Wikipedia talk:Requests for mediation/Thermal lance

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Initial details[edit]

Taken from Wikipedia:Requests for mediation/Abu Usamah, with modifications.

Involved parties[edit]

Also known as simply "parties" from now on.

Articles involved[edit]


  • Inclusion of Appearances in fiction section

Initial Statements[edit]

I would like to hear both parties' views without complicated discussion in the first instance. To that end, I'd like you both to put a statement below, under your named section. Please don't engage in a detailed rebuttal of the other editor's points for now. I want to get an overview of the situation first.

When we have got to this place, we can then decide exactly why the issues are under contest. From there we will hopefully be able to find a solution you can all be happy with.

Basically, a short (couple of paragraphs, maximum) summary of what your opinion about the inclusion of the disputed section, and why. Once this is established, then we can start to work on a comprimise version.

I'm sorry that this may seem complex and drawn-out, but the first week is always the worst, because I need to establish a starting point before I can mediate effectively.

To Anthony: your initial statement which I moved from the main RfM page is in the Housekeeping archive, if you wish to use some/all of it for this statement.

Cheers, Daniel 08:54, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Anthony Appleyard[edit]

The section Thermal lance#Appearances in fiction has been present since 1 January 2006 without anyone feeling strongly enough about it to delete it. User:Eyrian deleted it at 10:14, 13 June 2007 without discussion. I reverted this deletion with edit comment "Rv deletion of "in fiction" section, or please discuss". Eyrian re-deleted it. I transferred the discussion from the edit comments to User talk:Eyrian#Uses of thermal lances in fiction, where the discussion then contiued. I felt that mediation or arbitration is better than an edit war. But many pages about real technology have a "use in fiction" section.

Eyrian said in User talk:Eyrian#Uses of thermal lances in fiction that he has been deleting such sections whenever he finds them. But such sections are interesting or relevant to many people. And the section under dispute has been there for 17 months: it is not a new addition.

Anthony Appleyard 09:00, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

The entries in Thermal lance#Appearances in fiction do say something about the scenario that they occur in and contain links that a reader can follow up. Anthony Appleyard 16:32, 18 June 2007 (UTC)


The section in question consisted of a context-free laundry list of times that thermal lances have appeared in fiction, completely free of citations. This kind of list is not of encyclopedic merit; Wikipedia is not in the business of detailing fictional trivia. Now, the cultural understanding of something most certainly is encyclopedic, and thermal lances have clearly been misunderstood in fiction. Describing and correcting popular perception is an encyclopedic thing to do, but the contested section did not do that. Rather, it simply listed some times thermal lances had appeared in fictional works.

Other times, these sorts of sections will mention times that a particular work explores a theme or subject in greater detail. Works substantially about the article subject (when that kind of work is uncommon, as thermal lances are) should generally be mentioned. The entries in the current list are all in capacities too small and trivial to constitute a serious investigation of the subject. In short, the section is an unsourced, unverifiable collection of bare-mention references, that adds nothing to the readers understanding of thermal lances or the way they are portrayed in fiction, merely indicating that they are portrayed.

How long the section has remained or been uncontested is irrelevant. --Eyrian 16:10, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Questions to the parties[edit]

OK, sorry about the delay, but I think we're ready to kick along now.

Firstly, some questions to both of you. Daniel 08:03, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Anthony Appleyard[edit]

Do you have any non-trivial mentions (in reliable sources) of thermal lances being used in Thief, $ and the others mentioned, which can be used as references? 08:03, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

For each movie the matter can be checked by watching the movie. Or:-

And presumably similarly for the other movies named. Anthony Appleyard 09:42, 25 June 2007 (UTC)


In general terms, what changes do you feel need to be made to be done to the section to make it acceptable in the article? Do you object to it being there totally, and won't settle for anything less? 08:03, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I think that section of the article should be an independently referenced treatment of how thermal lances are (mis)portrayed in fiction. If somebody, somewhere, has commented about this, they've probably got a grudge list of works that incorrectly portray the properties of thermal lances. The problem is that just appearing in a work is not enough. You need to have an independent reference about the work that comments specifically about relevance to the matter in question ("substantial coverage"), which is, in this case, the work's treatment of thermal lances. This kind of referenced section would give the reader a better idea of popular understanding of these devices. However examples without independent references will either have a) no analysis, or b) original analysis. Neither of which is acceptable for inclusion. --Eyrian 08:12, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Anthony Appleyard II[edit]

Do you agree, in whole or in part, with what Eyrian said above (08:12, 23 June 2007 (UTC), "I think that section of the article should...")? Why? What are your thoughts on such an idea, and how do you relate such a proposal to the current content in the section? 07:28, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

  • If I know that each use is not portrayed accurately, I say so, for example in the paragraph about the 2001 Frank Oz film The Score. Anthony Appleyard 05:49, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Eyrian II[edit]

If Anthony Appleyard agrees to work towards "an independently referenced treatment of how thermal lances are (mis)portrayed in fiction" above, do you believe that the references he lists above (09:42, 25 June 2007 (UTC)) are appropriate for inclusion, and the content of these references applicable? Daniel 07:28, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

Those references generally aren't sufficient. They merely mention that the thermal lance was used in passing. I want some substantive coverage, more than "he used a thermal lance in this film". --Eyrian 09:23, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Each paragraph in Thermal lance#Appearances in fiction does say something about what the thermal lance was used for in that movie - and, for more information follow the bluelink to the page about the movie, which is what Wikipedia bluelinks are for. Anthony Appleyard 05:49, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
  • The problem with that is that they're not really all that important directly to the plot. And any analysis would be OR. --Eyrian 21:43, 25 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Is there references we can use which include analysis? Daniel 06:42, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
  • None that I've been able to find. --Eyrian 13:26, 26 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Anthony, do you have any references which include analysis so that it can be added to Wikipedia without any dispute regarding original research? Daniel 04:21, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
  • Re each entry:
However, I did not insert any of these paragraphs about uses in fiction movies. OK, delete them if you want to; but I feel that it is somewhat notable that the depiction in The Score (film) is unrealistic and that Mythbusters tested it. Anthony Appleyard 05:23, 27 July 2007 (UTC)


We come back to the question: is there a reliable source which says that "a thermal lance is featured in a scene where the main character must break into an exceptionally dense and secure safe [in Thief]" etc. The dispute arises as to whether the reliable source describes such an action taking to place to cover our WP:V clause.

What I would like Anthony to do is to find sources which can be used in the article, and then we can help rework the sentences so that the text of the article is actually fully verified by the sources. If we can reach that point, I hope we can have a good chance of success.

So, if you'd be able to do that Anthony (no rush), that'd be fantastic. Cheers, Daniel 10:42, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Sorry to butt in, but I respectfully disagree. A published work of fiction should suffice as a reliable source for straightforward factual statements about plot elements and devices. WP:NOR says "Primary sources that have been published by a reliable source may be used in Wikipedia, but only with care, because it's easy to misuse them. For that reason, anyone—without specialist knowledge—who reads the primary source should be able to verify that the Wikipedia passage agrees with the primary source. Any interpretation of primary source material requires a secondary source." The statement that a thermal lance appears in a particular film is easy to verify (a scene number or time code would be helpful here). Interpretations, such as a claim that what was depicted would not work in reality, requires a source. The phrase "exceptionally dense and secure" might be a problem, but not the mere appearance of a thermal lance.--agr 15:31, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
It is not, however, sufficient for determining relevance in another article. Clearly primary source material can be used to mention plot details and the like, and that is obviously relevant to the article about the work, but whether it is relevant to a tangential article is highly suspect. It's the relevance that needs citation. --Eyrian 16:03, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
You've lost me here, I'm afraid. If the plot detail in question is the use of a thermal lance, why isn't that relevant to the thermal lance article? --agr 17:10, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
For the same reason that things involving cars as a plot point aren't in that article. Articles are supposed to increase the reader's understanding of the subject. Cultural impact is an important part of that, most certainly. But the relevance and significance of any appearance needs to be cited. If there is no analysis, there is no utility. If there is analysis but no citation, it's original research. Analysis cited to reliable sources is required for inclusion as part of cultural relevance. --Eyrian 17:18, 19 July 2007 (UTC)
Cars are common in movies, thermal lances are not. Wikipedia editors are capable of distinguishing between dog bites man and man bites dog. --agr 16:19, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
What makes well-selling journalism isn't necessarily what makes something encyclopedic (WP:FIVE: Wikipedia is not a newspaper). Commonality is irrelevant; what matters is significance. Just because something uncommon appears doesn't mean it needs to be obsessively documented. Unless that appearance is culturally significant (in a way that is reliably sourced), it's just trivia. --Eyrian 16:55, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
The "man bites dog" test of notability is not restricted to journalism. it applies to all writing; it's just common sense. I am not aware of any Wikipedia policy that requires each fact added to an article to have a citation that attests to its encyclopedic significance. Wikipedia is not paper; we can cover many aspects of a subject. Whether a verifiable fact belongs in an article is a matter of editorial judgement and considerable deference should be shown to the Wikipedians working on the article.--agr 18:41, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not paper, but it also not toilet paper (I hate to use such hackneyed replies, but I've heard that one too damn much lately). Just because the technical means are here to cover a vast array of subjects, from historical figures to some fool's garage band, doesn't mean that we should. Your reference to "man bites dog" is simply wrong. The correct analogy would be "dog bites man" versus "cicada bites man". There is no amusing or interesting reversal, just a straightforward and utterly trivial portrayal of a normal phenomenon. Regarding your final statement, I'm glad you're willing to defer to me on this issue. --Eyrian 18:57, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
Some of us have been working on this article since 2004. You are of course entitled to add your opinion as to what the article should contain. But you should recognize that others may have a different opinion. This is a question that should be decided by the normal Wikipedia consensus building, not by unilateral action.--agr 21:48, 27 July 2007 (UTC)
As long as consensus isn't understood to mean "democracy". The fact is, Wikipedia is not a trivia collection, and I have a hard time seeing how these random lists of appearances, with no citations (absent the current one, of course), are anything but. --Eyrian 22:08, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

New Mediator[edit]

Hello all. User:Daniel has asked me to take over this case for him because of a busy schedule. I have read all of the discussion up to this point, and have familiarized myself with the argument. If it is ok with both parties, I will try to help you come to a resolution. --דניאל - Danielrocks123 14:10, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

With all respect, I am not sure how fruitful continued mediation will prove. I find trivial cultural references inappropriate for Wikipedia, for the reasons detailed here, while Anthony covets them. To my mind, the cultural importance of something must be referenced to independent sources, not inferred from a collection of primary source appearances. Anthony disagrees. I am simply not willing to allow such original research to propagate through the encyclopedia. --Eyrian 14:33, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
It does not seem to be "original research" to say that weapon X occurs in book or movie Y: it is a plain fact which can be checked by reading or watching Y. Fictional occurrences of a type of weapon or tool are relevant to many readers, even if they are not to some other readers. I do not "covet" them: I merely think that they are useful to some. Anthony Appleyard 16:14, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
I'm loath to argue this out again, but the question is one of relevance. Saying that something might be interesting to someone is an awful argument; anyone could conceivably find anything interesting. Maybe someday I'll need a list of things that are blue; that doesn't mean it belongs here. I assure you, I've considered this position at length and it is unlikely that my mind will be changed by the same old arguments. --Eyrian 16:33, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

I think that you two might be missing the point of mediation. The purpose is not to change the mind of one party. The purpose is, instead, to come to a compromise. If neither side is willing to compromise, then mediation will truly be fruitless. However, if both sides are willing to work together to find a middle ground, this mediation can be successful. --דניאל - Danielrocks123 17:09, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

I am not willing to agree to anything less than reliable, independent citations for each appearance attesting to importance. --Eyrian 17:34, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
  • It does not need an "independent citation": if tool or weapon X occurs in book or movie Y, then Y is the citation. Anthony Appleyard 05:47, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
    • Utterly insufficient. Salt in fiction, cultural depictions of forks, and batteries in popular culture aren't valid articles. It has been claimed that importance only follows the other way. Who judges that importance? You do. You make a claim that something is significant in a work, and that's original research. Independent references are absolutely necessary, and I will not compromise that point. --Eyrian 22:28, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Before we write this mediation attempt off as a failure, let me make a proposition. I suggest that we have a section named "Misrepresentation of Thermal Lances in Fiction." This section will include information on misrepresentation of thermal lances in fiction, as well as references that refer to the misrepresentation, not simply the use of the thermal lance. "Thermal Lances in Fiction" seems to me like too general of a section, with little use; however, a section on the misrepresentation of thermal lances could be of use to the reader if adequately sourced. The sources, as I mentioned above, could be from any location that discusses the misrepresentation, not simply the use of the thermal lance. --דניאל - Danielrocks123 18:59, 23 August 2007 (UTC)

The article already contains that section, insofar as it can be sourced. The problem is, such a section needs to be sourced. Right now, it contains an entry about a Mythbusters episode that specifically refutes a particular movie. Other inaccuracies would need to be sourced. --Eyrian 19:01, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
That is exactly what I'm talking about. Finding websites or other sources that specifically refute the possibility of a thermal lance being used in a particular way that it is used in a work of fiction. --דניאל - Danielrocks123 19:16, 23 August 2007 (UTC)
Anthony, is this resolution acceptable to you? --דניאל - Danielrocks123 15:20, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
  • That would be acceptable. However, I would prefer to be allowed to insert also a selection of correctly-used fictional uses of thermic lances, to show how common they are in fiction. Anthony Appleyard 15:48, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
    • I think that would be appropriate, as long as those are also cited with references that talk about their correct use in fiction. --דניאל - Danielrocks123 15:57, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
  • So... are we done? Is the resolution that information about thermal lances being used in fiction with adequately sourced discussion on whether the use is realistic agreeable to everyone? --דניאל - Dantheman531 20:46, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
  • "Again: adequately sourced": if a thermic lance occurs in the events of book or movie X, then X's author and title and publisher is enough reference?: to prove the reference, read the book X, or watch the film X. Anthony Appleyard 22:02, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
    • That would be enough reference if the section was only about the presence of a thermal lance in fiction. I personally do not think that a section like that would be worth having because it would not really provide any information. My proposal is for a section about accurate and inaccurate portrayals of thermal lances in fiction. The references would have to be independent sources discussing the plausibility of the thermal lance's use in that particular work of fiction. --דניאל - Dantheman531 22:14, 29 August 2007 (UTC)
      • I'm trying to determine if this is a compromise that everyone agrees with. Are there any objections? --דניאל - Dantheman531 01:40, 4 September 2007 (UTC)