copied from User:Coppertwig/Stability of policy."

Then in the first section, it says "For more than one reason, I've decided to request that nobody except myself edit this user page."

I'm trying to figure out what these two statements mean together. Which of the following three is being said?

  1. Wikipedians other than Coppertwig should not edit User:Coppertwig/Stability of policy. Nor should they edit Wikipedia:Attribution/against the merge.
  2. Coppertwig made a copy of his page once, but now the two have forked. Wikipedians other than Coppertwig should not edit User:Coppertwig/Stability of policy. But they are free to edit Wikipedia:Attribution/against the merge, which is now the "active version" of this essay.
  3. Coppertwig will be periodically copying his page over this one. Thus Wikipedians other than Coppertwig should not edit User:Coppertwig/Stability of policy. And it is a waste of time to edit Wikipedia:Attribution/against the merge, since that page will be overwritten periodically.

This is an important question. The How to participate in this poll section of the page Wikipedia:Attribution/Poll points to this essay, and so this essay helps all voters understand the issues. It seems unfair for Coppertwig to be the primary source of information about this poll. — Lawrence King (talk) 21:48, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

Lawrence, Coppertwig asked that no one but him (or, at one point, no one but people he chose) edit this page while it was in his user space. The page was subsequently copied by me to Wikipedia space so that anyone may edit it. No, it won't be overwritten, except by the normal editing process. See Wikipedia:Attribution/against the merge. Cheers, SlimVirgin (talk) 23:31, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

Mention Jimbo?[edit]

The argument about changing the meaning of links to the page comes from user Jimbo Wales. I wonder whether it would be better to mention the name and maybe give a quote (or at least a link to a quote). --Coppertwig 23:49, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

I have provided some links and people can find who said them if they follow the links, but given Jimbo's wide range of comments and his wish to see consensus, I wouldn't mention his name explicitly; just my opinion. --Audiovideo 01:42, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Very good. Thanks. --Coppertwig 14:25, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Links to other arguments[edit]

In my opinion, eventually all the links directly from the page should be to organized versions of arguments, not to talk pages with many messages posted on them. For now, nothing wrong with collecting some links to talk page messages if they have interesting material we can refactor. --Coppertwig 23:05, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for collaborating![edit]

Good work, much progress already! By the way, I've put a note on SlimVirgin's talk page asking the user not to edit any pages in my user space except my talk page. --Coppertwig 01:37, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Significant Dissent subpage[edit]

I created another collaborative page, same/similar rules, with a link from this main page to that page.

Change this to be an Appendix of the main page, so everything is on one page? Or shorten each subitem and make it a section of the main page? (but then the main page would be too long -- I prefer it as an Appendix, so users don't have to read it to get a good idea of the debate, they only read it if they want to check the statement that there was "significant dissent".) --Coppertwig 14:24, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Comment from Gimmetrow[edit]

Read over your page, and I think diff #1 in this section doesn't quite mean what you imply it means. The non-problematic "status quo" in the diff is to leave WP:ATT as policy, and the "unnecessary change" is to remove ATT's policy status immediately. Gimmetrow 02:22, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

(Above copied from my talk page) I think maybe Gimmetrow is right. Delete the diff? --Coppertwig 02:27, 27 March 2007 (UTC)


I cut the item to here. We may need it later in a different context.

  • It is unnecessary to make this change, as the status quo did not seem to be any more problematic in any obvious way [1]

I thought we needed a similar item in structure. So I picked one. It may work. This is beginning to shape up. --Rednblu 09:51, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Need to shorten 2nd point in section 1[edit]

Need to check whether any significantly different points are there to be separated out, otherwise shorten it. --Coppertwig 02:36, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Done. --Coppertwig 23:07, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Knowingly including "false" information[edit]

Your "false" and my "true" may coincide. But of course you've had that pointed out to you enough times now, and simply ignore it. The conflict on WP:V is between those who believe that there is an "objective" truth and those who more realistically believe "truth" is negotiated among people. Wikipedia reflects the latter notion, at least in principle. If you don't like it, you really need to consider whether you should find a fork that believes in a truth you're more comfortable with. Grace Note 03:11, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Nice point. Do you think we could usefully and simply include the breadth of the Wikipedia truth page in this policy definition? Does "Verifiability, not truth" operationally mean "Verifiability, but represent faithfully the standard of truth used by the Reliable Source's profession"? What do you think? I would appreciate working this out with you comparing the professions of say molecular biology and theology, two different -ologies with different standards of truth. Don't you think Wikipedia does a tremendous job of representing faithfully the corresponding standards of truth on many of the appropriate pages? But there seem to be troubled waters at some of the intersections of the two rivers of, shall we call it, la vérité for want of a better term. What do you think? --Rednblu 10:08, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
In reply to Grace Note: I'll try to do a better job of demonstrating my understanding (such as it is) of others' arguments. I think you mean that I may believe something is false while you believe that the same thing is true. Of course I realize that that kind of thing happens frequently. I'm sorry that I only have partial understanding of what you're trying to say next. You seem to be saying that there is a split between those who believe in objective truth and those who don't believe there is such a thing as objective truth. No, wait, I don't think that's what you mean. I think more likely you mean that everyone actually thinks there's a real world out there with specific characteristics, although we don't necessarily know what they are, but when doing things like writing an encyclopedia there's no use trying to get everyone to agree on what the objective truth is, so a subjective truth is negotiated instead. Sorry, that doesn't sound quite right either. The fact is, I don't quite know what you mean, or how specifically that applies to the wording of the policy. You think I might be happier on some other forum; actually, I like Wikipedia a lot.
Of course I understand that editors will often disagree about what is or is not true, and that the Verifiability or Attribution policy helps save a lot of time because people don't have to keep arguing about what is true, which is sometimes a short, effective discussion but sometimes goes on and on with nobody being persuaded of anything, but they can just see whether the material is in an acceptable source or not. I have no problem with that and am not trying to change that. --Coppertwig 23:31, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Further reply: In a given situation, if there are no misunderstandings (as there often are), it's possible to establish to what extent each editor believes something to be true, and whether it's stated in an acceptable source. I think getting agreement on "OK, you believe it's false and I believe it's true" is fairly easy, probably easier than finding an acceptable source, and much easier than arguing until both editors agree on it, which could go on for several lifetimes if it's something like the existence of God. When there's disagreement, usually the editors insert prose attributions, and everybody is satisfied that the Wikipedia article is not asserting false statements. None of this logically requires that Wikipedia policy say any more than "whether it is attributable to a reliable source," period. Saying "not whether it is true" is unnecessary. --Coppertwig 23:40, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Rednblu, that's a very interesting point. I think Wikipedia does quite well in that sense on scientific pages, particularly the technical ones. It presents the SPOV quite faithfully, mostly because those pages are written by practitioners. Few are going to find that exceptionable because, apart from blanket statements, few opposing viewpoints are available on specific subjects (what I mean is, many people do not believe that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, but they have not taken a view on Diplodocus specifically, so they are not represented in that article). Even if one thought that was problematic, I cannot see any hope of winning the discussion over it. I think that articles of that type have in any case a kind of synthetic truth. They are written in the language of science about science. The language of science can be taken as axiomatic for those articles. If you allow the language of science to be axiomatic, you allow the articles as true so long as they follow from that language. If you do not allow it, you do not allow that the articles are true. I think we should state that explicitly though and not pretend otherwise.

Our pages on "pseudoscience" are presented in the same light though, which is problematic, and I know that you have written about that. The same is true of pages on religion, which is presented from a rather nonneutral position. In neither of these areas is it as clear that we are using a particular language or standard as an axiom. We seem to be writing from a much broader reference point.

The position of most of the policy writers here creates a de facto operational definition of truth, without stating that openly (which is something I take issue with in the discussion on reliable sources at Wikipedia_talk:Reliable_sources_and_undue_weight). Ultimately, we take the position that what the MSM reports, what scientific papers state and academics write is, if not true, correct, and anything else is not. I don't think a truly NPOV encyclopaedia can take any stand on the truth, and our policies on NPOV and sourcing are poor in this regard if our aim is truly to be neutral rather than to reflect the status quo wisdom of the day. For me, this devalues Wikipedia, making it simply a poor man's Britannica. But most editors here seem quite happy to be poor man's encyclopaedians, and run scared from vision or challenge. Grace Note 01:29, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

Coppertwig, I am saying that we cannot address objective truth because no such thing exists. I think you have entirely missed my point, which is that you cannot legislate against including "false" information if there is no way to measure what is true and what is false.

Here is an example. The article on the battle of Englefield, Berkshire said (before I corrected it) that the Saxons were led by King Alfred. They were led by Aethelwulf, a local noble. But were they? There are sources that say so, and I can attribute my edit to them (if I have to; naturally, facts like this are rarely attributed in Wikipedia). But if someone were to reinsert that the forces were led by Alfred, what then?

Have they included "false" information? I cannot know. My sources say Aethelwulf but I don't know that. It might be me who has inserted false information.

I recognise in your reply that you are trying to suggest that the policy should emphasise that I need only be able to attribute my claim. Which I agree with. But you are claiming elsewhere that we should not be explicit that we do not make claims to truth. I think it is essential that we do not.

Think about my example. Think about what it means for it to be true that Aethelwulf led the Saxons. There must be an "objective reality" (we'll allow that for argument's sake). There must have been events in Englefield in 870. But who owns the truth about it? What if Aethelwulf wrote a memoir? Would that be "true"? How can you know? See my note to rednblu above: where our articles are based on subject-specific quasi-axiomatic languages, there is a possibility of referring to the "truth", so long as the "truth" is understood to be wholly dependent on the axioms in question. Otherwise, it is pointless to talk about it at all, except to warn as strongly as we can that we are not dealing in it here.Grace Note 01:29, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I created a page for all of us to discuss this very interesting line further. I am thinking. And I will not be able to get back to continue this delight for about 24 hours.  :(( --Rednblu 05:49, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Grace Note, I really appreciate your comment and look forward to replying to it as soon as I have time to study it in detail. I'm delighted to have discussion occurring on this point. I wonder whether the discussion should be moved to Wikipedia talk:Attribution#Role of truth to keep it all in one place? --Coppertwig 13:40, 30 March 2007 (UTC)


I strongly disagree with this: "The result of this so-called merger is completely incoherent." Perhaps it would be better to give specific examples of problem wording. I would like to delete this or at least move it so it isn't at the top, or perhaps have it say "some users find the result of the merger incoherent." What do others think? (pro-merge users can always comment on my regular talk page.) --Coppertwig 14:14, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Structurally, we need some statement that summarizes all the rest of the page that is to follow. Let's find another summary statement that captures the essence of why WP:ATT does not accurately represent the old policy of Verifiable to a published Reliable source with No original research. This is not an exercise for us to make new arguments but to pull out of the four months of old arguments the accurate criticisms that still apply to the WP:ATT text. What do you think? --Rednblu 16:19, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
I moved the sentence here.
*The result of this so-called merger is completely incoherent.[2]
Could those who support including an idea like this in the essay please explain in more detail what it means. --Coppertwig 22:29, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
I just realized I've just "strongly disagreed" with user Jimbo Wales. (Waiting for thunderbolt) :-) --Coppertwig 23:13, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

"Directly referenced to the point"[edit]

I think this part could be moved to "stuff that was left out". The last bit, "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."" seems to merely repeat what was already said and can be deleted. I may do these and other changes later, or others (among those editing this page) can do them or comment here. --Coppertwig 14:20, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Yep. Let's start culling and combining anything that we find that is repetitious in this page. Just combine to make the final statement better. I'm not sure that these particular summary criticisms culled from the four months of argument against WP:ATT and WP:ATTFAQ still apply. What do others concerned over the erasure of WP:RS from the final WP:ATT and WP:ATTFAQ find here? Anybody? --Rednblu 16:28, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Wait. WP:ATT says "Material added to articles must be directly and explicitly supported by the cited sources." How does that not cover "Directly referenced to the point"? (I think this was my comment which I forgot to sign. --Coppertwig 12:52, 29 March 2007 (UTC))
OK, I think I get it. WP:ATT only says the material must be referenced. The previous policies said the point being made by this collection of material must be referenced. Important distinction. The policies should support each other as much as possible, not seem to say different things. --Coppertwig 23:13, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
Bingo! In actual operation, the new WP:ATT does not require "point verification," but rather merely "point attribution" -- which fatal flaw in WP:ATT formulation caused higher authorities to see that the WP:ATT formulation was incoherent in practice. --Rednblu 23:40, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
Just a comment, but WP:V used the word "material" for a long time. This is at best an issue between WP:ATTFAQ and WP:RS. Is WP:ATTFAQ really part of the current discussion? Gimmetrow 00:18, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely. Go on. There are two useful directions 1) flaws in the WP:ATT formulation which includes WP:ATTFAQ and 2) future improvements to Wikipedia policy. Which direction should we take the discussion? --Rednblu 00:31, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
I looked at the June 29, 2006 version of WP:RS, and it refers to material. Uses of the word "point" are in the context of NPoV. If this is a genuine deficiency, it seems like it pre-existed WP:ATT. Gimmetrow 00:52, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
WP:RS currently says "Sources used in this manner should be directly referenced for the point that is being supported." This can be seen as being in the context of NPOV if you like. The problem as I understand Rednblu's point is that WP:RS supports NPOV by stating this requirement, while WP:ATT and WP:ATTFAQ fail to do so, thus implying a contradiction with NPOV. This is something that is present in RS, is absent in ATT and ATTFAQ, and that Rednblu considers important to have in any replacement for RS. The policies need to support each other to some extent. --Coppertwig 13:49, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
The point is it came about later. It was added to the draft here and the draft was moved to the policy page here. This seems like a fairly weak objection in itself. Anyway, the ATT poll seems to be going now. Gimmetrow 02:45, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

"punchy-catchy" paragraph moved from user page[edit]

I'm moving this here from the user page. I have trouble following what the point is. I think I can express the same or similar idea in a way that may be easier to understand. Comments and explanations are welcome.

As for punchy-catchy phrases, one must stop and think why the word "cliche" became a ironic one. While the phrase sounds revolutionary, the first reaction is often "WTF?..." 90% of wikipedia bashing is precisely because supposedly wikipedia is incapable of providing correct information, i.e., of "truth" in its everyday meaning of "not crap".

--Coppertwig 22:49, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

I've tried to represent this point in a short bit referring to Wikipedia's "reputation". --Coppertwig 13:50, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

From community discussion[edit]

"Best practice in scholarship requires the use of primary sources and multiple secondary sources to check the loss of accuracy that occurs over time in secondary sources. The new policy discourages the use of primary sources in a way that radically departs both from real world standards of sourced research and from longstanding Wikipedia policy. " (possible material for user page) --Coppertwig 00:36, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

OK, personally I don't see this. WP:NOR, WP:RS and WP:ATT seem to be saying the same thing about secondary sources being used whenever possible. I would prefer it say primary sources be used to check basic facts and secondary sources be used as a source of opinions. Ideally one would use a secondary source and also check the primary sources that the secondary source relies on. Quotes, for example, are better coming out of the primary source. But I don't see how this is an issue with the merge. Maybe someone would like to provide quotes from the policies to support this point. --Coppertwig 23:29, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

These three policies are non-negotiable and cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus. Their policy pages may be edited only to better reflect practical explanation and application of these principles.

This would be wrong. Only WP:NPOV and the other m:Foundation issues are non-negotiable. --Audiovideo 07:39, 28 March 2007 (UTC)


Yes, now that you give me the hint, I can see that. And the other points seem to be stronger without this. Do we think this page is now ready for someone other than us to move to Wikipedia:Attribution/Stability of policy? Any ideas? --Rednblu 13:42, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

It does seem to be stablising. Go for it --Audiovideo 07:22, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
I was thinking of editing it further (perhaps mostly shortening to make it more concise) when I have time, maybe later today. Also moving the evidence of "significant dissent" into a set of diff links right in the text. But it's all under GFDL; if someone wants to copy it somewhere I won't mind. Perhaps I can edit the moved version. --Coppertwig 12:57, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
OK, I think I've finished editing. If someone wants to copy or move the page, that's OK. Note that it's probably best to move or copy the whole thing including talk page and page history, rather than just copying the content. I believe that's what was done with SlimVirgin's document. --Coppertwig 13:52, 30 March 2007 (UTC)



I saw this:

"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."

But WP is NOT a democracy or anarchy! mike4ty4 00:36, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

Very true, but Wikipedia is also not an aristocracy or a monarchy. In sum, Wikipedia doesn't have a well-defined organizational system. One of the dangers of this huge, contentious ATT saga is that Wikipedia's uncertain system may end up being unable to cope with the issues that need to be solved, leading either to Wikipedia's collapse, or (more likely) to an attempt to more carefully define the political system here.
I found it interesting how the cry "This is a poll, not a vote!" became more and more common throughout the entire ATT poll. I agree with that sentiment... but the fact that it needed to be said indicates that a huge number of participants were thinking in terms of democracy. — Lawrence King (talk) 01:02, 15 April 2007 (UTC)