Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines/Archive 5

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Disruptive fact checking

Hi, I am not quite familiar with policies and guidelines, so let me know if this is not the right place to ask the question or if this has been discussed before. I support wholeheartedly the policy that all facts in the articles must be checked through references/citations. However I think that some unscrupulous editors abuse this policy. In some cases they just sprinkle the article with citation needed for the statements they don't agree with (or sometimes nearly every statement of the article). An example of this disruptive edit is here. Then such editors cite Wikipedia policies and guidelines and threaten to remove the statements or the whole article in question. Personally, even if I may not agree with the article's statements and support the fact checking policies I would revert such counterproductive edits as vandalism immediately. What do you think about this? I am sure many of you have encountered similar incidents. (Igny 14:32, 5 July 2007 (UTC))

The generalisation is invalid. The article in question is an WP:OR essay making numerous unsupportable claims; a thorough fact-checking is necessary to know what is the chaff to be thrown out. Digwuren 15:49, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

The description of "essays" does not match practice

An essay is any page that is not actionable or instructive, regardless of whether it's authorized by consensus.

Most pages I've seen tagged with {{essay}} are instructive, and a quite a few are actionable as well. It'd be hard to come up with a description that matches all of them, since {{essay}} is applied to pages of nearly every description -- but the above description is way off. I'd like to suggest the following line in its place, or something like it:

An essay is any page that makes statements about Wikipedia without claiming to be authorized by consensus.

--Father Goose 19:42, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

On second thought, that should be "any page that makes assertions about Wikipedia...". I edited in the new definition.--06:34, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

  • Perhaps some pages are misplaced, or perhaps you're going under a different definition of "actionable". I can think of many pages that make assertions about Wikipedia that aren't essays, and of several essays that claim to be "authorized" by consensus. >Radiant< 13:05, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
The "essay" tag has been applied in a very scattershot way, so no definition's going to get everything under one tent. We could try to legislate "how it should be used" here, but that would only work if we came up with a definition that was understood the same way by most readers, and it'd have to be enforced as well. I'd just like to try to capture -- as well as we can -- a real-world representation of its use. The current definition doesn't match it.
I'll start with a few generalizations:
  • It's usually used on pages that are "about" Wikipedia, or some aspect of it
  • The template documentation says "Template:Essay is used for essays in the Wikipedia namespace which are neither policies nor guidelines." This is partly wrong, since some essays are in User space, and is uselessly self-referential otherwise.
  • It's sometimes used on pages which aren't essays in the normal sense.
  • In practice, the distinction between proposal, essay, and policy/guideline can be pretty liquid -- some essays have consensus and are utilized like guidelines without being labeled as such, and the difference between some proposals and some essays is whether they have a "proposed" tag or "essay" tag on them. (That might just be due to a misapplication of one tag or the other.)
  • Some essays contain actionable advice (for instance, WP:DENY, WP:BEANS)
  • Many essays are instructive; I'm not sure if we disagree on this point.
You say some essays claim to be authorized by consensus. Can you offer an example?--Father Goose 19:48, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
  • The point is that Wikipedia does not do legislation well, so we should not really try to legislate "how it should be used" here. Essays are a bit of a catch-all category, but we don't really need to classify and pigeonhole every single page in wikispace. >Radiant< 08:06, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I agree with that; I brought up the "legislation" option as devil's advocacy. The problem is that we're already pigeonholing what essays are here, and it's the wrong hole. "Essays are a catch-all" is good -- I'll use that. I want to retain "does not claim to be authorized by consensus", though, because that's the critical distinction: the guideline and policy templates explicity claim consensus ("wide acceptance"), essays do not.--Father Goose 09:13, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
  • No, the difference is that essays aren't actionable. It is irrelevant whether an essay has wide acceptance - that does not mean that no essay has wide acceptance. For instance, WP:KETTLE, WP:WL and WP:AADD all have wide acceptance. >Radiant< 09:56, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Also, we don't want to encourage the misunderstanding that "everything not a policy or guideline is therefore an essay". We already have people trying to mislead the community by hiding rejected tags under essay tags. >Radiant< 10:01, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm completely in agreement with that -- its acceptance is irrelevant. I'm not claiming at all that consensus is the distinguishing factor -- the distinguishing factor is that they don't claim authority. Guidelines and policies are "official"; essays are not. Right?
The "consensus" word is in there because that's where authority comes from (aside from Foundation cases). I don't insist on its use, although using the word "authority" without it is a source for misunderstanding in its own right. "Official" carries the same problem.
I'm hoping that if you stopped to see where we're in agreement you'd see what I'm getting at: the definition given doesn't match the reality of how the "essay" tag is used. As I've stated above, there are plenty of essays that are actionable (by the definition of actionable I have seen you state elsewhere... I can't find it, but I'll paraphrase your definition as "advises to do, or not do something"). Each of these contains at least some actionable advice (some contain a lot): [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13] (this is not a complete list), as well as practically every essay starting with "Do" or "Don't". In fact, WP:KETTLE, which you cited above, is completely actionable. (And, good heavens, I just realized you created it.) So the definition of "essays" on this page shouldn't use "actionable" as a distinguishing quality.
The number that are "instructive" is even greater, unless we're using different definitions of "instructive" (what is your definition?). However, if what you're insisting on is that essays ought not be actionable, then you're stuck in the "legislating use" trap yourself. Are you really claiming that the current definition is entirely correct? If not, please work with me to fix its misstatements. I'm not trying to push any personal issue here, nor do I think are you, so let's find our common ground on this issue (I think we have a lot), and work from there.
First, do you disagree with any of these points?
  • Many pages currently tagged as "essays" are actionable
  • To describe them correctly, we either need to remove the essay tag from those pages, or change the description given here
  • Even more are "instructive" (unless you take that to mean "contains instructions", in which case it's redundant with "actionable")
  • They're all "about" some aspect of Wikipedia (this is what makes them "Wikipedia essays")
  • Essays do not claim authority (if they do, that claim should be removed)
  • Guidelines and policies do claim authority (usually via the mechanism of consensus)
  • Essays may or may not have consensus, but this does not change their nature or status in any way
  • If a page is neither policy nor guideline, it is still not necessarily an essay
--Father Goose 22:22, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

“An essay is any page that is not actionable or instructive”, where actionable is implied above to mean “it recommends, or recommends against, an action to be taken by editors”, is silly because it is reasonable for an essay to recommend or to instruct. ----SmokeyJoe 01:52, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Radiant! Insisting on maintaining a weird definition of essays, you wrote: “the whole idea behind essays is that they're non-actionable opinion pieces”. What do you mean by “non-actionable”? Do you insist that no essay could ever exist that recommends an action? --SmokeyJoe 22:24, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

(Radiant's edit comment): "the whole idea behind essays is that they're non-actionable opinion pieces". I get the sense that this is your personal idea of what they are (or what they ought to be?), and crazily enough, you haven't even stuck to that idea yourself: WP:KETTLE, which you authored, is every bit as actionable as WP:NPA, a similar page which is a full-fledged policy. Either WP:KETTLE is not an essay, or the definition you're insisting on retaining is wrong.
I certainly agree that essays are generally opinion pieces; can we use that definition? "Not actionable" just isn't true. Perhaps we can switch to a different word -- "Not authoritative"? Are there any alternatives to the word "actionable" -- which is incorrect for the reasons I listed above -- that might you find acceptable?--Father Goose 22:35, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
  • I disagree that WP:KETTLE is actionable. It states the (apparently consensual) opinion that "calling the kettle black" is lame. That doesn't mean we can really "act" and do something about it (as opposed to, say, WP:NPA, which is actionable since we warn and block people who make too many personal attacks). >Radiant< 08:40, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
    • I think the problem lies in the definition of the word "actionable". Its usage is common where I come from, but on Wikipedia some people have been seen to have problems with the concepts - generally people who dislike a certain guideline and seek to revoke it by calling it "not actionable". >Radiant< 08:46, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
        • "actionable" seems to have been let go, but I am still curious about what you thought it meant, and thus what you think essays aren't. I don't know where you come from, but in my circles it's not a word in common use, and I did think its proper use was something like as claimed here: [14] --SmokeyJoe 05:01, 17 July 2007 (UTC)
Ahh, I think we're getting somewhere now. I finally found where I saw you provide your definition of "actionable" (Template talk:Essay):
Recommending (or recommending against) an action to be taken by editors. "Be civil" is actionable; "we should have more readers" is not.
Like it or not, this statement identifies just about all the "Do" or "Don't" essays as actionable. Now you're adding to it "enforceable" (or at the very least, "enforced"); this is fine, and better represents the situation. I'm going to try to come up with wording which spells this out; if you don't like it, I hope we can continue to work together to find language which better describes 'The differences between policies, guidelines, essays, etc.'.--Father Goose 17:41, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Okay. What I've tried this time is "An essay is a page representing the opinions of one or more editors. Essays do not carry any authority, even if they represent a consensus view, and editors are not obliged to follow their advice — if any — except where they overlap existing policy." If this doesn't work for you, so be it, but please offer some counterproposal other than a revert, so that we can move forward on this issue. Or offer me as much additional detail as you can on your views, so that I can understand them better.
I found I couldn't characterize essays as "non-enforced", since enforcement is not mentioned in connection with the descriptions of guidelines or policies. If necessary, I'll change those descriptions to mention it (which may not be a bad idea anyway), and then bring "enforcement" into the description of why essays aren't policies. However, I think saying "not obliged to follow" is every bit as good a way to put it, if not better.--Father Goose 03:37, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I have enforced actionable essays in the past and been vindicated in doing so. (My position remains that the whole current classification system is errr... well... bunk.) --Kim Bruning 13:16, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
  • I think that the de facto policy is to allow admins to make decisions based on their judgment, experience, and supported by writings (essays, guidelines, policies, etc.). I don't see a problem with this if the admins are well trained, unbiased, and reasonably consistent. However, I see a lot of inconsistency and personal bias and am skeptical of the training.--Kevin Murray 16:39, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
  • I also agree with Kim about the classification being bunk. A problem I see is no orderly and recognized way of establishing policies and guidelines. --Kevin Murray 16:39, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
    • I agree that the classification isn't perfect, but I must point out that nobody has been able to come up with anything better, so far (which shouldn't stop you from trying). Furthermore, I must point out that Kim and Kevin consider the system flawed for the exact opposite reasons. Kim implies it is too formal, Kevin implies it is not formal enough. Perhaps it is simply a workable compromise. >Radiant< 09:18, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Radiant, I think that you are over simplifying my position. I believe in fewer more concise rules with greater clarity. In one case I do advocate strict procedures and that is in having a very strict procedure outlining how rules are created. In this case I am to the extreme from Kim, but probably we both would prefer to see fewer rule on the whole. I want it to be very difficult to create rules in order to stem the creep. --Kevin Murray 15:43, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
How about this, then? "An essay is a page representing the opinions of one or more editors. Essays do not carry any authority, and editors are not obliged to follow their advice (if any) except where they overlap existing policy. (Essays that represent a consensus view, however, will typically be upheld.)"
I won't comment on the classification system, but if we're going to have a page that tries to define each, we should aim for defintions that reflect actual practice as well as possible.--Father Goose 21:40, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
  • That sounds good to me. "Authoritiveness" may be better than "actionability". If an essay represents an authoritative consensus view, I'd say it's actually a guideline already. >Radiant< 11:32, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
    • On further reflection it does not. The new definition was semantically void, in that every single page in Wikipedia is the opinion of some people. The older definitions has some problems, but the newer one essentially said that "everything in Wikipedia is an {{essay}}", which is not useful at all. >Radiant< 08:59, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

(reset indent) But the description does reflect the (unfortunate?) reality that the essay tag is a free-for-all. If you want to change that situation, you'll have to change how the essay tag itself is used, in a way that is enforced. Raise the question on VPP or something. I think the dinkelhammer plan is a good starting point. I mean that -- more or less.--Father Goose 17:11, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Essay link?

See: WP:PVG. Is this suitable to be linked to? 23:14, 26 July 2007 (UTC)

  • Not particularly, no. It isn't saying all that much to begin with, and the phrase "it is a good idea to follow essays" is incorrect, first because "following an essay" is an oxymoron, and second because we have a number of essays that aren't good ideas. >Radiant< 11:13, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Problem with wording

From the present wording, an essay is a page that represents the opinion of one or more editors. However, this is not a meaningful definition, since nearly every page in the Wikipedia namespace represents the opinion of one or more editors. Clearly most of these pages are not "essays", hence the definition is incorrect. >Radiant< 14:38, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. But as you and I have recently discussed, and as was discussed above, I don't think everyone necessarily buys into your view that an essay cannot be "actionable". Perhaps there is a new distinction to be made. Skeezix1000 14:54, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
It doesn't have to be that distinction. But obviously we should either have a meaningful distinction between pages with an essay tag and pages with no tag, or we should accept that the essay tag is meaningless, and delete it. >Radiant< 15:14, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
The word (and template) "essay" has become a surrogate for "not a policy". So yes, the distinction between the two is meaningless. But I find it very important to put that reminder at the top of every authoritative-sounding page that is in the "policy" namespace (Wikipedia:). I don't care if we call them essays, non-policies, or dinkelhammers. I want to see the tag that says "It may sound like a rule and be in the same place as a rule, but it still isn't a rule." I guess we could try addressing this by splitting the Wikipedia namespace into policy and meta-discussion, but further formalizing things like that would exclude "consensus essays", which means we'd end up with a million more guidelines. I see tagging as the least-evil approach.--Father Goose 18:15, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
Actually, the word (and template) "essay" has started out as a statement of "this is not policy". I suggest we replace it with {{dinkelhammer}}. Note that, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of pages in Wikipedia namespace have nothing to do with policies or guidelines. >Radiant< 07:07, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
The present wording of {{essay}} clearly states the page is not policy. Note that essays that directly contradict policy tend to be reworded or deleted in most cases. >Radiant< 09:01, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

<unindent>With respect to this edit: Radiant is correct that the other language was in place for quite some time (see., e.g., this version of one year ago). In other words, if I understand correctly, Radiant is saying that the much older version better explains what an essay is than does the six-or-seven-week old version that was in place starting in July 2007, or an integration of the older language and the six-week-old language. The round of attempts at clarifications of the language defining "essay" started in the second week of July.

Here's the recent history: About two months ago, User:Father Goose started in some attempts to change the language, e.g. July 9, July 10, I agree that the proposed changes were not yet an improvement. Almost immediately, User:Smokey Joe got into the mix here. At that point there's beginning to be some progress, though it doesn't appear that much discussion was posted on this talk page about it at the time. Then, Father Goose tried again here on July 13, and after some talk-page discussion, tried again here, also on July 13.

That version stayed in place until Radiant changed it on August 29 SmokeyJoe reverted it back on August 30, and Radiant then reverted back to the earlier version here.

I then attempted to integrate the old language with the roughly-six-week old language here, Radiant reverted back, and JoshuaZ reverted back again to the integration of the six-week-old and the "very old" language supported by Radiant.

Just wanted to get the history straight and document it for now. Will get back to y'all a little later with my reasoning for preferring an integration of the six-week old and the "very old" language. ... Kenosis 17:22, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Here's the language that kept getting tested because of obvious lack of clarity.

An essay any page that is not actionable or instructive, regardless of whether it's authorized by consensus. Essays tend to be opinionated. Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace. It does not follow that any page that is not a policy or a guideline is therefore an essay; there are plenty of pages in the Wikipedia namespace that are none of the three. For instance, a rejected proposal is not an essay.

Here's the proposed replacement, a close version of the language that has been quite stable since July.

An essay is any page that is not enforceable, regardless of whether the page itself is supported by consensus. An essay represents the opinions of one or more editors. Essays do not carry any authority, and editors are not obliged to follow their advice (if any) except where they overlap existing policy. (Essays that represent a consensus view, however, will typically be upheld.) Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace. It does not follow that any page that is not a policy or a guideline is therefore an essay; there are plenty of pages in the Wikipedia namespace that are none of the three. For instance, a rejected proposal is not an essay.

That version represents an integration of the language that has been stable from July 13 through August 30, and the older language that Radiant appears to prefer. Among the problems that IMO caused the old language to keep getting tested are: (1) The sentence "Essays tend to be opinionated." is a meaningless statement, and definitely not a definition. (2)The sentence "An essay any page that is not actionable or instructive, regardless of whether it's authorized by consensus.", forgetting the present grammatical error for the moment, is not a particularly useful definition either, unless the following sentence(s) proceed to explain what's mean by "not actionable or instructive". (3) the words "regardless of whether it's authorized by consensus" are confusing, particularly because of the use of the words "authorized by consensus" (does this mean "having consensus"? or "having achieved consensus" or "enjoying consensus support"?). I'm sure there is an appropriate solution to this. ... Kenosis 20:20, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Kevin Murray has proposed the following "compromise version" at Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines/essay:

Essays represent the opinions of one or more editors. Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. An essay is not enforceable or actionable, regardless of whether it's authorized by consensus; however, it does not follow that any page that is not a policy or a guideline is therefore an essay. For example, a rejected proposal is not an essay. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace.

... Kenosis 20:42, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

I think Kevin Murray's draft is a step in the right direction. I would still like to see the words "authorized by consensus" replaced with something like "has consensus support" or similar language. Let's give this a few days for folks to have a chance to weigh in if they care to, please. I left a note about this discussion on Father Goose's and SmokeyJoe's talk pages, just so they have a chance to know about it. Radiant already knows. ... Kenosis 21:08, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Kevin Murray has changed the draft above to read as follows, using the words "regardless of whether it has consensus support":

Essays represent the opinions of one or more editors. Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. An essay is not enforceable or actionable, regardless of whether it has consensus support; however, it does not follow that any page that is not a policy or a guideline is therefore an essay. For example, a rejected proposal is not an essay. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace.

Personally, I think this comes closer to language that expresses the concept fairly well. Anybody else? ... Kenosis 21:24, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

An essay is any page that offers opinion of one or more authors. Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace. Essays carry no authority, even though some essays have evolved into guidelines or policy by gaining consensual support. However, a rejected proposal is not an essay.

The last offering here is a slightly reworded version of Radiant's "musing" from below, with elimination of the concept that "an essay without support is a failed guideline." and substitution of "a rejected proposal is not an essay" --Kevin Murray 11:59, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Wording vs. use

I gather that Radiant's opposition to the new wording is that it reflects how the essay tag is actually used, but he objects to how it's used. However, that misuse has existed long before the wording change.

We've got three options: change how {{essay}} is used, by enforcing its use in a specific way; change the wording to reflect its actual use (which is what I attempted); or fail to change its use, and retain a definition which does not match, and will not match, its use. That third option is nonsensical to me.

Perhaps we have a fourth option as well: tweak the purpose of the "nonpolicy" family of template(s). This is probably the best option.

  • {{historical}} is fairly straightforward: "We used to do this, but we don't anymore."
  • {{dormant}} is also pretty straightforward: "Someone suggested we do this, but nothing came of it."
  • {{rejected}} seems to be "We actively refuse to do this." The "standard of rejection" is, however, even vaguer than the "standard of acceptance" (i.e., guideline/policy). I guess the core of Radiant's objection here is that people try to hide that "active refusal" by replacing "rejected" with "essay". So what? Does that actually create a problem?
  • That brings us to {{essay}}: "Maybe we do this, maybe we don't." Radiant, what would you rather essays be, and if the answer is "not actionable", what do we rename all those "essays" out there that are actionable? Shouldn't we just ditch "essay" and go back to {{notpolicy}}?
If something is actionable it is a policy, although we shroud some policy under the euphamism "guideline." Since essays do not require consensus then they can not be actionable (enforecable), since these carry no authority. --Kevin Murray 22:29, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
RE: "I gather that Radiant's opposition to the new wording": The wording is not exactly new, on the whole. It was continually in place since the middle of July. ... Kenosis 03:10, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

I do support putting a template on everything in the Wikipedia: namespace to avoid the rule-not-a-rule confusion. That confusion has far graver consequences than the confusion over just what an essay is.--Father Goose 22:19, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

I see your point with the dormant tag, but object to having failed proposals hanging around indefinately. I prefer seeing rejected or abandoned proposals deleted and salted with a demonstrable consensus required to resurect the proposal. But that is too radical for most editors. --Kevin Murray 22:29, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
"Actionable" doesn't mean "enforceable". Actionable, by Radiant's definition, is "recommending (or recommending against) an action to be taken by editors." We should drop the word "actionable" altogether. It's not widely understood and not true either way.
I agree on the one hand but disagree on the other. I think that in the end actionable and enforceable are synonymous at least from a practical standpoint. I think that good or bad, it has been around for a while and there is some benefit to continuity. --Kevin Murray 00:10, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Your position is indeed radical. Even in the case of clearly rejected proposals, consensus can change... but not if further discussion of the proposal is silenced via salting, or even the "rejected" tag. If your aim is to stop proposals from becoming rules in the absence of a consensus, you need to oppose "guideline" status, not "proposal" status, and a better mechanism than edit-warring should exist to allow this. If your aim is to stop proposals from gaining consensus in the first place, your position is that much more radical.--Father Goose 23:25, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm not opposed to having good policies. My experience is that we have too many policy pages. I think that in the absense of attention "guidelines" are accepted and then are virtually impossible to get rid of. --Kevin Murray 00:10, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
  • I agree that "my" definition of essay isn't too good either, but I think the definition of "any page is an essay" is worse. The question is, do we need a tag on every page in Wikispace? On the one hand, it might help. On the other, the fact is that most pages don't in fact have a tag. I'm thinking in particular about the many, many subpages of Wikiprojects. Are these to be considered guidelines? If so, is it problematic that (1) this quadruples our number of guidelines, and (2) these guidelines are effectively written by the project rather than the community? Are these to be considered essays? If so, is it problematic that they have similar scope and wording to actual guidelines? Will this give rise to the "you can't do that, it's only an essay" fallacy?
  • First, what I think would help is sticking closely to the dictionary definition of "essay" and "guideline", rather than to the nebulous idea that people seem to have that a "Wikipedia Guideline" is something special and official.
  • Second, what I object to is the usage of essays as "sneak guidelines". If people propose something, and others don't like it, it eventually gets rejected to point out communiy objects to it. On the other hand, if people propose something but call it an essay, they can claim it can't get rejected because "it is an essay", thus obfuscating the fact that many people don't support it.
  • All in all our best bet may be to remove that tag entirely. >Radiant< 09:19, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
    • (musing) "An essay is any page that gives the author's opinion on something. Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community. If you do not want other people to reword your essay, put it in your userspace. Most essays carry no authority per se; however, an essay that has consensual support is effectively a guideline, and an essay that runs counter to consensus is effectively a rejected proposal." >Radiant< 09:31, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
      • I would strike the words from “however”, and steer away from shading the difference between an essay and a guideline. An essay should contain an opinion, cite evidence, and use logic. A guideline should be more to-the-point, and readily readable. Where an essay is both useful and universally supported, I think a guideline should be written, based upon the thesis of the essay, rather than convert the essay. --SmokeyJoe 12:01, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
        • Given the similarity in writing style, is there any practical difference between "converting" the essay (which essentially means doing nothing but replace the tag) and "basing" a guideline upon that (which essentially means rewriting the same page and repeating the entire discussion about it)? >Radiant< 12:04, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
            • Essays and guidelines should not have similar writing styles. The fact that they often do is a major problem. A good essay (which most wikipedia essays are not) is an argument (based on facts and logic). A good guideline is a series of instructions that are easy to read by someone unfamiliar with the issue. A good essay should be convincing. A good guideline should be helpful. The practical differences between (1) converting the essay to a guideline and (2) creating a new guideline based on the thesis of the essay are:
(1) leads to a single page; (2) leads to two separate pages
(1) guts the previously well written essay, cutting it down to the bare bones in the name of readability.
(2) retains the essay, referenceable as a rationale, in its existing form, allowing the guideline to be brief and to the point.
A definition of essay that I like is from

Essay (noun) 3 a : an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view

I like the idea that wikipedia hosts wikipedia relevant essays. They serve for development and reflective purposes. --SmokeyJoe 07:33, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
          • I surely don't think the statement "an essay that has consensual support is effectively a guideline, and an essay that runs counter to consensus is effectively a rejected proposal." belongs in the description of "essay". An essay is one thing, while a guideline is another. We don't need essays that enjoy local consensus support being cited around the wiki as "de facto guidelines", which would make something of a mockery of the distinction, IMO. If the backers of an essay want it to become a "guideline" it must go throught the appropriate procedures and be discussed in the appropriate fora in order to become recognized as a "guideline", after which users may cite to it as desired. ... Kenosis 14:05, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
  • Essays that enjoy consensus support (not "local consensus") are de facto guidelines, and yes, the distinction is already muddy which is why we're discussing it here in the first place. You are incorrect that an essay must go through the "appropriate procedures", because such procedures do not exist on Wikipedia. Similarly, with respect to Kevin's edit ([15]), it is correct that guidelines need not "go through the proposal stage". The point is that guidelines are far less formal than either of your recent posts claims, and that what makes something a guideline is actual practice, rather than some kind of bureaucratic routine. An unwritten guideline is still a guideline. >Radiant< 14:28, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
This helps explain that vaguely uncomfortable feeling I got about this discussion having to do with the acceleration of instruction creep on the wiki. Essays that enjoy consensus support among the participant in the particular essay have a procedure to go through in order to become accepted guidelines. What you're proposing to do here, essentially, is change the process by which guidelines are set into place.I doubt that this particular change in the language would withstand close scrutiny by the broader community for very long. But that's just my own hunch at this point. ... Kenosis 14:34, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Interestingly enough, no. What you are proposing is changing the process - in particular, creating a procedure that pages "have to go through". If you look around, you'll see that such a procedure does not in fact exist at the moment. But obviously, "consensus among the participants" is insufficient, and note that there are extremely few essays that do have consensual support. >Radiant< 14:39, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
No Radiant. there is a set of procedures that a proposal must go through in order to be called a "guideline" and be given that level of instructive authority around the wiki. Calling an essay that enjoys consensus support a "de-facto guideline" changes those procedures and allows anyone to say "User X got consensus for this essay, now you must follow it." ... Kenosis 14:44, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
  • Please point out where this "set of procedures" is explained, thank you. If you think "you must follow" guidelines, you misunderstand what guidelines are. If you think a single user can "get consensus for his essay", you misunderstand what consensus is. >Radiant< 14:53, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
If I recall correctly, an essay must be templated as a proposed guideline and be discussed by the larger community before attaching the name "guideline" and going on the list of guidelines. That is a significantly different procedure than merely claiming consensus and saying it's a de facto guideline. ... Kenosis 15:22, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
  • I didn't say "claim consensus", I said "demonstrate consensus". What matters is that consensus is demonstrated - how this is done is irrelevant, it need not be done with any specific templates or on any specific boards. Yes, the community must be made aware in one way or another (which, incidentally, the template doesn't do), and no, false claims of consensus won't fly, as has been demonstrated in the past.
  • Look at it this way. Suppose somebody points you to a page that says something silly, which has {{guideline}} on top, and tells you to follow it. I suspect that you would not, because it is a silly page (and hey, we're all volunteers, nobody's forcing you or anything). Suppose on the other hand that somebody points you to a page that has a good idea on it, but no {{guideline}}. I suspect that you would follow it, as long as you consider it a good idea to do so. Right? >Radiant< 15:35, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Until recently there was a clear set of procedures, but those have been dilluted. However, the custom still prevails and the procedures at the Help page should be bolstered here and consistent between the help and policy page. --Kevin Murray 14:57, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
  • First, that was never a clear set of procedures, second, it was neither consensual nor practical, and third, actual policies and guidelines were not in fact created in that way. It is fair to say that there is no "set of procedures" defined that actually works. >Radiant< 15:18, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

A thought on essays

Since Wikipedia:Essays redirects here... we have hundreds of essays, and growing. Most of them are trash, or medicore at best, but every now and often somebody will write something interesting and popular. But - do we have a list of famous wiki essays, or a ranking? Nope - at least, none that I've ever heard. Here's a proposal to create one, preferably with a ranking system where users could vote on their favourite essays (I can see one done via sortable table tool). Any comments?-- Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk  19:57, 23 August 2007 (UTC)

The popularity of an essay can be roughly gauged by the number of links to it. If you keep getting referred to the same essay over and over again, it's a popular one. An essay you've never heard of that is written poorly is easy to identify too.--Father Goose 21:08, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
That's another good measure, maybe even easier to implement. Do we have a tool that counts how many articles list to a given article - and perhaps one that could go through a category and give us a ranking (I am thinking 'bot' :).-- Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk  01:27, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
But that'd encourage spamming links to it from everywhere. Only practical if kept informal.--Father Goose 04:34, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
I don't think that would be a problem; any serious spamming would be detected, reverted and violators sternly warned.-- Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk  17:32, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
  • Baaaad idea. Voting is evil, ranking is bureaucratic, and "featured essays" are generally known as "guidelines". >Radiant< 09:27, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

Radiants edit was not per talk page, but despite it. Contrary to his comment, he replaced the more obtuse description with one that is semantically void. “Actionable” is a peculiar, out-of-place legalese jargon that Radiant inexplicably wants to persevere with while failing to explain what it means. Instructive, as discussed previously, applies to numerous assays, and so Radiant’s preferred description doesn’t match reality. The reference to workability is curious? How do essays work? In reality, they are a free-for-all, both in description (“you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not generally speak for the entire community”) and practice. The last comment above (‘"featured essays" are generally known as "guidelines"’) illustrates the lack of substance in the distinction between an assay and a guideline.

Piotr’s comment has merit. Voting is not appropriate, and link counting may be a poor first guess, but I think a limiting rating system for essays is a very good idea. There are some excellent essays out there, and others not quite excellent. --SmokeyJoe 00:48, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

A cross-reference to Wikipedia:Village_pump_(all)#OMG_too_many_essays seems appropriate. --SmokeyJoe 01:56, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
    • Okay, can we do this without the attacks please? I realize that the "actionable" wording is not the best, and would be happy to hear a better example. However, it is telling that, despite complaints from two or three users here recently, it has worked perfectly well since January 2006. For a year and a half, the definition was workable and people weren't confused.
      • Sorry if my frustration shows. Intended was criticism, not attack. While I hold you in respect, I sometimes find your writing terse and your rationale unclear. I am frustrated because you have referred me here to understand the difference between guidelines and essay, and I find that the summaries are unclear, contradictory, and bordering useless, and now you insist on reverting to worse wording. In particular, the meaning of “not actionable” is not clear, and I cannot see what its intended purpose in the summary is. Not instructive is neither the current reality nor a worthy goal. I really cannot even guess why you want to insist that essays must not be instructive. As for the contradiction, what is the point of including softly worded preclusions if the third sentence implies no rules apply? Essays and guidelines have been a mess for a long time, perhaps always, and certainly since January 2006. These summaries have not worked in either summarising the mess or otherwise in helping to fix the mess. However, “workable” is an extremely weak criterion, and I am left to guess at how you understand that they have so far worked. --SmokeyJoe 01:44, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
    • Last month, at FG's suggestion, it was replaced by a different wording (note that this was only discussed by a handful of editors, not a big consensus or anything). Within weeks of that happening, I run into people misunderstanding wikispace, and claiming that every page they want to be is an essay, because that's what the wording says. And they're right - the new wording is semantically meaningless, and indeed every single page in Wikispace falls under its definition, so every single page is an essay.
      • FG’s wording was an improvement. No longer was the summary self-inconsistent and inconsistent with reality. Then, after a long wait you revert the summary without justification of the old wording, criticism of FG’s wording, or any other rationale except a reference to “per talk”. Now you seem to imply that to understand you actions I need to appreciate you run-ins with unspecified people’s misunderstandings elsewhere. Some explanation you seem to give, but it is too terse for me. What do you mean by “new wording”? FG’s wording, or the new reverted wording? What part of it is semantically meaningless? --SmokeyJoe 01:44, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
    • This is extremely unhelpful. It gives scope to wikilawyers. It means that the next time when people dissent with a guideline (which happens frequently) they can claim that "it is an essay, per WP:POL" and be technically correct. And it means that a term that is widely in use on Wikipedia now has its definition cut out from underneath. >Radiant< 07:29, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
      • I really don’t understand. What is unhelpful, and to who? I think we agree that wikilawyering is bad. But can I suggest that wikilawyering is not so much the problem as it is a symptom of the underlying confusion of the state of policies, guidelines and essays? Finally, I think you are saying that FG’s wording cuts out the definition of “essay” as per its wide use. Well I disagree. FG’s wording better reflects actual usage. Perhaps the definition is not a desirable one, and a useful definition ought to be prescribed. The old, current one is useless in my opinion, but again, I am waiting for you explanation of how it works. --SmokeyJoe 01:44, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
        • For instance, people who Don't Like a particular guideline have a tendency to try and replace the tag with an "essay" tag. Additionally, people who made a proposal and got it soundly rejected by the community seek to obfuscate the consensual opposition by removing "rejected" and replacing it with "essay". The new wording that states that "every page is an essay" effectively endorses both of these problems. >Radiant< 13:35, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
      • How about we just eliminate {{essay}} already? Turn it back into {{notpolicy}} and delete "essay" from this page altogether. If "essay" is being used in place of "notpolicy", then let's stop prevaricating around the bush.--Father Goose 03:19, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
        • Eliminating {{essay}} could lead to consternation. Deleting references to essays from the page would improve this page, but would do nothing for the state of essays. --SmokeyJoe 06:36, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
        • Replacing it with "notpolicy" wouldn't in fact solve the problem of people using the tag on pages that they dislike. Hm, tricky... >Radiant< 13:35, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
          • The reversion you performed here won't solve that problem either. People were doing that before the change in wording. You're trying to compel people to use it the way you want them to, but they have their own reasons, and you're not taking those reasons into account, so they're going to keep "using it wrong". Ponder why people use it that way before you insist on a standard that no one else is using. You're trying to legislate behavior instead of reflect it. As I've pointed out before, even you have authored "actionable" essays. The wording you're insisting on here doesn't fix anything, and breaks other things.--Father Goose 16:59, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
            • I suspect that if we can get the meaning across that "pages that don't indicate they're policy, aren't policy", we won't be needing {{essay}} or the half-a-dozen of similar tags. >Radiant< 09:18, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
              • Just because we've read this page doesn't mean anyone else has. The templates are extremely high-visibility, this page, not.--Father Goose 16:00, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
                • A very good point. I have suggested in the past that the path from the templates to the policy pages be more prominent and the templates should either contain the policy (truncated) or encourage viewers to read the policy page. Also, if policy pages are succinct and inviting more people will read them; this is among the reasons I oppose complex pages full of justification and examples -- just the facts please. --Kevin Murray 17:31, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

<unindent>I just changed the phrase speculating that consensus will "usually be upheld." Sure, that's true, but is true independently of essays and guidelines both. Only policiies must be followed over consensus. here's the edit. ... Kenosis 19:41, 6 September 2007 (UTC)