Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 44

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Archive 43 Archive 44 Archive 45

Can something "not true" be verifiable?

re: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth"

I have an editor claiming that it doesn't have to be true as long as it is verifiable.  He is using this position to defend an urban legend.  Should the Project Page point out that if something is "not true", it is by definition "not verifiable"?

For reference, one of the footnotes for the article reads:
Wales, Jimmy, "Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information." "I can NOT emphasize this enough."
RB (talk) 18:10, 25 November 2010 (UTC)

Could you point us to the particular issue? It's difficult to make a call on this kind of question without seeing the context. But, yes, according to the policy, something that is verified in a reliable source yet not true according to our own knowledge can remain in place. One example I have at hand is the bell in the St. James Railway Station article. One source claims the bell was in place in the 1960s, and another that it was put in place as part of an art project in 1992. I was curious, so I contacted the artist and verified the latter. But to use that information to remove the first source would be original research. Although I think I am correct, I cannot be sure, and we follow what the sources say. So both sources remain. --Nuujinn (talk) 18:42, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
We do make a distinction between verifiability and truth. In most cases the argument is focused more the other way, with someone arguing that something should be included because it is True, even when not verifiable. Religious belief being the prime example: the blunt statement "Jesus is the Son of God" may or may not be True (depending on whether you are a Christian), but it isn't verifiable. However, the argument can go the other way as well (That "Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring" is verifiable... it isn't "true"). Blueboar (talk) 18:54, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that parallel will strike some as slightly odd. I think this is a better way to say it: That Jesus is the son of God is claimed to be true, but we can not confirm that it is true in an uncontroversial way, or in other words we can not verify it. That Frodo destroyed the ring is not claimed to be true by anyone at all, but it is truly part of a real story, and we can confirm that the claim that it is truly in that story in an uncontroversial way. Verification is a concept which makes no sense without a claim of truth also being implied, but it is that extra step of claims or descriptions which can be confirmed uncontroversially which make something verifiable.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:43, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
It would be easier to advise if we could see the example, 66.217. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:31, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
Where there is a dispute the statements should be attributed, like according to Christians Jesus is the Son of God, or in the book Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins destroyed the One Ring. Truth really doesn't come into it. Dmcq (talk) 23:20, 25 November 2010 (UTC)
Just logically, claims about the truth are always lurking in the background whenever something is called verifiable. That does not mean they are the same. However when we say something is verifiable we are saying that it is true, and we know it is true, that it is verifiable, which in turn means that 1, we know that it is true that 2, reliable people have been recorded as stating it is true 3, in ways which other people will generally find to be convincingly true. This is just me pointing out a side issue of logic, and not disagreeing with the principle of distinguishing truth and verifiability as criteria for inclusion.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:13, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Here are three links:

it's irrelevant if that statement you mentioned wasn't "true". Wikipedia represents verifiability, not truth.
I disagree strongly about the relevance of whether a statement in Wikipedia is true

According to one of Wikipedia's core policies, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."

WP:ELNO states that "Links normally to be avoided" include:

2. Any site that misleads the reader by use of factually inaccurate material or unverifiable research...
In the days of typewriter manuscripts the extra space was necessary to separate the ends and beginnings of sentences.

No, we know from the "Sentence Spacing" article that people today submit single-sentence-spaced monospaced drafts to editors, so the extra space was a choice, never "necessary."
The abstract itself contains information known to be factually incorrect, such as, "Two spaces were necessary to visually break up the space and reinforce the end of a sentence."
5. "Information known to be factually incorrect." We've discussed the irrelevancy of this assertion before (truth vs. verifiability).

RB (talk) 02:04, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Can we agree that there is an ambiguity on the Project Page?
RB (talk) 04:06, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
This is definitely all verifiable in a conference abstract. If there is debate as to the accuracy of what is stated in the abstract, it should be attributed to the author (the main presenter of the talk). Blueboar (talk) 14:44, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Let's just go for the obvious example, an entire and quite verifiable article about something we all know is false:: The Moon is made of green cheese. --Ludwigs2 04:58, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

The common working definition "Verifiable" in Wikipedia is that it meets wp:ver. And that definition is that it is cited by what WP calls a "reliable source", which overweights certain criteria and completely skips others (such as objectivity and expertise). As so it would be quite easy for even an objectively false statement to meet the letter of WP:verifiability criteria.

But once it gets into further discussion / noticeboards, common sense and the oft-ignored higher level wording of wp:ver usually come into play including selecting those "Reliable Sources" which are actually reliable. North8000 (talk) 13:15, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Appeals to "common sense" on noticeboards may be less necessary with some rewording. Consider the following restatement of the sentence "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
Wikipedia purposes to be a compendium of truth. However, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.
RB (talk) 17:48, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
No, Wikipedia is not a "compendium of truth". It is a compendium of verifiable information. It strives to present that information accurately... but "truth" has nothing to do with it. People can disagree as to what is "true"... they can not disagree as to whether something is verifiable. Blueboar (talk) 18:02, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Clearly people can disagree about what is verifiable. Seems to happen a lot. The difference is relative. Verifiable statements are relatively uncontroversial statements about what is asserted to be true or not. Just using a Latin word for truth (VERI-tas) and putting a fancy abstracting ending on the end does not hide that. Verifiability instead of truth is a good way of aiming in a practical way at having truth in the encyclopedia, sorry I meant "correct information" or "high quality encyclopedic material" which of course have nothing to do with truth. :D --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:27, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

We seem to go through this argument at regular intervals. I'm going to continue to take the very hardnosed viewpoint that we are not obligated to repeat the errors made by our sources. Reliability is not absolute and any specific statement is subject to refutation. In the case of the bell referred to above I personally would accept that someone checked with the artist in order to discern between conflicting sources. If a source says something that seems to be unreasonable I do not think we need a great deal of process to exclude the questionable statement; on the contrary, I would be disposed to exclude it lacking corroboration.

In terms of the purpose of an encyclopedia, I think it is as a rule better to say nothing at all than to repeat questionable claims. Mangoe (talk) 18:24, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Does anyone here see the ambiguity?  I've added to one of my posts above to draw attention to a statement from an editor that he feels strongly about the misreading of WP:V. "I disagree strongly about the relevance of whether a statement in Wikipedia is true"
RB (talk) 18:38, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
I think our goal is to have everything to be "true," but it is impossible to agree on what that is - especially if someone is purposefully trying to include dubious material. We have chosen to go with "verifiable." An editor can (and should) avoid including verifiable information they know is not true, but using "that's not true" cannot be used as the only reason to remove verifiable information that has another editor's good faith support. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 18:54, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

IMHO, the high level mission statement of the Wikimedia Foundation requires truth, in those cases where objective truth exists ("truth" being better described as CORRECT (vs. wrong) INFORMATION where such objectively exists) The statement out of policies (verifiability vs. truth) that people keep quoting is to emphasize that Wikipedia's means to the end of correct information is verifiability rather than debates about truth. IMHO the people who keep trying to reverse engineer a mission statement out of policy wording have it backwards. IMHO the higher level mission statement requires CORRECT information, and verifiability is (merely) a means to that end. North8000 (talk) 19:03, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

What do you mean by "reverse engineering?" I do not see what you mean. i have been around a pretty long time and I do not think that Blueboar's 18:02 statement is in any way anachronistic or backwards. That Wikipedia provides verifiable information, including verifiable views of information (including interpretations, arguments) has been Wikipedia policy for as long as I can remember. My understanding of NPOV as it was originally formulated (and which used to include "V" before it became its own policy) was, when I first joined the project, the same as it is now (and as many people here quite patiently but repeatedly explain) is that under conditions where people do not agree about what the truth is, or how to assess the truth, it is better for an encyclopedia edited by "everyone" to sidestep the problem - and what is really a metaphysical or epistemological question - of "what is the truth?" entirely and claim to do something else.
The "something else" that we do goes hand in hand with our being a wiki project that anyone can edit, and it is that we provide verifiable views. What makes the view verifiable is nothing at all like what it would mean to make it "true" - talk about reverse engineering! What makes it verifiable is that the source of the view can be identified, and if necessary relevant contextual information about the view can be provided. In practice, if a view is uncontroversial (Mussolini was a fascist would be my example) then it can simply be added to the encyclopdia without a source or attribution. If a view is controversial (fascism is socialism) then editors will say so and demand verification which usually involves providing a source; if the view is highly controversial then the source is often attributed in the articl. This is also the case when editors acknowldge that there are multiple views. If there are multiple views about whether Pluto is a planet, we put that. If there are multiple views physicists hold about the measurement problm, or the structure of an atom, we provide that.
All of this fits together and makes perfect sense to me and to the best of my recollection this was the position Sanger and ales and most early Wikipedians accepted. The whole point was to avoid silly arguments over what is true and how do you know. If you think I am being silly by calling these arguments silly, well,I can only answer that people interested in such debates should bcome philosophers or find a philosophy chat room, this is just not what Wikipedia is about.
The Jimbo quote at the start of this thread does not mean Wikipedia is about the truth. If Nazis think Jews are subhuman, we do not explude that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because it is a verifiable view. Jimbo's quote is clearly just a call to caution, that we should not add stuff to articles just because we thing articles are too short. We add material as is apporpriate. If most historians agree that the view I just provided is what Nazis think, but not informative about Jews, we put it in the Nazi article, not the Jew article. These questions - multiple views or one, majority view or minority, what kind of view belongs in which article, reliable or unreliable source - are the questions that naturally follow from V and are the ones we should be discussing in writing articles, not "truth." Slrubenstein | Talk 19:39, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
SLR do you truly think the following sentences mean different things? Or would that assertion be not true in your opinion?
  • If Nazis think Jews are subhuman, we do not explude (sic) that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because it is a verifiable view.
  • If Nazis think Jews are subhuman, we do not exclude that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because it is true that it is a verifiable view.
  • If it is true that Nazis think Jews are subhuman, we do not exclude that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because we can verify that it was truly their view.
  • If it is true that Nazis think Jews are subhuman, we do not exclude that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because actually it is true, and we can verify the fact, that it was their view.
  • If it is true that Nazis thought it true that Jews are subhuman, we do not exclude that from the encyclopedia because the claim is false, we include it because actually it is true, and we can verify the fact, that it was their view.
etc. Just to make it clear, I fully support the truth/verifiability distinction in Wikipedia. There is a workable distinction, and it works well most often. But I just find it worthwhile to point out that the way some people explain the distinction is illogical and could lead to over-simplification and misunderstanding.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:27, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

Heavens, this debate is interminable. The way I see it, this is very simple if you get away from the trees and look at the forest. start from general principles:

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and as such it aims to give a well-rounded descriptive overview of the current understanding of topics it covers.
    • let me highlight that phrase: A well-rounded descriptive overview of the current understanding of topics.
  2. The 'current understanding' of a topic includes past understandings (the way that a current understanding of you might include your previous occupations or the school you graduated from), and it includes critical, alternate, and competitive understandings (the way a current understanding of you might include the opinions of your boss, your ex-wife, or a co-worker who's competing for the same promotion), at least where such are significant enough to be mentioned.
  3. Well-rounded means that all these aspects should be included and balanced so that none are minimized or exploited. this is art more than science (or at least, those people who try to make rigid rules about it are almost always people with major axe-grinding issues).
  4. Descriptive is not proscriptive: an encyclopedia gives people information and leaves them to draw conclusions on their own. if you find yourself trying trying to proscribe the way a reader should think about an issue then you are not writing encyclopedically. This is subtle: people can impose proscriptive elements on an article through phrasing and word-choice, article structure, and all sorts of other non-obvious means.
  5. overview means that we do not try to get down into the down-and-dirty details of a topic, but aim to give a solid understanding that people can use to look further on their own. excessive detail is almost always POV, though not necessarily in an obnoxious way.

'Truth' is not a concern here at all except to the extent that the 'current understanding' of the topic reflects some greater truth. yes, In the sciences and scholarship more generally authors put a lot of effort into validating what they write, and good journalistic do a lot of fact-checking. but when we use these sources we are not offering these sources as though they represent validity or truth; from wikipedia's perspective they are merely the current understanding of the topic.

the point of verifiability is that it is supposed to stabilize articles. without verification, an article just becomes a an opinion piece written by whatever wikipedia editors happen to edit it. sometimes that works out fine - with a knowledgable editor or two you can get a well-rounded descriptive overview even if the sourcing is crappy. but with difficult topics, or contentious ones, or polemical ones, sourcing is a stanchion that keeps the whole article from blowing over. Verifiability works like so: Editor Q wants to add a comment X into an article; editor P complains, editor Q shows source B where X is outlined; editor P verifies (i.e. reads) to make sure that X is being used in the source in the way that it is being presented in the article. verifiability binds statements made in wikipedia to statements made in the real world, so that (regardless of the truth of those statements), it is clear at least that the wikipedia editors in question aren't misrepresenting a concept or making material up out of whole cloth. If you try to turn verifiability into something more than a reality check (as people often do, when they confound verifiability with "reliability"), you just end up with a mess. --Ludwigs2 21:11, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

A new example

In the article Euclid's Elements there appears the statement that "Perhaps no book other than the Bible can boast so many editions". This is sourced to an otherwise reputable book, and so is verifiable. It isn't difficult to demonstrate that it isn't true, the works of Homer being an obvious competitor, but that argument would count as WP:OR. As there is in general no obligation to include information just because it's there, it seems better to require both verifiability and truth. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 19:21, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

I think I understand what North8000 means about "reverse engineering", he means that my text proposal to insert "Wikipedia purposes to be a compendium of truth." is not correctly factored, a statement of what Wikipedia is is to be found elsewhere.  This proposal is withdrawn by the author.
RB (talk) 20:23, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
You can always say - according to xyz that is true. A worse example I had a rather protracted discussion about was where someone read a widely respected maths textbook that had a wrong statement in it and wanted to include that in Wikipedia. Showing them examples where it was wrong and bringing in outside review saying it was wrong had little effect and they wanted to insert their own proof' where the original had just had it as a remark. This is the sort of reason common sense is supposed to be used with all the policies - but then of course it isn't that common unfortunately. Dmcq (talk) 20:29, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
I think in effect we refer to what we think is true in a negative way when we discuss/consider due weight, and whether to include something at all, or whatever. In the case of the example given I would say that there is no policy obliging us to include a statement that is clearly questionable. I would say that anyone arguing that it has to be included just because properly sourced has no policy to back them up on that (unless the quote were very famous and therefore notable) and it is purely a matter of editors needing to convince each other and try to reach a consensus. WP:V and WP:RS do not tell us that all verifiable and reliable materials must be included. Am I wrong?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:36, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
"Pluto is a planet"... this blunt statement is verifiable (I can cite reliable sources that say it)... but is this blunt statement true? Blueboar (talk) 20:49, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
(added later)This seems like not a good example, but I would argue that this is a case where objective/truth/accuracy does not exist. It is a question of "does humanity apply the noun "planet" to that thing out there beyond Neptune. (of course the most widely recognized body's opinion recently changed on this). North8000 (talk) 22:02, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
That's not really a good example of the problem (at least as I am addressing it), especially since the changing status of Pluto is something that the article must address. When we have a selection of sources which testify to changing views about a topic, one can insist on the documentation of the shift. The biggest problem cases are where a "reliable" source says something that is just incorrect by any standard, as in the case Dmcq mentions. I had a case where a prominent person was stated in the course of an interview to have attended a particular school in Maryland. The interviewer simply made a mistake: the school in question had the same name as a different school in Delaware which the person in question had actually attended. It was physically impossible for her to have attended the school named in the interview. Yet I had people doggedly insisting that this falsehood had to be included in the article because the source was "reliable". To prevent us from repeating this false statement, I had to track down this person's high school yearbook and cite it. This struck me as extreme; the mere demonstration that the statement could not have been true should have been sufficient to exclude it from the article. Reliability is not a guarantee of accuracy, and we do have an obligation not to repeat material which we can tell is false even when it comes from "reliable" sources. Mangoe (talk) 21:38, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
Mangoe is a diligent researcher, of the sort WP needs a LOT more of. I think she brings up a good point. But I think the issue here is the triviality of the matter. Editors working on an article need to be able to discuss how trivial or untrivial a point is. The less trivial, the more important it is to research it carefully. I think the challenge for WP is as WP is established as THE first choice encyclopedia on the web (and may even one day surpass EB as a resource people rely on), it becomes more and ore important that even trivial claims are verified. Mangoe is pointing out - quite correctly - that verifiaction involves more than finding a source. I would say that the more trivial or less controversial a point is, the more often finding one source is an acceptable surrogate for verification. As mangoe's case illustrates however,verification involves checking one source against others and a more careful consideration of the reliability of the source. What mangoe did begs comparison to what fact-checkers at The New Yorker and other major publications do. It is tedious and often descends into the trivial but it is necessary for the standards of the publication. My point: we will increasingly have to hold P to this standard. Mangoe, would you agree that the criteria required in your case include (1) consistency with other sources and (2) a criticl assessment of the authority of the source? If so perhaps these should be written into the policy. I do think this kind of issue will become more and more important. Slrubenstein | Talk 05:38, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I think the case Mangoe mentions is not uncommon, and it sounds like the kind of case where WP:IAR, e.g. WP:UCS can be relevant. Very often of course editors on a page do not even bother arguing about it and just make a judgment call. (And whether we use the word "true" or not, such use of common sense can not be described without using reference to what believes to be true or false. Also, as in the case described, some basic level "synthesis" is also unavoidable for any normal editor.) In cases where WP:IAR actually needs to be invoked however, and then people notice common seen being used out in the open, there is a definite under-current of fundamentalism around which in effect treats WP:IAR as controversial. There are understandable reasons why of course. The fear is that everyone might start invoking common sense for whatever their favorite fringe theory is, and the world will come to an end etc. But according to WP:IAR, which still exists, such fear is a justifiable excuse to hurt the quality of articles.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:30, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure I can come up with a principle that isn't going founder on the unspeakable need to have editors who are capable of making these kinds of judgement. I do think we should put more emphasis on respecting objections made against questionable statements. In the case I mentioned, the subject of the article would have had to commute 120-odd miles each way to get to school, because the Maryland school is on the opposite side of the bay from where she lived, and it doesn't have boarding students. It's "research" in some sense, I suppose, to work out that such a trip is impossibly impractical, but I guess I am less concerned about excluding statements from articles on this basis than I am in including something that's untrue. OTOH I recognize the likelihood that this will be used as a tactic in articles about atrocities to suppress evidence, but I think that those partisans can generally only be controlled by banning them.
It seems to me that we need two things here. First we need to find a better way to express that we want verifiable facts rather than reporting what we know than "verifiability, not truth". Second, we need to emphasize that fact-checking is necessary and important. I'm not sure how to word it but that's where it is. Mangoe (talk) 16:55, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree. The current wordingis prone to misunderstanding and misquoting. North8000 (talk) 19:47, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I am more inclined to oppose the change than to support it. It seems that the problem with verifiable but untrue statements is handled by WP:NPOV and its associated guidelines, like WP:BURDEN and WP:FRINGE. It looks like you are trying to turn Verifiability into a content policy that can be read in isolation of the other pillars. I think the "verifiability, not truth" language is essential in combating people who want something in the encyclopedia because the know it is true. To say the least, much of what people know is true represents a partial point of view, and is oftentimes downright false. Any problems caused by this wording can be addressed by pointing editors to the other policies and guidelines. RJC TalkContribs 20:13, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
What that phrase really means is that verifiability is an absolute requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia. Nothing else (such as claims of truth) removes that requirement. WP:truth says the same thing. If something meets that criteria, it will still need to meet other criteria to be included. The "other criteria" might be WP policies or guidelines (e.g. NPOV, MOS ) or it might be other non-policy criteria that get applied by consensus or common sense (such as true/false, stupid/smart sounding, germane / not-germane to the article).
Both this phrase in wp:ver and also wp:truth overall are continuously misquoted, misapplied and misconstrued by even experienced editors to say that true/false, accurate/inaccurate doesn't matter in Wikipedia. This leaves the impression that a statement is objectively false can't be used as grounds for excluding it as being a statement of fact. WP:VER merely says that being "true" is not grounds for waiving the requirement for verifabilty. IMHO the fact that the "verifiability is absolutely required" statement pollutes itself by including ONE PARTICULAR example of something (Truth) that does not waive the requirement is a mistake that has led to such frequent mis-interpretations and confusion. This is the reason for my support for some type of rewording. North8000 (talk) 20:47, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think that's a misuse at all. An objectively erroneous statement whose fallaciousness cannot be verified should not be removed because an editor knows in their heart or from long experience (which the community cannot verify) that it is just wrong. The whole point is to remind editors that what they think is irrelevant. We don't get to act on objective truth and falsehood, but only upon our opinions about objective truth and falsehood. Meanwhile, if we can verify that reliable sources claim that something is false, then we get into issues of WP:NPOV, WP:UNDUE, and WP:FRINGE in deciding whether to include it. RJC TalkContribs 21:00, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Exactly my thoughts. No matter how much this all gets turned over and over and over, the fundamental question is what happens when there is a disagreement about the accuracy of a statement. The answer is we look to reliable sources. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:16, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

Just looking at reliable sources may or may not clear up the problem. In reality good discussion seems to be the most important thing in many real cases. We can all wish that the world were simpler, but discussion is indefensible on WP. A lot of problems WP has to handle can not be handled any other way. I think the biggest concern I have about how policies are written is when they seem to be trying to legislate decisions which really require discussion between good faith editors. The bias should be towards anything which pushes people towards proper discussions.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 21:28, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, and arguing that something is true, and therefore should be included even though there is not support by verification in reliable sources does not move us toward good discussions, in my opinion, since those discussion will be marred by appeals to authority and expertise, what someone told me, what I heard or read somewhere, etc. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:43, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
That's a mis-statement of the discussion, I don't think that anybody is advocating waiving the verifiability requirement under any conditions. North8000 (talk) 23:07, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Responding to RJC above, so you are saying that by consensus, editors can remove a statement for being POV, for violating MOS, for going against specialized guidelines of the various subject groups, for being non-germane, or for being just badly badly written, for being non-encyclopedic style, but NOT for being objectively false ? ! North8000 (talk) 23:14, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
WP does not have to include everything which can be sourced, so of course deletions can be proposed for various reasons. One kind of case where deletions are not easy to defend is where something is well-known of notable, and therefore a part of what is said about a subject in the relevant field or fields. In such cases mention of a source is in my opinion necessary, but this can be done using attribution etc.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:22, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
The answer you give, Nuujinn, begs the question. Reliability is not a guarantee of utter accuracy, and there are other tests of accuracy besides the authority of sources. A statement that is incorrect should not appear in this encyclopedia; judging between conflicting sources should not be done merely by majority vote. There is a requirement for personal judgement in these cases. That is also the problem, RJC, with your your analysis. I can determine that some statements are erroneous without have to to refer to a conflicting witness. In the case I mentioned, I didn't need a conflicting source to know that the interviewer's statement was wrong; I could simply work out that it was physically impossible for her to have attended that school. And other editors should have walked through the same reasoning and agreed that the statement was incorrect, instead of defending it with the dogma that the source as reliable even though it has been proven that in this case it was not.
I want to be clear that this isn't about including unverified information; it is strictly about excluding statements which can be shown, by whatever means, to be inaccurate. Mangoe (talk) 03:08, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
Mangoe, nothing is a guarantee of utter accuracy. I have been pulled into discussion on both sides of the type of argument you are discussing. My own way of drawing a line is by looking at WP:NEUTRAL and WP:NOTE. If material which appears wrong but properly sourced is well-known and part of what really gets discussed about a subject then it is difficult to justify deleting all mention of it, and it becomes a question of working out how to describe it in a fair and realistic way. Attribution often helps, by notifying any alert reader that there might be more to the question. But removing well-known information can make Wikipedia take a position different from the mainstream and it will also make it difficult for users of Wikipedia to find information they might have heard elsewhere. If it is not notable, then there is no reason to include dubious materials just because they can be sourced, and then it becomes a content discussion for editors of the article. I think in both the types of cases I describe there will always be judgement and discussion required, and there is no possibility to write a standardized rule that will work in all cases?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:22, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
My exchange above was on structural wording issue; I was essentially saying that wp:ver provide a requirement, not a mandate for inclusion. And that a common misreading of wp:ver and wp:truth is to say that they say that accuracy doesn't matter in WP.North8000 (talk) 12:15, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
It is not surprising or even rare that something objectively false can be "reliably sourced" in accordance with the basic WP definition of RS'ing. One pervasive example is when a RS covers false or baseless assertions made by somebody else. Those false or baseless assertions then become "reliably sourced" per WP criteria. Another is when a WP:RS makes a mistake....nobody is perfect. Another is old sources with info which was correct then and wrong now. North8000 (talk) 12:15, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
So you are saying that the wording of WP:V should make clear that the rule is not a self-contained rule about what must be included but should be used in conjunction with other rules? I have nothing against the idea but such cross referencing reminders need to be short and sweet or otherwise the text can become encumbered and hard to get the gist of. Do you have a concrete proposal though?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:05, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
It's even simpler than that. It just needs cleanup of wp:ver wording so that it doesn't confuse people about what it is about. For example, the ambiguous "threshold" word, and confusion of the core policy statement by inclusion of an example (truth) in it's core of core wording. For example (quickie, needs refining)
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
A requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability - whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Nothing else (such as whether or not editors think it is true)is a substitute for fulfillment of this requirement. North8000 (talk) 00:55, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
At first sight that seems more clear. It also helps me see what you wanted to clarify.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:14, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

How to discuss "truth"

I think that the phrase, "verifiability, not truth," should be preserved. While "truth" is technically one example of the justifications that do not satisfy the minimum threshold for inclusion, it is the most important. I think the policy should be worded in such a way that editors on the right side of a dispute can point to it and have it be immediately comprehensible to a new user. Having "verifiability, not truth" in big bold letters in the first sentence gets the point across. The proposed wording that pushes "truth" into a parenthetical remark says the same thing in a technical sense, but it is less forceful and hence less effective in communicating the policy. RJC TalkContribs 18:48, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

Agree the longstanding text does not need changing, as a defender in previous battles. Objections usually arise from misunderstanding the categories involved. If "A" is a disputed proposition, whether it's "true" or not, we don't include it: we refer editors to say instead, "B says A". The fact is that in these cases "B says A" is a "true" and verifiable statement, and since it is undisputed it is a different category of "truth" (undisputed) than the category of disputed "truths" (like "A"). The occasional dispute over "B says A" does arise, and we do sometimes use a form of "C says B says A", but usually the dispute doesn't go much further back unless it is an entrenched community-discussion issue and other standards are invoked. WP's disdain for "truth" is that people so often use it to refer to disputed statements; the fact that it's also used for undisputed statements does not vitiate the validity of our formulation. When Jimbo objects to including "false" information, the criterion is exactly the same: we should not include disputed "falsities" any more than disputed "truths" (undisputed "falsities" are, of course, a different category and are unverifiable by definition because no reliable sources say them). JJB 20:55, 28 November 2010 (UTC)
This is too simple. A problem arises when generally reliable sources make mistakes, as they do. Those mistakes may never be publicly identified as such, because other experts just tacitly dismiss them and have little motivation to point them out. If the mistake then gets incorporated into Wikipedia, those who recognise the mistake should be able to delete it (not say the opposite, just pass over the matter in silence). Occasionally other editors insist on unconditionally retaining such mistakes even when it's clear that that's what they are. There are a few examples mentioned on this page. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 00:07, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Under these circumstances, there would usually be contradicting source that would be required to remove the "false" material, wouldn't there?
Also, an advantage of the "Verifiability, not truth" phrasing is that it is rhetorically shocking and flags the policy as not what one might initially expect it to be: that attention must be paid. --John (User:Jwy/talk) 00:59, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Maybe there would "usually" be a contradicting source, but often there isn't. The more arbitrary the original statement, the less likely it is that someone made a reverse one, except when explicitly reviewing the orginal one. The problem tends to arise over issues that aren't in fact seen as terribly important, where someone makes an idle ill-informed statement and nobody takes much notice. Nevertheless such statements get repeated into wikipedia and editors insist on retaining them. Look again at some of the examples quote above:
  • search for "school in Maryland"
  • search for "Euclid's Elements"
  • search for "widely respected maths textbook"
It isn't wikipedia policy to require sourcing for deletion, not should it become so.
And policy statements don't want to be "rhetorically shocking" - they want to be clear. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 12:54, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec)Not workable, because what is true must somehow be determined, and determining that is harder than determining what can be verified in reliable sources.
  • A)So there a bit that's wrong and cited. You know it's wrong, and delete it. At that point either the change isn't noticed, in which case nothing happens, or someone spots it. But let's say I'm hunting vandals and spot your deletion. I revert you and am hopefully polite, and discussion ensures. I will require sources, and we either do or not not come to consensus, and if not, move up the chain until the matter is settled.
  • B)So there a bit that's wrong and cited. I'm a vandal and delete it. At that point either the change isn't noticed, in which case nothing happens, or someone spots it. But let's say you're hunting vandals and spot my deletion. You revert me and are certainly polite. I argue it's wrong, and at that point you requires sources, and we either do or not not come to consensus, and if not, move up the chain until the matter is settled.
The two case are parallel. We must turn to discussion of reliable sources to resolve either scenario. And yes, mistakes can and are made, but no policy can preclude mistakes, precisely because they must be interpreted. If a reliable source makes a mistake that is represented here, the only way to deal with that problem is to find more (in quantity or quality) sources and then evaluate the whole lot of them. What is clear to me on one day is a brick wall to you on others, and sometime mud to me on another day, and anyone can delete anything they want at any time. The question is not what can we alter, but what can we alter and have stick, and the way things stick is by being accepted by consensus. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:02, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
I've had to work on some controversial genetics related articles where the science changes quickly, is not frequently criticized in print, and also gets peoples passions up (because of supposed possibilities to link genetics to the study of ethnicity). While we can never aim to get rid of all debate by making the perfect policies, I have to say that policies such as WP:NEUTRAL as they are currently written are a very good help in such cases. I agree that while it is true that it can be a problem on Wikipedia when an old source becomes obviously out-dated, I also see nothing stopping us from giving more weight to newer sources. If the out dated sources are still notable we tend to need to still cite them, perhaps (if editors agree it is necessary) adding context such as "In 1990, Smith proposed X. Mainstream thinking since article Z of 2005 is Y." If Smith is not even notable any more then we do not even really need to mention Smith.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 07:34, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with all of that, and that's the kind of issue that gets resolved not with WP:V, but with WP:RS, under which editors reach consensus as to which sources are more reliable than others. Note that there are subsections and guidelines and essays which contend that different subject areas use different criteria for weighing the reliability of sources. If you feel that in the areas of scientific research, current policy allows for inappropriate weight for outdated sources, we could work on that, but not, I think, here. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:43, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
In my experience WP:NOTE and WP:NEUTRAL are very helpful for discussions about such cases.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 13:15, 29 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree... the WP:UNDUE section of WP:NEUTRAL is very helpful in these types of discussions (we don't wnat to give outdated sources undue weight). Blueboar (talk) 16:06, 29 November 2010 (UTC)

Nuujinn, here's what actually happened in the school case: there was a tremendous flurry about a (in my opinion dumb) controversy in the midst of which someone else changed the school. People noticed and the issue was discussed. The problem was that we had contradictory flat statements from the (incorrect) interview and from a (correct) fansite, the latter of which we all agreed wasn't good enough. We also found a number of passing remarks, none of which flatly stated that she went to the Delaware school, but all of which had some inconsistency with the Maryland one. We discussed this and there was definitely consensus that the Maryland school couldn't be correct. I was willing to remove any reference to where she went to school, because the one (correct) statement couldn't be properly sourced, and the one flatly stated "reliable" source was clearly wrong, being inconsistent with other solid statements we had. But someone absolutely resisted removing the wrong statement, solely because it was flatly stated in a "reliable" source. They would only accept a flat statement from another "reliable" source. (And even at that I got resistance to using her school yearbook as a source, though I'm somewhat surprised that nobody attacked it for being a primary source.)

It's easy to see how this could come out as a bigger problem with a WP:BLP: in this case the error was somewhat innocent, but that was a matter of luck. We could get into a fight (and probably have) where a "reliable" source says something negative that's also wrong, but we have trouble getting the statement removed because the sourcing we find, while circumstantially showing that the statement is incorrect, doesn't flatly state that it is wrong. This overstatement is consistently producing the interpretation that erroneous statements trump evidence that they are wrong if the evidence requires any interpretation. My dogma is that if there is a consensus that a statement is erroneous, it should be not be included in the text, even if that consensus is based on analysis of other sources rather than upon flatly opposing statements. Mangoe (talk) 11:47, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

Just my two cents on the example. I think looking over the wording and spirit of policies would suggest the school should not have been mentioned. A possible fudge which might have been acceptable would be to name the school, but deliberately leave ambiguity in about which school of that name it was?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:22, 30 November 2010 (UTC)
In general with sources in apparent error, it's usually a very simple matter, not worth arguing about, to write a formulation that leaves the reader with the full appreciation of the facts on the ground but does not create an original synthesis. E.g., "X School (in Delaware according to its yearbook[1], but placed by Y in Maryland[2])". This is even better if you can wikilink to two "X School" articles. Or, "considered by W to have the most editions of any book besides the Bible (see List of books by number of editions)." (There are other solutions than going to the work of populating the redlink, of course.) The only reason a discussion gets heated is if editors get confused about WP's mission, which is emphatically not to determine "correctness" or "truth" of sources, but to collect what they say for readers to judge. JJB 22:44, 30 November 2010 (UTC)
Exactly my thinking. In the St. James Railway article I've mentioned, I decided that I could not use the email I obtained from the artist since that would be OR, so I linked each assertion about the origin of the bell to each of the sources I had, and left it to the reader to research the matter further. There's nothing wrong with that approach. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:40, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
I tend to lose hope in these discussions as people repeatedly lose grip of the specifics of the cases in question. When it came to "which school", the school's own publications are manifestly better sources than a mere interviewer, so there is really no serious question as to which source is to be given priority, especially since there were also other sources whose testimony favored Delaware. And once other people actually looked at the yearbook the issue ceased to be seriously contested (modulo an irrelevant quibble about the school website). And that is the way it should remain; not all sources are created equal, and we are empowered to judge one against another.
But the problem situation came prior to that: the circumstantial evidence surrounding the interviewer's assertion indicated that it most likely wasn't accurate. I was willing then to exclude reference to her schooling, but it did not seem reasonable to include a statement which appeared to be false. The issue from the direction I'm approaching it is that people are saying that we should or even must include such dubious material. Mangoe (talk) 03:07, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
The point here is that you acted in good faith... You didn't just say "this is not true" and summarily remove sourced information. Instead, you discussed your concerns with other editors and reached a consensus. But, if a consensus had not been reached... if the other editors had disagreed with you and your arguments for questioning the source, then yes... both WP:V and WP:NPOV indicate that we would have had to leave the material you found "dubious" in the article. Blueboar (talk) 04:24, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
Well, my point is that people invoke "verifiability, not truth" as a means to constrain how that consensus may be obtained. And that's OK in the abstract, because that's really what our policies and guidelines are supposed to do. The trump-card argument that "V not T" is being used to support is that discussion of the merits of a source are to be disregarded because they are about "Truth". In My Real World (tm) fact-checking is part of verification, but a lot of people hold that in Wikipedia fact-checking is limited to collecting a set of sources and avoiding reconciling their contradictions. Mangoe (talk) 05:43, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
There are many ways to reconcile a contradiction. In this specific case, did you seek additional input at one of the various noticeboards? Are you still concerned about this particular issue (since, if you are, we could go take a look at it)? --Nuujinn (talk) 12:33, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
@Nuujinn and JJB I guess your proposals are also policy-acceptable, but I did not mention them because just according to my opinion they would decrease the quality of the article, so other solutions which are also within policy but make the article higher quality are to be preferred. See WP:IAR.
@Mangoe just in case it is not clear I think you approach is the best, and is within policy, and at least the way you explain it, it is a shame that others did not accept your reasoning about the prefer-ability of the school itself as a source, which sounds perfectly reasonable. It is a reasonable application of common sense to say that other more indirect sources may have mixed things up. See WP:UCS. Of course UCS and IAR should not be invoked too lightly, but I think this sounds like it should have been a straightforward case. I agree with you that too many people MAKE problems which are ONLY coming from literal interpretation of rules. If an article is made worse ONLY because of over-literal interpretation of a rule then that is a case where invoking WP:IAR should be appropriate. People on discussion pages like this seem to think that IAR is cited all over the place by trouble makers, but it is not, because actually invoking it does not get you very far in wikilawyering. It is not written in a legalistic way which is easy to abuse.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 13:00, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
Trying to reconcile contradicting sources can verge on OR, and we have to just take a firm stance against that. But I do think that one thing that Wikipedia requires - which may often help reconcile contrdictions, is to provide more context about the sources and the viewpoints they represent or contain. I think this is implicit in mangoe's arguments concerning the preferability of the school as a source. But regardless of which sources are used (and following NPOV, if different sources present diferent views, we provide multiple views and thus multiple sources), contextual information is very important. I know that regarding some things e.g. what is the first day of summer, it might be impossible to see how context might explain why one source says June 21 and another source says July 21. In other cases e.g. when is person x's birthday, context can be very informative for understanding why what the person said in an interview when they were in their twenties, versus an interview when they were in their fifties (or is that their forties?), and why their birth certificate, and church records provide conflicting information can be very useful (and unless any secondary sources do so, we can leave it to readers to make their own interpretations - the point is, the more contextual information provided, the better off the reader is). The importance of "context" for complying with NPOF (representing a view accurately) is something I have long thought could and should be more clearly or elaborately explained; this might be an important place to emphasize it as well.Slrubenstein | Talk 16:17, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
"Verging on OR" would not be OR, and so no one should be taking a firm stance against cases which are not OR, as if they were? Obviously the example you give are designed to be different from Mangoe's in the direction of being more clearly OR. How does that help?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:50, 1 December 2010 (UTC)
There are several ways to handle these difficulties, and there are several ways to create original statements. In general my bias is in the direction of not including questionable material, because as a rule the things that we don't say are not "facts" which can be held against us. Room has to be made for being excessively fastidious but for instance in BLPs we generally would prefer to be fastidious. The OR opportunity which I think we've missed so far is the creation of false controversies or uncertainties by reporting conflicting material at face value when it's really the case that one or the other simply has to be mistaken. Another example: Watts Island Light is variously reported to have been built in 1833 or 1867, by John Donahoo or by someone left unnamed. Everyone is working from the same data here, and it's simply not possible that Donahoo built anything in 1867, having been dead at the time. The 1833 date and the form of the tower are however quite consistent with Donahoo having built it then, and we have from at least one source that in 1867 the name of the light was changed. Rather than invent a controversy over the construction it made more sense to go with the most consistent account. The purer alternative, if you believe in that sort of purity, is not to list out the possibilities, but simply leave out the data, which is really hard to enforce for a lighthouse. Mangoe (talk) 16:28, 6 December 2010 (UTC)
Mangoe, what do you mean by "questionable"? There is a big difference between questionable as a normal English word and questionable as in WP "questionable source". I also tend to avoid anything that seems controversial for whatever reason, including common sense reasons like an obvious typo. Of course this can sometimes also raise questions of WP:NEUTRALity if you are removing something BOTH notable and verifiable, so it is not always the best way.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:48, 6 December 2010 (UTC)
The meta-point here is that our notion of "questionable" needs to subsume the general sense of the word: we can be pickier, but we should not put ourselves in the position of repeating material which a reasonable person (and here "reasonable" implies "knowing enough about the subject to hold a credible opinion") would question if not outright reject. Or to take it another meta-level, behind verifiability as a principle lies credibility, of which verifiability is one of the vehicles. Mangoe (talk) 20:01, 6 December 2010 (UTC)

Some practical concerns

I am new to this activity, and cannot presume to enter the debate about policy. In case it is useful, here are some ways it could restrict me. (1) Many years ago, the New York Times published an article about problems caused by the operation of the Aswan Dam, denouncing engineers for actions without anticipating consequences. That is a verifiable statement that could be included in an article about science / engineering and public policy. I cannot refute it by dint of having been in a meeting in Khartoum, when the hydrological advisers to the Egyptian government arrived and stated the plans that politicians had made. Everyone of the hydrologists present knew what the consequences would be and were unhappy. But my recollection is not verifiable. (2) An article about an opera company printed a remark about a stand-in soprano that, for her, constituted praise. Someone told the reporter that she (the reporter) had made a mistake, and the published comment applied the remark to the actual lead soprano who is the subject of a WP article. Applied to her, it is derogatory. I was not able to get the paper to publish an effective correction. If my misquoted remark were to be quoted in the WP article, it would be "verifiable". My refutation would not. I have more examples of "verifiable" statements that could, in principle, get into articles, that could not be refuted by recollection of personal involvement (these include newspaper reports mentioning people who had namesakes in the same locality). Hopefully my concerns are the result of my ignorance of WP procedures. And I realize that inclusion of non-"verifiable" recollections can lead to serious unintentional and intentional statements that are "untrue" Michael P. Barnett (talk) 13:01, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

Your concerns are valid, but the question is, what to do about it? Do we accept your recollection regarding the Aswan Dam? If we do, do we accept the recollection of a person claiming to be at the same meeting, but with a different recollection? Do we then also accept the claims of representatives of the Egyptian government that a Micheal Barnett is a disgruntled trouble maker? There are plenty of places where the discussions are like that, here we try to mitigate the he said/she said arguments by turning to reliable sources. If you have not read it, please take a look at WP:TRUTH. I hope that helps clarify things. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:14, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
What you need to do in the first case (re: the Aswan Dam) is find a way to reliably publish your recollections. Then we can use your published recollections as a source. In the second case, as the person who was essentially misquoted by a source, I think you do have an argument that the source contains an error, and thus should be considered unreliable in respect to a specific statement as to your words. We can not say that you meant the quote to apply to the stand it (we don't have a source for that), but do have some justification for omiting reference to your comment as it applies to the actual lead soprano. (The fact that something is verifiable does not mean we must discuss it in an article.) Blueboar (talk) 16:06, 12 December 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. Both comments helpful and triggered further ideas. Re Aswan Dam, I remembered the names of the two advisers to Egyptian govt They were directors of major labs in France and Netherlands that now have extensive websites. They may have articles in French and Dutch Wikis. If this were to become a big deal (it is not for me, I mentioned it only for illustration) I could ask the lab archivists. Not sure of usability of "sub-literature" numbered lab reports. Quite possible an Egyptian minister took credit for decision at time, with press release. I suppose I should check if there is an Egyptian Wiki and follow up through that if there is. As regards hostility to comment, I was thinking more of New York Times. Will talk to DataSpace people about possible durable web depository for well indexed recollections of the elderly, that might be of scholarly use, for future browsing. Comment on local news gaff about soprano reassures. Michael P. Barnett (talk) 18:37, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

Madonna's "Confessions" album sales

  • I have stated that Madonna's "COADF" album sold 8.5 million and have sources from her record label that state it, yet the Madonna fans on wiki feel the need to revert it back to the "12 million worldwide stated" in a newspaper article from the Chicago Sun Times. Can anyone back me up please?ARMOR89 (talk) 00:33, 13 December 2010 (UTC)
    If there's an actual dispute among reliable sources, you can use them both, and explain where each number came from. The old WP:NPOV saw about describing debates but not engaging in them. Hopefully, that process of explanation (and/or further research) will reveal the root of the contradiction. Ocaasi (talk) 00:51, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Motion is made that WP:V is ambiguous

I move that WP:V is ambiguous with the two meanings:
  1. The first sentence of WP:V protects against insertions of material that are alleged to be "true" but not verifiable.
  2. The first sentence of WP:V protects against exclusions of material that are alleged to be "not true" but verifiable.
Do I hear a second?
RB (talk) 21:01, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
For reference, the first sentence of WP:V is, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
RB (talk) 21:52, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
The second paragraph is even more egregious. It states, "All material in Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published source...but in practice not everything need actually be attributed". This standard is not merely ambiguous, but outright contradictory. Wikipedia's so-called standards are so arbitrary and convoluted, that they are routinely twisted to justify whatever POV and whim an admin. desires. Wasp14 (talk) 21:47, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

preliminary discussion about the motion

It does both, except that in cases where something is clearly false, in the sense of being a clear error, and there's no contention about it, editors would agree to leave it out. But material can't be excluded simply because it's a POV that others regard as wrong-headed, so long as the source is reliable—though in the case of a contentious issue, it would have to be a high-quality reliable one (or multiple reliable ones). SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:17, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I do not see a problem. Yes, V does both. But many of our policies have a range of implications and applications. This is not the same thing as "ambiguous." This would be a problem only if it were unclear to readers how to apply V. In my experience the only people who have every ound V "ambiguous" (or wrong or troubling or incomprehensible) are those editors swho come here insisting that they know what the truth is. These are people who may have read our policies but systematically ignore those sentences that tell them that Wp is not about "truth." Then they complain that our policies are self-contradictory. The obvious solution: just read the entire policy, and abandon your own convinction that you are an arbiter of truth. Leave your assumptions at the door and all ambiguities and contradictions and so on disappear. I see no point in writing more about this, when the problem is some users who ignore what has already been written. It is reasonable for us to assume that users will read and accept our policies. It is unreasonable for users to think they can read policies selectively and then make arguments against them. Slrubenstein | Talk 05:29, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I think the cited sentence has been written in a careful and deliberate way to avoid the types of ambiguity which are contained in some interpretations of it. So I agree with others here in not seeing the problem. It distinguishes between what editors think is true, and what can be verified. Obviously by the way verifiability has to be considered along with notability and reliability. These three qualities together might be argued to help Wikipedian texts themselves contain truth, BUT it is not the truth according to individuals editors which individual editors should use as their rationale for inclusion of non obvious material. No one would want to read Wikipedia if it was full of false information. But ironically it would be full of false information if individuals editors took their orientation from their individuals ideas about what is true. Does that help?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:41, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Help?  No, I can't tell that you are seeing the two different definitions.  When you talk about "their rationale for inclusion" that is definition 1.  Definition 2 involves exclusion. When you talk about "what editors think is true," that is definition 1.  I think that SlimVirgin was on point when he talked about the "exception" that results while applying definition 2.
RB (talk) 09:00, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but perhaps AL doesn't agree that there are two interpretations there. I don't see one, myself. The first sentence directs us to focus on what can be verified by reliable sources, not what we know as true. It is not perfect, but it works well because it guides us away from discussions about what we believe and towards discussions of what we can prove, and because, generally speaking, reliable sources try to accurately reflect the world. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:04, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Straining to find the right metaphor I see two inter-locking pieces, that are not in direct conflict. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:49, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

The goal is accuracy, where objective accuracy exists. And wp:ver is a very good means to that end. As long as you keep it in its place (rather than trying to reverse engineer a WP mission statement out of it as many do) I think that the fact that the first sentence does two different things does not mean that it is ambiguous. OK, maybe the use of the word "truth" vs "accuracy" is as sort of straw dog tactic against those who argue otherwise, because in actual use, the word "truth" often refers to opinions, while the word "accuracy" seldom does. But either way, it says that the final arbiter is verifiability, including for the two situations that you discuss. North8000 (talk) 11:07, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps the word "threshold" is the source of the trouble. If the wording was "A necessary condition for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, rather than truth" that would make clear that WP:V never mandates inclusion. After all, editors regularly omit verifiable information which is not notable, or felt to be trivial or boring. Being not true is an equally good reason for omission. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 12:34, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that that would be a good change. They are both correct, but yours is written in a way that would reduce "mis-launches" from this sentence. North8000 (talk) 13:28, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think a change is needed on that point, since WP:V does not trump WP:N, where the question of whether something is worth having is dealt with. --Nuujinn (talk) 14:28, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Verifiability is not the only content guideline. WP:BURDEN presumes that some things will be verifiable yet not be appropriate for a given article; the same with WP:N. The threshold language says precisely what it should. RJC TalkContribs 15:58, 27 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the two definitions are "two inter-locking pieces, that are not in direct conflict."  But consider the two definitions as an abstract mathematical entity, generating force on Wikipedia.  Definition (1) is a force opposed to things that "could be true", while Definition (2) is a force to include things that "could be not true".  From ambiguity 1b "A word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways."  As long as we don't agree that there are two different forces (an ambiguity), it is harder to discuss any new operational definition for definition (2).  RB (talk) 16:59, 7 December 2010 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────WP:N has to do with whether or not a topic has sufficient notability to warrant a WP article, not with whether or not a point has sufficient weight to be mentioned in a WP article—that's WP:DUE (part of WP:NPOV). Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:53, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

This section has gone off into 4 completely directions. All interesting, but who knows what we're talking about. North8000 01:00, 9 December 2010 (UTC)

Hi North8000. I have also been watching how the dynamic of these talkpages works. I think that the best way to get a focus on something is to make a concrete proposal. But in between concrete proposals people "think about stuff" which can help give proposals a proper hearing.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:17, 9 December 2010 (UTC)
After reading through all of the above commentary and looking up WP:N; I don't agree, at least not yet, that we are herding cats.  Wtmitchell notes that WP:N is not part of content policy; WP:NNC states, "The question of content coverage within a given page is governed by the principle of due weight and other content policies."  At the same time, the word "notability" is frequently used (9 times) on this page as it relates to content.  It seems that the word used in the policy is "prominence" (used 2 times on this page), but for now I understand that "notability" used here is a content issue.  It would be in the scope of a different post to explain how I see that "notability/prominence" is central to the ambiguity.  For now I'll say that both of the posts opposed to the wording change to remove "threshold" are confounded.  RB (talk) 20:13, 11 December 2010 (UTC)
A related discussion has closed without resolution, and one suggestion from this discussion remains viable, the suggestion of 12:34, 27 November 2010.  I support the change from "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia..." to "A necessary condition for inclusion in Wikipedia...", as I think the suggestion goes in the right direction.  RB (talk) 22:25, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Opinion X, Opinion Y, and Opinion Z

This is an attempt to further clarify the ambiguity.

Introductory notes:

  • The term "WP:V-2010" is used below to mean the current first sentence in WP:V, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
  • Definitions #1 and #2 have been previously discussed in this section:
  1. The first sentence of WP:V protects against insertions of material that are alleged to be "true" but not verifiable.
  2. The first sentence of WP:V protects against exclusions of material that are alleged to be "not true" but verifiable.

- - - - - - - - - - -

    Opinion X, Opinion Y, and Opinion Z

Definition #1:  a force opposed to things that "could be true"

  • Group A:  Has no interest in things that "could be true".   (WP:V-2010), (empowers Definition #1)
  • Group B:  Has an interest in things that "could be true".   (they might be true, even if not verifiable)

Definition #2:  a force to include things that "could be not true"

  • Group C:  Has no interest in things that "could be not true".   (WP:V-2010), (empowers Definition #2)
  • Group D:  Has an interest in things that "could be not true".   (they might not be true, even if verifiable)
  • Opinion X:  Groups A and C are "right thinking".  The thinking of members of Groups B and D wastes time.  WP:V-2010 is used to operationally define WP:ELNO "factually inaccurate material."  No changes are needed to policy.
  • Opinion Y:  Groups A and D are "right thinking".  Members of Groups B and C need to read the policies.  Editors have common sense, and work together to apply the force of reason.  The force of reason is used in determining "factually inaccurate material".  No changes are needed to policy.
  • Opinion Z:  Groups A and D are "right thinking".  Members of Group B are placing personal opinions about the truth of what is "true" over and above a practical operational definition of "true".  Verifiability is not itself "truth", and Opinion X "true believers" are placing personal opinions about the truth of what is "not true" over and above an operational definition of "not true".  The force of reason is being displaced by WP:V-2010 in deciding if something is "factually inaccurate material."  Editor concensus is not now empowered to decide that something verifiable has its notability/prominence reduced by being "not true".  Changes are needed to policy.  RB (talk) 21:17, 12 December 2010 (UTC)

Proposal: WP:RS should be expanded and should explicitly trump WP:V

The discussion is here: [1]

Your thoughts are appreciated. The "oldest people" question, and how to verify such people, is only what set off discussion. SBHarris 23:24, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

I take your point as noteworthy that the WP:V page is not sourced with reliable references.  I believe that the operational force at work for the WP:V page is the force of reason.  I agree with your concerns that WP:V shows contempt and sarcasm for "the truth".  In a recent discussion archived yesterday, a proposal was made to remove the word "truth", but that point was not at the center of the discussion.  That the WP:V could be re-written to not use the word "truth," in no way displaces the operational definition for inclusion in the encyclopedia, which is verifiability.
So the specific answer to your proposal is that WP:V is one of the five pillars, and WP:RS (referenced as WP:IRS on the WP:V page) is a subsidiary guideline.  So any problem with WP:IRS caused by WP:V would need to gets changes made at WP:V such that WP:IRS remained subsidiary.
IMO there are two standards hidden in WP:V, one is the operational definition for "true" which has consensus, and the second is the operational definition for "not true", which is in dispute.
These three quotes are germane to a discussion here of things that are "not true":

But fails utterly to say what you do if all that is available (as above) for sourcing, is a primary source AND a news source that misquotes it.

A verifiable source is worth nothing (in fact less than nothing) if it isn’t true.

there’s no point in having verified cites to articles that err.

And when you state, "The most important thing is that the statements in Wikipedia be TRUE," I think you are sensing things that "could be not true" and objecting to their presence; because you immediately state, "Being watched by the eyes of informed people and experts, is how Wikipedia maintains true articles".  RB (talk) 18:28, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

The use of the word "truth" instead of "accuracy" in WP policies and guidelines is problematic in several respects. The first is that it allows or encourages the pervasive misstatements about what wp:ver and wp:truth actually say. What they ACTUALLY say that nothing trumps the requirement for sourcing. The pervasive mis-statement about these is to claim that accuracy is not an objective of or valued by Wikipedia. Next, the substitution of the word "truth" instead of the word "accuracy" is POV disparagement of the concept or goal of accuracy, in areas where objective accuracy exists. "Accuracy" is much less ambiguous, whereas the word "truth" has a dual meaning in common use, one of them being opinions or beliefs where such is contrary to objective accuracy, or where objective accuracy does not exist.

Structurally, the "verifiability, not truth" statement is a statement that verifiability is absolutely required, and which gives "truth" as an example of something that does not trump the verifiability requirement. IMHO this inclusion of an "example" (and only one example) with the verifiability statement makes it less clear, and more prone to misinterpretation. Sincerely, North8000 20:09, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

Ease of access

Suppose someone cites several fictional classified papers. Access to sources states that "The principle of verifiability implies nothing about ease of access to sources". I interpret the rules quite literally. Do I have to break into the Pentagon to prove that it is a hoax? Marcus Qwertyus 21:38, 16 December 2010 (UTC)

That sentenced is prefaced by the comment: "anyone should be able to check that material". "Classified" means that not anyone can access it, so a classified document would not be a reliable/verifiable source until someone makes it publicly available. Location (talk) 21:47, 16 December 2010 (UTC)
Clarified. Marcus Qwertyus 21:53, 16 December 2010 (UTC)
No, I think the edit you made makes the statement more ambiguous, so restored the early information. It is the source of the information we need access to, yes? --Nuujinn (talk)
All I did was reassert that the source must be published. It's contradictory: "anyone should be able to check that material " "implies nothing about ease of access to sources". Marcus Qwertyus 23:04, 16 December 2010 (UTC)
With respect, no, what you wrote was "The principle of verifiability implies nothing about ease of access to information published by a reliable source". My point is that it is the source we must have access to, not the information published by the source. The information published by the source may be available in many other places; wikipedia, blogs, etc., which are not reliable. To verify the information, we must have access to the source. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:08, 17 December 2010 (UTC)
Okay then. How about "The principle of verifiability implies nothing about ease of access if it has (or "as long as it has") been published by a reliable source". Marcus Qwertyus 00:30, 17 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps you could elaborate a bit more on what's wrong with the current wording, I'm not sure I understand what you're seeing as problematic. Sorry to be dense. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:35, 17 December 2010 (UTC)
My point wasn't to add the bit about the reliability of the source, just that it has to be published and therefore accessible. Marcus Qwertyus 01:10, 17 December 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I get that, but what is wrong with "The principle of verifiability implies nothing about ease of access to sources"? --Nuujinn (talk) 01:17, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Nuujinn. It should be obvious that a source thats a classified document can't be used to support something in an article. Thats covered by their not being listed in WP:RS, where it says "reliable published" sources. AaronY (talk) 01:57, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I think AaronY has a point since "publish", "publication", and "public" all have a common Latin root in the word publicus (“pertaining to the people”).  RB (talk) 22:17, 19 December 2010 (UTC)


I added patents to self-published sources. They clearly are 'reliable' in one sense- they prove that somebody claimed something (but we allow self published work as proof that somebody once claimed something anyway), but they're not reliable in the sense of proving something is true, or that something actually works or anything else really. And they're clearly self-published in that you have to pay to get the patent. The patent clerk does not do any checks of the reality of the claims, only that they're not claimed by somebody else already- but they don't even guarantee that they're not claimed elsewhere. So there's no editorial control in the sense the Wikipedia needs.

So I'm pretty sure that patents can be correctly considered self published, and that Wikipedia should do so, so I changed the guideline.- Sheer Incompetence (talk) Now with added dubiosity! 02:39, 25 December 2010 (UTC)

I don't think that's the right designation. Rather I'd say that patents are reliable primary sources. They are effectively published by the Patent Office, who does exercise extensive control over which patents they publish. They are fine for reporting the existence of a patent or details of the patent claim. But they are not secondary sources and should be used with caution the same as any primary source.   Will Beback  talk  00:14, 27 December 2010 (UTC)
Any primary source is reliable about what it actually SAYS, even if it errs in what it says. The point is that patents are not at reliable about what they claim. They may be completely wrong, because nobody ever checks them before they are published. I can patent a machine that turns lead into gold, and so long as somebody else hasnt' claimed the same, it will issue in time. The patent examiner is perfectly willing to let issues of workability sort themselves out in court, if somebody contests them. A patent that claims a machine that does something that it doesn't is invalid, but that invalidity is not noticed until later, and only if somebody is interested. Only perpetual motion machines and antigravity devices are required to have working models. For my lead-into-gold machine, I don't even have to build a model to get A US patent. It's not a very strong patent, to be sure, but that doens't mean it won't issue. Chet Fleming's US 4,666,425 on how to keep a severed human head alive with a perfusion machine is a good example. No, he never actually tried it. He just has diagrams. The patent issued anyway. And won't be of much help to anybody who actually has to solve this problem, although it will probably interfere with patenting a device that DOES actually work. That's a big problem with the patent system-- you can patent a very broad range of ideas, most of them worthless, and thereby stake out ground preemptively from somebody who later does the careful experiments to find out how to actually do it. The argument that previous patents have not actually "reduced the problem to workable art" is a valid one in theory, but in practice it usually doensn't work very well, becuase it requires the patent examiner to make a judgment as to which device works and which does not. No examiner is going to do that. That's a matter for an expensive and nasty patent trial. SBHarris 00:26, 27 December 2010 (UTC)
As reliable primary sources, patents are reliable sources for the fact that the claim was made, by whom, and when, whereas self-published sources may or may not be reliable for anything, though they can be primary, secondary or even tertiary. I don't think that anyone should use a patent as a source for the actual functionality of an invention, merely the claim. That's different from an inventor's blog, which would not be a usable source for an invention outside of a biography on the inventor.   Will Beback  talk  00:34, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from Model1986, 26 December 2010

{{edit semi-protected}}

Eric Zim rebranded Nickelodeon creating the new identity, the logos, look and feel. Trollback only produced the on-air graphics.

Please see the 5th paragraph in this link:


Model1986 (talk) 17:23, 26 December 2010 (UTC)

You seem to be referring to this edit you made to Trollbäck + Company. It is not necessary to post on this talk page in order to justify your edit. Instead, you can use the edit summary (which you have done) or the edited page's talk page (here, page does not yet exist). Intelligentsium 02:30, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Ancient self-published sources

From WP:SPS - Anyone can create a personal web page or pay to have a book published, then claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason, self-published media, such as books... are largely not acceptable as sources.

This is fine as far as it related to present-day material. However, SPS says nothing about ancient material. I've currently got Somerhill House at GAR. Three of the sources I have used are most definitely self-published, but they date to 1766, 1830 and 1832. Fortunately, my reviewer is not making an issue of this. Are we really saying that such sources cannot be used because they were self-published, or do we need to clarify SPS to state that ancient (pre-1980?) SPSs can be used? Mjroots (talk) 06:35, 28 December 2010 (UTC)

If you have a suggestion for wording we can certainly look at it, though I wouldn't call everything pre-1980 ancient. :) SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:42, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
I think the age of an SPS hasn't anything to do with verifiability or appropriate use as a source. Self published material is allowed for non-contentious information about a subject, and would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:37, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
1980 is not set in stone, but is before the time when the internet was established, thus avoiding that problem. Somerhill House is now a GA. Have a look at the SPSs used as refs and you'll see what I mean by the original post. Mjroots (talk) 22:38, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
WP:RS needs to add other metrics (like reliability, expertise, and objectivity) to RS criteria, look at the sum of them, and say that the strength of the required sourcing varies with how controversial the statement is. This would de-weight the self-published vs. published-by-others criteria, make it non-categorical at the individual criteria level, and solve that problem as well as a zillion other WP problems. North8000 (talk) 22:56, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
1830 might be a better date then 1980. Two hundred years ago the distinctions between printers and publishers were not as clear as they are today.
Most sources are neither 100% nor 0% reliable. It's a continuum. Also, it might not be consistent for everything in a source. A source can be fairly reliable for one assertion and quite unreliable for a different assertion on the next page. If there's doubt about the accuracy and reliability of a source then it should be handled appropriately. That would include minimizing its use and attributing any content taken from it. Something like, "Beasely, in his 1733 pamphlet, says the East Wing was built during the Tudor era".
I don't think we should create an open loophole to allow using SPSes that are over 30 years old.   Will Beback  talk  12:30, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
Ancient self-published sources are likely to be of interest of historians anyway, such as autobiographies or memoirs. Even the memoirs of unknown people may be used by historians to research about the development of specific obscure events, or events that took place before the existence of press as we currently know it. MBelgrano (talk) 14:05, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
Please remember that Primary sources such as these may be used... they just need to be used appropriately and with extreme caution... because it is very easy to slip into Original Research when using them. We can bluntly note what the ancient SPS says (best done with in text attribution)... but any analysis or interpretations of them, and any conclusions drawn from them must come from a secondary source. Blueboar (talk) 14:17, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── These might not be self-published. I only looked at the 1766 source, for that one, the publisher appears to be If can be considered a reliable publisher, the problem is solved, despite the fact they are not the original publisher. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:37, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

That website appears to be re-publishing the material without change, making it a convenience link to the sources. They may be a good source for e existence of the books and for the accuracy of the reproduction, but that does not alter the SPS designation.   Will Beback  talk  21:47, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) The Weald is a WP:RS AFAIK. Books are faithful digitizations of the original, not verbatim transcripts such as British History Online. Mjroots (talk) 21:50, 29 December 2010 (UTC)
I would say there are two kinds of re-publishers who are, in a sense, reliable. Some re-publishers may be relied upon to provide a copy that is faithful to the original, but are indiscriminate about what they publish. In that case, a source that was originally self-published is still self-published. Some re-publishers may be careful about what they publish, and only publish works of similar merit to those published by other mainstream publishers. In that case, the source should not be treated as self-published. Jc3s5h (talk) 22:23, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

I think we need a distinction in terminology here... hosting vs. publishing. A website that contains a digitized scan of a work "hosts" it... they don't publish it. To give an example... Google books or Project Gutenberg "host" scanned copies of materials that are published by others, they are not the publisher of the material. If I write my memoirs, take it to a vanity press and pay to have 10,000 copies printed up, my work is self-published. The fact that someone else later scans one of these copies and puts it on their website does not change the fact that my memoirs are self published. Blueboar (talk) 02:07, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
I'll bring up part of the above over at WT:CITE#"Hosting" (Republishing?) vs. Publishing. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:18, 31 December 2010 (UTC)

Why sources?

Per WP:BAN. –MuZemike 04:02, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Ok, so if Wikipedia is the "sum of human knowledge," then why must we be required to use sources when we write articles? I thought this was supposed to be a crowd-sourcing project, that means, to see how we shape the "reality" in which we live through our own perceptions and beliefs. Or did the goal of the project change? Please explain. Kiki Rebeouf (talk) 02:17, 25 December 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia does not trust its editors to know the truth, but can't get away from trusting its editors to decide the matter of who DOES know it. Or at least, to decide upon the matter of who claims, in some kind of publication, to know the truth. Wikipedia is thus not a direct survey of human knowledge so much as a crowd sourced personal evaluation of the total peer-reviewed set of publications that claim human knowledge. Thus, not the sum total of human knowledge, but a set of anonymous book reports on it. SBHarris 02:31, 25 December 2010 (UTC)
(ec) It's a crowdsourced encyclopedia, not a crowdsourced public notepad, or a crowdsourced Jungian def poetry jam. Sources show which information has been vetted and is most likely to accurately reflect the aspects of reality which can be objectively described. Wikipedia, cannot accommodate the subjective views of hundreds of thousands of editors or else we would have hundreds of thousands of versions of each article. If you have different perceptions, you could seek to confirm them through experimental methods, publish them, and bring them back to be incorporated. It's possible we all live in different realities, but Wikipedia reflects on the parts which can make it through basic peer review. WP:NOR might help explain this as well. Ocaasi (talk) 02:39, 25 December 2010 (UTC)
But I thought Wikipedia was supposed to be an experiment to see what "reality" would look like if all english-speaking people were to get together to write their own articles. Then while the english speaking people were haggling over their pages, all the french-speaking people would be busy writing all their articles, as well as the germans writing theirs, and so on. Then we could compare the different versions and learn about our cultural differences and see how language may shape perception and so on. Is any of this ringing a bell? Kiki Rebeouf (talk) 00:18, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
It's a suggestion not without merit, Mr. Wharf, but Wikia stole all the good Klingon stuff, and I'm afraid that acting-ensign Crusher and his pals ruined the rest a long time ago. Say, perhaps you could space him and make it look like a Jeffries tube failure? SBHarris 01:04, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
  • Where does it say that Wikipedia was intended to be the "sum of human knowledge"?  RB (talk) 02:36, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
Jimbo said it. [2]. Might be his most famous quote. SBHarris 03:05, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
of course, he meant 'sum' in it's mathematical sense - wikipedia was supposed to be a single number. --Ludwigs2 03:17, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
There are similar statements elsewhere, such as the mission statement or by-laws of the Wikimedia Foundation.North8000 (talk) 12:04, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
Sourcing is essential for Wikipedia. While the wording on the policies needs changes, and, sans that, the policies are often mis-used, sourcing (and a requirement for such when the material is questioned) is needed to assure that we are creating good and correct content. North8000 (talk) 12:02, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
Well, that's what I was getting at -- Isn't wikipedia an experiment in seeing what most people say is true, rather than what is true? I mean, what is correct is what most people agree is correct, right? So if the editors have a "consensus" that, say, Guinea pigs are actually pigs, isn't that what wikipedia is all about? Kiki Rebeouf (talk) 19:36, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
No, it is not about what most people say is true, it's about what most sources say is true. the assumption here is a scholarship assumption, that people who get published have reputations to uphold and will publish information that reflects the current scholarly understanding of a topic. Many people believe that the earth was created in seven days; few if any of them could get that belief published in a scholarly journal (not because anyone is prejudiced against the belief particularly, but because the belief has no traction as a scientific theory); therefore Wikipedia will give far more weight to the conventional scientific explanation of the formation of the earth, at least on science-oriented articles. There is room in the encyclopedia for every notable belief, obviously, but we don't weight our discussions of them merely by bean-counting advocates. --Ludwigs2 22:33, 26 December 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Wikipedia's purpose is to document "the sum of all human knowledge" as revealed in RS. That means fact, fiction, truth, error, all of it, as long as it's in RS. Even total nonsense gets documented here, but by giving truly "reliable" sources the front seat, the fact that it's erroneous nonsense is made plain, IOW lies aren't allowed to stand alone and sell their point in some sort of sales-brochure-of-an-article. Verifiability is about "documentation". Without that we can't "know" if it's human knowledge or one person's speculation. We can't waste time on individual fantasies, but when those fantasies gain enough mention in RS, we still document their existence, hence the existence of many of the fringe, pseudoscience and alternative medicine articles. -- Brangifer (talk) 19:25, 30 December 2010 (UTC)

To reply to the initial point, no, Wikipedia is not a post-modern experiment in seeing what different cultures think is 'true'. It's an encyclopedia. Although the different language Wikipedias might give cultural anthropologists plenty of material in discovering systemic biases, that's not why we're here. As for the idea that we could operate without using sources, that rule was introduced because Wikipedia wasn't working without sources. Every time there was a dispute, it was resolved by referring to outside knowledge, not polling the participants for their personal views, so it became codified. The rules of Wikipedia arose because they helped the encyclopedia be more accurate, not as a cultural experiment. Fences&Windows 23:12, 30 December 2010 (UTC)
I thought wikipedia was supposed to be an experiment where the masses defined their own reality, and what enough people agreed upon became the "truth." Kiki Rebeouf (talk) 05:42, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't know where you got that idea. If you read early comments from Larry Sanger about Wikipedia, there's nothing about "defining our own reality" and plenty about writing a free high-quality encyclopedia.[3][4] Fences&Windows 19:26, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

In-text attribution when quoting

This page isn't about copyright, and the discussion above is getting a bit bogged down. If we're going to mention it, it should be very brief with a link to the relevant pages. The copyright issue apart, we should also make clear that quotations need some form of intext attribution so that people know who's being quoted. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:24, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Although may be desirable for stylistic reasons, quotations don't need in-text attribution, they do need an in-line citation. As this is a content policy page about verifiability and not a manual of style page, there is no need to emphasise that point. -- PBS (talk) 21:40, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
It's not an MoS issue, and they do need attribution so that people know who is talking. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:42, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, you have made two substantially different statements, "quotations need some form of intext attribution" and "they do need attribution so that people know who is talking". A footnote may, depending on placement, satisfy your second statement but not your first. Also, we still have the liberty to import articles wholesale from public domain or compatibly licensed sources, and to attribute them with a general statement near the end of the article. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:19, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, Jc, I don't follow. I don't see a difference between my first and second points. If you don't attribute in text, you "end up with" this kind of "random quoting" for no obvious "reason," and without "making clear" who is being "quoted." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:52, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Just because a technique could be confusing does not mean it is always confusing. If there is only one quotation in a paragraph, and that quote is immediately followed by a footnote, there will be no confusion as to the source of the quote. Do not prohibit a writing technique in the policy just because it could be abused. Jc3s5h (talk) 04:15, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
It's not a question of abuse, but of poor writing. The reader will have to click on the footnote for the source, then click on the source to see if it's the source who's quoting someone else. And if it's not online they won't be able to find out that way. Sometimes it's not even clear whether someone is being quoted, or whether they're just scare quotes. The bottom line is that quotes need in-text attribution or they look silly. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:03, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to see some situations, Jc3s5h, where it wasn't optimal to attribute inside the quote. I agree with your idea, that a technique shouldn't be prohibited just because it could be abused, but it's not apparent to me that there's every a reason to do what you're suggesting. In the case of a wholesale importation from another source, I assume the relevant quotation would not be the entire pasted text, but only the "quotations" therein, which would already have in-line attribution. In other words, we don't quote Britannica 1911, but we would reprint their inline attribution of others. What other situations are there? Ocaasi (talk) 08:35, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Ocassi, policies should not demand "optimal" writing, they should just forbid writing that causes errors, confusion, or legal violations. For an example of a quote that does not name the speaker inline, just in a footnote, see the first quote in the lead of Second. I find that quote acceptable as is, although identifying the speaker wouldn't do any harm. In this case, there is an argument for leaving the name of the speaker vague, because although the speaker is technically the General Conference on Weights and Measures, virtually every government that has considered the matter has adopted the definition as a matter of law for most purposes. Not naming the speaker reflects the true situation: it is a pervasive definition that virtually everyone uses for most purposes. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:21, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────SV we have to give an in-line citation after a quote, and it is possible to have a perfectly valid quote that does not need in text attribution to be verifiable. I came across one yesterday in the article on the Siege of Drogheda

However, Cromwell lacked the technical training to systematically construct siege entrenchments and bombard a fortified place into surrender. "The Cromwellian siegework repertoire included only the first and/or last stages; that is assault, or failing that, blockade".[8]

The quote is fully cited with a short citation "Padraig Lenihan, Confederate Catholics at War, p175" and a full source (isbn etc) listed in the References section.

"Be mindful of copyright: do not copy text from copyrighted sources" is too simple an explanation as I explained above because there are exceptions to that rule, for example limited copying placed in quotes and text from copyleft sources with compatible licences (such as other Wikipedia pages and Citizendium). -- PBS (talk) 14:45, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

That's not an example of a valid quote, Philip; in fact it's exactly what should be avoided. It's inappropriate in part because we have no idea who's being quoted, and in part because there's no hint as to why there's a quote there. Someone has simply chosen to place quotation marks around a sentence that was written by someone else, apparently at random. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:54, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
There are times when in-text attribution is needed for reasons of NPOV, but not for verifiability. SV you may not like the style, but the in-line citation after the quote satisfies verifiability in a way that an in-text attribution usually does not, or are you saying that the footnote does not give adequate information? An in-line citation is something that has been demanded for a number of years, this new requirement -- for in-text attribution -- does not improve verifiability and as Jc3s5h points out above is not always good style.
Further the current sentence requesting in-text attribution as part of verifiability causes problems with incorporating text from copyright compatible sources such as Wikipedia and Citizendium. As you have pointed out above trying to incorporate all of this is complicated, but it would be better to remove the current sentence without a replacement than leave it as it is. -- PBS (talk) 09:51, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Since in-text attribution is a thorny issue, it's worth repeating that this is not about requiring it anywhere except for quotations. The notion of a quotation is inherently tied to its unique author. The above example seems like a particularly inapt edge case, because it refers to a commonly used scientific standard where there's little need for quotation or in-line attribution, since most everybody uses the same standard. Either, it could be prefaced by, 'Several international bodies use the definition...' or it's just not a unique quotation--more a definition, which is not much about its author, just about common terminology. Ocaasi (talk) 10:52, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
I disagree with Ocassi that "commonly used scientific standard where there's little need for quotation" first because the definition has been carefully crafted to state the exact conditions under which the measurement should be carried out; paraphrasing introduces a serious risk of a change in meaning. Second, the particular passage is adopted as binding law in many English speaking countries, and anyone who follows court cases understands how even a single word in a law has the potential to be at the center of a legal dispute. Thirdly, articles are plagued by drive-by editors and vandals who either overestimate their ability to rephrase important definitions, or deliberately introduce subtle vandalism. A quotation allows editors who are not specialists in the subject matter, but who are cleaning up after the troublesome editor, to just look at the source to repair the damage. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:15, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I would expect we use the verbatim definition, too. I just think that's a bad example of a quotation, since the author is incidental to the accepted standard, which is shared by basically all serious scientific bodies. If it weren't a common standard, we would use in-text attribution, but since it is a common standard, it's just a scientific definition. So it's fine without in-text attribution, or it could easily be defined 'By the scientific community' or 'By major scientific bodies'. In any event, the author is incidental, so we're just citing any relevant source for the definition though many different sources could support it. Maybe that's not persuasive, but I don't think this case is a clear counterexample. It's also in the passive voice, 'has been defined to be', but we don't say by whom. (talk) 15:28, 4 January 2011 (UTC) Sorry, that was me...Ocaasi 16:41, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────This page is a policy, not a style guide. A statement that in-text attribution is usually better style, easier to read, etc., belongs in a style guide. A statement that quotes must be attributed in-line should not appear in a policy if any significant number of counter-examples can be found. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:35, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

Philip (or anyone else), can you give an example of a professional writer in any other publication randomly quoting people without making clear who said it, or why they're quoting that person? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:45, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
No, not at all. It would be unprofessional. My mantra: "When in doubt, atribute." -- Brangifer (talk) 03:19, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
SV, it was mentioned above ("Although may be desirable for stylistic reasons..." and "SlimVirgin, you have made two substantially different statements ...", you are asking a style question not a verification question. The in-line citation is all that is needed for attribution, in-text attribution is not sufficient. In-text attribution is only needed if one is closely paraphrasing (without quoting) a source to make it clear that the words are not those of a Wikipedia editor. Personally I would prefer that those words were quoted, but as you pointed out in a different section (on the issue of plagiarism) that should not be made compulsory. However for the reasons given above, by a number of editors, the current wording I quoted at the start of this section, is not suitable for this policy as it is both inappropriate for quotes and it is clearly wrong for text included from sources that are copyleft compatible. -- PBS (talk) 09:55, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I've only ever seen this—the sudden appearance of quotation marks with no explanation or attribution—in three places: on boards outside grocers' shops (Lovely carrots "nice and fresh", 40p per lb); in letters from one of my aging relatives, who adds quotation marks at random, and given that she's been doing it all her life I don't have the heart at this late stage to ask her why; and on Wikipedia.

It's not just a style issue, because it raises verifiability issues. If I write this with an inline citation ...

Police are "combing the area" for forensic evidence where the body was discovered.[1]

  1. ^ Smith, John. "Body discovered," The Times, January 6, 2011.

... the reader can't tell whether I'm quoting Smith or someone Smith has quoted, or whether I've added quotation marks as scare quotes, or—like my relative—for reasons no one can fathom. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 00:08, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

  • SlimVirgin, can you have this discussion elsewhere or at some other time? We were trying to work out wording for a note about respecting copyright before you hijacked this thread with irrelevances about in-line attribution. Fences&Windows 03:18, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
  • I've created a new sub-thread, which is now only about in-text attribution. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:00, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
It is not a question about verifiability because the in-text attribution does not allow a reader to verify anything, it is the citation that is needed to verify that the quote is correct. Whether in-text attribution is needed is a style question. For example suppose the footnote you gave said (Smith, John. "Body discovered," The Times, January 6, 2011, quoting a police statement issued by ... .) then it is fully attributed but not in-text. -- PBS (talk) 10:50, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Philip, it's silly to want poor writing in the text, but then ask people to add attribution to the footnote. Better just to have the attribution where it belongs. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:12, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
The current wording is clearly wrong for text included from sources that are copyleft compatible with Wikipedia. -- PBS (talk) 10:50, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure that's true. If they're copyleft compatible, then they don't need quotation for copyright reasons. But that doesn't mean that we can "quote" them without in-line attribution. It's ok to plagiarize from a copyleft source, but if we are going to "quote" it, then we still need to say who the author of the quote is. Ocaasi (talk) 16:14, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Ocaasi the current wording is "do not copy text from copyrighted sources, ..., without in-text attribution." it is not about quotes it is about copying text, and it states at text copied from any copyright source, (including text copied from other Wikipdia pages) has to have in-text attribution. -- PBS (talk) 15:27, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Our job as editors is to make sure the reader can access accurate information, and as easily as is possible. With out inline attribution on quoted content confusion is possible as some of the comments above suggest. In both my fields quoted sections with out attribution would not be considered acceptable nor would I accept that kind of writing from a student. This becomes even more critical on articles where there are many sources and possibly quotes that can be attributed to multiple speakers. Why not make it clear and easy for the reader? Why not follow a standard that has been used for a long time and is useful in academia? We don't have to reinvent the wheel. If something works, and is useful to us, why not use it.(olive (talk) 19:05, 7 January 2011 (UTC))
Exactly, and it's not just in academia. Professional writers don't add quotation marks without making clear in some way who is being quoted. It's puzzling to see anyone argue that our content policies should encourage poor writing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:16, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
It can be made clear thorough an in-line citation (which has long been mandated by this policy), it does not have to be done with an in-text attribution. -- PBS (talk) 15:30, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
Why do you think it's okay for Wikipedia to encourage unprofessional writing of that kind? And if you're going to argue that it's not unprofessional, you'll have to show us some examples of professional writers doing it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:39, 8 January 2011 (UTC)
To leave out mention of in-text does not affect verification, and this is verification policy not a style guide (so the issue of whether it is "unprofessional writing" is IMHO not pertinent to verification) . As I have written repeatedly, if it is to be included then it has to be qualified for the way we handle incorporation of copyleft text and other specific sources such as those from US government, and that is a complication that does not need to be in this policy. -- PBS (talk) 09:35, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
The bare bones of it that a policy should and does state what is forbidden or mandated. There is and needs to be a a distinction between that and something which is goal (e.g. quality writing) where forbidding or mandating is not appropriate. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:08, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Regarding, "It can be made clear through an in-line citation", I have a counter example.  This problematic sentence starts out "Finally, some experts state that..."  The sentence has multiple in-line citations, multiple single-word quotes, and additional material.  The effect IMO is that the quotes are in Wikipedia's voice.  In-line attributions would greatly change (and IMO improve) the sentence.  RB (talk) 05:07, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia reliability

Sorry to rake up "reliability of master's dissertations" again, but I am going through guidelines that affect how I contribute to WP, and the issue concerns me from another angle. This comment is meant to be self contained.

In Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources, Section 2.1, (titled "Scholarship"), the final sentence of the 3rd bulleted item states: "Masters dissertations and theses are only considered reliable if they can be shown to have had significant scholarly influence."

Should the word "reliable" (together with its morphological variants) in this, and equivalent contexts, be replaced by "Wikipedia reliable" or "WK:reliable" or some other denotation that shows its specialized usage?

Readers with experience of supervising and examining master's dissertations, and presenting these in discussions of priority, could consider the statement denigratory to their professional integrity.

Also, the usage just quoted conflicts with the definitions of "reliable" in the Oxford English Dictionary and the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, and with the usage of the word in the approximately 25 places where it occurs in Reliability of Wikipedia.

I just ran some searches relating to master's dissertations.

The web site for the MIT Master of Science in Management Studies [5] mentions four exemplary master's dissertations with email addresses of faculty advisors. It seems that the Sloane School is proud of its master's dissertations.

A Google Scholar search on "Masters dissertation" brought up 222,000 hits. I have looked at a few. Some relate to unpublished dissertations which have been cited in scholarly journals. Other hits relate to studies of the use of master's dissertations as sources of information that are not available elsewhere.

The National Library of Medicine Manual of Style devotes an entire chapter to the style of citation to be used for master's and doctoral dissertations. Presumably this shows the perception of a need to cite master's dissertations by the U.S. agency responsible for the dissemination of biomedical information.

The claim that master's degrees are seldom terminal for people conducting serious research ignores accepted professional career paths of many people who conduct serious research in M.S., M.Sc., M.A, M.B.A, M.P.H, M.F.A. and many other master's degree programs.

The suggestion that reliability is conferred by significant scholarly impact raises difficulties, without a definition of "significant". Also, there have been many occurrences in research when the significance of a paper in a peer reviewed journal was not recognized for several years. And the scholarly impact of most peer reviewed articles, measured by the number of citations in later articles, is zero (this can be seen in Web of Science and Scopus searches).

The fact that a dissertation has been cited shows its perceived interest content, not its reliability (the citing paper might even consider the dissertation erroneous).

Hope I have not repeated myself too much. But I am concerned about outside scepticism of WP, and the wording I have questioned does seem vulnerable.

Michael P. Barnett (talk) 22:40, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

Hello Michael. You've hit the big one right on the head, but fixing it (without doing damage) is complex. "RS" in Wikipedia basically only has two metrics, the primary/.secondary/tertiary one, and the other is review by someone (e.g. editor of the publisher). The biggest missing components are expertise on the topic in question (e.g. Britney Spears's mom would have expertise on what Britney's favorite color is, but not on general relativity) and objectivity. So a source meeting WP:RS can be very unreliable, and a very reliable source can fail wp:rs. So, as you point out, current wp:reliability is very different than real world reliability. Giving it a different name would temporarily help, if only to point out the problem But if you starting making up categorical rules for each of these, you'd create a wiki-lawyering monster. The other missing component is that the strength of the required sourcing is not related to how questionable or challenged the statement is.
My idea (which I mentioned as a 2 year goal of getting incorporated here) is defining the strength of a citing as the sum total of the 2 current criteria plus expertise and objectivity on the item citing it. And saying that the strength of the required citing varies with how controversial or challenged the statement is. This leaves implementation details to consensus, but with a much better framework to work from than the current one where only 2 of the 4 criteria are used, and each is seperately applied categorically. North8000 (talk) 16:06, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Michael, what if we wikilinked reliable to WP:RS, would address your concerns. BTW, the examples from the MIT Sloan page appear to me to just be examples of how one can structure the program for the degree, see this. And I'm not too worried about the definition of significant, since, as with most of what we do here, what gets counted as what is subject to discussion and consensus.--Nuujinn (talk) 17:34, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

Personal communications

I've added a brief section about "personal communication" at Wikipedia:Verifiability#Personal_communication. There's a lot of examples of newbies using "personal communications" with authorities and contacts (which I started to clean up), but I couldn't see that we had an explicit statement against doing this - we don't allow it as nobody can check the source. It's a form of original research, so I would understand if it were best explained in that policy - or it could be mentioned in both. p.s. Could WP:OTRS in theory verify personal communications? Fences&Windows 23:02, 30 December 2010 (UTC)

IP addresses can't edit the Project Page, or I'd do this myself.  The word "conservations" s.b. "conversations".  FYI, RB (talk) 04:27, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
Good catch. Fixed. -- Brangifer (talk) 05:18, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
This is definitely a good elaboration of policy. One thing I might add, however, would be a note clarifying whether it's OK to cite an otherwise reliable source for information which itself cites a personal communication for that information. For instance, Wikipedia article A says "John Smith was born in 1949", citing book B, which indicates that John Smith was born in 1949 and contains a footnote citation referencing a personal communication. —/Mendaliv//Δ's/ 19:48, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
I think the new section makes that fairly clear by stating that personal communications are cited in scholary works. The verifiability policy only applies to Wikipedia editors; authors of reliable sources need not pay any attention to it. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:36, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
I don't see this as needed. The whole of the rest of the policy makes clear that we need published sources, and as it was written it implied that personal communication even when published was not allowed, which of course it is. Fences and windows, do you have diffs of new editors relying on personal exchanges with people? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 03:49, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Follow the "a lot of examples" link I gave, and browse through. There's many examples, and this search will only pick up those using the phrase "personal communication", there will be others using other wording. As "personal communication" is a convention elsewhere and editors do make this mistake, it is worth clarifying this point. Fences&Windows 03:21, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Examples: Amore Bekker#cite note-name31-8, George R. Fischer#cite note-3. Fences&Windows 03:23, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I have to agree with F&W here... I think this is a good addition to the policy. Blueboar (talk) 03:59, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. It's at best pointless, because the rest of the policy makes clear that sources must be published, and the part about posting it on talk pages encourages editors to post other people's e-mails, which is not a good idea. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:54, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The two most recent editors make it evident that the personal communications section is easy to misinterpret, as evidenced by Blueboar's misinterpretation. The current policy, which is not explicitly written but is implicit from the policy, has these points:

  • Reliable sources are free to receive personal communications from anyone, especially other scholars, and to make use of those personal communications in their work. Because these sources are reliable, they can be trusted to verify that the communication really came from the stated source and evaluate the correctness and importance of the personal communication.
  • Wikipedia editors are free to cite reliable sources which make use of personal communications received by the reliable source.
  • Wikipedia editors are not permitted to cite personal communications that the WP editor claims to have received from anyone, including experts, because we cannot trust Wikipedia editors to not fabricate the personal communications. If the information isn't published, we can't use it, and sending a personal communication to a WP editor does not constitute publication.
  • Personal communications a WP editor sends to him/herself are no different from the WP editor just making stuff up: not useable.
  • Personal communications between WP editors are not published and not useable
  • If a reliable source has made use of personal communications from a WP editor, it may still be cited in WP because it is a reliable source. Jc3s5h (talk) 05:01, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
Could we compromise on a footnote that says something like "E-mail messages or other types of personal communication sent to a Wikipedia editor are not published and therefore cannot be used to verify article content."? WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:04, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I'd have no objection to that, though it seems pointless. Every single part of the policy is telling editors sources have to be published. I can't see a reason, 10 years into the existence of the project, to start listing all the kinds of unpublished sources we're not allowed to use. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 05:09, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
It seems pointless to object to including this section. More examples of unpublished sources will clarify policy. QuackGuru (talk) 04:40, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── We could add:

  • It is a convention for other authors to refer to their personal correspondence, but Wikipedians aren't allowed to because it can't be verified by other editors (mind you, nor can the personal correspondence of reliable sources, so that's a bit of a non sequitur, but please ignore this fallacious point).
  • It's a convention for other authors to interview their sources and include the results, but Wikipedians aren't allowed to because it can't be verified by other editors (mind you ... see above).
  • It's a convention for other authors to refer to their unpublished manuscripts, but Wikipedians aren't allowed to because it can't be verified by other editors (see above, etc).
  • It's a convention for other authors to include their original research, but Wikipedians aren't ... etc etc.

And so on, all the way down the list of differences.

Or ... we could write that all material in Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published source. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 04:54, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

The latter seems the most sensible approach. Addition of specific examples of unpublished sources is instruction creep, and excess specificity in some areas of a policy will unbalance it, and lead to false conclusions about other examples or areas of policy that are not similarly specified. Jayjg (talk) 21:45, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

Technically "verifiable" and verifiably misconstrued

A credible complaint which "falls between the cracks" of wiki-policy

In the article about the Japanese art historian Ichimatsu Tanaka, Tanakasthename disputes one sentence here:

Ichimatsu's published writings encompass 228 works in 326 publications in 6 languages and 2,797 library holdings.<:ref>WorldCat Identities: Tanaka, Ichimatsu 1895-1983</ref>

At Wikipedia:Reliable Sources/Noticeboard#Selected Works, Tanakasthename argued that a discussion of reliable sources misses the point somewhat:

To summarize in my own words what I have said up to now, WorldCat is a network of library catalogs, a reliable source of information on the holdings of libraries worldwide, but NOT a reliable source of comprehensive information on writers' bodies of written works, the manner in which Tenmei has used it, seemingly on more than a few occasions. The data contained on WorldCat Identities is certainly not a pertinent source for the kind of statistical summary of an author's oeuvre that Tenmei has inserted into the Selected Works section of Ichimatsu Tanaka and elsewhere. Presumably, a non-expert turns to Wikipedia for reliable and verifiable information. The "data" that has been added to these pages based on unanalyzed search results from WorldCat Identifies, while technically "verifiable," is also verifiably misconstrued, and thus of little or no use to the reader of said pages. WorldCat has a million and one valuable uses for the academic and general community, but this is not one of them. To argue otherwise is ultimately to not understand what WorldCat is or from where the data found there comes. Tanakasthename (talk) 10:19, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

What I construe as the core issue is highlighted in blue above with the convenient device of hyperlinking to the original diff. The published results for Ichimatsu Tanaka are verifiable, including

Which one or more of these numbers is unverified? The WorldCat Identities project does verifiably summarize a writer's output, not as an arithmetical sum, but in terms of a network of of "works" and "publications" and "languages" and "library holdings".

Is this the best venue for "technically 'verifiable,' is also verifiably misconstrued"? --Tenmei (talk) 02:53, 13 January 2011 (UTC) (System is glitching - can't get it to start a new line) Per Wikipedia rules, the statement must be supported by a source that meets WP:RS criteria. While wp:RS has only a slight correlation with reliability, IMHO the source that you provided also has a pretty good level of actual reliability. Tanakasthename is claiming that it fails a standard which is not a Wikipedia standard. IMHO Tanakasthename has not even raised a a WP-relevant challenge, much less supported such a challenge. North8000 (talk) 03:23, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

Since I was not participant in this discussion, only summarized, before a comment was made, please allow me to explain:
The sentence you have added to multiple pages is as follows, which you have acknowledged: "Z's published writings encompass X works in X publications in X languages and X library holdings," where Z is the subject of the wiki article, and X is a number taken from WorldCat Identities. In the case of Ichimatsu Tanaka, the exact sentence readings: "Ichimatsu's published writings encompass 228 works in 326 publications in 6 languages and 2,797 library holdings."
1. The above four numbers come from a WorldCat Identities page accessed by a search of the name "Ichimatsu Tanaka." The number's Tenmei gives, are accurate, insofar as they can be found in the "Overview" section of each WorldCat Identities page. The numbers themselves are not a problem, as Tenmei pulls them directly from WorldCat and cites them properly.
2. While the numbers that Tenmei has found through his searches of WorldCat are a reliable source, as I have reiterated repeatedly over the course of this dispute, despite the fact that Tenmei has failed to acknowledge it, it is Tenmei's sentence itself ("Y's published writings encompass...") that is problematic. That understanding of the information, that the numbers found in WorldCat Identities may be used to make a claim such as the one being made ("Y's published writings encompass") is wrong. No where on WorldCat Identities does it say that the number's refer specifically to works that are "Ichimatsu Tanaka's published writings." Indeed, immediately below the place where Tenmei has culled these numbers is a graph of the "works" that WorldCat Identities has found in the search "Ichimatsu Tanaka." Within that graph are included not only works BY Ichimatsu Tanaka, but also works ABOUT Ichimatsu Tanaka, making Tenmei's sentence "Ichimatsu Tanaka's published writings encompass..." a patently false one.
3. Another argument that I have made previously that Tenmei has chosen to ignore is that the "publications" WorldCat includes in the total number (in the case of Ichimatsu Tanaka, 326 total "publications"), include publications that are verifiably not by (or even about) Ichimatsu Tanaka. Note that on the same WorldCat Identities page for Ichimatsu Tanaka, the following works is included.
El-Sayed, Mustafa, I. Tanaka, and I︠U︡. N. Molin. 1995. Ultrafast processes in chemistry and photobiology. A "chemistry for the 21st century" monograph. Oxford [England]: Cambridge, Mass.
You'll notice that WorldCat Identities has misinterpreted "I. Tanaka," one of the author's of this scientific publication as "Ichimatsu Tanaka," a Japanese art historian who had already been dead 12 years when this entirely unrelated scientific study was published. The inclusion of this single work alone discredits Tenmei's inclusion of the above sentence into the Ichimatsu Tanaka article, as well as variations of the sentence in many other articles. But, wait, there's more!
4. A simple analysis of the data from which the raw WorldCat Identities numbers come, will show that among the "works" associated with Ichimatsu Tanaka, are no less than 13 which actually identify the same work, the title, in Japanese, being "Hōryūji Kondō Hekiga Shū," written by Ichimatsu Tanaka and published in Tokyo by Benrido in 1951. The reasons why this single work has been counted 13 times are multiple. For example, in one entry, instead of using the given Japanese title of the work, whatever librarian entered the information at some point in the past, used instead a translated English title. In another case, the publication city is listed as Kyoto instead of Tokyo. At least 2 of the 13 "works" here are actually not the above work, but are actually review articles of the book. This kind of fact-checking could be done over and over to reduce the clearly false total number of works that Tenmei has added and for which he is arguing so forcefully.
5. Wikipedia:Verifiability states:
"Sources should directly support the information as it is presented in an article, and should be appropriate to the claims made."
The source, WorldCat Identities in this case, does not "directly support the information as it is presented in [the] article." To repeat, while the numbers themselves that Tenmei has cited are indeed accurate insofar as they can be found on WorldCat Identities, the sentence "Ichimatsu Tanaka's published writings encompass X, X, X, and X," is not directly supported by the source, because, as I have just shown, the works included therein include a large percentage of works that could not, in any way, be called "Ichimatsu Tanaka's published writings."
6. I cannot believe something so easy to prove wrong has become to contentious, but please, somebody with more experience than myself, a third-party, please offer your guidance. Active Banana has already done so above, but apparently Tenmei has deemed that third-party, who happens to be a highly experienced editor, invalid?
7. Let me state conclusively that I have no personal stake in WorldCat, OCLC, or WorldCat Identities, as Tenmei has suggested above. I am simply committed to accuracy. Tanakasthename (talk) 03:31, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────This page is for discussion of our policy, why is this here? Dougweller (talk) 08:31, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

The words of Tanakasthename in the section heading are a credible complaint. Summarizing the issues and history:
Tanakasthename's response to North8000 demonstrates that this venue has served a constructive function. --Tenmei (talk) 16:03, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

Since when does The New York Times have "a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy"?

The text mentions the NYT as an example of a reputable source, maintaining "...Articles should be based on reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy...." Please inform me when they've coughed up Walter Duranty's Pulitzer won by lying for Stalin. No less than the government of the Ukraine is still rather incensed over the matter. I also assume that not all of the 17,000 Google matches for "new york times lied" are hits upon the text of conservative commentators.Mike18xx (talk) 07:14, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

This is a page for discussing our policy, you want WP:RSN. --Dougweller (talk) 08:29, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

Misuse of a reference

I'm wondering if there is a template to use in cases where citations are given for a statement and one or more sources cited do not appear to support the statement? Is the {{Failed verification}} what should be used? Is there an overall tag to alert readers when this problem seems to be repeated in several places within an article? After noting up the problem on the article's talk, one solution would be to go through and replace misused citations with {{fact}} tags. In articles with a rocky history of edit warring or ownership issues, simply blanking might be provocative. I'm wondering what others have done where verification of sources turns up synthesis going beyond what a reference says in support, misquotes of the source, etc. • Astynax talk 23:37, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

I think the failed verification template would be appropriate, but you say, a note on the talk page of the article in question to clarify what your concerns is a good idea. You could use the disputed template for the article as a whole, but I think the individual tags make more sense. Also, there's no rush, you could announce that you are reviewing the citations and bring them up one at a time on the talk page, and not use templates at all. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:52, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks! • Astynax talk 21:53, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

Sourcing for summarizing articles

Related to Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard#Sourcing_required_in_lists_linking_to_other_articles. In this discussion it was explained that the current WP:V and other policies require that each data piece has external source accessible from the same article where the data piece is located.

This is OK in most cases, but for summarizing articles (like these in the discussion) this will make them filled with external sources copied from the articles they summarize.

I propose that the following rule is added:

  • In summarizing articles data pieces that are backed by external sources at appropriately wikilinked articles do not need to have these sources copied into the summarizing article itself. Users may challenge the way the wikilinks are arranged (e.g. question whether the remotely-sourced data pieces have appropriate wikilinks), but shall not required that sources are duplicated in the summarizing article. Summarizing articles are to be considered as 'secondary location' of the data pieces. Data pieces that are not backed by external sources at the wikilinked articles are subject to the regular sourcing requirements (e.g. since they are not backed by sources the summarizing article becomes their 'primary location' and they have to comply with regular sourcing requirements).

Of course the above is a rough draft - if there is consensus for such change it would have to be defined appropriately. Alinor (talk) 14:52, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

This comes up a lot... and I strongly oppose Alinor's take on this. I strongly oppose the idea that lists and other summary articles do not need sources. Every article needs sources. Information should be sourced where ever found... and if it is found in multiple articles, it should be sourced in multiple articles. There is no reason not to source it... It does not take much effort to cut and paste a source from one article to another. Blueboar (talk) 15:00, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
This proposal falls in that "summarizing article" is not defined.  The definition of "summarizing article" seems to be "those articles that use Wikipedia as a source", which could be any Wikipedia article.  An underlying point that is not addressed is that Wikipedia is not integrated such that changes to an underlying article would be reflected in the "summarizing article".  As a practical matter, in agreement with Blueboar's comment, I don't see what is to be gained by improving these deficiencies in the proposal.  RB (talk) 17:13, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Here is a good example of a "summarising article" that doesn't have any sources. Why not go through it adding {{fact}} tags to any material likely to be challenged?—S Marshall T/C 19:20, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Assuming your question is serious, because lists are essentially navigational aids. --Nuujinn (talk) 21:57, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • Precisely. That list is essentially a table of contents, or index, of dinosaur articles. It's made up of content that's referenced elsewhere.—S Marshall T/C 23:06, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
  • And I guess that leaves summary style articles, and we do require sources for those. Are there any other types? I'm not seeing anything broken here. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:55, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
A list is really a set of statements. In this case that each one of those is a dinosaur....."Paris is the capital of France" type statements." Maybe a bit of extra sourcing leniency like leads of article. The other columns of info are also statements about which period each was from and a rough idea of it's diet. If I doubted one, I assume I could ask for sourcing. Or a mis-fit could ask for sourcing just because they can. An it's unspoken that the criteria are objective. I.E> there's not "best football players of all time" list. North8000 (talk) 00:03, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
This is cutting corners, so to speak. A reader should not have to go searching for where we've referenced a particular claim, especially if the absence (or remote placement) of that particular reference is simply for the ease of editors. Verifiability is a cornerstone of Wikipedia, and where and when it applies is quite clear: "all material in the mainspace—articles, lists, sections of articles, and captions—without exception".
When it comes to lists, WP:LISTS distinguishes quite clearly between the various types of lists. If it is an index of articles, simply providing navigational aid, or categorisation of information, then no references need to be included. But when a claim or any other material that can be challenged is introduced, then it becomes a stand-alone list, which should not depend on other articles for verifiability. It should have its own set of references, "in the form of inline citations" (not a link to another Wikipedia article).
If we start introducing lenient policies and exceptions, we begin to set an example of laziness for new editors. Nightw 04:56, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

I want to address some of the points raised above:

  • The definition of "summarizing article" seems to be "those articles that use Wikipedia as a source". No - such would be WP:CIRCULAR violation. I propose to define "summarizing article" as an article that use EXTERNAL SOURCES present in another wikilinked article.
  • Every article needs sources. Yes - my proposals is that we establish a class of "secondary location/summarizing articles" whose data pieces are backed by external sources presented at the "primary location" of these data pieces - the wikilinked articles.
  • It does not take much effort to cut and paste a source from one article to another. Generally yes, but there are cases such as this that caused this proposal - where we have to deal with a very big quantity of copy-pasting and duplication.
  • Verifiability ... "all material in the mainspace—articles, lists, sections of articles, and captions—without exception". Yes - same as bullet2 above. The issue is whether we should have an exception for the location of the external sources in case of "summarizing article".
  • WP:LISTS - But when a claim or any other material that can be challenged is introduced - "in the form of inline citations". That's what I propose to change - in case of summarizing article a properly arranged wikilink should be enough and no inline citations should be required. The challenge should apply only to the way of wikilinking (e.g. if it's clear to the reader what data piece is coming from what wikilinked article) - whether it's properly arranged or not.
  • Synchronizing. Of course, as with any content in Wikipedia - when somebody comes upon a data piece that is not backed by external source (for example because the wikilinked article got changed) this 'suspicious' data piece get tagged/deleted as usual (maybe with some new tag such as 'no external source at wikilink'). Alinor (talk) 08:43, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm sorry for being dense, but I still do not understand what problem you are trying to fix. Can you provide some diffs of problems where the policy change you are proposing would have an effect? --Nuujinn (talk) 10:10, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
The related discussions are here and here and were started because of tagging/deleting of data pieces at a group of summarizing articles about rockets (Small, Medium, Mid-Heavy, Heavy, Super-Heavy). I discovered data pieces that are backed by external sources at the wikilinked articles about the specific rockets, but nevertheless these data pieces got tagged/deleted. It seems that current policies, including WP:LISTS allow that to happen, because "any material challenged" should have external source in the same article - and external sources in wikilinked article are not taken into account. Alinor (talk) 11:52, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

IMHO (per a proposal I've been promoting over time) the rule should be changed to require NightW to raise a good faith question (in addition to the citing question) regarding any tagged/deleted statements/listing in order to carry the discussion to skip "R" or carry the discussion to "D" in BRD regarding their deletion / tagging. At first glance, this case looks a good poster child for that proposed change. Then IF/once that happens, then I would agree with Night W, including the arguments that they made. IMHO the sourcing requirement can't be made fuzzy, like where people would need to look in a different article to find the cites,or to see if somethign is cited. North8000 (talk) 12:29, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree that the sourcing requirements need to remain strict. Comparison_of_heavy_lift_launch_systems is clearly more than a list or simple summary, and I agree sources should be provided when asked for. Again, I fail to see what the fuss is about--if the sources are readily available in another article, duplicating them is not a heavy burden, and ensures that if that other article is deleted for whatever reason, the table article is still in good shape. I can see some readability issues with all of the citations, but that seems to me to be an MOS issue. I will also observe that if an editor knows that a source for some information in article A exists in article B, they should provide that source to article A and not just tag it as needing a citation--we recently emphasized that on the cn template talk page. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:07, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
In my opinion (and, by the way, I've not been involved with this debate prior to the noticeboard discussion), tagging an unsourced statement is harmless— it is a simple reminder from our peers that said statement should be attributed to a reliable source. In this case, the "tagger" was a long-time member of WikiProject Citation cleanup, but that's beside the point. We should not require editors who are simply identifying that a citation is missing to go looking for sources before tagging it with {{cn}}. That would defeat the purpose of those tags. Later, should a user wish to delete the same statement (still unsourced), that's a different matter, although the burden should always remain entirely with the editor who adds the information. Anything else fosters laziness—e.g., "Oh, someone else will have to look for references before it gets deleted anyway"—and won't work. An editor is ten times more likely to reference information that he wants to see kept than information he wants removed. Nightw 13:51, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
I tend to agree that tagging is harmless, but many do not. Also, please note we do not require editors to search for sources--my point is that if any editor already knows where a source is for an item in an article is, they should source the item, not tag it as needing a source. In other words, if one can fix the problem, one should fix it. --Nuujinn (talk) 14:09, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Of course, if the authoring editors do their work properly to begin with, and include citations when they add material, there will be no need for others to add tags. Blueboar (talk) 14:14, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Exactly. Nightw 14:35, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Overall I agree, although not categorically with "tagging is (always) harmless. Bit topic, and ,much of it is off this topic. North8000 (talk) 14:49, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, the "Heavy" article is not so big issue (because the number of such rockets is small), but N2e tags in all of these articles - and the smaller rocket types have many more lines - and thus the sources to copy become too much. And I don't see a reason to do this since all these sources are already in the articles about the individual rockets.
"tagging is harmless" - even if it is I can't agree that "deletion is harmless" (in this case N2e has deleted some data pieces).
If we are to establish a rule for summarizing articles, then it can be along the lines of "challenged material should be tagged, but not deleted if it is backed by external sources at properly wikilinked articles". Alinor (talk) 14:58, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
That's one of the issues that I didn't get into. Let's say that somebody tag bombs a bunch of "Paris is the capital of France" items for no other reason than a pissing war with the editor, or to feel morally superior to be judging rather than doing, or in a POV effort. And then there is no defending editor, or the editor has been tag-bombed beyond their available Wikipedia time to source, or they got disgusted and left. Then the tagger comes back a little later and deletes it all saying it was tagged and nobody cited it. So, tagging often equates to deleting. Of course, some folks would say "good", but IMHO it's not always good. North8000 (talk) 15:22, 11 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes, similar thing happened in the case I pointed above. While I don't know why N2e is doing this tagging/deleting (e.g. there is no obvious POV or something like that) - I have given him examples of data pieces tagged and deleted that are backed by external sources at the wikilinked articles. I have said that multiple times. But months passed and he didn't restore the deleted data piece, didn't remove the tag from the other data piece, didn't copy the sources from the wikilinked articles, didn't question the reliability of these sources or whatever - he just ignored them. And he repeatedly refused my pleas to "first check, then delete" - hiding behind WP:BURDEN and other similar policies (that obviously allow such behavior). That's what I find strange and disturbing in the particular case.
That's why I made the proposal here. I think the 14:58, 11 January 2011 (UTC) proposal is a good way to both preserve WP:V and protect summarizing articles from excessive "content challenging" and "deletionist activities". Alinor (talk) 20:49, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

Per Blueboar and Nuujinn, policy is not broken here, and what Wikipedia needs is for people to adhere to WP:V, not invent excuses not do so so. Believe me, Wikipedia doesn't have an "over-citation" issue; rather, it has the exact opposite problem. Everything in articles must be supported by inline citations; if there's a behavioral issue, deal with it on the appropriate board, not by messing up content policies. Jayjg (talk) 20:56, 11 January 2011 (UTC)

I think that reducing it to an overview that has one axis (WP being under vs. over cited overall) is not useful in discussions about refinement of the policy. It could actually work in reverse. For example, a policy being often mis-used to remove "Paris is the the capital of France" statements for pissing war or POV war purposes weakens it's creditability and people's respect of it.North8000 (talk) 11:39, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Alinor, Your new definition of "summarizing article" as, "an article that use EXTERNAL SOURCES present in another wikilinked article" is a definition that applies to any wikilinked article.  We don't know when the wikilink is a reference and when it is a helpful wikilink.  It also allows for wikilinks to wikilinks.  I see not a policy issue here, but a data structure issue, that being duplicated data.  Duplicate data is by definition a maintenance issue.  RB (talk) 04:13, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

One reason (among many others) why every article (list, ...) needs it own sources and shouldn't rely on linked articles for the sources is that when you create e.g. a Wikibook, you can include the list without the linked articles, which would mean that in the wikibook, you would have no means of providing or checking the sources (or to put it otherwise, you would force a creator of a wikibook to include all the linked articles in hiw wikibook if he wanted to include the list, which is often not what we want). Fram (talk) 10:48, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

OK, so what about a rule such as "in summarizing articles challenged material should be tagged with 'citation needed', but not deleted if it is backed by external sources at properly wikilinked articles"? Alinor (talk) 13:08, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Instead of 'citation needed' some new tag such as 'bring over the citation' or 'citation copy needed' can be used. Alinor (talk) 13:11, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Honestly, I'm probably being dense, but I don't see the point. Either the source is known or it is not. If the source is known, it should be added. If I don't know a source, I might tag with citation needed, or I might delete material. If you know a source after I tag or delete, you untag or restore with a source. A 'citation copy needed' strikes me as inherently bad because if I use it, I'm basically saying "I know where a source is, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it." I know some feel the same way about cn in general, but at least with cn there's no assertion that I know where a source is already. In the particular case of the rocket articles, I think the way I would handle it is to use the talk page to discuss a plan for reasonable sourcing. We will not finish WP today, so working together to collect appropriate sources on a workable timeline seems a good option. --Nuujinn (talk) 13:32, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
That would foster a scheme of laziness. Why would an editor then bother in adding citations, if he/she knows that the right source is located in another article? Just another "leave it for someone else" ploy. We want policies that encourage editors to properly source information, not the opposite. The fear of having one's edit deleted is motivation for most; that'll go out the window with what you're asking for. Nightw 15:23, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I believe we are supposed to assume good faith, not create a climate of fear. The goal of the cn tag is to help get a citation in place, and I think using it as a club to force another editor's hand is not what we want to do. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:21, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
?? I'm not talking about the cn tag. I'm talking about the predisposition of an editor, before he has even made an edit, to add (or not add) a citation when deciding to make an edit. I'm talking about having policies which encourage editors to properly source their edits. I'd say that a lot of editors (particularly new ones) include citations when editing simply to see that particular edit stick, rather than see it deleted for lack of sourcing. Alinor's proposal would remove that motivation... If the editor knows that his claim is sourced in another article, he realises that someone else will have to do the sourcing work before it can be deleted anyway. So why bother? Nightw 17:52, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
"I know where a source is, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it." - yes, in this case that seems to be N2e position - he tags/deletes, I gave him examples of sources, he ignores these for months. I intentionally haven't copied these sources myself - because I want to see if N2e intention is improving the sourcing or blindly tagging/deleting. Alinor (talk) 07:18, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Alinor, no offense, but that seems kind of pointy to me--if you know where sources are for challenged material, I would suggest adding the known source is the helpful path. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:30, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Alinor's claim that: "I know where a source is, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it." seems to be my position—is very close to not assuming good faith. If you look through the entire two-month conversation between us here, I think you will see good faith on my part from the beginning, and a repeated desire to keep the conversation about "the contribution and not the contributor" and "improving the article, not about the editor."
As to Alinor's substantive claim, that he wants a special/new tag for a time when he suspects that an editor does know exactly where such a citation exists, but s/he used a citation needed tag anyway, I will just say this. I typically do not know where such a claim is sourced when I place a {{citation needed}} tag on an unsourced assertion. That's why I'm adding a tag. I see a citation needed tag in an article is a courtesy to those editors who care most about a particular article, or are perhaps are knowledgeable or expert about where the secondary literature might support the assertions being made. Unless someone who cares comes along to reliably support the unsourced claims with inline citations, they have no place in a quality encyclopedia. Furthermore, per WP:BURDEN, it is the editor who wants the unsourced material to remain in an article that has the burden to cite it, or add it back to the article later once a source has been found. In my view, Wikipedia is improved in one of two ways then: either an unsourced assertion gets a citation, or the unsourced material is later (politely, and only after a long period of time in which interested editors might have sourced it) temporarily removed from Wikipedia until such time as someone does actually do the work to source it. It's really not that hard. N2e (talk) 18:47, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
N2e, you say "I typically do not know where such a claim is sourced when I place a 'cn tag'" - but when I showed you the places where the claim is sourced you've just ignored these. That's part of the problem here. The other part is that it's pretty easy and straightforward to click on the wikilink and check for sources there. Even if current policy doesn't require that editors do this. Alinor (talk) 09:25, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Stating something doesn't need to be cited because it is "backed by external sources at properly wikilinked articles" directly contradicts both the letter and spirit of WP:V, so it's hard to understand why it should added to the policy. All material that is challenged should be cited with a reliable inline source; there are no good reasons not to. If someone is over-tagging in a way that's disruptive, then it's a behavioral issue, which should be dealt with at the appropriate board (e.g. WP:AN/I), not by loosening or reversing the meaning of policy. Jayjg (talk) 03:36, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

"All material that is challenged should be cited with a reliable inline source;" - yes, with one corrections I would like to be added - inline, unless "..." (as proposed above).
IMHO N2e editing process is disruptive and he refuses to change it (e.g. to check for sources at the wikilinked articles before tagging/deleting). I will contact N2e to ask him whether he would be offended by putting this issue at WP:AN/I. Alinor (talk) 07:18, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
I asked him here. Alinor (talk) 07:28, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
I see no problem with the tagging of anything specific that is unsourced (or of tagging the whole article as unsourced if needed) in an article, no matter if it is sourced in other linked articles, other language versions of the same article, and so on. Removing unsourced info should only be done when it is contentious or dubious, but that is more an individual judgment call. If N2e is too aggressively removing unsourced material, then that can be discussed (I haven't checked if it is the case or not). Starting an ANI because he tags unsourced material doesn't seem like a wise move when it looks as if your position that sources in other articles are sufficient does not have consensus. Fram (talk) 09:35, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Well good luck! Given that a large percentage of N2e's contributions appear to be geared toward improving sourcing and citations across any range of articles, I'd expect he's seen more than a little pouting from lazy editors. An editor obviously won't have the time to look into every unsourced claim he finds, and a simple notice in the form of a {{cn}} tag seems to me good practise, if the editor knows what he's doing. Nightw 11:32, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Just a short note here to say that I have responded above in this Talk page section, to both a potential wiki-etiquette item, and also to a substantive claim made by Alinor. I have also responded to Alinor's question to me about ANI review on my talk page.
On the substantive question of the discussion on this page, suffice it to say that I am opposed to a change to Wikipedia verifiability policy, simply because many claims on list pages and comparison pages are not otherwise easily verifiable. Cheers. N2e (talk) 19:39, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
For what it is worth, I completely agree with your interpretation of the use of the cn template., and your interpretation of BURDEN. I see no problem here that can be fixed with an additional template or a policy change. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:49, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. Nightw 10:31, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

OK, it seems that there is no consensus for the policy-change I propose, so let's close it here. I copy below my suggestion to N2e. Alinor (talk) 09:34, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

From here: N2e, if you really want to improve the summarizing articles - would you agree to employ slightly different process: instead of "tag-wait-delete" use "tag-wait-check-delete"? (and if the "check" step reveals that the information is backed by external sources at the wikilinked article - then "copy" or "don't delete/continue wait")? Alinor (talk) 09:34, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

From above: N2e, When I showed you the places where the claim is sourced you've just ignored these. That's part of the problem here. The other part is that it's pretty easy and straightforward to click on the wikilink and check for sources there. Even if current policy doesn't require that editors do this. Alinor (talk) 09:34, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

Alinor, if I might suggest something novel and extreme, perhaps you could ask that N2e work with you to source the articles in question? --Nuujinn (talk) 14:15, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the suggested policy change proposed by Alinor on 10 Jan 2011.
Since Alinor has continued to importune me to answer questions about my editing priorities and use of my time as a Wikipedia volunteer editor, I have attempted to write a final response to Alinor on this controversy of the past four months. That essay is here, should anyone be interested in reading it.
Kind regards, N2e (talk) 01:48, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
Nuujinn, that's what I was trying, but it seems we can't agree on how to do this. Alinor (talk) 09:30, 17 January 2011 (UTC)

Time limits for BLPs without V or RS

With all the BLPs already tagged as unsourced, it might be useful to have some automatic deadline required for fixing those articles. I've come across articles with tags placed years ago and feel that something like the 7-day deadline on non-free images would help. As it is, the V, RS, and N requirements are meaningless unless challenged. Existing V rules like, " articles must be attributable to a reliable published source. But in practice not everything need actually be attributed," don't help. I'm sure this stuff has been discussed thousands of times somewhere, but just reading the core policies it seems WP is just inviting continual OR and vanity articles. --Wikiwatcher1 (talk) 20:27, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Well, I hear you, but I think there is something to that effect in place now, but only for articles created after a certain date (march 10th 2010?), in the form of the BLP Prod. Most of the BLPs of which you speak were created before the rules were tightened up, and the older article are, I believe, grandfathered in under the old rules. Hence the drive to deal with them, which is making reasonable progress, I think. Does that help? --Nuujinn (talk) 22:53, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
I think these articles should be nominated for deletion (noting how long they have sat unsourced). Granted, someone may respond to the nomination with a source... but that is all for the good. If a source is given, we can withdraw the nomination and add the source, either way the issue is resolved. Blueboar (talk) 23:22, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't argue with that if you chose to take that route--my tack is to run a check against google news and books, and if I find sources, add them, and if not, nominate for speedy, prod or afd as seems most appropriate. There's been a lot of activity, the list is down from 22K to 12.5K in the last six months or so. As it's running now, things seem pretty balanced and running smoothly--if we mass nomed the lot for any kind of deletion, it would swamp those notice boards. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:30, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
That works too. The point is to a) find citations to support the article if we can, b) get rid of the article if we can't. How we do this is flexible. Blueboar (talk) 23:43, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
... and who does it is the only real problem. The trouble with giving deadlines to source things, is it puts the onus for sourcing unsourced material on someone else. Wikipedians have a tradition of taking a dim view of attempts to do that, so barring a BLP hatchet-job or other extreme case, there's an onus on the person who wants to remove the material to make a good faith search for sources first.—S Marshall T/C 23:55, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Agree in part. It seems the burden of proof for N should be on the person starting an article, as it's implied that anyone can do it if inclined. But since those OR articles are on the watchlist of the original author, a time-limit "requirement" would be reasonable and effective with removal semi-automatic. Personally, I feel that uncited vanity-style, libelous, or fictionalized articles are potentially much more damaging to WP's image than non-free images without proper rationales, which do allow for automatic tagging and quick deletion. The reason for that is that under U.S. copyright law, anything published (photos or text) under a "reasonable claim" of fair use can not be taken to court without first notifying the fair use claimant, i.e. WP., and requesting they remove it. So WP can't be sued easily. But a policy which effectively permits OR articles can be much more dangerous for WP and the article's subject. Even the thousands of porn-star articles usually have a cite to some other vanity-style website. If porn stars can have N backed by RS, than all articles should require one, one would think. --Wikiwatcher1 (talk) 00:18, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
They're probably not on the watchlist of the original author, or at least, the original author probably isn't watching. Nowadays, a decade after the start of the project, the normal state of a Wikipedia author is "no longer contributing". Some get bored, some are blocked for tendentious editing and leave the project, some are driven away by grinding bureaucracy or the need to constantly defend any material they've written from people with an agenda or people who want to rigidly enforce the project's latest new rule. In cases where either the original contributor is no longer interested or the rule came about after the material was written, it's the responsibility of the person who wants to enforce the rule to either bring the material into compliance with policy, or else achieve a consensus that it can't be done.—S Marshall T/C 15:20, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
Essentially we are all saying the same thing. When you come across an article that is unsourced (or poorly sourced), the primary goal is to fix the problem. We try everything we can think of the achieve this goal... tagging, leaving messages, and even threatening deletion. Deletion should not normally be our first choice for fixing the problem (that depends on the specific article, or course), but... it does fix the problem. Blueboar (talk) 16:33, 17 January 2011 (UTC)

"Threshold" again

Threshold is a word of many meanings, but the nearest relevant one, following wiktionary, is

  • (engineering) The quantitative point at which an action is triggered, especially a lower limit

To say that verifiability is the threshold for inclusion therefore implies that it triggers inclusion, and that everything verifiable is included. This would be a ridiculous proposition, never followed in practice, so it's a bit silly to state it thus. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 13:07, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Well, from an engineering standpoint, your deduction is not 100% correct. A trigger can be what normally causes the event to happen, but still subject to other criteria. Trigger/gun is a great analogy...pulling the trigger normally fires it, but only if the safety is flipped off. But I agree that the term is ambiguous in an area where it is important that it be un-ambiguous. Also, the inclusion of an example ("truth") in that sentence of something that does not trump the requirement is also confusing and problematic. North8000 13:54, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
[inserted later] The definition for "threshold", that SamuelTheGhost gave in the first post, is definition 4 from  From the viewpoint of definition 4, crossing a "threshold" triggers an action.  Conversely, if an action was not triggered, then the threshold was not crossed.  With this reading, if pulling a trigger does not fire the gun, then pulling the trigger is not a "threshold".  So I think that SamuelTheGhost was precise, but more to the point, I think that we should agree that definition 4 from Wiktionary is not the intent of the first sentence of WP:V.  RB (talk) 19:58, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
[insert ends here]
Can you clarify what is ambiguous in the current version? --Nuujinn (talk) 14:02, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Verifiability is the first of several thresholds for inclusion. But it is not the only threshold for inclusion. The fact that something is verifiable means that it passes the first test and may potentially be included (it also has to pass the other thresholds). However, because Verifiability is the first threshold, it does mean that anything that is not verifiable may be excluded. Blueboar (talk) 14:59, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Its never implied (to me at least) that its the only threshold. AaronY (talk) 15:41, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
I'll use terms from normal logic. Verifiability, the way policy is worded, is necessary but not sufficient. Material also has to be notable, and there are also some special rules for special cases.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:55, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
I think the best other requirement to consider as proof that not all verifiable material should be included is that a consensus must be reached among the article editors that material is interesting enough to include in an encyclopedia. Notability applies to an article as a whole, but the interesting criteria applies to each claim within an article. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:09, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Bearing in mind that this is the change I wanted to introduce, it seems to me that everybody agrees that it says the right thing, some people agree that it's an improvement, and some people think that it's unnecessary because the existing text already says that, but nobody thinks that what I've proposed is actually wrong. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:20, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for the patronization Alex. I guess what I'm saying is that its obvious to me if Bill Clinton attends a softball game in Peoria and it makes the local paper it doesn't merit inclusion in his article, even though technically this guideline says that it does. I don't care if the wording is changed, but I've never for a second thought it meant anything with a source gets in. Its common sense that it wouldn't. AaronY (talk) 17:47, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

This guideline sets the minimum for inclusion while WP:NPOV and WP:NOTABILTY are for weight and relevance. Just because we don't summarize those policies here (which we could) doesn't suggest anyone take the policy in isolation (in fact, that's explicitly cautioned against). Ocaasi (talk) 19:10, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
I don't see a need to change the language... The intent of the statement is to outline what may and may not be added. If no reliable sources verify Clinton's attendance at the softball game, we may not mention it (even if his attendance is "true"). If reliable sources verify his attendance then we may mention it... but that permission does not mean we must mention it. I think this is clear in the current language. Blueboar (talk) 18:37, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

The previous time these issues came up we ran into a language problem with both the word "notability" and the relation of WP:N to content policy.  As noted by Wtmitchell [here], WP:N is not part of content policy.  WP:NNC states, "The question of content coverage within a given page is governed by the principle of due weight and other content policies."  At the same time, the word "notability" is frequently used on this page as it relates to content.  It seems that the word used in the WP:WEIGHT policy is "prominence".  Since I didn't like the word "prominence" in this context, I started referring to "notability/prominence".  FYI, RB (talk) 23:27, 19 December 2010 (UTC) [inserted later] See also: Wikipedia:Notability vs. prominence.  RB (talk) 15:16, 23 December 2010 (UTC) [insert ends here]

Here is another definition of "threshold", the point being that a threshold isolates two states: threshold 3b : a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.
A threshold for inclusion is therefore also a threshold for the absence of inclusion.  This is technically an ambiguity, where "ambiguity" is defined in as ambiguity 1b : "A word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways".
The problem for policy arises in considering verifiable material for the "absence of inclusion".  WP:V says that editors cannot consider material that "could be not true" for the "absence of inclusion".  RB (talk) 02:15, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
There's also WP:Editorial discretion. Editors are expected, even required, to use their best judgment. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:45, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The "threshold for inclusion" implies a necessary, not a sufficient, condition. If the threshold for your inclusion at a party is that you bring the hostess some wine, it doesn't mean you'll be let in if you arrive with the wine, but also drunk and covered in mud. But there are times when the existence of a reliable source would be a sufficient condition too: if the article is underdeveloped, for example, or if the point is one required for NPOV.

We should be careful not to add anything to the policy that editors could use to reject reliable sources, because everything depends on context. What the policy currently implies is that if you arrive at an article with a good source, there has to be a strong editorial reason to keep your material out. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:26, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

If a reliable source has printed a mistake, WP:V policy should not require editors to ignore the error.  Under WP:V, editors cannot consider a retraction by the newspaper for the story about the Clinton softball game, because WP:V is "whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."  WP:V is currently a force to include mistakes in the encyclopedia, and this force has no documented purpose.
From WP:V:
  • See also, argument from authority.
  • Notes, 4. "Wales, Jimmy (16 May 2006). "Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information...I can NOT emphasize this enough."
RB (talk) 22:29, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
*WhatamIdoing, Wikipedia:Editorial discretion has the status of an "essay", it says an essay may be a "minority viewpoint", and "Consider these views with discretion."  Discretion in this case can include citing WP:V the way it is currently written, which is that it is incorrect to challenge verifiable fallacies; since Wikipedia is about verifiability, not the truth of the verifiable statement.  RB (talk) 19:29, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

With all of it's wording shortcomings, I think that it's clear that meeting wp:ver is a requirement for inclusion, not something that mandates inclusion.

It easy and common for a wp:"RS" to be unreliable, (wp:rs has no criteria for knowledge of the subject or objectivity) and to have information that is patently wrong, or just one of many conflicting opinions. More commonly, people misuse what's in a RS. For example, The New Your Times covers John Smith's claim that the earth is flat. Then they use the NYT as a source for the statement that the earth is flat. Either way, nothing in wp:ver mandates inclusion of anything. North8000 21:00, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

If the consensus of editors is to omit something... just omit it. The "Threshold" clause allows for this... and if that is not enough, you can always invoke WP:IAR. If, on the other hand, the editors are debating whether to include something, then we would need to know what the something is before we can address the issue further. The simple fact is, we do not require that everything verifiable be added to an article... but we do require that anything added be verifiable. Blueboar (talk) 22:54, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree that WP:V is "not something that mandates inclusion", that "we do not require that everything verifiable be added", and "we do require that anything added be verifiable.
We've seen that the word "threshold" is itself ambiguous, as two definitions have been given and are in use.  We've seen that there is a connotation of "threshold" that is the "threshold for the absence of inclusion".  No one has offered a purpose for having a "threshold for the absence of inclusion".  I agree with what Blueboar said, "The intent of the statement is to outline what may and may not be added."  I submit that this proposal restores that intent, and that in the absence of further analysis, consensus exists to restore that intent.  RB (talk) 01:43, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
I don't think it is needed. The intent is already clear in the old language. Blueboar (talk) 02:15, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
BTW, before I said I thought there was a consensus, I concluded you were using SamuelTheGhost's definition of "threshold", and that my response would clarify that the word "threshold" is confounded.  The question becomes, even if you don't see the need, and think the intent is clear in the old language, is that an objection to a change which to you is not a change?  RB (talk) 02:42, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
Blueboar, I'll take your silence as a "rhetorical answer".  I'll also withdraw my thought that you were using SamuelTheGhost's definition, i.e., Wiktionary definition 4, of "threshold".  At this point, I don't know what definition of "threshold" you meant when you said in your recent post, "The "Threshold" clause allows for this..."  RB (talk) 20:07, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
In summary, I think that "threshold" is ambiguous, and, per it's common use, would lead towards the wrong impression. I lost track of what the proposal is, but "requirement" or "condition" would be much better (and less ambiguous) words. And, including an example of one thing ("truth") that does not override the condition, and a poor choice of a word is problematic on two levels. One, it confuses the main/core statement of wp:ver, and secondly it leads to wide mis-quoting that wp:ver states that accuracy (in cases where objective accuracy exists) is not an objective of Wikipedia. So I think the "not truth" should also go. North8000 14:59, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

I agree with most editors here that the purpose of the "threshold" language is to say that it's not enough for something to be true, it must also be verifiable -- and even that may not be enough.

The main problem is that the principle, especially in the abbreviated form in which it is usually quoted ("verifiability not truth"), can be misunderstood as follows: We don't care whether something is true or not. We just check whether it's verifiable, and that's it.

This misunderstood version is actually convenient when dealing with fringers who claim that established and verifiable facts are false. (E.g.: "It is not true that Obama was born in Hawaii, so we can't say it." Response: We don't care whether it's true or not, only whether it's verifiable.) As a result, we have a significant number of experienced editors, including at least one high-profile admin, who believe this is the correct interpretation.

In the past we have had a number of situations in which there was a strong consensus among Wikipedia editors that all reliable sources that reported something were in fact wrong. These situations tend to attract editors who then claim that we are obliged to parrot the incorrect reporting as if it was true, because truth simply does not matter. This is particularly egregious in BLP cases and in cases such as the Sam Blacketer controversy article, which are about events that happened at Wikipedia. In these cases we are in the best situation to report the correct facts, and readers including journalists turn to us to learn about them, not for our parrotting of news sources without any warning that we know it's all misinformation.

For this reason I think the "threshold" wording needs tuning. However, the proposed change is certainly not optimal for this purpose. Hans Adler 15:33, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

How about
Verifiability is an absolute requirement for inclusion of material in Wikipedia. No other consideration (such as assertions of truth) is a substitute for meeting the verifiability requirement. North8000 15:57, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
I used "assertions of" in the example so as to not disparage the concept of accuracy. North8000 15:57, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps Hans Adler would like to tell us what wording he would suggest? SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:16, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
Look, the problem on this page (and so many other policy pages) is that the original text was intended to be evocative of a principle, but many editors try to read it as literal law in order to use it as a hammer in particular disputes they are engaged in. The solution to the problem is to get editors to think about the bigger picture. Twiddling with the wording is not really going to help much.
That being said, the idea this line is pointing to is that Wikipedia editors should not be trying to evaluate the ontological truth-status of various perspectives on a topic. What we have, instead, is an epistemological problem: How do we know which statements about a topic qualify as knowledge that should be included in the encyclopedia, and what kind of knowledge do those statements represent? The answer to the first question is that statements qualify for inclusion when they can be verified - i.e., when we can find credible published sources that make the statement in question. The answer to the second question relies on a judgement of whether the statement is a commonly accepted truism, an established perspective in a debate, a dated historical claim, the opinion of an individual, or etc. - in other words, how does the statement fit into the greater social and scholarly worlds. We are not trying to establish what is true about a topic, we are trying to present a snapshot of the prevalent beliefs about the topic.
I could propose better wording, but it's christmas ansd I have better things to do today. Face-smile.svg --Ludwigs2 13:56, 25 December 2010 (UTC)
Very nicely said, Ludwigs. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:37, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps Ludwigs2 might demonstrate that he "could propose better wording" some time before next Christmas? SamuelTheGhost (talk) 14:42, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
ok, but you're going to be disappointed next Christmas when there's nothing under the tree.
how about this? This would replace the entire intro:

As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia needs to ensure that statements made in Wikipedia articles accurately reflect the knowledge and information that exist in the greater world. The key to this is Verifiability - literally, the ability to cite a published source in the greater world which makes a similar statement in the correct context, so that any reader can verify that Wikipedia or its editors are not rendering their own opinions. Knowledge and information are not the same as 'truth', 'factuality', or 'correctness'. In some cases, important knowledge or information about a topic may be factually wrong, may contradict scientific evidence, may be the opinion of a person or group, or may even be overtly offensive or deeply polemical. As long as such statements can be verified, they can be used in the encyclopedia.

Verifiability is not sufficient in itself for including something in the encyclopedia, but needs to be used in combination with other content policies - such as Neutral Point of View - and with common sense. Context is the key issue here: users must verify not just that a given source says something, but also that the source is directly discussing the topic at hand and is qualified to discuss that topic, that the statement is a significant viewpoint in the context in which it is being used on Wikipedia, and that the statement is being used here in a way that is consistent with the way the source uses the statement in the greater world.

In some cases, statements are so self-evident that verifiability is assumed without need for actual citation. If someone asks for verification on a statement like "the sky is blue", it is appropriate to ask why such verification is needed.

This policy applies to all material that is considered part of the encyclopedia, including article text, article titles and section headings, lists, images, quotes, templates, and captions. It is applied very stringently to biographies of living persons.


I'm very sympathetic to that formulation, although it's quite a big change from what's there now. Two small comments:
  1. You're a bit addicted to "in the greater world"
  2. Things aren't "self-evident", but citation may be omitted for uncontroversial statements for which sources of verification are widely available, such as "most people have two legs" or "Manhattan is an island". (The sky often isn't blue) SamuelTheGhost (talk) 17:49, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
I like the tone, but I also have misgivings. One additional bit with which I would take issue is the assertion that "users must verify ... that the source is ... qualified to discuss that topic". No. Besides the special case of qualifying a recognized topic expert for acceptability as a SPS, I can't think of a circumstance in which editors (as distinct from users) need to verify (or, indeed, should make a judgment about) source qualifications. A rather extreme example would be qualification of e.g., Danny Glover or Rosie O'Donnell as acceptable sources for comments on world politics. Somewhat related to this is concern over the ambiguity of the term "source" -- If A publishes info that B asserted X about topic Y, then (presuming that A is a reliable source on the topic), is the degree of qualification of either A or B to discuss the topic a matter which requires editorial judgment by individual WP editors? Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:00, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

"A threshold" vs. "The threshold"

Some editors have posted that there is more than one threshold.  Yet the first word of WP:V is not "a" but "the".  I support having one requirement for inclusion, the point being that the other policies are for exclusion.  I've tried to draw a word picture in the essay [Policy_sculpting:_inclusion_versus_exclusion].  FYI, RB (talk) 09:55, 25 December 2010 (UTC)

In that we are discussing "a" vs. "the" currently, please see the essay [WP:Policy_sculpting:_inclusion_versus_exclusion] and the talk page [WT:Policy_sculpting:_inclusion_versus_exclusion].  RB (talk) 06:25, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

"condition" vs. "requirement"

These two definitions are from

Definition of REQUIREMENT

1 : something required: b : something essential to the existence or occurrence of something else : condition <failed to meet the school's requirements for graduation>

Definition of CONDITION

2 : something essential to the appearance or occurrence of something else : prerequisite

I prefer "requirement" to "condition".  RB (talk) 01:19, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

"threshold" vs. "requirement"

"threshold" (1) No one has provided a definition that explains why we are using the word. (2) No one has disputed that one of the connotations of "threshold" is that there is a "threshold for the absence of inclusion". (3) No one supports having a "threshold for the absence of inclusion". In short, "threshold" is ambiguous.

"requirement" removes the ambiguity without changing the intent.


The threshold requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.

RB (talk) 02:07, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Proposal: How about we kill three birds with one stone? For the reasons discussed above, proposal as follows:


  • The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.


  • The requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 12:24, 28 December 2010 (UTC)

It's not "the requirement." It's "the threshold," an entirely different concept. This is a very commonly accepted phrase now, and I think people do understand what it means given how often I see it being cited correctly. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:40, 28 December 2010 (UTC)
I think it is reasonable to say that verifiability is required, and not use the word "threshold".  Am I missing something?  I also have a problem with using an undocumented definition of "threshold".  The ambiguity that we are currently trying to resolve includes removing the "threshold for the absence of inclusion".
Also, do you think these editors are citing correctly?
  • Finally, it's irrelevant if that statement you mentioned wasn't "true". Wikipedia represents verifiability, not truth. We simply present the information given by reliable sources. (Ref: [here]).
  • ...("verifiability not truth"), can be misunderstood as follows: We don't care whether something is true or not. We just check whether it's verifiable, and that's it. (Ref: [here]).
  • ...editors who then claim that we are obliged to parrot the incorrect reporting as if it was true, because truth simply does not matter. (Ref: [here]).
  RB (talk) 01:22, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
Hello SlimVirgin. "Requirement" simply says that it's necessary. IMHO "Threshold" doesn't have a single unambiguous meaning, but most commonly means "necessary and sufficient" (which is essentially a "shall be included irrespective of other considerations" statement) which IMHO is not correct for Wikipedia. That reason was the main thread of this discussion section, but was not my main motivation, which was to solve the problem that the current wording is often misinterpreted to say that accuracy (in cases where it objectively exists) is not an objective and not valued. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 03:00, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
North8000, I agree with your last statement, and I am aware that fixing the ambiguity with "threshold" does not solve my problem either.  But it helps.  I think that with the absence of responses in opposition, and the clarity in the definition of "requirement"; we are at a point of consensus to make the limited one-word change.  RB (talk) 21:38, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
A tinier change than I was hoping for, but I think it's good. North8000 (talk) 21:50, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I have a simpler solution: We should change the sentence to read, "The minimum threshold for inclusion..."
That's what we mean, after all: Information that can be verified may (not must) be included; information that cannot be verified may not be included. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:08, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure that the term "minimum threshold" would withstand logical dissection, but I agree that it does convey what we mean.North8000 (talk) 12:11, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I think we should put minimum threshold in the garbage receptacle for trash. If we need to adjective-ize it to make sense, we've probably chosen the wrong word. I like your suggestions, but this one seems like the wrong fix. Ocaasi (talk) 16:10, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
OK then, is anybody strongly opposed to "requirement"? If not I'd be willing to be bold (ok, semi-bold :-) ) and try putting it in. North8000 (talk) 19:35, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
I would not revert the change... but I really really really prefer "threshold". I think it is the best word to express what we mean (a line you must cross, the barrier that separates "outside" from "inside"). Blueboar (talk) 20:35, 7 January 2011 (UTC)
This isn't just one word like I thought. We can't just sub the one word because because then it would say "the requirement" which says that there is (only) one requirement. And so if we say "a requirement", now we are making a new (arguable) statement that truth is not a requirement, i.e "upgrading" that from an implication to a statement. IMHO the real fix would be my proposal:
"Verifiability is an absolute requirement for inclusion of material in Wikipedia. No other consideration (such as assertions of truth) is a substitute for verifiability."
which we haven't talked about much. I don't plan putting anything in at this time. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 03:03, 8 January 2011 (UTC)

"requirement" vs. "absolute requirement"

To me the word "absolute" is verbiage.  Also there is some text that has been removed without an explanation.  Here is an alternate to North8000's proposal:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.


"Verifiability is required for inclusion of material in Wikipedia; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability."

RB (talk) 07:48, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

Your version is better and corrects my omission. I know "absolute" is technically redundant; I had it in for emphasis, but it's probably better to leave it out. North8000 (talk) 14:22, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
I still think threshold is better, but seem some improvement in the latter parts of the phrase. If it were up to me I'd use: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability." FWIW. --Nuujinn (talk) 18:06, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
Than takes care of my main concern and reason that I consider this to be a big improvement. (previously discussed) Other folks were more concerned about the requirement vs. threshold. But I do think that requirement is less ambiguous than threshold. North8000 (talk) 18:35, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
I think this is an improvement over the current policy statement.  It might even help clarify the "requirement" vs. "threshold" discussion.  RB (talk) 23:51, 9 January 2011 (UTC)
66, I think that you were the number 1 person proposing the threshold/requirement word change. If you're cool with this (version by Nuujinn), I certainly am. If there are no objections, I'll be semi-bold and put it in. North8000 (talk) 12:55, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Since the discussion has gone on a long time, let's give it a day to give others a chance to respond--may folks are busy in RL since classes are starting (at least in the US). --Nuujinn (talk) 13:43, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. I was planning on doing that. I should have clarified. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 14:57, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
OK, it's been 2 days. Here goes. North8000 (talk) 11:41, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Done. North8000 (talk) 11:46, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
I think that the comma in the proposal after the bold word "verifiability" should be a semi-colon.  FYI, RB (talk) 17:26, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

(Outdent)Cool. So just so there is clarity, this would be to:

replace the entire first (one sentence) paragraph with:
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability."

Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:38, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

discussion following the revert (threshold again)

[continued from Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/Archive_44#.22Threshold.22_again]

  • North, there's clearly no consensus for the change you want to make, and the current wording has been widely cited for years, so please don't change it again unless the consensus becomes clear. People have to know, when they quote a policy from memory, that the material is going to be there when they come to check it. "Verifiability, not truth" sums up the core editing approach of Wikipedia, and people find it memorable and easy to understand. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 12:52, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
People, even some admins, also misunderstand "verifiability, not truth" as saying we don't care about truth at all and that we intentionally make our articles lie (e.g. about things concerning Wikipedia, as in Sam Blacketer affair) in case the "reliable sources" clearly get things wrong. I.e., these editors argue that even an exceptionally strong consensus of editors that information (in this case BLP information) is obviously false is not enough to keep it out of an article once it has appeared in an "RS" and not contradicted by others. This is not what happens in practice, but the widespread misconception has sometimes led to unnecessary disruption.
This formulation has existed for so long that it has become almost impossible to change now, and of course a consensus needs to be obtained before changing it. But it must be changed or at least annotated with an explanation that discourages the fundamentalist interpretation. Let's work for a consensus to do so. Hans Adler 13:32, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Hello Slim and all. The change was the end result of a 3 week group discussion (above) and then in the end set out for an extra 2 days for any one who had any objections. There seems to be a double standards here. North8000 (talk) 19:36, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
It's a long, convoluted discussion, and it's by no means clear that there is any outcome at all. There can be no strong consensus unless interested editors can see at a glance what is at stake and that a consensus, with which they may or may not agree, is about to form. Without that, there will never be enough participation for a sufficiently robust consensus. Hans Adler 19:49, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Regarding the substance of it, a part of the discussion was that this is a verifiability policy, and it says that verifiability is absolutely required, and that nothing trumps the requirement. This doesn't change policy, it actually gets rid of flaws which clouded the policy. Specifically, this gets rid of the lack of clarity in one portion of the sentence which just said one particular thing ("truth") doesn't trump verifiability, and in a way that causes it to be widely mis-misapplied to disparage the idea of accuracy (in cases where objective accuracy exists). IMHO this is a good change that should be made. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 19:55, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Oh, hells belles, let it go. This doesn't help clarify the policy at all, it just adds more wikilawyer fodder. I can already imagine editors trying trying to subvert NPOV by presenting a biased source and saying it's 'absolutely required' that we use verified sources. please read the points I made a couple of threads up. --Ludwigs2 20:36, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
Last thing I want to do is add to Wikilawyering! But I think that the title of this subsection confused matters.....there was no "absolutely" in what the group developed. The new wording was that of Nuujinn's 18:06 9 January post except with the punctuation change by 66.212, Which I recapped in my 17:38 10 January post.
I read your earlier post. I think that may be a very good discussion to have, but a bit off of this topic. The change did not put anything in promoting accuracy. It just reworded something which had often been mis-quoted as disparaging accuracy. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:51, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
A change we agreed to in this discussion has been reverted with the edit comment, "...please gain clear consensus before changing it".
This discussion began on 25 November 2010, and over the course of three sections has had 163 comments from 21 participants.  Thereby, readers of this page are aware of this discussion and its objectives.  Five comments marked the consensus call on January 10.  More than 46 hours elapsed after the final consensus call before the change was promoted.  I think that this is a reasonable procedure to determine consensus in this context, and clearly there was a consensus with this procedure.  Thus I see no basis for the revert.  RB (talk) 05:50, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
Jayjg, This is a continuation from the message started in the next subsection.  I think there is a difficulty here in consensus building if a VIP editor can wait until after a presumably valid consensus has been established and make a revert.  I'd like to know if you agree or disagree that the consensus process that was followed was reasonable in the context.  If not, what should have been done differently?  Thank you, RB (talk) 05:03, 18 January 2011 (UTC)
Clearly there was a consensus with the procedure that was used.  Are there any comments as to whether it was a reasonable procedure to determine consensus in this context?  If not, what should have been done differently?  RB (talk) 17:17, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

Further discussion on proposed wording change in lead

66 laid it out more thoroughly and completely than I did. Plus it's not even a change in policy, it just more clearly states the policy. North8000 (talk) 11:40, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
There was nobody against the final proposal, and it set out there an extra 2 days for an extra opportunity to comment. So I guess the next step to put it out there for further input//discussion, including any objections. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 16:53, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
The issue here is that "verfiability, not truth", is a pithy and memorable phrase, which is extremely helpful in starkly outlining what Wikipedia tries to do. Yes, it can be misinterpreted, and of course we want material to be true as well, but "truth" is subjective, verifiability is objective. It might be helpful to further clarify what we mean, but removing the phrase is, I think, detrimental. Jayjg (talk) 01:30, 17 January 2011 (UTC)
Jayjg, Please see [Opinion_X.2C_Opinion_Y.2C_and_Opinion_Z].  Many times during the course of this conversation editors have expressed concern regarding Group B thinking.  But you will see that none of the critical opinions; Opinion X, Opinion Y, and Opinion Z; support Group B thinking.  A goal here was to remove part of the basis for the idea that as long as material is verifiable, it doesn't matter whether it is true or not true.  See Argument_from_authority.  In my opinion everyone here agrees and has agreed with your basic concern which is that we don't want to take time to consider the truth of material that is not verifiable.  I agree that we should restore the words "verifiability, not truth" in some form.  I have made a further response regarding process in the previous subsection.  RB (talk) 04:23, 18 January 2011 (UTC)
Jaygig, it's not that it can be misterpreted, it's that it is pervasively mis-interpreted. The proposed change also sidesteps /reduces the other issue in that "truth" is an ambiguous and somewhat pejorative and straw dog substitute for the word accuracy. And also a pejorative way of characterizing efforts towards accuracy, for cases where objective accuracy exists. I say all of this because one of the common uses of the "truth" is referring to what is actually opinion and proselytizing, nothing to do with accuracy. North8000 (talk) 04:57, 20 January 2011 (UTC)
Is there any other opposition to this long-discussed potential change? North8000 (talk) 12:39, 26 January 2011 (UTC)
Not opposition, but I wonder if there's not some way of honoring the older phrasing, perhaps by referencing in a subsequent sentence that the policy has been and will likely continue to be expressed in this way. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:18, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
Where is the proposal located? I don't see it on this page. Cold someone restate it please?   Will Beback  talk  00:30, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
It was a proposal made some weeks ago to remove or change "verifiability, not truth," and/or "threshold for inclusion," and there were several objections. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:52, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── With respect, it's a bit more complicated than that. But the short version of the last proposal is here.

Somehow the section got cut in half and the proposal and the arguments for it got archived, even with new material in them. It is:

replace the entire first (one sentence) paragraph with:

"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. No other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability."

North8000 (talk) 23:43, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

In response to Jayjg's well founded concern, I might suggest this alternative:
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability; that is, whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. This policy has traditionally been expressed with the phrase "verfiability, not truth," which emphasizes that no other consideration, such as assertions of truth, is a substitute for verifiability."
Just a tupence, --Nuujinn (talk) 00:23, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
Well, that could be a compromise. Recapping a couple of points from the quickly archived discussions, the currently one is widely misquoted as disparaging the idea of accuracy. Also, the current one is structurally bad because it just gives one particular example of a thing that isn't a substitute for verifiability. Sort of implies and 'either or" situation, and weakens the verifiability by seemingly leaving out the other things that aren't a substitute. North8000 (talk) 01:48, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that the current version emphasizes the one opposition, and there are others. But history is important as well, and the current version has served us well. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:51, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
Coming to this discussion late, but when I see people arguing that a particular wording "has served us well" or some such, I can normally be pretty sure that they've run out of genuine arguments. I would certainly like to drop or amend the misleading "verifiability, not truth" slogan - we presumably do want truth as an ideal, but the only practical way we know of of ensuring that we approximate truth is by insisting on verifiable statements. And that's actually "verifiability" in a very specific sense, too. What the slogan actually means, I guess, is "truth according to reliable sources, not truth according to the declarations of editors". --Kotniski (talk) 07:38, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
The truth (verifiability) the whole truth (NPOV) and nothing but the truth (NOR) -- PBS (talk) 10:04, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
I like that, PBS, be a nice start to an essay. Kotniski, would you like a nice chablis with your snark? --Nuujinn (talk) 11:42, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
As a sidebar, "truth" is sort of a slightly pejorative straw man substitute word for the word "accuracy". I say this because the word "truth" often refers to proselytizing, faith-based statements, opinions or worse. Objective accuracy does exist when there is 99%+ acceptance for the framework of the statement. So it does exist for the statement "tallest mountain in the world", and it doesn't exist for "the greatest football player of all time". And information is a part of the Wikimedia objectives. Objectively wrong "information" is not information. North8000 (talk) 12:06, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Proposed solution to this interminable debate

This argument has been going on forever, and shows no real likelihood of stopping anytime soon. So, maybe it's time we just boldly rewrote the lead entirely, and to hell with history. We can add a 'legacy' section below if anyone really wants it. Proposed rewrite (getting rid of all the things that people squabble over, hopefully):

The aim of of Wikipedia is to give neutral, accurate descriptions of the subjects it covers. To ensure that the information presented is accurate, every substantive claim made in Wikipedia articles should be capable of being verified in reliable published sources. Verifiability is an exclusionary principle: Not every claim needs to be explicitly verified, and being verifiable does not ensure that a claim will be used on a given article, but claims that are challenged by other editors and cannot be traced back to published sources should generally be removed.

A claim is verified when it can be found used in a source with the same basic sense and context as its intended use in the Wikipedia article. The claim does not need to be a literal repetition of what is said in the source (and care should be taken to avoid plagiarism), but should be a proper summary consistent with the source's intent and purpose. It does not matter whether what the source says is correct or incorrect (true or false) in the greater world, so long as what the source conveys is a significant aspect of a neutral description of the topic.

Once they have passed verification, different claims may require different kinds of attribution (from uncontroversial claims which require no attribution to claims which need to be directly attributed to a specific source or author) in order to avoid over- or under-representing their significance to the topic.

Verifiability is one of Wikipedia's core content policies, along with No original research and Neutral point of view. These policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in articles. They should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should familiarize themselves with the key points of all three. All core policies may be applied more stringently on material relating to living persons.

Have at it! --Ludwigs2 18:11, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

You fixed several issues in one swoop! Something that huge and fast inevitably has a few imperfections. Not sure I understand the distinction between verificaton and attribution. Also, I'd rather not diss objective accuracy (for those cases where such exists). North8000 (talk) 22:47, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Definitely way to go. But not exactly this, though - this lead needs to be written in nice, ordinary-person-friendly language - the worst thing it could do is put people off joining the project by making them think Wikipedia is terribly complicated. The word "exclusionary" here loses the audience as early as the third sentence. And no references to "claims"!! That misleads as to what frame of mind we expect people to come to Wikipedia in. --Kotniski (talk) 22:59, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
@ kotinski: yes, sometimes I am ordinary-person-friendly-language-challenged, I freely admit it. Face-smile.svg I'm ok with a rewording, but those two point do need to be covered somehow
  • the 'exclusionary' bit is needed in some form to kibosh the classic POV-advocate "I have a source, so we have to include this" thing. we need to point out that verification is a test for whether something can be used, not whether it should be used.
  • the 'claims' thing is really important, though maybe not the best language. the thing to get across here is we as editors make statements about a topic in the encyclopedia, and it's those statements that we make that need to be verifiable in sources. A lot of editors forget that wikipedia itself always has a voice - whatever is written in any article is what Wikipedia says about a topic - and the struggle here is to ensure that wikipedia's voice (the claims that wikipedia makes about a topic) accurately reflects the voices of sources.
@ North8000: the way I see it (based on debates I've had here over the issue):
  • verification is the simple act of making sure that something written in wikipedia accurately reflects what's been said in the real world. For instance, if some editor edited the GH Bush article to claim that the sign behind W said "Mission accomplished, suckers", that would not be verifiable, while the same phrase without the 'suckers' part would be.
  • attribution is how we give credit for a particular statement, which is more in the NPOV balance direction. generally there are four levels of attribution:
    • no attribution, implying broad acceptance of a claim (the standard "Mars is a planet" thing)
    • group attribution, implying broad acceptance of a claim within a particular POV ("Hindus see Brahman as the highest spiritual entity")
    • specific attribution using a footnote, implying a claim given by a particularistic source who would largely be considered qualified and unbiased ("The Obama administration is embarking on a new policy of..." <with citation to the New York Times>)
    • specific inline attribution, implying a claim that is questionable, localized to a particular (usually minority) POV, polemic, or otherwise not to be taken as a generally accepted statement ("Linus Pauling argued that large doses of Vitamin C could effective cure a broad range of diseases")
Also, I'll confess I have difficulty with the concept of 'objective accuracy'. Too much Philosophy of Science in my brain... Face-smile.svg Plus, I think Wikipedia needs to make a bright-line rule blocking concerns with ontological truth no matter what language it appears in. Science itself might aim for something like 'objective accuracy' (as I've said elsewhere, one of the premises of modern science is the assertion is that one can make an induction from collective subjective experience to ontological facticity - yeah, I know, everyone just had a brain freeze; sorry), but wikipedia shouldn't be trying to evaluate science on that level. We should keep it on the level of describing topics neutrally, and leave it up to sources to worry about whether the topics are understood correctly. --Ludwigs2 18:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Hello Ludwigs2 I think that the "the more questionable the claim, the stronger sourcing needed (and vica versa) fills an important hole in the policy. But it is confusing that you seem to be switching between implying that verification and attribution are two different things, and then that they are the same.
I wasn't trying to push the idea of objective accuracy (even in those cases where it exists). I was just saying let's not actively diss it. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 19:29, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I see what you mean about accuracy - I misunderstood you before, sorry.
With respect to the other: verification and attribution are two different things, but they are related. verification asks the question "is what we say an accurate reflection of what's said in the real world?" Attribution asks the question "How careful do we have to be making this statement in Wikipedia's voice". Obviously, one can verify many statements from many sources that should not be stated directly in wikipedia's voice (e.g. statements of White Supremacist organizations about minority groups); Obviously, one can make many common sense statements in wikipedia's voice that would be difficult or pointless to verify from specific sources (e.g. statements about who the president of the US was in a given year). First we need to verify a statement (if only to say that it's too generic to need specific verification); once verified, we need to determine the best way to psent it in the encyclopedia so as not to misrepresent it. --Ludwigs2 20:00, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
A lot of brilliant ideas there that would be big fundamental changes. I'm almost thinking that we should still deal with the tiny proposed change (and which is not a policy change) prior to your proposal and then move on to yours? North8000 (talk) 13:03, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
well, North, as a dyed-in-the-wool tinkerer I have a strong preference for patching things up - duct tape is my bestest friend. But even I recognize that there comes a point where you just have to stop nursing something along and go out and get a new one. People have been wrestling over micro-changes to this policy for years now, with absolutely no progress whatsoever. Whether or not your tiny proposed change goes through, this same argument (IMO) is going to start up again in a week, as though nothing had changed. and that's because - honestly - nothing will have changed.
I'm halfway tempted to edit this in right now with the edit summary "BOLD change to long-standing policy because I'm tired of people squabbling endlessly over petty crap", because that's pretty much how I feel about it. --Ludwigs2 16:44, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
I like many aspects of it. Maybe a few suggestions:
  • "Exclusionary" is not a common word, but it does have an explanation. But given that it gets explained anyway, do we need the word itself?
  • "over- or under-representing their significance to the topic" . Maybe " it is presented in reliable sources relevant to the topic" or something like that? My point being that there is perhaps a hole here concerning how what defines the significance.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 17:10, 3 February 2011 (UTC)
Ludwig2, you do brilliant work. But I think that this contains a fundamental re-definition of the word verifiability/verification. I still am not clear on what that new definition is, and not sure that you have fully thought it through. Your first definition of verification sort of presumes that a agreed definitive source exists (I think an oversimplificaiton in a major area) and that verification means checking against it. Then your attribution definition introduces the concept that I have been promoting (the more questioned/questioned the statement, the stronger the sourcing required. and vice versa. But thiis deos not define attribution. Your only real definition of attribution seemed to related to giving credit. North8000 (talk) 16:42, 6 February 2011 (UTC)


I've reverted an addition which I feel is already covered under our copyvio guidelines; its pointless imho to cover guidelines in more than one place and given how daunting the scope of our entire MoS is (probably 200+ pages if printed out), I don't feel there is a need to over-explain things or lengthen rather than tighten guidelines in many areas. Lets just try to stay on topic here. AaronY (talk) 20:29, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

  • It is already covered under WP:COPYVIO and that's where all detailed discussion of the issue should stay. All this page needs is a two-sentence mention of the fact that you can follow the sources too closely, plus a direct pointer to the policy. The background and context to this edit, of course, isn't completely unrelated to the circumstances in which User:Rlevse became a redlink: WP:V has genuinely been used as a reason for substantial copyright violations in the encyclopaedia. The problem the edit was supposed to address is not just theoretical.—S Marshall T/C 20:49, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I'm aware of the Rlevse fiasco. I still don't think we need to summarize one guideline in another. There's always a tendency to over-explain in these guidelines which has the opposite effect of the one desired. Once they become too long or digress too much people's attentions begin to wander. I'd be interested to see what others think. AaronY (talk) 22:32, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
This could obviously go either way. Brevity v Spell-it-out. Suffice to say, the tension between V and COPYVIO is a real one, and a brief pointer for resolving that tension is not a bad idea. Ocaasi (talk) 23:39, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
Is 2 to 1 consensus now? Oh well I guess if someone else comments we can change it back. AaronY (talk) 15:41, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
I think all we need is a pointer, with no explanation. Explaining how to avoid copyvio here just increases the chance of confusion or conflicts between here and elsewhere. --Nuujinn (talk) 16:07, 19 December 2010 (UTC)
Pointers can do the trick in such cases, but they should be clear.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:56, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Close paraphrasing

Hi S Marshall, I removed "'Too closely' includes any sentence-by-sentence paraphrase of a source." It's not clear what that means, and I don't think we should get into it here. It's probably more appropriate just to link to Wikipedia:Close paraphrasing. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:00, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

  • I'm having trouble seeing any clearer way I could put it. Basically, we don't want editors paraphrasing the sources at sentence- or phrase-level. We want editors reading the sources, understanding them, and then summarising what the sources say, but using entirely original language in the process. That's more than just varying the wording the sources use, and it's more than just putting the same information in a different order; it's making the point the sources make, but using completely fresh language to do it. I really do think WP:V needs to say more emphatically that it isn't an excuse for copyright violations.—S Marshall T/C 15:29, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
  • We can't always use original language, though. It depends on the context, and when close becomes too close is a matter of judgment and sometimes negotiation. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 15:37, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
  • In cases where we can't use original language there are various recourses: direct quotations, intext attribution, etc. within the overall limits of fair use. I'm right with you that editorial judgment is the king here. The point of a policy, though, is to explain the things that should rightly influence editorial judgment, and one of them is copyright.

    The reason I'm so adamant on being clear about copyright within the text of this policy is because WP:V is a big stick for dealing with problem articles and problem editors. That's a good thing, and it's important, but it also means that in contentious discussions WP:V can be deeply interrogated. It's also deeply interrogated at FAC and to a lesser extent GAN. But you can go too far in verifiability, because the ultimately verifiable article references a source for each statement it makes, and gives correct proportionate weight to each point that the source does—but the easiest way to achieve that is a paraphrase, and paraphrase can sail close to, or actually infringe, copyright boundaries. And that's why we have copyvios in both contentious articles and (as the Rlevse fiasco demonstrates) featured articles: because the editors involved are parsing WP:V without paying any attention to copyvios at all. Real and recent issues show that it's time we were clearer about copyright in WP:V.—S Marshall T/C 16:52, 20 December 2010 (UTC)

There was a discussion started about this above under the copyright heading. AaronY (talk) 17:02, 20 December 2010 (UTC)
Am I to take silence as consent for this edit, then?—S Marshall T/C 23:20, 21 December 2010 (UTC)
Well I disagree with it as do others I think. AaronY (talk) 16:52, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
Purely on the basis of WP:CREEP, as I understand it?—S Marshall T/C 17:07, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
I don't read essays. I'm voting this way because most of the analysis I've seen of Wikipedia by independent sources says one of the reasons our growth has slowed is because new editors are bitten frequently and referred to a huge unwieldy manual to learn some mistake they have inadvertently made. I favor anything that cuts down the over-explaining of the MoS while keeping its core messages intact. Ideally the whole thing should be a fraction of the size it is now. A lot of its length is due to needless repetition (the case here imho), and over-explanation. AaronY (talk) 19:06, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
It's certainly true that our growth has slowed, new editors are bitten frequently, and the rules are huge and unwieldy and not very clear. Right with you there. Unfortunately, this is what happens when policies are written by a committee. Particularly when the committee is self-selecting, and therefore consists of the people who would rather spend their time telling other people how to write an encyclopaedia than writing it themselves. (Harsh words but it includes me too.)

My problem with the current version of WP:V is that for some reason, editors including very senior editors have taken or are still taking it as a reason to breach copyright. Which is exactly ass backwards, because while it's important to have an accurate encyclopaedia, obeying the law is even more important. In fact, if you'd like to trim WP:V then I'd encourage you. I mean, the first, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh (and then I stopped counting) paragraphs all contain the same basic thought, with only slight variations in the order in which they say "reliable", "published" and "source". Surely some of this repetition could be trimmed.

My point is that the policy that talks in so much detail about how to analyse and cite sources needs to be clearer about how far the sources can be used, and there's plenty of other spare wording that can be trimmed to make room for that.—S Marshall T/C 20:23, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

Regarding the point about "not reading essays", Wikipedia:Close paraphrasing is an essay, and referral to this essay was what started this section.  FYI, RB (talk) 20:46, 22 December 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── S Marshall, sorry for not responding; I didn't notice until now that the discussion had continued. The copvios we've had have involved extensive close paraphrasing, not just the occasional too-close sentence; and in several cases straightforward plagiarism. The issue of the occasional close paraphrase isn't something we can deal with here, because it really does depend entirely on context and it's complicated. For example, sometimes close paraphrasing is necessary; sometimes it will involve common words and phrases and therefore won't be a copyvio; mostly intext attribution will be a good thing, but sometimes it's misleading. I agree that discussion about this is good, but I don't think this policy is the place for it. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 06:35, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

    • Sure, copyright is complicated and we don't need to deal with it here. Detailed discussion belongs at WP:CV. But WP:V as presently phrased is misleading (or at least, has been extensively misunderstood, including by formerly-senior editors) because it would be possible to comply with it by close paraphrasing. WP:V describes Wikipedia's "three content policies" as WP:V, WP:NOR and WP:NPOV and quite falsely suggests that this is an exhaustive list, in a definite sin of omission against WP:CV. Until I started this argument by amending the policy, its only mention of WP:CV was somewhere under "non-English sources". This policy needs to adapt to the problems it's created.—S Marshall T/C 08:08, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
"This policy needs to adapt to the problems it's created" Can you provide some examples of problems created by the wording of the policy? It seems to me that the copyvio policy is clear and not in conflict with anything here. Policies do not need to be part of core content policies to be applicable and effective. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:35, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
The AN/I discussion up to this diff is rife with examples. You'll see a significant consensus that the various problems are tied to several areas of the encyclopaedia, but particularly WP:V, WP:DYK and WP:FAC. I'm trying to address WP:V specifically because it's easier to do one thing at a time and one has to start somewhere.—S Marshall T/C 23:11, 23 December 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I'm not feeling it, that example seems a better argument for revamping ANI or DYK than twiddling the wording here. I note that some editors suggest that the core issue is pure copyvio, and some editors refer to RS problem. The last comment by UncleG I find at the moment especially poignant. But that thread is a witch's brew of issues and does not, in my opinion, illustrate any particular problem with the wording of WP:V. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:50, 24 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree that there's an argument for revamping FAC and DYK guidelines a bit, but that doesn't preclude fixing problems closer to the root. I decided to start with WP:V because it's policy underlying a lot of the decisions that are made elsewhere in the encyclopaedia.—S Marshall T/C 10:24, 24 December 2010 (UTC)
This nonce further comment is to prevent this unfinished discussion from being automatically archived as a result of low editor participation during the Christmas break.—S Marshall T/C 12:07, 26 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree that we need a warning about WP:COPYVIO in this policy. User:Gavin.collins also misunderstood WP:V and WP:OR and thought that verbatim wording was mandated by them. Fences&Windows 23:31, 30 December 2010 (UTC)


This relatively new sentence needs to be altered:

Be mindful of copyright: do not copy text from copyrighted sources, or paraphrase too closely, without in-text attribution."

It is wrong for two reasons. The first is that we can copy limited amount of text from a copyrighted source if it is a quote, and quotes can be attributed by an inline citation, they do not need in-text attribution. The second are sources that while under copyright can be copied or paraphrased: eg other Wikipedia pages and other appropriately licensed copyrighted sources under what is often described as copyleft without in-text attribution (although depending on the source they will need attribution in other ways); and other sources such as US government sources which can be copied or closely paraphrase which do not need in-text attribution (inline-citations will do). -- PBS (talk) 14:39, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

I know it is legal to copy or closely paraphrase text from a free source ... but I don't think we want to imply that doing so is an acceptable way to write an article. We want original writing (without original research). Blueboar (talk) 19:36, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar I disagree with your position, copying text from encyclopaedic copyright expired sources such as EB1911 and DNB should not be discouraged as text from those sources in areas such as historic biographies of minor figures and descriptions of battles make for well written Wikipedia articles that can be modified and improved with new sources thorough the usual editing process, and as F&W has pointed out that boat has long since sailed so should not add wording that suggests that this is not allowed. --PBS (talk) 12:47, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
Ah, but quite a few articles are based on material taken verbatim from free sources. So we cannot add wording that suggests that this is not allowed. Fences&Windows 19:55, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
PBS, it's poor practice to copy from other sources, whether copyrighted or not, and we can't base one of our core content policies on the assumption that it's okay. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:26, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
How about: "Respect copyright and avoid plagiarism: do not copy verbatim or closely paraphrase text from a non-free source unless you are briefly quoting it in accordance with the non-free content policy. Summarise sources in your own words." [Addition is the wikilinking in "closely paraphrase".] I personally support Blueboar's addition but I think it belongs in a footnote rather than the main body of the policy so as to minimise policy-bloat.—S Marshall T/C 20:00, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
I think that's very close, but getting long. How about: "Respect copyright and avoid plagiarism: do not copy verbatim or closely paraphrase text from a non-free source unless you are briefly quoting. Summarise sources in your own words." (removed link to non-free content policy) Ocaasi (talk) 05:35, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
Free had two obvious meanings (free as in freedom and free as in really really cheap). Also for example Wikipedia text is not copyright free it is copyleft, so "a non-free source" does not cover it. It also does not cover the copyright status of work by the U.S. government. How about " ... text from a source not compatible with the Text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License as used by Wikipedia unless you are ...". (The licence is linked at the bottom of every Wikiepdia page). But this does not cover SV's wish to include in-line attribution (which I assume was the reason for the current wording). -- PBS (talk) 12:47, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
But is a public domain source "compatible" with CC A-SA? Your phrasing doesn't seem to allow when the source does not have a license which requires attribution nor ShareAlike. -- SEWilco (talk) 21:14, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Given that we have in the lead "The other three are No original research, Do not violate copyright and Neutral point of view." Do we need this second sentence in this policy on verification? -- PBS (talk) 10:38, 7 January 2011 (UTC)

  • Up until Rlevse's disappearance, I would have said, "no". But apparently we do:- even our most senior editors take this policy on verification as a licence—or even a direct exhortation—to use close paraphrasing. I've pasted Rlevse's parting statement in the collapse box below.—S Marshall T/C 17:49, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
Rlevse's parting statement
Wiki is horrible at educating editors. It has always expected people to know all the rules and to keep up with all the changes. This is impossible, even for dedicated long-tenured users. Given this and the way it's headed with the rules and all, many have and will stop producing content.

As I've said, if you don't source well, you get OR and cite needed tags, but if you source too closely, you get what happened to me. I never intended to do anything wrong. I had everything reffed; to the point that I had so many sources people told me remove some. To me that's attribution, but I guess to some it isn't. This isn't an excuse, I accept what I did, I goofed.

My goof was in not knowing where the swinging pendulum of "ref everything well but don't copy" pendulum was at. I've seen some other editors also mention this and how hard it is.

I grew up on wiki with "everything is okay as long as you have a valid RS for it" training--because if you don't you get cite needed tags. I never knew the pendulum was swinging back further away from that, more to the "don't closely paraphrase" school.

So I goofed here but my heart is with the project. However, wiki is its own worst enemy, it allows anyone to edit and has poor ineffective mechanisms for dealing with problem editors--this particular problem is essentially unsolvable. Shoot, I asked many people for help because I know I’m not good at writing, so why didn't Grace Sherwood get more closely checked until after it was on the Main Page? This points up the systemic problems so many have discussed.

I'm deeply sorry I've brought these problems to wiki and ArbCom. As stupid as it may sound, I thought I was in full compliance with policies. I know many will never believe that, but it's true, so you can call me stupid, but not legitimately claim I had ill intent of any sort.

I'm glad to have known many fine editors and upstanding people that I’ve encountered during my wiki career. Too bad my 5 years have now been overshadowed by this.


The trouble is SEW that the current wording "Be mindful of copyright: do not copy text from copyrighted sources,..., without in-text attribution." does not cover text from sources with a licence compatible with Wikipedia's. If the letter of this sentence is followed then text can not be copied from one Wikipedia article to another without in-text attribution. I assume this was not intention of the authors of this sentence, but an unintended consequence of trying to fix a different problem, so is it worth modifying it to exclude text from sources with a licence compatible with Wikipedia's (with the complexities that will bring), or is it better jut to delete it and rely on "The other three are No original research, Do not violate copyright and Neutral point of view."? -- PBS (talk) 12:42, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

  • We can't rely on it at the moment, I'm afraid; there's a user who objects to that last sentence and has removed it.—S Marshall T/C 16:58, 12 January 2011 (UTC)