Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 40

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Wikipedia as a source

The section Wikipedia:Verifiability#Wikipedia_and_sources_that_mirror_or_use_it states

Articles on Wikipedia, or on websites that mirror its content, should not be used as sources, because this would amount to self-reference.

This seems overly restrictive to me. In my experience, there is a very good level of quality control in Wikipedia and each article does conform to the verifiability criterion. Given that, why can't an article simply use a different article as a source? The alternative (which is the current practice) is that each article has to contain independent citations, but those will often be the same, so the same citations appear several times, in different articles. Would it make any sense to relax this policy, and to allow a Wikipedia article that contains adequate citations to be used as citation for another article?--Gautier lebon (talk) 14:50, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

No. Otherwise we end up in a circular loop where statements are true because they're in Wikipedia, because they're in Wikipedia, because they're in Wikipedia, and lose touch with reality completely. The Land (talk) 14:52, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Agree. I went through this myself some time ago from a viewpoint similar to the above. I quickly came to understand that a well-sourced WP article today can become a piece of crap a few months from now, and that cites relying on that article then become equally crappy. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 15:01, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, this is a very valid point, and I accept it. Thank you.--Gautier lebon (talk) 07:40, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) For what you're trying to do, you should perhaps simply link to the article you want to reference. You can put the link either in the body of the article or, if you want to display it more prominently, use a {{main article}} or {{see also}} template. Laurent (talk) 15:03, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it is fine to refer to other Wikipedia articles (as Laurent outlines), but we can not use them as a source for information. Blueboar (talk) 17:41, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
The best use in editing that I've found for other WP articles is as a finding aide for related independent WP:RS to use in developing a new article. Even that has its pitfalls, as it can help to seduce an editor into a walled garden. It is usually best to work from a fresh start. LeadSongDog come howl! 17:57, 18 June 2010 (UTC)

Proposed change to WP:SPS

What I propose is the follows. Change in bold. Reasoning is that, per this discussion and its fragmented prehistory, there appear to be a small number of sources which are the leaders in their fields, but are self-published by people who are not academics or other published experts. We need to be able to distinguish these useful, reliable, and important sources from the normal dross of self-published material. We are able to do this by examining whether reliable publications consider these sources to be accurate, reliable, and an extension of knowledge in the field.

"Self-published material may in some circumstances be acceptable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published in reliable third-party publications, or where the material in question is widely referred to as an accurate, non-primary source, in reliable third-party publications. Caution should be exercised when using such sources: if the information in question is really worth reporting, someone else is likely to have done so. Self-published sources should never be used as third-party sources about living persons, even if the author is a well-known professional researcher or writer: see WP:BLP#Reliable sources."

I hope this proposal will meet with a consensus. The Land (talk) 14:25, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't like this language, which besides being unclear ("referred to as non-primary source") I believe will weaken the current V policy. What we need is a way to allow highly reputable and widely cited database-type sources, like Aviation Safety Network, which I mentioned above, while disallowing the various bloggers, conspiracists and rumor mongers, who write anything they want with no accountability. Finding that proper language will be tricky at best. Crum375 (talk) 14:54, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
I agree reffered to is too vague, as I was about to ask for a clarification what meaning of the word you meant when I ran into an edit conflict. I do think the added part of the sentence is the way to go. Let me give it a shot:

"Self-published material may in some circumstances be acceptable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published in reliable third-party publications, or where the material in question is widely seen and used as an accurate source in reliable third-party publications." Yoenit (talk) 15:12, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Bias is not a factor for reliability, since everybody is biased, and one man's "neutrality" is another's "bias". For example, I am sure North Korea considers virtually all official US sources to be biased, and vice-versa. Crum375 (talk) 15:25, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Bias is probably not right, I meant a source maintaining a neutral point of view, which is almost always true in the case of database type sources, and untrue in the case of personal blogs, conspiracists (beautiful invented word btw) and rumor mongers. Yoenit (talk) 15:34, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, get rid of bias. All sources have a bias. Bias has nothing to do with a source's reputation for accuracy and fact-checking. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 15:37, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Well, thats easy to do. Yoenit (talk) 15:40, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Happy to agree my draft can do with a bit of work. Looking at Yoenit's proposal, I would question whether "seen and" is necessary. I can live with or without the inclusion of "unbiased". With "non-primary" I was trying to address the issue that anyone can refer to any primary source without it becoming reliable; what we are looking for is third parties identifying reliable secondary sources which Wikipedia can then make use of. The Land (talk) 15:43, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

I think the only real objective tool we have to gauge a source's reliability is by its being published by a third party publication with a good reputation for accuracy and fact-checking. In the case of self-published material, it can get tricky to assess that objectively, so we focus on independently published recognized experts in the field. For those experts who have never been "published" (in the classical sense) by reliable third parties, we are left with "widely and routinely cited by respected reliable sources". The problem is how to allow the good stuff, while keeping out the bad, where we all agree on what's good and what's bad. Crum375 (talk) 15:50, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

I still think maintaining a NPOV is good modifier to weed out most of the crap. the source not being primary is also important as The Land said. Yoenit (talk) 16:05, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
(ec) No, that's absolutely wrong. NPOV is definitely in the eyes of the beholder, and the only thing we can (and should) do about it is to make sure to present all sides fairly and proportionately (and ignore the fringes). Reliability, as defined on WP, is quite different, and has to do with sources with a reputation for accuracy and fact checking, of any point of view, anywhere on the spectrum. Those are apples and oranges and should not be conflated. Crum375 (talk) 16:32, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Yoenit's suggestion has been rejected many times before. A source can have a good reputation for accuracy and fact checking without being neutral. An example of such a source would be Also, primary sources are allowed when used carefully. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:27, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
What you say is correct, but just noting here that material published by the White House does not constitute a self-published source, so it's not a good example. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:28, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Well, at least it shows consensus can be reached around here. Forgive my ignorance Yoenit (talk) 16:45, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum - am I correct in thinking that you're not against amending the policy, but that you're still waiting for a wording that captures "widely and routinely cited by respected reliable sources" to your satisfaction The Land (talk) 16:39, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I would like to find wording that clarifies that a respected and widely cited source such as Aviation Safety Network, which is a essentially a database of accident report summaries, is reliable, at least for certain uses, despite its being (apparently) self published. On the other hand, I don't want to open the floodgates and let in all kinds of shady self published sources like blogs and conspiracy sites, even if they are cited by reliable sources, because it will seriously weaken V and WP. So I'd like to find the right wording that recognizes that in the modern Internet age there are some experts which are not "published" in the traditional sense, but their work is respected and cited routinely (e.g. for historical background or statistics) by the mainstream media and other professional publications. If there is a way to let in the good without the bad, I'll support it. Crum375 (talk) 17:40, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

How about something like this:

Self Published Sources: Selected self published sources may be used as reliable sources in accordance with the wikipedia's guidelines governing verifiability and reliable sourcing, however the burden of proof is on the editors to prove that the self publish source in question

  • Is produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications.
  • Is widely referred to as an accurate, non-primary source, in reliable third-party publications;
  • Is published by an author on a policy compliant website where applicable (this does not include blogs and forums);
  • Is maintained by a person or group recognized as an authority on the material in question.

Would such wording work to enable the inclusion of self published sources? TomStar81 (Talk) 18:46, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Not really, because it conflates a logical union with an intersection of the listed criteria: it's unclear if they all must be met, or just a couple, or perhaps just one, and therein lies the problem. Crum375 (talk) 18:54, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
I still don't see the need for the change. Either a source has a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking or it doesn't. Everything else is secondary. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 18:59, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that we also say that SPS is unreliable, except for published experts, and "reputation for accuracy and fact-checking" is not listed as an allowable exception. Crum375 (talk) 19:02, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. The definition of RS is one with "a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy". WP:SPS essentially says that SPSs inherently do not have a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, which is true in general. The long acknowledged exception is for self-published experts who have other RSs to their credit as authors, and fails to account for those instances where the statements and actions of other RSs show that a particular SPS has a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. ... Kenosis (talk) 19:34, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

I have to say, I am in favor of amending the policy to include this exception. I'm confident that consensus can determine which SPS are expert and which are merely peddlers in rhetoric. To say that Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard# has been frustrating is an understatement. Clearly, the editors involved in the subject articles agree that the referenced website is reliable, but policy is being invoked for the sake of policy. Let's IAR! bahamut0013wordsdeeds 19:21, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I think we need to IAR for the time being, to interpret "published expert" as including a respected self published expert whose work is routinely and widely cited by reliable mainstream sources for historical or statistical technical data. The problem is that if this is challenged, especially during a GAR or FAC process, it's not likely to remain standing. This is why a more permanent solution is needed. Crum375 (talk) 19:30, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Agreed, for the reason I gave just above. ... Kenosis (talk) 19:36, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
We have a choice. Either we judge sources to be reliable because other reliable sources see them as such. Or we decide we can judge for ourselves. Take the latter route and you may as well ditch our content policies, because it will end up boiling down to which sources we like.
Anyone who has spent time maintaining the RS noticeboard will know the knots editors tie themselves in trying to deny that mainstream sources are reliable because they dislike them, or trying to have poor sources elevated because they agree with them. A lot of Wikipedians are unfortunately guided by their POVs all or most of the time. That's why we need some objective criteria, and whether an SPS has been previously published in the field by someone else is one of those important cut-off points. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:34, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
The thing is, if the mainstream media widely and routinely quote your data, esp. for historical background and statistics, they clearly see you as reliable. The problem is how to allow those highly respectable "baby-Jane's" database-like sites which are an accurate and valuable resource (often superior to newspaper clippings which are "reliable" by WP policy), while keeping out some blog sites or political sites with a strong agenda which are also quoted by the media. There should be some solution other than IAR that will protect us from diluting our standards while allowing the valuable (and highly reliable) resources. Crum375 (talk) 19:44, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

In deference to SV's very valid concern, may I suggest considering language to the effect that where a user seeks to use an SPS in which the author(s) are acknowledged to be experts but do not have other third-party-published works to their credit, the burden must be placed upon those seeking to use the SPS to show compelling evidence that the website or other publication is regarded by other RSs as "having a strong reputation for fact checking and accuracy". That is, the publications which rely upon the SPS must (1) themselves be RSs, and (2) there must be compelling evidence that those RSs rely upon the reputation for accuracy and expertise of the SPS. Thus, mere positive references in other SPSs, or the existence of mirror sites, or the mere use of the material by other websites, etc., would clearly fail such a test. ... Kenosis (talk) 20:28, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
I agree in general. I would propose something like a set of criteria which must be all met for an SPS to be considered a "widely cited reputable expert":
  • Identified individual author(s) (not anonymous or pseudonymous);
  • Widely and routinely cited by high-quality published mainstream sources for general information (not related to the site itself, its affiliations or connections);
  • Referenced material must be a summary of other cited published reliable sources, not opinions of the author(s); and
  • Not to be used for controversial political or BLP topics
I am still not sure about this. I suspect someone will still find a way to subvert it to let in a bad source, so any additional hole-plugging is welcome. Crum375 (talk) 21:31, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
Crum375's bullet "Referenced material must be a summary of other cited published reliable sources, not opinions of the author(s)" gut's the whole concept. Reliable sources introduce interviews, survey results, and opinions to the record so they can be cited. If you say it can only summarize stuff found elsewhere, you're saying it isn't a reliable source. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:51, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
"Summarize" doesn't mean they need to say "X says A, Y says B, Z says C." It can also be a composite picture, based on what the cited sources said. But it can't be just general opinions based on their personal knowledge combined with sources. (It's pretty much what we are supposed to do here on WP.) And you are right: I would only want such SPS sources for their summaries of their sources, not their analysis of, or insights into those sources. Crum375 (talk) 22:27, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm pretty iffy about that one. I mean, if a SPS really is an expert, they out to be able to add one and two to make three. And inevitably, the mere fact that a conclusion exists doesn't mean that we should throw out the whole source. For example, the navweaps site I mentioned earlier is mostly a vast database on naval weaponry and equipment (much of which simply isn't going to be reasonably available elsewhere), but the author does occasionally offer an opinion or conclusion (always careful to label it as such, and never a controversial or divisive one at that). Should we throw out statistics on gun performance because he opines that the Bofors 40 mm was probably the most ubiquitous allied anti-aircraft gun of World War II (which I think few would disagree with anyway, considering that WP's article says that anyway)?
That said, I'm willing to concede that an SPS that is completely OR and/or doesn't cite any sources is probably not goig to be an RS or verifiable. bahamut0013wordsdeeds 01:24, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

SV's point is exactly right; we need objective criteria, not subjective ones, such as The Land's proposal. As it is, it's almost impossible to keep editors from using poor Self-Published-Sources, even with the explicit criteria listed in WP:SPS. With this kind of modification, we'll end up with walled-gardens of various blogs etc. gushing about each other, and thus confirming that all of them are reliable. Jayjg (talk) 01:20, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

The it about the referencing sources being RS and non-SPS themselves helps to keeps us out of that vicious crap loop. bahamut0013wordsdeeds 01:26, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
But with this addition all these SPS will become RS too! Jayjg (talk) 01:50, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I did say "non-SPS themselves". It's simply not a slippery slope or opening to a mass of crappy sources and COI that way. If a source is reliable enough to present information, it surely can be reliable enough to credit another source as reliable. bahamut0013wordsdeeds 18:12, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

Let us have a sample of this small number of self-published but reliable sources. We have one example so far; it is reliable because it reprints and summarizes official (and non SPS) reports - something which does not really need a change in policy, merely the application of common sense to existing policy. Similarly, when Lacus Curtius reprints Polybius, the reliable source is Polybius. What are the others? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:40, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

How about It's self-published and has an excellent reputation for accuracy and fact-checking. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 02:53, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I have seen several mentioned, but the one I would vouch for is Aviation Safety Network. It essentially summarizes accident reports from a variety of published sources. Some sources are easier for us to access, like most NTSB reports, while many are not, like non-online (or subscription) reports and articles. Obviously if we can get their source directly, we'd use it ourselves, but even then it's nice to be able to use this site as backup, as they have a professional and unified format. They also have many images, most of which are copyrighted, so for that alone they are a valuable source. Crum375 (talk) 02:59, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

OK, after reading WP:V again, I think I was wrong in saying that no change is required. The way it's currently written, a self-published source can be rejected even if it has a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking simply because its author isn't published by a third-party reliable source. This is wrong and not how things are usually applied at WP:RSN.
A couple other factors that we usually look at in determining whether a source has a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking:
  1. Is it cited by other third-party reliable sources?
  2. Is it well-regarded by other reliable source? For example, if Nature publishes an article which says Website X is one of the best online sources about astronomy, then that's usually a good sign.
So now I think that some change is required, it's just a question of verbiage. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 02:52, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
What people (myself included) do at RSN is immaterial, since they don't represent the community at large, and V takes precedence over any RSN decision. But I do agree that we need some kind of allowance for certain types of SPS online resources, such as databases, which are widely and routinely cited by high quality sources for historical background and statistics. For example, after an aviation crash, many major media cite Aviation Safety Network historical data and/or statistics to put the latest accident into perspective. This means that these reliable sources consider ASN reliable for general source-based information (not related to ASN) and so should we. What I wouldn't want, however, is for some SPS blog with a political or ideological agenda to be used as a source because media have quoted them at some point. This is why we need to be extra careful we only open a tiny crack for widely cited reliable database type sources, and not the floodgates for every blog or website which was ever cited. My criteria above try to address that, but I am still unsure. Crum375 (talk) 03:12, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

With the multitude of fora available in which one might be published, I think it is not too much to ask for sources for an encyclopedia to have been previously published independently. The current rules simply ensure this; this leads to higher quality sourcing in the long run. The very rare cases where there is a consensus that applying this rule leads to absurd results would be times to invoke WP:IAR. Dlabtot (talk) 04:18, 16 June 2010 (UTC)

I mostly agree with that, and I do use IAR for the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) at the moment. It's just that it's wrong and "unhealthy" to rely on IAR for routine situations, since IAR's intent is to cover unforeseen cases, not ones you use the same way every day. In this case, the ASN source is one of the most common and reliable sources we use in aviation safety articles, and it seems odd that the source which is better than most, and used most often, requires IAR to be used. I think virtually all my aviation safety GAs and single FA were promoted with this important source with no special difficulties. To require IAR for this universally accepted reliable source means something is broken with the policy. Crum375 (talk) 04:36, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Sources which have a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking, but whose author hasn't been previously published by other third party sources, are usually considered reliable. I see no need to invoke WP:IAR for sources with a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 04:41, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
According to WP:SPS, which is policy, they are not considered reliable if they are SPS, even if they have that reputation. We are going around in circles, I'm afraid. Crum375 (talk) 04:49, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I concede this point. So how do we address sources which have a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking, but have not been published by third-party reliable sources? I've already admitted that I was wrong in opposing this change. I'm not sure what more that you want. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 05:00, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
How about counting only citations in academic journals and third-party published books in the relevant field, and requiring several of those. Those sources usually require a higher standard of accuracy and fact-checking of their sources than say the newspapers. We could also count only citations without attribution (and put the burden of proof with the person pushing the SPS ofcourse) Yoenit (talk) 06:54, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
This might be a start. After reading SV's and Jayjg's perspective, I'm persuaded that it should be done cautiously if at all. On the one hand, the issue of reliable SPSs will undoubtedly come up again as such sources become more common. On the other hand the project obviously needs to be careful not to inadvertently open up the floodgates to a royal mess, a proliferation of SPSs (and COI) issues as self promoters will inevitably use any loophole to get their preferred ideas into the mix. Heck knows we've seen such attempts countless times, and SV immediately sensed the potential "danger", as did Kww and Jayjg. Thus far, I've seen two credible examples presented here, the Chinese weapons site (published anonymously, by the way), and the Aviations Safety Network. (The third, navweeps, has been shown to be erroneously thought to be a credible exception to the SPS rule, as the supposed RS which touted navweeps' author as an expert was also an SPS). So there's not yet evidence that the issue of reliable SPSs being unfairly rejected is a widespread problem. However, if a new exception for reliable SPSs is not done exactly right, opening the door to make it easier to use SPSs will potentially create a widespread new reliability problem on the wiki. Perhaps needless to say here, WP already has enough reliability issues to deal with.
..... IOW, while an additional exception to the SPS rule seems to make sense, proceed with caution, because any mistakes here might do way more harm than good. ... Kenosis (talk) 10:16, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Kenosis, I could accept your suggestion above, namely:

...where a user seeks to use an SPS in which the author(s) are acknowledged to be experts but do not have other third-party-published works to their credit, the burden must be placed upon those seeking to use the SPS to show compelling evidence that the website or other publication is regarded by other RSs as "having a strong reputation for fact checking and accuracy". That is, the publications which rely upon the SPS must (1) themselves be RSs, and (2) there must be compelling evidence that those RSs rely upon the reputation for accuracy and expertise of the SPS. Thus, mere positive references in other SPSs, or the existence of mirror sites, or the mere use of the material by other websites, etc., would clearly fail such a test.

My concern is that, the more we dilute the criterion, the less objective it becomes, and as you say above I'm not convinced there are so many self-published expert sites out there (where the authors remain unpublished by anyone else) that we need to worry about them just yet. Publications by others (at some point) was always our line in the sand, and I'm reluctant to give it up. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:13, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I don't blame you one bit for being reluctant to give up the line in the sand. The issue of attempting to limit permissible sources to only reliable sources, imperfect as the current policy may be, is of course central to the health of the wiki. For every "reliable" SPS on the web, I imagine there probably thousands of un -reliable SPSs. Lacking a policy provision that can gain clear consensus, I suppose the issue might need to be tabled until some future time when it might be demonstrated to be more widespread and crucial to find an avenue other than IAR to permit the use of reliable SPSs. ... Kenosis (talk) 13:21, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I agree. I think the contortions we'd need to go through to formally recognize the one-in-gazillion truly-reliable non-published SPS while keeping out the all-pervasive junk, are not worth the effort and too risky. We can keep using IAR for the very few exceptional cases, and expect (justifiable) rough sailing through GAR and FAC/FAR. Crum375 (talk) 13:47, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

Some comments;
  1. If people are legitimately relying on Ignore All Rules, that suggests that the rules need to be amended. This isn't unusual; Wikipedia policies aren't written on stone tablets.
  2. I quite agree that in most cases, self-published sources are rubbish. However we have clearly found some instances of real experts who happen to be self-published. Indeed, the way technology is moving, we will probably find more genuine experts self-publishing in future. We need to find a way of identifying and using this material.
  3. With regard to Jayjig's point, I don't see that my proposal is any more subjective than the existing policy. At the moment, we have to ask ourselves "Has this person's work been published by reputable publications". The subjective judgement is about whether the publications concerned are reputable. Under my proposal (or variants of it) we have to ask ourselves "Has this piece of work been cited as a source by reputable publications". The subjective judgement is the same.
  4. SlimVirgin made the point that "Either we judge sources to be reliable because other reliable sources see them as such. Or we decide we can judge for ourselves" - I entirely agree. All my proposal suggests is that if reliable sources are citing a given work, then this means that we can judge that work to be reliable.
  5. My proposal in no sense opens any floodgates. Junk self-published websites will not be cited as sources by reliable authorities.
Regards, The Land (talk) 10:50, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
I am unsure about this. How do we define who is an expert (everyone who self publishes thinks they are, its why they publish). The above raises a point in my mind. Would we use self published sources to establish citation in RS? Would it not be possible to establish a circular citation loop(source A referances source B which referances source C which referacnes sources A)? Or would we only use citation in publications that would be currently considerd RS (in which case they would surley be considerd experts under current policy)?Slatersteven (talk) 12:53, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
The latter. The issue is that there are sources which (say) Jane's Defence Weekly is happy to cite, but which are self-published by people who for whatever reason have not had any 'properly' published work. This means the current wording of the policy rules them out. The Land (talk) 13:08, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
OK so to rephrase the question slightly, what kind of sources would we consider reliable to establish reliability of a source? Also ther is another kind of RS loop (or perhpas string might be better) Source A (an RS) referances SPS B (which would become RS) Which referances SPS B(which would become RS) Which referances My big book of why G W Bush was a mole in a man suit (which has now beceome RS).Slatersteven (talk) 13:17, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
Just had another thought (I shall lay down now) does the reference in the RS have to be related to the subject of the referenced SPS (or even the wiki article the SPS is being used as a source for)?Slatersteven (talk) 13:24, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
The main defense against that kind of loop or string we've been discussing is that the RS citing the reliable SPS has to itself not be an SPS. If source A is truely reliable, they are unlikley to be citing a source that cites some crazy fringe theory, and even if they did, reliablity isn't inherited past that first link. bahamut0013wordsdeeds 12:16, 18 June 2010 (UTC)
OK that addresses the loop, but that would not address the issue of relevance. Source a is about space travel , source B is about how pop music cures cancer. Souce B says that Armstrong listened to the funky Gibbon durint the Apolo 11 mission, source a sources this. Does source B now become RS?Slatersteven (talk) 11:36, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

Draft new ATT proposal

Please see this thread in WP:NOR about the draft new ATT proposal. Thanks, Crum375 (talk) 15:23, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

Questionable sources

WP:SELFPUB mentions being limited to material that "does not involve claims about third parties". Does "third parties" apply only to individual person(s) or does it apply more broadly to even include entities like "NASA" [as in, placing "The author of Self-Published Opinion Piece X writes about his belief that NASA faked the moon landings" into the Apollo 11 article]? BigK HeX (talk) 03:55, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

The idea is to allow the SPS tell us about his own biographical details, such as his family, education, and employment. If he has ideas, beliefs, or claims about other persons or entities, i.e. not himself, his family or organization, those would be "third parties", and we'd need a reliable independent secondary source for that material. Crum375 (talk) 04:13, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
That's what I thought, but I've run into at least 2 or 3 people today who seem to think the "third party exclusion" is only geared towards BLP issues. If the intent of the policy is truly to restrict unreliable sources from supporting contentious assertions that touch on issues beyond an author himself, then should this part of the text on the policy page be clarified? BigK HeX (talk) 05:38, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
Individuals can be cited as sources in such a case if they are a recognized expert on the topic. For example, I've got commentary on Veronica Mars sourced to Kevin Smith's personal blog. He's a well-known director, so his personal (self-published) opinion that VM is a great TV show is relevant. Jclemens (talk) 06:26, 23 June 2010 (UTC)
My particular case from today involved someone who was definitely not regarded as an expert in the area involving the assertion being sourced to him, which brought me here to check if additional clarification on the policy could be useful. BigK HeX (talk) 06:42, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

It doesn't look like there's objection to clarifying the text, so I guess I'll try something out there. BigK HeX (talk) 15:45, 23 June 2010 (UTC)


Is a published autobiography considered a legitimate source for information for an article? I'm not talking about a self-published book, but a memoir distributed by a mainstream publisher. Thank you. — Michael J 23:20, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

It would be a reliable source, if it's published by a reputable publishing house. But it would also be a primary source for anything that relates to the author/subject, or any other topic or activity that the author was involved in. So it must be used with great care, like any primary source, and an article may not be based on it. Crum375 (talk) 23:36, 24 June 2010 (UTC)
An autobiography is highly suspect as a reliable source of anything but the most basic facts. It is not a third party source, as we prefer to use. The reputability of the publisher is an important factor affecting our decision to repeat the material. The primary/secondary source distinction of content in an autobiography is a complicated and contentious question, but irrelevant from the view that contestable information must be independently verified, and an autobiography does not do this. An autobiography must be used with great care (neither blindly accepted nor ignored); the facts it contains are probably right, the opinions and analysis offered are probably biased, and conclusions not reliable if they are not independently verified. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 03:59, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

Tagging a sentence, section, or article

There is some behavior that is really sickening me... people distructively deleting anything they find uncited rather than bothering at all trying to verify or constructively contribute to an article! Now it never happened to me, but - going through an article's history - you'll find from times to times (perfectly) valid statements deleted simply because of seemingly total ignorance of some editor that seems to care about nothing else than a high edit count. There should be a very simple policy:

  • tag a statement for requiring a reference ONLY if you think it is dubious or contentious
  • delete an unsourced statement ONLY if you KNOW that it is wrong or misleading

That a good or featured article requires suitable referencing throughout the article is an orthogonal issue, and should not justify deleting correct statements (which could often easily be added should that article EVER come to good or featured status), thereby degrading rather than improving the article in the end. Comments appreciated. Nageh (talk) 16:47, 27 June 2010 (UTC)

Please read the archives of this talk page — this issue has been discussed to death. And the bottom line is simple: we don't read people's minds, or decide for them what they suspect as unattributable, or would prefer to see attributed. We simply supply a reliable source if they remove or otherwise challenge unattributed content. But at the same time, we ask all editors to be courteous, google for a source themselves, and/or allow their fellow editors reasonable time to fetch the required source. What is "reasonable" is up to the challenging editor, but generally it would range from immediate removal, no questions asked, for unsourced contentious BLP material, to hours or days for something less urgent, all the way to possibly a few weeks for something innocuous, which they consider as possibly unattributable. The challenger may add a {{fact}} template and/or post a talk page note if they don't remove the material, and should definitely explain in an edit comment and/or talk page note their rationale if they do remove it. The point is that all material must be attributable, and if challenged, likely to be challenged or quoted it must be attributed. The challenger should try to be nice, but we can't mandate it, only highly recommend it. Crum375 (talk) 17:17, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that if you permit such loose behavior you are effectively rewarding disruptive deletion behavior, which takes about 1 second for each such action over hours of time for some substantiated contribution by actually writing article text. What I am asking for is that there should be a policy for when users delete statements that are not vandalism or some other obvious violation they MUST provide justification for their doing (e.g., "this statement is not true because..."), so users who excite in excessive unjustified deletioning can be held responsible for their doing (e.g., by expressing warnings to users who repeatedly behave in such ways). Now there wouldn't be a problem if it would affect active contributors; the problem is that many contributions are by editors who were just by-stoppers or who are no longer active, and thus cannot respond to a deletion. Nageh (talk) 18:02, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
You wrote: "you are effectively rewarding disruptive deletion behavior, which takes about 1 second for each such action over hours of time for some substantiated contribution by actually writing article text" - I disagreee with that statement on several counts:
  • Since everything we write must be attributable, it means that we have a source handy, or can get one easily, for any material we add. The hours we invest in writing are not lost — they are well preserved in the page history. As soon as we come up with that source, all that text can be restored with a click.
  • Adding hours worth of unattributed material is not good work. It is at best, partial work. If you want to write good material, add reliable sources to anything you write, and have a bunch more handy in case anything is challenged beyond that. And removing or challenging unattributed or poorly attributed content is just as important for our reputation and quality as the hours of writing.
  • We have a lot more unattributed or poorly attributed material on WP than overattributed — just hit the "Random article" button to get a sampling. We have millions of articles, most of which are poorly sourced. Going around challenging or removing unattributed material is good, and we should encourage it, if done with a friendly, constructive attitude.
Bottom line: write your material with liberal attribution to solid references, and you'll be fine. If you challenge material, be nice and accommodating, but our mission is to have a well sourced product, not a bunch of personal essays by anonymous wiki-editors. Crum375 (talk) 18:38, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I also wrote that "many contributions are by editors who were just by-stoppers or who are no longer active, and thus cannot respond to a deletion". And this is especially also true for many of wikipedia's older articles.
Now if what you are saying should be taken verbatim we should simply delete those older articles and any statement unreferenced. This is exactly the problem I am trying to point out! Users who excite in nothing else than deletion rides should be banned or at least warned! Having no knowledge on the subject is no excuse for irresponsible deletion. As a reader I profit much more from an article insufficiently referenced than an article cut down to a stub. In fact, many articles in the area I'm working on provide a good starting point for further research (even when part of it is wrong), but brought down to a stub they are worthless. In fact, if I follow your advise I should delete 90% of the articles or article text! I highly doubt this is desirable. (And just to make it clear again: I am not objecting to deletions affecting my contributions here, but to other people's often rightful contributions.) Nageh (talk) 18:59, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Again, editors going around challenging or deleting unattributed material are doing as much a service as those adding material. And editors adding unattributed material which is likely to be challenged are creating a mess for others to sort out, which is of questionable benefit. You say, "As a reader I profit much more from an article insufficiently referenced than an article cut down to a stub." I disagree. I have seen a lot of junk on this site purporting to be useful information. Our goal is not to allow random anonymous persons with unknown qualifications and motivations to add even more junk. It's better to have a stub, than an unsourced essay of dubious provenance. When I write an article, I first work offline to prepare my sources and only then write the article online. I don't add shaky stuff which I feel would fail a challenge. If everyone did that, this issue would become moot. If you add unsourced or poorly sourced material to an article, be ready to defend it with reliable sources, or it will be removed. Crum375 (talk) 19:23, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I think we disagree here. Why do you assert that "anonymous persons with unknown qualifications and motivations" are likely to add more junk? At least for scientific articles I observe the opposite. Now it may likely be different for political, historical and other more controversial topics you may be contributing to. But deleting all the unsourced text in the scientific articles I am thinking of would be a huge loss for wikipedia.
Please note that I am not discussing my personal referencing style (my text hasn't been subject to deletions so far). I am talking about the stuff there already is, and how some people deal with it. Note that it's often the people not understanding the subject that tag and remove unreferenced statements. If you claim that "we don't read people's mind" thus permitting them to happily delete along, then at the same time you imply that every single sentence that is not a repetition of previous statements must be concluded with a reference tag, and otherwise its deletion would be a service for wikipedia. All I am saying is that deleting without providing rationale is just as harmful as adding unsourced material, and people should be prohibited from doing either of it. Nageh (talk) 20:12, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I don't think you've thought this through. Do you really mean to say that the unexplained deletion an unsourced statement like "The head of this company was arrested today on charges of child molestation" is really as harmful as adding that statement? WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:22, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I may have been unclear here. The difference lies in statements that are verifiable through repeated observation (natural sciences) (or falsifiable, but don't get me into that philosophical debate now), and statements that are only verifiable through accounting (because they refer to historical events). Your example refers to the latter, and thus requires a reference, whereas in (say) mathematics when you remove a statement you should have reason to believe it is wrong. This is already slightly addressed by the WP:CALC rule, but is not broad enough. Is this clearer now where I am trying to get to? Nageh (talk) 20:34, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps we should have a {{FAQ}} at the top of this page, saying something like:
Q: Does WP:BURDEN really mean that I have to supply an inline citation for any actually challenged fact, even if I think the other editor challenged the material in bad faith, to push a POV, out of ignorance, or because he (or she) thought that citations are decorative devices?
A: Yes. Once unsourced or poorly sourced material has been challenged (whether through talk page question, addition of a template, or immediate removal), any person who wants to add it is required to provide a source to support it.
Q: Shouldn't editors be prohibited from deleting material without providing what I personally agree is an adequate explanation?
A: No. Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, and a procedural error (such as forgetting to explain why you're deleting an unsourced statement) is never grounds for invalidating the action.
It might reduce the number of times editors ask. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:20, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Fine, I'll start deleting every single sentence without a ref tag right away now!!!
Sorry, but wikipedia is a bureaucracy (but I won't argue about that now). Anyway, see my comment above. Nageh (talk) 20:34, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
If in your best judgment, you believe that deleting every single uncited sentence will improve the encyclopedia, then please do so. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:36, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Nageh, if you go around challenging and/or deleting any unattributed or poorly attributed material you see which you believe is not obvious and in your view requires a source, it will be a good thing, provided you let people react to anything which is not urgent. So for unattributed contentious BLP, you are more than welcome to delete the potentially harmful material immediately. For non-BLP, if you see negative material about an organization, that would also be fairly urgent, though not as much as a BLP. For more mundane things, which don't affect people or entities, e.g. a non-obvious (to you) scientific or historical point for which there is no source, you can be more tolerant, for example by adding a template or asking a question on talk, and if there is no reply within a reasonable period of time (reasonable by your own common sense), you can remove it. In theory, you can remove any unsourced material any time, but editors might find it offensive, so unless it's a BLP issue, it makes sense to cut them some slack and give them a chance to get a source. So as bottom line, unsourced stuff which you find non-obvious (for example) may be removed, but the urgency of its removal can vary from immediate to weeks, depending on the situation and on common sense and common courtesy. Crum375 (talk) 21:15, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
I would have liked to have a response on the paragraph further above, in which I was trying to point out a distinction between statements that are verifiable through repeated experiment (scientific topics) and those that are not (e.g., because they refer to historical events, people, etc.). And again, it is not me who is going around removing statements I find uncited simply because I don't understand the subject - that is the real issue. I am finding the same pattern over and over again in article histories: someone who doesn't understand tags a statement with {citation needed}, sometimes even when it is covered by one of the primary sources given, and at some later point of time another person comes along and removes the statement. Nobody is reacting because the original author has long abandoned wikipedia, and heck, in fact some entire wikiprojects are effectively dead now with no people working on the project's articles anymore. And for the laziness argument: For historical/political/contemporary topics you have a reference and then you write your article based on that, so omitting the ref would indeed be lazy, but for scientific topics it's mostly the other way around: you already know about it because that's what you're working on or are an expert in, and maybe you'd have to go to the library to fetch a source. It is the deletion attitude of some people on those latter topics I am repeatedly criticizing here.
But hey, luckily the situation still isn't that bad for many other articles. But maybe you should come along and start deleting to wreck them down to stubs at which point an AfD will be filed.
And finally, regarding the invitation to do the same: nah, I will certainly not do that, I'd shoot into my own feet by removing 90% of the unreferenced material in scientific articles just because 10% are erroneous. Even when so poorly referenced (which I was never saying should be done that way), there are still gems in there, facts you weren't aware before but often are easily verified by a google keyword search, but at some point they will no longer be here because someone will come along and delete them. It's the stupid people who will do that, backed up by wikipedia policies.
Nageh (talk) 09:28, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
PS: Sorry for my arguments coming a bit disorganized, which is because I started this discussion in response to yet another occurence of deletioning extremism in the article Gentlemen's agreement, which eventually got cut down from [1] to [2] followed by the current AfD. Judge for yourself (of course I know your opinion). Nageh (talk) 09:45, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Nageh, I think that you are making a valid and important point. The same one that I have discussed extensively at wp:nor. I was promoting making a minor procedural change, that a person would need to add a brief perfunctory challenge or reason (beyond just for being unsourced) when deleting. It ended that I should start an essay page to explore the topic, which I am going to do but haven't done yet. The fact that WP:VER / wp:nor are written such that 90% of Wikipedia violates a strict interpretation of them makes these policies very open to mis-use. I think that one's viewpoint is affected by ones recent Wikipedia activities. If one has been working at keeping crap out, then one would tend to want to keep it as easy as possible to delete crap. If one has been dealing with social misfits who have found a hog heaven home in Wikipedia (like my split personality counterpart [TheParasite]) or with people who use wp:ver / wp:nor as a tool to selectively knock/keep out stuff as a way to POV the article their way, then one would like to make it a bit harder to use these rules to knock/keep stuff out. And if one is one of the 2-3 long term regulars that guard each of these these policies, one tends to be resistant to any change. North8000 (talk) 13:23, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Nageh, If you have not read our WP:No original research policy, please do so. Wikipedia does not allow "statements that are verifiable through repeated experiment". Simply put, if something has been the subject of repeated experiments, someone will have written up the results of those experiments... and we can (and should) cite those results.
As to tagging vs removing uncited information, this is a very very old debate... one that goes back to the early years of Wikipedia. To put it simply... about a third of our editors feel that our rules on sourcing are too strict... about a third feel that they are not strict enough... and about a third (including me) feel that we have done a fairly good job at achieving a workable balance between the two extremes. Since both the "Inclusionists" and the "Deletionists" are complaining... I think we probably have that balance about right. Blueboar (talk) 14:22, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Regarding the detailed policy, it's hard to imagine a stricter possibility that would position the current one as being "middle of the road". Anybody can summarily knock and keep anything out unless it has an in-line citation to sourcing that meets the stringent requirements of wp:rs. I guess that in practice (with the rules being implemented by consensus etc.) it isn't strict because 90% of what's in Wikipedia violates the strict interpretation as written. Tweaking the strict rules to be slightly more realistic would make them less ignored, which could actually make them stronger. North8000 (talk) 14:46, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Well, there are those who feel that we should require that anything without an inline citation must be removed (aggressively). Then there are those who want to ban removal as an option all together. What we have (permission to remove if needed, but a caution that tagging may be a better option) seems like a middle of the road compromise to me. Blueboar (talk) 15:25, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
I think that you are right on the big picture, which is all of the above combined North8000 (talk) 15:35, 6 July 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Blueboar, you are misinterpreting my statements. What I would like to see is a distinction in a deletion policy between statements that are verifiable through repeated experiments (in principle), such as in all scientific articles, and statements that refer to historical events (political, economical, social incidents, etc.) that are non-repeatable through experiment and thus require a reliable source per se to be believable by a non-witness. I have tried to make my rationale clear, but unsuccessfully: The majority of scientific articles only contain some basic general refs but have most of their statements untagged, while in contrast the majority of the article content is correct nonetheless. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Many authors of scientific articles have a certain expertise in their subject, and thus may find it hard to find a good reference for every statement instantaneously simply because they are adding text material they know. Yet, these are the editors we most rely on for scientific articles because only they are able to add expert information to such articles, overview them, restructure them, provider better explanations, etc. Now for the unreferenced statements, at some later, often much later point of time, another editor may stumble upon these and think of a good reference to add -- the article is improved again, yet this would not have been possible if some editor would had behaved the same as Crum375 and simply deleted everything found unreferenced. In fact, I somewhat recently added references to Reed-Solomon error correction (for example) because I knew some suitable ones, but it was only possible because the unreferenced statements were not deleted presumptuously.
  2. The second-most important groups of contributors on scientific articles are the anonymous editors. They will usually add short pieces of information or correct wrong statements, but will generally not provide the sources. Are you suggesting to lock out all these editors, Crum375?
  3. The third reason for a lack of references is that editors (including me) are trying to find a suitable structure for an article first -- look at Communications channel for example. We are aware that such articles are in need of sources, but if people come along happily deleting everything based on a policy that is actually named verifiability then nothing of this can ever happen, and the most important editors will simply leave Wikipedia editing frustratedly behind, as it has happened more than often in the past. Look at the user pages of some people that moved to Citizendium for example; one of the reasons cited is precisely that of some ignorant people being so aggressive about references that they delete everything unreferenced to the grounds (or to an AfD for that matter).

Now let me summarize:

  1. References are a good thing. No discussion about that.
  2. Every good or featured article requires suitable referencing. Suitable does not mean that every sentence must be spoiled with a reference tag, but rather that essentially any new statement must be referenced, and repeated arguments may be cited to support dereferencing.
  3. There should be a distinction in deletion policies between scientific articles and other (historical, political, BLP) articles. (This distinction may be refined.) Editors should be encouraged to delete unreferenced statements in the latter sort of articles (after an attempt to verify), but should be discouraged of unjustified deletings in the former.

I know that many people feel the same as me, as exemplified again only two sections further below, but if policies are chiseled in stone and some people may happily continue destroying article text, you may simply loose another bunch of constructive editors. For that matter, just have a look at the two wikiprojects WikiProject Telecommunications and WikiProject Cryptography I'm contributing to, which are almost dead by now, and these are just examples. Nageh (talk) 07:27, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

Articles not in need of references or sources

As I understand WP:V, sources are only required for claims potentially subject to challenge, not for claims that ordinarily would go unchallenged. Do there exist any articles containing no such claims? The reason I ask is that the Unreferenced tag reads "This article does not cite any references or sources," making it a true statement of articles it tags even when there is no claim in the article needing a source. My recent article Proof (truth) is so tagged even though I don't think I wrote anything controversial or challengeable since all the claims in it are either obvious, well-known, or both, though if someone seriously doubted one of them then any number of texts on mathematical logic, evidence in law, epistemology, etc. could be adduced in support. (I'm thinking of the example from WP:NOR "Paris is the capital of France," for which sources exist but which no one would seriously challenge making it unnecessary to actually give the sources.) The tag itself however makes a true statement about the article, making it hard to object to the tag. I could lift some of the sources from the many articles my article links to, but since I don't see the point of doing so (what real problem would it solve?) I have no criterion for deciding which subset to lift. --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 02:41, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

All Wikipedia articles must establish the notability of their subject via secondary sources. If your article does not have any sources, and specifically no secondary sources showing notability, it may be deleted. Also, if an editor places a "source required" tag on an article or any unsourced material, that indicates he is challenging that material, and per WP:V any challenged material requires a source. So in your example, you need the sources for at least two reasons: a) it's been challenged; and b) it requires a secondary source to establish notability. Crum375 (talk) 02:54, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Something you learn pretty quickly on Wikipedia is that everything is open to challenge. My favorite example is this one. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 03:05, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, Boris---impressive that that one lasted all of four days!
I believe you (Crum375) might be missing the point of my concern. As things stand an editor is allowed to challenge an article containing no sources purely on the ground that it contains no sources and not because it contains any questionable material. It was clear from the initial responses of the person who tagged my article that they were challenging it solely on the ground that it contained no sources and not because there was an actual WP:V violation in it. In light of the other statements in WP:V this seems an unreasonable ground for challenge. What I'm suggesting is that it not be possible to challenge an article purely on the ground that it contains no sources, since there seems to be nothing in the Wikipedia guidelines to compel that requirement per se.
The argument that every article must establish its notability by sources is surely an extreme instance of WP:WL. The argument is particularly far-fetched for a topic such as "proof," for which the literature contains thousands of articles and hundreds of books about it, billions of people use proof every day when arguing with each other, and the presumption of innocence in every tort criminal case in law, of which there have been millions, requires proof to establish guilt. I find extraordinary your suggestion that Wikipedia would delete an article on the subject of proof for lack of notability of that subject. --Vaughan Pratt (talk) 06:00, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
It is standard for an article with no references to receive a tag like that. I don't think you need to be concerned about the tag in the short term, although it would be extremely unusual for an article to survive for long with no sources at all (of course there are plenty of such articles, but they only survive until they are noticed). If the article were Proof (heavy metal band) it could go for years with no one caring, but Proof (logic) is going to be noticed by people who care – it's nothing personal. WP:N determines whether a topic warrants an article, and WP:V specifies that statements in the article must be verifiable. Johnuniq (talk) 07:42, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── As the tagger, my concern is less about WP:N than establishing that there is NOR and also in keeping with WP:ABOUT and Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia.:

WP:NOR says:

...a source must exist even for material that is never challenged.... To demonstrate that you are not adding original research, you must be able to cite reliable published sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and that directly support the material as presented.

The tag is a request for such, and sources should be produced when an article is so tagged. Given that an article with no sources at all is of benefit only to casual review, if that, I think there is no such thing as an article which should have no sources. We tell our readers to review our sources to assess an article's accuracy; they can't do that if there aren't any. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 16:09, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

Correct. A Wikipedia article should be, essentially, a list of sources and a description of what they say about a topic. If there are no sources, it's an empty shell, and does not belong here. Crum375 (talk) 17:56, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
All articles on WP must demonstrate that that they deserve to exist - that is the point of WP:Notability. One of the best was to do so is by citing WP:Reliable sources - citing such a source demonatrates that the article's subject is so significant that people create books/articles/movies/Ph.D. dissertations/TV shows/news reports about it. Roger (talk) 19:17, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

"Editors think"

There seems to be some confusion about recent changes to the policy. In this edit, the policy was altered to remove the words "editors think". Wikiblame tells me the term "editors think" has had that position in the policy since February 2010. Before that, it said, "we think". I believe that people are perhaps confused and thinking that User:Jwy is trying to implement a change to the policy; in fact, he's challenging a change. I've put it back given that evident confusion, but it seems that the phrase is contentious; perhaps a discussion is in order? --Moonriddengirl (talk) 20:05, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

I agree with Moonriddengirl's edit/revert or what ever it is. Whether the specific words are a change or a return to old language does not matter to me... what matters is that the edit accurately states the policy. It does. Blueboar (talk) 22:56, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

Self-published sources

This section appears to create a loophole when it states, "Self-published material may in some circumstances be acceptable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications". Many leading political commentators have academic credentials, but use blogs and magazines to write opinions that would not be accepted by literary journals. For example, if a political leader is a scholar on government (and there have been many), we should not treat his comments on his party website on the government of the day to be of equal weight with an article he subjected to peer review. TFD (talk) 21:08, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

You are correct that we should not give such self-published material equal weight with peer reviewed material... but giving something less weight does not necessarily mean giving it no weight at all. The key to including such material is to phrase it as being an opinion, and not presenting it as accepted fact. Blueboar (talk) 12:19, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
There's a category problem here: Things like political (also cultural, economic...) opinion, identification of trends, estimates are not likely to be peer-reviewed because they are not factual but personal. Weight is given to them based upon the position of the person or organization making them. Verifiability here is making sure that what was attributed to them is accurately presented here, and often that's an easy if not trivial task. A common dispute among editors is whether the person has some standing (i.e. self-evident authority) or audience (i.e. self-evident readership/listenership) that makes their opinion, analysis, etc. appropriate for the article and that's not a verifiability dispute. patsw (talk) 13:00, 13 July 2010 (UTC)


I think it is poor form to bold the second half of this sentence:

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used in these areas, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications.

Bolding the sentence alters its emphasis. As written, it emphasizes the reliability of academic sources (while qualifying that other sources may also be acceptable). By bolding the second half of the sentence, we've changed its emphasis in a way that conflicts with its structure. More to the point, the sentence is clear enough without heavy-handed markup.

I removed the bolding here. It was restored 2 minutes later by SlimVirgin, with an edit summary stating that "we need the bold because the first part of the sentence is being adhered to, the second part ignored." I have not seen systemic problems of this nature which demand changes to core policy. What specific instances is this intended to address? Do other editors besides SlimVirgin see this as a systemic problem requiring us to mark up core policies? We should probably resist the temptation to go and bold the particular subclauses of policy which support our position in specific content disputes. MastCell Talk 23:57, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

I agree with Mastcell. I see no reason to bold one part of a sentence, implying that other parts of the policy are somehow subservient to this one part. If emphasis on that one part is needed in particular circumstances, the editor involved can bold it him/herself when quoting the policy. There's no need to bold the phrase on the main policy page. LK (talk)
Agreed. I think that bolding should be reserved for brief encapsulations of the policy, like verifiability, not truth or who has the burden of providing references. We should use ordinary language to avoid misunderstandings of policy, not shouting. RJC TalkContribs 00:19, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
There have been recent statements on the CC workshop that show some editors believe high-quality reliable sources can be excluded from articles just because they're not scholarly sources. This is quite wrong, and there's nothing in the policy that implies it. Indeed, the sentence you're focusing on was written after considerable discussion to make clear that non-scholarly sources had to be included. Yet the second part of the sentence—after "but"—is being ignored by certain editors when it suits them:

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used in these areas, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications (emphasis added).

Something therefore needs to be done to correct the misinterpretation, either bolding or new wording, but bolding is obviously simpler. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:56, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Do they maintain this even after being pointed to this sentence in the policy? At some point, you cannot reword or highlight a statement to counteract illiteracy, since "but" can function only one way in that sentence. I'd be interested to see what was being said. Was it a matter of banishing information supported only by a non-academic source, or of different information's being present in academic and non-academic sources? RJC TalkContribs 01:25, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
RJ, yes, they know what this policy says, and they're ignoring the second part of the sentence in order to prioritize scholarly views. The particular issue on the climate-change arbitration case was, of course, global warming. There is a big dispute with scientists on one side (for the most part), and other commentators on the other. By misreading this sentence, there was an effort to exclude the non-scientific perspective, including material in The New York Times. But it's not happening only on climate-change articles. Religious editors want only biblical scholars to be used, engineering editors want only engineering sources etc etc. There's an intellectual apartheid developing as each group seeks to promote the sources he agrees with and leave out dissenting voices.
I don't want to bold the sentence for the benefit of those editors. The people I have in mind are the less experienced editors who find their reliable sources being rejected because they're not specialized enough. I would like them to be able to come to the policy and see at a glance, without having to search for it, that if their source is The Times of London, it's welcomed by this policy. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:48, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
That sounds like trying to use WP:RS to sidestep the debates that would arise regarding WP:NPOV, WP:UNDUE, and WP:FRINGE. They are reliable sources, but competing reliable sources get us into the problem of point-of-view. Perhaps we could add some language to that effect. Regarding the biblical-scholars-only problem, most biblical scholars aren't going to support what religious editors want. Is the problem one of theologians refusing to accept "religious studies" sources, or are they rejecting pop-atheism sources? RJC TalkContribs 03:34, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I'd rather not focus on any particular issue as an example, RJ, because this is something I keep noticing. There is a tendency for editors to want to exclude material that doesn't fit within the specialism they focus on, even if the material has been published by high-quality sources. The policy makes clear that all high-quality reliable sources are welcome, but people are reading one part of the key sentence and managing to ignore the other. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:43, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
First of all, I don't see people at the climate-change Arbitration case saying that the New York Times can't be used as a source, so the stated basis for this change seems either hyperbolic or non-existent. Either way, a diff might help. More importantly, if the concern is that editors in an Arbitration case are making erroneous statements about policy, then please address it at the Arbitration case, with the editors in question and with the Arbs - not by going to a policy page and artificially emphasizing the half-sentence that you believe supports your argument. MastCell Talk 05:33, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The issue is not just CC editors — that's just an example. There are many other examples, in many areas, which I have seen myself over the years, where editors become confused and assume that scholarly sources always trump news media or other popular sources, to the point of excluding the latter kind. Addressing this in one specific arb case, or otherwise in 20 different places, makes no sense — this is exactly why we have policies, so we don't have to repeat ourselves and can have centralized discussions and standard rules we can point to. Crum375 (talk) 05:54, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Stylistically, this bolding is far from optimal; I almost reverted on those grounds alone before remembering to check the talkpage myself before requesting justification. As far as usefulness to the policy, I am really not seeing the necessity. It may be perfectly appropriate in a particular situation to add emphasis when quoting policy at another editor, but I think that the point for the general case is better served by the unformatted text. - 2/0 (cont.) 06:54, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I just discovered SlimVirgin's statement at the Arbcom case on Climate Change. It appears that his/her edit to this policy page is a continuation of the same dispute, and an attempt to change policy to make a WP:POINT or help his/her case before Arbcom. I find this unacceptable, and will oppose this change on principle alone. LK (talk) 10:07, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
That is nonsense, LK, and I'd appreciate some AGF. I made clear when I first posted above that I'm responding to statements during that case by others, where they state clearly that they're interpreting V to mean that scholarly sources are prioritized, which is a false interpretation. If people can interpret the wording of the policy that way, it has failed. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:48, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
The bolding, if any, should be limited to the words may be. Even unbolded that clause is of dubious value. The choice of publication alone does not establish the reliability of a source. A first tier general news publisher such as The Times still has content that escapes thorough fact checking, particularly its reader letters and advertising. That is what the peer review process and the publication of review papers are for. When we resort to general news media on scientific topics we should do so only with considerable caution. The underlying principle must remain that we use the best sources available in the subject area. LeadSongDog come howl! 12:57, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Academic sources should be given priority, but high-quality non-academic sources are also acceptable. But they are second tier, second choice, second fiddle, second to appear. They should appear as attributed statements, but should still appear. I see this as quite basic, the kind of interpretation any experienced editor should be able to make, understand, point out and accept. The bolding seems unnecessary; the point is clearly made and anyone who attempts to use it to stifle the appearance of pop sources can, as MastCell says, be rebutted by emphasis in the quotation. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 13:20, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
There is nothing in the policy that says non-academic sources are second choice. Sometimes they will be, and sometimes not. To imagine that we'd prioritize some minor paper by some minor academic over coverage by multiple high-quality news organizations is clearly false. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:48, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with SlimVigin... both academic and non-academic sources of equal quality should be given equal weight. Blueboar (talk) 16:04, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
That sounds like saying that equals should be treated equally: fine enough, but it doesn't tell us what makes things equal. In general, peer-reviewed sources are more reliable than those with only editorial oversight. "Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available," with the caveat that non-academic sources can be reliable as well (not that they are just as reliable). There may be exceptions to that rule, but that does not make it any less the norm. RJC TalkContribs 16:10, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Slim. There are several metrics regarding reliability and suitability of a source in a particular situation, (all of the general wp criteria, plus all of those in the context of the particular statement that they are used to support.) We have to reduce any attempts by someone to use one policy sentence to pass judgement on or exclude a source based on just ONE (e.g. academic vs. non-academic) of the MANY metrics. While bolding is an unusual way to do this, it shouldn't be taken out unless immediately replaced by another method. (e.g. wording) North8000 (talk) 16:19, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
There may be a broader issue here that the bolding attempts to correct, but in an unclear manner. Just what is the disparity between academic and nonacademic sources? I agree with the flat statement without bolding - academic sources tend to be better, but nonacademic are not excluded. If we need to clarify academic versus nonacademic, we should do so through wording, not through emphasis - but first we need to clarify if there is support for academic over non.
And I still believe the bold is unnecessary, distracting and undercuts the very intent of the sentence - reliability is paramount and academic sources tend to be more reliable. But that is tend to be not an absolute. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 16:47, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

It seems there are a couple of ways to further emphasize the acceptability of non-academic sources. I don't know that the relative worth of them is a WP:V/WP:RS issue so much as a WP:NPOV/WP:UNDUE issue, since I thought of verifiability as a minimum threshold test rather than as a scalar quantity. One way to make the statement easier to find would be to have it as its own paragraph rather than buried in a statement about context.

Academic and peer-reviewed publications are usually the most reliable sources where available, such as in history, medicine, and science, but they are not the only reliable sources in such areas. Material from reliable non-academic sources may also be used, particularly if it appears in respected mainstream publications. Other reliable sources include university-level textbooks, books published by respected publishing houses, magazines, journals, and mainstream newspapers. Electronic media may also be used, subject to the same criteria.

The concern over using WP:V and WP:RS to exclude material that someone argues is "less reliable" could be addressed by adding the following to the end of the final lede paragraph (which begins, "Verifiability is one of Wikipedia's core content policies ...")

The other content policies govern the weight that should be given to various views, not verifiability. That information should be verifiable is the minimum threshold for inclusion in the encyclopedia.

Or something along these lines. RJC TalkContribs 16:55, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

I'd be fine with having it in its own paragraph, RJ, if that would highlight it. There also used to be a sentence there about the importance of making sure all majority and significant minority positions are included, but it may have got lost during a copy edit. It might be worth restoring that too. I'll take a look for it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:59, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
The proportionate representation of various viewpoints is covered under WP:NPOV; I'm not sure it needs to be duplicated here, particularly as they'll inevitably get out of sync. I don't really have a strong feeling about whether or not to use a separate paragraph. I guess I think the previous, non-bolded wording is amply clear - it categorically states that non-academic sources may be used - and it seems to have been relatively stable, so I don't see the need to change anything. I guess I could be convinced by actual examples of problems that would be solved by these proposed edits, but so far I've only seen testimonials. MastCell Talk 17:09, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree, NPOV covers significant minority opinions in WP:UNDUE. What might be worth including in general is something that highlights the fact that all of these policies need to be read together. I see RJC's point - WP:V gives the first threshold - did someone say X? Then RS tells gives the next - is their opinion worth including? Finally, NPOV (the most finickity of the three) is about interpreting that source with an eye to proportionality, context and relative merit. Easily the hardest to do and the one requiring the most judgement. The types of sources will in large part depend on the topic - you'll prefer textbooks over newspapers for a drug/history/physics article, but that's an absurd requirement for actors/singers/TV shows. NPOV is far more about context than V. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 18:22, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps I'm rigid and overly hierarchically-minded, but I treat RS as an explanation of V, namely has V been met (since unreliable sources can't be used to verify something). V: is there a view that we can verify? NPOV (with its explanatory UNDUE and FRINGE): how much should that view figure in the article? RJC TalkContribs 18:39, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I agree with RJC, but in practice many views/sources get blocked from inclusion into articles based on a position that could not possibly be justified based on WP:UNDUE. This sort of gets into one of the fundamental problems in Wikipedia: when there's mixed support for including a prima facie reliable source (say, a review published in a journal indexed in its field like a medical journal in PubMed), how is the issue resolved? In standard Wikipedia practice, you might start with a third opinion, maybe hit up a noticeboard or even move onto a RfC, but very often there is still mixed support. Thus, the person(s) who are the loudest wins. That's how it often it is in "consensus" based systems, particularly ones where the consensus is not governed by some authority who can put pressure on the other people. Thus you see the trend towards removing people who disagree with you permanently from the discussion, since that's the only way consensus-based systems can deal with these situations. Compromise is nice, but it's hard to compromise when the more aggressive side won't even allow any inclusion. I recently encountered this over Presidency of Barack Obama where a couple editors refused to allow a GAO report on ARRA's transparency initiative in a paragraph which is only about ARRA's supposedly unprecedented transparency. A couple other editors support it, but given the extreme diligence and borderline ownership of the editors opposed to inclusion, there's probably no hope. I also ran into this at Efficient markets hypothesis when removing what was obvious WP:SYNTH. My perspective is that Wikipedia aims to be comprehensive and should defer to including prima facie reliable sources and their perspectives to the extent that these perspectives are not duplicated, and the WP:UNDUE should almost never be a question when the reliable source hurdle has been passed. II | (t - c) 00:50, 17 July 2010 (UTC)

Repeating the same citation in different sections of an article

Having come across citations of the same source in different sections of an article recently, I just wanted to make sure that this is annoying rather than necessary. It is true, the various occasions the source was used were relevant to the sections concerned, however surely there is no need to repeat the practice time and time again and one citation would suffice?

What exercises me is, that the editor concerned has really done some sterling work in their recent edits and I wouldn't wish to discourage them continuing to do so. But it is just this one point I wanted to get the opinion of others on this.

Is there a particular way to cite a subsection of the same source without repeating the whole source every time? Dieter Simon (talk) 00:20, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

I'm not really sure if I understand the question, and would have to see the article itself. If you are talking about the same source being used multiple times in the same article, this is encouraged - the <ref name = > tags are expressly for this purpose. It seems obvious to me that you would do this, if you have a source that is useful in multiple sections. For instance, if I have a well-received, critically acclaimed book X, written by renowned scholar Y, written about notable topic Z, and the article is about Z, it is quite reasonable to expect article Z to cite the book repeatedly. See, for instance, Rosalind Franklin, which cites The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox dozens of times and quite appropriately. Note that in this case, it cites the book as a reference and uses an Author, Page notation throughout the footnotes. There are other ways of doing it, but if I understand your question correctly, this is a common practice. Depending on how controversial and/or disputed the material is, and how thorough and complicated the topic, you may end up using several citations in even the same sentence (but then WP:OR can be a problem). WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 00:46, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes, thank you, WLU, it is what I wanted to know. Yes, of course, the article is Ragged School, but what you said anwers my query. Dieter Simon (talk) 00:58, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
In my opinion, that page is pretty OK. Many of the citations could be collapsed by the use of <ref name = >, personally I would use the {{cite web}} and {{cite book}} templates, many of the references to books need page numbers, and there are a couple unsourced (or unclearly sourced) sentences and sections (Legacy in particular lacks any source) but it's certainly far from terrible. None are world-breakers, most are simply stylistic. I've made some of the changes I mentioned. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 02:12, 10 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with you, it isnt bad at all. Thanks for the useful pointers. I must take another look at the guidelines. Dieter Simon (talk) 16:48, 10 July 2010 (UTC)

Your opinion required

Need your interpretation of what I believe to be an exceptional claim. Keep or remove? Please see Talk:Chinese armies (pre-1911)#What to do with this claim?. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:11, 21 July 2010 (UTC)

RfC: Do images need to be verifiable?

Prompted by a discussion at WP:RSN, in which several editors have asserted that images are not covered by this policy, I ask the question "Do images need to be verifiable"? This policy clearly says "This is strictly applied to all material in the mainspace". Should this be altered to specifically exempt images? Dlabtot (talk) 20:39, 6 July 2010 (UTC)


You may want to pose the question with more focus. Images have several "sourceable" elements: copyright and content. The latter, given the linked discussion, seems to be what you're really asking about. Or are you hoping to address the former as well? (For example, a Geocities site - i.e. self-published, non-expert - would likely not be acceptable at FA level to support prose of "1 000 tons of X were harvested in country Y in 1922". Would, however, a declaration on that site of "this image was published in 1922" be acceptable support of a PD-US license?) Эlcobbola talk 21:04, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
This question is entirely unrelated to any copyright issue, which is why I didn't mention copyright. Dlabtot (talk) 21:10, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment. Traditionally, the mages have not been covered by WP:V, in the way textual information has been. Wikipedia specifically encourages the use of free images, particularly user-created images. To quote from WP:IUP: "Wikipedia encourages users to upload their own images". In fact, all of these user-created images are self-published, which applies to almost all images in the Commons. Their use on Wikipedia is extremely widespread and commonly accepted. Such images do not really fall under WP:SELFPUB rubric since that section of WP:V concerns the usage of self-published sources "as sources of information about themselves", which is not the case with user-created images (the creator of the image is usually not the subject of the article). When somebody uploads to the Commons the photo of a person or a building, we mostly rely on the good word of the uploader that the image is indeed of the person or the building that the uploader says it is. The same applies to the case where someone uploaded the photo they took of a plant or an animal. The de facto practice has been to allow the use of such user-created images and, for the most part, it works reasonably well. I think that in cases where there is a factual dispute regarding an image's content (rather than about it copyright), one has to go by the general WP:CONSENSUS rules rather than to invoke WP:V. Incidentally, the same principle applies to WP:OR, which, I believe, de facto does not cover user-created images (which, in the most literal sense, all constitute original research). Nsk92 (talk) 21:16, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
What the de facto practice is, seems irrelevant, as we are discussing what the policy should be. And we are actually talking about cases where the factual content of the image has been challenged. I don't understand what you mean by "one has to go by the general WP:CONSENSUS rules rather than to invoke WP:V" -- these two policies work together, and are not in any way in opposition. Everything on Wikipedia, without exception, is decided by consensus. Do you have a rationale as to why the verifiability policy should not apply to images? (If that is in fact your position - hard for me to tell.) Dlabtot (talk) 21:24, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
IMO the de facto practice is the correct one and reflects what the policy should be and in fact what it has been, in terms of how WP:V has been interpreted thus far. I have explained why requiring the traditional WP:V standards for images is counter-productive: this would disallow the use of essentially all user-created images (basically almost all of the stuff in the Commons). The benefit of allowing to use user-created images far outweighs the problems caused by the relatively small number of user-created images where there are disputes about their factual accuracy. Nsk92 (talk) 21:34, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Well, no, applying the verifiability policy as written would not disallow the use of essentially all user-created images, unless essentially all user-created images were challenged or likely to be challenged. Dlabtot (talk) 21:37, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
The basic meaning of WP:V is to require that the information contained in Wikipedia articles be based on published reliable sources. User-created images are always self-published. Nsk92 (talk) 21:48, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment - This misunderstanding is caused entirely by the fact that WP:V and WP:NOR are separate policies. If they were merged into one, the policy on original images would be clear. Yaris678 (talk) 07:37, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
Long reply from WhatamIdoing

What does it mean for an image to be "verifiable"? Are you trying to verify that the contents usefully illustrate the article? (That's a determination you make with your very best editorial judgment, not a fact that you need to support with a reliable source.) Or that the caption in the article matches the description in the commons file? Or that the description in the commons file is accurate/not written by a liar or a hopelessly confused person? I don't really see how anyone can answer Dlabtot's question until it is clarified.

On 01 May 2010, I proposed an addition to WP:IUP to address this, and I recommend reading that. It developed out of several similar questions there, and one in which a denialist tried to exclude an image of an enveloped virus from an article (the story ran something like, "The virus does not exist. Therefore the image must be faked or mislabeled. I demand a high-quality scientific paper that specifically identifies this particular image as being this particular virus... even though an electron micrograph of one enveloped virus pretty much looks like another.").

There are two important, and separate, considerations: The first is whether we're willing to trust image uploaders, and the second is the value of illustrations.

In terms of trusting our image uploaders, the community has a long-standing practice of assuming good faith about image descriptions, and I think it's served us well. If I walk down to the city park, take a picture of the playground, and upload it with a basic description, nobody is going to say, "Where is your third-party, properly published, reliable source that proves this picture of a playground really, truly is a picture of a playground? Didn't you think to bring along a credentialed journalist to certify that this is a playground?" The image is, at some level, self-verifying (any non-blind person can determine that a picture of a playground is a picture of a playground). For anything more complex (e.g., that this image shows this particular playground, and not some other playground in some other town), the community's choice is ultimately between trusting me, and dumping the vast majority of free-use images. I think that most of us are generally satisfied with this trade-off.

(As a point of procedural interest, what the community's practice actually is is critically important, since actually practice is our primary source of policy. It is, in fact, the "real" policy, whereas this page is merely an attempt to describe the real policy. The most useful and most widely supported policy pages document actual practice, not what a couple of high-minded editors think the community ought to do.)

Injection of a clear fluid

The bigger problem is dealing with editors who mistakenly think that images do something other than illustrate the subject. We are not trying to provide documentary evidence that a thing exists or is done: We are trying to give readers some visual cues and help them better understand the subject matter.

For example, the image to the right could legitimately be used in several articles. We don't need to have an independent reliable source tell us whether it's insulin, saline, or something else in the syringe, because it doesn't matter. You could use this image just as easily to illustrate "Insulin injections are often IM" or "Morphine may be given by IM injection" or just about anything else (except, perhaps, cobalamin, which is intensely red). The point of including the image isn't to provide irrefutable proof that IM injections are done (that a virus exists, that quartz is a trigonal crystal, that the vehicle has hubcaps, or whatever the subject is); it's to give readers an idea of what an IM injection is. Even a completely "unverifiable" image can often serve this encyclopedic and educational purpose admirably well -- even if we later learn, for example, that the syringe in this picture was empty, or that there was no needle on the end of it.

On this point, something that is documented to be X, but does not actually look like X, is a poor illustration for an article about X. Something that may or may not be X, but looks exactly like it, is an excellent illustration for that article. We really do care about what the images look like, not whether they're "real".

I still believe that the best place to address this issue is at WP:IUP, not here. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:14, 6 July 2010 (UTC)

WhatamIdoing has it right... images should never present information on their own or in a vacuum... they should, instead, illustrate the information that is presented in the text. That text is what needs to be cited. And, images that do not illustrate something in the text are useless. Blueboar (talk) 22:50, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: Thanks for that excellent outline, which I support. If there is ever an article consisting entirely of images, we will need to revisit this discussion. Meanwhile, articles present their information with text, and assertions in the article should be verifiable. An article should not say something like "because this picture shows a certain virus, it follows that the virus exists"; it should not do that because the point made is not verifiable. Images are used to illustrate articles, and disputed cases need to be resolved via consensus, as normal. Johnuniq (talk) 23:09, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
  • About that image to the right. It's descriptive title is Intramuscular injection into the Vastus Lateralis. Combine that with the lack of a verifiable source. So now let's imagine the picture with the following caption: Intramuscular injection of a clear fluid into the Vastus Lateralis. Should the image be retained or should the caption be edited to reflect only its visual information? BruceSwanson (talk) 16:12, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Your question presents a false dichotomy. The image should be retained, and a variety of captions are perfectly acceptable, including captions that go well beyond the visual information in the image.
We don't know that this image really is an injection of a clear fluid into the stated muscle: we see less than two square inches of skin (could be a different muscle, or even an arm instead of a leg). It could be an empty syringe, a different muscle, or a non-injection. But it looks like an intramuscular injection of a clear fluid into a leg, and so it could be used (as appropriate to the article's needs) with a wide variety of captions, including:
  • "IM injection",
  • "IM injection into the vastus lateralis muscle" (trusting that the uploader got it right),
  • "IM injection into the upper leg" (not quite trusting the uploader's knowledge of anatomy),
  • "In an IM injection, the needle is held at a 90 degree angle to the skin",
  • "Insulin is commonly delivered with an IM injection",
  • "IM injections of morphine can be used to control pain after surgery",
  • "Inexpensive 'insulin syringes' are used to deliver a wide variety of medications, not merely insulin", and even
  • "Images are not always what they purport to be. For example, this image might show an actual injection, or it might be an expensive theatrical prop, used to simulate an injection without actually puncturing the actor's skin."
Any of these (and dozens of other options) are acceptable, so long as the image is used to illustrate the article's contents. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:28, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Based on its visual information only, how many different captions could you come up with for this image? BruceSwanson (talk) 18:11, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
A fair few. But I'm not sure why that matters. Does the relevant article have text that says something like "the virus appears on an electron microscope as a black dot approx 10nm wide, within an annular feature of 50nm diameter and 10nm width", and can that statement be referenced? If so the image needn't be referenced. However there *are* cases where an image adds information independently of the text of an article, and which needs to be verified; for instance [3]. Trustworthy though the creator of that image is, someone quite properly raised a concern at FAC whether the process outlined in the image was verifiable. A source was easy to find, and was added to the description page. Compare also [4] and [5]; the former is a scan of an image from a reliable source and we can rely on it, while the latter is user-created with no source information, and there is every chance that the user who created it has introduced some inconspicuous minor error. The Land (talk) 20:04, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
The interpretation of some images, like The Blobs is entirely dependent on the context provided by their sources. If the source isn't verifiable, then such images have no meaning at all, do they?

From Wikipedia:IMAGE#Pertinence_and_encyclopedic_nature:

BruceSwanson (talk) 00:35, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

IMO that section of WP:IMAGES needs to be revisited. The next sentence says, "Images that are not properly identified, (e.g., images with descriptions such as "a cuneiform tablet", "a medieval manuscript", etc.) are unencyclopedic and hence, not useful for Wikipedia" -- which is simply wrong. An image about which we know nothing more than (the copyright status and) the fact that it is "a cuneiform tablet" is perfectly encyclopedic and entirely usable as an illustration (perhaps in the infobox) at Cuneiform script, with a caption like "Cuneiform tablets are made from clay" or "Cuneiform tablets were widely used for about 3,000 years". The same principle applies to a Medieval manuscript: we don't have to know any details to use it as an illustration of the generic concept.
Electron micrograph of HCV
As for what you call "The Blobs", here's a list of potentially acceptable captions:
  • Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can be used to produce images of very small objects, such as viruses.
  • TEM produces flat, two-dimensional images, rather than the three-dimensional structures that are produced by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
  • TEM shows internal structures, rather than the external surfaces that SEM shows.
  • Electron micrographs are black and white images.
  • Micrographs of small objects are often fairly fuzzy.
  • Including a linear scale in a micrograph helps the viewer understand the scale of the objects shown.
  • An electron micrograph of a virus.
  • An electron micrograph of an enveloped virus.
  • An electron micrograph of an enveloped virus with a diameter of approximately 60 nm.
  • These viral particles have a diameter of approximately 60 nm.
  • The Hepatitis C virus has a diameter of approximately 60 nm.
  • The Hepatitis C virus is an enveloped virus.
  • A micrograph of one enveloped virus looks much like another; consequently, visual inspection is not used for identification.
  • Enveloped viruses can be very small.
  • The core of an enveloped viral particles is relatively small; most of the volume is due to the envelope.
Note that some of these statements require support (in the main article text), but all of them would be "legal" captions for this image. The choice of the best caption depends on the nature of the article and the aspect that editors are trying to illustrate. The best caption for use in Micrograph is not the best caption for use in Hepatitis C virus. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:11, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Support WhatamIdoing's reasoning and comment. Also note that policy is meant to document, not determine, consensus of community practice. If the community practice is different from the descriptions of the policy, the policy should change. Also note that, possibly as a run-around for this specific image, the Hep C EM has been nominated for deletion at commons [6]. What happens if an image uploaded to wikipedia is deleted from the commons? WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 10:45, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with BruceSwanson. Their origin must be properly referenced. There is not point in adding made up captions to images with dodgy provenance. If the image does not come with a useful or relevant description, making one up is little more than original research. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 00:57, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
Is this a playground?
Gavin, can tell me how you'd do that? Imagine that you walked down the street and took a picture of a playground, much like the one on the right. You upload it to Commons, and you add it to as an illustration for an article about your hometown. What's your "proper reference" that says the picture of the playground is a picture of a playground? What's your "proper reference" that says this picture was taken in a given place? Do you really want editors to assume such bad faith that they declare you too be too stupid or too confused to know where you took the picture?
The community's policies are what we do; they are inherently practical. Can you give me a practical example of how you would provide a "proper reference" for an editor-created photograph like this snapshot of a playground? WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:47, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

I can think of one proper reference he would have already supplied: his name. BruceSwanson (talk) 07:40, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Essjay controversy. Real names and alleged qualifications don't mean squat, particularly when advocating for a tenuous or fringe point of view. The fact that you allegedly use your real name doesn't make your contributions to AIDS-related articles any more credible, but your open advocacy for AIDS denialism does make them less. The fact that I use a pseudonym is irrelevant, since I can justify my edits using high-quality sources and appropriate policies. WLU (t) (c) Wikipedia's rules:simple/complex 14:55, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Random break (verify images?)

The above discussion deals with photographs (or micrographs) only. Do the same principles apply to drawings? As well as necessarily being original research, a drawing necessarily has an element of creativity. Should the editor adding the image (not necessarily the same person as the uploader) be able to verify that the drawing is a reasonable representation of its subject? Take this image, which is the subject of a long and heated discussion on Talk:Pope Leo XIII. The coat of arms itself (the cypress, comet etc.) is heraldically accurate, but the surrounding bits, which I believe is called the shield, are a creative interpretation by the artist, using accepted heraldic elements. The artist says that the ornature is similar in style to coats of arms on the pope's tomb, in a vault in the vatican etc., but not that it is a faithful rendering of any of those. Now, per WhatamIdoing, the image would be fine in articles on heraldry, drawing or suchlike with a caption such as "a drawing of a coat or arms in neo-gothic style", but ought it to be used in an article about its subject without verification that it is a faithful representation of a specific, physical coat of arms? NB This is a genuine query about policy, not an attempt at canvassing. I am, of course, informing the participants in the discussion. Scolaire (talk) 20:13, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

A drawing is not necessarily original research. If, for example, I redraw a schematic diagram that appears in a book (because the copyright owner did not give permission to put an exact copy in Wikipedia) and my diagram is electrically equivalent to that in the book, there is no original research. If my diagram is laid out differently enough from the book, it isn't a copyright violation either.
In the case of heraldry, at least in England, what is granted by the sovereign is a blazon, and possibly other elements, expressed in words. The words are interpreted by various artists, and the result of each artist's effort is an achievement. There can be many different achievements for the same arms, and if no rules of heraldry were broken, they are all equally valid. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:51, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm reluctant to add to the soup, but isn't your assertion of the electrical equivalence of the diagram unverifiable original research? —chaos5023 (talk) 21:17, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
Not at all. Of course, the description of the image on Commons should include a citation to the source. Anyone who understands schematics can compare the book to the version I draw and see they are electrically equivalent. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:44, 12 July 2010 (UTC)
I'll withdraw the word "necessarily" then, both for OR and creativity. An electrical diagram such as you describe would be neither OR nor creative. But if you then expand the circuit by adding extra resistors, switches or whatever, in order to illustrate a particular point in an article, it is no longer a faithful copy of the drawing in the book; should you not then be able to verify from a written source that that is how the circuit in question would actually work? Creativity would only arise if you used curved lines instead of straight lines to illustrate a resistor, or a heptagon instead of a circle for a voltage source. In the case of an "achievement" in heraldry (I was hoping to avoid technical terms) the scope for creativity is far greater. If no rules of heraldry were broken, they are all equally valid for heraldic purposes, but are they equally valid for the purpose of illustrating a Wikipedia article, or is there a point at which the creative element reduces the image's usefulness in providing information, in the absence of specific attributability (if that's a word)?
There is an analogous situation for photographs. In this picture, for instance, the creative element is not the photographer's, but the costume designer's. Again per WhatamIdoing, a caption such as "Man in Tombstone, Arizona, wearing a stagecoach driver's costume" should not need to be backed up by sources, but could you really caption it "Typical stagecoach driver's costume of the 1880s" without a reliable source? Scolaire (talk) 09:16, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
It seems a written description is not enough for you because you want style cited also, and that linking to images is not useful unless the illustration exactly matches the sourced image (this is an issue of copyright, though). It seems by your reasoning, an editor could always request to source something or anything further back just a little more. Sure, so and so used it but heraldry is hereditary, prove his father used it, then his grandfather and so on. And how would one source a style to heraldic displays? How can we know if a painting shows Jesus being crucified and not just some bearded man? Because some museum says so? And where is their source? And even if their source can be traced to the original patron, how can we know that is what the artist really had Jesus in mind? There is a requirement that an editor provide sourcing, yes, but it is also incumbent upon the challenging editor to read and understand what is presented and the sources given. An argument of, "I don't know therefore I should challenge it" is simply a waste of time and resources. After all, how can you prove something to someone that can't understand what he is looking at? [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 11:55, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
In the case of electrical diagrams, the diagram should either illustrate the article text (which is properly sourced), or be an electrically (but not necessarily artistically) faithful copy of a diagram in a reliable source. Since we do not have the same standard of verifiability for images that we do for text, we can require that any editor challenging the image to have the skill to prepare a schematic diagram from an unambiguous text description, just as we can require that any editor who challenges an x-y plot of some data in the text have the skill to make plots.
In the case of heraldry, one would expect a person who possesses arms to have several different achievements which would be used for different purposes. Ordinarily one achievement is no more valid than another. A challenge to a particular achievement in Wikipedia could be a verifiability challenge (i.e. the achievement does not correspond to the blazon, which is sourced) or could be on artistic grounds (e.g. it is ugly, the elements are drawn in such an unusual way that many people with knowledge of heraldry would not recognize them, etc.) Jc3s5h (talk) 14:44, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
I would indeed expect a person who possesses arms to have several different achievements which would be used for different purposes. For any given drawing, then, I would simply ask, which of the documented achievements does the drawing reproduce? Verifiability, see? Again, the analogy with the electrical drawing is not a good one. If my expertise is in history, and my concern is with historical accuracy, you cannot "require" me to have the skill to prepare a heraldically accurate image, or to argue my case in heraldic terms.
Xanderliptak's crucifixion analogy, on the other hand, is a very good one. If I were to upload a visually stunning drawing of the crucifixion, in which Christ is depicted as blonde, short-haired and beardless, this would not, as far as I know, contradict anything in scripture. But could I hope to replace existing images in a dozen articles including Jesus Christ, Christianity, Catholicism and Protestantism without being challenged on verifiability? Or could I "require" any editor challenging the image to have the theological skills to prepare a depiction from an unambiguous text description? Scolaire (talk) 18:40, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
What must be verified depends on what is claimed. If the text claims that a picture represents the arms of Duke X, it is merely necessary that the picture conforms to the blazon. If the text claims the picture represents the arms that appear on the set of silverware Duke X purchased in 2008, then there should be some kind of citation that demonstrates a close artistic correspondence between the silverware and the picture.
As for pictures of the crucifixion of Jesus, they are unverifiable in the normal meaning of the word. The picture should be accompanied by some verifiable statement that makes it clear why that particular image should be included in the article. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:00, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
I think Jc3s5h is on the right track. Images need to usefully illustrate the article contents. An image that doesn't usefully illustrate the article (e.g., when, through a quirk of styling, lighting, or other feature of the image, the image doesn't look recognizably like the subject of the article) should not be used.
In the case of what Bruce calls "The Blobs", anybody who's seen a handful of electron micrographs for enveloped viruses -- or who is willing to ask his or her favorite web search engine for more information -- will look at this one and conclude that the image is basically what the Hepatitis C virus should look like, assuming, of course, that you agree that HCV exists, and that the well-sourced physical description of the virus in the text is accurate. (You might also decide that it's not an especially high-quality micrograph by recent standards.) This image looks like HCV, and therefore is a potentially useful illustration in the HCV article.
By contrast, an image that didn't look like HCV, even if the authenticity was attested to by a dozen stellar sources, would be far less useful. It doesn't matter how many sources say that File:APEC Police Helicopter, Opera House, 2 Sept 2007.JPG shows a particular model of police helicopter: it's not a useful illustration for police helicopter. Images primarily need to be useful, not verifiable.
Scolaire, if you want to include images of a blond Jesus (an artistic conception that Albrecht Dürer was famous for), you wouldn't get a verifiability challenge (unless your caption said something patently unverifiable, like "This 20th century painting proves that the historical Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes"). Jesus Christ currently has two blond-haired images in it. I doubt that anyone has ever challenged the images as "not being verifiably accurate depictions of the historical Jesus". WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:01, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
Blond, short-haired and beardless? Where? Scolaire (talk) 19:08, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
File:Adoration of the shepherds reni.JPG: blond, short-haired, beardless. (You didn't specify "adult". ;-) WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:39, 14 July 2010 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

See the archived discussions.LeadSongDog come howl! 19:21, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
There seems to be a confusion over what verifiability means. It looks like Scolaire is not asking for sources that shows something is true, but is asking for sources that explain why and how something is true. Were an artist like Albrecht Duerer or Michelangelo Buonarroti to have their images of Jesus placed in articles, Scolaire seems to believe that because their depictions do not offer up the brown haired and bearded man, that they somehow fail or need additional sourcing other images do not. We do not need a letter form the artists stating that is is Jesus and this or that is why hey made him as they did. If someone wishes to exclude the images on other grounds, fine, but not on verifiability. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 03:36, 14 July 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Fact is, I asked a straightforward question regarding creativity and verifiability. I have tried to avoid getting bogged down in detail over a single example by repeatedly giving new and very different examples, but each time the response focusses on the fine details of my examples instead of on my question. I am also detecting a certain amount of hostility which I don't really understand (except in the case of Xanderliptak whom I specifically asked elsewhere not to personalise the discussion). Now, my question was:

  • Is there a point at which the creative element reduces the image's usefulness in providing information, in the absence of specific attributability?

Here is a selection of answers:

  • we can require that any editor challenging the image to have the skill to prepare a schematic diagram from an unambiguous text description
  • The picture should be accompanied by some verifiable statement that makes it clear why that particular image should be included in the article.
  • Images primarily need to be useful, not verifiable.
  • See the archived discussions (a link to eight talk page archives of ~100kb each about what Jesus looked like).

These answers are all very much at variance with each other, and I can't really see where any of them is policy-based. I really would like to see a more generic and more coherent (and less dismissive) answer to what I think is a pertinent question to the current discussion on verifiability of images. Scolaire (talk) 06:25, 14 July 2010 (UTC)

Unless the image is a copy, or what one might loosely call a "visual paraphrase" of a reliable source, I believe it should be apparent to a person with a reasonable amount of skill in the subject matter of the article to see that the image correctly illustrates the text of the article and the caption of the image. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:21, 14 July 2010 (UTC)
I think the reason so few people can answer your question is that the question itself is premised upon a misconception of why we add images in the first place. Images should not be added to "provide information"... they should be added to "illustrate information". In my opinion, an image should not be added to an article unless it illustrates something that is stated in the text of the article. It is that text that needs to be verifiable, not the image that illustrates it. Now, we can argue that a particular image does not accurately illustrate what is stated in the article and should be removed or replaced with a better image, but that is a different issue. Blueboar (talk) 18:39, 14 July 2010 (UTC)
Okay, that's a good jumping-off point. So, the examples so far:
  • The coat of arms: this illustrates the blazon (have I got that right?) correctly, but the extraneous detail surrounding it distracts attention from the thing being illustrated (the blazon). If the "achievement" was verifiably that of a specific coat of arms on a wall in a specified room of a specified building, only then would it usefully illustrate that additional fact.
Injection: A coat of arms is the colloquial term for a heraldic achievement, and both refer to the pictorial representations of the blazon but not to any specific depiction. A specific pictorial representation is referred to as an 'emblazon'. However, with an heraldic achievement (coat of arms), any pictorial representation is fine unless one is trying to reference a specific emblazon. The same say any image of a Pieta is fine to represent the Pieta, unless you wish to depict Michelangelo Buonarroti's famous example in particular. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 01:08, 15 July 2010 (UTC)
  • The stagecoach driver: This illustrates the paraphernalia of a stagecoach driver of the 1880s, but the brightly coloured shirt (if we ignore the shades) distracts attention from the thing being illustrated. If the shirt was verifiably copied from a shirt in a Wild West museum, only then would it usefully illustrate that additional fact.
  • The hypothetical self-drawn crucifixion picture: That would illustrate the crucifixion as well as any other image, but the unconventional (short-haired, clean-shaven) Jesus figure would distract attention from the thing being illustrated. If the figure was verifiably typical of a particular school of artists, or religious sect, only then would it usefully illustrate that additional fact.
  • Jc3s5h's hypothetical electrical diagram does not have any extraneous detail or "creative" element, so verifiability does not arise.
  • WhatamIdoing's playground or "injection of a clear fluid" likewise have no extraneous element, but if there were, say, a Samurai warrior in the playground or a pink ribbon around the syringe, we might reasonably ask what those extra elements were illustrating and whether they were verifiable.
Would you agree? Scolaire (talk) 20:26, 14 July 2010 (UTC)
No, I don't think that we'd ask whether these elements were "verifiable". We'd ask whether -- in our own best editorial judgment -- they were appropriate illustrations of the already-sourced text. If the particular achievement is described in the text, and the image looks like what the text describes, then there are no "additional facts" to be verified. If the text says that stage coach drivers wore colored, printed shirts (or, more plausibly, leather cuffs), then the image correctly illustrates the text. A self-drawn crucifixion picture might be challenged as less appropriate, interesting, valuable, or encyclopedic than a famous artwork, but if you've got a body dying on a cross, nobody's likely to say, 'Yeah, well, can you prove that being hung on a cross is really crucifixion?' As with the playground, extraneous elements might make the image less appropriate -- but a playground's still a playground, even if a Samurai warrior is standing in the middle of it. We don't need to find a reliable source to "verify" that the Samurai warrior was present at the playground; we need to ask whether that's the best choice for illustrating the concept or existence of the playground.
Note that the locus of the decision is what we're debating: The community's actual practice (and therefore real policy) is to empower you, the individual editor, to decide whether to choose an image of a playground with or without the Samurai warrior. You get to do this with your very own best editorial judgment, rather than relying solely on whether you can find a source that says there's an annual Japan Day festival in Central Park. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:18, 14 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with WhatamIdoing, these are not questions of verifiability, but are editorial decisions. If you have two images, say a playground with a samurai and one without, and there is not a specific playground being described in the article, then it is an editorial decision on which image to use. Now, if this samurai is a child dressed up in a costume, that image may best be used to show both what a playground is and what they are used for. If it is just to illustrate what a playground is, then go with the samurai-less one. If you have an image of a flu vaccine being given, but the nurse is in the way and all you really see is the nurse's back, then it might be better to use an image of another vaccine being given to better illustrate the process. Simple diagrams or images are best suited for engineering, medical, chemical or other scientific subjects, where artistic license could confuse viewers with excessive embellishments. If the article is about an historical figure before the invention of photography or is about something artistic, like the coat of arms, then it is likely best to use the most aesthetic and artistic illustration, or a contemporary one if possible for historical weight. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 04:38, 15 July 2010 (UTC)

Dropping my 1½p here. I agree that the question of verifiability is about the way we combine the text containing the claim and the creative image illustrating the claim. And that creativity is not an issue of verifiability in the situation where it bears no relationship to the claim, though it might be challenged on other counts, such as appropriateness. All this does not mean of course that following bald descriptions in the sourced text are enough to render accurate representations of the whole (e.g. not all drawings of a 'wide-brimmed hat' will you give a slouch hat), but that's a matter of using common sense, I hope. Anyway, I would just like to add (it's a minor addition) that verifiability problems often seem to arise from the broadness or vagueness of the claim and that 'tweaking' the claim rather than the image is sometimes the best (and simplest) way forward. Say you have an article on fashion in 16th-century London and there's a particular section about a gentleman’s daily wear, with an accompanying drawing which contains some questionable elements. A description which claims that 'this is what the average gentleman in London wore in those days' requires that each and every item of clothing is appropriately sourced in the text, but the claim could also be narrowed down to number of relevant items, in which case extraneous elements matter much less. Being clear about what an image represents is I think a very basic necessity. Cavila (talk) 20:28, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Name-dropping scholars

I don't know where to put this—on V, RS, or MOS—but I'm becoming aware that several articles just mention a surname and an expert opinion: e.g., "Smith asserts that foo bar baz: 'lorem ipsum dolor'". The problem is, I don't know who Smith is, and even a wikilink fails to explain it to me. I think this is a problem where people used to writing essays for a subject where everyone knows who Smith is are forgetting that Wikipedia is a more public-orientated resource and adjustments need to be made. Should we explicitly remind people to give a little bit of context into why people are quoted, i.e., "Professor of Sociology at the University of California, John Smith, asserts that..."? Sceptre (talk) 19:37, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

In my opinion, if it says "Smith asserts ...", then Smith should be found in the Bibliography or References section. If not, then it comes down to WP:V. PL290 (talk)
Common sense should apply. We're a general-audience encyclopedia, so there should be SOME way for a lay user to educate himself appropriately. If I see a "Smith says..." statement, I want to see an inline link to the publication in which Smith says that, ideally with a wikilink from the citation to Smith's article if we have one. Various articles won't be there yet, but I wouldn't expect a GA or FA to NOT explain such a reference. Jclemens (talk) 22:19, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
Agree... unless the statement is something dubious, the proper action is to tag the statement with a {{cn}} tag... and raise the issue on the talk page. If no one answers in a reasonable amount of time, remove the statement. If someone does, work with them to properly cite the statement. Blueboar (talk) 00:04, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes: if there is no reliable source, omit claim. If there is no suitable wikilink available, WP:UNDUE may apply. On the other side of this is that I have seen attempts to promote a person or an organization by excessively describing an individual. Exaggerated example: "Professor John X. Smith, president of the Smith Foundation and Smithsonian prize winner, stated in the Smith Monthly Journal that apples usually fall down". Johnuniq (talk) 00:12, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
I don't think there's an easy answer. Some kind of context is useful ("Economist Smith" or "Smith, an actress" is more informative than "Smith"), but recommendations along those lines tend to attract into hype. We don't want "Prof IM Portant at Stremelyrich University" or "major peer-reviewed paper" or that kind of thing. I suggest that, rather than adding to the length of instructions (that nobody reads, anyway), you just fix these problems whenever you see them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:27, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
Note... "name dropping" like this is often a hint that the text was simply cut and pasted from something else. Not always... but often. Blueboar (talk) 04:20, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
Found an example: Homosexuality: Sexual orientation, identity, behaviour, which both does it wrong and right. For example, I can see that the APA is notable enough as an expert opinion, and I have enough context to know why Peter Tatchell's opinion is so important. However, I have to go to the references to see who Rosario, Scrimshaw, Hunter, and Braun are. Sceptre (talk) 17:49, 26 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with what you said at first, that it's better style to introduce people by giving context (professor of sociology etc.). But the fact is, our having to go to References doesn't compromise verifiability. I wonder if this is (or should be) addressed somewhere in the MoS. PL290 (talk) 18:31, 26 July 2010 (UTC)


Can video be classed as a reliable source? Thanks. gonads3 23:56, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

Yes, if it can be verified that it was not edited in a manipulative manner. For example, an interview that appeared on television can be used as a reliable source for what the participants say, but, on the other hand, the ACORN and Shirley Sherrod videos cannot be reliable sources as they have been proven to be unfairly edited. Sceptre (talk) 01:53, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
The place to discuss this is at WP:RSN (my opinion is that it's case-by-case, and in general no). On the current page, search for youtube. It's come up in the archives, for example WP:Reliable sources/Noticeboard/Archive 67 There is an essay at WP:VIDEOLINK and a draft guideline at WP:CITEVIDEO. Johnuniq (talk) 01:55, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
YouTube is not the only source of video, and there are some perfectly acceptable audio and video sources out there. BBC News doesn't quit being a reliable source simply because it broadcast the information in a television news show instead of confining it to text on their website. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:04, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
In fact, a reliably recorded BBC video broadcast is likely to be more reliable than their webpage. Blueboar (talk) 03:19, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the reponses. All good and plenty to on. gonads3 09:08, 26 July 2010 (UTC)

Films / Books / etc as sources for themselves

I notice a lot of "need references" tags around statements like "Film Foo has a such and such a thing in it." It seems like in the case that something is totally objectively present in a film, it shouldn't need a reference. The film itself is all the reference you need to what it has is it. I can't see an actual policy statement to that effect, though. Is there one? - Richfife (talk) 19:28, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

It would depend on the type of statement made. Statements about films, books, etc. are governed by WP:PRIMARY. I don't see the problem with saying that hobbits are featured in the Lord of the Rings books and movies; saying that the theme of Christian modesty in the face of temptation is featured in the Lord of the Rings books and movies is no good. If some pedant attaches a citation needed tag to the first statement, cite the movie in a footnote, giving appropriate production and release information. RJC TalkContribs 19:48, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
Of course. I was thinking more about physical objects like Rubik's Cubes. - Richfife (talk) 20:34, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
Wow. I guess my reaction would have been that Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information. But you're right, this is not a verifiability issue; signal to noise problems are more the purview of content policies. RJC TalkContribs 20:42, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm working on it... - Richfife (talk) 21:13, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

Hiding the amateur behind the authority

There is currently a case discussed at Military history of China (pre-1911) where, whenever criticism is directed at an author and its competence (Robert K. G. Temple, by some viewed as pseudo-historian and notable for his fringe theories on extraterrestrial contacts), he is shielded from this by pointing out that he is merely summarizing the work of an authority (Joseph Needham, a renowned sinologist). Since I find Temple to be systematically misinterpreting and exaggerating Needham's theses, I would like the article to go for the ultimate source, Needham, instead. Is there some WP guideline to that effect that the real source should be given preference over the purported summarizer when the later's findings are much in dispute? If not, I strongly recommend to establish such a good editiorial practice. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:13, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Views held by a small minority (or a single person) may be ignored using the principle of undue weight. There is no need to add that this applies when the small minority purports to summarize the views of mainstream sources. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:53, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
This may also apply. See WP:SAYWHEREYOUGOTIT. An unreliable source should not be treated as a reliable one just because it claims to summarize a reliable source. LK (talk) 12:54, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I wrote this before Lawrencekhoo's comment and so am not reflecting on his/her response.
IMHO WP:VER/WP:NOR is piecemeal and gap-filled regarding suitability of sources and needs a lot of work. It really only has two dimensions, the general attributes of the source (fact checking, has the trappings of a substantial media etc.) and section on primary/secondary/tertiary which which over emphasizes that component of source suitability, and ham-handedly overly discourages primary sources. One attribute that is missing big-time is the reliability WITH RESPECT TO THE EXCACT TOPIC WHICH IS CITING IT. Let's say that in his "book" on relativity, Einstein digressed and commented on what he though was the official way to do the jitterbug dance. Wp:VER/WP:NOR taken at the granular/literal level would consider his book to be a RS on the official way to dance the jitterbug.
Temple has the Wikipedia-trappings of a RS as much as well as most sources in Wikipedia. I was involved in a discussion in that article 1-2 weeks ago where he made an overreaching impossible-to-be-true statement where an editor wanted to keep it in based on saying the Temple met WP RS criteria. I don't know his level of expertise on the overall topic, but his level of expertise on carefully writing sentences is, in that case, very low. You might have to rely on the fact that saves WP from it's numerous examples where it's policies are poorly written if viewed only at the nuts-and-bolts level. Namely, the higher level qualifier wording in those like "usually", and the fact that in most cases wp:policies are interpreted and implemented by consensus, and where other wp policies/guidelines may also be incorporated. North8000 (talk) 13:13, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
An additional question: What if the amateur (Temple) fails to cite in his book the authority (Needham) by page numbers/ranges and sections, thus rendering impossible the verification of his claim of accurately presenting his source? Could the amateur be removed from WP on this grounds alone? And, assuming, the amateur does cite his references, could the editor, who works with him, be obliged to give full quotes and/or the numbers/ranges and sections on talk page? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:43, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
If the material is backed by Needham then we should cite Needham directly, and not use Temple as a "pass through". Blueboar (talk) 13:59, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree. My other comments were more general and less useful. North8000 (talk) 14:23, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) In this case Temple is a tertiary source, even if what he is doing isn't provided as an example of one under WP:PRIMARY (probably because there is no reason to cite a person like him, while someone might want to cite a high school textbook). Wikipedia articles should be cited with secondary sources, using tertiary sources only where necessary. Unreliable tertiary sources do not become reliable just because they are summarizing reliable secondary sources (the accuracy of which summary depends upon the unreliable source). I don't know whether Temple is unreliable, but if his reliability isn't being defended directly (only Needham's is), then I'd say his summary is not reliable with regard to the facts it purports to support. RJC TalkContribs 14:29, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
GPM is completely wrong on this issue. Temple is not a "fringe author" (he is an academic at multiple universities). Needham provided the materials for Temple's book as well as assisting him in making the book; indeed, it appears that it was actually Needham who prodded Temple to make a summary of this work. In addition, the book has won numerous awards and reviews. In fact Needham claimed that he "warmly welcomes" the book and wrote its foreword. In light of this information, there should be no doubt about the book's reliability. There is no way Needham's work can be used in this situation, as his work is 25 volumes and very rarely available; Needham assisted Temple and fully endorsed this summary, which can show the reliability of this source. To say this source is unreliable is absurd. Temple is not a fringe source; in this case at least he is reflecting the work of mainstream academia, notably Joseph Needham's work on Sinology.
This work is being used on several FA's, such as List of Chinese inventions. In addition, non-temple sources also give largely the same description of weaponry at GA's Technology of the Song Dynasty and Science and technology of the Han Dynasty (Temple's book is used there as well). GPM is trying to dispute mainstream sinology such as where the cannon was invented. To show how absurd his position is, he put a claim that Europeans invented the cannon in 1326 right next to a Chinese hand cannon dated 1288.For heaven's sake this guy is a professor at multiple universities and his work has been repeatedly awarded and used on multiple wikipedia FA's, as well as being endorsed and based on the leading sinologist of the 20th century. Attempts by this editor to decry Temple as a fringe editor has been rejected by multiple editors, see here. 1 and 2. If Temple's source, summarizing mainstream sinology, winning multiple awards for its accuracy, and written by a renowned academic, is interpeted as "Fringe", I don't know what work is reliable. Teeninvestor (talk) 14:55, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I haven't been following this at all but came across it from my Watchlist. The claim that Temple is a reliable source seems seriously questionable, given the nature of his publications such as The Sphinx mystery and The Sirius Mystery. He is certainly not of the stature of Needham. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 16:53, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
Temple has indeed been a visiting professor at at least two universities. But he is also the author of fringe books published by fringe publishers, eg [7]. The two are not incompatible. This has nothing to do with what GPM has done. One of Teeninvestor's links even says "much of his work does fall in line with mainstream sinology. However, some material in Temple's book should be heavily scrutinized and even discounted. For example, "endocrinology: extraction of human hormones" his passage on endocrinology is riddled with errors which have been proven false by Chinese scientists nonetheless (such as Liu Guangding" which is worrying. There is no excuse for using Temple as a way to get Needham's thoughts, we should use Needham. I'll also point out that a lot of people see Temple as fringe, and that doesn't help an article. Dougweller (talk) 17:11, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I don't think Temple's work on this issue (sinology) has anything to do with his work in other areas, as Needham gave him all the materials and actually assisted him, as well as endorsing his work. Temple's work on endrocinology has been disputed, but his work on gunpowder weapons is mainstream, as can be evidenced by List of Chinese inventions, an FA which says pretty much the same thing.Teeninvestor (talk) 17:18, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

I think this discussion should be moved to the reliable sources noticeboard WP:RSN, since it is no longer a matter of clarifying policy but a question of application. RJC TalkContribs 17:28, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Three comments about how this policy appears to have been misunderstood:
  • You need to SAYWHEREYOUGOTIT, which means that if you use Needham (or Temple), then you cite Needham (or Temple).
  • There's nothing here that requires you to use Temple (or Needham): Editors may freely select the most appropriate and reliable sources.
  • No source is universally reliable for every possible fact. Einstein is not an expert on jitterbug, and a passing comment would not be accepted as the official definition of jitterbug. Whether a source is reliable depends heavily on its relationship to the exact statement that needs to be supported. (This, BTW, is why Wikipedia does not have a "List of approved reliable sources".)
And, yes, discussion about the specific situation is probably better handled at WP:RSN. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:27, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Question about SELFPUB

Does SELFPUB make it acceptable to use a subject's Facebook page or other social-networking-websites, as references in the article about the subject? Or does SELFPUB only refer to things like official websites of the subject? -- Cirt (talk) 18:19, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

The general question is worth asking, but the specific example which prompted this is a Business Page on Facebook (not a personal page) maintained by a business and containing information about the business. It is being used as a source for information which is not controversial, is not self-serving, and is not of central importance to the article (the reason to include it is to replace information which is out of date). The reason for using the Business Page is that the information may not appear in a book or newspaper in the foreseeable future.KD Tries Again (talk) 18:30, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again
Facebook as an acceptable (or inappropriate) reference in encyclopedia articles should not be dependent on whether it was from a person or business, it should be deemed to be used or not used across the board. -- Cirt (talk) 18:32, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
Why? It seems evident that a Business Page containing full contact details for the business, the names of its owners etc, is likely to be more reliable than a personal page. In practice, many business use a Facebook Business Page as an alternative to hosting a website.KD Tries Again (talk) 18:35, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again
It seems to set an inappropriate precedent to allow social-networking-websites as acceptable sources in encyclopedia articles. Would still like to hear some comments from previously-uninvolved-contributors in the dispute. -- Cirt (talk) 18:37, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
Let's clarify the question. In this case, a restaurant has a new chef. The Wikipedia article on the restaurant did not reflect that. There is no real dispute that the restaurant has a new chef, and it would be easy to link to the restaurant's website as a solid WP:SELFPUB source, except that it currently refers to the chef by a nickname. In a case like this, reverting to the Facebook Business Page where the chef's name is given in full is surely a reasonable alternative. It's important to emphasize that we are talking about uncontroversial factual information here.KD Tries Again (talk) 18:41, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again
No, it is indeed disputed. And an encyclopedia article need only reflect historical info from WP:RS sources, not immediate changes cited only to Facebook pages. -- Cirt (talk) 18:43, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
That's not the case here. The information is cited on the Facebook Business Page, on the personal Facebook page of the chef, at, at, and also on the business's own website except that the chef (first name Charles) is referred to as "Chuck." The Wikipedia article had said that the chef is someone called Juan. This information can only be disputed on the basis that "Chuck" is as likely a nickname for Juan as for Charles, and that the information consistently shown at all these other sites, including the page maintained by the restaurant itself, is inaccurate. WP:V should not be used as a tool to preserve inaccurate information.KD Tries Again (talk) 19:00, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again

Since it's pretty easy to set up personal Facebook pages, we should be skeptical that the Facebook page actually belongs to the person who is being described in a Wikipedia article. I am not familiar with the process of setting up a business Facebook page, so I don't know how skeptical we should be of those. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:55, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

I am not sure how that distinguishes Facebook pages from websites. Using websites as self-published sources for uncontroversial information is accepted practice, I thought. (In the case of the business page under discussion, information is easily verifiable by calling any of the telephone numbers given; I think it would be highly impractical to maintain a fake page for a real restaurant).KD Tries Again (talk) 19:00, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again
Using websites as self-published sources for uncontroversial information is only accepted if there is a substantial degree of assurance that the website really was published by the entity being described. If it is a business and the website contains the phone number, it might be easy to verify, then again, I could imagine a conversation like "Joe's pizza, what can I make for you Is your web address really www.joespizza.invalid? Hey, you wanna place an order or not!? I just want to know if your web (click)". Jc3s5h (talk) 19:15, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
Let's not talk in the abstract - here's the page. It is updated frequently with detailed information about the restaurant, and the contact details are both prominently displayed and correct. It's not like there is anything here which sets off alarm bells. Surely the burden lies on the skeptic to show that this is anything other than what it appears to be.KD Tries Again (talk) 19:29, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again
If you don't want to talk in the abstract, the matter should be discussed at WP:RSN.

You are probably right, as this is really prompted by a specific example. I have opened a [discussion]KD Tries Again (talk) 19:56, 30 July 2010 (UTC)KD Tries Again

Introduction text to WP:V

I would like to see the 3rd para, 2nd sentence of the intro text be amended to say "Any unsourced material may be removed,...", as else it seems people could argue a source is not required in a particular instance. Does anyone agree? Eldumpo (talk) 07:06, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

I think all sentences like this need to be amended to require that time be given to find a source before material is removed (unless it's an exceptional claim of some sort). There are various possible misinterpretations of these sentences (partly because it's not at all easy to formulate what we actually mean), one being that it's prfectly OK to go around randomly deleting any facts from Wikipedia that aren't currently explicitly supported by sources.--Kotniski (talk) 10:41, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Eldumpo; the argument that "time be given to find a source" is the same "a source is not required for the time being'", which is just a variant of "a source is not required in a particular instance". --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 10:46, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I think it's fine as it is: "Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed, and unsourced contentious material about living persons must be removed immediately." Nothing's permanently lost by removal, if an editor deems it appropriate. It should be business as usual, and once a source has been produced, the material can easily be reinstated from history. PL290 (talk) 10:52, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
The change would be wrong because quite a few things like for instance the sky is blue need no citation. Even without that there is no need to give the idea to people they should just remove things which are reasonable without doing any other checks. Dmcq (talk) 12:06, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I think the only change needed here is to recognize the need for editors to use their best judgment when implementing it. Really, folks: Unsourced-and-unsourceable nonsense ("diabetes mellitus can be cured by shining a yellow light on the patient" or "children can safely play with radioactive materials") should be removed immediately, without a significant delay to look for sources; unsourced-but-verifiable material ("the sky is usually blue" or "the Moon orbits the Earth") should be left alone. And in between the two extremes of that continuum, editors need to use their judgment to choose the most appropriate response from the continuum of responses permitted -- tagging with long delays, talk page discussions, adding sources, tagging with short delays, etc. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:14, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
These generalisations are just too trite to stand up to verification. I agree with Eldumpo; the argument that "time be given to find a source" is the same "a source is not required for the time being'", which is just a variant of "a source is not required in a particular instance".--Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 22:26, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
I think there is no problem here to be solved. The sentence currently reads "Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed;" any confusion about what requires a source should be dispelled by the bold-faced text from the previous paragraph: "anything challenged or likely to be challenged." The bit about time-to-removal is a side issue and best worked out case by case, not by a rule (which would lead to the problems Gavin identifies). I see no need to change the wording. RJC TalkContribs 22:55, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
This doesn't improve things. Disruptors sometimes remove unsourced 'the Moon orbits the Earth' things. They shouldn't have policy to back them.

--Elvey (talk) 23:17, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Again, this is too trite an example. The statement that 'the Moon slowly orbits the Earth' is more like the sort of stuff that Eldumpo is referring to. --Gavin Collins (talk|contribs) 13:05, 31 July 2010 (UTC)

Two examples

Bad Idea The implication of the above suggestion—Any unsourced material may be removed… might be one of those be careful what you ask for situations. It is essentially an unspecified license for anyone to remove any content that is not specifically cited. Does it apply to the phrase level, sentence level, the paragraph level, the section level? Who knows. Here are two paragraphs from my favorite two example articles: Yellowstone and Accountancy.

The Continental Divide of North America runs diagonally through the southwestern part of the park. The divide is a topographic feature that separates Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean water drainages. About one third of the park lies on the west side of the divide. The origins of the Yellowstone and Snake Rivers are near each other but on opposite sides of the divide. As a result, the waters of the Snake River flow to the Pacific Ocean, while those of the Yellowstone find their way to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, accounting is called "the language of business" because it is the vehicle for reporting financial information about a business entity to many different groups of people. Accounting that concentrates on reporting to people inside the business entity is called management accounting and is used to provide information to employees, managers, owner-managers and auditors. Management accounting is concerned primarily with providing a basis for making management or operating decisions. Accounting that provides information to people outside the business entity is called financial accounting and provides information to present and potential shareholders, creditors such as banks or vendors, financial analysts, economists, and government agencies. Because these users have different needs, the presentation of financial accounts is very structured and subject to many more rules than management accounting. The body of rules that governs financial accounting is called Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP.[8]

The Yellowstone paragraph is completely un-cited. It has 5 sentences and essentially 5 or 6 major content ideas, none of which are sourced. Yet the material is attributable and if an editor chose to challenge any of the ideas, certainly a source could be found. However, unless each sentence was sourced, this entire paragraph, any sentence or any phrase within a sentence could be removed from the article without any discussion based on the suggested policy change.

The Accountancy paragraph is even more typical. It has 6 sentences and only the last sentence is sourced. As the paragraph has a number of subjective ideas in it, one could assume that the citation only applies to the last sentence (even though all the ideas may be covered by the source (who knows?)). Thus, anyone, without discussion could remove the 1st 5 sentences of this paragraph justifiably under the suggested policy change.

The real problem with the policy wording is that it takes all common sense and editor discretion off the table. Should any editor, even AGF, choose to remove all un-cited sentences in an article without discussion, what would be the recourse? Well for one, no could claim vandalism, POINTY, or any other guideline aimed at disruptive editing because the removal of the material was policy based. Two, conscientious editors, if they could keep up with all the material removal could replace it and provide and inline citation for every sentence. Mere reverts would be inappropriate and against policy because the original removal was policy based. Even if editors could keep up with the pace of removal, the number of inline citations/per article would sky rocket. If the editor wanted to begin removing parts of sentences (phrases), because they believed the material was un sourced, this policy allows them to do that without discussion. They wouldn’t have to repair broken sentences as their material removable was policy based.

The proposed wording change, while it may be with good intentions, could have a catastrophic effect on WP content.--Mike Cline (talk) 08:10, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Question on verifying info

If a source no longer verifies the claims that it is being used for, should it be removed along with the information it was citing? For example, this source used to indicate that Smallville was airing a day earlier in Canada than in the U.S. It was only for the seventh season of the series (which was 2 years ago). Now, it just is the page listing for the series and has no mention of those dates. It hasn't been able to verify those 2008 dates since that TV season ended. Given that this isn't an issue of internet archives, because the page isn't dead, just merely overwritten, shouldn't the link and info be removed until a new source can verify that that season aired 1 day earlier?  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 00:50, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Generally speaking, we tag the link with the "deadlink" template to let readers know that it was properly referenced at one point, but that the problem lies with accessing the source. --Ckatzchatspy 02:17, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
I get that, but the problem then comes later when the page goes up for review and no one can verify the claim.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 03:32, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it should be removed if it can't currently be sourced, BN. There are likely to be other ways to source that—finding magazine or newspaper TV listings, for example—but it would involve a bit of work, and I can't see that it would be worth it for something like this. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:19, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
No, that's not quite what WP:DEADREF and WP:LINKROT indicate:

"Do not delete factual information solely because the URL to the source does not work any longer. WP:Verifiability does not require that all information be supported by a working link, nor does it require the source to be published on-line."

Otherwise, we'd end up deleting half the project. Dead links are supposed to be tagged as such - I've already done so - plus there's the Wayback machine, which I've added as well. --Ckatzchatspy 04:54, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
The source must be available somewhere, online or offline. Where source material was only ever online and is removed from the website, and if no copy was retained (via Internet archive or webcite, for example), then the source has gone. Either an alternative needs to be found, or the material has to be removed if someone challenges it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:05, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
In this case, no-one has challenged the information. It would be premature to remove it. --Ckatzchatspy 05:11, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Slight tangent. For inoculation against the problem occurring in the first place, allows one to archive a page, and all of the citation templates have fields for memorializing the link and date of creation there.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 05:12, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Here's another problem. Ckatz has managed to find an archived link (see here), but it only indicates that Smallville aired on a Thursday on the week of February 11, 2008 (that's the seventh season). The link does not indicate whether that's a new episode (as some people get them delayed), or if that is consistently aired on Thursday that year. It would obviously been too much to include 20 links to every week the show aired to show that it aired on Thursday all season there. How do we handle such a thing?  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 05:17, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
At some point, we have to differentiate between what is controversial enough to need explicit verification, and what is not. Otherwise, we'll eventually run into problems verifying that it ran on the WB on Fridays, for that matter. --Ckatzchatspy 05:47, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Except we have a press release that states when that season aired on that day. It's a single source that identifies when the season airs for that particular channel in the U.S. We don't actually have one for the Canadian A-Channel. All we've ever had were a listing of the programs airing for that week and Smallville being listed on Wednesday instead of Thursday. We've never had a source say "Smallville will be airing on Wednesdays on A-Channel during season seven". For me, when you have a series that has run for six seasons where everyone saw it on the same day, and all of a sudden that Canadian channel is getting it a day early for one season and then it's back to normal, that is cause for "controversy". At least enough to warrant a reliable source to verify such an occurence (explanation would be even better, but I'd at least settle for a single reliable source stating such instead of a simple program listing for one specific week).  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 06:15, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
[8]? --MASEM (t) 06:11, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
That's the release for season eight, when Smallville was still with Supernatural on Thursday nights. Now, this press release says that season seven airs on Thursday nights (the same night it was supposed to air in the U.S.). That's different than the program listings from A-Channel.  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 06:19, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
[9] maybe? This calls out the difference between AChannel and CW in 2007...--MASEM (t) 06:23, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
That'll have to do. Thanks Masem. You always seem to find things us average Joes can't. (Wanna try some reviews for "Rosetta" and "Exodus"...:D). --  BIGNOLE  (Contact me) 13:32, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
A point to be said here is that this is a common situation in "pop culture" articles, especially something as simple and non-interpretive like a TV schedule - everyone knows certain obvious facts, like the schedule issue, but no one of reliability really states anything about it. It is a true statement but one difficult to source simply because it is often taken as a "matter of fact" by sources. In such cases, it is "verifiable" - at worst by blogs and forums - but just very very difficult to source, and thus to the main general matter, I'd rather see these statements tagged with the necessary {{cn}} or similar flag regarding the source rather than to remove the otherwise true information. --MASEM (t) 13:58, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Adding 16 fact tags while refusing to look for sources

The editor who did this said " I can't be tasked with searching for something whose existence I doubt". About half have been found already, most by me, without any difficulty. Do we have any guidelines on this? The reponse to my last complaint (after adding another reference today) was " the obligation to provide references is with the editor who inserts material based on them. obviously." - but a lot of times the original editor may be long gone. Do we have any guidelines on this? Thansk. Dougweller (talk) 15:06, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Sounds like when the evil twin of my split personality TheParasite [[10]] takes over ..... due to the way the rules are written, there is no stopping him. :-) North8000 (talk) 15:11, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Unfortunately, the WP:BURDEN is on you or other editors to cite material or else it can be removed, and the fact that the original editor is long gone doesn't change it; no one is required to seek sources before adding the fact tag. That said, one can be very malicious and clearly behave in bad form by slapping fact tags without pause simply to ravage an article or other nefarious purpose. Both sides should be aware of WP being a work in progress, and that fact tags really should only be added to contentious claims or the statements most needed of references even though we would likely source more statements than that. --MASEM (t) 15:15, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Fact tags seem the appropriate response, since we should assume that the editor in question really does doubt that the information is true. Fact tags are less destructive than simply removing the information. RJC TalkContribs 15:55, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
You are facing a problem I am repeatedly trying to point out. I really think we should try to work out some differentiation in which material absolutely needs to be referenced to not be open to immediate removal (e.g., discrediting statements), and which material can be accepted with lacking referencing until the article evolves to a good article state. This would be tremendously useful for (scientific) articles, which may be tackled by experts in the field without forcing them to run to the library to prove every statement added – a task that may be (and repeatedly is) done later during the process of article evolution by the same or other editors –, and to consider anonymous edits for such articles, which are virtually always provided without sources. I am surprised (and disappointed) that not more editors are pushing in this direction (or that people are refusing to see the problem). Nageh (talk) 16:03, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with you 100%, especially where no issue is noted except that it is unsourced. I have been promoting that idea, mostly at wp:nor for months (but not recently). North8000 (talk) 17:32, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Well WP:V does say 'It has always been good practice to make reasonable efforts to find sources yourself that support such material, and cite them.' So if it was quite easy to find a few then the action could be criticized as not good practice, and "I can't be tasked with searching for something whose existence I doubt" is simply wrong. They should do a quick search even if they doubt something. Dmcq (talk) 17:20, 1 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. I missed that. The whole thing was WP:pointy in any case, but I wasn't going to push that issue. Dougweller (talk) 18:27, 1 August 2010 (UTC)

Appropriate signalling of a Wikipedian translation?

I started and have been working on Serge Monast. Basically, almost all the sources are in French. There's one reference which is a two-sentence quote in French. I translated it into English myself (my French is only slightly above fr-0) and I know the area well (conspiracy theory) and I've marked it "rough translation". And asked for help on the talk page of fr:Serge Monast.

I am confident the translation is accurate enough to inform the reader without error. (I would heartily welcome review!) But what is the best way to mark it in the article text? - David Gerard (talk) 21:28, 4 August 2010 (UTC)

Protection not needed

This page was recently protected due to excessive vandalism, but I only see one or two vandals a day on it. Since this is not a highly-transcluded template, I don't see the need to depart from normal procedures that allow anyone to edit. RJC TalkContribs 22:07, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Given that basically no anons ever make a positive contribution to this page, plus the fact that this page is not part of the encyclopedia (and thus the "anyone can edit" is irrelevant), I see no reason for this fundamental policy to be anything other than semi-protected permanently. Permitting unwanted edits that someone then needs to revert is a method for wasting time, not for writing an encyclopedia.
In fact, I think that semi-protection should be extended to several other highly visible policy pages, such as WP:NOT. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:37, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Agree with above. Is there any reason not to semi-protect all main policy pages? Is there any reasonable expectation of an anon making a positive contribution to these highly specialized, arcane and contentious pages? LK (talk) 00:32, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Semiprotection is discouraged if its purpose is to prevent IPs from editing (WP:SILVERLOCK). The fact that we don't think that they will make any constructive edits is beside the point. The question is whether there is sufficient vandalism to the page to warrant semi-protection; 1 or two incidents every 1 or 2 days doesn't seem enough. RJC TalkContribs 03:04, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
That page was written primarily with the main namespace in mind, not to deal with the unique needs of major policy pages. Nobody here is saying that we should semi-protect random articles, but there's no reason to expect that Wikipedia is best served by always applying the same rules to average articles and major policies like WP:V or WP:NOT. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:43, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
Agree with the others: protection for policy pages makes sense. If an editor is interested enough in Wikipedia policy to make a constructive change, is there really a valid reason why that person won't register as a user here? If so, I could possibly change my view, but otherwise I agree with the protection. PL290 (talk) 10:07, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Self-published source

Can this Q&A interview with producer Russell Elevado be used on the article "The Root" to support information only regarding Elevado and the techniques he discussed about producing the song "The Root"? Dan56 (talk) 11:47, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

This source is now listed for review at WP:Reliable sources noticeboard#Gearslutz. Feedback there would be most welcome. --Moonriddengirl (talk) 12:51, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

Note on talk vs citation needed templates

In regards to this change I'm going to respectfully disagree with the change. Adding a note to the article, or major contributors talk pages does not give a verifiability issue proper visibility, so although that is an option, it's not one that the wording of this article should favor. Anyone can see and fix something tagged with {{fact}}, but something on the talk page is at best noticed by those who have the page watchlisted, and it doesn't add the categories for the appropriate maintenance efforts. Triona (talk) 18:38, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

I agree—I've never seen this sentence and I don't think we should suggest it as an option. If there's a verifiability issue, other readers should be made aware, so tagging the article itself should be the advised course of action. PL290 (talk) 19:04, 7 August 2010 (UTC)
Removing unverified material for discussion on the talk page has been an option for years... and it does make others aware of the problem... in fact, I would say discussing unverified material on the talk page is a better way to make others aware of the problem than simply leaving a tag (as it allows the objecting editor to fully explain exactly what the problem is). Blueboar (talk) 20:36, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Request for comment un Crum375's pre-proposal

As you may recall, in June Crum275 drafted a pre-proposal which was essentially to merge wp:VER and WP:NOR and essentially make no changes during the merge process. I think that it's a good idea due to the large amount of overlap between the two in both content and in the principles / policies covered. And he asked for input at this stage, before it became even a proposal.

The proposal and its comment/talk page is at:

It also has a rationale page at

I noticed that it's getting a little quiet over there and thought it might be good to suggest request folks weigh in over there, including whether or not they think that it's a good idea. This is "pre-proposal", so if it went another step that would be to becoming a proposal. North8000 (talk) 20:32, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Self Published Sources is worded in a way which is too broad

I have been involved for a few years now in a long running contentious issue over the self published sources criteria. You can see the current state of that debate at the following link. Talk:Blanchard,_Bailey,_and_Lawrence_theory#Links_to_RSN_about_Wyndzen

After much debate over this issue the concerned editors largely agree that the definition of what WP considers self published work should be along the lines of "Self-publication is when the person or group that writes the material ("author") is the same person or group that decides to publish it ("publisher")." Simple and straightforward as that.

Right now any published work that did not get peer review can be and has in the case we are working with been deemed as self published under the current rules. Under the current rules certain materials were excluded because the "expertness" of the authors was in doubt in some cases. Where being an expert seemed to require having academic credentials or the like.

In short we propose that the definition of "self-Published source" be tightened up to "Self-publication is when the person or group that writes the material ("author") is the same person or group that decides to publish it ("publisher")." With no implication that peer review or vetting is needed to make a source not self published.--Hfarmer (talk) 06:07, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

First, to clarify what you are proposing. The current policy doesn't define "self-published", but does imply that it relates to publishing by an individual who is also the author. You are proposing to define it, and in a way that takes in groups. IMHO WP:VER's sourcing criteria (and the granular level) are written such that 90% of Wikipedia sourcing doesn't meet a rigorous interpretation of them. I'd hate to see this go even farther from reality. The would seemingly could be used to knock any source where the author was a part of the organization. For example, if a US Department of Agriculture person wrote a technical document, and the USDA published it. I don't think it is good as written. North8000 (talk) 13:14, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
It would only be an issue if the document was about the USDA itself. If it is a guide for growing cabbages SPS wouldn't be relevant. Roger (talk) 13:43, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Hi Roger. I'm not sure whether you are talking about general suitability, or policy. From a policy standpoint, I don't see where the policy or Hfarmer's idea make any distinction between those two examples that you gave. Regarding general suitability, I think that the "cabbages" subject would be on solid ground, and also mundane uncontested facts about the USDA. North8000 (talk) 14:41, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
The question in that discussion seems to be whether editorial review is a sufficient vetting process when we consistently show a preference for peer-reviewed sources. In my opinion, editorial review is a borderline case, in some cases not sufficiently removed from the author to avoid the problems with self-published sources and in some cases doing so. Editorial review is more accepted regarding law reviews, but they are not all equal. Some have quite rigorous review processes while some publish their friends to such an extent that we would have to say that they have no review at all. Moreover, the norm in medicine seems to be that one publishes in peer-reviewed journals, casting editor-review in a dimmer light than is the case for law. I don't know the exact details of this case and it is too long to familiarize myself with it, but it doesn't seem that the real objection is over the wording of a policy (even if it at times expresses itself as wikilawyering). Articles subjected to editorial review may or may not be reliable sources, and the wording on self-published sources currently reflects that. RJC TalkContribs 15:10, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Well the problem that we have is that we have sources which were part of a call for comments from the concerned public. I would rather not characterize them. Suffice it to say these are articles which underwent minimal editorial review. (We have a statement from the editor of the particular journal in question basically he spell checked.)
The fact that such a thing is borderline is why I think this needs to be looked at. The debate over this has gone on for over two years and devolved into off wiki personal attacks etc. A clear simple policy would prevent that. --Hfarmer (talk) 19:28, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
Hfarmer's statement regarding the editor's level of involvement--"basically he spell checked"... is inaccurate. I don't know whether it's correct WikiForm to quote myself here, but here's what I posted on the talk page,_Bailey,_and_Lawrence_theory regarding the matter:
I welcome Whatamidoing's suggestion that the wording of WP:SPS be revisited so that it comports with the plain-language meaning of the term "self-published", which is a very worthwhile proposal. The "self-published" label is being applied here to sources (Wyndzen's APA letter and Dreger commentary) which to me are obviously NOT self-published. Here I'd like to quote Kenneth Zucker's "Introduction to Dreger (2008) and Peer Commentaries" in the Dreger ASB issue: "I reviewed all commentaries and, by and large, made very minor editorial changes and, if there was a substantive issue, did so in consultation with the author." (Italics mine.) OK, Wyndzen's commentary was not "peer-reviewed"; but labelling it "self-published" seems ludicrous to me. And claiming, as James Cantor has, that ALL commentaries should be excluded as unreliable SPS, seems to me to imply that the editors of reputable journals are morons who will publish any crank letter that crosses their desk. ... bonze blayk (talk) 19:40, 8 August 2010 (UTC)
bonze blayk (talk) 01:24, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Suitability of source has about 5 metrics, and wp:ver has only about two. If you'd like to start a multi-month effort to carefully improve it, then let's do it. But I think that your particular first try of a proposal in that area has some issues that would cause some negative unintended consequences.
I wouldn't hold my breath for a policy change solving your battle. I haven't gotten up to speed on it, but have you tried RFC or the RS noticeboard? Wherever it gets thrashed out, might I suggest defining / agreeing on the parameters for a debate: basically everything in WP:VER, plus expertise and objectivity in the topic at issue, and third party indications of such about the source. And then try to get a consensus while following that framework. North8000 (talk) 23:51, 9 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't know that changing the wording regarding SPS would solve the problem as described, since the question is one of fact (whether its appearance in print is due solely to the author's decision to submit) rather than one of the rule to be applied (whether the important question is whether its appearance in print is due solely to the author's decision to submit). So I agree with North8000 that this is really an RSN or RfC matter. RJC TalkContribs 00:13, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
Multiple multiple RSN an RfC's etc etc. have not resolved this matter. It really is a matter of a policy which is resulting in what many feel is a biased article.--Hfarmer (talk) 14:27, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
One editor working on the page that motivated me to make this suggestion was nice enough to hunt down links to all of them " See, for example, multiplediscussions,ad nauseum,and then some more."
Yes I would be open to a multi month study of changing this policy if you feel that's necessary. We have tried everything else to get an article which more people would feel was fair and unbiased. Yet the exclusion of certain materials due to SPS has been construed as a grand conspiracy of the establishment and it's minions to bias WP and all that. --Hfarmer (talk) 14:36, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
Policy should never be changed in order to resolve a dispute at a particular article. Now, if similar disputes are arising at multiple articles... then we might have an indication that we need to change the Policy. Blueboar (talk) 14:42, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
Then you would agree that this issue needs to be addressed since this is only one article that would be effected directly. The others in question are Autogynephilia, Homosexual transsexual, Transgender sexuality,Androphilia and gynephilia, Transvestic fetishism, Gender identity disorder,any other article that touches on transsexual or transgender sexuality/expression.
Furthermore there exist a whole universe of articles where in a minority group of some kind has been written about by "experts" in journals, books etc. Members of those groups who are not academically credentiald also write things and publish them in non peer reviewed sources. Those sources written by the actual members of a minority group (sexual, racial, ethnic, religion, cultural...) are excluded if the person does not have academic credentials. They are excluded while someone who has read about them and written about them is included even if they have no practical lived experience.
The issue here ladies and gentlemen is not just these articles it is one of credentialism. Through that this policy effects all of Wikipedia.--Hfarmer (talk) 15:37, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
The fact that this issue has not been successfully resolved in the appropriate forum does not, I think, change the appropriate forum. In the discussions on RSN that Hfarmer provided, it still looks like a question of whether the particular source is reliable, not really about the rule to be applied. That is, are the letters open submissions or are they not, are they as reliable as the peer-reviewed piece to which they respond in the same journal or are they not, etc. Blueboar is right: this is not reason to change the way we phrase the caution about self-published sources. Charging that this is an issue of credentialism and that SPS wording should be changed to reflect that makes me think that this is an attempt to enervate the prejudice in favor of peer-reviewed sources that forms the bedrock of our verifiability policy. While that is certainly something that would affect all of Wikipedia, it would do so negatively and it is much larger than simply "clarifying" what is meant by a self-published source. RJC TalkContribs 16:38, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Thankyou all. No one can now say that I did not make a completely honest try to do everything to be as fair as possible to the sources in question. (i.e. calling me a schill or attacking me like mad of WP Google my name to find what I mean.) It is now up to the other editors who want this to step forward or shut up. --Hfarmer (talk) 16:54, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

Hfarmer, I think you are conflating issues. You seem to think that WP:SPS is about academic vs. non-academic, but this is not so. SPS only requires, effectively, a professional vetting layer, ideally consisting of paid professionals, between the author and the final published version, for us to consider a source not "self published". It does not require the source to be "academic", although if the view being presented represents only a tiny fringe minority, it may be excluded per WP:NPOV. Crum375 (talk) 18:21, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
I think that it's a combination of the two. The policy could use changes that add a few more metrics regarding sourcing suitability (I would start with 1. objectivity and 2. expertise in the area of what in particular it was used to cite) which would de-emphasize the current two a bit. And I think that that would help avoid or solve some issues. But as a practical matter, that isn't a practical plan to solve a current problem. North8000 (talk) 19:19, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
We have been hacking away at this for three years. If it takes a year to ammend this policy in such a way that sources like the ones I have described are acceptable then so be it.
The current policy treats a book written by members of an Indian tribe about themselves and their tribe as less credible than a paper written by someone who's only studied them by reading old literature. It's insane to rely completely on the awarding of academic credentials (which is by now means a completely merit based thing. Race and class are always factors.)
Sure this problem I have had is what made me come here, but their are problems like it all over WP. --Hfarmer (talk) 21:54, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
If the Indians describe themselves without making unduly self-serving claims about themselves, or allegations about others, the source would be acceptable even if it's self-published, since we allow subjects to tell us about themselves in a restricted fashion. If they submit their work to a reputable publisher who vets it for liability and accuracy, that would no longer be self-published, and if the publisher has a reputation for accuracy and fact-checking, it would be a regular reliable source. All this has nothing to do with academic qualifications or expertise, and would be achieved with the current policy wording, as written. Where do you think a change is needed? Crum375 (talk) 22:11, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Well, if an individual makes a claim about him/herself that is one thing, but making claims about one's ethnic group is making claims about others. Moreover, any claim that someone makes about themselves that is contested by a reliable source seems to me to be self-serving in that it advances a position in which they have a significant stake. I thought the exceptions regarding WP:SPS involve things like "I went to public school in Marietta, Georgia," rather than "this large-n study about my tribe's genetics is wrong." RJC TalkContribs 23:02, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I agree with much, though not all, of what you say. The SPS exclusion allows an individual to present his own side of the story, but I agree that this does not include presenting a scientific study or analysis, since that's information about the study, not the individual directly. I also agree that making statements about your entire group would be improper if it's controversial and not unanimously accepted by the group members. Where I disagree is that in general, it is not "self serving" to defend yourself against an accusation, and we generally allow individuals to rebut allegations made against them, even if the rebuttal is on their personal (verified) blog or is otherwise self-published. But this rebuttal should be simple and factual: "I didn't steal the cookie from the jar", not analytical or technical: "my DNA is XYZ which is inconsistent with the data from ABC". Still, if a respected publisher with a good reputation for accuracy and fact checking publishes the group's story, it would be a bona-fide reliable source and can be used, although perhaps as a minority view. Crum375 (talk) 01:35, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

Well here's a thumbnail for my idea of a total rework of the sourcing-specific part of WP:VER / WP?NOR:
The more contested the statement, the stronger the sourcing required. And vica versa
Strength of sourcing is a combination of these 5 factors
  1. Degree of compliance with current publishing / review related RS policy standards
  2. Degree of compliance with current primary / secondary / tertiary policy standards
  3. Expertise of the source in the area of the topic that used it as a source
  4. Objectivity of the source in the area of the topic that used it as a source
  5. Probably one more that I forget at the moment or haven't thought of yet
This would tend to de-emphasize the current metrics (#1 & #2) a bit, and make it more realistic, and provide a better framework for resolution of issues . Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 23:00, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
In principle I agree that the more contested a statement the stronger the sourcing requiered. Again that leads to the issue of privilleging academic sources over non academic sources. Which is a problem when the issue at hand is a group of people who might just write a thing or two about themselves.
That said I propose the following. Self published sources are sources in which the author had sole discretion in publishing or not publishing a given work. These sources are to be discouraged unless the author is a recognized expert in the field, writing about themself, or writing about a group of people to which they belong. Careful attention has to be paid to possible bias in such sources. Something along these lines.
The issue that I have and that many articles have is that often inaccurate, or biased information is presented because of the non-regonition of expertise gained via lived experience. Plenty of people who don't have much book learnins might be able to write about the culture they belong to like an expert on their own culture, for example. --Hfarmer (talk) 14:08, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

arbitrary section break

OK... Hfarmer makes the argument that we are omitting sources that should not be omitted... let's take a look at this the other way. Would the change that Hfarmer proposes lead to any undesirable results... would this change allow a source that we can agree should not be allowed (and is not allowed under our current wording)? Blueboar (talk) 15:08, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
It would mean that letters to the editor or posted on someone else's blog would no longer be self-published sources. RJC TalkContribs 17:18, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
IMO, RJC is correct: An accurate definition of self-publishing means that letters to the editor would no longer be considered self-published. It is not necessary for us to consider letters to the editor to be reliable merely because they are not self-published. Self-published is not a synonym for "unreliable", and properly published is not a code word for "reliable". We need to quit invoking WP:SPS as a code phrase for a lack of editorial independence and subject-matter independence. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:07, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Right RJC. Technically the Huffington Post is a blog. Yet it has editors and moderators who vet what goes up there and more readership than the Washington post. Under current policy it's just a blog and inspite of the fact that none of the bloggers have final editorial say... it is treated as if it were a personal web space.
Letters to the editor that appear in academic journals are often only published if they are interesting at least in the estimation of the editor and have no obvious errors.
Though I can see where that could be abused. i.e. if someone simply copies something that someone else wrote. However our system of RfC ing anything controversial can sort things like that out. Further the way we write the text could deal with this. ie. saying so and so said in a letter to the editor.. or mentioning that something is a letter to the editor in the citation.
What we have now is a policy written for the 19th century operating on a 21st century medium. A policy which favors print on paper just because it's on paper.--Hfarmer (talk) 18:11, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Precisely because the Huffington Post has such a vetting process, things posted to it are not self-published sources. Even granting that some academic journals publish vetted letters to the editor, we would not want to phrase things such that letters to the Podunkaville Cryer are treated as having been vetted (e.g., if the decision to publish is based mainly on length, relation to previous day's news, etc., but not any sort of checked accuracy). And we don't want posts to an online rumor mill to no longer be self-published just because it is someone else's blog. RJC TalkContribs 18:40, 11 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, yes. What we have now is a policy which as I said is far to narrow. It takes away all of the editor and communities discretion in these matters. By blanket prohibiting ALL blogs, that are not liked to a recognized expert (which in practice seems to mean someone with a PhD. or equivalent standing in academia). A practice which allows at most 3% to 4% of the population to have a chance of being considered "reliable" by WP if they publish online.
Many of the problems with this policy could be solved by relying a bit more on the RfC process and RS/N to settle any disputed source issues based on the merit of each source. Right now people are using legalistic points about these policies on how something is published instead of what is said in the source to determine it's credibility and reliability.--Hfarmer (talk) 01:32, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
But the policy as written doesn't draw a bright line, let alone one in the wrong place. As written, there can be debates over what constitutes a self-published source and whether the reference in question falls into that category. Self-published source is not defined. Your initial complaint was that the guideline was not specific enough and you sought to introduce some specificity. RJC TalkContribs 02:47, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
I think what I meant to say in my last comment is that we can debate over what self published sources should be included. Right now if your writing an article on widgetology, the only self published sources that can be included are those of a person who has a PhD. In widgetology. The people who make, sell or use the widgets 9/10 times will not get to be heard from. The current policy's practical effect is to unduely favor academics over every day people with practical experiences. --Hfarmer (talk) 03:54, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
We've gone in a circle again. That is not a question of self-published sources but of our preference for recognized expertise. I have no problem preferring experts. RJC TalkContribs 03:57, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── This may seem too broad for this section, except that it is a "forest for the trees" situation even for this discussion. The problem and the solution is that wp:ver has too few metrics for sources, and that it makes each one of the stand-alone and castegorical. If one adds 2 more metrics (expertise and objectivity) to the current two, and take them in total (i.e. remove the "stand-alone-categorical" basis from the current "publishing" criteria then those criteria really are OK vs. being problematic as they currently are. They currently exclude good sources and let in bad ones. For example, reporter written newspaper articles pass the current test with flying colors, yet are rife with flat out errors, and stupidity and strong bias about the topic that they are writing about. So, if Einstein were alive and wrote a blog about Relativity, it would be excluded, but a clueless newspaper reporter trying to summarize what Einstein wrote would be acceptable. I just saw that happen locally on a local technical topic. (the city explaining some smart grid plans) The unacceptable "primary" and "self published" source (videotape of a presentation from an engineer) had it perfectly right, the "secondary" and "editorially reviewed" source (newspaper article) had it ridiculously wrong. North8000 (talk) 13:44, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

I just want to correct some things that Hfarmer said above. First, here is no blanket prohibition against "ALL blogs that are not liked to a recognized expert"... What we prohibit are personal blogs (with the expert exemption). And we do allow for "amature" experts... expert status is determined by consensus, and whether a specific person qualifies often depends on the specific topic of the article. Blueboar (talk) 17:40, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with North that WP:V should acknowledge more aspects to determining whether a source is "reliable". Ideally, a reliable source would be properly published, and written by an expert and be independent of the subject -- and when the problem is a lack of expertise or independence, then ideally editors would say "This is not an expert" or "This is a shill for this company", rather than "This is self-published." WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:53, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
I really wish the people who were so keen on getting certain excluded sources included would come here and help.--Hfarmer (talk) 18:19, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
Regarding North8000's desire to add two metrics to the verifiability criteria, I'm not sure about them. I don't know that we want to require that the author be a recognized expert, so long as the journal is related to the topic. If a physicist wants to write something about Mayan glyphs and he gets it published in the right places, it is a reliable source. As to the question of objectivity or separation from the subject, I don't know how that could work in practice. A pharmaceutical company funds a clinical trial and that somehow makes the findings less reliable, even if they were published in a peer-reviewed journal? I don't see the problem to be solved. Science writers get things wrong, of course, but it is not as though the only source we have for what is right is Einstein's blog entry. In fact, if Einstein has an idea that he can't get published, I don't know that we want to treat it as more accurate than some science writer's summary of published research. RJC TalkContribs 22:06, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
I suppose what we need in this case is to look at the whole policy not just SPS. Naming 3-5 reliability criteria. Furthermore if a source makes an uncontroversial claim and 4/5 of the criteria are met in the editors estimation, then it's good.
These news standards should/could also suggest a way of orderly dispute resolution... a system of scoring how well a source meets each criteria on a scale from 1- just barely to 10- perfect. So in an RfC over a contested source an editor could write. I give this source a 7 in neutrality, and a 3 in the expertness of the author, and a 10 for how it was published since it was in a journal... and such. --Hfarmer (talk) 16:48, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
Numbers don't make things less subjective. They only give the appearance of objectivity. We "score" journals articles and books all the time during our yearly merit review process; we "calculate" teaching effectiveness and "rate" service. We have a variety of "metrics" for our self-assessment. If someone's source needs a 9 on the source-visibility scale to overcome its 1 on the fringiness metric, do you really think they'll assent to an 8? RJC TalkContribs 16:57, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
(ec) I don't think you can quantify, or legislate, common sense. Wikipedia's rules, including verifiability, are all based primarily on common sense, along with guiding principles. For verifiability, the guiding principles are that the publisher of the sourced material must have a reputation for fact checking and accuracy, and cannot be self published — i.e. a person publishing his own material, without vetting by a professional staff, is generally considered unreliable as a source. But to go and try to nail down "reliable source" (or any other wiki-criterion) by a quantitative or algorithmic formula would be futile, since each situation is different. In other words, we need to use our heads, individually and collectively. If there are disputes, we need to get a consensual reading of how the general policies and guidelines apply to the specific case in point, and by trial and error get there. There is no magic formula for this process, any more than there is one for life. Crum375 (talk) 17:09, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually there exist formulas that cover large parts of life for example the Einstein–Hilbert action which describes gravity. It looks simple and if you know the math it is simple. Part of the problem that was pointed out with having five metrics for reliablity was how to measure such a thing. I made a suggestion. What is your suggestion Crum375? Should we not do anything? --Hfarmer (talk) 18:49, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I don't think any metrics or formulas are needed, beyond the basic principles already in the policies and guidelines. But I do agree about the equivalence you mention, because here too we need to achieve our aims "through the principle of least action." Crum375 (talk) 19:32, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

Which is why I proposed a minimalist defninition for self published. "Self-publication is when the person or group that writes the material ("author") is the same person or group that decides to publish it ("publisher")." What's wrong with that? Right now something is formally considered self published if you published it say on a blog like Huffington post. (Which has become a major source for news to many). Right now something is self published even though many non-academic people consider the person who wrote it to be an expert. Can we please realize that there exist experts who are not academics. --Hfarmer (talk) 20:07, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
Your definition of SPS won't fly, since it includes The New York Times. This issue has been debated to death here. (And our policies nowhere require reliable sources to be academics.) Crum375 (talk) 20:22, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
No your policies requier that a self published source as it is now defined is only reliable if the person is an expert.
Then the policies requier that an expert be published in the form of non self published books or articles in a peer reviewed journal.
When dealing with topics such as say ethnography, sexuality, gender identity, culture, or religion this leads to a glaring inequality. The vast majority of people do not have the credentials that it takes to get published in the form of a book or a peer reviewed journal. The credential it takes to be so published is in general a PhD.
I know people have this notion that Peer review is this blinded process that is never biased. In real life many editors will not even send for review an article which was not written by a PhD. or with the help of a PhD. (a so called "endorser"). The whole process assumes that anyone who would even attempt a journal publication is a PhD. So even if it's not in the actual code of the policy the effect is to freeze out anyone who isn't a PhD. from being able to just write their personal experiences and offer them as a source for Wikipedia.
Such personal experiences could be quite informative when dealing with cultures and groups of people who are small and about whom there is very little peer reviewed literature, or that literature is considered biased by the community being studied. --Hfarmer (talk) 05:28, 15 August 2010 (UTC)
IMHO the underlying weaknesses WP:VER are:
  1. It is too binary regarding the strength of sourcing required. Right now, as written, all of the sourcing requirements (including all of the source criteria) apply to every sentence written in Wikipedia. As a result 90% of Wikipedia violates Wp:ver/WP:nor as written. Yet it is still too lax for some situations. My idea is: the more contested the statement is, the stronger sourcing required. And vica versa.
  2. It is missing two metrics for sources: objectivity and expertise. My idea: add those two.
  3. Each source criteria is categorical vs. them being taken together. My idea: consider the metrics together.

North8000 (talk) 10:48, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

North, we've been through this with you on other pages. The fact is that 90% of Wikipedia does not violate the policies as written. You have been given repeated opportunities to identify any single article that violates these policies at your claimed 90% level, and if memory serves, you failed to produce even one single sentence that violates these policies (despite everyone agreeing that these exist). You did, however, demonstrate a shocking level of ignorance about the actual policies as written, e.g., claiming that every noun in the first sentence of an article needs its own inline citation.
WP:V already says that stronger sources are required for controversial statements. See WP:REDFLAG. Editors are already able to consider all the criteria together. (I agree that objectivity should be more prominently discussed.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:39, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Arbitrary Section Break 2

I see where you are coming from articles that are uncontroversial have very weak sourcing at times. I have came up against this in articles on the Vietnam war. (One side will change defeats into their victories or "indecisive".) Sources are often one sided, absent or very thin.

I think your suggestion on five criterion of which who wrote something is only one of those and does not trump the others. That is a good idea. Who wrote something really has little bearing on weather or not it is factual. Even experts can have agenda's.--Hfarmer (talk) 13:39, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't see how you will define "expert" and "objective" in a way that can be generally used. The current "non-self-published" and "peer-reviewed" attempt to ensure the information is from a recognized objective expert. What will replace that filter? We can't just say "only allow factual information." --John (User:Jwy/talk) 23:22, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Well it would have to be a bit fuzzy to allow some flexibility.
I would say an expert is someone who is considered an expert by the relevant community or communities. Expertise could be determined from finding many references to their self published work (including links to their work on the internet), or from their having some status academic or not that would confer expertise.
Using my favorite example suppose an Indian tribal elder wrote a book about the culture of their tribe, it's oral history and such. Then they published it themselves via LULU or a similar service. If the fact that person is a tribal elder is verifiable, then that should give them expertise.
Where as right now one could point to SPS and say an expert must have published a peer reviewed book or journal somewhere in order to make the SPS usable at all.
Do you see the difference what I propose would make?--Hfarmer (talk) 06:26, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Are you willing to have that standard applied to physics-related articles? If my own tiny community reveres me as an expert, and I'm promoting an idea widely rejected by mainstream scientists, then do I get to re-write those articles to include my theory that cold fusion can be performed if enough people around the world meditate? WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:44, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes. I am. Here's why. When talking about fringe science their are going to be ample sources that support and refute that science. What we do now is cover both types of evidence. For every webpage about cold fusion that has any standing within a fringe cold fusion research community... their is one outside that community to refute it. Use them all.--Hfarmer (talk) 00:45, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
That would seem to go against the consensus expressed at WP:FRINGE - which I realize now is where this discussion should probably take place. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 05:47, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Not quite because what we are talking about more specifically is the use of SPS's in relation to a non fringe scientific theory. The issue that brought me here was a theory in psychology about the causation of transsexuality in biological males. In a sentence it basically says that all male to female transsexuals are either fetishistic cross dressers to the extreme, or really very gay men.
Now the transsexual community has written many things to refute these assertions and express their disagreement. Almost none of them have been published in a peer reviewed source. They don't have academic standing in the proper fields. The thing is almost all of these things run afoul of the current policy on self published sources. The result is that these articles have a systematic bias in favor of the sexologist.
One can think of other similar examples. Any article about a group of people, it could be a psychological, or anthropological article. The people with the credentials and standing to get somehting published may take one point of view. The people being written about may take another point of view but don't have the academic standing that it takes to get something published in the pertinent journals etc. So they self publish. Under current rules any such article will have a systematic bias in favor of those with academic standing in such a situation. When trust me having a degree does not mean you know what you are talking about.
I realize that the current wording does not mention academic degree's it mentions publishing in peer or editorially reviewed sources. In real life the only people who publish in such sources are people with advanced degree's... many editors will reject a submission from someone without such a degree out of hand. Wikipedia needs to do something to respond to cases like this. --Hfarmer (talk) 13:46, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Fresh eyes would be appreciated

Yet another science-related sourcing guideline is being proposed at Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (science-related articles). Fresh eyes would be appreciated to make sure it does not turn into a sourcing fork of this policy, or an SPOV fork of NPOV. Already my efforts to ensure newspapers are not ruled out as reliable sources have been reverted. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:24, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

I see you've posted this notice on several talk pages... but that you've never left a note on the proposal's talk page. Is there some particular reason that you're unable to edit the proposal's talk page? I would think that editors would be interested in hearing about your concerns if you would take the time to explain them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:57, 24 August 2010 (UTC)


"University-level textbooks" should not be collated with non-academic sources. Is there any particular reason why they're mentioned in the same sentence? Fvasconcellos (t·c) 02:40, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

It's more complex than that. Intro-level textbooks are not necessarily written by those with deep expertise in a given field. Commercial considerations also play a major, major role in intro-level textbooks and significantly influence the content. Upper-division and (post)graduate textbooks are more like academic sources. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 03:17, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Of course it is. But a "graded" editorial approach is better when dealing with "graded" secondary/tertiary sources (as these), and we shouldn't oversimplify—that can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings. Perhaps WP:RS is a better place for this discussion, but I still think it should be explored in further detail. Fvasconcellos (t·c) 12:42, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Citation of geographical coordinates

I have been told that it is not necessary to cite the coordinates supplied by {{coord}} and related templates. Is this mistaken? If they need sources, what kind of sources would be required? Mangoe (talk) 19:31, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

I would cite them anyway, if you can. Try using one of the sites listed in Wikipedia:Obtaining geographic coordinates as a source. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 13:41, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

RfC on in-text attribution

Fresh eyes would be appreciated on an RfC about whether, in using in-text attribution for sources on the Historicity of Jesus, we should include whether that source is an ordained minister or similar. See Talk:Historicity_of_Jesus#RfC_on_in-text_attribution. Many thanks, SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:06, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Verifiability definition

I want to change the "Access to sources" section so it reads:

"Verifiability of sources means that anyone should be able to confirm whether or not material in a Wikipedia article has already been published by a reliable source....."

The sentence should say explicitly that "verifiability" refers to "sources," rather than the somewhat weasel-worded "in this context."

As written, the sentence says "anyone should be able to check," which of course is true--anyone can check. But the sentence should make explicit the purpose of checking.

Comments, please? Thanks. DonFB (talk) 21:27, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

It's not the sources that we verify, but the material, or the text-source integrity. We check that the material is in the source. "Verify" isn't a good word for that, but we inherited it, and people are reluctant to change it. So that's why we say "verify in this context means ..." (or words to that effect). SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:57, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Agree with SV. It's not brilliantly worded (the "context" is that of the policy, not the section, and the policy is then mentioned separately later in the sentence) but it makes its point clearly enough. And I'm not keen on "whether or not" replacing "that"; that seems a backward step as it loses a germane implication. PL290 (talk) 09:15, 28 August 2010 (UTC)

HaeB's edit

I have reverted[11] the edit by HaeB. I do not see the above discussion as giving anything like a consensus for that change and in fact a number of objections have been raised. Nsk92 (talk) 06:40, 28 August 2010 (UTC)

This page needs more cats. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:59, 12 September 2010 (UTC)

WP:PAYWALL and freely accessible sources

Earlier today, I made this edit to the page, but was reverted six minutes later. What I wished to add to the section on accessibility of sources was "However, in cases where an equally reliable and more easily accessible source can be located, it should be used in preference or in addition to a source that is more difficult to access." The intent of this was to promote the use of peer-reviewed open access journals and the like, so that it would be easier for people wishing to check references and research further to do so. I am not sure why that is a bad idea... NW (Talk) 22:48, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

The reverter didn't say it was a bad idea, they said that it needed to be discussed first. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:57, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I suppose I reverted the edit for the same reason you are in favor of it: it is not our place to promote (or not promote) open-access journals, or indeed any source over any other source. Whatever source the editor has at hand should suffice, and I don't think our policies should show favoritism beyond the minimal requirements of verifiability. Of course, if an editor wishes to refer to open source journals that is fine, so long as they are reliable sources, but that is different from saying that everyone should prefer the use of such journals. RJC TalkContribs 22:59, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
The vast majority of people reading Wikipedia will be doing so from home, office, or mobile internet connections. A very small subset will be reading from academic and industry institutions and corporations that would have access to journals that one would have to pay for. Clearly, something like BMJ is just as reliable as Journal of the American Medical Association. The former is freely accessible and the latter is pay-to-view. Why should we not encourage the use of the former over the latter, or at the very least, both instead of just the latter? NW (Talk) 23:15, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Personally I don't approve of the proposed addition. The ease of access to or availability of a source has never, and should never, be a factor in verifiability. I know it is not the intent of the change... but people would use it to argue that we should prefer on-line sources over dead tree sources (and I strongly disagree with that idea). Blueboar (talk) 23:21, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
I would definitely strongly oppose something like that. Could you think of anyway to wordsmith my addition to bring it more in line with what I actually meant? (see my BMJ/JAMA example above) NW (Talk) 23:24, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
It may be true that most readers will not have access to the best sources, but I don't know that is a reason to prefer one set of sources over another. Verifiability is there to make sure we aren't just making stuff up. The proposed addition would augment that mission, I think. RJC TalkContribs 00:51, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry, could you clarify? I'm not sure if I understood you properly. NW (Talk) 02:02, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I think BMJ vs. Journal of the American Medical Association if one finds an article in one that provides useful information for an article, it is unlikely one will find an article in the other that is equally suitable. A better example would be a modern paper printing of a 19th century English novel vs. the Project Gutenberg edition of the same novel. In any case, I think the editors are frugal enough that there will be little problem with using sources that are more expensive than necessary, and I'd hate to put in anything that can be used as an excuse to suppress material from high quality journals. Jc3s5h (talk) 02:28, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry. I was trying to say that the fact that the majority of Wikipedia's readers do not access it from a library where they could find the traditional journals is not a reason to change the policy. The purpose of verifiability is to ensure that our content is high quality, even accurate. I would say that anything that does not contribute primarily to that goal should not be a part of policy. Otherwise, we get into issues of mission creep. So, a preference for open-access journals does not contribute to the core mission of verifiability, however much consensus there might be among Wikipedia editors that they would like free access to the latest research. I don't think we should have a preference for or against open-access journals as a part of our policy on what it takes to show that we aren't just making the encyclopedia up as we go along. RJC TalkContribs 14:07, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually, emphasizing paywalled sources can have a devastating effect on quality in that they are quite difficult to verify. Thus someone can cite a paywalled source as saying something when the source does not say it at all, and the chances that it gets verified are slim to none. See Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Jagged_85 for an example. On the other hand, if someone uses an open-access/self-archived source, it may be a little lower-quality but it has still been peer-reviewed and we can easily check that it says what it is purported to say. Further, the readers benefit enormously from having much more detail available at the click of a link. I can understand the concern with the language, but ultimately I support NuclearWarfare's edit to the page and personally nearly always search for open-access sources as a starting point. II | (t - c) 14:16, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
The purpose of verifiability is to ensure that our content is high quality, even accurate. I would say that anything that does not contribute primarily to that goal should not be a part of policy. - I absolutely agree with this, but you seem to be overlooking that the free availability of a source very directly contributes to that goal. The point of citing sources is to enable others to check statements, and the easier it is made for them, the better the factual accuracy will become. To put it another way, it is already a well-known strategy among hoaxers to cite publications that are reputable but are hard to access.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 14:29, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
The problem with hoaxes is an interesting one, although I haven't seen it. In any case, it is one thing to build an case around an article in a 1914 journal that only ever published 3 volumes and is currently held only in Winnipeg. It is another to require that a journal have free online access. What precisely is the change intended to accomplish? Are we going to replace non-open-access citations with open-access ones? That would just be silly and wouldn't contribute to solving the hoax problem. Are we going to augment existing citations with open-access ones? That is already possible under existing policies, although it would be more the realm of a WikiProject than a policy change. Are we going to demand that, before someone adds a citation, they search for an open-access alternative? That sounds like a make-work project and certainly not something that should be built into policy (concurring with WP:DIG, WP:KISS, and WP:KUDZU). So, while I agree that the core mission of verifiability could be enhanced if facts were easily verifiable, a stated preference for open-access journals does not seem to be a good way to do so. Haven't we already discussed whether sources must be online, or whether we should prefer online sources, and come out against that? This seems even narrower than that case. RJC TalkContribs 14:45, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Exactly... we want the most reliable sources for any statement. Ease of access has nothing to do with reliability. Sometimes the most reliable source will be easily accessible... sometimes the most reliable source will not be easily accessible. We still want the most reliable source. Blueboar (talk) 14:53, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
One example of this hoaxing strategy (the one I remembered offhand, there are many more):
I appended a footnote to the section calling Handel a "Nazi" with a reference to an article in the Oxford Times, a reliable source, to be sure, but one of which there is no digital archive anywhere ... (WebCite). What could he [the Wikipedian trying to fact-check the fake] do now? It was referenced to a "reliable source" and therefore untouchable, never mind that no such article had ever been published.
This lead to the hoax article being featured on the Main Page for six hours, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2010-03-08/News and notes.
As for your objections, they are mostly valid in principle, but seem to be addressed in NuclearWarfare's suggested wording, esepecially by the "equally reliable" precondition. Of course one wouldn't want to discourage offline or paywalled sources altogether (i.e. when there is no such alternative), I have cited many such sources myself. Regards, HaeB (talk) 15:15, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
If anything, I would say that "equally reliable" precondition makes things less problematic. How would my objections not refer to any statement of preference, not matter how worded? RJC TalkContribs 15:23, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I too would you agree that the phrase inclusion of the phrase "equally reliable" would make my addition not-problematic. Is that what you meant? NW (Talk) 15:36, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
No, I think the statement of preference is itself problematic. HaeB suggested that it was only the "equally reliable" phrase that made it problematic. I think its absence would make the statement of preference more problematic, but even with it the statement still seems to run into the problems with any statement of preference (either non-open-access sources must be replaced, or they must be there in tandem, or editors should do additional work, none of which seem appropriate policy changes). RJC TalkContribs 15:40, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I think this is a bad idea. This page should not be advocating selection of sources based on price. The concept would make a fine essay, though. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:30, 17 August 2010 (UTC)


Rebooting this then, as I see valid comments made above. What about an addition like this:

However, in cases where the best source will be difficult for the layperson to obtain, if possible, editors should (but are by no means required to) attempt to add a second reliable yet more accessible source to the article in addition to the best source.

Not really the best of wording, I think you can get my intention? NW (Talk) 20:28, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

It still sounds like an essay or WikiProject, not a policy or guideline. RJC TalkContribs 20:58, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Policies merely encourage things all the time, see WP:NONENG and all of Wikipedia:Conflict of interest. NW (Talk) 21:07, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Note also that the content guideline Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine-related articles) says "When all else is equal, it is better to cite a source whose full text is freely readable, so that your readers can follow the link to the source." NW (Talk) 18:23, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
You also have to consider the longevity of the source. Those paywall journals, online or in-print, are likely to be around forever. A free web-only source can disappear, and many have. I prefer a dead tree source whenever possible. -- SWTPC6800 (talk) 00:46, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
That is why one would cite both, and use webcitation if there is even a chance that it would disappear... NW (Talk) 03:41, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
My personal opinion is that such paywall sources should only be used if someone has actually looked at the paper being referenced in full. (Sometimes it's possible to find a copy of the PDF of such a source published unofficially on the internet.) Very often we end up relying only on the abstracts of the articles which can be a little misleading at times.
To look at all such sources will sound expensive. However WP has allot of contributors who have academic positions as students, or faculty at universities. Many universities have institutional subscriptions to thousands of journals. So we should try to enlist such Wikipedians to look these sources up for those who cannot. I know that sounds like allot of work. Did anyone say writing an encyclopedia would be a walk in the park? --Hfarmer (talk) 13:53, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
We should try to make it as much of a walk in the park as possible, lest "the encyclopedia anyone can edit" in practice mean "the encyclopedia anyone without a job can edit." At the very least, we shouldn't make it more difficult. RJC TalkContribs 14:06, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
"Paywall sources should only be used if someone has actually looked at the paper being referenced in full." Game, set and match to Hfarmer. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 15:15, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
We already have that service: Wikipedia:WikiProject Resource Exchange. Additionally, most of the larger WikiProjects have a few people who have access to an unusual number of sources in the relevant area. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:41, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
I have access to most paywalled sources, but the average reader will not, nor will they have any idea about that particular WikiProject. That's who my addition was aimed at. NW (Talk) 23:52, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
"Those paywall journals, online or in-print, are likely to be around forever" - for online journals, this is unfounded speculation. There is good reason to assume that quite the opposite is true. While the library system ensures that old print journals remain available when their publisher goes out of business, there isn't much experience yet with what happens when the publisher of a paywalled online journal goes out of business. It is very well possible that old journals will become unavailable when the company's servers are switched off. Open access journals, on the other hand, benefit from the possibility of archival by third parties (many are already doing so, e.g. the Internet Archive). Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:19, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
The recent changes to WP:PAYWALL are encouraging people to include sources that they have not actually used. IMO this is borderline dishonest: editors need to cite their real sources, not "pretend" sources that they found later.
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a bibliography or cheat-sheet for college students who aren't allowed to cite Wikipedia on their papers. We need to name the actual sources that we actually used. If the fact is easily verifiable through other sources, then that's great -- but our readers are smart enough to ask their favorite web search engines for alternative sources; we don't need to spoonfeed them. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:39, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Even "if it can be verified that both support the claim", there's still no plausible reason for demanding that editors produce twice as many citations as are actually necessary. Either PAYWALLed sources are sufficient and appropriate, or they're not. This idea that editors who are using high-quality sources need to spam a bunch of free (as in "free beer") sources into an already-well-cited article is not working for me. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:26, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Asking people to perform a simple courtesy if they can ("should", not "must") does not equal demand. Our purpose is to provide information to readers, including follow-up citations should they wish to look information up. If the vast majority of them cannot access, for example, an article in Nature, then we can at least do them the courtesy of linking them to an open access journal that they can read. If the book used to support a quotation by a historical figure is out-of-print and the same information might exist on a university website, then why shouldn't we encourage people to link that as well? NW (Talk) 23:51, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

I think paywall and offline sources are generally fine, but there are occasions where they're problematic. I ran into one bad-faith editor who deliberately used hard-to-check sources as a way to sneak bogus information into an article - he'd cite things like "Interview in Playboy Magazine, 1987", or old copies of small-circulation newspapers that don't have an online archive, or records in the archives of a specific court. On the occasions where we were able to check his sources, we almost invariably found they didn't support his edits; in some cases they didn't even exist as cited. He made a lot of use of socks and IP edits, so banning didn't solve the problem.

In that situation, I don't think the usual approach works - it puts us in a position where one malicious editor can spend a couple of minutes faking a source, and we have to spend much longer checking it before we can remove the 'cited' rubbish (from a BLP, at that). Context matters. --GenericBob (talk) 00:58, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

That is a problem, but I don't know that this addition is a way to resolve that. The person doing that would still claim, after all, that they don't have a good easily-available source, which would be fine even under the new wording. Again, since I do not see what good the proposed addition can do if it is reasonable, I oppose adding anything to its effect (since for it to have an effect, it must be an unreasonable request for additional busiwork, not citing the source they actually used, etc.). RJC TalkContribs 02:05, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I agree with NW that some words to this effect would be helpful, because editors are increasingly using material that can only be accessed (easily) via a university database. So I would support wording along the lines of: "When source material lies behind a paywall, editors are encouraged, though not required, to supply a second, equivalent source that is more accessible." I can't see the harm in putting it in the form of a gentle reminder. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:37, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

I also support NW's new wording -- it seems very sensible to me to include a suggestion to keep the majority of our readers (who don't have access to academic journals) in mind, and provide free alternatives in addition to whatever non-free sources we might have, whenever possible. This will make verifying information easier, and will increase people's confidence in the correctness of the articles in question. Even if you wish to ignore the (bulletproof) argument that non-free sources are much less likely to be verified and are likely to be abused, there is still no harm that would come from including NW's addition. If people want to ignore the suggestion, they can. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 07:01, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Why require double citations?
If the community has a goal of providing free-beer sources to readers, then the community should have enough courage to come out and say that: i.e., "If you have a choice between a (at least minimally acceptable) free-beer-online source and an excellent offline source or a high-quality source behind a paywall, then you should always choose the free-beer-online source for the convenience of readers and future editors".
And if we don't happen to believe this, then we shouldn't be pushing double citations, and should instead let readers and future editors find their own free-beer-online sources. (After all, if it's always so quick and easy for the original editor to search for and cite two perfectly good sources for every statement in an article previously supported by a PAYWALLed source, then presumably future editors will be smart enough and have plenty of time to find just the second source themselves.)
I don't think that you're all grasping reality here: Double citations cost us time and energy, and the only people who will follow the directions are the ones whose time could be better spent on more productive activities. Maybe the thing to do is this: Go pick a long, well-written article in some technical field (which can be presumed to have lots of non-free-beer sources). I'll suggest Schizophrenia, if you can't find one on your own. Identify and double-cite every single one of the claims to make it be a stellar example of what you think is best practice. Then come back and tell us how long that took you. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:50, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
While I support your strong defense of ensuring we use high quality sources, you don't appear to be addressing the modifications suggested here. The suggestions are not REQUIRING easily reached resources (free doesn't always mean poor), only SUGGESTING they be provided if the editor chooses and the editor finds EQUIVALENT, easily reached resources. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:01, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I strongly oppose any requirements here, and have serious concerns as to "suggesting". A reliable source is a reliable source, whether it is easy to access or not. We should not even hint that free-online-easy to access is in some way "better", because that simply isn't true. My problem is that by suggesting it, we imply a preference that does not exist. Blueboar (talk) 19:16, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
That is an argument I struggle with. It is true accessibility does not influence the reliability of a source and should be ignored in assessing reliability. But more people are available to verify the information if it is in a more accessible place. If the same article is available both behind a paywall and free, Wikipedia would be better served if the free version is referenced. But trying to say that in these guidelines without diluting the important message of using the best sources may prove impossible. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 20:19, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Why should we not "hint that free-online-easy to access is in some way "better"? It is better in one way -- namely that any editor can quickly and easily verify information from them, whereas with non-free sources, most people will not be able to verify things easily, if at all. This is not to imply that free sources are generally "superior" or "better". But as far as accessibility and ensuring accuracy of our articles through verifiability, free sources are more helpful to the large majority of users. Nobody is talking about forcing people to choose free articles over non-free, or forcing them to find free articles. They are only suggesting that we make a suggestion that if you feel like it it might be helpful (not superior) to find high-quality free sources in addition to any non-free sources you wish to cite. Nobody has really given a reason why such a suggestion shouldn't be made, other than setting up straw men about how we are telling readers that they should prefer free sources, implying that free sources are always superior to non-free, or are forcing them to find free sources, etc. None of these are true. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 20:36, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── My point is that the value of the _information_ in a source is independent of how we are able to access it. The value of the information is the most important part of a reliable source. Yes, it helps in the _verification process_ if the information is readily accessible, but that is not enough reason to reduce our standards for the information itself. If we can find a way to not even HINT that we should reduce the quality of the information in deference to accessibility, then I would be okay with it. But doing so will be difficult, I think. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 23:19, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Straw man. Nobody is suggesting that we reduce our standards or the quality of our information. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 23:56, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
You are not understanding me. I believe you do not want to reduce the standards for information. I am just worried that any wording that attempts to encourage the use of free sources here (for verification _process_ reasons) will be interpreted as meaning they have an advantage in information quality. The distinction needs to be very clear. I welcome attempts to prove my doubts unfounded. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 03:29, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I run into many situations in scientific articles where the exact same paper, normally in PDF format, is available on some for-pay site, as well on a free site (typically the author's or their university). I generally switch the URL in the citation in such cases to the free one, to improve source accessibility, which I see as similar to "wayback-izing" a dead link. I would support careful language added to the policy which would recommend that in cases where the same online source document is available on both for-pay as well as free sites, the free URL is recommended. Crum375 (talk) 23:29, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
I think much of the above amounts to the consequence of WP's ongoing use of "verifiable" as a substitute for "verified". If we actually had a mechanism for saying "this paywalled/deadtree source has been verified by user X and user Y to support the statement in the text it is cited against", I would be much more comfortable with the use of such sources. There's a big difference between applying AGF to specific, identified editors' work and applying it to every accumulated edit. The former is a constructive social policy that enables collaboration. The latter flies in the face of our collective experience that vandalism, POV, and other problems routinely affect articles. Absent such a mechanism the use of fair-use quotes from such less-readily accessible works borders on essential to verification. As a purely practical matter, the fact that fewer such sources will be checked does mean the assertions they back are succeptible to more undetected errors. In this context free does mean better.LeadSongDog come howl! 04:19, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
  • On the comment by Crum375, we do need to keep in mind that self-archiving is increasingly available even if authors often don't use it - reportedly around 90% (Open_access_(publishing)#Adoption_statistics) of journals allow self-archiving. For example, both Nature (policy) and Science (policy) allow preprints to be posted on the web (with Science seemingly more restrictive), and many other journals allow for postprints. Noting the existence of these full-text freely-available copies and where to find them (Google Scholar being one of the best places to dig them out). II | (t - c) 04:43, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Some areas have real problems with sources that are trivially available online. A newspaper article about a "medical discovery" is not really an adequate substitute for the peer-reviewed journal article that it's supposedly based upon, even though they are both nominally "reliable" sources under Wikipedia's basic standards.
As a current example, one of today's problems is due to The New York Times apparently issuing a posthumous misdiagnosis that asserts baseball star Lou Gehrig didn't have Lou Gehrig's disease -- on the grounds that some hockey players have the symptoms of a completely separate motor neuron disease. The paywalled source says nothing about either Gehrig or baseball... but you'd never know that, if you focused on the free-beer-online sources.
(IMO this source shouldn't be used at all, since the original paper is definitely WP:PRIMARY literature, but providing a second, "free" source that seriously misrepresents it is far worse than citing the original..) WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:47, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Nobody was talking about using the New York Times as a free substitute for medical journals. It seems that the proposed guideline has been changed away from saying "equally reliable free source", but if that was re-inserted, it would resolve any concerns with using poor sources like the New York Times. And also, nobody is talking about using sources that misrepresent the primary source anyway -- if the equally reliable free source is not making exactly the same assertion as the non-free source, it shouldn't be used as a citation for that assertion. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 17:57, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't think you're being very practical about this. This is how it works, out there in the "real" wikiworld: I (temporarily mislay my editorial judgment and) cite the primary paper. You come along and can't get to the source, but you look around and discover the NYT story about the article, and you double-cite it per your proposal. (You are unfortunately unaware that the NYT screwed up in this instance, but it's an honest mistake.)
Next week, a new editor reads just the NYT article, because of the PAYWALL issue. The new editor changes the text of the article to reflect the misinformation in the NYT article, rather than the good information from the PAYWALLed primary source. Now the bad information is "supported" by the peer-reviewed paper -- that the new editor never read, and that the source does not support. The end result is material that is both Not True™ and unverifiable -- and it's got two authoritative-looking citations behind it, and nobody has acted in anything except the best of faith.
IMO we cannot push for double-citations and prevent this from happening -- and this scenario could never have happened, if we didn't push for extra citations to free-beer-online sources. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:12, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
In response to your scenario, I will repeat my above statement: ...nobody is talking about using sources that misrepresent the primary source anyway -- if the equally reliable free source is not making exactly the same assertion as the non-free source, it shouldn't be used as a citation for that assertion. ... so unless both the PAYWALL source AND the free source were wrong, then we don't have a problem. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 18:16, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
(P.S. I just realized that the misunderstanding might be my ambiguous use of the term "primary source" above. I should have say "the original PAYWALL source" (I meant primary as in "first"/"original", rather than in the sense of WP:PRIMARY). Was that the problem?)-- Jrtayloriv (talk) 18:18, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
And in my scenario, how exactly do you magically discover that that the NYT article misrepresents the journal article? I have specified that "You are unfortunately unaware that the NYT screwed up." I don't cite the NYT article because it's wrong; you -- not having advanced mind-reading skills, apparently -- cite NYT because you are trying to "helpfully" comply with this proposed rule for double-citations. Consequently, we are talking about (accidentally) citing sources that misrepresent the original paper. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:48, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
If WP:V is being followed, then the problem you mentioned wouldn't exist. Let me try to explain this more clearly:
For starters, assume that the PAYWALL source is both correct and of very high-quality. Now assume that the assertion that it is backing in the Wikipedia article is an accurate and neutral depiction of what the PAYWALL source actually says. That is, the assertion in the Wikipedia article is not a misrepresentation of the text of the PAYWALL source. Now somebody comes along with a hypothetical free article, of equal reliability. Two things are possible:
  1. The free article makes exactly the same claim as the PAYWALL source (i.e. it makes the exact assertion that we are putting in the Wikipedia article), and thus can be used as an additional citation per WP:V. In this case, the free article does not contradict the PAYWALL source, and thus your scenario does not occur.
  2. The free article does not make exactly the same assertion as the one in the article and PAYWALL source. In this case, we should not be using it as a source for an assertion it doesn't make, per WP:V (nor does the proposed guideline here suggest that we should). If somebody chooses to include this source anyway, then they are violating WP:V. This is not a problem with suggesting that they find a free alternative to back the assertion. It's a problem with them not finding a free alternative that backs the assertion.
Do you see what I'm saying now? The proposed guideline does not anywhere suggest that "it's a good idea to find a free source, even if it doesn't actually back the assertion being referenced to it". If your scenario occured, that's because of a problem with an editor who decided to ignore WP:V. It's not a problem with the proposed guideline.-- Jrtayloriv (talk) 19:18, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The "right" way for this to happen: the hapless editor who inserts the "NYT only" information should cite that information ONLY to the NYT (by moving the cite or adding an additional footnote). But the hapless editor has no way of knowing if he is operating under case 1 or 2 above - he is likely, with good faith - to assume he is operating under scenario 1. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 19:26, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Clarifying my first sentence: If people follow the rules, that's what should happen. The proposed change makes it much more likely that users will (in good faith) break the rules. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 20:25, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't understand what you mean by your first sentence -- could you clarify how that relates to the scenario myself and WhatamIdoing are discussing?
But as far as the editor not knowing whether they are operating under case 1 or 2 above -- I just responded to this possibility above when WhatamIdoing suggested it. Again, this a problem with the editor, not with the proposed guideline. This scenario (accidentally inserting an assertion, referenced by a source that doesn't make this assertion) is already a possibility, under the current guidelines. It is prohibited by WP:V, and should be fixed when an editor notices it. Furthermore, as has also already been stated, this problem is equally likely to occur with a PAYWALL source, and will generally be repaired more slowly than with a free, instantly accessible source. The proposed addition in no way suggests that we start violating WP:V, and in no way increases the potential for this sort of violation to occur. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 19:51, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I agree: The hapless newbie will blindly and blithely assume that all the sources contain equivalent information.
The problem is that sources usually contain more than one piece of information. So I write (in my hypothetical example) "Some forms of MND have been documented in certain professional athletes" (a fact that should be present in both the NYT article and the original paper, so Jrtayloriv might even have verified that the NYT article supported the existing statement).
But the newbie reads solely the NYT article and changes it to the big story, i.e., "A new study indicates that baseball star Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease", a "fact" that can only be found in the NYT article. Because Jrtayloriv has (in my hypothetical example) provided this unnecessary double-citation, the newbie is likely to assume that whatever's in the NYT story is actually in the journal article. If we cited only the original (i.e., the sole source actually used in writing the original statement, and thus the sole source appropriate under WP:SAYWHEREYOUGOTIT rules), the newbie would know that s/he didn't know what was in the peer-reviewed paper, and would be more likely to either leave it alone (perhaps muttering to himself about paywalls) or to create a new sentence with a separate citation (if he were already aware of the NYT story). WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:51, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Your hypothetical double-citation is a violation of WP:V, which the proposed addition does not suggest we start violating. As I said in my response above:
This scenario (accidentally inserting an assertion, referenced by a source that doesn't make this assertion) is already a possibility, under the current guidelines. It is prohibited by WP:V, and should be fixed when an editor notices it. Furthermore, as has also already been stated, this problem is equally likely to occur with a PAYWALL source, and will generally be repaired more slowly than with a free, instantly accessible source. The proposed addition in no way suggests that we start violating WP:V, and in no way increases the potential for this sort of violation to occur. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 19:55, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
No, you're wrong. Think about it: You happen to know the Truth™ (i.e., that the original scientific paper doesn't mention Lou Gehrig or baseball). The free-beer-online source is wrong -- in part. It could be used to support fact X and misinformation Y, but only fact X is in the original paper.
A less-informed, but good-faith, editor believes the news fiction is completely correct, and adds misinformation Y based on the free-beer-online source. You revert to the accurate version about fact X with a standard edit summary like "Failed verification, Lou Gehrig not mentioned in source" (because it did fail verification, as far as the original, authoritative source is concerned) -- and you get reverted, because some uninformed editor clicked on the free-beer-online source, saw that the NYT article does, indeed, mention Lou Gehrig, couldn't click on the paywalled source but blindly assumed that the NYT got it right (they often do, after all), and decided that you made a mistake.
If you hadn't insisted on citing the news fiction in the first place, then none of this would happen. A handful of people might grump about the paywall, but nobody would have screwed up the content. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:08, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
I've already responded to this above. This is a problem with the editor making the error -- a problem which is already a possibility under current guidelines, and which the proposed suggestion in no way exacerbates. Your hypothetical error-prone editor could just as easily insert misinformation from a non-free source. Both non-free and free sources can be incorrect, or can be misinterpreted. Including this incorrect information, or including misinterpretations of correct information is already possible under current guidelines, regardless of whether free or non-free sources are used. The cost of the source has nothing to do with reliability or accuracy. If in your scenario, you know that the NYT is incorrect, and have sources to prove it, then you should remove the citation to the NYT article -- nowhere does the current proposal suggest "even if a source is demonstrably incorrect, you should keep it because it's free". Reliability and accuracy are dealt with in WP:V. The proposed guideline in no way overrides or contradicts WP:V, and is dealing instead with the issue of accessibility. The current proposal would only help fix the problem you are mentioning faster, assuming we do what the proposal suggests, which is to include correct representations of high-quality and accurate free sources, by enabling all editors to instantly verify information from such a source. It does not suggest that we do what your scenario is talking about which is citing low-quality incorrect sources, and then having editors make sure that this incorrect information is included in Wikipedia articles. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 20:29, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Under the current rules, you aren't spoonfeeding an unnecessary and potentially wrong "free beer online" source to the newbie. We'd cite the pricey-but-excellent source and stop, without implying any equivalence with any other sources. Under the proposed rules, you are setting up the newbie to make this mistake -- and also implying that interested readers aren't capable of asking their favorite web search engines for further information, if they either can't or won't get access to a free-beer source. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:39, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
As far as free sources being "potentially wrong", I've already said above that the cost has nothing to do with quality. PAYWALL sources can be wrong too. And if it's wrong, we fix it. That's a problem with the editor adding incorrect information, not with the proposed guideline. And it can happen under current rules already. And this proposal in no way increases the probability of that happening. I'll say it again -- Nobody is suggesting including incorrect, inaccurate or low-quality free (or non-free) sources. Nothing in this proposal will increase the likelihood of that happening.. So please stop repeatedly focusing only on the hypothetical case of incorrect free sources -- nobody is suggesting that, and it has nothing to do with this proposal.
As far as being "unnecessary" to provide an additional source -- I disagree. It's very often beneficial to have multiple sources cited for an assertion, so that the reader can be exposed to the deeper and wider context that comes from seeing multiple perspectives on the issue.
As far as including free sources "implying that interested readers aren't capable of asking their favorite web search engines for further information" -- this is not at all true. Does including non-free sources imply that readers can't search for journals on their own? Why do we provide sources at all? Why not just make assertions, and let them Google/JSTOR/etc it if they want to see that it's true? We provide sources so that people can quickly verify the information in the articles, rather than having to do a bunch of research to find out who made the assertion, if it's true, etc. This applies to any sources, free or not. Having free, universally accessible sources just makes this verification process simpler and faster. -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 23:34, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, I share your opinion that peer-reviewed scientific journals should generally be regarded as more reliable than newspapers. But, as Jrtayloriv has explained, the example that you constructed here and spent so many lines discussing is offtopic and does nothing to address the question at hand.
Your scenario would work equally well the other way round: Replace The New York Times by The Times or another paywalled newspaper, and the paywalled academic journal (Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology, I assume) by an open access one, say PLoS Biology. (Just two months ago, The Times had to issue a major retraction of an article on a scientific topic.) Then you can run the entire argument in the opposite direction: If only that hapless Times reader had been encouraged by WP:V to look for an additional freely acessible source, etc.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:19, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I think this discussion is going in circles. I have not seen significant support for the proposed change and I do not think that new arguments will be offered that would persuade the holdouts. I propose dropping it. RJC TalkContribs 00:30, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think you are summarizing the discussion accurately. "not seen significant support" - so you are considering the opinions of NW, SlimVirgin, Jrtayloriv, Crum375 and myself to be insignificant? Care to explain why?
In practice the reliability of Wikipedia is a function of the quality of its sources and the accessibility of these sources, as demonstrated by the hoaxes mentioned above. Fact-checking is a vital part of Wikipedia's process to ensure quality. And as GenericBob said above, not providing an equivalent freely accessible source when it is possible to do so with little effort can often lead to situations where fact-checking is needlessly impeded a great deal.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:19, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Also have to add myself to that list, HaeB. RJC, I don't mean to be mean but you should be careful about misrepresenting 'support' in these types of discussions. II | (t - c) 05:54, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I apologize if I offended anyone. By lack of significant support I did not mean that the support registered was insignificant, merely that it was not widespread enough to justify changing the page. I wonder, though, whether anyone is on the fence about this such that further discussion will sway them. RJC TalkContribs 13:41, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • I am in agreement with RJC and I oppose both the original and "reboot" proposals by NW. A great many WP articles rely on books, old newspapers and other off-line sources, that may not be available online at all or that are only available online for a fee. This applies, in particular, to most newspaper archives. I don't want to have any language in WP:V that, directly or indirectly, discourages or devalues the use of such sources. The original idea of NW of encouraging the use of open access scholarly journals is also, at this point in time, problematic. I am an academic myself and, in my observations, it is far too early to start encouraging references to open access journals in preference over traditional printed ones. In my own field, mathematics, almost all open access journals at this point are very low quality journals - basically paper mills with extremely perfunctory/pro forma peer review that make a profit by charging rather exorbitant per page publication fees to the authors. I suspect that the situation is similar in many of the other fields. It may well be that in a few years things will change, but not yet. Nsk92 (talk) 06:23, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • There is nothing in the proposal that discourages the use of any form of non-free source. There is also nothing in the proposal suggesting people use a low-quality non-free source. If a high-quality free source does not exist, then a free source should not be used.-- Jrtayloriv (talk) 07:21, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • That is a matter of interpretation. I am pretty sure that any such language, as that used in the proposal, will in practice be interpreted by many as giving some sort of preference and weight to free online sources. As a practical matter, the proposal is also redundant. In practice most editors use various types of google searching first, when looking for sources, and if they find free online sources, they use them. I do not feel it is at all necessary to give any extra encouragement for the use of such sources. On the other hand, any form of discouraging the use of off-line sources is, in my opinion, highly problematic and likely to cause more problems than it solves. Nsk92 (talk) 07:48, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Also, the proposal seems to be based on a fairly naive view of how sources are used. A source is not always simply used to verify some basic fact (such that a particular person was born on such and such date). Often sources are used to represent different views of various experts on a particular topic, involving a polemic on that topic; in such a situation it is a bad idea to give extra ammunition to anyone who will want to argue that free online sources in such a polemic should be given extra weight. It is also often the case than an authoritative text on some topic is an off-line book or article - in such a case the use of such an off-line source should be given priority over the use of free on-line sources. And so on. I can foresee many types of situations where an explicit encouragement of the use of free online sources over other types of sources may lead to problems. On the other hand, as I said above, IMO in practice any such encouragement is unnecessary since people tend to try to find free offline sources first anyway (in fact perhaps more than they should - there are many cases where it is really preferable to expand some time and go to the library to look-up some comprehensive authoritative off-line source on a particular topic). Nsk92 (talk) 08:07, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
By that logic, WP:NONENG would need to be immediately abandoned because of systemic bias concerns. And the proposal does not apply at all to "the case than an authoritative text on some topic is an off-line book or article". Regards, HaeB (talk) 18:56, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Nsk92, you are making a lot of unsubstantiated and far-reaching claims here. Which of the journals listed here are "basically paper mills with extremely perfunctory/pro forma peer review that make a profit by charging rather exorbitant per page publication fees to the authors"? Do you regard Geometry & Topology and the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society as "very low quality journals"? Regards, HaeB (talk) 13:09, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Geometry and Topology is an excellent journal (I have published there two papers myself -:), but it is not an open access journal in the traditional sense, see subscription information here[12]. The journal does charge for print and electronic subscription, although electronic access becomes free 3 years after publication. I am not sure what the subscription model with the Bulletin of AMS is but I do receive it every month, together with AMS Notices, as an AMS member. I think it is largely financed by the AMS membership fees. It probably is open access but among the math journals this is rather an exception. I know that LMS also has one free journal LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics, where both access and publication are free. Note that both of these examples (Bulletin of AMS and are fairly LMS Journal of Computation and Mathematics) are exceptional in the sense that they don't charge for either publication or access and are completely free to both authors and readers. Typical open access journals charge significant publication fees to the authors. I don't know of any good math journals of this latter kind and every single one that I have seen does look like a paper mill with exorbitant publication fees. Nsk92 (talk) 14:41, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
The Directory of Open Access Journals lists 160 math and stats journals. I'm pretty sure we can find amongst those some which are free to both readers and authors. LeadSongDog come howl! 17:16, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I named Geometry & Topology as an example because it is contained in the linked list of free journals, provided by "The Mathematical Survey" project on the UC Berkeley website. The precise publication process does not matter, the point is that the vast majority of the journal's issues are freely available. In fact, the example illustrates another fallacy in the "paywalled=better" assumption: Do the G&T articles suddenly become less reliable as soon as they are made freely available after 2-3 years?
"...exceptional in the sense that they don't charge for either publication or access and are completely free to both authors and readers. Typical open access journals charge significant publication fees to the authors" - is this statement based on personal impressions, too, or on actual statistics? this study found that "most Full Open Access journals (52%) do not in fact charge any sort of author-side fees".
The Notices of the AMS are freely available on the web, too (for a full PDF of the August 2010 issue, or separate articles, go here).
Regards, HaeB (talk) 18:56, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I was in fact aware that Notices of AMS is available online for free (I used it as a ref in some bio articles about mathematicians). But Notices of AMS is not really a journal in the traditional sense. Most of what it publishes is information (about AMS meetings, other math conferences, AMS elections, various prizes etc). They do publish some math articles but only survey/expository ones, no new research. Bulletin of AMS also publishes mainly book reviews and survey articles, not new research. The main AMS research journals, such as the Journal of AMS and the Transactions of AMS are not free. In general, fairly few outlets can afford to publish a totally free journal (both to authors and readers). Some big math societies (AMS, LMS) can do it, on occasion, because they can rely on their membership fees and income from their other non-free publications, but even for AMS and LMS almost all of their journals are not free and the free ones are sort of stand-alone experiments. Some math institutes might be able to publish a completely free journal and maybe an occasional math department may do the same where the university administration is particularly enlightened and is willing to cover the cost. It does cost some non-negligible amount of money to publish a math journals and the totally free ones are quite rare. Nsk92 (talk) 07:18, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Regardless of the existence of specific counterexample to Nsk92's assertion, it is by and large the case that open access material is of a substantially lower quality than content behind a paywall. But, even excepting this particular point, Nsk92 seems to have struck the proverbial nail squarely on its head. We scarcely need to do more to encourage the use of online open access content. What we should be doing is encouraging the use of the best quality sources, regardless of the mode of access—free, paywall, or dead-tree should not even enter into the calculation. Sławomir Biały (talk) 13:18, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
What we should be doing is encouraging the use of the best quality sources, regardless of the mode of access. Give that man a cigar. (Or a beer, or a stuffed animal, or whatever he likes.) Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 14:49, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Unfortunately "anyone can edit" says nothing about living around the corner from the National Archives. Accessibility does matter, and the best sources are occasionally obscure, whether by modern paywalls or simply by pre-Gutenberg rarity. We need to have a means to ensure when obscure sources are used that they are well used both in good faith and in balanced representation. This means we need a way to have multiple editors vet such content. This is not at all an argument against using such sources, but a caution on how we ensure that WP:V is more than hypothetical. LeadSongDog come howl! 17:16, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
The "scarcely need to do more" assumption is debunked quite nicely by the comments of the very user you are applauding: If even an experienced mathematician such as Nsk92 is not aware that (or not sure whether) two of the most well-known journals in his field - Notices of the AMS and Bulletin of the AMS - are freely available online, even though he is subscribing to their print versions, it certainly cannot be assumed that freely available versions of paywalled/print sources will always get noticed automatically.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 18:56, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I think you must have missed my point altogether, which had nothing to do with whether some journals were open access or not. My point was that Wikipedia is already drowning in rubbish sources pulled from the net. We really don't need to encourage more of this. Rather we should look for the best sources, regardless of what kind of access is associated with them. I know the proposal is supposed to be that only somehow "equivalent" sources get used. But that's really the wrong way of looking at things. Choose the best sources, period. If there are sources of comparable quality, and one of them is freely available, then I don't think any editor would object to adding an additional reference for verification, unless of course there was some question about the quality of the source. That makes the proposed addition rather redundant with editorial judgment, and more ammo to the guy who's gaming to add questionable sources. And it is a sad fact that many, perhaps most, Wikipedia editors seem to lack the judgment necessary to make this determination. For instance, I've encountered more than one regular editor who honestly believes that MathWorld is an imminently trustworthy source for mathematics. In short, I see no reason that we should have, enshrined in policy, a sanction to add still more crap from the net. Sławomir Biały (talk) 21:29, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I sympathize with your grievance about some editors' attitude towards Planetmath (I remember a discussion which matches your description), but I really can't see how it relates to the present debate - no one proposed to add a statement that says open access sources should be regarded as more reliable than they are regarded now. And please be aware that we are talking about a general policy here, and also consider cases from entirely different areas, such as "Handel" above, which convincingly demonstrates that citations naming reputable offline sources can be very dangerous, too.
"If there are sources of comparable quality, and one of them is freely available, then I don't think any editor would object to adding an additional reference for verification" - people do in fact often object if there are several references for the same statement, and reduce them to one (e.g. citing the WP:CLUTTER essay). But in addition to that, it is good to make editors aware that citing equally reliable sources which are freely accessible can improve the quality of the encyclopedia, by making fact-checking easier for others. I am sorry if I had misunderstood you, but your statement "We scarcely need to do more to encourage the use of online open access content" seemed to assume that in a case where there is an identical open access version available (such as for the Bulletin and the Notices of the AMS, or with green OA), editors will automatically be aware of it and cite it. As demonstrated above, this is not true.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 06:03, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
On Thursday, during the above debate, I asked at the WikiProject Mathematics whether Nsk92's above statement on open access journals (that formed a central argument in his objections to the proposal) reflected a widely held view. Eight users responded, none of them supporting Nsk92's view, and some disagreeing quite strongly (e.g. Boris Tsirelson, who said he was "proud to publish good articles in The New York Journal of Mathematics and Probability Surveys"). The general consensus seems that journals should not be judged on whether they are freely accessible or not, but according to their editorial policy (peer-reviewed or not), reputation of their editors, etc.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 06:15, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
I have just now seen that WikiProject_Mathematics thread and have commented there. The examples that you mention The New York Journal of Mathematics and Probability Surveys are totally free journals that do not charge anything to either authors or readers. For math journals that is still pretty rare. Most open access math journals charge substantial author publication fees. I receive e-mails with announcements of such journals being launched a few times per month and have even been asked to join the editorial boards of a few of them (which I declined). I don't know of any good math journals of this kind while they keep popping up like mushrooms. Nsk92 (talk) 07:23, 28 August 2010 (UTC)


To answer some of the concerns that other editors have expressed above, I wanted to suggest another restatement of the proposal, that seems to deal with them:

However, if an equally reliable and freely accessible source exists which makes exactly the same assertion as the non-free source, then it would be helpful (but is by no means required) to cite the free source in addition to the non-free source. This can assist with verification for editors who cannot gain access to the non-free source. It does not imply that freely accessible sources are generally superior or preferable to non-free sources.

This makes it clear that:

  1. The source must be equally reliable -- it cannot be a free source of lower quality.
  2. The source must make exactly the same assertion (this is redundant, per WP:V, but it seemed to be a frequent concern, so we've made it explicit here).
  3. The source is provided in addition to the non-free source, not as a replacement for it.
  4. It is not required to add such a source if you don't feel like it.
  5. It makes it clear that the purpose is to assist with verification.
  6. It makes it clear that we are not implying that free sources are superior or preferable.

Anyhow, I think this could be tweaked, and I think a lot of it is actually redundant, but it seems to me to clear up the concerns that have been voiced above. Opinions? -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 20:37, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I'd be fine with this, though I'd tighten it. No need for "this can assist" etc. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:15, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I still would prefer the language from NW's original proposal ("equally reliable and more easily accessible") without the added restriction "makes exactly the same assertion".
However, considering the many objections to NW's proposal and the lack of opposition to yours, I just added your sentences, with the following small modifications that do not touch the six points above:
  • "freely accessible online" instead of " freely accessible" (i.e. not just freely accessible in one library on another continent)
  • "This can improve the efficiency of the verification process" instead of "This can assist with verification for editors who cannot gain access to the non-free source": That wording could have been misunderstood - after all, verifiability implies that in principle everyone can gain access to the source. And even an editor who has free access to a paywalled journal at his workplace (university or company) might hit the paywall when checking Wikipedia references in his leisure time at home, so he too can benefit from the additional citation.
I think it would also be worthwhile to explicitly mention self-archiving (green OA), i.e. the fact that many journals which are not freely accessible nevertheless allow authors to put copies of their articles online, but I haven't added language to that effect yet.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 05:52, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
I have just reverted the edit of HaeB inserting the above text in WP:V. I still find the change objectionable and unnecessary. There is no need for any further encouragement of the use of free sources. Moreover, the proposal's language assumes a rather naive view of how sources are used. Nsk92 (talk) 06:47, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
  • There is no need for further encouragement of the use of free sources -- Sure there is. It makes it easier to verify information, thus leading to a more accurate encyclopedia. It is a favor to our readers (the people we are writing the encyclopedia for) -- the vast majority of whom do not have easy access to journal articles, university libraries, etc., but who (obviously) have a connection to the internet. If we provide them high quality sources that they can instantly access, they can (a) rest assured that the encyclopedia is accurate, (b) fix inaccuracies that they would otherwise not discover. If we have only offline/paid-access sources for an assertion, then we are leaving the burden of fixing problems on the small number of editors who do have access to these sources AND take the time to actually get the sources. If we also add high-quality free sources, the burden is spread over an immensely larger number of editors (i.e. every editor).
  • the proposal's language assumes a rather naive view of how sources are used. -- Could you please elaborate on this? What is "naive" about it? -- Jrtayloriv (talk) 07:13, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Regarding the first point. What I mean is that in practice WP editors tend to try to find free online sources first anyway - they do various kind of google-searching first when looking for sources. Regarding the second (and to some extent the first) point. Our goal should be to encourage the use of the best sources, not the most quickly accessible sources. It is the use of best sources that leads to a more accurate and high quality encyclopedia. In my experience, the best sources, such as authoritative books or articles on a given topic, are often off-line sources where one needs to go to the library to read them. Also, sources are not simply used to verify some simple basic fact (that someone was born on such and such a date or that some event took place on some particular date). Sources are also, and maybe even more often, used to discuss various points of view in a particular debate. What does a particular scientific experiment mean? What does the archeological evidence indicate about dating a particular event? Etc, etc. In such cases the most relevant sources may not be available online for free or available online at all, and it is not at all a simple matter of giving a "free online" reference next to an off-line/non-free reference. Nsk92 (talk) 07:37, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Nsk92. Also, he and I have both made the point that online sources already receive undue priority among Wikipedia editors. The "systemic bias" issue that Nsk92 alludes to is also a very real concern. However, the essence of the issue remains: (1) The encyclopedia is helped most by the best sources, not the most accessible. Method of access should not be a concern at all. Also, as I pointed out above, the language of ensuring that the free and non-free sources be somehow "equivalent" will have no practical effect. Most Wikipedians editing outside their topic areas will be totally unable to determine whether two sources are of equal quality. But, in any event: (2) Typically the best sources in many topic areas remain dead-tree sources and sources behind a paywall. In some areas (mathematics, for instance), we really need to get more of these high quality sources as references. Adding language to policy that appears to favor free online sources over other sources is counterproductive. Sławomir Biały (talk) 12:07, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Since HaeB referred to the fact that we had not objected to this specific proposal, I should register that I too agree with Nsk92 and oppose the change. RJC TalkContribs 14:26, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
One needn't insist on an either/or. The better approach is to request an accessible source be added where possible. It is an unfortunately common occurrence to cite a hard-to-obtain source as support for arguments that are not those of the source. Or, the source supports a minor point, but not the thesis. So verifiability is impacted by unavailability, and I'd suggest that when a hard-to-obtain source is used, the supporting material should be placed in a verbatim quote as some insurance that the writer actually has read the source correctly. Brews ohare (talk) 14:26, 16 September 2010 (UTC)