Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence/Archive 1

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Removing not truth[edit]

I plan on removing the not truth from the beginning paragraph. Below is my current proposal. I plan on editing the article in one week unless someone can explain why the not truth helps make wikipedia better.

Old:

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.


Proposed New Text:

The goal of Wikipedia is truth, to whatever extent that word has meaning. This is achieved by making it possible for readers to verify statements in the article. Therefore, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors claim that it is true.


I have a hypothetical question: which would you rather have: a unverifiable encyclopedia that was always true, or a completely verifiable encyclopedia that was always false? I would rather have the true encyclopedia. Of course, the choice is a false one, since an unverifiable encyclopedia anyone can edit will quickly get full of false information, and if it is easy to verify, false information can be weeded out much quicker. The first non-stub version [1] had: "The goal of Wikipedia is to become a complete, accurate encyclopedia. We can't be sure of our accuracy if we include information which cannot be verified." The current version does not mention that the whole purpose of verifiability is that it helps make wikipedia more accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 03:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)


It seems to me that you aren't so much removing 'not truth', as adding 'truth'. Confusing, contradictory, and containing a logical fallacy. One moment you are suggesting that the word 'truth' may have no final meaning, and the next you are stating outright that Wikipedia achieves 'truth'. I think you had better think again. AndyTheGrump (talk) 03:24, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

The second sentence needs work but overall this does a much better job than the current wording. And correct information (to whatever extent that has meaning) IS the objective. Verifiability is a means to that end. Many folks try to reverse-engineer a mission statement out of wp:ver wording, (and end up with things like sourcing being the end rather than the means) such is backwards. North8000 (talk) 09:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Andy, I think if you re-read you'll see that the wording was actually that the goal of Wikipedia was truth, not stating outright that Wikipedia achieves truth, as you said. I'm sure that was just an oversight. As far as wording goes, I;d prefer this: The goal of Wikipedia is verifiable truth, to whatever extent the word "truth" can have meaning in that context." Second sentence seems OK in my view. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:26, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I like your wording. Jrincayc (talk) 12:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, of course.—S Marshall T/C 09:36, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose and suggest an end to these constant proposals to remove this, since it has become clear from many earlier discussions that this will not fly. Asking the same over and over again until one day you get lucky is not really the same as achieving consensus. Fundamentally, the goals of wikipedai is not truth, the goal of Wikipedia is to provide a compendium of what is the currently accepted knowledge, a summary of what we (the world, and the scientists in it) currently know. Whether what we know is the truth (or a truth) is not relevant to this aim at all, searching for the truth is what researchers do, we just compile, summarize, present the information. Hence "verifiability, not truth". Our mission is not to present correct information, that would make WP:OR invalid. Our mission is to present information that others (experts) have agreed on as being the most correct currently available: whether they are right or wrong is not our problem, nor our mission to find out. Fram (talk) 10:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The trouble with that view, Fram, is that it rewards the behaviour of those who either (a) refuse any significant compromise at all or (b) refuse to take part in the discussion at all, but revert any changes, while punishing the behaviour of those who engage on the talk page. There are conduct issues on this page.—S Marshall T/C 11:01, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Conduct issues should be dealt with separately, and have no bearing on my view. As for a "significant compromise", I have tried to find one in the past, but the trouble is that those people who incorrectly believe that the truth is our actual goal can never support any version of "not truth". Fram (talk) 11:42, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yup, there's the problem all right: the phrase "those people who incorrectly believe that the truth is our actual goal". Personally, I have no patience at all for those who think we should tolerate an encyclopaedia full of lies. I think the whole point of an encyclopaedia is to present readers with short, distilled versions of the published, mainstream view of each topic, as established by reliable sources. And you can't decide which source is most reliable without deciding which is most likely to be the truth.—S Marshall T/C 12:33, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The lack of "truth" does not necessarily implies "lies" though, it may well be uncertainty or incompleteness. "you can't decide which source is most reliable without deciding which is most likely to be the truth." No, not what is most likely the truth, but what is most commonly (in scientific or mainstream circles) accepted as the current approximation of the truth: no one has to agree that that is the truth, but they have to accept that that is the version we will present here. E.g. evolution: editors don't have to believe that evolution is the truth when compared to creationism, even if not all the details are known: but no one is allowed to remove verifiable scientific info from the evolution article because it is not "the truth". We are not interested in truth vs. lies, and if you think along those lines, you are starting from a wrong position, and introducing either original research or personal bias (religion, morality, ...) into articles. Fram (talk) 13:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, wording suggested completely undermines NOR, and we've been over this many times. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
In my mind, No original research, and verifiability are separate issues. The goal of the verifiability page is verifiability, that is making it easy to check that something in Wikipedia is accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 12:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Not quite... the goal of verifiability is to make it clear that whatever we state in Wikipedia is stated accurately... this includes accurately presenting note worthy minority opinions and material that we may think is inaccurate. Blueboar (talk) 12:37, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that presenting note worthy minority opinions is important. The majority view is not necessarily the truth, and wrong views can be historically important. Jrincayc (talk) 03:45, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Given that about half the folks in the large RFC wanted to completely remove "not truth" , and presumably a larger amount would support a smaller-change compromise (e.g. that leaves those words in but mitigates their unintended non-policy negative effects) the "100% status quo" folks who have actively stomped out any compromise can take responsibility for the inevitable and reasonable continuation of the discussion on this. They should certainly certainly not complain when such occurs. North8000 (talk) 11:09, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I have no problem with "reasonable continuation of the discussion", I have problems with people still misunderstanding some of the basics of Wikipedia and restarting the discussion from that position. Additional explanation of why "not truth" is added and what it means, fine: but simply removing it (or,as in this case replacing it with nearly its opposite), never. It is a fundamental part of the actual purpose of Wikipedia that we don't pretend to bring you the truth, but that we are a collection of information from other sources. We try to accurately represent and summarize the opinions, the research, the knowledge of experts in a field; we don't judge whether that information is, in fact, really accurate or not. Note that an earlier proposal (from June 2011) to stop discussing this fior a few months actually had majority support (3-2). Fram (talk) 11:42, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - for all the reasons I have stated multiple times over the last four or five months of discussion. In any case, when it comes to allowing "truth" to be a metric for inclusion, my answer remains a resounding "no". As for compromise... over the last few months, there have been numerous attempts at compromise (some of which I proposed) not all of them have been rejected by the supporters of "not truth"... a lot of them were rejected by either North or S Marshal (or both). There are two sides to this coin. Blueboar (talk) 12:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Let me say it loud and clear: Wikipedia does not seek the truth. Which does not mean that it welcomes lies or deceptions. Contrary to common belief, the boolean values of "true" and "false" do not work at all topics and circumstances. In maths, a statement must be true in all cases to be a truth, and a single counterexample is enough to prove it false. In social sciences, it is not so simple. In other topics, we can't say the truth because we don't know which is the truth, such as in cases of clasiffied information, or things that science has not discovered or explained yet. In those cases, requesting that the article reflects the "truth" conceals ambitions of imposing a point of view or making original research Cambalachero (talk) 13:13, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia does seek accurate information, to the extent that accuracy exists / is relevant. Why else would the sourcing requirement exist? Do it exist to get true information, false information (which by most definitions is not information) or the ultimate circular logic, is the mission of sourcing requirement to categorically get sourced information, including false sourced infromation? North8000 (talk) 13:35, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

No, Wikipedia does not limit itself to "accurate information"... it seeks to present information accurately. Creationists are never going to accept that all the information presented in our article on Evolution is accurate, but since the information in that article is verifiable, they will have to accept that it is presented accurately. Conversely, a scientist is never going to accept that all the information presented in our article on Creationism is accurate, but since the information in that article is verifiable, they are going to have to accept that the information is presented accurately. Blueboar (talk) 13:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
A collision between faith and science on "matters of fact" is the ultimate quandary for nice people. I go anywhere but there. North8000 (talk) 13:53, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
So do you consider the wrong score on the ball game to be "information"? North8000 (talk) 13:55, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
If we have only one source, and thet presents the "wrong score", and you were at the age and know the right score, tough luck, but you are not allowed to replace the wrong score with the right score (and you have no reliable means to prove that you are right and the source is wrong: your score is the truth, but it is not verifiable: the other is verifiable, even if it is not the truth). If, on the other hand, you have one source with the wrong score, and many with the right score, then the many win. As always, for grey areas, use the talk page and find a consensus. Fram (talk) 14:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
You are answering "what to do" which was not my question. North8000 (talk) 14:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the "wrong score" can indeed be information, sometimes very important and note worthy information... we actually have at least one article that is all about a "wrong" score (not in a ball game... but the analogy is apt). Blueboar (talk) 14:44, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually that's an article with correct information about a piece of false information. North8000 (talk) 14:54, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
While wikipedia theoretically does not seek the truth, it often does a better job of finding it than other methods. For example, I posted an article on patents on kur5hin, and several mailing lists, and then referenced these on Wikipedia. It was in Wikipedia that my mistake [2][3] on handling patent continuations and divisions was caught. I would also like to make the comment that achieving verifiability is not a goal that really motivates me. Achieving truth is a goal that motivates me (and I am willing to work on making sure that the truth I achieve is verifiable). Jrincayc (talk) 14:42, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

Clarifying question. I would like to pose a question to the "not truth" proponents to see if there is an underlying conflict outside of the term. Let's say I'm the only editor on a ship article. I want to put in the length of the ship. The only wp:RS I found in my limited time had a figure (3,100 ft long) which I know to be false (implausible). So I decide to put NOTHING in about the length. Would you say that I just violated a principle of Wikipedia? I didn't violate any policies, but I did violate several common chants like "our job is to just summarize what RS's say". North8000 (talk) 14:14, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

  • If you know it patently to be wrong, either simply don't include it, or attribute directly in the text who made that claim, and let them be wrong. Given a figure so out of whack with common sense as that lenght, I wouldn't include it at all. But say it was the difference between the claim of a 1000 ft length boat to the actual 500 ft length, which is at least in the realm of possibility, then I would include it but again, specifically mentioning who claimed this. --MASEM (t) 14:19, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Masem, I posed a question to see if there is an underlying conflict outside of the term. This could provide a tiny step forward rather than trading and parrying talking points forever. You answered "what to do" instead of my question. If you (and other propoents of the term) are willing to answer my "Would you say that I just violated a principle of Wikipedia" question as written I think it might be helpful. North8000 (talk) 14:29, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
To answer your question, no... you have not violated a principle of Wikipedia by omitting the ship's length... We are not required to include every iota of verifiable information. In fact there are multiple polices and guidelines that explain about times when we shouldn't include verifiable information. For example, when including it would give undue weight to an overly fringe viewpoint, or when it could be considered trivia, or turn the article into a collection of indiscriminate information. However, an assertion of "but it's not true" is not a valid reason to omit... just as asserting "but it's true" is not a valid reason to include. Blueboar (talk) 15:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for answering. But (assuming that you are implying that "not a valid reason to omit" is based on a Wikipedia principle) doesn't the second half of your response conflict with the first half? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:12, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think there's a conflict; it's knowing when to include and omit information given how much it is present in the sources. If only one book out of hundreds gives the length of the ship and the length is patently wrong, omission is fine to avoid given excess weight to the issue. If 90% of the books give the wrong length and discuss this length in depth, but no other source counters that information, it would not be appropriate to omit, but wording can be carefully chosen to put the onus of doubt on the wrong fact ("Several reports give the length as X (ref ref ref))". But I think this comes down to the idea that just because something was published does not require it to be included in the WP article, but must judge the weight to which the sources cover this; if the sources give a lot of weight to a wrong fact, we should be mentioned the fact as presented by the sources but not attempt to counter it with our own OR. --MASEM (t) 15:39, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, my example was highly simplified (there was no dispute, nor even other editors, there is no wp:npov balancing situation involved, so "weight" doesn't kick in, I only found one source, it was a piece of information that I was seeking (= stayed out via a specific decision) and so the only real factor in the "exclude" decision was my judgment that it was false/implausible.) I recognize that if any of those other factors were present, "excluding" might often be improper. (for example, in a wp:npov balancing situation, wp:undue would kick in and override it and probably dictate inclusion) The key point is that unlike wp:ver (which says that my opinion that something is true is irrelevant if wp:ver is not met) it IS valid to take into consideration the editor's belief that it is false when deciding whether or not to exclude material. Note that I said just take into consideration my belief-in-falseness, not that my belief-in-falseness should rule. Do you agree/disagree with me on this? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 16:41, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Within reason. It would be improper for me, if I really really really really hate the movie Casablanca, to omit the opinion from several sources that it is considered one of the best movies of all times. But that's one person; I'm not the only one writing the article. If the argument is taken at the level of group consensus, and the consensus' opinion of belief-in-falseness, then it makes more sense. This would include the case where a notable but obscure topic (like some of these ship articles) may have one author (where "consensus" is that one author until more join), while the film article could have hundreds (and thus "consensus" is clearly of the entire group). It likely depends overall on the actual article and topic, the sources that are saying the false information, and to the degree that it is taken. --MASEM (t) 16:56, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
This sentence is technically about what you include, rather than what you do not choose to include. If only one source exists, and that source says 3,100 feet, and you rationally believe that is wrong (as it would be double the length of the longest ship in the world), you may use WP:Editorial discretion to skip it. You may not, however, add some other number that cannot be found in any source—even if you visit the ship and take a tape measure to it—and then say WP:But it's true!, so it meets the threshold for inclusion. Merely being true does not meet the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Agree with both of you 100%. Now, I think that the main concern / problem expressed by S Marshall and myself (just picking 2 people, S Marshall, correct me if I'm wrong,and other please chime in) is that it is widespread in Wikipedia to say that it's improper to even take into consideration claims of falseness (=even allow them into the conversation) in conversations about exclusion of material. My focus is that such is widely done as a tool in POV wars, and S Marshall's focus (as I understand it) is that this is done to force inclusion of fringe material. More to come. North8000 (talk) 17:30, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
As an illustration of this, let's logically analyze two widely used/accepted statements, taking them in the context of a "battle":
  • "Our job is not to decide what to put in, it is (just) to summarize what RS's have said about it." Logically, this encompasses some things that we all agree with. (verifiability as a requirement for inclusion, how to proceed in wp:npov-balancing situations) but it also overreaches into saying other things that are not. For example, it logically includes a statement that opinions of falseness of the material can never be even taken into consideration in discussions about possibly excluding material.
  • "Revert removal of sourced material" In the context of a battle situation, this is implicitly a statement that being RS'd is a sufficient condition to allow somebody to force it's inclusion into an article.
Do you agree / disagree with: 1. The logic of the above? 2. That it is a common problem? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The main objection to "not truth" is that it gives undue weight to fringe theories. It's been exhaustively discussed above how the phrase "not truth" benefits the young earth creationists, the climate change deniers, and other bizarre nutters by giving them a licence to add anything that's been published to an article.—S Marshall T/C 16:59, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Giving proper weight to fringe theories is not the province of WP:V. If you're finding problems with UNDUE weight being given to fringe theories, then you need to go fuss at the folks working on the WP:UNDUE policy. WP:V needs to maintain its scope as not being the policy about the neutral point of view. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:18, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Marshall: I have no idea where you're getting that from.
  • User:WhatamIdoing: Policies can't be viewed in isolation. If someone is proposing watering down WP:V to the benefit of fringe theories, they should also propose how to strengthen WP:NPOV. I don't see that here. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 17:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Quest, what is happening here is the opposite of what you suggest... the proponents of change are proposing altering WP:V to the point that it would contradict WP:NPOV... by allowing editors to delete potentially relevant and verifiable information reflecting minority viewpoints purely on the grounds that they think the information is "untrue". That is not acceptable. Blueboar (talk) 17:43, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose and am tired of this perennial discussion. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:12, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose the proposal as written, and see nothing being accomplished by this tiresome discussion. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:58, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I cannot support the proposal as written either. The point is not (as some have suggested) that Wikipedians as people don't value the truth, the point is that under the conditions in which Wikipedia is produced, it cannot be the truth. It is dangerous, muddled thinking to pretend otherwise. And when I say "the truth", I mean what is most commonly accepted by experts as the current approximation of the truth. Wikipedians are not even equipped to deliver that. There is no scholarly rigour in Wikipedia. However I do think that the policy needs additional explanation, and I thought Fram's comment was very good:
    "I have no problem with "reasonable continuation of the discussion", I have problems with people still misunderstanding some of the basics of Wikipedia and restarting the discussion from that position. Additional explanation of why "not truth" is added and what it means, fine: but simply removing it (or,as in this case replacing it with nearly its opposite), never. It is a fundamental part of the actual purpose of Wikipedia that we don't pretend to bring you the truth, but that we are a collection of information from other sources. We try to accurately represent and summarize the opinions, the research, the knowledge of experts in a field; we don't judge whether that information is, in fact, really accurate or not."
I would support another amendment to the policy based on this. Rubywine . talk 22:48, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The current text "verifiability, not truth" is very useful guidance to the intended audience of this page. "Truth" and a nebulous, debateable, contentious concept that is not suitable as in intial goal. "Verifiability" is a well defined concept that we can agree on. "Verifiability". Before suggesting such changes, please ensure that you are familiar with truth and Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:53, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose Cambalachero states it very well above, as does Rubywine (I'm sure others have also of course, these are just the ones I noticed immediately that reflect accurately my opinions). We need to be explicitly clear that Wikipedia is not about somehow magically delivery the truth to its readers. It's an impossible goal for many potential article subjects even under the best of conditions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dougweller (talkcontribs) 08:48, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

What various people fail to get is that "verifiability" is just as much a nebulous, magic concept as "truth" is. The contrast should not be between verifiability and truth; we don't supply "verifiable" statements any more than than we supply "true" statements; in fact the two things mean pretty much the same thing. What's reasonably verifiable (and by the same token, true) is not the statements themselves, but the fact that the statements are supported by the reliable sources. The fact that the "verifiability not truth" wording seems to be acceptable to many editors only implies to me that many editors are easily led down the path of muddled thinking by way of verbal conjuring tricks.--Kotniski (talk) 09:34, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

With respect, I strongly disagree. Verifiability has a mechanism behind it, we know something is accurately reflected from a source by verifying the source. Anyone with access to the source can have a crack at this, and we can argue about wording, and no, it's not perfect. Discovering the truth does not have a clearcut mechanism--science has a method it uses, but as I recall, they don't call the results they get truth. Rather, they run experiments to test hypotheses and develop theories. And as has been pointed out, other areas of knowledge use different criteria to come to conclusions. I know the truth, but I cannot pass it to you in a jar. I have to convince you of what I know. How I do that is determined what where we are and what we are doing. Here, I don't convince you that I know the truth, I show you that what I am saying is accurately reflected in a reliable source, and we argue on those terms, which strikes me as a damn sight easier than convincing you of the truth.
And as a side note, suggesting that other editors with whom you disagree are "...easily led down the path of muddled thinking by way of verbal conjuring tricks" is pretty rude. End of rant. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:02, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
So when you are convincing me that what you say is accurately reflected in a reliable source, you are not convincing me of the "verifiability" of what you say any more than you are convincing me of the "truth" of what you say - you are convincing me of the verifiability (and indeed the truth) of the fact that what you say is supported by the source. So the condition that the first sentence of the policy is trying to describe is not of the form "that X be verifiable, not that X be true" but rather "that Y be verifiable, not that X be true" (where Y states that X is reliably sourced) - and it's the difference between X and Y that matters more than the difference (if there is one) between "verifiable" and "true". If we were to adopt the novel habit of actually saying what we mean, we would say something like "Information in Wikipedia should be supportable by reliable sources, not merely by the personal thoughts and convictions of editors." The nebulous concepts of truth or verifiability don't really come into it at all. (Not that I think "reliability" is any less nebulous.)--Kotniski (talk) 19:06, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. What the hell is this, keep proposing it every five minutes until you get the result you want? —chaos5023 (talk) 13:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. 'Verifiability, not truth' is an absolutely core and vital principle to writing an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is only as good an encyclopedia as its sources can support -- "this is true", in the absence of anything verifying it, is never a basis for including something, and it is absolutely vital to emphasize the fact that only verifiability matters in the strongest possible terms. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquillion (talkcontribs)
  • Oppose. There's clearly no consensus to remove this, and the repeated polls have become disruptive. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:36, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Per Slimvirgin, just above; also per others in opposition above. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:58, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The single most important lesson some new editors need is "verifiability, not truth". I was one such, and once I got my head round this concept, editing became much easier, and handling disagreements with other editors became a whole lot easier.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:20, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Though there might be a better way of stating the principle so that nobody infers that it is OK to have incorrect statements (even lies) for which a source can be found, this is not it. --Boson (talk) 16:27, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose This new text is not an improvement. It muddles up things for new editors. --Enric Naval (talk) 20:33, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose not an improvement. New editors should learn that arguing about truth on Wikipedia always ends in "your word against mine". Dzlife (talk) 14:30, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose If anything this principle should be strengthened. It is one of the reasons i came to Wikipedia in the first place - in my view, it is essential as a practical principle to an encyclopedia that is not run by an editorial committee employing recognized experts. It also essential as a value that distinguishes WP from other wikis. In my view, anyone who rejects this principle should simply seek employment at any of the very large number of encyclopedias that also reject this principle. This is the one thing that makes us different. Let's save the one encyclopedia that takes this as its defining approach. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:17, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

New2 proposal[edit]

  • The goal of Wikipedia is to become a complete and accurate encyclopedia. We can't be sure of our accuracy if we include information which cannot be verified. Therefore, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors claim that it is true.

I would like to thank everyone who has commented on my question, especially S Marshall, Pesky, Fram, Blueboar and WhatamIdoing.

I do appreciate that verifiability, not truth is a good Kōan to try and explain both the concept of truth and verifiability. That said, I disagree with it as a fundamental policy. In my mind, verifiability is a tool that helps achieve goals like making wikipedia as true as possible, and making sure that it is complete and accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 01:24, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

I think that "accuracy" is a red-herring. Wikipedia aims to provide all significant views from verifiable sources on a topic. We can add that these views must be represented accurately, and in context, and given due weight. But I think this is the core value upon which NPOV, V and NOR all rest. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:41, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Let's end the "Verifiability, not truth" topic[edit]

There have been discussions about the "verifiability, not truth" bit for months, and it's getting repetitive. Let's call it a perennial proposal, add a notice about it at the top, and close any new thread on this topic unless it gives some really new perspective on it, not discussed before. We don't even need to list it at Wikipedia:Perennial proposals, because it's already there. Cambalachero (talk) 00:14, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I've got a better idea. Let's end the calls to end the debate, at least until we actually reach a consensus either in favour of, or against, "not truth".—S Marshall T/C 00:24, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Or, by that reasoning, let's end the idea of keeping "not truth". There was no consensus to keep it, Call it a dead horse. And lets start villainizing people who want to keep it.  :-) North8000 (talk) 00:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think a clear consensus here supports a longstanding consensus in favour of "not truth". This is a talk page for a stement of policy to newcomers. It is meant to be useful and easily understood. It is not helpful to flood its talk page with endless debate. I suggest sending further debate to Wikipedia talk:Verifiability, not truth. Working to explore alternative ideas for the project is exactly the purpose of project space essays. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:36, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I see a clear consensus against Jrincayc's proposed version. I do not see a consensus in favour of "not truth", and in fact the situation with the first sentence is well summarised here. Hiding the problem on a little-used talk page is not going to help.—S Marshall T/C 00:47, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
The way WP:consensus works is that if there is not a consenus to change, then the status quo has consensus. Alternatively, you may take the “policy describes practice”, in which case I challenge you to locate accepted content that is “truth in the absence or verifiability”. Or do you dispute that “verifiability in the absence of truth” is common in the current content?
The place you call “here” is an extraordinary stretch of the meaning of “well summarised”. As for hiding, your “here” has one author and four incoming links.
Things can also be hidden by burying in superfluous content. That is what is going here, at WT:V.
The essay Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth is indeed little-used, but this is something that should be rectified, not perpetuated. An essay on “verifiability, not truth” is obviously the place to dispute the concept of “verifiability, not truth”. If a alternative viewpoint cannot even be established in that essay, there is no case for repeating past failed arguments on the policy talk page. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:47, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • So many of these terminology issues wouldn’t be here if we instead used Wikipedia:Attribution. That page doesn’t even feel the need to use the word “truth” to explain the “verifiable” in explaining how to add proper content. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:54, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Although THIS is the proper place to discuss issues /potential changes with the policy wording, perhaps it would be good for the folks advocating change to take a few or several week breather to develop thoughts,ideas and presentations in a good fashion. This has sort of turned into trading and parrying talking points.....not that that doesn't have it's value, but I think we're all getting worn out at the moment. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:51, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • (ec)There is no consensus either to keep or to not keep "not truth".  Suggestions to halt discussion are contrary to WP:Consensus, which calls for discussion when there is no consensus.  "All editors are expected to make a good-faith effort to reach a consensus that is aligned with Wikipedia's principles."  What is appropriate now, however, is a temporary hiatus in discussion, while we focus on the importance of WP:Consensus in future discussions, and that WP:Consensus is a policy that should normally be followed by all editors.  I have proposed a four-weeks hiatus, then a resumption of discussion.  There are various processes such as informal mediation if this future discussion breaks down, but at this point in time we have yet to take WP:Consensus seriously enough to know what the sticking points are.  For example, I suspect that SV and S Marshall could between the two of them come up with a proposal and we could skip a lot of intervening talk.  I find it ironic that policy decision makers don't themselves work to support our policies, can we infer that this is what experience here teaches, that our policies are a tool to be used to maneuver newbies?  What I would suggest is that editors here support our policies.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:13, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I consider myself a serious student of WP:Consensus, and as such, I advise that people who want to move from the status quo do so by editing the directly related essay Wikipedia:Verifiability,_not_truth using the advice at WP:BRD. Editing the essay is needed because you should not attempt to advance ideas by directly editing policy pages, and you can’t get very far if the amount of discussion far exceeded direct editing. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I know this discussion - and all its relations - are really getting on some people's tits nerves .... but let's all remember that consensus can change. We get newcomers all the time - and some of those newbies can be really quite clueful - especially if their professional field is, for example, communications or wotnots like that. While I'm not suggesting that we go on and on and on about it, I think any decision to stifle this one in perpetuity would possibly prevent a resolution which most of us could be happy with. It's tru there was no consensus to remove "not truth" - it's also tru that there was no consensus to include it in the first place, and the status quo is not, by default, the best place to be. We are all getting worn out, we are all getting ratty (well, some of us are, anyway!) - it's like a really annoying itch that just won't go away. I liked the idea of going towards the attribution page, a bit ... maybe that's an indicator of another possible approach to this long-standing discussion. We all need to remember that (I truly believe) everyone involved in this discussion is genuinely trying to do good, here, so let's not get into bunfights amongst ourselves, yes? (And I still like the idea of wording it verifiable truth, as opposed to verifiability, not truth ..... something along the lines of " ...verifiable truth, not what you personally know, no matter how expert you are." Pesky (talkstalk!) 02:52, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

There was already an agreement some months ago not to start RFCs on this topic and ruturn here somewhere in September. Count Iblis (talk) 03:14, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Yeah, we could stick a "disputed" tag on the problem sentence for now, and talk again in September.—S Marshall T/C 10:35, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Sidebar note: I started a thread in the previous section which I think was headed towards sorting a few things out on this, but it faded out. (if anyone is interested in continuing it)North8000 (talk) 10:50, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm not for the "let's bury / hide discussion because my preferred version is in there by default right now" ideas. But I'm game for the various ideas along the lines of taking a few week breather while we sort things out / find a different way to approach this. North8000 (talk) 10:55, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • When dealing with the "let's bury/hide discussion" camp, I'm hoping that the "disputed" notice on the problem sentence will help. The "disputed" notice I suggest can also point to a separate talk page for discussion, which will hopefully clear the decks on this talk page for whatever SlimVirgin et. al. think people should be talking about here, without making the discussion too obscure for good faith users with fresh ideas to find. I'll wait a little while for reasoned objections before placing a "disputed" notice on a policy page, though.—S Marshall T/C 11:15, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Attention: I am proposing to place a "disputed" tag on the first sentence of WP:V. Just to make sure people see that and get a chance to respond...—S Marshall T/C 11:20, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
You might put it specifically on "not truth" North8000 (talk) 11:42, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
This is getting beyond the point of disruption... in the previous section we had a clear a 10-2 majority that was opposed to removing the "not truth" language. That is a consensus. North and S Marshal simply do not want to accept it. Two editors, who refuse to accept clear consensus, does not constitute a "dispute". Blueboar (talk) 12:16, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
No, that was for that particular proposal.North8000 (talk) 13:30, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm curious, Blueboar. What's your understanding of Pesky's position? Or of Unscintillating's position, or of Hans Adler's?—S Marshall T/C 14:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, this is disruptive. People (many people) are asking for a temporary end to this discussion, and your reaction is to put a tag which specifically instructs peole to continue the discussion... How is that helpful? This thing has been discussed to death for months now, with an RfC and so on, and no better sentence or paragraph has been found. 13:12, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that the people who are disparaging the folks taking their time to represent the 50% who want "not truth" completely out/50%+ who would want a compromise which mitigates it's unintended problems are also fueling this type of thing. Those who are trying to bury the discussion (since their preferred version is in by default, not by consensus) are also fueling this.
And what ever happened to a thread to create a compromise? We had a 6 to 1 consensus amongst the main "combatants" on one. North8000 (talk) 13:30, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
I think you misread the figures: 50% want no change at all, and 50% want some change to the text, but not necessarily the removal of "not truth" (never mind including the opposite with things like "verifiable truth", ugh) Fram (talk) 14:50, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
That's not correct. The biggest RFC was for a proposed change which completely eliminated "not truth". North8000 (talk) 15:14, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Could you please point me to the exact RfC you mean, since I think we are talking about different things here. I'm talking about the RfC that ended in 11/11, and where the question was not for the complete elimination of "not truth", but for a rewrite (any rewrite) of the full sentence. Later on, we had your proposal (not an RfC, as far as I can tell) to remove "not truth", which got 18 in support and 20 in opposition, so that's not really 50% for the removal (and the 20 opposes did not really aim for a compromise, they were generally very clear that "not truth" should be kept as it is). Are you talking about yet another discussion? Fram (talk) 07:30, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

I think it's pretty clear that the most extreme misunderstandings of "verifiability, not truth" are far from having consensus. The problem with the language is that it supports such misunderstandings, but in practice that's harmless as a result of this discussion: The next editor who believes we have a moral obligation to knowingly lie at our readers just because some random, formally reliable source uncontradictedly states something we know to be false can simply be pointed to this talk page. In the long run we should address the problem, but this can wait until everybody has calmed down. Hans Adler 14:07, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Do you agree that there's a genuine dispute about the wording going on?—S Marshall T/C 14:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
    I think it would be hard to deny there is a genuine dispute. And in fact I am not very happy with the wording either, because I have myself been in several conflicts over the years with editors who were using a fundamentalist interpretation of the first sentence and were totally convinced it was mainstream, which it clearly wasn't. (A lot of editors believe that they take this slogan to be an absolute, inviolable principle, but in the rare really problematic cases they automatically apply common sense. The problem is only those who insist on applying it in situations where it makes no sense.) Hans Adler 15:04, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
How about putting scare quotes on the word "truth"? I'm sure it's been suggested before. The intro makes it pretty clear after that first sentence what is meant: back it up with a legitimate source or it's likely to be sniped as OR/opinion. One person's "truth" does not make anything factually true. Fact vs. fiction: and we have to back up our facts with evidence (i.e. references) to show that it's verifiable. This debate seems a little unnecessary, IMHO. Doc talk 15:14, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
There's little dispute about the intended meaning. The folks advocating change are saying that the poor wording creates unintended meanings. North8000 (talk) 15:42, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid that we're not at the stage where we can talk about remedies. At the moment the question is whether to continue the discussion here, as we've been doing for about eight months now afaik without result, or whether to slap a "disputed" tag on the wording that points interested editors to a separate discussion somewhere else. (Naturally, there are editors who want the discussion to go to a subpage without any kind of "disputed" tag going on their favourite wording, but I think that'll fail. It's pretty clear that there's a genuine and entrenched dispute here.)—S Marshall T/C 15:45, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Is the "dispute" really about the wording, or is it about the policy itself? Blueboar (talk) 15:48, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that it's absolutely clear that it's just about the two words. I think EVERYBODY involved supports the policy and absolutely requiring verifiability as A requirement for inclusion. North8000 (talk) 15:53, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) What is the most viable wording that can be agreed upon by those that believe "not truth" needs further clarification? "Not what is offered as truth/claimed to be true"? Bring the word "fact" into the fray? (shudder) I am obviously of the 50% that thinks it's fine the way it is, and haven't looked at the archives. What is the #1 most agreed upon change recommended? A disputed tag would dumb the thing down even further and make the whole policy start to look like a joke, methinks... Doc talk 15:56, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
In all of the flurry, there's hasn't been much organized work on the middle ground. I've been the main one putting stuff out in that area. My feeling in that area is something that says what the first sentence means (i.e. that it just means that verifiability is a requirement for inclusion), such would help get rid of the other imagined meanings. Unfortunately I'll be gone for 4 1/2 days; probably won't be able to discuss/help much. North8000 (talk) 17:07, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
The terminology was inserted by SlimVirgin nearly six years ago, bolded shortly thereafter[4] and moved to the first sentence[5] after the phrase had been removed in a rewrite. Jguk seems to have dropped off of the face of the earth: but SV's addition has been here for a long time. If it ain't broke: don't fix it I always say. This debate will probably be here when you return, however. Have fun on your "days off"! Doc talk 17:39, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Doc, Do you see any difference in the way it was presented in what you showed from the past [6] [7] [8], compared to how it appears in the first sentence today? It was prefaced or explained better than it is today. This is an example of one of the problems that writers face in communicating their ideas to others. As the writer becomes more and more familiar with an idea, he or she forgets the pitfalls in communicating the idea clearly.
Please note this excerpt from the second link that you presented of a 2005 edit by SlimVirgin, "As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth." Back then, SlimVirgin was sensitive to the difficulties in the phrase verifiability, not truth because it was new to her too. But after six years of familiarity with it, she has probably forgotten that it sounds counter-intuitive to someone reading it for the first time, without the benefit of extensive discussions.
Most, if not all of those who want a change in the first sentence, don't want to change the idea, they just want to make it so that it doesn't seem counter-intuitive, to use SlimVirgin's words. Bob K31416 (talk) 21:22, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that's true. Some latecomers to the discussion don't want to change policy, but North8000 and S Marshal do want policy changed because they fundamentally oppose the idea that wikipedia is not truth. (Just above North claimed the opposite, but based on about 4 months of discussion on record, that is not true.) I think that's the real sticking point. Quale (talk) 05:23, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
I like that it's counter-intuitive, because it makes people think.
As for S Marshall and North8000, they have both said they want to change the policy fundamentally to focus on Truth, and are trying to engage in "steath edits" or "baby steps" in the hope no one will notice. They have said that explicitly. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 05:27, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Quale, Here is the first sentence of Verifiability, followed by two questions that are just for you.

"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."

1) In your own words, what is the meaning of the first sentence?
2) Again in your own words, how do you think the meaning would change if North8000 had his or her way.
Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 06:06, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

  • "Truth" is a doorway to justifying soapboxing. If "truth" were to be encouraged, even allowed, then it would be so much harder to control soapboxing. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 08:20, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
It's pretty simple, I think. 1a) Everything included must be based on a reliable source. 1b) Whether or not an editor believes something is true or false is not a reason for inclusion or exclusion from wikipedia. 2) North and S Marshall want to be able to exclude material from the encyclopedia that they believe is false, even if it is reliably sourced. I'm not certain, but it seems that they agree that truth alone is not enough for inclusion, that a reliable source is always required. I think they want to introduce truth into the equation only to bar things they consider untrue. They repeatedly claim that inclusion of false material into wikipedia is a clear and present danger, and that the current wording of WP:V is used "thousands" of time every year to prevent correction of these errors. When asked to provide evidence, they don't have much to show. Many other wikipedians do not see the terrible problems it is claimed that WP:V causes. Their five plus month argument about this provides a bit of an example of WP:V. They know it's true that WP:V causes these awful problems so the policy wording must be changed, but they are either unwilling or unable to actually provide any evidence that could be used to verify their claim. Quale (talk) 17:36, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Quale, Thank you for your good response. In addition to "not truth", the first sentence has the phrase "not whether editors think it is true." Here's a followup question just for you. Considering the meaning that you described in parts 1a and 1b of your answer, if just "not truth" were removed, would there be any change in meaning in the first sentence?
Here is the first sentence with just the phrase "not truth" removed and retaining the phrase "not whether editors think it is true".
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
Bob K31416 (talk) 18:21, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
"Not truth" is a very important part of the policy, and that wording was chosen very deliberately. It has served wikipedia well for six years. The fact that new wikipedia editors often find it surprising is a good thing, as it sharply focuses their attention on something really important about the nature of this encyclopedia. I think it has been very effective, and this interminable attempt to change it is proof of its power. The main reason that a few people are agitating to get "not truth" removed is that they want to reverse the policy to mean something close to the opposite of what it currently says. WP:V doesn't allow them to apply their idea of truth to exclude things from the encyclopedia, and they don't like that. Quale (talk) 02:12, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Quale, Your message contained many issues discussed before in these months long discussions, but not the one raised by my last question. I'm disappointed that communication between us has broken down. For awhile there, I thought we were doing well. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 16:00, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
I think I probably don't understand the reason for your question. If your idea is that some particular proposed wording does not actually change policy, then the obvious question is what then is the point of changing the wording if the meaning is supposedly exactly the same? The burden falls upon those desiring change to to longstanding consensus to explain why change is needed or desirable. Although they claim that the current wording is unclear, causes confusion, and causes endless trouble, the truth is that only reason we are here is that some people do want to change policy itself. That's why they want to change the wording and are willing to lay siege to WT:V for four or five months or longer to try to get their way. I think they're wrong, both in their aims and in their tactics. Quale (talk) 02:03, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
If there are two statements of policy that mean the same thing, but one is easier to understand, then the easier to understand one should be used. I personally think that removing 'not truth' makes the policy easier to understand. Jrincayc (talk) 12:34, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Jrincayc, I think you're right. Currently in policy, the first sentence has the two phrases, "not truth" and "not whether editors think it is true". They are suppose to mean the same thing but the first one is vague and the second one isn't. This is consistent with what SlimVirgin said, "The phrase 'not truth' doesn't mean anything on its own."[9] If "not truth" were removed, the policy would not change since there would remain the second phrase, "not whether editors think it is true." Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 15:16, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
And I disagree. I predict that you won't get consensus for removing "not truth" from the policy, but you're welcome to try. I just hope you finish it one way or the other some time this year. Quale (talk) 04:46, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for moving forward productively[edit]

Just a straw poll, please !vote yea or nay to see how everyone feels. Who supports the notion that:

  • We cease all discussion of the wording of the first paragraph of WP:V on this page until 15 September in order to let everyone collect their thought.
  • Editors work on proposals for wording of that paragraph anywhere appropriate, in groups or alone
  • We find a venue for discussion of the proposals and ask some uninvolved admins to act as moderators of the discussion
  • We bring the proposals to a section here starting on 15 September
  • We begin an RFC on the submitted proposals starting 17 September

The goal is to wind up with some number of concrete proposals about which we can gauge consensus without falling into endless discussions as we have for the last months. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

I prefer a new venue for the discussion on September 15, one that a moderator can organize.  Unscintillating (talk) 17:38, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Seems like a good idea, amended. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:47, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Please note that bringing back too many proposals here will have the problem of splitting the support for change. Those who want change should reach consensus amongst themselves on the best available proposal. Individuals should keep in mind that even though it may not be their favorite proposal, they should support it when it is brought back here if it is an improvement on the present sentence that is in the policy. Bob K31416 (talk) 18:31, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes. I also think that if we are going to work with a moderator or moderators, we should figure out how to hold the RFC with their guidance. Ideally, I think 1-3 proposals would be most appropriate. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:13, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Why can't the moderator set thing up here? I really dislike the idea of discussions about changing the policy taking place on some sub-page. Drafting of proposals is one thing... but policy changes should be discussed on policy talk pages. Blueboar (talk) 23:00, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I oppose ritualised confrontation. It is not the wiki way. It is not WP:Consensus. It implies seniority of editors involved in the pre-agreement. It discourages outside editors from engaging. If progress stalls, better to make your point, and leave it to later editors. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:16, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
So, what would you suggest we do? This has been going on here literally for months, with no progress whatsoever. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:06, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
I see virtually nothing for you or me to do here. The policy page works. Editors know that content needs to be verifiable, or it gets removed. The people who want to make a change, they need to offer a better explanation. I cannot find the logic of their rationale. I read flawed logic, but it is hard to hgihlight because I find no agreed explanation. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:25, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Not verifiable, but properly sourceable. I think that's the fundamental point - this page has the wrong title (and consequently the wrong first sentence) to start with. The same applies to WP:NOR - the only way these two principles can be made to make sense is to redefine English words to mean something incompatible with what they mean in real life. And it so happens that we've redefined these two terms ("verifiable" and "original research") to refer to exactly the same concept ("OR" is that which is not "V"). Hence we have two policy pages where we should have only one; both those pages are wrongly titled; and the beginnings of both of those policy pages are misleadingly written, as editors try to contrive a link between the words used in the title and the actual substance of the policy. What we should do is combine the two pages into a single policy, compact and logically coherent, and with a title which, while not necessarily serving the soundbite addicts, properly expresses in real English (or as close as we can get) what the subject of the policy is.--Kotniski (talk) 09:12, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
We even have that page sitting on the shelf, ready to go. Compact and logically coherent, and with a title which properly expresses in real English what the subject of the policy is. See Wikipedia:Attribution. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:28, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm, "attribution"?  Seems like there has been recent objection to overloading that word in the Wikipedia context.  What about a new attempt at combining the two called WP:SourceabilityUnscintillating (talk) 13:52, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
I prefer Wikipedia:Attribution. It was very well done. It will define the word "attribution" nicely. Unfortunately, there was a little problem with its implementation, though not so much with its substance. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:48, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Predictably, as one who is never satisfied, I don't believe "Attribution" is the right title either. This isn't (just) about attribution; it's about "attributability" (if that's a word), or "sourceability" (which seems more like a word to me). The fundamental principle (and this page is about fundamental principles) is not that everything has to be sourced, but that everything has to be able to be sourced (which is presumably why we currently call this page "Verifiability" rather than "Verification"). "Attribution" (when, why and how editors should attribute things) is an overlapping but non-identical topic. --Kotniski (talk) 11:10, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Predictably, the discussion has wandered off the topic for this section. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:23, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

Straw poll, should this process discussion remain here or be moved to WT:V/First_sentence?[edit]

  • Move  Unscintillating (talk) 17:38, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Remain ... I don't mind if those who desire change use some other page as a place to draft a proposal... but discussions as to process, and and discussions about any proposals that result from the drafting should take place here on this page, so the maximum number of people are involved and know what is going on. Blueboar (talk) 22:26, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • No. Any proposal to modify directly WP:V belongs on WT:V. However, the proposal above to alter the few words has failed. To my reading, the case against "not truth" is not clear, is certainly not coherent. A decent explanation may exist, but it is buried. There is a long standing essay supporting the status quo, at Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth. I cannot find an essay challenging. This is why I suggest debating the idea at the essay. I think that debate is very likely to be mutally educational. I did not suggest moving focused debate to a subpage. I think that Slimvirgin's refactoring should be reverted, at WT:V/First_sentence deleted. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:53, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm... I'm not completely happy with people changing the current WP:Verifiability, not truth essay... it sums up the majority view on the the sentence in question very well. But I could definitely see how a separate essay, something that explains that not everyone agrees with the viewpoint expressed at the WP:Verifiability, not truth essay and explains the minority viewpoint, would be beneficial (suggested title: "WP:Truth through verifiability"). Blueboar (talk) 23:13, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
IF "not truth" should be removed, then the essay is flawed and should be improved. You are free to link to your preferred versions. I recommend NOT forking to lock in different POVs. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:18, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Expressing different POVs as to policy is what essays are for (or at least one of their purposes). Essays reflect the opinions of various segments of the community... they don't necessarily reflect majority opinion. Blueboar (talk) 23:36, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't much disagree, except that I think it would be better for the minority faction to try to get traction at WP:Verifiability, not truth, than to taalk in the dark at WP:Truth, not verifiability. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:48, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by the "minority faction", when according to the previous RfCs about 50% want change, and 50% oppose change.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:31, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
The "minority faction" are the group who know what specific change they want. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:24, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Well then I think that you are confused, because twice there has been a consensus for a change, only to have one editor that had not been participating in the discussion to arrive and become a lone voice of objection.  Also, I skimmed the essay, the material in the essay is not the current problem, but since I don't want to drift into a content discussion, I don't want to further elaborate, there is already plenty about this in the archives.  We might want to use some of the material in the essay for proposals.  Unscintillating (talk) 13:38, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
You only just notice now that I am confused? This place is very confusing. Are we talking about removing "not truth"? In archives, I find text about an undefined "the issue". I see lots of agreements on things that don't seem to be associated with a problem. If "twice there has been a consensus for a change" then please point me to the records. If the material in the essay is not the current problem, then what is the current problem? Was it a past problem, solved or deferred? I'm also confused because I cannot work out your position in the debates. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:45, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
  • (ec)(ec)Comment  There is already process discussion taking place at WT:V/First_sentence, so this straw poll exists to decide if we want to have one place for process discussions, or proceed with having two places for process discussions.  I see no basic problem with having such discussions in two places.  Process discussions do not include changes to WP:V, but rather how we are going to organize ourselves for the likely discussion on September 15.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:39, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
And I was simply expressing my dislike of the fact that there is discussion going on at a sub-page... and my opinion that WT:V/First sentence should be used for drafting proposals, while all of the discussion part of the process should be done here. Blueboar (talk) 00:48, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Agree with Blueboar, except that drafting proposals would go better at WP:V/First_sentence. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:45, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
If I understand the concept SmokeyJoe is suggesting: the drafts would be located at wP:v/first sentence, discussions about the wording of the drafts would take place at the related talk page (wT:v/first sentence)... and then, when the drafting is complete, and the drafts are ready to presented as more formal proposals, those proposals would be brought back here (WT:Verifiability) for discussion. That seems to make sense to me... organized but without any seeming impropriety. Blueboar (talk) 14:38, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes. (watch capitalisations though). Drafts can go on a subpage. Very specific discussion about the draft (discussion about improving the draft) goes on the draft talk page. Discussion about actually implementing the draft goes on WT:V. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:39, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Move the discussions to WT:V/First sentence. Per Blueboar, the policy can't be changed without agreement on this talk page. Then again, it can't be changed substantively without discussing it with the wider community anyway, so that's a moot point. But to continue these endless polls and proposals on this talk page has been extremely disruptive, and it's discouraging people from using the page to discuss other issues. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 03:02, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm planning on starting a a poll to decide whether this poll should be moved to another page, but I'm not sure whether to start it here or on another page. Can we have a poll to decide? (OK, seriously, have all first-sentence discussions on the subpage, but don't keep removing the pointer from the policy that tells people that the sentence is under discussion there.)--Kotniski (talk) 09:17, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Move it there for a few weeks or several weeks This could use a few or several weeks to calm it here, get out of the trap of just trading and parrying talking points, for the "change needed" folks to clarify the issues and goals and come up with a proposal and organized presentation. But I certainly am against any move etc. which could get interpreted/quoted as banishing/burying it to an obscure page from the main page which is this one. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 02:28, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

new page Wikipedia:V/First sentence/Drafts[edit]

Please see Wikipedia:V/First sentence/Drafts. Unscintillating (talk) 23:40, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

new archives[edit]

Unscintillating (talk) 04:37, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure what the above is. All the 2011 discussions about this are archived on one page, Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence polls 2011, as well as in the regular chronological archives. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 07:21, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
  1. Was the documentation beside the name of the archive helpful if you weren't sure?
  2. As far as the "poll" file having discussion in addition to the polls, it hadn't occurred to me to look for such. 
  3. The earliest discussion in the "poll" file is from April, that is not all of 2011; for example we reached a talk page consensus for change on January 10.
  4. Anyway, they have slightly different purposes and are being maintained slightly differently, so this will give editors a choice, including reading from the original archives.  Unscintillating (talk) 09:01, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Disputed tags[edit]

I agree with the idea of adding a "disputed" tag after "not truth", although I'm not sure if it should be added now or such should wait until the last half of September.  I propose adding it on Sep 15.  I'm ok with a new page such as WT:V/First sentence for this future discussion.  Unscintillating (talk) 00:14, 19 August 2011 (UTC)  P.S. Also add "disputed" tags after "threshold" and "true".  Unscintillating (talk) 00:33, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

[discussion added to the split page begins here]
That appears to be inappropriate. The documentation for {{disputed}} says that it identifies a Wikipedia article as having content whose truth or factual nature is in dispute. Also, the docs say that the template categorizes pages where it appears into Category:Accuracy disputes. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:32, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Ok, let's not literally use that exact tag.  Unscintillating (talk) 02:21, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
The standard notice tags don't meet our needs in this case, so we would use a customised notice. I suggest something like this:-

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.

There is ongoing disagreement about the content and phrasing of this sentence. Fresh views are needed, and the discussion is here.
The exact wording is subject to change, of course, that's just a sample to get the ball rolling.—S Marshall T/C 07:43, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
In fact, I'll put that version in for the moment.—S Marshall T/C 16:13, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
@S Marshall. Since SV created the subpage for the "future" discussion, it was appropriate that you mark the start of the "future" discussion on the WP:V page.  For multiple reasons, this "future" discussion has already stalled.  One of these reasons is an expectation after the last round of RfCs that there would be a break in the discussion for a while.  This break has not yet happened.  I again propose that we set September 15 as a date on which to again mark WP:V as disputed and I request that you agree to this date.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:59, 20 August 2011 (UTC)


Future discussion format[edit]

During the intervening time to September 15, we could talk about where and how the discussion would resume.  Unscintillating (talk) 04:59, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

Moderator[edit]

I suggest that we have a need for a moderator.  I'm not ready to suggest that we need mediation, but I think we need someone willing to refactor the discussion to keep it orderly as needed; specifically to separate procedural discussion, personal discussion, and content discussion; but also to keep proposals orderly, and to take a stand if and when mediation is needed...in fact, I'm wondering if SmokeyJoe would volunteer.  Unscintillating (talk) 17:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I don't think moderation is required. Each individual involved seems to be behaving individually quite reasonably. As a group, some focus would be good. For this purpose, I point to Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth as a suitable staging gound. I think that the proponents for removing "not truth" do not have a satisfactorily presented explanation of why. They might write their own essay, but that would be an extra preliminary step to the next proposal to modify WP:V. If "not truth" is to be removed, a case needs to be made that the idea "Verifiability, not truth" is flawed. To me, that is clearly a projectspace essay task. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Although I have exressed by view on the question, I am more interested in seeing the consensus improve than I am committed to any particular expression on a policy page. If I wander off, and you would like my opinion, please ask. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think this page, Wikipedia talk:V/First sentence is counter productive to moving forward. It is more likely to make the new minority view feel disenfanchised. Maybe more than feel. It should be merged to WT:V. Summarising talk page content on a subpage could be useful, but I disagree with dividing past content. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
What would the moderator be asked to do? Blueboar (talk) 23:38, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I think the idea is that the moderator has no special powers or authority except respect and a bully pulpit, and is a person that like the chairman at a meeting does not take sides, but is there to keep the meeting in order.  I would want a moderator to use aggressive refactoring to separate content, personal, and process discussions; and to be prepared to speak up if the discussion is headed toward mediation.  Unscintillating (talk) 00:07, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Reply to SmokeyJoe.  Two of the points you are making are kinda off of my radar right now.  If you see us as a functional policy discussion group, maybe you are being a good influence.  As far as your concern that the folks that want change do not have a policy platform available, I can only suggest that you start at Archive44 and catch up—I personally have no interest in any content discussions right now.  If you do take an interest in Archive44 forward, please consider condensing and publishing the entire "First sentence" discussion there to date.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:03, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

divided page content[edit]

SmokeyJoe has proposed that this page be deleted and WT:V restored.  Unscintillating (talk) 00:07, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

Support... but please copy the discussions into WT:V before you delete.
Fine by me if this page just redirects back to WT:V. I would rather it not get deleted since that removes the edit history. Jrincayc (talk) 14:20, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
That's fine with me. Blueboar (talk) 14:30, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I oppose deletion, and would like to see an MfD so this situation can be discussed by uninvolved parties. This is a core content policy and talk page. It's not the property of whoever happens to be posting to it at any given time. The disruption of the last few months has effectively hijacked the talk page, which is why I feel it's important that it have its own subpage. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 07:37, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't support deletion anymore. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:23, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

Note also[edit]

Anyone else confused here?[edit]

Exactly where are we now supposed to be discussing this? I've got totally lost .... Pesky (talkstalk!) 11:18, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

We're supposed to be discussing it on this subpage. It's completely standard to set up talk-page subpages for protracted discussion. Some common sense, people, please! SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 11:34, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, let's hide the discussion away so only those who are "insiders" find out about it and participate.
Ok... perhaps that is an over reaction... at least in this case (there are now more than enough links on WT:V, pointing to this page, that anyone coming to WP:V will quickly figure out that this page exists)... but it is something that I have seen happen far too often. I really don't like having sub-page discussions when it comes to policy, as a matter of principle (using sub-pages - or even user pages - to draft proposals is a different matter). However, consensus rules, and if that is how people wish to proceed, I guess I will have to live with it. That said, I do object to removing discussions from the main talk page and "hiding them away" on sub-pages (as was done with the RfC poll at the top of this page... I would feel better if that poll were returned to WT:V, where it originally took place, and then use this page for discussions on how to move forward from that.) Blueboar (talk) 15:11, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
@Slim - sorry - I wasn't meaning to sound snarky, I just genuinely got lost as to where to comment! (Real Life issues fogging my brain, I expect - waaaay too much stuff going on, lol!) Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:55, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
You didn't come across as snarky, Pesky, and when I asked for common sense I wasn't thinking of you. You're quite right to be confused! :) SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 06:59, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Restore the RfC to the main page[edit]

So I see... thanks. Blueboar (talk) 21:59, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Eliminate these subpages entirely[edit]

  • Agree - because this isn't that complicated of an issue, just move it back

The phrases "not truth" and "not whether editors think it is true"[edit]

Both of the phrases "not truth" and "not whether editors think it is true" are in first sentence of WP:Verifiability.

"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."

Is the meaning of "not truth" in this context the same as the meaning of "not whether editors think it is true"?

Everyone is invited to respond with their opinion. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 17:30, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

I would absolutely think that the context is the same: the second part of the sentence is merely elaborating on the more simple statement. Doc talk 20:14, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes... the two statements are equivalents. Blueboar (talk) 20:40, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
The phrase "not truth" doesn't mean anything on its own. The first sentence breaks down into two propositions:
  • "The threshold for inclusion" = "verifiability"
  • "The threshold for inclusion" ≠ "truth"
To ask what "not truth" means is to misunderstand the logic/syntax of the sentence.
The proposition "The threshold for inclusion ≠ truth" means that an editor's belief in something is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for inclusion. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 06:51, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Any takers for "The threshold for inclusion is verifiable truth, not unverifiable "truth", — whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether an editor thinks that it is true, or cutting edge research which has not yet been published." Anyone? Does that cover the possibilities? I think it would deal with people who have genuine reason to know that there is a more up-to-date "real truth", as well as those who just have a strong opinion about what is "true". Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:59, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, In your opinion, how would the meaning of the first sentence change if the first not-truth phrase was removed and the second not-truth phrase was kept?
For reference, the first sentence would change to the following, where I have underlined the remaining not-truth phrase for the purposes of this discussion.
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 09:58, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Everyone is invited to answer the above question. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 10:45, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I still prefer my one! Though if one went for " ...verifiable truth '—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think (or have good reason to believe) that it is true" would also work for me. I think it's important for us to accept that there are scientific researchers etc. out there - real, genuine experts - who know damned well that the latest "published truth" has been superseded by something far more accurate but not yet published. Not everyone is a POV-pusher - some of them actually are better informed than people not working in the field. Adding: I put a better-tweaked draft on the drafts page. Pesky (talkstalk!) 11:44, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Pesky, Thank you but the question wasn't meant to propose anything, but rather to get people's opinions on a specific point regarding the two not-truth phrases of the current first sentence of policy. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 13:05, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
The problem with "The threshold for inclusion is verifiable truth" is that it sets up a potential conflict with WP:NPOV... WP:NPOV often requires us to include discussion of verifiable material that is considered "untrue" by the mainstream. HOW we discuss such material is another matter - we don't want to give minority or fringe views undue weight or present them as being accepted fact when they are not (so, for example, we can use in-text attribution to make it clear that the minority or fringe view is an opinion and not accepted fact). .. but we often have to discuss it in some way. Thus we simply can not include or exclude material on the basis of its truth/untruth. Blueboar (talk) 13:45, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think the meaning would change if the first "not truth" were removed, but the emphasis would, and the meaning of the sentence would be less clear. This is in part because we use the word "verifiable" in a way the rest the world doesn't use it (this is an inherited problem we have); it would normally refer to trying to establish truth. It's therefore important to offer the contrast.
But it's also important because it's counter-intuitive; it gives new editors a jolt, and they suddenly "get it". SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 15:05, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, I think your response will be helpful in moving forward and helping both sides understand each other better. Your response clarifies that removing just the first "not truth" would not change policy. It appears that the difference in opinion about keeping or removing the first "not truth" concerns what is better style and clearer, not policy. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 15:29, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Ahm ... I think my take on including stuff that's 'verifiable' but 'considered untrue' is that we can quite truthfully say "such and such person / group states / believes [blah blah blah]" for both sides, and point out that, for example, one side has 90% support and the other 10% support, without violating either WP:V or WP:NPOV. Pesky (talkstalk!) 18:31, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, Re your comment, "This is in part because we use the word "verifiable" in a way the rest the world doesn't use it (this is an inherited problem we have); it would normally refer to trying to establish truth. It's therefore important to offer the contrast." - When asked what the meaning of the first sentence was, another editor seemed to think that the first "not truth" hurt rather than helped, "...'to verify' means 'to prove the truth of', so it is a double-negative type of saying, which really doesn't make any sense."[11]
Re your comment, "But it's also important because it's counter-intuitive; it gives new editors a jolt, and they suddenly 'get it'." - I don't think that including counter-intuitive phrases at the beginning of the policy helps, but instead tends to confuse.
Please note what Jimmy Wales said very recently to the Associated Press about Wikipedia, "A lot of editorial guidelines… are impenetrable to new users."[12] Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 20:38, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
The poll at the top of this page is so overwhelmingly in favor of retaining the "not truth" part that it is undeniably clear what consensus is (for now). It's like 17-1 among those who voted "Oppose" or "Support" (by my count). Accordingly, the general consensus is that no change is needed at this time. What more is there to discuss, really? Doc talk 21:41, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Doc, I don't think we have ever had a poll on a specific proposal that removes just the first not-truth phrase and doesn't change anything else. We had a poll on whether or not to make any change and that poll was evenly split. Also, please note that just removing the first not-truth phrase is not a change in the meaning of the policy, as discussed above. There may have been a misconception regarding this in the minds of many who voted against changes in the past.
In any case, this section is mainly for discussion of the two not-truth phrases so that editors can better understand the issues with respect to these two phrases. At present, the question of whether or not to remove the first not-truth phrase while keeping the second not-truth phrase, is a matter of style and clarity, not policy. That discussion is presently in progress. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 23:27, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Fine - let the discussions continue. I'm just saying that it's pretty obvious what the outcome will be. Doc talk 23:52, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Support the removal of the first 'not truth' phrase - I really do think that it's both tidier and clearer without it. I do know that other editors have got an incredibly strong attachment to the first one, but I also think it's time we stopped being attached to it just because we seem to have got into a rut with it. It's verging on attachment for attachment's sake; sometimes it's time to spring-clean some of our stuff. Pesky (talkstalk!) 04:11, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

I say remove the first "not truth" as not true. Paris is in France and I know this to be true. Because of this truth I can state this as fact without requiring verifiability. And if someone produces a source which says Paris is not in France, I can revert their edit no matter how reliable the source is. It would be an obvious misprint. The truth which would be disregarded is only the one which an editor believes but can not support. So only the second part is truly relevant. The first part comes across as an attack on truth. Truth actually does matter. Or is there a reasonable hypothesis that the holocaust did not happen? My76Strat (talk) 04:51, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Reverting an edit because you know it is false, in the face of a reliable source, is the wrong thing to do. It would be better to reference the source explicitly. Eg. “In 2011, sourceX stated that Paris was not in France” Truth does not matter. Truth is irrelevant to this WP:V threshold of inclusion. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 06:16, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
I would have thought that, for the case of an obvious misprint, the source wouldn't be considered "reliable" for the fact? (Adding) I'd also consider the implications of due weight and IAR in this case, too. Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:51, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
No, the information contained in what you say is an "obvious misprint" is still verifiable. If you say that it's an obvious misprint because it contradicts other sources, then it's not DUE, so you shouldn't include it, but it does actually pass the first, absolute-minimum-threshold test for inclusion, which is verifiability. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:47, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
I understand what the existing sentence means – we can only be certain about verifiability, not necessarily certain about the truth, so that's the basis of our requirement for inclusion. Whether the phrasing could be better than the current one, I don't know, it's currently clear enough to me. Rjwilmsi 07:38, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Rjwilmsi, You didn't seem to say what the sentence means but instead what the sentence was based on, "so that's the basis of our requirement for inclusion." So maybe it isn't as clear to you as you think. As you are a very experienced editor, I don't doubt that you have a good working understanding of the sentence through your experience and interaction with other editors, but try to see the sentence for what it is by itself, without the benefit of your vast experience on Wikipedia. If you do, I think that you will see that the first "not truth" is not needed, is counter-intuitive, and is confusing to a new editor. The idea is more clearly expressed by the second not-truth phrase in the sentence, "not whether editors think it is true."
Please note that these points were discussed above in this section. Although somewhat lengthy, you might want to review the previous discussion in this section, if you haven't already. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 12:41, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Here is an example of a real misprint that was obvious to me. In the paper "Temperature effect on IG-11 graphite wear performance" by Luo Xiaowei, Yu Suyuan, Sheng Xuanyu, and He Shuyan in the Journal Nuclear Engineering and Design 235 (2005) there is a table that gives the wear coefficients for graphite IG-11 in helium for upper and lower samples (in the experiment, one sample was physically on top of the other, and they were rubbed against each other). In table 2, it states that the upper samples values have a multiplier of *10−3 μg/m and the lower sample values have a multiplier of *103 μg/m. So the difference between the wear rates on the upper and lower samples is around a factor of a million. By comparing the data with other experiments of graphite IG-11 in air, I was able to guess that the most likely factor was *10-3 mg/m. I emailed Luo Xiaowei, one of the authors of the paper, and he helpfully confirmed my guess of *10-3 mg/m. So, I know that the actual multiplier is *10-3 mg/m and the information in the article is a typo. But, so far as wikipedia's current verifiability policy is concerned, my personal correspondence, and the reasoning about what should be the values cannot be used. So, even though there are obvious typos in the data, the verifiable numbers for wear of graphite IG-11 in helium are a factor of 1000 off. As a rational editor (who is willing to break a few rules), I should not in good conscience add any data on wear of graphite IG-11 in helium to a hypothetical article discussing this. Now, lets say that someone did add the data using the *103 μg/m and *10−3 μg/m multipliers. There is information in wikipedia that is orders of magnitude off from the true value, but truth does not matter, only verifiability. What do we do? Jrincayc (talk) 12:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Jrincayc, One way of looking at the meaning of "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability", is that the recommended thought process in editing Wikipedia is to first consider whether material is verifiable and then consider whether it satisfies the other requirements, e.g. WP:NPOV, etc. If material passes all the requirements, then an editor can still object to its inclusion on the grounds that it doesn't improve the article, and the matter would be decided by consensus. Correcting the misprint, rather than not including it, would be a bit harder to do, but is possible if the consensus of editors on the article agree to apply WP:IAR.
As far as the topic of this section is concerned, the vagueness of the first "not truth" is problematic in your example, and the first "not truth" "...doesn't mean anything on its own" according to SlimVirgin,[13]. Also as discussed previously, the removal of the vague first "not truth" would not change the meaning of policy, since there remains the other phrase, "not whether editors think it is true". As stated by SlimVirgin, "I don't think the meaning would change if the first 'not truth' were removed..."[14]. I would add that clarity would be improved.
Since the policy would not change if the first "not truth" was removed, the discussion of this section has come down to the question of whether removing the first "not truth" would improve the clarity of this policy. I think the points you made suggest that it would. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 16:38, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
It's absolutely not about clarity (everyone here knows what it means), it's about the effectiveness of the statement. The !voting on "not truth" seems to suggest that an awful lot of editors value precisely this paradoxical feel of "verifiability, not truth" as an effective technique to get editors to understand the importance of verifiability. It's rather dessicated to complain about the "clarity" of the statement; it's a bit like complaining that animals don't really speak when discussing the messages of Aesop's fables.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:49, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
VsevolodKrolikov, Re your comment, "It's absolutely not about clarity (everyone here knows what it means)". Please consider whether they know what it means from the sentence alone, or from the discussions that they have had here and elsewhere. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 17:06, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
That's a false move. For example, I wouldn't know what "Please consider whether they know what it means from the sentence alone, or from the discussions that they have had here and elsewhere." means from that sentence alone (who's they? what's it?). One sentence in one policy does not stand alone in that respect. As someone wanting to make a change, the burden is on you to demonstrate that there are people who do damage to the encyclopedia because they have not understood what the policy means because of that sentence, and that this damage is greater than that prevented by (particularly new) editors understanding that their campaigns for "truth" have no place on wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by VsevolodKrolikov (talkcontribs) 17:14, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────VsevolodKrolikov, Regarding harm, please consider the following excerpt from a magazine article which reported what Jimmy Wales said recently to the Associated Press about Wikipedia, "A lot of editorial guidelines… are impenetrable to new users."[15] His use of the word impenetrable, i.e. impossible to understand, got my attention and I hope it got yours.

You wrote, "...this paradoxical feel of 'verifiability, not truth' as an effective technique to get editors to understand the importance of verifiability". - I think that the beginning of the policy should simply state what is meant by verifiability. Using what you call a paradox at the beginning of this policy, before the meaning of verifiability is even explained, is confusing and a mistake in my opinion and contributes to the problem mentioned by Jimmy Wales.

Re your comment, "...understanding that their campaigns for "truth" have no place on wikipedia." - this is covered by the other phrase in the first sentence, "not whether editors think it is true". Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 18:33, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

It's counter-intuitive and paradoxical, but it's not hard to understand. It has helped a lot of new editors learn how to edit for Wikipedia, what to look for, what to focus on. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:40, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
For reference, here's the first sentence as it is currently 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."
SlimVirgin, To summarize the main points of your opinion and mine:
1) We both agree that removing the first "not truth" would not change the meaning of the policy and that the idea of "not truth" is expressed by the other phrase, "not whether editors think it is true."
2) Your opinion is that it is better to have a counter-intuitive and paradoxical phrase in the first sentence by keeping the first "not truth", and the first sentence is not hard to understand.
3) My opinion is that it is better not to have a counter-intuitive and paradoxical phrase in the first sentence because it is confusing.
Here is what the sentence would look like without the first "not truth".
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability— whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
I encourage other editors to add their comments and opinions below. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 21:49, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it's much better like that. Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:38, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Bob, your link to Jimmy Wales' comments could be about any policy guideline and cited in any policy discussion. WP:Article titles for example, is far more confusing than this. I asked you for examples of how the current phrasing for this particular policy has caused problems for editors. "Verifiability, not truth" is not confusing (easy grammar, unambiguous). It's surprising to a new user, which is different. I simply don't see any arguments on talkpages about the meaning of WP:V and the ", not truth" bit, unlike so many other policies. Like others, I've found the first sentence useful for myself, and useful a couple of times (iirc) in bringing frustrated new users round to continue editing. People need to be told 'not "truth"' upfront. Current phrasing is simply more effective.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 06:47, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
No, I think Wales was talking about the major policies and guidelines. If new users would read any of the editorial guidelines, I think they would read the major ones. And if anything would be confusing in WP:V to new users, it would be the first "not truth" of the first sentence. Feel free to go ask him on his talk page. I looked at the lead of your example WP:Article titles and I didn't see anything confusing in the lead like "verifiability, not truth". Examples regarding the effect of just the first "not truth" part of the first sentence would be very hard to come by because it is so specialized. My concern is whether the first sentence is clear to new users especially. I think one writing problem on policy pages is that policy editors learn what the material means from discussions with other policy editors, not directly from the material itself. So they have difficulty recognizing what is clear and what isn't. Another is that increased familiarity with material breeds lack of clarity when it is rewritten. People shouldn't be told about "not truth" before verifiability is defined. That's bassackwards, pardon my french. BTW maybe would you wouldn't have had those discussions with frustrated new users if the policy was more clear. I think that's the type of thing that prompted Wales to comment negatively on the Wikipedia editorial guidelines. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 13:02, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Bob, the irony is that your responses bear similarities to an editor confounded by WP:V. When we're talking about which policies are confusing, it's important we don't simply go on what we as individual editors believe is confusing, very much as we don't go on editor opinion for content. Indeed, it's important we rely on evidence of confusion amongst editors, just as we would look to reliable sources on any content issue. Two points are relevant here. The first one is that I've asked you for evidence of people making bad edits or being confused over the meaning of verifiability, not truth. You've not provided any at all, but instead simply your own opinion about what's confusing. The second one is that when I pointed you to WP:Article titles, instead of looking at the talkpage to see how far people were in agreement on the meaning of policy, you looked at the text and reported back here on your own opinion of what is confusing. Go have a look at the debates about the meaning of WP:COMMONNAME and WP:POVTITLE, and then go have a look at the debates over naming Crepe, Climategate, Pro-life movement and so on and so forth. That's what a confusing policy text produces. The !voting higher up the page is pretty much in snowball territory on this, and no evidence has been provided of a problem to be solved. This policy is not broken; I do start to wonder, as others do higher up the page, whether there is a bid here to introduce "truth" as a major criterion.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:59, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Multiple people have made this request. So far, not one of the editors who believes the phrase is confusing has produced even one single diff showing actual confusion by a real editor in a real article. We keep asking for a diff of someone saying something like "But I must include some errors, because WP:V demands that articles contain 'not truth'", or a dispute that hinges on diverging views of the phrase, or something like that.
We've been asking for diffs for months now. Zero diffs have been produced. We've not even seen assertions of someone vaguely remembering a dispute that they can't find just now but was probably something along these lines. I therefore do not believe that there actually is any significant level of confusion in the community. This appears to be an endless quest to fix what ain't broken, driven by nothing more than the personal preferences of a few individuals, at least one of whom has said that he wants the phrase "not truth" removed so that it will be easier for him to suppress minority viewpoints.
At this point, the likelihood of "not truth" being removed from the first sentence as a result of this discussion is extremely small. The likelihood was never very big, but the window of opportunity—the period of time during which people were still willing to believe these unsubstantiated claims of a real problem and to consider whether such a major change would improve Wikipedia—closed several weeks ago. Wikipedia would be better served if critics of the phrase read WP:How to lose, and if all of us quit yammering here and did some real work. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:06, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
That pretty much sums it up. Now we just have to wait until the new poll to remove it in September. Jayjg (talk) 20:17, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Exactly what do some see as wrong with the first sentence?[edit]

There may be merit in defining “verifiability” upfront.

There may be a better wording than “The threshold for inclusion”. A problem that may lie with this is that it can be read to imply a sufficient threshold. Verifiability is not a sufficient condition for inclusion. WP:SYN sets a slightly higher bar. WP:N sets a much higher bar, requiring transformative and independent sources (or whatever) for the subject generally. For a lot of verifiable subjects, verifiable facts are excluded on the basis that the content/subject fails WP:NOR or WP:N.

In trying to understand S Marshal and others, I suspect that they may be reading “The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth” as implying that the verifiably false is welcome for inclusion. I’m not sure. If so, it may be a WP:NPOV problem, or mis-presentation of information that leads to an erroneous communication.

Perhaps something along the lines of:

All content in Wikipedia is required to be verifiable. This requirement is oblivious to any measure of “truth”. Readers must be able to check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. The opinions of editors must not be evident."

— Preceding unsigned comment added by SmokeyJoe (talkcontribs) 06:17, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Smokey Joe, Re "defining “verifiability” upfront" - agree
Re "There may be a better wording than 'The threshold for inclusion'. A problem that may lie with this is that it can be read to imply a sufficient threshold." - agree
Re your proposal - Hey, you're not following your own good suggestion of defining verifiability up front. : )
Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 19:37, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I do agree that perhaps we should look into defining verifiability early on - it has somewhat different meanings for different people (and it's an ambiguity we've inherited). Really we mean "sourced", I suppose - not that the word's going to change! I'm quite sure that there are ways for dealing with inclusion of (wherever possible) stuff that's clearly misprinted - whether it comes under DUE, IAR, or whatever. And yes, we could maybe think about changing The threshold for inclusion to One threshold for inclusion, as there are so many other thresholds under different policies. Pesky (talkstalk!) 06:36, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Pesky, Smokey, "The first threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia ...". Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 19:37, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm all for adding "first" in there. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:28, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks Pesky. I'll be taking a break. Here's some more info about this if anyone wants to continue this while I'm away. From a user talk page:
== Threshold and verifiability ==

Hi. Re "The other part of the problem is the implication that it's acceptable to add untrue material to the encyclopaedia. That implication needs qualifying and defining." - I think the source of that problem is "The threshold" in the statement, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability". This statement can be misinterpreted to mean that verifiability is a sufficient condition for inclusion, without considering requirements from other policies and guidelines, and without consideration of whether or not material would improve the article. I think this would be helped by simply adding the word "first", i.e. "The first threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability". Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 17:14, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I've always preferred "A criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability".—S Marshall T/C 17:28, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
"A criterion..." is correct. However, I think some people may not like it because it doesn't include the characteristic that "verifiability" is the primary criterion. On the other hand, using "The first threshold..." suggests that "verifiability" is the primary criterion, that there are other criteria to satisfy, and thus "verifiability" is not a sufficient condition for inclusion. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 19:42, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 12:42, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Note how truth is relative, not Yoda-speak[edit]

26-Aug-2011: The truth of text is relative to current, reliable sources. I think the phrase, "verifiability, not truth" sounds like "Yoda-speak" as in Yoda's sentence, "Do or do not, there is no try." The first sentence might as well state other nebulous goals, "The standard for Wikipedia is temporality, not totality, and precision, not perfection" (as similar Yoda-speak to get readers thinking, "What the huh?"). Instead, we need to discuss re-phrasing the first sentence in terms of "truth relative to sources (or quotes)", and consider the implications from the Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology - "How we know what we know"). The wording should match some common-sense notions of expecting articles to reject lies or known false, out-dated information. Consider some alternative phrasing for the first sentence:

SUGGESTED: "The threshold for inclusion, in Wikipedia, is verifiability, as being true relative to known sources. Any information contrary to reliable sources, or out-dated, should be removed or updated to match current sources. Controversial ideas should be noted as quotes from sources, rather than stated as being inherently true."

By changing to the above suggested wording, then the concept of "truth" can be treated in more realistic terms, as a consideration where editors will remove false information, or update out-dated information, as compared to current WP:RS sources when correcting untrue text. It is time to let go of the poetic phrase ("Verifiability, not truth"), just as if there had been a long-standing credo of "Precision, not Perfection". Of course, Wikipedia has been obsessed with worries about true information, but as judging that truth in comparison to source documents. The truth in Wikipedia text must be true relative to sources, rather than as "Ultimate Truth". I am pleased to see there are many people ready to improve the first sentence, with less use of paradoxical phrases. -Wikid77 (talk) 21:24, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

Do you think the sentence: "The barn is red, not blue" is Yoda speak? Structurally, our sentence is the same.Blueboar (talk) 21:30, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
The confusion with "verifiability, not truth" is not coming from the "structure" of the phrase but, rather, from the semantics of verification, which involves truth. A better example than "red, not blue" would be, "The barn is red-looking, not reddish" (as a similar disconnect). Similar Yoda-speak: "Wikipedia concerns the truth, not The Truth" but for clarity, state that WP focuses on truth relative to sources. -Wikid77 13:02, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Wikid77, Would just removing the phrase "not truth" satisfy your points? Here's what it would look like.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability— whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.
Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 22:01, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Removing "not truth" is a first step. I think there is no way to claim "verifiability" (ability to verify as true) and then logically, claim the opposite, "not whether editors think it is true". Instead, the concern is about both the "truth of information" and "editors think it is true" as verified to being true to the sources, rather than true in some other sense. The phrasing should be very careful with the words "truth" and "true" as being judged relative to the reliable sources. -Wikid77 13:02, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Eh? The policy doesn't say "ability to verify as true" - it explicitly excludes this. Indeed, we have here a good example of an editor needing to have the phrase not truth in the bright neon lights of the first clause of the policy. The whole point of the "verifiability, not truth" phrase is that you cannot defend the inclusion of material on the grounds that (the editor is certain) it's "true". The best way to be careful with the words "truth" and "true" (they're relative, contested, ambiguous, impossible to establish amongst anonymous, credential-less editors) is to eliminate them as grounds for including material. Which is what the current wording does, and very clearly. VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 13:32, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Removing the first "not truth" does not change the meaning of policy, so that "The whole point..." in VsevolodKrolikov's comment is still satisfied by the other phrase. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 14:04, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
If it doesn't change the policy, why weaken the commitment to verifiability by taking out "not truth"? Can you provide any evidence that the current phrasing has caused editing problems?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:19, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
When I read it for the first time, I recall that it wasn't clear to me. I looked at the other phrase "not whether editors think it is true" and that helped, but I still had uncertainty about whether the first phrase meant something more than the second phrase. It was only through discussions on this talk page that I found out that they are supposed to mean the same thing. That's not an opinion, but my actual experience. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 14:30, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
In talking about your own opinions about the text, you're missing the point. Can you provide evidence (ideally diffs or links to dispute resolutions) that the current phrasing has caused any kind of editing problems? I can do that with the texts of other policies, but you seem to struggle to do it with this one.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:35, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
What I wrote wasn't my opinion, but rather my experience as a user. Please reread what I wrote with that in mind. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 14:41, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
If your problem is that it's not clear if the first and second halves of the sentence are equivalent, surely the obvious thing to do is instead of getting rid of "verifiability, not truth", replace the dash between the first and second phrases with ". This means that...". It keeps the rhetorical impact, while making it clear that there is no conflict. Why get rid of the phrase "not truth" when so many editors are quite clearly attached to it? Is there any desire to change the meaning of the policy on your part?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:54, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Verifiability is defined as the ability to point to a reliable source that supports the material. The phrase "Verifiability, not Truth" comes into play in two distinct situations...
1) Dealing with the inclusion of what I will call "unverifiable Truth". This is when an editor wants to add material he/she believes to be true, but can not supply a source to support it (ie the material is unverifiable). This situation is very common, and the phrase makes it crystal clear that such material should NOT be added. An assertion of truth is not enough to justify inclusion.
2) Dealing with the inclusion of what I will call "verifiable Untruth". This is when an editor can point to a reliable source to support the information, but some other editor believes the material to be untrue and wants to keep it out. This situation is less common, but the phrase makes it clear that an assertion of untruth is not sufficient to exclude. The phrase makes it clear that as far as WP:Verifiability is concerned, the material is acceptable.
What is missing is a clear statement to the effect that Verifiability does not guarantee inclusion... that there are many other policies and guidelines that affect inclusion, and that one of these may indicate that the material should be excluded. Blueboar (talk) 13:42, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, that "Verifiability does not guarantee inclusion" is dealt with in WP:NPOV, specifically WP:DUE. I don't think it's possible to have everything expressed in one policy. VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 13:54, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
It is also addressed by the fourth paragraph of WP:V. We could add a sentence that says "Not all material that is verifiable may be included in Wikipedia", but it seems kind of... Well, does anybody actually think that every single bit of verifiable material in the whole world ought to be included in Wikipedia? I thought we were pretty well clear on the point that "encyclopedia" was at least a slightly smaller concept than "everything in the world". WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:45, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Wikid77, Re "Removing "not truth" is a first step" - Thanks for agreeing that it should be removed.
Re "I think there is no way to claim "verifiability" (ability to verify as true) and then logically, claim the opposite, "not whether editors think it is true"." - Your point might be addressed if the connection between what editors think and NOR is made more clear, i.e. what editors think is true is not necessarily true and may not be acceptable without a reliable source. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 14:04, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Part of the problem is that this policy isn't about verifiability. It's about the checkability of sources. "Verifiability" as a word is rooted in "Veritas" which means, of course, "truth". The other part of the problem is the implication that it's acceptable to add untrue material to the encyclopaedia. That implication needs qualifying and defining.—S Marshall T/C 14:08, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Verifiability = "the ability to confirm"... a valid definition. Blueboar (talk) 16:08, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
The policy as currently written should be called WP:CHECKABILITY, or WP:SOURCEABILITY. If the first sentence were fixed, then "verifiability" would be a representative name, but at the moment our policy on verifiability excludes verity. However, the first sentence isn't fixable by good faith discussion, owing to the conduct issues that have, to date, repeatedly prevented consensus-seeking behaviour.—S Marshall T/C 16:42, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Logically, an encyclopedia should include true information: Because people reading an encyclopedia are almost always looking for correct information, then the word "verifiability" has been an easy concept for consensus. People are unlikely to come to WP and expect to read, "Mother Teresa was actually a male alien from Mars, and currently lives with Elvis under the North Pole".[citation needed] However, because Wikipedia's stated threshold is "not truth" then it is easy to see why some editors feel no restraint. If someone can convince people that "Uncyclopedia" or a tabloid is a good source, then the text can remain (again, the policy allows "not truth"). I have been criticized in WP discussions as seeking "the truth" (re WP:TRUTH), so it is a problem to have a WP policy endorse the phrase "not truth". Also, the addition "2+2=4" can be sourced, but we let it slide that a person with 2 annual incomes, of $60,000 and $91,000, has a combined income of "over $150,000" because that type of synthesis is not "improper synthesis" of a novel conclusion seeking to "advance a cause". I really dislike the notion that people would reject "999+2=1001" because it could not be found in a reliable source. Of course, verifiability means that something can be verified as true, but there are limits to what can be verified by simple deduction or arithmetic, compared to verified as truly matching a published source. Wikipedia policies should not have loophole phrases such as "not truth" to inspire the imaginations of some editors. It is currently a big problem, and hence, the phrase "verifiability, not truth" does NOT have consensus to remain in the policy. -Wikid77 (talk) 20:54, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
If I came across ""Mother Teresa was actually a male alien from Mars, and currently lives with Elvis under the North Pole.[citation needed] " in an article, I would have no hesitation about removing it... because it is is highly unlikely to be verifiable. On the other hand, if I came across "Mother Teresa was actually a male alien from Mars, and currently lives with Elvis under the North Pole.<ref>'''reference'''</ref>", things would be a lot less cut and dried. The statement is at least potentially verified. I would look at whether the source could be considered reliable (who makes the statement is as important as what they say)... I would look at the Due Weight issue (which in part involves examining which Wikipedia article the statement appears in... it makes a huge difference whether we are talking about the biographical article Mother Teresa or an article on something like Aliens among us (conspiracy theory).) I would consider whether the information should be rephrased so that it is stated as being opinion, and not asserted as fact. There are a host of reasons why I might keep or challenge the information and its source... but, the one thing I would not base my decisions on was whether the statement was true or not. Blueboar (talk) 21:29, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
In many articles, editors must always consider whether "the statement was true or not" and often numbers or spellings are wrong -- a common example is in hurricane articles, where a reported windspeed might be incorrect, perhaps because it is reported in a stencil-advisory, in which not all numbers were updated for the next version of the advisory (such as, "The wind-speed decreased from 160 km/h or 100 mph to just 80 km/h or 100 mph [sic]"). The lowered windspeed cannot both start at 100 mph and end at 100 mph (160 km/h), so such numbers should not be placed into a WP hurricane article. Also consider, "During the 1940s, Windsor Churchhill [sic] became the Prime Minister in 1490 [sic]." In similar cases, then Wikipedia should seek the correct information. Such avoidance of factual errors is part of what makes Wikipedia more complete, and more correct, than many WP:RS sources. -Wikid77 (talk) 13:23, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Last year I attempted to formulate an exception to the general WP:V rule, which was that mathematically deducible statements were allowed. In other words, if any editor could confirm it with high school mathematics, then that counts as well as a source. To Blueboar's credit, Blueboar supported this suggestion. It was Crum375 who quashed it. I'm pleased to see that Crum375 has basically stopped editing since (he's made one edit in the past year), so we might be able to resurrect some version of this very sensible idea. In any case, by the natural meaning of "verifiability", it is verifiable that $60,000+$91,000 > $150,000, irrespective of whether or not you can cite a source.—S Marshall T/C 23:08, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
And if you get back to that, please put me down as supporting it. It's |my experience, though, that someone else has appointed himself to defend WP:CALC against any intrusion of common sense, so you might not get anywhere even without Crum's opposition. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:28, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually, looking at that discussion, it's not really about WP:CALC at all. dmcq appears to be cautious about the relevance (or due-ness) of the information calculated. For example, stating that "Hillary Clinton weighs more than the average baby hippo" (actually, most adult women do) may be true and perfectly verifiable under CALC, but it's inappropriate for inclusion on other grounds. CALC allows for the calculations that S Marshall does above. (As for using etymology to determine current meaning of words, I look forward to S Marshall's campaign to rename WP:CALC on the grounds that people might think it's about limestone.)VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:40, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I was thinking of Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 39#Mathematically deducible statements, and may I say that I'm encouraged by the extent to which WhatamIdoing's position appears to have evolved between archive 39 and archive 56.  :)—S Marshall T/C 07:59, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Because text sometimes (often) involves common-sense paraphrasing which is still true when compared to source text, then the word "verifiability" is closer, to the actual process, than the word "sourceability". However, I would not object to an essay (or later guideline) which explains issues of "sourceability" (WP:SOURCEABILITY) as part of the process. However, there are other issues of verification, such as newer sources which contradict the older sources. The contradictions among sources cannot be decided by "sourceability" (they are all sources), so there must be considerations that some information is no longer true, or there are conflicting opinions about the exact facts. Perhaps the older sources contain retracted information, or newer sources have corrected text. Also, this is actually a "search for truth" rather than saying, "When the news first broke, there were 87 reports that the injured child was 17 years old, but 13 later reports stated the age as 17 months". The decision is NOT: the 87 old reports out-vote the 13 later reports; instead, the newer information is a correction, considered to be more true than the older reports, even though there were only 13 later reports. The text should be updated to be true relative to current sources, even though there were far more sources which noted the child's age as "17 years". These are issues of verifiability, as confirming the truth of the text, as compared to current sources. -Wikid77 (talk) 04:15, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
What you are talking about is assessing the relative reliability of one source over another. We do consider some sources more reliable than other sources. And we routinely give less reliable sources less weight (or even no weight at all). In fact, assessing how much weight to give different sources is POLICY ... just not THIS policy. THIS policy deals with the question: "Can we mention the child's age?" (and the answer in your example is yes, because we have sources to support doing so.) OTHER policies (especially WP:NPOV) deal with the question: "But the sources disagree, so which one should we use?" Blueboar (talk) 21:28, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
  • More than just assessing the relative reliability of one source over another, I also mentioned, above, the example of text, "During the 1940s, Windsor Churchhill [sic] became the Prime Minister in 1490 [sic]." Plus, consider that the same source mentioned "P.M. Churchill" (spelled correctly), so the issue is to determine the true information, which is obviously, the same Churchill in 1940 (not "1490"). The reason so many sources have errors, which differ from the true text, is because they are often scanned documents or quick-typed entries, with doubled-letters or transposed digits. -Wikid77 (talk) 05:27, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
How would you go about finding out the real spelling? By relying on an editor's claim, or by looking at sourcing? The name of the psychologist Csikszentmihalyi is often mis-spelt Csikszentimihalyi by mistake - even in some RS. Do we go with an editor's certitude about the correct spelling (your approach) or do we look at the preponderance of sources, including those most likely to get it right (such as his own academic books) - the approach of Wikipedia? VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 05:40, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
There are a number of techniques for correcting typos or factual errors in reliable sources, such as: (1) check for the similar spelling in other phrases; (2) expect related context, as in "1940s...1490" is likely to mean 1940; (3) expect common phrases (how Google decides "Windsor...Did you mean Winston Churchill?"); (4) check other editions of the same document; and many other techniques to correct errors in sources, once deciding the document intended to provide true text (did not intentionally have misleading errors). -Wikid77 06:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Focus on verification rather than not truth, not myth, not hunches[edit]

Another major issue to consider, when writing a policy text, is to focus on what the subject is, rather than is not. This concept is a well-known caution in writing standards. Beyond mentioning "not truth", it could be said that the threshold is "not myth, not hunches, not educated guesses, not your grandfather said it, not your teacher said it, not all your friends believe it, not the minister preaches it, not it is a trendy topic people are discussing" (etc.) The problem with stating the concern as "not <whatever>" is that the subject strays into unrelated tangent topics, which are distracting or not very helpful to the reader, but can spawn misdirected debates. Instead, simply state what the subject is about, rather than what it is not about. For example, suppose a minister published a mainstream book which could be used as a source about the construction of a major church, but also read passages of the church's construction in a sermon, then the above wording indicates the information should be excluded because the "minister preaches it" but it is stated in a reliable source. Such logical conflicts are avoided by omitting phrases of what a policy is "not". However, with the current policy stating the phrase ("not truth"), then many tangent debates have been spawned with numerous people noting all the logical conflicts involving "truth" which have arisen because "not truth" has been stated. It is enough to merely mention that verifiability is the threshold and explain that concept. In general, simply word a policy to explain what the concerns are specifically, in the positive, pro-active sense. Avoid the phrases of "not this, not that, not the other". I hope this adequately explains this well-known caution in writing standards. -Wikid77 06:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

I have to agree that this is correct. Defining something by a series of "not"s is a poor way of introducing it to new readers. It is helpful the state some "not"s as contrast, but that should be done after stating what the thing *is*. Defining by "not"s tends to be accepted wikipedia culture, I think because it is easier, because it fits the midset of the encultured who are in the habit of correcting newcomers, and because when written in bold, it is a useful stick to hold in an argument. Some other examples of definition via "not"s are Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not, Wikipedia:Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and Wikipedia:What is consensus?. while all are technically correct, and have uses, they are intellectually weak. According to this line of thinking, verifiability should be fully defined before juxtaposing with "not"s. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 08:07, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:NOR is also negatively-phrased, while we're at it. There's a natural tendency for policies to become laundry lists of things some editors think other editors shouldn't be allowed to do.—S Marshall T/C 08:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
So, S Marshall, what do you think of Wikipedia:Attribution? Also, have you explored Wikipedia talk:Attribution/Role of truth? --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:20, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm afraid I've never really looked at either.—S Marshall T/C 13:13, 29 August 2011 (UTC)


Discussion about the new sub-page[edit]

[above header inserted by Unscintillating (talk) 00:21, 20 August 2011 (UTC)]
Is there a reason why all the discussions are being moved to a sub-page? Blueboar (talk) 02:52, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Following suggestions from several people, it's to let this talk page return to its normal function. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:56, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that I agree with moving existing discussions to a subpage. It is disruptive to expected archiving. I think highly focused, extremely length (bytes and time) discussions are better handled at a similarly highly focused essay, but that is in respect of moving forward, not refactoring. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 15:12, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
(1) Do you have an example of such an essay/discussion?  (2) The essay you mentioned seems to be a biased starting point since it has language in the title that we want moved to a footnote.  (3)  When I proposed that we pick a subpage name for a future discussion to start on September 15, the model I had in mind was like at the mediation cabal or an AfD discussion—they start such discussions on a fresh page.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:40, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
(1) Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth is the title of the essay, or did I misunderstand the question? (2) The essay is, yes, POV with respect to the issue. It represents the long standing status quo. The challenge to anyone who seeks to change the status quo is to make the essay NPOV. In general, the best essays are NPOV. They state the issues, the facts, the opinions, without reflecting the bias of the author. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:58, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
(1) Do you have an example where people have used an essay to build consensus for a policy page?  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 00:21, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:N (not policy-proper but pretty close - it is enforced by policy) was built using essays. Uncle G's was early and the most influential. WT:N (especially 2007) was a complicated, noisy place. Regulars maintained positions. Newcomers (not familiar with the regulars' positions) engaged by writing mini-essays all over the WT:N. Essay writing became popular, and it was useful. Once a regular had an essay, it was so much easier to understand their position. When disgruntled newcomers wrote essays, it quickly forced them to adopt a logical framework. There was competition to have your essay cited by the policy page.
There was no single essay that was used to build consensus, that's true. Here, I am suggesting focus on a single essay because I read a dispute about an extremely focused issue, which is the subject of that same issue. Perhaps multile essays could be used. However, what is important is the use of essays. Threaded dialogue needs something, like an essay, or a proposal, to give it direction. Normally, per WP:Consensus, it is the article, or actual edits to the article, that are the subject. This doesn't work with policy because experimental edits to policy are not welcome. WP:BRD therefore doesn't work with policy, or at least, anymore with established policy. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:05, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not pleased at the prospect of having yet another page to keep track of. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:18, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Isn't it just two clicks to add the other page to your watchlist? And this way, people get the option of watching only one of the two pages, if they want. Though the downside is that people who might be newly watchlisting this page won't be aware of the pertinent discussion taking place elsewhere. --Kotniski (talk) 16:28, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Sure, but with more than 2,000 pages on my watchlist at the moment, the mere fact that the page is listed there does not mean that I notice it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:33, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
As much as I dislike the endless discussion... Given that the proposals under discussion have the potential to completely reverse current policy ... I am not at all sure that it is proper for discussions of such magnitute to take place "hidden away" on a side channel. But I suppose I can live with it... as long as it is understood that any consensus that might be reached there will have to be reviewed and fully discussed here before any major change is implemented. Blueboar (talk) 17:34, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think there's any fundamental change being suggested, just an improvement of the wording (though even that seems unlikely to be accepted, given how religiously people seem to cling to their received scriptures). A better thing to discuss would probably be merging this page and its fork, WP:OR, into one, and hopefully eliminating the odd perversions of language from both at the same time. This will no doubt also raise the ire of the devout, but at least the potential gain would be something large rather than something small.--Kotniski (talk) 17:44, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
If the purpose of the subpage is for people to work out a proposal to present here, that seems fine to me. But this discussion has been going nowhere for many months now, and I think continuing to push for removing "not truth" is tendentious. If editors working there reach consensus there about what to bring here, no problem. But any decisions about what should be changed on the policy page should be vetted here before they are implemented. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:53, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
If the discussion has to be here before it can be implemented, then all discussion must take place here. Using the subpage discussion as an excuse to create extra obstacles to change is unacceptable.—S Marshall T/C 18:16, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
It is not setting an obstacle, it is recognition that editors may not be aware of the discussion. I think it would be fine to work out the wording of a proposal, either for the text or for an RFC on a subpage, even beneficial, but we will need to hold an RFC on any suggested change at this point, I think it's fair to say. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:03, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
A sentence that was added without a RFC ought to be removable without a RFC. The phrase "not truth" was added with a unilateral WP:BOLD edit, which was followed by individual discussions with the individual editors who objected, which discussions were conducted on their personal talk pages. You'll notice that some editors are still free to unilaterally edit the page, and take objections to individual editors' talk pages. Other editors are autoreverted and then directed to this page, where their proposed additions can be mired in eternal discussion. I learned this when I was trying to add the phrases about copyright, and I was only able to achieve change by extreme persistence on this page. The experience has taught me that the only route to success is to individually persuade everyone who will listen until we outnumber those who will not.

The stance that the current version of WP:V is carved in stone, and can only be changed after everyone who's ever edited Wikipedia has been personally notified of the discussion and given a chance to object at a long series of RFCs, is understandably popular with editors who like the current wording. But in fact, that kind of process is not necessary to improve a policy page. A local consensus is quite sufficient.

I don't mind the subpage, on condition that there's a reasonably prominent note directing editors to it. That seems like a suitable way forward to me. However, if there's concern that interested editors might fail to find the subpage, then there's no reason why we shouldn't make the dispute notice more prominent to ensure that it gets noticed. Shall I put a red warning triangle on it and a border around?—S Marshall T/C 22:54, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Oh, will you look at this behaviour. She refuses to participate in the discussion; she will not allow the discussion to take place on WT:V; she will not allow her wording to be flagged as disputed; and she will not allow a pointer to be added to the place where she requires the discussion to take place. What manipulative, controlling behaviour. I see this as an extremely bad faith and obstructive edit.—S Marshall T/C 23:46, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
If you feel that way, take it to one of the noticeboard such as ANI. And while I believe that there is obviously no consensus to remove not truth, which would be required to remove not truth, even though there may be no consensus to keep it either (which I myself do not believe), I think it's pretty clear that we will need yet another RFC on the issue, should anyone manage to pull together some semblance of a proposal to hold an RFC on. And at this point, I'm pretty certain that we'll have to take this through dispute resolution or a similar board, because this is clearly going nowhere. Some of us have tried to work on a compromise only to have those efforts rebuffed, and continuing to push a position after it is clear that there is no consensus for it is disruptive. I think we pass that point months ago, myself. --Nuujinn (talk) 00:32, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)At present there are two brief sections on this page that refer editors to the respective sections on the subpage. When new sections are added to the subpage, new brief referring sections can be added here. When sections on the subpage are archived over there, then the brief referring sections on this page can also be archived here. Perhaps this is sufficient? Bob K31416 (talk) 00:40, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that is a good idea, but given that Blueboar and Nuujinn have both objected, it seems that the new page should only be used for background discussions.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:40, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

I think if this sentence is to be protected through the banning of discussion about it on this page and the suppression even of notices regarding the fact that it is being discussed on some other page, then its supporters ought to be able to do more than "like" the present version, they ought to be able to defend it logically. As far as I recall, no-one has yet given any satisfactory explanation as to:

  1. Why we want to say "the threshold", when (if threshold is to be interpreted as "necessary condition") this would imply "the" (only) necessary condition, and hence a sufficient condition, which is not the case;
  2. Why we use the word "verifiability", which means something else in English (and is therefore being used unnecessarily and misleadingly as jargon for sourceability - much like the twin phrase "original research" has had its ordinary meaning perverted in the same way);
  3. Why we say "not truth", when, out of all the things which the threshold is not, truth is actually one which we don't have any particular objection to (again we are taking a word and making it mean something other than it does in English - what "truth" is supposed to refer to here is something like "editors' unsupported opinions").

The rest of the sentence kind of makes up for points 2 and 3, at least, by explaining what it is we actually mean - but why go to the trouble of misleading people first? --Kotniski (talk) 05:46, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

@Kotniski, I think your points are excellent, but there is an expectation after the last round of RfCs that there would be a break in the discussion for a while.  This break has not yet happened.  Would you be willing to hold off on content discussions until September 15?  Note that both S Marshall and North8000 are currently on Wikibreaks.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 13:57, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't particularly mind not discussing this for another month if no-one else wants to. But I hope that when discussion resumes, people will try in good faith to find a wording of these policies that meets all the genuine concerns raised, not just oppose all change on the grounds of "it's always said this".--Kotniski (talk) 14:59, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Kotniski, with all due respect, I feel like a large number of us have defended our views logically, and have expressed ourselves clearly and some of use have explicitly and opening tried to work out wording that would address some of the concerns of other editors even though we do not see a problem that needs to be fixed. And those discussions have been derailed by those who are insisting that "not truth" be removed. What I want to avoid is a discussion with a limited number of editors in a subpage who declare consensus and then foist the result on others. I strongly endorse the idea of a break until Sept 15th, and I would strongly suggest that we use the subpages to hammer out proposal to bring back here at that time. Then we can list the proposals and hold an RFC on which is the best of the lot. --Nuujinn (talk) 15:54, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • tl;dr. So, we are having a discussion about discussion? I'm all in favor of moving that stuff... anywhere else. When someone actually has something that's ready for prime time, as opposed to being a waste of everyone else's time, do please post it here for serious review. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:17, 20 August 2011 (UTC)


Removing "not truth"[edit]

I plan on removing the not truth from the beginning paragraph. Below is my current proposal. I plan on editing the article in one week unless someone can explain why the not truth helps make wikipedia better.

Old:

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.


Proposed New Text:

The goal of Wikipedia is truth, to whatever extent that word has meaning. This is achieved by making it possible for readers to verify statements in the article. Therefore, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors claim that it is true.


I have a hypothetical question: which would you rather have: a unverifiable encyclopedia that was always true, or a completely verifiable encyclopedia that was always false? I would rather have the true encyclopedia. Of course, the choice is a false one, since an unverifiable encyclopedia anyone can edit will quickly get full of false information, and if it is easy to verify, false information can be weeded out much quicker. The first non-stub version [16] had: "The goal of Wikipedia is to become a complete, accurate encyclopedia. We can't be sure of our accuracy if we include information which cannot be verified." The current version does not mention that the whole purpose of verifiability is that it helps make wikipedia more accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 03:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)


It seems to me that you aren't so much removing 'not truth', as adding 'truth'. Confusing, contradictory, and containing a logical fallacy. One moment you are suggesting that the word 'truth' may have no final meaning, and the next you are stating outright that Wikipedia achieves 'truth'. I think you had better think again. AndyTheGrump (talk) 03:24, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

The second sentence needs work but overall this does a much better job than the current wording. And correct information (to whatever extent that has meaning) IS the objective. Verifiability is a means to that end. Many folks try to reverse-engineer a mission statement out of wp:ver wording, (and end up with things like sourcing being the end rather than the means) such is backwards. North8000 (talk) 09:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Andy, I think if you re-read you'll see that the wording was actually that the goal of Wikipedia was truth, not stating outright that Wikipedia achieves truth, as you said. I'm sure that was just an oversight. As far as wording goes, I;d prefer this: The goal of Wikipedia is verifiable truth, to whatever extent the word "truth" can have meaning in that context." Second sentence seems OK in my view. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:26, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I like your wording. Jrincayc (talk) 12:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, of course.—S Marshall T/C 09:36, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose and suggest an end to these constant proposals to remove this, since it has become clear from many earlier discussions that this will not fly. Asking the same over and over again until one day you get lucky is not really the same as achieving consensus. Fundamentally, the goals of wikipedai is not truth, the goal of Wikipedia is to provide a compendium of what is the currently accepted knowledge, a summary of what we (the world, and the scientists in it) currently know. Whether what we know is the truth (or a truth) is not relevant to this aim at all, searching for the truth is what researchers do, we just compile, summarize, present the information. Hence "verifiability, not truth". Our mission is not to present correct information, that would make WP:OR invalid. Our mission is to present information that others (experts) have agreed on as being the most correct currently available: whether they are right or wrong is not our problem, nor our mission to find out. Fram (talk) 10:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The trouble with that view, Fram, is that it rewards the behaviour of those who either (a) refuse any significant compromise at all or (b) refuse to take part in the discussion at all, but revert any changes, while punishing the behaviour of those who engage on the talk page. There are conduct issues on this page.—S Marshall T/C 11:01, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Conduct issues should be dealt with separately, and have no bearing on my view. As for a "significant compromise", I have tried to find one in the past, but the trouble is that those people who incorrectly believe that the truth is our actual goal can never support any version of "not truth". Fram (talk) 11:42, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yup, there's the problem all right: the phrase "those people who incorrectly believe that the truth is our actual goal". Personally, I have no patience at all for those who think we should tolerate an encyclopaedia full of lies. I think the whole point of an encyclopaedia is to present readers with short, distilled versions of the published, mainstream view of each topic, as established by reliable sources. And you can't decide which source is most reliable without deciding which is most likely to be the truth.—S Marshall T/C 12:33, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The lack of "truth" does not necessarily implies "lies" though, it may well be uncertainty or incompleteness. "you can't decide which source is most reliable without deciding which is most likely to be the truth." No, not what is most likely the truth, but what is most commonly (in scientific or mainstream circles) accepted as the current approximation of the truth: no one has to agree that that is the truth, but they have to accept that that is the version we will present here. E.g. evolution: editors don't have to believe that evolution is the truth when compared to creationism, even if not all the details are known: but no one is allowed to remove verifiable scientific info from the evolution article because it is not "the truth". We are not interested in truth vs. lies, and if you think along those lines, you are starting from a wrong position, and introducing either original research or personal bias (religion, morality, ...) into articles. Fram (talk) 13:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, wording suggested completely undermines NOR, and we've been over this many times. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
In my mind, No original research, and verifiability are separate issues. The goal of the verifiability page is verifiability, that is making it easy to check that something in Wikipedia is accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 12:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Not quite... the goal of verifiability is to make it clear that whatever we state in Wikipedia is stated accurately... this includes accurately presenting note worthy minority opinions and material that we may think is inaccurate. Blueboar (talk) 12:37, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that presenting note worthy minority opinions is important. The majority view is not necessarily the truth, and wrong views can be historically important. Jrincayc (talk) 03:45, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Given that about half the folks in the large RFC wanted to completely remove "not truth" , and presumably a larger amount would support a smaller-change compromise (e.g. that leaves those words in but mitigates their unintended non-policy negative effects) the "100% status quo" folks who have actively stomped out any compromise can take responsibility for the inevitable and reasonable continuation of the discussion on this. They should certainly certainly not complain when such occurs. North8000 (talk) 11:09, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I have no problem with "reasonable continuation of the discussion", I have problems with people still misunderstanding some of the basics of Wikipedia and restarting the discussion from that position. Additional explanation of why "not truth" is added and what it means, fine: but simply removing it (or,as in this case replacing it with nearly its opposite), never. It is a fundamental part of the actual purpose of Wikipedia that we don't pretend to bring you the truth, but that we are a collection of information from other sources. We try to accurately represent and summarize the opinions, the research, the knowledge of experts in a field; we don't judge whether that information is, in fact, really accurate or not. Note that an earlier proposal (from June 2011) to stop discussing this fior a few months actually had majority support (3-2). Fram (talk) 11:42, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - for all the reasons I have stated multiple times over the last four or five months of discussion. In any case, when it comes to allowing "truth" to be a metric for inclusion, my answer remains a resounding "no". As for compromise... over the last few months, there have been numerous attempts at compromise (some of which I proposed) not all of them have been rejected by the supporters of "not truth"... a lot of them were rejected by either North or S Marshal (or both). There are two sides to this coin. Blueboar (talk) 12:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Let me say it loud and clear: Wikipedia does not seek the truth. Which does not mean that it welcomes lies or deceptions. Contrary to common belief, the boolean values of "true" and "false" do not work at all topics and circumstances. In maths, a statement must be true in all cases to be a truth, and a single counterexample is enough to prove it false. In social sciences, it is not so simple. In other topics, we can't say the truth because we don't know which is the truth, such as in cases of clasiffied information, or things that science has not discovered or explained yet. In those cases, requesting that the article reflects the "truth" conceals ambitions of imposing a point of view or making original research Cambalachero (talk) 13:13, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia does seek accurate information, to the extent that accuracy exists / is relevant. Why else would the sourcing requirement exist? Do it exist to get true information, false information (which by most definitions is not information) or the ultimate circular logic, is the mission of sourcing requirement to categorically get sourced information, including false sourced infromation? North8000 (talk) 13:35, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

No, Wikipedia does not limit itself to "accurate information"... it seeks to present information accurately. Creationists are never going to accept that all the information presented in our article on Evolution is accurate, but since the information in that article is verifiable, they will have to accept that it is presented accurately. Conversely, a scientist is never going to accept that all the information presented in our article on Creationism is accurate, but since the information in that article is verifiable, they are going to have to accept that the information is presented accurately. Blueboar (talk) 13:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
A collision between faith and science on "matters of fact" is the ultimate quandary for nice people. I go anywhere but there. North8000 (talk) 13:53, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
So do you consider the wrong score on the ball game to be "information"? North8000 (talk) 13:55, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
If we have only one source, and thet presents the "wrong score", and you were at the age and know the right score, tough luck, but you are not allowed to replace the wrong score with the right score (and you have no reliable means to prove that you are right and the source is wrong: your score is the truth, but it is not verifiable: the other is verifiable, even if it is not the truth). If, on the other hand, you have one source with the wrong score, and many with the right score, then the many win. As always, for grey areas, use the talk page and find a consensus. Fram (talk) 14:02, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
You are answering "what to do" which was not my question. North8000 (talk) 14:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the "wrong score" can indeed be information, sometimes very important and note worthy information... we actually have at least one article that is all about a "wrong" score (not in a ball game... but the analogy is apt). Blueboar (talk) 14:44, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually that's an article with correct information about a piece of false information. North8000 (talk) 14:54, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
While wikipedia theoretically does not seek the truth, it often does a better job of finding it than other methods. For example, I posted an article on patents on kur5hin, and several mailing lists, and then referenced these on Wikipedia. It was in Wikipedia that my mistake [17][18] on handling patent continuations and divisions was caught. I would also like to make the comment that achieving verifiability is not a goal that really motivates me. Achieving truth is a goal that motivates me (and I am willing to work on making sure that the truth I achieve is verifiable). Jrincayc (talk) 14:42, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

Clarifying question. I would like to pose a question to the "not truth" proponents to see if there is an underlying conflict outside of the term. Let's say I'm the only editor on a ship article. I want to put in the length of the ship. The only wp:RS I found in my limited time had a figure (3,100 ft long) which I know to be false (implausible). So I decide to put NOTHING in about the length. Would you say that I just violated a principle of Wikipedia? I didn't violate any policies, but I did violate several common chants like "our job is to just summarize what RS's say". North8000 (talk) 14:14, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

  • If you know it patently to be wrong, either simply don't include it, or attribute directly in the text who made that claim, and let them be wrong. Given a figure so out of whack with common sense as that lenght, I wouldn't include it at all. But say it was the difference between the claim of a 1000 ft length boat to the actual 500 ft length, which is at least in the realm of possibility, then I would include it but again, specifically mentioning who claimed this. --MASEM (t) 14:19, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Masem, I posed a question to see if there is an underlying conflict outside of the term. This could provide a tiny step forward rather than trading and parrying talking points forever. You answered "what to do" instead of my question. If you (and other propoents of the term) are willing to answer my "Would you say that I just violated a principle of Wikipedia" question as written I think it might be helpful. North8000 (talk) 14:29, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
To answer your question, no... you have not violated a principle of Wikipedia by omitting the ship's length... We are not required to include every iota of verifiable information. In fact there are multiple polices and guidelines that explain about times when we shouldn't include verifiable information. For example, when including it would give undue weight to an overly fringe viewpoint, or when it could be considered trivia, or turn the article into a collection of indiscriminate information. However, an assertion of "but it's not true" is not a valid reason to omit... just as asserting "but it's true" is not a valid reason to include. Blueboar (talk) 15:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for answering. But (assuming that you are implying that "not a valid reason to omit" is based on a Wikipedia principle) doesn't the second half of your response conflict with the first half? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:12, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think there's a conflict; it's knowing when to include and omit information given how much it is present in the sources. If only one book out of hundreds gives the length of the ship and the length is patently wrong, omission is fine to avoid given excess weight to the issue. If 90% of the books give the wrong length and discuss this length in depth, but no other source counters that information, it would not be appropriate to omit, but wording can be carefully chosen to put the onus of doubt on the wrong fact ("Several reports give the length as X (ref ref ref))". But I think this comes down to the idea that just because something was published does not require it to be included in the WP article, but must judge the weight to which the sources cover this; if the sources give a lot of weight to a wrong fact, we should be mentioned the fact as presented by the sources but not attempt to counter it with our own OR. --MASEM (t) 15:39, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, my example was highly simplified (there was no dispute, nor even other editors, there is no wp:npov balancing situation involved, so "weight" doesn't kick in, I only found one source, it was a piece of information that I was seeking (= stayed out via a specific decision) and so the only real factor in the "exclude" decision was my judgment that it was false/implausible.) I recognize that if any of those other factors were present, "excluding" might often be improper. (for example, in a wp:npov balancing situation, wp:undue would kick in and override it and probably dictate inclusion) The key point is that unlike wp:ver (which says that my opinion that something is true is irrelevant if wp:ver is not met) it IS valid to take into consideration the editor's belief that it is false when deciding whether or not to exclude material. Note that I said just take into consideration my belief-in-falseness, not that my belief-in-falseness should rule. Do you agree/disagree with me on this? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 16:41, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Within reason. It would be improper for me, if I really really really really hate the movie Casablanca, to omit the opinion from several sources that it is considered one of the best movies of all times. But that's one person; I'm not the only one writing the article. If the argument is taken at the level of group consensus, and the consensus' opinion of belief-in-falseness, then it makes more sense. This would include the case where a notable but obscure topic (like some of these ship articles) may have one author (where "consensus" is that one author until more join), while the film article could have hundreds (and thus "consensus" is clearly of the entire group). It likely depends overall on the actual article and topic, the sources that are saying the false information, and to the degree that it is taken. --MASEM (t) 16:56, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
This sentence is technically about what you include, rather than what you do not choose to include. If only one source exists, and that source says 3,100 feet, and you rationally believe that is wrong (as it would be double the length of the longest ship in the world), you may use WP:Editorial discretion to skip it. You may not, however, add some other number that cannot be found in any source—even if you visit the ship and take a tape measure to it—and then say WP:But it's true!, so it meets the threshold for inclusion. Merely being true does not meet the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:16, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Agree with both of you 100%. Now, I think that the main concern / problem expressed by S Marshall and myself (just picking 2 people, S Marshall, correct me if I'm wrong,and other please chime in) is that it is widespread in Wikipedia to say that it's improper to even take into consideration claims of falseness (=even allow them into the conversation) in conversations about exclusion of material. My focus is that such is widely done as a tool in POV wars, and S Marshall's focus (as I understand it) is that this is done to force inclusion of fringe material. More to come. North8000 (talk) 17:30, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
As an illustration of this, let's logically analyze two widely used/accepted statements, taking them in the context of a "battle":
  • "Our job is not to decide what to put in, it is (just) to summarize what RS's have said about it." Logically, this encompasses some things that we all agree with. (verifiability as a requirement for inclusion, how to proceed in wp:npov-balancing situations) but it also overreaches into saying other things that are not. For example, it logically includes a statement that opinions of falseness of the material can never be even taken into consideration in discussions about possibly excluding material.
  • "Revert removal of sourced material" In the context of a battle situation, this is implicitly a statement that being RS'd is a sufficient condition to allow somebody to force it's inclusion into an article.
Do you agree / disagree with: 1. The logic of the above? 2. That it is a common problem? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • The main objection to "not truth" is that it gives undue weight to fringe theories. It's been exhaustively discussed above how the phrase "not truth" benefits the young earth creationists, the climate change deniers, and other bizarre nutters by giving them a licence to add anything that's been published to an article.—S Marshall T/C 16:59, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Giving proper weight to fringe theories is not the province of WP:V. If you're finding problems with UNDUE weight being given to fringe theories, then you need to go fuss at the folks working on the WP:UNDUE policy. WP:V needs to maintain its scope as not being the policy about the neutral point of view. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:18, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Marshall: I have no idea where you're getting that from.
  • User:WhatamIdoing: Policies can't be viewed in isolation. If someone is proposing watering down WP:V to the benefit of fringe theories, they should also propose how to strengthen WP:NPOV. I don't see that here. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 17:23, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Quest, what is happening here is the opposite of what you suggest... the proponents of change are proposing altering WP:V to the point that it would contradict WP:NPOV... by allowing editors to delete potentially relevant and verifiable information reflecting minority viewpoints purely on the grounds that they think the information is "untrue". That is not acceptable. Blueboar (talk) 17:43, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose and am tired of this perennial discussion. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:12, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose the proposal as written, and see nothing being accomplished by this tiresome discussion. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:58, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I cannot support the proposal as written either. The point is not (as some have suggested) that Wikipedians as people don't value the truth, the point is that under the conditions in which Wikipedia is produced, it cannot be the truth. It is dangerous, muddled thinking to pretend otherwise. And when I say "the truth", I mean what is most commonly accepted by experts as the current approximation of the truth. Wikipedians are not even equipped to deliver that. There is no scholarly rigour in Wikipedia. However I do think that the policy needs additional explanation, and I thought Fram's comment was very good:
    "I have no problem with "reasonable continuation of the discussion", I have problems with people still misunderstanding some of the basics of Wikipedia and restarting the discussion from that position. Additional explanation of why "not truth" is added and what it means, fine: but simply removing it (or,as in this case replacing it with nearly its opposite), never. It is a fundamental part of the actual purpose of Wikipedia that we don't pretend to bring you the truth, but that we are a collection of information from other sources. We try to accurately represent and summarize the opinions, the research, the knowledge of experts in a field; we don't judge whether that information is, in fact, really accurate or not."
I would support another amendment to the policy based on this. Rubywine . talk 22:48, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The current text "verifiability, not truth" is very useful guidance to the intended audience of this page. "Truth" and a nebulous, debateable, contentious concept that is not suitable as in intial goal. "Verifiability" is a well defined concept that we can agree on. "Verifiability". Before suggesting such changes, please ensure that you are familiar with truth and Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:53, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose Cambalachero states it very well above, as does Rubywine (I'm sure others have also of course, these are just the ones I noticed immediately that reflect accurately my opinions). We need to be explicitly clear that Wikipedia is not about somehow magically delivery the truth to its readers. It's an impossible goal for many potential article subjects even under the best of conditions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dougweller (talkcontribs) 08:48, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

What various people fail to get is that "verifiability" is just as much a nebulous, magic concept as "truth" is. The contrast should not be between verifiability and truth; we don't supply "verifiable" statements any more than than we supply "true" statements; in fact the two things mean pretty much the same thing. What's reasonably verifiable (and by the same token, true) is not the statements themselves, but the fact that the statements are supported by the reliable sources. The fact that the "verifiability not truth" wording seems to be acceptable to many editors only implies to me that many editors are easily led down the path of muddled thinking by way of verbal conjuring tricks.--Kotniski (talk) 09:34, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

With respect, I strongly disagree. Verifiability has a mechanism behind it, we know something is accurately reflected from a source by verifying the source. Anyone with access to the source can have a crack at this, and we can argue about wording, and no, it's not perfect. Discovering the truth does not have a clearcut mechanism--science has a method it uses, but as I recall, they don't call the results they get truth. Rather, they run experiments to test hypotheses and develop theories. And as has been pointed out, other areas of knowledge use different criteria to come to conclusions. I know the truth, but I cannot pass it to you in a jar. I have to convince you of what I know. How I do that is determined what where we are and what we are doing. Here, I don't convince you that I know the truth, I show you that what I am saying is accurately reflected in a reliable source, and we argue on those terms, which strikes me as a damn sight easier than convincing you of the truth.
And as a side note, suggesting that other editors with whom you disagree are "...easily led down the path of muddled thinking by way of verbal conjuring tricks" is pretty rude. End of rant. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:02, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
So when you are convincing me that what you say is accurately reflected in a reliable source, you are not convincing me of the "verifiability" of what you say any more than you are convincing me of the "truth" of what you say - you are convincing me of the verifiability (and indeed the truth) of the fact that what you say is supported by the source. So the condition that the first sentence of the policy is trying to describe is not of the form "that X be verifiable, not that X be true" but rather "that Y be verifiable, not that X be true" (where Y states that X is reliably sourced) - and it's the difference between X and Y that matters more than the difference (if there is one) between "verifiable" and "true". If we were to adopt the novel habit of actually saying what we mean, we would say something like "Information in Wikipedia should be supportable by reliable sources, not merely by the personal thoughts and convictions of editors." The nebulous concepts of truth or verifiability don't really come into it at all. (Not that I think "reliability" is any less nebulous.)--Kotniski (talk) 19:06, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. What the hell is this, keep proposing it every five minutes until you get the result you want? —chaos5023 (talk) 13:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. 'Verifiability, not truth' is an absolutely core and vital principle to writing an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is only as good an encyclopedia as its sources can support -- "this is true", in the absence of anything verifying it, is never a basis for including something, and it is absolutely vital to emphasize the fact that only verifiability matters in the strongest possible terms. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Aquillion (talkcontribs)
  • Oppose. There's clearly no consensus to remove this, and the repeated polls have become disruptive. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:36, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Per Slimvirgin, just above; also per others in opposition above. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:58, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The single most important lesson some new editors need is "verifiability, not truth". I was one such, and once I got my head round this concept, editing became much easier, and handling disagreements with other editors became a whole lot easier.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:20, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Though there might be a better way of stating the principle so that nobody infers that it is OK to have incorrect statements (even lies) for which a source can be found, this is not it. --Boson (talk) 16:27, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose This new text is not an improvement. It muddles up things for new editors. --Enric Naval (talk) 20:33, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose not an improvement. New editors should learn that arguing about truth on Wikipedia always ends in "your word against mine". Dzlife (talk) 14:30, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose If anything this principle should be strengthened. It is one of the reasons i came to Wikipedia in the first place - in my view, it is essential as a practical principle to an encyclopedia that is not run by an editorial committee employing recognized experts. It also essential as a value that distinguishes WP from other wikis. In my view, anyone who rejects this principle should simply seek employment at any of the very large number of encyclopedias that also reject this principle. This is the one thing that makes us different. Let's save the one encyclopedia that takes this as its defining approach. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:17, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

New2 proposal[edit]

  • The goal of Wikipedia is to become a complete and accurate encyclopedia. We can't be sure of our accuracy if we include information which cannot be verified. Therefore, the threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors claim that it is true.

I would like to thank everyone who has commented on my question, especially S Marshall, Pesky, Fram, Blueboar and WhatamIdoing.

I do appreciate that verifiability, not truth is a good Kōan to try and explain both the concept of truth and verifiability. That said, I disagree with it as a fundamental policy. In my mind, verifiability is a tool that helps achieve goals like making wikipedia as true as possible, and making sure that it is complete and accurate. Jrincayc (talk) 01:24, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

Recent restoration of the above two proposals and poll[edit]

The above withdrawn proposal with poll, and inactive proposal were recently restored, resulting in two copies: here and on the subpage.
1) Edit by SlimVirgin,
2) revert by Bob K31416
3) re-revert by SlimVirgin.

Comments? Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 21:42, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Keep it here on this page, please... An RfC, especially one that calls for a major change to a core policy, should never have been removed and "hidden away" on a sub-page where editors are unlikely to find it when searching the archives. The poll originally took place on this page and it should remain part of this page's history. As it has been withdrawn... it can probably be shifted directly into the archives... but it should go into the archives of this talk page. If duplication is a problem, then remove the copy at WT:Verifiability/First sentence, not the original (improperly moved, and now restored) version here. Blueboar (talk) 21:55, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Offhand suggestion: instead of a special Archives by topic archive, how about a Withdrawn proposals or Closed discussions archive? That could contain an intro explaining that it only includes material subsequent to [date of its creation]. Such a special archive could be further subdivided into major topic areas (e.g., Lead sentence), or not. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 22:13, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
  • It's already in the archives of this talk page, as is everything else, whether discussed here or on the subpage. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:10, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
SlimVirgin, Seems like a miscommunication between you and Blueboar, possibly because he didn't know it was already in the archives here. We now have three copies. Could you fix it by removing the above copy, removing the copy on the subpage, while retaining the copy in the archives of this page? Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 22:34, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── ... or perhaps such a special archive page containing redirects to withdrawn proposals and/or closed discussions organized by topic, possibly with item-by-item summaries where appropriate. That'd make it easier to answer the question, "Has this been discussed previously -- if so, where?" Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 23:09, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Although I support the creation of the new page, there was premature archiving at the same time that this RfC was moved.  The prematurely archived material should be restored thus allowing editors a chance to finish commenting.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:33, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Unscintillating, The RFC wasn't moved, it was copied and pasted. We now have three copies of an RFC that hasn't been commented on for week, except for someone who voted opposed a week after the proposal was withdrawn with strike outs, i.e. strike out. Anyhow, what would you like to do with the three copies. Thank you. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 00:40, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Please leave it here until the bot archives it, then we can remove the duplicate copy from the archive. It doesn't matter that it's currently on more than one page. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:51, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
What about the one that you copied from which is still on the subpage? Shouldn't that one have been deleted after you copied it and pasted the copy here? Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 00:57, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
My apologies to all... I was under the (incorrect) impression that that this RfC had not been archived. Now that I see that has been... I happily withdraw my request to reinstate it here. And I have no objection to removing the duplications. In fact, since it is already in the archives of this page, I don't really see why we need any additional copies (whether on this page or on the WT:V/First sentence sub-page)... Suggest we delete them both, and simply point to the version in the archives if we need to refer to it. Blueboar (talk) 01:12, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Blueboar. Remove the two copies not archived.
Update: We currently have four copies, including one in this page's archive and one in the subpage's archive. They seem to be breeding. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 03:03, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Or maybe we can gather them up in a cardboard box, take them to a street corner, and offer them for free to loving families. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 03:37, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

@Bob K31416: Not sure what your point is about the word "moved" vs. "copied and pasted".
(1) As you know, the material was inserted at WT:V/First sentence on 2011-08-19T01:52:41

(2) The material was manually deleted from here (WT:V) two minutes later:

Wikipedia talk:Verifiability
Revision as of 2011-08-19T01:54:29 (edit) (undo)
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability&diff=next&oldid=445597293

(3) Another two minutes later, an archive was done to Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 50.  Since this archive did not include the RfC, and the RfC was added to the archive two days later, I presume that this archive was unintentionally incomplete.

Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 50
Revision as of 2011-08-19T01:56:06 (edit) (undo)
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/Archive_50&diff=445599495&oldid=445114917

(4) The archive Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 50 was amended here, which is where the RfC was actually archived:

Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/Archive 50
Revision as of 2011-08-23T06:54:20
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/Archive_50&diff=next&oldid=445954275

(5) There is yet another location of this poll at a new file called Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence (April–August 2011).  While August is not over, this file is being intermittently updated with additional material.

IMO, we should currently have only one copy of this RfC, which should be here.  This RfC should remain here for at least five days, as per the default archiving cycle of the robot. 

Additionally, there is more material that was prematurely archived on 2011-08-19T01:56:06, material that did not stay on this page for five full days.  There was so much archived, that I'm not sure how to tell what should not have been archived, so the simple approach is to return all of the material.  The material should probably be kept as sections instead of subsections so that the robot archiving can go routinely.  Unscintillating (talk) 11:53, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

P.S.  Except that the section "Let's end the "Verifiability, not truth" topic" has been moved to WT:V/First sentence so should be handled there.  Unscintillating (talk) 11:57, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks Unscintillating, The section in question concerns a withdrawn proposal with a poll that ended 9 days ago. It proposed to do more than just remove "not truth" and wasn't even supported by those, like me, who would like to remove the first "not truth". Singling it out for special attention only serves the purpose of misleading people. I'll be taking a break. Good luck and best regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 12:59, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

So how's this as a first sentence?[edit]

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true.


Support - cause that's how I roll. -- Avanu (talk) 18:30, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Why is it any improvement on the first sentence we have at the moment? It seems to retain all of its problems, while adding extra empty words.--Kotniski (talk) 19:18, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
The current sentence is fine. What you call 'empty' words, I believe they add clarity. -- Avanu (talk) 19:26, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, now you've changed the proposal, I like it more - but only because you've removed the words "not truth", which as we've seen has been made into such an article of faith that rational discussion on that point is impossible.--Kotniski (talk) 19:35, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Well you can thank The Jimbo for that. :) -- Avanu (talk) 19:50, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Achtung! You have attempted to edit WP:V without permission and have been reverted accordingly. Only certain editors are permitted to edit WP:V. Others are directed to this page for "discussion" which means placing their proposed edits in permanent limbo while other editors wrangle about them. Also, discussion of the first sentence on this page is strictly verboten by order of the Ordnungsamtfuehrerin. This discussion will be moved to the relevant subpage where it can more conveniently be ignored.—S Marshall T/C 19:21, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Um, ok. :) I do recall this wonderful approach to consensus that involves editing, called Bold, Revert, Discuss, and since no one is intending to change the INTENT of the first sentence, merely the phrasing, I would say people need to lighten up a little. -- Avanu (talk) 19:26, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, I really don't know why this one crappy sentence is so strongly defended against any changes whatever to its wording. But as several of us have already found, it is (and the "D" stage in BRD usually reduces to an empty "you need to get consensus to change this").--Kotniski (talk) 20:01, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Ownership is not permitted in Wikipedia except here where it implemented via a double standard. Comments in favor of the status quo are good. Comments in in favor of change are considered bad behavior. North8000 (talk) 20:04, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry to be blunt, but would you all like a nice slice of snark with your whine? --Nuujinn (talk) 20:08, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry! Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 20:33, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
How about we just vote on the suggestion, and I'll have a little Camembert if you please. :) -- Avanu (talk) 20:24, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
[TopicBranch – Break until the 15th of September][Unscintillating (talk) 23:19, 28 August 2011 (UTC)]
Avanu, most POV pushers do not believe that the Truth™ they're pushing is merely their personal or subjective beliefs. When they remove (for example) well-sourced information about Barack Obama's birth in Hawaii, they are doing so because they believe that objective evidence proves he is not a natural-born American citizen. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:37, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, you're absolutely right. I think that is why it helps to overemphasize the point. I think the current wording is fine, but I also think this new version expresses the same point slightly better. An aside for a moment, I think Slim Virgin needs to stop reverting possible changes with the only explanation being "not consensus". WP:BRD is an alternative approach to consensus (without endless debate) by giving people something concrete to look at. Since no one has a problem with the intent of the lead paragraph, no one is asking to change policy, and since you guys have been debating this silly thing for months, another approach seems warranted. -- Avanu (talk) 05:43, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
If you believe the view you are pushing is supported by objective evidence, then you believe not only that it's "the truth", but you also (clearly) believe that it's "verifiable". Hence "verifiability, not truth" is not saying what we want to say. What we mean is that we have a standard of (what we call) verifiability that is based on the direct statements of (what we call) reliable sources, not on the beliefs or interpretations of editors. So if we want this page to be called "verifiability" we should introduce it by saying that on Wikipedia, verifiability means this and not the other. However, simpler would be to bypass that unnecessary concept altogether, call the page something like "sourceability", and state the principle straightforwardly - that information in Wikipedia must be supportable by reliable sources.--Kotniski (talk) 09:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Avanu, I don't think you see the problem. We have sourced, verifiable, DUE-as-mainstream, encyclopedic material saying that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
You would introduce a new, undefined, subjective requirement, that material be "accurate"—which some idiot birther could use to justify deletion of all of that material because according to that editor, the material is "inaccurate".
Is that the outcome you want? Should we all go forth and remove any well-sourced material that we personally deem to be inaccurate? WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:57, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure how the sentence at the top would introduce such a requirement. Also, let me add *one* more word.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is community verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true.
Does that solve the conundrum? -- Avanu (talk) 23:25, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Can you explain what the phrases "subjective belief" and "objective belief" mean? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:57, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Subjective belief - an unverifiable, yet potentially shared belief, that cannot be subjected to methods of testing that can be independently verified
  • Objective belief - a belief that can be subjected to methods of proving it, that can then be verified independently of the original tester
It might help you to go read Subjectivity and Objectivity on the Wikipedia site. As you will see Objectivity is harder to prove (much like Truth)-- Avanu (talk) 00:03, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
You will not find sources for either of these definitions. People use the term "subjective belief" colloquially to mean "personal belief" (which is in itself meaningless), but you are suggesting "a personal and subjective belief," so you must mean something else.
As for an "objective belief," a belief can't be "proved" [sic]. A belief is a state of mind. It is not a proposition. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:22, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm sure you have heard of people using repetition for emphasis (and clarity)? Like, Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" It sounds like you feel that emphasis is not needed, but I'm not sure how a tiny bit of emphasis is terrible. Can we actually focus on substance now instead of minutiae? Provide an alternative if you feel this is lacking. That's what Jimbo did when I first proposed it, and he made it a little better. If you want to make it 'a little better' also, you're more than welcome to try, but debating semantics isn't all that helpful. -- Avanu (talk) 00:28, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that Avanu is talking about falsifiability. I think that when Avanu says "objective" he means "falsifiable", and when he says "subjective" he means "unfalsifiable". It's a Popperian sort of distinction to make. I don't yet know whether it's a useful distinction in this context because I don't yet see how to apply it to anything outside mathematics, formal logic or hard science.—S Marshall T/C 00:34, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec, to Avanu) This is not minutiae. A first-year philosophy undergraduate would know not to use the phrase "subjective belief" in that way. For the purposes of this policy, a belief is a belief, a state of mind, a propositional attitude. Wikipedia articles are not based on the beliefs of its editors, but on the beliefs of its editors' reliable sources and the propositions they put forward. That is what the first sentence says, and it has strong consensus right across the project because it keeps Wikipedia safe. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:44, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec reply to SMarshall and Slim) That's a good description of how the phrase "personal and subjective belief" was intended. For exmaple, my personal belief right now is that SlimVirgin knows exactly what was intended, and is merely debating semantics, but that is not an objective truth (yet). I could follow up by asking SlimVirgin if that is true, but her words don't have to match her mindset. Point is, we do the best we can to verify, and we give other people ways to also verify for themselves. When several people are able to verify, we declare it to be nearing an objective or shared belief, but that's as far as we limited human beings can go.
As for what our hypothetical first-year philosophy undergraduate might do, I can't speculate, but I do know that Wikipedia:Verifiability's audience is not just first-year philosophy undergraduates. So maybe we can lighten up and just offer helpful suggestions? -- Avanu (talk) 00:50, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
How would you establish that something is "objectively true" without breaking the rules on original research?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 00:55, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Apples and Oranges. WP:OR or Synthesis is about taking things from sources that aren't there. If a reliable source says "Obama authorized 100 additional troops", we are not using Original Research to add just that information. You have to take a step backward in the editing process and arrive at WP:V and see that decisions about whether something is Reliable require some degree of research, checking, and finally just a leap of faith to arrive at what we declare a Reliable Source. WP:OR doesn't happen until we ourselves make something up, but the declaration that something is or is not a Reliable Source is just Wikipedia:Verifiability. -- Avanu (talk) 00:59, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
The meaning of words has to be respected, Avanu. The problem on this page for months has been people making suggestions that often don't even mean anything, no doubt based on their "subjective beliefs" about the English language. It's incredibly depressing to watch, beyond depressing to be forced to take part in. It is why people leave Wikipedia, something I am getting very close to myself, at long last, because life really is too short for this. Sorry. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:02, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
It's not apples and oranges, but that's another matter. You would establish the "objective truth" with reliable sources. Another question: would you ever agree to the insertion of material on the say so of an editor, without there being reliable sources to back it up?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:03, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, but have you read the Wikipedia guideline on adding material to Wikipedia? It must be 'Verifiable', but it doesn't have to be added with "reliable sources to back it up". Reliable sources *must* exist, but we don't need to have them at the time we add material. I'm not sure why you keep wanting to divert us from the actual point of the discussion. -- Avanu (talk) 01:10, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not - I'm trying to get you to focus on the difference between process and outcome. WP:V does not talk about truth being irrelevant in the resulting encyclopedia, it talks about how we should act given that we are editors with formally no authority on content whatsoever. Anyway, you've answered my question - you would NOT allow material to be included if reliable sources do not exist. Next, have you ever encountered editors who are convinced that something is objectively true, but is being suppressed by mainstream media? Or single editors who insist that any other views than their own are fringe and should not be included in the encyclopedia? (That's two questions - you can answer each with a single word.)VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:16, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
(@Slim) Let's focus on the words here. Forget whether something is 'redundant' to you, and just tell me which meanings of words are not being respected?
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true.
I'm all for fixing this and ending this interminable and lame argument that only serves to help those who are dullest among us, but I think policy is a place where we might have to be repetitive, dumbed down, and clear as can be, in order to avoid stupid disputes. -- Avanu (talk) 01:10, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Another point, Avanu. Education matters. Using words and ideas correctly matters. People who are educated read, know how to use words, know where to find good sources, know how to use them. It is the lazy people, the ones who won't read, the ones who won't visit libraries, the ones who want to POV push, the ones who think they can work out everything from first principles, including what words mean—they are the people who have a problem with this policy, because they are the ones the policy is aimed at. So don't pooh-pooh being told what a first-year philosophy undergraduate would know not to do, because that's the kind of thing that matters a lot. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 01:17, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I wouldn't poo-poo them at all, they probably would just get stuck in a silly argument like this one. :) But I simply mean that our dullest minds in Wikipedia also need to understand the policy, and as you say, they are the ones that this policy matters to the most. So rather than dwell on who is or isn't qualified, let's just work on wording and improve what we can. After all, I've said earlier that I love the existing wording, but people made a reasonable case that it might confuse some editors, so let's improve it, yes? -- Avanu (talk) 01:24, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
If it were a reasonable case, we would have examples of content disputes because the policy was not clear. As far as I know, not a single example has been provided. Instead, several hypothetical examples have been provided, all of which I've seen have been answerable by core policy as it stands. (WP:NOR is a key part of the discussion here, as is NPOV and RS). You didn't want to continue answering questions, so I'll get to the point: "truth" in practice is simply not applicable as a criterion of any disputed material at all. As a mediating principle in editing disputes it is meaningless ("it's true" - "oh, no it isn't"), and it is positively counterproductive when writing about real-world disputes. Because there are many sincere POV editors who see Wikipedia's role as a record of "the truth", it needs to be made quite clear that in our processes in achieving an accurate and reliable encyclopedia, "truth" is not something we base our inclusions on. Because we are a bunch of essentially anonymous editors of no standing, we have to leave the "truth"-finding to other people. Don't forget the central wikipedia paradox: anonymous volunteers with no credentials have built the most widely consulted encyclopedia in human history.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:28, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, so now that you have restated what we all agree on (the second part of your comment), can we actually work on wording maybe? 90% of this debate is off-topic from what people are actually trying to improve. No wonder you guys have been going around in circles for months. So... at the top of this thread, I proposed some minor changes, and a little bit of it was modified by Jimobo.....

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true.

SO, where can we improve this sentence? And if its good enough right now... let's just change the lead. -- Avanu (talk) 02:41, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Put "not truth" back in, unless there is evidence that the wording of the policy has led to unnecessary content disputes. There's lots of evidence all over the place of people not understanding that truth is not a criterion for inclusion.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 03:50, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The original wording is better. See my arguments elsewhere. Kaldari (talk) 02:04, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Break until the 15th of September[edit]

[above header inserted by Unscintillating (talk) 23:19, 28 August 2011 (UTC)]
This conversation is a continuation of the discussion before: here.
Not interested, I'm taking a break until the 15th on the issue of "not truth". --Nuujinn (talk) 20:28, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Agree with Nuujinn... there have been so many proposals and counter proposals about the first sentence over the last two months that I have reached the saturation point. I think a lot of us are at that stage. If you look through at the recent discussions both here and at the WT:Verifiability/First sentence sub-page, there was a general agreement to work on drafts (at the sub-sub page) and postpone discussions for a few weeks. Avanu, despite the snarky comments, your proposal is as valid as any of the other proposals that have been suggested... so post your suggestion on the sub-page and we will get around to discussing it after the 15th... there is no need to rush. Blueboar (talk) 21:08, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Mostly sounds fine to me, why the 15th exactly? And from what I can tell there wasn't really a consensus to shuffle suggestions off to a sub-page, and there seem to be a few people grousing a bit about it, so I think I will simply say, add a more aggressive archive setting for the main Talk page and let's move on with life. -- Avanu (talk) 21:11, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Not unanimity... but an acceptance of the concept (I was one of the ones who expressed dislike about "shuffling it off"... but I have accepted that others want to do it that way, and I don't object strongly enough to make an issue of it). As for the 15th, one of the editors who had been very involved in previous discussions (don't remember who) said he was going to be away until the 15th... so others agreed to wait until he got back. Blueboar (talk) 21:50, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the 15th is pretty arbitrary, but my thought is that taking a break will let us gather thought and come back fresh. The discussion go back further than two months I think, and from my point of view any attempts made to come up with wording that left "not truth" were twarted by those set on removing it. So a break seems appropriate, and I'm enjoying mine. --Nuujinn (talk) 23:02, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, there is no formal consensus, just a proposal and an idea which appeared after the last round of RfCs to take a break.  There was also a proposal at that time to wait six months before a new round of RfCs.  I never personally agreed to that, but now that six months is here it seems to have been a good proposal.  I picked September 15 recently because somebody needed to pick a date.  It is not cast in stone.  I've also proposed that a preliminary round of discussion take place between September 15 and September 29 (Nuujinn first proposed Sep 17), to decide what proposals or polls are brought here to WT:V.  Blueboar has taken the lead in proposing that decisions that affect WP:V will be made on WT:V.  No one has agreed or objected, but I've also proposed/planned that WP:V be marked on September 15 to the effect that a review is taking place at WP:V/First sentence (not WT:V/First sentence) regarding the first sentence.  Unscintillating (talk) 23:22, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
The last state of the discussion was that there are those who were only prepared to "compromise" if "not truth" remains in the policy, and there are those who are only prepared to "compromise" on something that removes it, and there are those who are generally opposed to compromise and also opposed to further discussion (which, incidentally, hints at the underlying conduct issues we face here, and not just from her either). There are those who have called for the pro-change party to produce diffs illustrating when "not truth" has caused any confusion, and there are those who have called for the anti-change party to produce diffs illustrating when it's ever helped. I asked whether producing diffs would make any difference, and it clearly will not. So we're totally stalled. It's deeply frustrating that stalling means the anti-change party win, but I console myself that until there's a consensus, their position remains subject to repeated challenge. Where there's no consensus, it's appropriate for the pro-change party to continue to discuss, to keep seeking consensus through reasoned debate, and to continue to advertise for opinions from new editors, periodically until consensus emerges. It's also appropriate to flag the disputed phrase as disputed (and my position is that further attempts to remove the disputed tag, which we may well see, represent a potentially actionable conduct issue.)—S Marshall T/C 23:35, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
The underlying conduct problem is that S Marshal and North8000 are trying to hold WT:V hostage until they get their way. We should not permit this. It's hard for me to believe, but North has actually been disputing "not truth" on this page since at least November 2010. It may be longer, but I don't have the stomach to go back in the history any further. I have been following this page for some time, but clearly this is too traumatic for me to remember as I thought that that discussion on that particular issue had started this spring. I guess I remembered only back as far as the start of the summer of the endless WP:V RFCs. A break is welcome, but when we come back, if S Marshall and North8000 lose, I suspect they will not quit and really nothing will change. Quale (talk) 23:58, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
P.S. Policies don't get tagged disputed. Win an RFC first and then you can get the change you want. We already have consensus for the existing wording. You have to demonstrate consensus has changed to your view before you get to change it. This behavior really is disruptive. Quale (talk) 00:05, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Stop Stop trying to pretend that it's only me and North8000 who have any problem with the first sentence. That's just a lie. There is no reason why disputed wording in a policy should not be so tagged. Note that I have not changed the first sentence: I have merely identified the dispute with a pointer. If you believe my behaviour is disruptive, then you should of course feel free to escalate it to whatever venue you think is appropriate.—S Marshall T/C 00:15, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
    • That's right: Bob also dislikes it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:38, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • What do you think Newyorkbrad thinks of it? Or Hans Adler? Or SBHarris? Or Kotniski? Or Casliber? Or Unscintillating? Or OrangeMarlin? Or Jayen466? Or ... actually, I'm not going to go through the whole archive listing all the people who have a problem with the first sentence, I'll just ask you to read what editors actually say about that first sentence. It is widely perceived as a problem.—S Marshall T/C 08:11, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually, in the largest RFC in recent history half of everybody wanted to completely get rid of "not truth", something more sweeping than the recent compromise proposals. So Quale's comment is badly out of line. And in the last few weeks, all of the discussions have been started by yet other people. But I'm planning to take a break on it here at least until September 15th as well. As I noted previously, even amongst the folks that are being nice it has turned into just trading and parrying talking points. Not that that doesn't have value, but I think that some work somewhere else deciding on the key items and working up a organized compromise proposal there would be a good next step. North8000 (talk)
The philosopher in me loves leaving the word "truth" in because it is delightfully full of depth and interesting implications, but on a practical level, if a reasonable case can be made that it confuses people, just change the damn thing. We don't need an overwhelming preponderance of consensus if it is clear that some people can, will, or ARE confused by it. As many people seem to be saying, it is a POLICY, not just a quirky article. Policy should be as crystal clear as possible, and not open to much interpretation but very understandable. -- Avanu (talk) 03:02, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes - and on the philosophical point, the philosopher in me absolutely insists on changing "verifiability, not truth" on the grounds that what we call "verifiability" is not at all the same as real verifiability, which is just as deep and implication-filled as (if not identifiable with) truth.--Kotniski (talk) 09:33, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

"if a reasonable case can be made that it confuses people, just change the damn thing. We don't need an overwhelming preponderance of consensus if it is clear that some people can, will, or ARE confused by it. " (Avanu, above). Many people are confused by the sentence, many others think it is just right and aren't confused at all. However, many of those wouldn't have a problem with changes to the sentence if a better one could be agreed on. As it stands now, half the people want to keep it as it is, and none of the proposed alternatives even has the support of 50%. So wy would you change something that has at least some support, to something with even less support?

Suggestion: all those that don't like the current wording, get somewhere together (onwiki I mean), and agree on a sentence or paragraph that gets the widest support out of your group. Then start an RfC to see whether we keep the current version, or switch to your new one. Let someone uninvolved close the RfC based on the !votes, and upfront state that the result will be left unchallenged for at least a year, so that we all can take a break from this. Fram (talk) 11:37, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

That's along the lines of my idea. But mine would include assessing the issue(s) to be resolved, the optimum realistic solution, and a rationale and presentation of the results. North8000 (talk) 11:42, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Sounds overly complicated, honestly. Sounds to me like the status quo people are saying "what's so bad?", and the change it people are saying "it confuses the dull-minded and stubborn". So let's change it. Simple, yes? Too many people are letting PERFECT get in the way of BETTER. -- Avanu (talk) 11:47, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
What if people don't agree that the change actually is better? Many changes have been proposed. What stops me or anyone else to just reverse to the current version because it is "better"? Or anyone else to go to an even "better" version? Will a totally instable policy be any less confusing for newbies? I can just as easily argue that removing "not truth" will encourage the "dull-minded and stubborn" to insert their truth into Wikipedia, and that it will make it harder to convince that "truth" is not an argument for inclusion of anything here. Change for the sake of change is not helpful. Agree what you (plural) believe would be the best sentence/paragraph instead of the current one, so that everyoe is clear on what is the actual choice here, and what will be the end result of removing "not truth". Fram (talk) 12:00, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
No one has argued that the policy needs to be changed, just the phrasing of the intro. So no 'newbies' are going to be hurt except that they might each see a different intonation of the same idea. This is a stupid argument to be so protracted. I love the current intro, but I can easily see the point that it is a bit too esoteric for some people. So dump it and find a new phrasing. It doesn't have to be perfect and we don't need 100% agreement that its better, but sheesh, how long does this lame debate have to go on? -- Avanu (talk) 12:13, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
That is not true. You might not mean to change the policy, but at least one editor does. He has said that his goal is to remove "not truth" (partly?) because he finds that its existence makes it harder for him to remove information about minority views that he believes are wrong. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:51, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

I see the worst issue as being that it contributes to many widely accepted chants and mis-interpretations of policy which are used for a range of bad purposes such as POV wars and pissing wars.North8000 (talk) 12:16, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

I have not seen any evidence that the current language actually confuses people - what I am seeing isn't confusion, but disagreement with the policy. We currently say that Truth is not a threshold for inclusion, and some people think that Truth should be a threshold for inclusion (or, perhaps more to the point, they think that "untruth" should be a threshold for exclusion). In other words... yes, people are arguing that the policy needs to be changed. Blueboar (talk) 12:19, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, if the policy really is intended to say that we are obliged to include information that we know to be untrue, then I think most people (apart from a few fanatics) would agree that that needs to be changed. But I don't think it does say that (except in as much as the first two words are "the threshold" instead of "a condition", but no-one takes that literally - it's just embarrassing to have one of WP's key policy documents start off with a sentence that has so many indefensible wording errors in it).--Kotniski (talk) 12:33, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, if you think the goal of Wikipedia is to add sourceable untrue information, you are super mistaken. If you think something isn't true, you either don't add it, or you discuss it with other people before adding it, you don't just add it into Wikipedia with a smile. -- Avanu (talk) 12:37, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I may firmly believe (ie "know") that creationsim is "true" and that evolution is false... this does not mean I can exclude all mention of evolution from Wikipedia. On the flip side... I may know that evolution is true and creationism is false... this does not mean I can exclude creationism from Wikipedia. Sometimes we do have to include material that we think is untrue. Blueboar (talk) 13:04, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
That's a different point entirely. Inserting what is considered truthful information about evolution is not the same as agreement that evolution is a True concept. -- Avanu (talk) 13:13, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
No, you are wrong and this is an excellent demonstration of how the slogan "verifiability not truth" hurts the project by misleading people. If you believe in some fringe theory you are under no obligation to put the mainstream view, which you believe to be false, into Wikipedia. There are enough others to do that, and even if there were such an obligation you would be unlikely to do that anyway. Therefore such a rule would have no benefit. On the other hand, when there is a consensus among editors that something found in reliable sources is false, then there will be nobody who wants to add it to an article (except for WP-fundamentalists misled by the slogan), and so it stays out. That's exactly as it should be. This very recent remark by Jimbo seems relevant. Hans Adler 13:19, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Oh, that's a helpful link that might result in some kind of progress.—S Marshall T/C 13:27, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Why would the opinion of one editor "result in some kind of progress"? Do you believe people can't make up their own mind about these things and need guidance from above? Fram (talk) 13:38, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • In my experience there are those who find Jimbo's view persuasive, Fram. Jimbo doesn't count as "from above".—S Marshall T/C 14:18, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Wow! This by Jimbo is a huge one! North8000 (talk) 13:43, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

...Which is the same as the one mentioned right above by Hans Adler... What's so huge about it? His opinion worth more than anyone else's? Fram (talk) 14:02, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes North8000 (talk) 14:13, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
A lot of those who insist on the dogma that truth doesn't matter at all so long as something is "verifiable" in our technical sense believe that they are defending Wikipedia against reformers. The fact that Jimbo says so clearly that it was never meant that way (after several others who should also know, e.g. Newyorkbrad) should make them think about it again. Hans Adler 14:07, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • For me, this can't be justified as an appeal to authority figures in the hope that minds are changed. Rather, it's a helpfully-timed counterexample to the often-expressed view that it's only myself and North8000 who object to "not truth". Our view is not, in fact, the minority one.—S Marshall T/C 14:23, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Agree with S. Marshall. But, lets see, a clear statement by the founder vs. defending current wording because it serves some baseless, counter-real-world, controversial "we don't care about accuracy" mythology chants. Tough decision. North8000 (talk) 14:32, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

I was hoping that would be September 2012... But seriously, I've requested and received full protection of the page for a bit, in hopes of getting consensus for changes before making changes. I also agree with (was it Quale?) who said that we shouldn't tag the policy as in dispute. The inline discussion tag that is there now is like saying, "This is a Wikipedia policy, but it may not be a policy for long." That's like trying to make the policy look invalid when you can't get consensus to make the change that you want. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

It seemed that just yesterday agreement had strengthened to postpone First sentence discussion, but nine editors have passively objected by adding material to WP:V or by support for immediate changes to WP:V, and there have been no objections to such changes based on requests to postpone further action until September 15.  Perhaps most important is that no one reverted the "under discussion" flag on WP:V, and that flag is now locked down by an admin.  Since discussion is now open, I have therefore promoted the page at WP:V/First sentence/Drafts to WP:V/First sentence and propose that editors begin !voting there.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 02:18, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Why even mess with those polls...? ... seems needlessly complicated and unfriendly toward editing. We have some language, let's just make a tiny change and move on. Just dump the page of polls... 12 polls at once is very much like "too long -- didn't read". -- Avanu 02:26, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth, an essay[edit]

Bob K31416 (talk · contribs) has twice now reverted the addition of Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth, an essay, to WP:V.

This is not a controversial slogan, it is a respectable, informative, well written essay. It is directly relevant to explaining and understanding the opening sentence. The opening sentence, while subject to long standing challenge, is in no danger of being substantially altered. A recent proposal to alter it was overwhelmingly rejected. Proponents for change have agreed to not attempt a new proposal for change until a future date, and this is in effect demonstrates a very strong consensus for the current wording for the current time.

Given that that the opening sentence is a source of controversy and ongoing debate, it is nothing but good that an explanatory essay be included. To do otherwise is to deny the readers easy access to the explanation. If, as alleged, the sentence is misleading, then the hiding of explanation only worsens the situation.

I propose that the essay be listed, alphabetically, in the "See also" section, because it is relevant and needed advice for readers, and because it provides information on a surprising, and possibly-for-some confusing statement. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 07:51, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree; while I am firmly on the side that believes "verifiability not truth" is a stupid slogan and should be abandoned in favour of something that says what we really mean, as long as we are forced to have this stupid slogan in bold in the lead, it's right that we should link people to an essay that does a pretty good job of explaining what that slogan is intended to mean.--Kotniski (talk) 08:09, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, there's no reason I can see to not link to it. --Nuujinn (talk) 08:47, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Me too - no reason at all not to link to an essay which explains it better, and every reason to link to it. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:49, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Removing the first "not truth" from the first sentence is an uphill battle. The links in the first sentence and see also will make the hill steeper. In all fairness, couldn't you wait until the present discussion is over? Also, I don't think it is a good idea to try to patch up bad writing with links. I think that is part of the convolution problem that Wales was referring to. Also, I noticed that the essay makes a special Wikipedia definition for the word "truth" for use in that essay. More jargon to add to Wikipedia's special definitions of "original research", "verifiability", "verifiability not truth", and probably others that I can't think of for the moment. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 13:20, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
"The links in the first sentence and see also will make the hill steeper"... I see that as a good thing! Blueboar (talk) 13:44, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks Blueboar. BTW the discussion I was referring to is in the section The phrases "not truth" and "not whether editors think it is true" which is on the sub page Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 15:32, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

There is no current consensus to change.  I suggest that this proposal should be placed on the WP:V/First sentence/Drafts page for consideration after September 15.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 12:26, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Please see Wikipedia:Don't revert due solely to "no consensus". What is your reasoning for not providing a direct link to that essay? It is not a proposal to change or not change anything. Its supports (as in "explains") the meaning behind the current wording. Your page, Wikipedia:Verifiability/First sentence/Drafts, shows little promise at this stage of a developing new consensus. As the first sentence is allegedly capable of confusing some people, the essay is needed now. If the wording changes on some future date, update the relevant essays as required then. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 12:58, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
SmokeyJoe, Although I agree that a more specific reason should be given for all reverts here, which I had done in the edit summary of my revert, please see the second sentence in your Essay link for the relevant exception, "Except possibly on pages that describe long-standing Wikipedia policy" and also note that your link is to an essay, not guideline or policy. Anyhow, for now I don't feel strongly either way regarding having it in the See also section. I'll be taking a break. Good luck and best regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 13:27, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec)What is the purpose of this discussion when there are people that want to take a break?  Are you ok with waiting until September 15 to continue?  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 13:39, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Is all discussion supposed to wait until this arbitrarily defined date of September 15? Why? This is not about changing the first sentence; it's about adding a link to what appears to be a perfectly good explanatory essay - if no-one's got any substantial arguments against doing so, can we just do it? (You can add a link to my WP:Truth, not verifiability as well, if you want to give some indication that the wording of that first sentence is not universally loved, though I think that might be unnecessary clutter.)--Kotniski (talk) 19:22, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
There is agreement above that the addition will make the deprecation of "not truth" more difficult, this can be fully understood because proposals that move the "not truth" phrase to a footnote will then also need to note the essay as moving with it.  On the other hand, if we build a consensus to keep the "not truth" phrase in the main body of the article, then I sense that the essay is appropriate.  Right now, there is no consensus to keep the "not truth" phrase in the body of the main article, and I think the next two and 1/2 weeks is not a good time to work on this issue.  Additionally, making this change now would be contrary to the sense of those that want to take a break from this topic.  Regards, Unscintillating (talk) 22:17, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
I see no harm (and possible good) from linking to the essay under ==See also==. I have no firm opinion about linking to it in the first sentence. We link to other essays, like WP:When to cite; why not this one? Also, if the phrase is actually as confusing as opponents claim (without any proof, despite months of requests), then we should be linking to it, to relieve this alleged confusion while discussions are going on. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:18, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see that the two questions are necessarily related. We can still link to the essay whether or not the phrase is included in the first sentence. If it is included, then the essay helps to explain it; if it is not included, the essay (appropriately modified) would help explain (to people who remember it as being there) what it was intended to mean and what happened to it.--Kotniski (talk) 09:24, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I, too, see no harm in having a see also link to the essay. A link isn't an endorsement, and an essay is not policy. No big deal, we should link to it. --Tryptofish (talk) 15:42, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that we should link to this in See also. We link to other essays there. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:04, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that we should add this now to the "See also" section, concurrent to other discussion.  Unscintillating (talk) 13:32, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Restoration of "accuracy is an objective" from a previous version of the policy to the lead[edit]

I think that the recent attempt to restore (from a previous version of the policy) that accuracy is both an objective and also the reason for wp:ver to the lead was a good (albeit bold) idea. North8000 (talk) 11:16, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I have not been following discussion about this but, IMO, it is a bad idea for WP to make a judgement of accuracy re assertions made by cited sources, vs. what I would say is a good idea — making a judgement that cited sources actually did make those assertions.
This has nothing to do with judging accuracy, quite the opposite. Essentially it says that accuracy is a goal of wp:ver, and that wp:ver rules. North8000 (talk) 12:03, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, it's important to remind editors of this fact. Occasionally we get editors who insist on making articles on Wikipedia-related matters contradict our server logs because a "reliable" source got it wrong, or who insist that we have to be agnostic about the existence of Santa Claus because there are so many apparently serious reliable sources that appear to take him seriously. (They just happen to appear mostly around Christmas... .) These exceptions are when we need a reminder of the purpose of the policy. It's not OK to take our policies literally for the LULZ. Hans Adler 12:08, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree. Maybe the edit made was not the best way to do it, but I agree that saying accuracy is still an aim could very likely help achieve the aims of those of us who are concerned about this issue (people saying WP does not even aim at accuracy) without needing to break the now established tradition concerning the word "truth".--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:35, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
What do you mean by "accuracy"? The problem here is that "accuracy" can be equated with "truth". If by "accuracy" you mean "we should present information accurately", then I agree... if you mean "we should only present information that is widely held to be accurate", then I can not agree. NPOV often requires that we present theories, claims and information that the mainstream believes are inaccurate... the key is to present such information accurately (or "with accuracy"), which includes phrasing opinions as being opinions, attributing controversial ideas to those who hold them, noting that minority opinions are minority opinions, etc. Blueboar (talk) 12:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
We are not supposed to present fringe theories, which is where you almost heading, so we are only supposed to present things understood to be accurate, and yes we are supposed to do it accurately also. The word is quite simple and does not seem to me to require any digression about how to define fringe, notable and various other jargon about how we know when something is really understood to be accurate. That is clearly for other policies and not something where any normal reader is going to be seeing assumptions written between the lines?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:50, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Where do you get the idea that we are not supposed to present fringe theories?... We have lots of articles about fringe theories. We also have a guideline (WP:FRINGE) that is all about when and how to present fringe theories. Blueboar (talk) 13:32, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Describing a fringe theory in context IS accurate. E.G. "The flat earth society asserts that the earth is flat" is an accurate statement. Ditto for where there is an objective answer but we don't know it (How did the Edmund Fitzgerald Sink?....report on the theories as being theories). Accuracy is irrelevant on matters of opinion, where no objective answer exists (e.g. Is Obama a good or bad President?).North8000 (talk) 14:14, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, yes, and we could have a whole discussion about it. But it appears to be a different subject, and that is my point. Accuracy seems a pretty clear and neutral word for what WP is trying to achieve. The word does not seem to imply anything about where WP sits concerning notability, fringe, mainstream etc.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:08, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
The two of you seem to be using "present" in two slightly different ways. The problem is: Given that the majority of reliable sources speak about Santa Claus as a real, superhuman person, how can we justify not making absurd claims such as that he is one, or that people disagree about him? The simple answer is that Wikipedia isn't a mindless game but an encyclopedia striving for accuracy, and in this case it's obvious what is accurate and what isn't. Hans Adler 14:17, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Rather than Santa Claus, I am more concerned about the verifiability of allegations presented as fact in biographical articles like Lot (biblical person). Should the section on what counts as a reliable source explicitly mention that scriptures are not reliable sources for statements of fact? --Boson (talk) 15:16, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
As a literary character, Lot is a quite different issue compared to Santa Claus, a modern myth. But in both cases it's not necessary to use excessively guarded language once the context has been set up correctly. The problem isn't that someone with a fringe theory (Santa Claus exists) or dubious theory (the story of Lot is literally true exactly as presented in Bible and/or Quran) might not be disabused while reading the article. The problem occurs when such ideas are actively pushed by the article with explicit statements. Hans Adler 16:25, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

The answer to "What do you mean by "accuracy"? " would be the definition from any dictionary. There are numerous complexities in applying it, but we should not use those to derail the basic concept and statement of objective. North8000 (talk) 14:06, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

OK... then let's clarify the basic concept and objective... Is the objective to present information accurately ... or is it to limit the kind of information we present? Blueboar (talk) 14:22, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd say simply that the objective is accuracy. Several things further that goal, especially wp:ver. Often or sometimes both of the things you mention further that goal, although both are ambiguous because the term "information" is ambiguous. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 15:02, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it is clear WP aims at accuracy, but I would not equate that aim to the policy wp:ver. This is why the edit which was reverted was not appropriate. It put this aim into this policy page in the first words, before the core of the policy itself. I think accuracy as an aim is context of the policy, not the policy itself. Is this also how others in this discussion would see it?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:07, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
(added later) Agree. North8000 (talk) 20:56, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
In general, it's an important statement (implicit in the common meaning of "information" which is informative and accurate) that is homeless at the moment. Putting it back into wp:ver somewhere would also be good and appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, wp:ver is the policy that most furthers that goal. Second, it would help resolve the common mis-statements of wp:ver which have been behind much of the ongoing controversy here. But it doesn't necessarily have to be the first sentence. North8000 (talk) 15:41, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
If verifiability wasn't a decent approximation to accuracy in most cases, then it wouldn't be policy in the first place. By not making clear that accuracy is the reason why we are so obsessed about verifiability, we make the policy vulnerable to wikilawyering that tries to pervert it by making it a tool to force blatant lies into the encyclopedia. Unfortunately this is not a theoretical issue at all. Hans Adler 16:29, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Indeed--Kmhkmh (talk) 18:22, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
An important point well said. North8000 (talk) 20:56, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
The problem is, the edit included more than just the objective of accuracy. The problem I had was this information. "We can't be sure of our accuracy if we include information which cannot be verified." I believe the information should read

The goal of Wikipedia is to become a complete and accurate encyclopedia. Therefore, 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.

Any new thoughts? Ryan Vesey Review me! 21:06, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I like it overall. Might need a few tweaks. North8000 (talk) 21:51, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
It's not the purpose of individual policies to state the "goal of Wikipedia".
"Complete" is at odds with WP:NOT#DIRECTORY. Writing this in the opening sentence of a core policy invites people to argue that all sorts of things should be included on the basis of completeness.
"Accurate" is problematic vis a vis "verifiable". What is "accuracy" beyond "verifiability"? It invites editorial conjecture (aka WP:OR), and a place for belief.
"Therefore"? This is an attempt at a logical structure A implies B, but the logic is loose, or at least I don't see it. How does the first sentence imply the second? --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:18, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:ver clearly precludes insertion of unverifiable material based on "belief", "truth" etc. So let's stop shaking that boogeyman once and for all. North8000 (talk) 01:27, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
North8000, I understand that you're trying to work under the constraint of not changing anything in the current first sentence of WP:V. Are you OK with "accurate" in the first sentence here and "therefore ... not truth" in the second sentence here? This might appeal to some people who already understand the policy, but I think it would be confusing to those who are trying to learn about it. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 01:54, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
The easiest way to misread something is to start at the top and to stop as soon as you have want you want. Sticking "complete and accurate" in a stand alone sentence (it will be quoted, not even "paraphrased") ahead "verifiability, not truth" is to invite confusion, including willful confusion. Completeness and accuracy must not be encouraged at the expense of verifiability.
Some mention of complete and accurate may be useful, but not before stating the purpose of this policy.
Disagree that WP:ver clearly precludes insertion of unverifiable material based on "belief", "truth" etc. "Belief" has no accurance on the page. "truth" and "think" have exactly one occurance, in the first sentence. The clearness of the distinction between verifiability in reliable sources and the true believer's interpretation of truth is very easily muddied in the mind of that true believer (an important audience of this page). --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:13, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Wp:ver precludes the insertion of unverifiable material, period. If you think that it doesn't clearly say that, then we have work to do. A good place to start would be to stop confusing the issue by not attempting to list the things that don't bypass that rule. (e.g. truth)  :-) North8000 (talk) 10:02, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Answering Bob K, personally I'm open to anything (compromise etc) that at least partially solves the problems. And a mention anywhere in this policy that accuracy is a goal, or that wp:ver is intended to help achieve accuracy would be such a step. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:07, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

I feel that this thread is just another avenue for re-re-arguing the "not truth" thing. Enough already. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:54, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree with Tryptofish.
Additionally, stating that we want an "accurate" encyclopedia means that every POV pusher should remove all that "inaccurate" garbage about climate change, abortion, politicians, etc.
We do not want what some editor believes is "accurate" or "the truth". The only kind of accuracy we care about is that we accurately represent whatever the reliable sources say. That is, we want an encyclopedia that doesn't deserve to have {{Failed verification}} in it. The sole interest of the community wrt "accuracy" is "matches the reliable sources". The dictionary definition is irrelevant. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:08, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
(This is more or less re-posting from Wikipedia talk:Verifiability/First sentence because I would like WhatamIdoing's opinion.) Here is an example of a real misprint that was obvious to me. In the paper "Temperature effect on IG-11 graphite wear performance" by Luo Xiaowei, Yu Suyuan, Sheng Xuanyu, and He Shuyan in the Journal Nuclear Engineering and Design 235 (2005) there is a table that gives the wear coefficients for graphite IG-11 in helium for upper and lower samples (in the experiment, one sample was physically on top of the other, and they were rubbed against each other). In table 2, it states that the upper samples values have a multiplier of *10−3 μg/m and the lower sample values have a multiplier of *103 μg/m. So the difference between the wear rates on the upper and lower samples is around a factor of a million. By comparing the data with other experiments of graphite IG-11 in air, I was able to guess that the most likely factor was *10-3 mg/m. I emailed Luo Xiaowei, one of the authors of the paper, and he helpfully confirmed my guess of *10-3 mg/m. So, I know that the actual multiplier is *10-3 mg/m and the information in the article is a typo. But, so far as wikipedia's current verifiability policy is concerned, my personal correspondence, and the reasoning about what should be the values cannot be used. So, even though there are obvious typos in the data, the verifiable numbers for wear of graphite IG-11 in helium are a factor of 1000 off. As a rational editor (who is willing to break a few rules), I should not in good conscience add any data on wear of graphite IG-11 in helium to a hypothetical article discussing this. Now, lets say that someone did add the data using the *103 μg/m and *10−3 μg/m multipliers. There is information in wikipedia that is orders of magnitude off from the true value, but truth does not matter, only verifiability. What do we do? Jrincayc (talk) 12:42, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
You use WP:Editorial discretion to omit the information from that source entirely. You must not add the unpublished truth, but you are not personally required to add the information at all. If someone else adds the information, you are permitted to explain your concerns about it to the other person, and hope that they will agree with you that it should be removed. Additionally, you are permitted to ask the authors to print a formal correction (which the journal should encourage, if they value their reputation). WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:36, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Support adding accuracy and completeness as objectives of Verifiability. I agree that support from reliable sources has the side benefit of also helping prevent original research. But if that is the only purpose of verifiability, we could just redirect the verifiability page to no original research. I think that verifiability (or attribution as it might be more accurately called in wikipedia) is probably somewhat more certain a concept than truth, but I think that arguing over "accuracy" by using verifiability to support positions is more useful than arguing over "verifiability" to support positions. Jrincayc (talk) 12:38, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support emphasis on "accuracy" in WP:V, but not "completeness". Completeness is a worthy goal of the project, but it does not fall under WP:V. "Completeness" is more likely to compromise WP:V, as completeness encourages interpolations, orignal research, or use of dubious sources. Completeness encouraged elsewhere as a goal that be sought by editor research, or redlinking to entice expert readers to become editors, but not as a compromise of WP:V. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 13:04, 29 August 2011 (UTC)


Proposal: Change the first sentence to the one suggested by Jimbo Wales[edit]

"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true."

opinions and comments on the proposal[edit]

  • I don't see it as being better than what we have. Part of what I like about the current language is that it is a bit shocking... and that in itself gets the point across. It's blunt and very clear... Verifiability is the (primary) threshold for inclusion... and Truth is not a threshold for inclusion. Blueboar (talk) 18:03, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Quite simply I think it would be better. It is also only a tweak, if you just look at the words, and not different in meaning from the "traditional" version we are stuck with, at least as I see it explained by those who defend it as opposed to those who abuse it. But it removes the unclear and easy-to-abuse point that concerns a large percentage of all Wikipedians. (Frankly though, I watch these discussions but hardly contribute, because there is a small number of people attacking ANY proposals to even discuss minor tweaks in reaction to the sensible concerns about this. I doubt this case will be any different. Of course they will all express their usual frustration concerning the silly large number of people that keep trying to talk about this. They have tradition on their side, so they can say that if Wikipedia is working, then it does not need to be changed.) Comment to Blueboar: the proposal contains no mention of truth, except to say that what people think of as true is NOT the threshold, just like now. And yet you reply as if it says the opposite. This really says it all about discussions on this talkpage. Most people participating here are so familiar with the sentence that when they do not see the word truth they read it as if there is a big point being made about truth between the lines.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:10, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support Jimbo Wales's proposed wording North8000 (talk) 18:17, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I can't find where Jimbo proposed this. Can you provide the edit dif please? Slrubenstein | Talk 18:23, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Jimbo did not actually propose it... but suggested it on his talk page... here. North8000 ran with that suggestion, and has now made it a formal proposal. Blueboar (talk) 18:25, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm open to considering something like this, as it really isn't too different from some of the other versions that I've tried to have considered. I'm also open to anyone who wants to, moving this talk thread to the sub-page, where it probably belongs. If we do use something like this, it needs a serious copyedit. Don't need "ie"; "independently or collaboratively" is clunky though conceptually valid, and should be put in parentheses after "check"; and, most importantly, "and subjective" needs to go, because POV pushers will absolutely insist that their "truth" is objectively true. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:00, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Problems with it:
  • we need "verifiability, not truth" to make clear to new editors what is meant, and to ensure the contrast is clear, because "verifiability" alone (from the Latin veritas: truth) implies that we are seeking truth;
  • "can independently or collaboratively check" adds words without function;
  • "not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true": very unclear what this is supposed to mean. Any belief that editors have about truth is beside the point (what would the addition of "personal and subjective" mean?). The point is that we offer an overview of the relevant literature, no more.
  • The current sentence is clearer and tighter: "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." SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:06, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • That's actually quite a useful post, SV. I need to take it apart and examine it point by point.
  • Yes, "verifiability" does imply the quest for truth. That was the original intent of this policy, I think. Since then, its meaning has drifted quite a long way, and as currently written the policy is about the checkability of sources. The lede should ideally be restored to its original intent but in better language; failing that, the policy should be renamed because as currently written it is not about verifiability in its natural meaning.
  • I think I can see Jimbo's intent with the words "independently or collaboratively" and I think there may be the seed of a helpful idea there. I'm not sure if it belongs in WP:V.
  • Jimbo seems to be making a distinction between objective truth and subjective truth. I don't know where he's going with that but I do suggest asking him rather than dismissing it out of *hand.
  • If it was just clarity and concision we wanted from a first sentence, then we could say "No parking". The discussion we're having is not about being clear and tight, but about how (and in your case, whether) we should adjust the first sentence's meaning.—S Marshall T/C 21:57, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Comment to SV: I personally think that "not truth" has been demonstrated beyond any doubt by the history of this discussion, if not the history of philosophy itself, to be a confusing term, and that what "editors think is true" is perfectly clear everyday English.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:06, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Turn into essay and link to it Jimbo's historical views are important, specially those form the time he played a greater formal role, but since 2008-2009 he has clearly stated he wants a ceremonial role, and has indeed participated in discussions (often overturned) in the community as any regular editor would. Given him more importance than collective consensus is something I oppose. However, telling our users "this is what jimbo thinks" is not that awful if it doesn't replace policy - he is not saying anything that changes policy at all, only that illustrates it, specially for newer users. If Jimbo wants to engage the community, he can do so here and convince us, but his talk page is not where policy its made.--Cerejota (talk) 22:16, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I like it - ha, of course, I suggested it. Here's the thing: I think it is really important for us to get rid of the mantra "verifiability, not truth" because it misleads both new editors and readers. It gives people the idea that we don't care about truth, or that we hold some strange epistemological views about truth. All I am asking, and I think it is quite important, is that we kill that catchphrase by separating the words. The catchphrase is a bad thing, contributing to lots of misunderstanding. We do care about the truth. I want everything in Wikipedia to be true and verifiable. If we must keep the words together to have a catchphrase, we should change it to "verifiability, and truth".--Jimbo Wales (talk) 06:36, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Jimbo, what's the evidence that it's contributing to misunderstanding? Is it in content disputes, or in Wikipedia's public image? (And are we not confusing editorial policy for inclusion, and outcome?) VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 06:55, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Comment to VselvolodKrolikov: this question gets asks all the time in this un-ending discussion, and it is interesting in itself that people do not seem to agree on what an example would look like. The normal answer from people opposed to change is, effectively, (my re-wording) that all examples show people with "behavior issues" and/or people who are not truly following the true rules the way they should be truly interpreted. But I keep thinking the aim of this talk page is to try to find better wordings, and that the aim of better wording is to reduce "behavior issues" and policy misinterpretions?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:06, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  1. WP:Articles for deletion/Sam Blacketer controversy. The Register wrote patently false things about a Wikipedia arbitrator, and it took about a week to remove the libel from Wikipedia because a large number of editors (including a high-profile admin) insisted that the fact that our server logs proved The Register unquestionably wrong didn't matter at all because, while true, it wasn't technically "verifiable" (original research from primary source), whereas the bullshit written by The Register and then simply repeated by several other media, while obviously not true, was verifiable. Therefore we, as Wikipedia, had the moral obligation (according to these editors) to libel the ex-arbitrator.
  2. The situation has become so bad that one editor even got so bold as to insist that the Santa Claus article be agnostic about the existence of the bearded superhuman who lives at the North Pole and enters millions of homes simultaneously, through the chimney, each Christmas. [19] Because it's "verifiable" by thousands of articles in respectable newspapers that appear every year around Christmas and treat him as real.
The situation is still under control, although sometimes it takes way too long to resolve such nonsense. And there is simply no point to letting the number of editors who seriously believe that Wikipedia shits on truth and makes a point of lying to its readers increase further. Or in Jimbo's words: the number of editors who believe that we are "transcription monkeys, merely writing down what sources say". Hans Adler 08:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
How many readers even read things like WP:V? I think it would be more realistic if we discussed the impcat on editors, and ignored the next-to-nonexistant impact on readers here... Apart from that, wanting everything in Wikipedia to be true is rather naive. According to Catholic Church by country, which uses a reliable source, 75 of the Belgians is Roman Catholic. However, the Belgian National Institute of Statistics shows that e.g. only 27% of the marriages are religious, while the other 73% are only legal, and many others don't marry at all but just live together. Even among the older, more religious people, the 75% is not reached at all, with only 60% getting a Catholic funeral anymore.[20] Can you be a "true" Roman Catholic if you live together in sin or if you don't even get buried with the Catholic rites? Which is true? Neither, probably, but they are both verifiable, reliable figures. I wouldn't want anyone trying to insert "the truth" about people's religion or other tricky subjects into Wikipedia. This is an obvious case of a subject where we don't care about the truth, because there isn't one truth: all we care about is the verifiability of what we give. Let me repeat it again: "Not truth" means that we accept uncertainty, change, and opposing views, not that we want to insert lies. Anyone wanting Wikipedia to present the truth ignores the lack of truth in real life, in science, in general knowledge. Fram (talk) 07:44, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Comment to Fram: the choice being discussed in this particular section of the talk page is between "not truth" and not "what editors think is true". Those of us who propose the second wording actually agree with the aim of the first, but just want it worded more clearly. The first one is read by many people as saying more than the second, in particular, that WP does not even aim at being accurate. For human beings, it is important to define aims, even when they are aims that can never be achieved in a perfect way. I think no understanding of terms such as "encyclopedic", "accurate" or even "verifiable" (etymologically the "veri-" means "true") makes any logical sense at all if truth did not have any bearing at all, even indirect, upon what we do here. When we try to write well, we are trying to write accurately or truly, but the important message is that we need to do so by using outside sources, not our personal un-checkable beliefs - so that what we imply to be true (that is what we are doing all the time when we write, we are implying some things are true) can be checked by others to be considered "true" more widely than just by one wikipedian (="verified").--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:14, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
On Jimbo's talk page, there is a discussion about the translation of a national anthem. Sources differ on what is the correct translation (ignoring for now that perhaps multiple translations are possible). Some editors state that only one of the translations is linguistically correct, is the actual representation of the meaning in the original language. They probably don't consider their opinion to be "a personal and subjective belief it is true" (ttext of this proposal), but the actual truth. However, we can't go with their opinion, their personal knowledge, and have to go with the sources. Similarly, when you have a biographical article, and an editor comes along stating "I am the son of this person, and I know that the name of his wife wasn't Amalia, but Amélie", then that is not a "subjective belief", but (AGF) correct knowledge. But we won't even include his personal observation in lieu of what the reliable sources say.
If we want to go with this proposal, the end should be changed from ", not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true" to ", not whether individual editors know or believe something to be true". Fram (talk) 12:16, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
The translation case you mention is in fact a borderline case, at least for someone who doesn't understand the source language. (For someone who does it may be different.) Some other cases such as existence of Santa Claus (some sources say he exists, some say he doesn't, so apparently we must present both versions) and the Sam Blacketer case (see above for pointers to both) are much more blatant.
The change you propose in your last sentence is not acceptable at all because instead of removing the potential of misunderstanding the sentence in the way that you are misunderstanding it, it would actually codify your misunderstanding. If you know something is not true but say it on Wikipedia, then you are lying to a potentially huge audience. If you can't disprove a claim in reliable sources with other reliable sources, then you may not be allowed to write in an article that it is false, and you may not be able to stop other editors from saying it is true. But you are not allowed to abuse Wikipedia to broadcast yourself what is, from your point of view, a lie. Hans Adler 13:14, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
So you think the birthers should delete all those "lies" about President Obama being born in Hawaii? If they don't, they're "abusing Wikipedia to broadcast what is, from their point of view, a lie".
And that woman I encountered who was gutting an article about surgery because it didn't line up with her minority view, that's okay with you? You wouldn't want her to "broadcast lies" published in high-quality peer-reviewed medical journals, when she believed the "Truth™" as proven by her own personal experience. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:01, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
FAIL. [21] Read again what I wrote. What's so hard to understand about "you may not be able to stop other editors from saying it is true"? Do we really need a birther to add Obama's place of birth to his biography? Any reason why this can't be done by a sane editor? Hans Adler 00:09, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Sure, that section could be written by a sane person—but we don't currently have a policy that says "anyone can edit, but only if you're sane on the subject". What you actually say is that people must not include information that they believe is lies. A birther believes that widely accepted fact is a lie. Why should he tolerate that lie? Why should Wikipedia not tell him that he has to leave that "lie" right where it is? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:27, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Why do you want to hurt Wikipedia by setting up this silly strawman? Nobody here wants the radical change that you are implying. This is (1) about a minor tweak of the first sentence which has become necessary for the odd freakish "verifiability" situation such as obviously incorrect and mistaken reporting about Wikipedia or tongue-in-cheek reporting about Santa Claus. In such situations some "not truth"-dogmatic extremists can cause no end of disruption by trying to force fringe positions into articles, because they have the letter of "verifiability not truth" on their side even though it was never meant that way. Presumably, for Jimbo it's also (2) about the public relations nightmare of having to explain to journalists why, supposedly, Wikipedia doesn't care about truth and correctness, i.e. knowingly publishes untrue claims. Hans Adler 01:40, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not implying or proposing any change at all. I currently can tell the anti-surgery activist that Wikipedia doesn't care how many times she says WP:But it's true!, the fact is that her personal beliefs are unverifiable, irrelevant, unimportant and a completely insufficient excuse for deleting or disparaging material supported by high-quality sources. I do not want to hand her any excuses whatsoever to say "But now we're required to only include material about the surgery if it is True™ instead of lies published by people who are paid to do the surgery" or "But now I can delete all of that because I know that it's all inaccurate". You propose making truth be a condition for inclusion. You do not appear to be proposing any mechanism for distinguishing between the "truth" about this surgery as understood by this individual person, and the "truth" as understood by WP:NPOV and high-quality medical journals. You propose no mechanism for distinguishing between the "truth" about Obama's birthplace as understood by a birther and the "truth" as understood by nearly everyone else in the world. IMO any proposal to make Wikipedia rely on WP:The Truth instead of the reliable sources will harm Wikipedia. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:09, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Fram:
  • Concerning translations, these are actually considered as a special case on Wikipedia, especially when it concerns a language which is widely known. For those people, correct translation is just like any argument about how to get the wording of something right. Ability to translate is not a special skill you need to go to University for, and so like other such knowledge (for example how to word a sentence) it does not necessary need to be verified. That does not mean we avoid all problems, even concerning basic questions of how to word English.
  • Concerning knowledge from a first hand sources, like when someone is talking about themselves, there is also already a special case considered in Wikipedia policy: People and organizations are reliable sources about themselves when they are not being self-aggrandizing. In the case you mention, concerning the spelling of someone's mother's name, do we have real suspicions of self aggrandizing? Probably not. We would maybe have suspicions about the identity of a person if the only way of contacting Wikipedia was as an editor, but then identification becomes the biggest issue to try to solve in such a case, I would think? It is like citing someone's personal webpage for uncontroversial and non self-aggrandizing information about their own thoughts: main question is authenticity?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
On the point of translations, I wonder where you were during the last month, when we had editors claiming the opposite, that all translations should ideally be verifiable to published sources and the translator's name given, even if it was merely a request on a talk page for information about a WP:NONENG source. The discussion ended with no consensus, but I don't remember anyone saying anything about translation not being a special skill.
Fram's example has someone contacting Wikipedia directly. The material would not be WP:Published and therefore would not be reliable, by definition. If the person established a blog or website elsewhere and provided that information, then it would become reliable under the terms of WP:SPS. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:09, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Slightly OT, but I participated in some discussion about foreign language sources, maybe an earlier phase, but it is hard to stay involved in these extremely long discussions and it seems clear most of them end in non consensus anyway. FWIW I guess you can say language is a special skill, but we do not normally have to cite sources when we use it. OTOH, one language is not more special as a skill than another, and having two languages is not all that unusual. The NOENG stuff is in mind about good practice and not about the core of what WP:V is about.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:09, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support current wording. Jimbo's wording is great, but it just doesn't roll off the tongue. For such a core piece of Wikipedia policy, we need something that is easy to convey. I can quote the current version from memory. I doubt I would ever be able to do that with Jimbo's wording. That said, I think it would be fine to add as a supplement. Kaldari (talk) 01:58, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

@Hans - a big thank you for giving some real world examples; it's supremely preferable to hypotheticals and people philosophising on the meaning of "truth". What I see here is a case for having near certain falsity being a criterion for exclusion, not about truth being a criterion for inclusion (there is a difference). That is, if there are serious grounds (such as flatly contradicting the primary sources they are allegedly based on) for believing that factual information appearing in a usually reliable source is actually incorrect and as such detrimental to the encyclopedia's integrity, it should not be included. And that's a matter of RS. We don't have to include everything that's "verifiable", we just shouldn't include anything that isn't. In any case, I'm not sure that changing the wording of the policy like this would have had any impact on those two cases.

As for causing "the number of editors who seriously believe that Wikipedia shits on truth and makes a point of lying to its readers increase further," I have to say that the only editors I have encountered who think Wikipedia shits on truth are people pursuing a fringe agenda. Those people are far more interested in lawyering their way round WP:RS than WP:V, which to me suggests that WP:V is doing just fine as it is.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:12, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Support - The proposal is clearer and better written. It defines "verifiability" first, instead of having the unclear phrase "verifiability, not truth" first. Regards, Bob K31416 (talk) 07:20, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Please inform Foundation[edit]

  • Note/suggestion: I presume there are legal implications of having the "verifiability, not truth" version up there. Whenever this discussion moves forward or there is a consensus towards a changed/updated version of the "verifiability, not truth" pillar, the suggestion is to make sure the Foundation is informed in advance, especially Geoff or Michelle. Wifione ....... Leave a message 03:13, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
While I have no objection to someone notifying the Foundation, I'm quite sure there are no legal issues at stake at all.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 06:37, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see the problem with the current version. Jimbo's version, though wordier, also works. I think the key issue with things like the Register story is that editors must not hesitate to use primary sources to cover the facts. Whether a primary source agrees or disagrees with the secondary source, it should be cited to give the reader better background, and when it it makes a clear statement for or against the truth of the fact cited from the secondary source (as with the Wikipedia diffs, assuming the description above is accurate) this fact should be stated plainly. Wnt (talk) 16:55, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Bot[edit]

I've requested a bot token to have this page archived to the main archives, but haven't received one yet, and someone else suggested that wasn't a good idea anyway. So I've set up the bot to archive this separately for now. We can always join them later, depending on how extensive they are. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:01, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

New page for procedural polls[edit]

See WP:V/First sentence/ProceduralUnscintillating (talk) 03:12, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Look, guy, I don't know why you and Slim keep monkeying around with the Talk page like you own it, but this isn't cool. I suggest you find ways to participate that don't involve constantly moving people's comments around or removing them. -- Avanu (talk) 03:15, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Several people have agreed over the last few days to discuss this issue here to keep it away from the main page, as the note at the top of that page says. Please respect it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 03:34, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec)Well, this may be a news flash, but that is not a "Discussion" page that you reverted, it is a "Project Page".  And what is cool about adding a procedural poll to a Project page marked, "*Anyone may add new polls regarding the first sentence of WP:V. Procedural polls belong elsewhere, such as WP:V/First sentence/Procedural and WT:V/First sentence/Procedural."?  And I don't see that the poll you added and reverted back adds to the goal of building consensus.  Finally, if you want to discuss SlimVirgin's edits, please start a new section.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 03:50, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Guys, you are going to both have to work toward consensus here. I know you are both trying to do that, probably desperately at this point, given the length of time you have been debating this issue, but moving things around like this really isn't driven by consensus, but by your very legitimate desire to get a handle on this mess of a Talk page. I understand and support that goal, but I don't think the approach you're taking is working with that goal. -- Avanu (talk) 04:02, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm also going to reiterate this for SlimVirgin and Unscintillating. Just because "several people" don't like the way the Talk page was working does not give you consensus, nor does it further give you blanket permission to start creating multiple subpages of project and talk pages and shuffling content around. It is incredibly disruptive and out of order. It is a basic tenet of Wikipedia that you must gain explicit or implicit consensus for actions, and while being bold is certainly welcome and appreciated, please try and recognize better when we need the one versus the other, ok? -- Avanu (talk) 11:55, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Start Fresh Suggestion[edit]

I see Unscintillating running about moving sections here and there, and moving a dozen polls to new pages, and I'm just thinking, can we simply scrap a lot of this excess baggage and move it all into the archive and start with more of a concrete kind of debate on wording? There is just simply too much stuff, and someone should have turned up the archive setting a long time ago and didn't.

Is there consensus for just starting over and getting a handle on all this discussion with the endless threads and subpages and getting everything back into a manageable single Talk page so we can actually make some progress? (Too Long Didn't Read exists because of stuff like this.)


  • As proposer, I say Support -- Avanu (talk) 03:22, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • This is the single manageable talk page for this issue. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 03:35, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Apparently not, since Unscintillating is making poll pages and procedural poll pages and project subpages and sub-talkpages, and as newer editors come in and make comments on the main Talk page, Unscintillating moves the comments around. Fresh start would mean we just push the whole mess off the cliff and start fresh. -- Avanu (talk) 03:55, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. The discussion is totally chaotic in its current state, and is dominated by meta-discussions on whether to stop the discussion, temporarily or altogether, and by poor proposals that never had a chance. Let's clear the table so that we have a chance to get to consensus. Hans Adler 03:38, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • (ec)Another news flash  The new page is the fresh start you are asking for.  It has been there for several days being prepared, each of you could have joined in preparing for its release, no one has objected to its being presented at WP:V/First sentence; which idea comes from a suggestion by SmokeyJoe.  I have taken a first step of keeping order on this new page.  Now who will join me in maintaining the WP:V/First sentence Project Page free from procedural polls, process discussion, editor-to-editor commentary, commentary about other editors, and off-topic material?  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 04:15, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Just turn on archiving (more aggressively) on the main Talk page and you won't have to deal with it yourself, Unscintillating. Not sure why you feel like you have to hold up the earth here, but I still think keeping a dozen polls and so many discussions is just like trying to herd cats. -- Avanu (talk) 04:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
More like proving that herding vertebrates is impossible by demonstrating it on cats. Hans Adler 07:10, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Procedural poll moved from the Project Page[edit]

Poll: Are there too many polls right now (regarding the first sentence of WP:V)?[edit]

  • Yes -- Avanu (talk) 02:28, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Definitely. Some of this chaos (I am also talking about the talk page) has come naturally, and some of it has been shaped (intentionally or not) by editors who want to keep the status quo. Hans Adler 07:13, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes - it's just become impossible to know where to look for comments, add comments, read up on what's been added since last time I was here - we need to have everything all in once place, one discussion, with all the "old" fragmented and orphaned versions hatted and with a link to the One True Discussion. Pesky (talkstalk!) 09:27, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes... although this isn't new... we have had poll after poll after poll on this, for several months now. It would have been nice if we had stopped after the third or fourth one... but it seems that we destined to have poll after poll until one side or the other gives up in disgust. Blueboar (talk) 11:43, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes See below for suggestion North8000 (talk) 12:34, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

Would it help to require a second or even third editor endorsement for a poll to be considered valid?[edit]

(Note: I only suggest this as a short-term measure intended to reduce the load)

  • Yes - as proposer -- Avanu (talk) 12:04, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • It might be better if proposals that aren't running well are promptly closed in favour of modified proposals. An evil of polling is that they lock the focus on early proposals to the exclusion of later ideas. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 12:15, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Are you volunteering?  However, I think it is a little early to close any of the polls on the Project Page, given that they have been there less than 24 hours, and there may be editors that still think that nothing will happen before 15 September.  My initial proposal had been to let them run two weeks, what do you think?  The proposal to insert the lede of WP:Truth, not verifiability has shown initial promise, but I agree that we need to come up with a trimmed version.  Unscintillating (talk) 01:24, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
A failing proposal should be withdrawn by its proposer. The more difficult case is where two or three proposals are overlapping, and the weaker proposals might be better merged or withdrawn in favour of the other. To do this, proponents and supporters should agree that it should be done. I might consider proposing that a failing proposal be withdrawn. I agree that now is too early. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 07:33, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Framework and agenda suggestion[edit]

Suggestion: Create an editable section (which would be handled like article space) and methodically develop the following material:

  1. determine the main issues that would be improved or main problems would be mitigated or solved by a change in or related to the "not truth"/the first sentence
  2. develop optimal primary and backup proposals
  3. prepare a concise, effective presentation of the above

Due to their "conveyor belt" and uneditable nature (i.e. you typically can only add, not edit material), talk pages usually provide only half of the structure needed. Defining an editable workspace within this page would provide the other half of a venue for development of the above items. Doing this methodically would help provide steady progress rather than running in circles, and end up with a proposal and effective presentation of the above which would make adoption more likely. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 10:59, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

North, I think your suggestion would be helpful if we could prioritize the goals in order to get rid of the most problematic issues first, namely that Truth issue for starters. (This wouldn't preclude just dropping the whole thing.) We could even look at alternatives, like why focus on changing the first sentence, leave it and simply add another sentence before it or after it, or some clever idea that someone might have. Not sure what you meant about "uneditable" nature of talk pages, but I would think if we put a "proposed text" section and asked people to amend it each time, as long as it has consent for that it would be doable. -- Avanu (talk) 11:43, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
On the first 3/4 of your post, that's what I meant exactly. I'll tweak it to clarify. Also, I was only proposing the framework; not what goes in it....that's wide open. On the last 1/4 of your post, what I meant by "uneditable" is that protocol is that you don't normally edit existing posts on a talk page. I'll clarify that too. North8000 (talk) 12:23, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think the poll we present to the community in the September RFC should consist of a series of opinion statements in a tree structure, so that we can see how the range of opinion breaks down. For example:-
An example

Statement 1

The first sentence of WP:V is fine as it is.

Agree

(signatures)

Disagree

(signatures)

Link to the poll talk page area for discussion of this.

(for those who disagree)

Statement 2

The first sentence is only problematic because of the words "verifiability, not truth".

Agree

(signatures)

Disagree

(signatures)

Link to the poll talk page area for discussion of this.

(alternative)

Statement 3

The first sentence is only problematic because of something unrelated to "verifiability, not truth".

(signatures, discussion links etc.)

(alternative)

Statement 4

The first sentence is problematic for more than one reason (please elaborate).

(signatures, discussion links etc.)

(for those who agreed with statement 2 or statement 4)

Statement 5

There is no need to mention "truth" in the first sentence at all.

(signatures, discussion links etc.)

(alternative)

Statement 6

The first sentence should require verifiability and truth.

(signatures, discussion links etc.)

... and so on.

I hope that if correctly phrased using neutral language, this poll would tell us much more clearly what the community thinks about this policy. It will hopefully enable us to focus on things the community sees as a problem, rather than things individual editors see as a problem.—S Marshall T/C 14:10, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

IMHO good idea if you mean here/now. Might we call it a structured discussion for folks that have poll fatigue?  :-) Except I think it would be better to sort it out 90% here first. Under my idea, maybe a summary of it would go then into the editable workspace. North8000 (talk) 14:19, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

All I see is three people taking amongst themselves trying to change longstanding policy via cabal. Anything that changes core policy that is not a widely announced RFC is a failure and fully justified in reverting. The reality is that this is a mess because people don't understand the concept of WP:HORSEMEAT. This is unfixable until that concept is understood.--Cerejota (talk) 17:17, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

You assessment conflicts with reality; at the largest RFC about half of ~40 people wanted a major change. Also, why don't you dial back your nastiness and insults a few notches. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:43, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

About the proposed questions in the "An example" part: haven't we already asked the community those things during the RfCs held at WT:V over the past several months? Hasn't the community already told us that a sizeable number of editors are significantly concerned that "not truth" is misleading as to Wikipedia's commitment to accuracy, but that there isn't quite enough consensus for any change proposed so far? I think we know, ad nauseum, what the issues are. What we don't have is a specific proposal for new language that has the consensus of the community. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:40, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I'm rather hoping to attract more, and different, participation than the ~40 editors who've weighed in so far, and also to convert the many opinion statements we've seen into more usable data.—S Marshall T/C 18:43, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
  • (edit conflict) We've had zillions of proposals flying around, and I think that each proposer has a different set of experiences that guides their proposal. I was thinking that #1 would be a calmer, more methodical process to guide the narrowing to one or two proposals. And the second use of #1 is that a summary of it would be part of the rationale for the proposed change, which could be presented along with the proposed change. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:47, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Please don't take this the wrong way, because I intend it in a constructive spirit, but what it looks like isn't so much trying to get different participants, as trying to get a different result. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:03, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
What's your suggested alternative, Tryptofish?—S Marshall T/C 19:22, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Funny you should ask. Take another stroll through the archives. I wasted spent some effort proposing compromise wording, multiple versions thereof, and most of the objections came from those of you who felt it wasn't a big enough change. My alternative, thus, is to propose specific language for the page. The rest is just tedious talk. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:32, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
(Edit conflict) The 50/50 split was on complete removal of not truth, the most dramatic potential change, so I guess you could say that a different result could be the effect of a well designed compromise. Or, I guess, most would want a different result than the current situation which his no consensus for anything (including the status quo) and the resultant ongoing adventures on the talk page.  :-) North8000 (talk) 19:25, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Friendly advice: don't kid yourself into thinking that the community is more receptive to change than it really is. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:32, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Tryptofish, I may be wrong here but I seem to recall that every single one of your "compromises" included the words "not truth" in the first sentence. Did you propose anything that did not include those words?—S Marshall T/C 19:48, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Not that I recollect. I'm amused at how your question to me doubtless looks to neutral editors. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:22, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Do I gather that in your opinion, these "neutral editors" would be those who want to retain the phrase "not truth"?—S Marshall T/C 20:56, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I would say that neutral editors are those who are willing to consider proposals that retain "not truth" as well as the proposals that omit "not truth". Blueboar (talk) 21:03, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
By "neutral editors", I meant editors new to the discussion, who had not yet formed an opinion either way. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:10, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
If there are any such, then I'd be fascinated to know how my question looks to them, actually. But I'm not sanguine about the possibility of a previously uninvolved editor making it this far in without forming an opinion.

Let's go back to where Tryptofish said: Hasn't the community already told us that a sizeable number of editors are significantly concerned that "not truth" is misleading as to Wikipedia's commitment to accuracy, but that there isn't quite enough consensus for any change proposed so far? I don't disagree with this. Does anyone else?—S Marshall T/C 21:13, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

I'd say that's about right: Some people are worried about it, but not enough to change it.
I'd go further to say that nearly everyone agrees that you must never add unverifiable material (even if it is true), and you may not remove appropriate verifiable material merely because you say that it is not true (even if you are right). WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:17, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
If one looks past the red herring wording ("solely"/ "you say") that last statement says that there is a prohibition against removal, and (unqualified) that the fact that it is sourced is a force for inclusion. IMHO it is incorrect to say policy states that, and IMHO it shouldn't. North8000 (talk) 21:24, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that if something can be sourced (even if it's not currently) to a decent reliable source is a force for inclusion. However, that doesn't amount to a prohibition against removal. We can and should remove sourced information every minute of the day. That a source supports the material does not mean that we always have to include it. The source is a force for inclusion, but NPOV, SYNTH, and UCS are powerful forces for removal. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Okay, based on this feedback, here's my next try at a framework for the RFC.
Example RFC format #2

Option 1: No change: 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.

Users who support this version

(signatures)

Discussion

(link to talk page where discussion happens)

Option 2: Remove "not truth": The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source.

Users who support this version etc.

Option 3: Jimbo's rewrite: The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, i.e. whether readers and editors can independently or collaboratively check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether individual editors have a personal and subjective belief it is true.

Users who support this version etc.

Option 4: (etc)

This resembles a stripped down version of WP:V/First (cleaned up and with discussion moved elsewhere; status quo at the top, followed by the alternatives, listed in ascending order of variation (so the least change from the status quo is option 2, and the most change would be the last version).—S Marshall T/C 21:51, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

FYI... Your questions do seem to overlap the questions already posted at Wikipedia:Verifiability/First sentence... not quite the same, but similar. You might want to coordinate with what is there. Blueboar (talk) 22:04, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, that's roughly what I said in my final paragraph (immediately above your post). The differences have more to do with simplicity, structure and order than with content; I also think it would be more tractable to work with after the RFC because editors would be asked only to support one version.—S Marshall T/C 22:21, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
what if they want to support more than one version? Not all of the proposals are mutually exclusive. Blueboar (talk) 22:27, 30 August 2011 (UTC)
They'd be asked to support the version that most closely matches their view. The reason for this is to give us data we can work with. I mean, if it's, "60% of editors who responded support the status quo", then we've got an unequivocal answer and I shut up and go away. If it's "65% of editors who responded want change but to within normal confidence they're evenly split between Pesky's version and Jimbo's version" then we can start to see the shape of the version we should be working towards. But if editors are multi-voting, then that seriously complicates the analysis afterwards. Do you see why I think this way?—S Marshall T/C 22:36, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

I'd rather have some quiet discussion within the framework I proposed for a few weeks before we start voting again. I abstained from the other poll page as well. North8000 (talk) 23:21, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

I like the idea of something along these lines; it's certainly easier to navigate around, and I think easier for us to assess which suggestions have the most support. I just wish I could hand everyone a virtual beer or cup of tea in the meantime, just so we stop getting so ratty with each other! I know we're all sick and tired of these discussions, but I actually see a light at the end of the tunnel here - and it doesn't appear to be the guy with the flamethrower, coming the other way. Pesky (talkstalk!) 05:04, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
OK, how's this for a framework?:

Development Workspace[edit]

This is for development of:

  1. Develop list of the main issues that would be improved by a change related to the first sentence
  2. Develop primary and secondary proposal
  3. Presentation of the proposed changes with the rationale for them

Please feel free to edit (constructively add, delete, summarize) to develop the items under each topic area in this workspace. This is "work product development" area. The end result should be condensed, concise and refined. This is for development of a proposal which would get debated later after it is presented. Please put / move general discussion elsewhere. Changes made North8000 (talk) 12:48, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

- - - Beginning of editable workspace - - -

Develop list of the main issues that would be improved by a change related to the first sentence[edit]

  • It fosters often-accepted exclusion/inclusion related chants which are problematic and incorrect. Here are two groups of such chants, each introduced by an example:
  • "Our job as editors is to just summarize what reliable sources say". While at first glance, this sounds like it is just paraphrasing an important and accepted tenet of Wikipedia (WP:ver/wp:nor) upon closer look, this is actually a broad reaching statement which also encompasses different statements which, for example, rules out editor(s) discretion to leave material out of an article.
  • "Please do not remove sourced material" ; "undid removal of sourced material". These imply that policies say that the fact that something is sourced weighs in on that it be included. Or, the more extreme version which is that an item being sourced is a sufficient criteria to allow one person to force it to be in the article. While there are special cases where this is true (e.g. an npov-balancing situation per wp:npov) it is sometimes false.
  • It fosters statements that the falsity of material may not be discussed in a conversation about possible exclusion of that material.
  • It leaves the impression that Wikipedia does not seek accuracy (where such is relevant)

Develop primary and secondary proposal[edit]

Change the lede paragraph to:

The initial threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Note, however, that while verifiability is a requirement for inclusion, it is not a guarantee of inclusion. Wikipedia has other policies and guidelines that affect inclusion (especially whether specific material is included in a specific article.)

Add a new section (right after the lede) to deal with the issue of truth/untruth... as follows:

==Assertions of truth and untruth==

An editor's assertion that something is true is not enough for inclusion in Wikipedia. It does not matter how convinced you are that some bit of information is true; if the material is unverifiable, do not add it. In this context, Wikipedia requires "verifiability, not truth"'.

Assertions of untruth (ie an editor's assertion that some bit of information is untrue) are a more complicated issue. If the dubious information is not supported by a source, it should be challenged; but the question of how to challenge (whether to tag the information as needing a citation or to remove it immediately) depends on the nature of the information (see: WP:Burden, below). If the dubious information is supported by a reliable source, the problem should be discussed on the article talk page, with reference to policy concepts such as maintaining a neutral point of view (and especially the sub-concept of due weight). In many situations, a simple rewording to present the information as an opinion rather than as an accepted fact can resolve issues of verifiable but potentially untrue information.

Develop presentation of the proposed changes with the rationale for them[edit]

Place content here.

- - - End of editable workspace - - -

Discussion and comments[edit]

How about[edit]

"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truthiness—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true." Nightshift Bagel cart (talk) 07:44, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

  • The issue has been stating any form of "not truth" (or "not truthful" or "not truthfulness"), as meaning "falsehood" because the word "verifiability" implies a test for truth. It is not logically possible to combine verifiability and not truth. So, the current phrase has been viewed, by many people, as tricky wording, as if saying "verifiability, not verification" (similar to saying, "perfection, not perfectionism" or "accurate text, not accuracy"), or any similar quip which sounds like Yoda-speak. Many people want to remove "not truth" and possibly add other phrases, later, to note how some text cannot be proven true to life but only being true to sources. -Wikid77 (talk) 12:05, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
    • I think that the the core argument is that the ""not truth" statement does harm, is off-topic in wp:ver and is not needed for wp:ver. Wp:ver sets A requirement for inclusion of material, it has nothing to do with talking about "truth". North8000 (talk) 12:12, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • You're missing the point. The purpose of this policy is not to exclude truthiness. The purpose is to exclude unverifiable material, even if that unverifiable material is absolutely, 100%, indisputably, objectively, rationally true. The absolute minimum standard (="threshold") for inclusion is that we can verify the material in some published, reliable source. The absolute minimum standard for inclusion is not that the material is true (or "accurate", or any number of other near synonyms). WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:50, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Towards a deconstruction of truth in verifiability[edit]

Having arrived here by way of an RfC elsewhere, along with a suggestion to address the issue philosophically, I agree with all who argued this debate is repetitive and fractured, but not that the debate isn’t worth having. From that perspective I also agree with comments that current threads are unlikely to lead to consensus or resolution, and that a fresh start might be in order.

Epistemological and phenomenological problems[edit]

To that end, allow me to propose that the word ‘truth’ is an epistemological conundrum unlikely to be resolved here, particularly because it concerns centuries of philosophical debate about what ‘justifies’ a ‘belief’ as being ‘true’. Moreover, the word ‘truth’ used without a qualifier runs into the problem of phenomenological priorities – that is, the ‘direct experience’ of ‘truth’ by different people (the quote marks are mine to identify the words as intended in a philosophical sense).

From that perspective, if the word truth is to be included, it ought to be qualified in some way, perhaps along the lines of ‘perceived truth’ or ‘apparent truth’. However, these qualifiers do nothing to ameliorate the redundancy of the mention of truth in a guideline on verifiability. Truth and verifiability are taxonomically quite distinct and neither word relies on the other for their ordinary meanings.

So, for example, it is verifiable that Erich von Daeniken wrote that aliens have visited Earth, and this verifiability is independent from any values attached to the thesis, including those of truth or falsity. In that regard it is completely irrelevant whether we can say it is true that von Daeniken did propose the ancient astronauts/alien visitor theory; what matters is the verification, which can be presented without adding the value judgement that it is true. The judgement that it is true or false that von Daeniken made the claim is deferred to readers who can access the source by way of citation. This isn’t just semantics, it is entirely in keeping with the policy of maintaining a neutral point of view. All Wikipedia is thus claiming to do is to present someone else’s claims with a means of verifying that someone else made such claims, but no Wikipedia synthesis that these claims are actually true or false in any normal or special sense of those words.

Staying aloof from making value judgements about truth in this way also avoids the thorny issue of spiritual 'truths', which can never be ‘proven’ or ‘disproven’ in an encyclopaedic context.

The teleological problem[edit]

Because Wikipedia has stated objectives relating to building an encyclopaedia, not to defining and telling ‘truth’, the real issue appears to be how one can separate the apparently similar but actually entirely different propositions inherent in: a) citing a credible, verifiable source claiming something to be true; and b) stating on behalf of Wikipedia that the gist of a citation is true. That’s not as simple as it sounds. Consider the statement that ‘Japan lost WWII’. We may all believe this to be true, but without quoting a credible, verifiable source, this becomes a Wikipedia opinion that can come unstuck if just one other editor states as truth an opinion that the post-war economic miracle in Japan was actually a victory won by means of a military disaster. In other words, the concept of truth needs to be so heavily qualified in almost all circumstances that it appears very sound judgement by Wikipedia’s initial policy-makers to insist on verifiable, credible sources, not perceptions of truth, to present these kinds of assertions.

Semantic and semiotic problems[edit]

If the mention of truth were excluded from the verifiability policy, it is possible that some editors might argue some truths as self-evident regardless of verifiability. That can occur quite predictably according to differences in cultural, social and educational backgrounds that inform notions of truth, but also unpredictably according to the same criteria and some others, like personal agenda, including editors with sincere beliefs who do not understand or accept the difference between verifiability, truth and beliefs, or who may reject the existence of subjective truth as opposed to objective universal truth.

However, in the absence of a guideline making ‘truth’ an acceptable reason for making an assertion in an article, the integrity of the WP:V guideline would, in no way, be undermined if mention of ‘truth’ were omitted.

The practical policy problem[edit]

In order to avoid creating greater ambiguity than is presently perceived by some contributors here, it appears that minor changes to existing wordings should be avoided unless and until it can be established that the concept of truth is relevant at all to the concept of verifiability. If it is not, the words pertaining to it can be dropped without fear of losing valuable meaning.

If, however, the concept of truth is determined to be necessary to define verifiability or non-verifiability, contributors here might consider dealing with the precise definitions of truths that are to be validated/invalidated by an absence of verifiable, credible sources. That option begs the question whether a separate guideline is necessary to nail down all the common and specialised meanings of the word ‘truth’ to be either excluded or included in the concept of verifiability.

My personal two cents’ worth[edit]

It seems to me that no clear consensus (as opposed to statistically insignificant numbers of votes) has emerged to support any change at all. The simplest option appears to be to do nothing. But I also believe that the redundancy of mentioning truth in a guideline on verifiability logically suggests dropping any mention of truth at all. WP:V would be no less or more enforceable than it is now, and there are no guarantees that article talk page controversies would increase or decrease as a result of omitting a mention of truth.

My final comment is that anyone who seeks absolute certainty about how Wikipedia guidelines can resolve all possible conflict situations without the exercise of rationality in interpreting general guidelines by editors and administrators is looking for the kind of 'truth' and 'certainty' that doesn’t exist outside subjective belief systems. Making Wikipedia guidelines so complex that they are iron-clad isn’t worth the anticipation (but not reality) of avoiding many pointless, repeated arguments in article talk pages along the lines of ‘... but it’s true ...’.

My apologies for the length of this comment, but the subject matter is complex, and I did my best to keep it brief by resorting to what many philosophers would regard as gross generalisations or simplifications. I hope someone here will find at least some of this post useful in re-framing the problem. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 12:28, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I broadly concur, and although I haven't delved into the philosophy of "truth" quite that far, I've said many similar things earlier in the debate. Interestingly, I've used the von Däniken example to make a similar point that you do. I don't think it's helpful to go far into the philosophy of truth here because "not truth" is, fundamentally, not a philosophical position. "Not truth" is wanted as a stick with which to beat the unworthy. But apart from this, I take Peterstrempel's whole post as support for my position.—S Marshall T/C 12:47, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • It does skip discussing one of the biggest problems is that it often mis-construed to force inclusion of material. North8000 (talk) 14:26, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I also like Peter's post.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:34, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think I like it (it is a complicated analysis)! I do not see the inclusion of "excessive" material a problem from a policy POV - it can always be handled by spinning off a new article, if the material is encyclopedic, or by appealing to FRINGE and WEIGHT if it is not. I think that the problems almost always boil down to this: on many topics (especially in the social sciences and humanities) we do not have many editors who are equally knowledgeable about the leading research on the topic, and who are equally committed to policy. I am a huge believer in numbers: I swear that if you can find ten editors who really believe in NPOV, V, and NOR, and who are highly knowledgeable on the current research on the topic, given time they can work out among themselves any problems and produce a fine article. The problem is that on so many topics we have only a few people who fit these criteria. When these criteria do not apply, you either have a completely crappy article, or an article with many virtues and also many edit conflicts and frustrated editors. And often times one of these editors thinks they can resolve the problem by changing policy. In fact the policies are fine, they just work best when many knowledgeable editors are working on an article. Ultimately our problem is still failure to recruit a large number of people with diverse expertise. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:28, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • This is all very nice, but mostly irrelevant. WP:V sets a minimum standard for inclusion. "Being true"—even if every single person in the world agrees that the given material is true, by every single possible definition of the word—is not that standard. For example: I'm typing this message on a MacBook Air laptop. There are zero definitions of "truth" in which that statement is false. But we're not including that absolutely, 100%, objectively, indisputably true information in any article, because that information is completely unverifiable. Zero published reliable sources report this true fact. Therefore, this true fact is ineligible for inclusion in Wikipedia. The threshold for inclusion is verifiability. The threshold for inclusion is not truth. Merely being true is not sufficient. Merely being verifiable is the first step towards inclusion. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:57, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • No, look, this is a major part of the problem we have with these discussions. WhatamIdoing: everyone else is talking about how this policy ought to read. You're just telling us in very emphatic terms how it reads now. How is that helpful?—S Marshall T/C 19:00, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • So you think that the community wants to include completely unverifiable material merely because it's true? I don't. I think that the existing policy accurately communicates the community's real policy: zero unverifiable material, and no "special exceptions" from this rule, even for material that is indisputably true. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:12, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • No. Stop putting words into my mouth, WhatamIdoing. Reply to what we're actually saying here, not what you think we're saying after one reading. Read — understand — think — respond.—S Marshall T/C 19:21, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Let's try this is smaller words: I am not "telling us in very emphatic terms how it reads now". I am telling you in very emphatic terms what the Real Policy According to the Community's Actual Practices and Beliefs actually is. The real policy actually is "100% of material must be verifiable. Whether the material is true does not affect this requirement".
  • No you aren't. You don't speak for the Community with a capital C. You're telling us what your Actual Practices and Beliefs actually are. The real policy actually says "Whether the material is true does not affect this requirement", and we're discussing whether this is what it should say.—S Marshall T/C 19:42, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, you are repeating the part that EVERYBODY agrees with (that verifiability is absolutely required for inclusion) and are implying that it is being debated/contested. Is there really such a misunderstanding? North8000 (talk) 20:50, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Apparently: S Marshall says that this is only my beliefs and practices, not the community's. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:27, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not stepping into that one  :-). But just to avoid debating something that we all agree on, EVERYBODY here agrees with verifiability being an absolute requirement for inclusion. North8000 (talk) 21:41, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I think S Marshall and North8000 are trying to say the dispute is about: "must it also be true—not just verifiable (attributable), but also true?" (S Marshall and North, I wish you would just say that, and avoid the meta arguments).
But we can't know, for the most part, whether what our sources say is true. Did six million Jews die in the Holocaust? I wasn't there, so I can't know for sure. I believe they did because people I trust, who study in institutions I trust, say so. That is what we call education, and what Wikipedia calls "verifiability." We don't have to study each thing personally. We don't have to work things out from first principles. We don't impose our (mostly uneducated) personal opinions on topics. We identify the best sources, and we tell readers what those sources say.
What we also do is use common sense. So if the professor of mathematics at Cambridge says "2 + 2 = 5," we know he has misspoken, and we ignore it. Or if the NYT says someone was born in 1950, but they tell us 1949, we go with what the subject says, unless something hangs on it. But apart from issues like that, for the most part we follow what the best sources say, even when we disagree with it. That is the essence of the policy, and it is strongly supported by the community, notwithstanding the (in my view, unrepresentative) dust storm some people have kicked up on this page. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 21:47, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Yes. I think we've both clearly said in previous discussions that WP:V should require that everything added to Wikipedia be attributable. My position is that this is all it should say. The version of the first sentence that I prefer would be: "A criterion for inclusion on Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source." My position is that it is unnecessary, contentious, and potentially misleading to mention truth at all. (The change from "The threshold" to "A criterion" is a discussion for another day, I think.)

    I do not agree that the current version is strongly supported by the community. The community does not have a single voice on this, and there are a wide range of views. Bizarrely, it's Jimbo who advocates what I think is the most extreme version ("verifiability and truth"). I believe most editors are to be found somewhere on a continuum between Jimbo's and SlimVirgin's preferred versions, and I think there are significant numbers of editors who are yet to decide where they stand.

    I understand why you want a policy to contain "not truth", but I do not think it belongs in a content policy. There may be a place for it in a policy about conduct.—S Marshall T/C 22:14, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

This is one of the reasons this discussion has been so frustrating, because arguments are not addressed. As I've said before, we need "not truth," in part because of the ambiguity of the word "verifiability" (and in part because it makes people take notice).
The former is why we got rid of V entirely in 2007 or thereabouts, and merged V and NOR into Wikipedia:Attribution. It was great, worked brilliantly, people liked it, it was policy for a few weeks. Then Jimbo arrived to revert it all, arguing that V, NOR, and RS are separate "concepts," and must be separate polices. I was never able to understand what he meant, because clearly they are the same idea (tell us what sources say, not what you believe). So here we are, stuck with the word "verifiability," which without "not truth" is misleading (veritas, etc). SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:31, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I blinked when I read that because you seem to be saying that if we renamed the policy to, err, say, WP:SOURCEABILITY or something, then we wouldn't need "not truth". Is that what you're saying?—S Marshall T/C 22:44, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
For the few weeks that WP:ATT was policy, it started with: "Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a publisher of original thought. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true. Wikipedia is not the place to publish your own opinions, experiences, or arguments."
So you would still disapprove of that. But with the word "verifiability," it becomes even more important to stress that we're using the word a little differently from the way the world uses it, where it's normally associated with truth-seeking. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:59, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Progress: One aspect of a route towards consensus might involve renaming the policy.—S Marshall T/C 00:13, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I wrote an article once about a contentious issue that I was going to take to FAC. To check that it was decent, I wrote to a professional historian who specialized in that area, a well-known one, and I asked him to read it. He very kindly not only read it, but sent me a long report about it. At several points, he said "remove this, remove that, it's false." I explained that reliable sources (in this case academics on the other "side" of the debate) had said it, and I told him about NPOV, and that I would carefully attribute it, not state it in Wikipedia's voice. "But it's false," he replied. I said yes, but it has been published by good sources. "But they have misunderstood the research," he replied. "Why do you want to include things that aren't true?"
This is the difference between WP and other publications. We have NPOV, which means publishing material that one side sees as false, and which they may be quite right to see as false. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:42, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Ah, now we're coming to what I see as the heart of this. It's an issue that I've addressed here before but it's never really been bottomed out because, at about this point in the conversation, we always seem to get distracted by an accusation against me or a peremptory demand that I shut up and get off the talk page.

    For the sake of being brief I'm going to coin the word "iawtmac", which is an acronym for "In accordance with the mainstream academic consensus". I think that what the historian did, in your correspondence, was to ask you to remove material that he didn't feel was iawtmac.

    My position is that one of a Wikipedian's tasks, when writing an article on a contentious topic, is to identify what's iawtmac and what isn't. Then the Wikipedian should present each view according to their weight. For example, material that's iawtmac should be presented in the simple indicative, and material that isn't gets the reportative. If there's no mainstream academic consensus then everything gets the reportative.

    What would this mean in practice? It means that we say "Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon", but "Mr X denies that the moon landings ever happened." We do not say, "Mr X says that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon" -- the mainstream academic consensus doesn't need the reportative -- and we do not say, "The moon landings never happened", because things that aren't iawtmac do need the reportative.

    There's more to this, where I go on to discuss the relevance of this to the concept of truth and the relationship between WP:V and the many policies and guidelines that touch on fringe theories and due weight. However, I should stop here and ask: Do you agree up to this point?—S Marshall T/C 08:35, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I don't entirely follow your point. He wanted me to remove material that he said was false, not true, not accurate, not in accordance with reality, factually incorrect. It had nothing to do with consensus. It was his view that it was wrong, and he couldn't understand why I wanted to include material that was wrong, simply because an academic had published it. That is, he disagreed with "verifiability, not truth," because he didn't want to adopt a neutral point of view. So this was not a question of UNDUE and how to interpret it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:32, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You may view this as academic now because I've modified my position somewhat. Or you may not; I don't know.

I understand what your historian was saying. I was responding to you where you said: We have NPOV, which means publishing material that one side sees as false, and which they may be quite right to see as false. My post was largely about how it's appropriate to publish material that's seen as false. I wanted to see if we agreed on that, before proceeding towards ways of clarifying the policy.—S Marshall T/C 19:03, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Well, that's a discussion for UNDUE; that's not about V, so I'm not really sure what you're asking. I can only speak as an editor here. I find the attempt to judge how much of an issue to include, based on UNDUE, quite pointless (70 percent of good sources say X, so 70 percent of our article should also say X, which is just impossible to work out). It's an attempt to approach writing as an algorithm, and writing isn't like that; or an attempt to apply a science solution to a humanities problem.
So what I do when I am writing is (a) try to use my common sense; (b) try to use good sources; and (c) take a position as an educator, not as a censor. That is, I want my readers to know what I know. I don't hide things from them (unless it really is nonsense, or is harmful in some way). So I take the view that, if an academic has expressed an opinion, I report it. The historian I mentioned above—who knew a great deal about the issue at hand—took the view that, because he knew that some of the other academic's material was false, he couldn't see the point of troubling our readers with it. That's a completely respectable position when you're writing academic history, but not when you're editing Wikipedia. Does that answer your question, or am I still missing the point? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 19:42, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── No, I don't think this can be purely a matter for UNDUE, because V says "not truth" and "not truth" needs to be qualified. Firstly because in practice Wikipedians are allowed to add anything they can source, and removing anything that's sourced is inappropriate and disruptive; secondly because no information is better than false or misleading information; and thirdly because we must get the article right. These disparate and arguably self-contradictory thoughts are on separate pages, which makes the relationship between Wikipedian policies horribly hard to grasp. You could probably get an advanced degree in Wikipedian policies and guidelines, if you could find anyone who understood the subject well enough to grade your paper. While V does remain on a separate page it can't just say "verifiability not truth" and leave it at that; I believe very strongly that it needs qualification and context here, and immediately after the problem phrase. Clarifying it on a separate page is not okay.—S Marshall T/C 20:02, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

It doesn't say "verifiability, not truth," and leave it there. It says: "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." And the lead explains (my bold): "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."
And it doesn't say, but all the policies do nevertheless require it: "Use common sense." Any policy or guideline interpreted in a black-and-white way without common sense will fall apart at the seams.
I think the problem is you want V to deal with NPOV issues, and vice-versa, but the truth is that editors must understand them both, then use their common sense and their education, and not be DICKs. So we don't pretend that Santa exists just because some newspapers say he does for a laugh at Christmas; or if we do it, we understand we're having a laugh too. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The change I want is a common sense one. Really. You're right when you say encyclopaedia writers are educators, and educators have a basic duty to the educatee. There's no point in writing an encyclopaedia unless we're trying to tell the truth. Or rather, if there is a point, it's a rather sinister one that I don't really want to contemplate.

Look, all I want is for a policy that doesn't encourage editors to fill the encyclopaedia full of lies in its first sentence. That's all. I've been called all kinds of names and I've had to deal with all kinds of silly and unpleasant behaviour because of it: attempts to isolate me, to exclude me, to shut me up and make me go away, anything rather than just talk to me about it. It's taken me eight months of solid work to achieve a good faith dialogue that lasts more than about three posts! On occasion, I've been convinced that it's impossible to get any kind of consensus to change this flawed policy at all and the only way to fix it would be to try to sneak changes in un-noticed. I genuinely don't understand why you're all making it so hard. Why should it be like climbing Everest just to make this tiny positive change to a policy?

There are people here who genuinely think the truth is a democracy. There are people who believe that the way you get to a neutral point of view is to take an average of all the sources, and we're doing nothing to help them. I refuse to believe that out of all the people participating in this discussion we can't find a better first sentence than the one we have.—S Marshall T/C 21:24, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I don't want an encyclopedia full of lies, either, but I do not believe that this sentence, as currently written, actually has the effect of encouraging editors to fill Wikipedia with lies. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:28, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I know you don't believe it. You've often said that it's only me and North8000 who think this is a problem. But I'm afraid the ostrich strategy isn't going to cut it here.—S Marshall T/C 21:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Just to reply to your issue about the difficulty of getting a dialogue going, I think it was extraordinarily difficult to do that on the other page, with certain editors posting a great deal, and tangents being thrown up constantly. Having a focused, centralized discussion has helped a lot, in my view.
Again, I agreed with your sentence above, up to a point: "You're right when you say encyclopaedia writers are educators, and educators have a basic duty to the educatee. There's no point in writing an encyclopaedia unless we're trying to tell the truth." Yes to the first sentence, no to the second. I want to educate by telling readers what other good sources have said. I don't know whether it's the truth. That's what education is all about: "A said X, and B said Y, and C synthesized those observations and came up with Z." I'm not being an extreme relativist here. This just strikes me as so obvious, that we don't know, and can't know, what's true about most things. So we choose good, interesting, appropriate sources, and we tell people what those sources have published. Why do you even need to worry about which one of those sources is most correct? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:00, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • What this is telling me is that your expertise is in arts, humanities and politics. Or some area of human knowledge where it really is appropriate for an educator to throw up her hands and say, "What is truth?" But the fact that it's appropriate in the fields you normally edit, SV, doesn't make it appropriate everywhere. We have articles on mathematics and formal logic: subjects where, in some cases, there is an absolute truth. Subjects where any compromise between the true answer and the false answer is another kind of false answer. We also have translations, which can be right or wrong. We have simple matters of definition: I can show you excellent sources that say Pluto is a planet, but it isn't. In short, some things really are black and white.

    I can't help thinking that "Verifiability, not truth" is aimed at certain difficult cases concerning religious beliefs, climate change, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, etc. rather than at a good faith newbie editor.—S Marshall T/C 23:09, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Break[edit]

Common sense is what we way too often don't do at all because a dispute may have to be escalated all the way up to Arbcom in order to reach consensus that it is even allowed to apply common sense. No, statements do not have to be verifiable and true to be stated as fact. But a crucial principle, denied by a non-negligible fraction of our editorship, is that they have to be verifiable and not known to be false to be stated as fact or (if there are contradictory sources) valid hypotheses. The extremists claim that we cannot possibly know whether Santa Claus exists or not, and that we have no business deciding that a source which appears to claim he does isn't actually serious. Apparently that would be original research, and we would betray Wikipedia's core principles if we allowed it. Hans Adler 22:17, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I wish you'd stop using the Santa Claus example as though it's typical. People get silly about these things. A more mainstream example, one you've not mentioned before, would be helpful, if one exists. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:35, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
How about Sam Blacketer controversy? I asked you about this here but you haven't replied yet. There was a great number of editors who insisted that the fact that we knew the Register reporting to be totally wrong didn't matter at all, and that we were obliged to libel Sam Blacketer under his real name. The extremists were so strong that it took about a week to sort this out and get the article deleted.
There have also been numerous smaller incidents that I can't find any more. As a general rule, "verifiability, not truth" in its extreme interpretation (ignoring "threshold", or insising verifiability is "the [only] threshold") is used to prevent discussions about accuracy, plausibility and quality of sources. It is used so routinely to cut off discussions with fringers that people active in that area don't think twice before applying it whenever they run out of arguments, which sometimes happens because their position is untenable.
Santa Claus and Sam Blacketer are pure examples where we have people unequivocally shitting on truth by insisting that we must represent something as true (or debatable, in the case of Santa Claus), when no informed editor in their right mind can ignore the fact that it's simply false. But more often the problem is combined inseparably with misinterpretation or ignorance of other policies. For example the discussion at WT:No original research/Archive 56#quote-diving is about a problem that also involved claims that an extrapolated "statement" (which was no such thing) by the NSF contradicting the previous and much more formal paragraph of the same NSF document was of no relevance whatsoever for the question whether the editor's extrapolation was done correctly. Hans Adler 23:37, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
One that's recently cropped up on Jimbo's talk page is Talk:Bože pravde#God, give us justice. Are there any examples showing "not truth" actually helping?—S Marshall T/C 22:49, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall, how would the proposed changes in wording have prevented someone making the same argument on Talk:Bože pravde#God, give us justice? "Not whether editors think it is true" (and variations) would still have supported the argument. The problem there is the proper use of reliable sources, and the misunderstanding of the word "threshold", neither of which you are considering changing in policy texts. As for examples of "not truth", why don't you wonder back through the archives of talk:September 11 attacks or any of our other fringe-plagued topic areas? Or alternatively, you could search through talk pages and see whether there are far, far, far more problems with people trying to introduce unsourced stuff on the grounds that it's true than there are people putting things in even though they (should bloody well) know them to be false. It really seems to me that every problem that has been cited as an example of why we need to change is about how we judge the reliability of sources. All the examples are "what do we do if a source is wrong"? The answer should be that we don't use it, not that we give the impression of loosening the rules for what can go in.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:23, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • As I repeated on this talk page yesterday, very shortly before your post, my preferred version of the first sentence reads: "A criterion for inclusion on Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source." Please note that (a) this doesn't include any variations of "not whether editors think it is true" and (b) does not include the word "threshold".—S Marshall T/C 07:39, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Apologies - I missed that version (you've actually only said it once before on this page); I was referring to Jimbo's version above. Nevertheless, there is nothing in your proposed sentence that would have solved the issue at Talk:Bože pravde#God, give us justice, or in the Sam Blacketer controversy, or the Santa Claus case, all of which are cases of people trying to insert material that is - in their view - verifiable in sources. (The issue in each case is the use of RS, not the principle of using RS rather than editorial belief). In the talkpage search link I gave you, did you find any examples of where the "not truth" part of "verifiability, not truth" was doing damage to the encyclopedia? At the moment it really feels like we're talking about imaginary problems with this sentence, not real ones, or at the most a need to look at WP:RS. I am prepared to be convinced, but I simply haven't seen anything remotely convincing. I sense that I am not alone in this.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 08:28, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • My preferred version would not solve those issues, but it would do less to inflame them than the current version, because it wouldn't empower editors to add falsehoods from otherwise-reliable sources. And on the subject of falsehoods from otherwise-reliable sources, I'd like to ask you three questions. First, have you heard the phrase "No information is preferable to false or misleading information" applied to BLPs? Second, if you have, do you agree that it's a view that enjoys widespread consensus? And third, can you see any conflict between this clear prohibition against falsehood and the first sentence of WP:V?—S Marshall T/C 08:51, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You force me to ask the question again - where is the evidence that the sentence inflames disputes? Even putting together the examples people have suggested illustrate problems, it would be a vanishingly small number of cases (and for such small numbers we have IAR). As for your questions - yes, yes, and no. The issue of truth or falsehood of statements in reliable sources (as that's the only material we deal in) is part of WP:RS and WP:RSN. We operate extra precaution with BLPs because we know that being wrong could prove costly in a variety of ways. Journalists who do deal with truth operate under the same principle. It's nothing to do with our philosophy and all to do with lawyers. I understand you want all "mainstream" views presented as truth. The only way we get to establish the mainstream consensus is by examining RS, not by asserting that something is true. Allowing "truth" in instead of basing matters on the preponderance of RS will just alienate editors ("You're wrong" is much worse to hear than "almost no one in the appropriate field agrees with you.").VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 10:14, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The issue of evidence is a rather fraught one. Did you see my conversation with WhatamIdoing in the archives? She asked for evidence of a problem, and I asked, if I produce evidence, will you change your mind? She hedged and backpedalled, from which I deduced that it was pointless to produce evidence, because when we produce it, each piece of evidence will always be declared to be an exception or an ignorable special case. I see that I was quite right about that. This is why I've taken to reversing the question whenever I encounter it, and asking for diffs to show the "not truth" phrase has ever actually helped someone. (In the unlikely event of such a diff emerging, I would of course be free to call it an exception or an ignorable special case.)

When you say, "I understand you want all 'mainstream' views presented as truth," I have not said that and it is not what I want. For the purposes of this policy, I don't believe it's helpful to define or discuss truth at all. Where there's a mainstream academic consensus, I want the mainstream academic consensus presented in the indicative, and everything else presented in the reportative. Where there's no mainstream academic consensus, I want everything presented in the reportative.

You also mention about the reliability of sources, and my position has always been that this is does not get around the problem of "truth", because when we decide which sources are the most reliable, we're using "reliable" as a synonym for "true". This business of talking about "reliability" and "accuracy" doesn't get around the question of truth at all. It just inserts a semantic layer that conceals the question of truth without addressing it.—S Marshall T/C 11:26, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

When an editor says to me "the issue of evidence is a rather fraught one" as a reason for not providing evidence, I have to say that alarm bells start ringing, as they would for you if you were disputing with someone who said that. In debating WP:V changes, several people have asked for evidence that there is a problem, and very little at all has been produced. Even you yourself admit that your own changes would not solve the problems in these few examples cited. You also don't appear to have considered any evidence I've presented to you, so I'd be careful if I were you of complaining about other editors' openness to evidence. Anyway, I am totally open to being persuaded by evidence. I do believe that the current formulation is helpful (it helped me, and as I showed, editors often cite it to combat the inclusion of unsourced, often POV material), but that has to be balanced against any harm it causes. What I would like to see is several examples of discussions where (1) someone has cited WP:V "verifiability, not truth" as a way of defending patently false material such that (2) the encyclopedia has been harmed or we've lost users who would otherwise have made a good contribution (no POV total nutjobs). Let's say ten diffs as a round number and I'll start to see your point. Promise. I believe that others would too. It's a chronic problem, and you've been looking at it for months: it should be easy to find ten examples from ten separate disputes. (Of course, it doesn't count if the source being used is plainly a rubbish source for the information (non-RS, the Daily Mail for quantum physics etc) or is being misused (the source does not support the content, or it's obviously a spoof, such as April Fool jokes.)

As for presenting mainstream consensus in the indicative - this is the same as presenting it as true. That's what the indicative mood does. As far as I can see we already do this. Classic fringe-plagued cases such as Global warming, September 11 attacks, Barack Obama's birthplace and Evolution all look pretty indicative-ish to me with the facts and reportative-ish with the fringe. I'm a little concerned because you clearly think we don't do this enough: can you give examples of articles where we should be making a division between consensus and fringe and we don't?

I don't understand your comments about using reliable as (in a way) a synonym for true, or at least I don't understand what you see as problematic. It's more than a semantic layer, it's a mechanism to distance us from trying to make truth claims without support (which is what "V, not T" is about), and an absolutely vital mechanism for dealing with genuine disputes over content. There is nothing in policy to say that a demonstrably incorrect or problematic source cannot be excluded from use. Indeed, it happens all the time. You should have a look at WP:RSN. VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 13:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Okay, let me put this "evidence" business for you in a slightly different way. You've asked for evidence. We've given you Sam Blacketer and Santa Claus. You don't think those count. We've given you a Serbian song. You don't think that counts either. There's an emerging pattern here of us producing evidence and you finding a reason to reject it. Rather than continue with this, I've asked you to show a diff of the "not truth" formulation actually doing something positive. The ball is now in your court. Please do not ask me for evidence again until you have shown me a diff that supports your position.

    On the use of the indicative and reportative, my position has always been that this is what we already do. From what I've seen, I don't feel that there's a problem with our practice in this area. What I've said is that I think WP:V should document this practice.

    On the issue of the reliability of sources, my position is that "reliable" is a synonym for "likely to be true", and that this makes a bit of a mockery of "verifiability not truth". When we're making editorial judgments about the reliability of sources -- which is the main job of an encyclopaedist! -- a much better summary of what we're trying to achieve is "truth through verifiability". But for the avoidance of doubt I do not think it's a good idea to mention "truth" in WP:V at all.—S Marshall T/C 14:43, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

There's no rule that says your evidence is good evidence just because you say it is; at the very least you could reply to my criticisms of these examples, on how I have misunderstood them. It's not as if there's a mountain of examples to deal with. You asked for evidence supporting my view, and i will happily oblige: Here are some examples, taken from the search link I gave you that you have so far refused to acknowledge. They're not definitive, just the first ones I came across through that search that were simple enough to understand. These editors seem to find it useful in explaining why sourcing is important, and their view won the day. Of course, one doesn't prove a positive, just provide as much evidence as one can for it, but this is a start:
I found these in thirty minutes, during which I didn't find much of anything where someone knowingly or successfully included material that was false through citing "verifiability, not truth". It's because I see such uses above of "verifiability, not truth" frequently enough that I believe the phrase is useful, in addition to my own experience of encountering it as a new user. It's difficult to empathise with your viewpoint without more examples that aren't actually a matter for RSN.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:58, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Thank you, I found that helpful and productive. I'd tend to disregard those examples in which the use of "verifiability not truth" brought the discussion to an end, because there's no way to characterise it as a positive outcome; the interlocutor may well have just decided Wikipedia is tolerant of lies, and quit in disgust. But I was struck by the fact that diffs 3 shows "verifiability not truth" being quoted, and a subsequent positive outcome being achieved. I would also characterise diff 6 as a positive outcome, since an undesirable went away. Diff 9 also seems interesting to me, in that the user quoting "verifiability not truth" then goes on to draw conclusions about the mainstream scholarly opinion that are nowhere stated in WP:V, although I think they should be.

    Based on those diffs I modify my position: I am now prepared to consider retaining "not truth", provided that subsequent language clarifies that "verifiability not truth" does not make it acceptable to introduce known falsehoods into the encyclopaedia, except for the purpose of showing them false. I also think that "not truth" needs to be compared and contrasted with that phrase from BLP that already enjoys consensus: "No information is better than false or misleading information".—S Marshall T/C 16:31, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Progress: S Marshall modifies his position somewhat.—S Marshall T/C 16:31, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I very much appreciate your move. I agree with your observations on some of those diffs - it certainly is difficult to tell. It was a useful exercise for me, too. After a night's sleep and seeing blue boar's proposal, I've realised that what I would like to see is the phrase appear as the keynote of a subsection somewhere on the policy page. It doesn't have to be in the lede, and perhaps it is too aggressive to be the first thing people read. It's certain editors that need to be pointed to it, not all. A blue link to that subsection would do just fine. I believe it should be in policy, as essays for the POV warrior, are just essays. As I wrote below in response to blue boar's proposal, I would like an emphasis in WP:V that reliable sources are our path to avoiding false and misleading content. I do see the value in reassuring readers that we do care about accuracy.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:19, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
And with that small modification of your position, I do believe that we've achieved harmony of purpose.  :)—S Marshall T/C 09:23, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────If I might be permitted to re-state an observation I made above, whether or not there is a relationship between a verifiable source and 'truth' is irrelevant. Quoting a credible source from a neutral point of view makes it clear Wikipedia does not endorse the point of view of the source, but does acknowledge the source as credible. Conversely, still maintaining a neutral point of view and citing a credible source to say something that has the hallmarks of not being true (2+2=5) still means we are merely mentioning what a credible source says, not endorsing that view. As editors (and administrators), I would expect that we all have some regard for verifiability in the context of other guidelines, like neutral point of view, and not giving undue weight to one particular set of credible sources (such as those explaining minority views).

It is simply impossible to resolve the present debate in any absolutely foolproof way that avoids the need for rationally argued support or opposition for perceived breaches of Wikipedia guidelines, and the entire trope that encyclopaedia articles ought to be 'true' is irrelevant in this regard, if only because truth is such an ambiguous term that defining it for each source cited would require more words than the average article on any given topic. Is it not good enough to present a balanced exegesis of received knowledge on a topic without also vouching for truth and untruth? Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 22:20, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Answering Slim Virgin's question, here is what I'm overall advocating, distilled to it's bare, precise logical essence: Wp:Ver should not say anything that:

  1. gets commonly interpreted as weighing in on the side of INCLUSION of material.
  2. implies or gets commonly interpreted as saying that accuracy (where the word is relevant) is not an objective of Wikipedia.

In essence that it stick to what wp:ver is about and not weigh in on those two unrelated topics. That's IT. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:49, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Do you actually agree with the statement, "The threshold (=absolute minimum standard) for inclusion in Wikipedia is not whether the material is true"? That is, do you agree that the threshold for inclusion is something other than truth? WhatamIdoing (talk)
YES, I agree 100% There are a few slightly ambiguous terms in there, but I think we are both reading them the same way. Verifiability is an absolute requirement, with no exceptions. North8000 (talk) 00:27, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
And yet you object to the policy actually refuting a common misconception among newbies by directly stating that "The threshold for inclusion is not truth"? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:47, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that wording it that way (i.e. "not truth") is a bad idea because has caused a lot of problems because it has spawned widely accepted myths and false chants in areas unrelated to it's intended meaning. But I am open to a compromise which leaves it in but adds explanation to mitigate the problems which it is causing. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 01:02, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I've now seen only three actual examples suggested - one of which is plainly silly (Santa Claus) and for which WP:IAR is perfect, and two where the argument is not about WP:V, but about the status of reliable sources and the notability of the topic. This does not suggest that there are widespread myths about wikipedia because of WP:V. I have only ever heard criticism of wikipedia based on content that was not only wrong, but blatantly vandalism. There really ought to be more actual examples of the problems caused by verifiability not truth. Here is a search of article talk pages for the phrase "verifiability, not truth". Having looked at the first page of results, I see a lot of people defending the encyclopedia against unsourced fandom and POV warriors. I don't see people using Verifiability, not truth to include patently false material. If you are genuinely open to a compromise, might I suggest that the real issue is over judging which sources are reliable and for what. As such, WP:V needs to strengthen its definition of what a reliable source is, and how our methods of judging reliable sources are the key to accuracy, not our own views of what is truthful. How about this at the end of the first paragraph:
"A reliable source Is one that, according to our policy, is reliably accurate and appropriately authoritative for the content in question."
This would reassure the reader that accuracy is important to us, and that we have our systems in place to achieve that. Would this be acceptable?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 01:45, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Not sure it would be everyone's ideal, but it does appear helpful.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 13:06, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Break 2[edit]

I've listed some of the most common mythical chants above under the heading "Develop list of the main issues that would be improved by a change related to the first sentence" You need not look outside of Wikipeda, they are chanted thousands of times per day within Wikipedia.

Regarding a compromise, just getting:

  • "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy" and
  • "Verifiability is a requirement for inclusion, not a reason for inclusion."

Somewhere in the lead would do it for me. North8000 (talk) 01:58, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Your first "chant" about people thinking that they are not able to leave things out if they're verifiable does not appear to be connected to the changes you want to make; it's also a matter dealt with in NPOV, DUE, etc, and is not a matter for WP:V, unless you want "threshold" changed to another word easier for people to understand. Your second chant is "Do not remove sourced material". What's that got to do with "not truth"? In my experience it's usually followed by "...without explanation." Look at how it's used. Here's a talkpage search for "Do not remove sourced material". First hit - used to defend misuse of sources, not bad sources. Second hit - do not remove without discussion/explanation (DNRWE/D). Third hit - DNRWE/D. Fourth - complaint about POV editor replacing sourced with unsourced material. Fifth: DNRWE/D. Sixth - in response to POV attempt to prevent German historical revisionists being presented as historical revisionists. Seventh - DNRWD/E. Eighth - DNRWD/E. Ninth - DNRWD/E. Tenth: argument over WP:DUE and NPOV, not whether the material is "true" or not. This last plea not to remove sourced policy is a misuse - but it's got nothing to do with "not truth". It's just important to stress that not everything that is verifiable needs to go in. It's the word "threshold" that might need changing, if you think too many editors' command of English is too weak to deal with it. In any case, "do not remove sourced material" really does not seem to be a myth based upon the first sentence of WP:V. You might want to remove it from your list. Did you have a look at the talkpage search on "verifiability, not truth"? Did you find much to disturb you there?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:42, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm in a hurry at the moment, but briefly, "not truth" is constantly used to say that the falsity of a statement may not be discussed when debating removing or leaving out a piece of material. Including to force inclusion of a piece of material solely because it is sourced. This sounds abstract/unrelated at first glance, but I think not. I think that it actually covers about 80% of what this whole first sentence debate is over. North8000 (talk) 11:01, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Again, you've stated your subjective, personal belief that "not truth" is constantly used to cause problems with people inserting false content, and yet again you've failed to provide anyone with any means of verifying that statement despite requests. Do you see any irony in that?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 13:48, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
A while back I suggested the addition of something along the lines of: "While verifiability is necessary for inclusion, it is not a guarantee of inclusion - Wikipedia has other policies and guidelines that affect inclusion." To me this addition would resolve the issue of "but its verifiable, so it must go in". It would tell editors that passing verifiability is not the be-all-and-end-all of inclusion, and prompt them to go read our other policies and guidelines. Blueboar (talk) 13:53, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
A helpful suggestion.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:14, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar's suggestion would be an improvement on the present policy because it clarifies that "The threshold for inclusion" does not mean that verifiability alone is sufficient for inclusion. The phrase "verifiability not truth" is a different issue. In any case, I support Blueboar's suggestion. --Bob K31416 (talk) 14:25, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I like the "not a guarantee of inclusion". It is a restatement of WP:IINFO, and it applies to both verifiable material that doesn't belong (for reasons of other policies, like DUE and SYNTH and NOT and editorial judgment and appropriateness to the article) and REFSPAM. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:45, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
All three content policies already say that they must be read in conjunction, because they work together, so I'd have no problem emphasizing that point in the final paragraph of the lead, as was made clear some weeks ago (in fact, Kotniski recently weakened that connection by removing the word "harmony," which I think should be restored). But I would tweak Blueboar's suggestion to say "may not be a guarantee of inclusion," because verifiability (whether material is attributable to a reliable source) often is a sufficient condition for inclusion.
The problem is that every suggestion like this has been rejected by the people who want to remove "verifiability, not truth" entirely. Or they agree to it, but make clear it's an interim "baby step," as North8000 put it. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:43, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
SV can you please clarify whether the problem is that really other people will disagree, not you, or are you in fact one of the most important of "the people"? Where do you stand? Can you sympathize with what other people are saying or not? You often seem to claim to be speaking for others, implying that you might have another opinion, but that makes discussion complex. Concerning the first part of your post you make a point but I am not sure where you are going with it. If something is verifiable but not notable, it is not enough? I don't see the problem you are trying to fix in Blueboar's proposal.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:02, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
In discussions like this, SV is usually primarily concerned about maintaining our commitment to presenting minority viewpoints fairly. However, I doubt that she would, after thinking about it, actually claim that the mere fact that we can verify something is ever truly sufficient for inclusion in a given article. At minimum, material must be both verifiable and appropriate to the specific article in the judgment of some editor. In saying above that it is sufficient, she doubtless was thinking of cases in which the material was so obviously appropriate that its inclusion on grounds of appropriateness could not possibly be disputed. As an example, no editor would ever claim that the fact Barack Obama is the US president should be completely excluded from the article about him. However, it is still true that the inclusion of this critical fact is supported by our editorial judgment. It is not included solely because it could be verified. This fact is included in Barack Obama (1) because it is verifiable and (2) because editors believe it to be relevant and appropriate to the article. Conversely, this fact is not included in Cancer because editors do not believe it to be relevant and appropriate to that article, despite being just as verifiable on that page as it is on another page. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:56, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think the difficulty I've having here is that I see common sense as key. We can't write policies for people who engage in black-and-white thinking. To try to would tie us up in knots; would make the policies a thousand times more complex than they are now. So when I argue that verifiability is usually a sufficient condition for inclusion, I'm thinking of the tens of thousands of occasions where an editor's looking for a decent source, finds one, swoops on it, and thinks "brilliant, now I can include this fact too." That is most of the Wikipedia experience. But of course when you have a surfeit of sources, then judgment kicks in. But how to describe editorial judgment?
My fear of "while verifiability is necessary for inclusion, it is not a guarantee of inclusion" is the black-and-white thinkers, and the POV pushers. I can see people arguing for no reason at all that V isn't enough, and they are just not going to let that information stand. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 20:48, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
We must rely on editors to use their best judgment, but we need to write policies to defend the community against people whose best judgment is not very good. But consider the example: If someone says "for not reason at all, I'm just not going to let that information stand," then we have a whole slew of policies to stop them, including NPOV and Consensus. We don't need WP:V to stop them from deleting information that is not only verifiable, but also important, relevant, appropriate, encyclopedic, etc.
The policies that require us not to include verifiable trivia (e.g., Obama's shoe size) are the same policies that require us to always include important verifiable facts (e.g., Obama is the current US president).
WP:V's sole task is to tell people that unverifiable material must never be included. The very first and most basic hurdle for inclusion is verifiability. This most basic hurdle is not any other consideration: it is not truth, it is not reader interest, it is not editorial judgment. The threshold is verifiability. Solely being verifiable is never enough. I can verify Obama's shoe size (I checked), but that trivia has no place in Wikipedia. To be included, information must be more than verifiable. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:13, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Cutting the Gordian Knot - Infinite Monkey Process[edit]

I'm late to this party, but it looks like you have consensus for change, but no consensus for any particular version to replace the existing text. Discussing the issue is not getting anywhere because there are so many editors that no-one can keep up with all the chatter. I encountered a similar situation some time ago. We tried something novel which worked quite well. I've written an essay here: User:Surturz/InfiniteMonkeyProcess. Basically the idea is to copy the sentence to a subpage, and people keep changing it until a consensus version is reached. No-one is allowed to revert to a previous version (since, if someone felt a need to change it, it clearly did not have consensus). Eventually WP:SILENCE prevails and you promote the new version to the actual policy page. That way editors can concentrate on coming up with compromise wording, rather than wasting a lot of words on the talkpage trying to convince each other of their arguments. --Surturz (talk) 14:58, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

Interesting idea if nothing else. If you think you start this process several times with several different groups of editors (say ones with user names starting with certain letters) that the results would be similar? I fear they would not, be but it would be fascinating and potentially useful if otherwise.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 16:33, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
This is indeed an interesting idea. I am not writing against it. But if someone wants to change policy I think the best thing is to think carefully about what one wants, and then have a widely advertised RfC. I once wanted to change policy. I created a page with my proposal and my explanation. It was voted down - but after considerable discussion and a great many people voting. When it ended, I was of course unhappy that it was voted down - but I was very happy with the process, and satisfied with the level of discussion. I think this is the only way new policies or major changes to policies should be handled: a clear proposal with a dedicated page and then wide advertisement (all the other policy talk pages and administrator bulletin boards) and lots of time for discussion and voting. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:36, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I do not agree that we have a consensus for change. Specifically, I do not agree that there is a consensus to change the three words "verifiability, not truth". There appears to be openness to better explaining those words (e.g., in subsequent sentences), but no consensus to change those words. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:00, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I think WhatamIdoing makes a useful distinction there. The community is divided, very narrowly, against actually deleting "not truth" from that phrase, but there actually is something approaching consensus that we should, somehow, make the meaning of "not truth" clearer. And I think the biggest obstacle to reaching that goal is that some editors absolutely insist on deleting "not truth", and they oppose anything less. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:12, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that that has been the biggest obstacle. For example, we had a compromise that 6 of the 7 main combatants 'agreed to which was reverted by the seventh who is a status quo person. And things have subsequently been too chaotic to develop one or two serious proposals vs. a zillion flying around. North8000 (talk) 19:38, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
I stand by what I said, but I accept that these things are never entirely one-sided. You've given a single example, and I think we could actually agree that there are many other examples recently that have gone otherwise. (And I would hope that we would have zero "combatants".) --Tryptofish (talk) 19:46, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
You're right, I didn't mean to imply too much. And I just used "main combatants" for brevity. I meant actively involved folks with strong views on the topic. North8000 (talk) 20:45, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── this thread is why we need sanctions. We keep discussing the same thing over and over again.--Cerejota (talk) 21:46, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

If you really want sanctions, I can report you to ANI. Hans Adler 22:05, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
FacepalmWP:BOOMERANG.--Cerejota (talk) 22:16, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
No, hiding your face behind your hands isn't going to protect you when your boomerang returns. Hans Adler 22:19, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
FacepalmNO U.--Cerejota (talk) 23:25, 31 August 2011 (UTC)
What have you got against the letter U... it's very important for words like "unacceptable" and "disruption"... although you don't need it for words like "please" and "stop". Blueboar (talk) 02:14, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota, why don't you quit your nasty stuff. The adults are trying to have a discussion here. North8000 (talk) 00:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think we need a "no memes" rule on talk pages. The facepalm was cool back in 1990 when "Déjà Q" first aired (watched it), but it should be used sparingly in normal discourse to be effective. We need a cliché-free environment to breed new and fresh ideas. Memes are the opposite of that and don't allow for free thought. Viriditas (talk) 00:36, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I will stop using memes when a fresh idea emerges in this talk page. Since that hasn't happened in about two or three years, I think I will have to meme on... :)--Cerejota (talk) 03:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Coming back to the original post of Surturz, I think his proposal has no chance of being declared a binding method for coming to a resolution. But it also creates no problems at al as experiment if he wants to try it anyway. The results might help discussion or result in something convincing to a consensus.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

example[edit]

S Marshall asked for examples of where "V not Truth" works. Flat Earth is a classic example. We all know it not to be true, but we cover the topic because it can be verified.

More controversially, articles on religious belief are full of things that are not true to non-believers, yet we verify them and include them.

And so does political ideologies. And partisan concepts. And even, fictional settings and characters that meet notability thresholds.

Wikipedia is full, to the hilt, of things that are verifiable, but not true. --Cerejota (talk) 07:58, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Huh? Are you seriously arguing that it's not true that the Earth is not flat (but we say it anyway)? (Or are you trying to make a more complicated point concerning the misconception that certain people thought the Earth was flat?) Anyway, the problem is not verifiable claims that we can't agree are true. The problem is verifiable claims which, according to a strong consensus of editors, are false, although for various reasons Wikipedia cannot say so. Hans Adler 11:00, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Those cover a range a scenarios. Most can be and are written to be accurate statements. For example, "John Smith believes that the earth is flat" is an accurate statement. "The earth is flat" is not. North8000 (talk) 10:50, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

I do not even know what this proposition means. On the one hand, no one on earth has ever believed the earth to be flat. Even in the Sahara, there are dunes. In the arctic there are snowdrifts and cracks in the ice. The earth on the prairies is crumbly. On no part of the planet is earth flat like a sheet of paper.
However, if we are speaking pragmatically, i.e. if you do not mean to claim that the earth has an entirely smooth surface, then yes, in many cases the earth is flat. Euclidean geometry (which is untrue in curved space, but true in flat space) grew out of agricultural practices in Egypt. When I am hiking (even on non-flat i.e. hilly terrain) and using a compass and map to orient myself, the map represents the earth as flat and I assume it is flat for the purposes of orienteering.
According to Thomas Friedman, in an economic sense one can say that the earth is flat.
As far as I know, the earth is not flat principally for long-distance navigators. So, sometimes it is flat, and sometimes it is not. Slrubenstein | Talk 10:55, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
You know that I meant the common meaning...the overall, huge-scale shape of the earth's surface. North8000 (talk) 11:45, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
The "truth" about things like Flat Earth or religious beliefs or fringe science is what the "expert" sources in those fields have stated to be the truisms of those beliefs/theories, and not necessary if those theories are actually true. ("Expert" here may be the core religious text, the persons that came up with the idea, a scholar that has studied these neutrally, and so on). Thus, we don't present Flat Earth as an absolute truth, but instead, set as in the framework of those that believed it to be true. We want to make sure that any reader can verify that these beliefs are held by the respected people, and we are still reporting the truth - that this is what they believe, but we do not need to make any statements either way whether that belief is actually true - unless it is a topic that has received much attention, like evolution vs creationism vs intelligent design, in which case, again, we're reporting how experts in those fields consider the other and attempt to make no judgement ourselves of which is right.
In other words, there's "truth" of what people say they believe, and "truth" of those actual beliefs. We want the former, as that ties in with verifyability (so we can assure we are accurately reporting what the beliefs are), but we cannot make any attempt to reconcile the latter without sourcing. Figuring out a way to separate those two types of "truth" is critical for resolving this. --MASEM (t) 14:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
To me it it just a mater of wording. "John believes xxxxx" vs. stating xxxxx as fact. 16:55, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

This all sounds very reasonable, but what about the people who hold these beliefs? For a Mormon, the way the book of Mormon was revealed is true and absolute truth at that. If we say or imply that we are to take truth into account, I doubt they will make the reasonable distinction made above, between "truth of belief" and "truth in an absolute sense". For them, as for any true believer, these things are not separate: a non-believer can be satisfied with formulations of "truth in belief" but a believer will argue that it is true, and cite his or her authorities, and demonstrate why the rest of us are transmiting falsehoods. This is not trivial: a truth-relativistic model allows to find compromise, a truth-defining model requires we define truth. And when we define "truth" that would be the mother of all wikipedia battlegrounds. --Cerejota (talk) 19:49, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

As a Wikipedian editor, you need to learn how to separate your personal beliefs from what you are writing about. I believe in evolution, but recognize it that it is, for all that, still a theory, and contrary to other widely know beliefs. Thus, were I to write the evolution article, I would be 100% clear at the start that I am writing this as the theory states, and not "this is what is true". Same for the opposite: were I to write about intelligent design, I would write it from the starting aspect that this is a belief, and what is in the article is what that belief holds true, even if I have personal strong disagreements with that belief. --MASEM (t) 23:59, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

A two sided coin[edit]

Part of the reason why we are having so much difficulty reaching a consensus on "Verifiability, not truth" is that the phrase has two distinct interpretations... one intended, the other not intended.

  • Intended - it does not matter how true you think something is... if it isn't verifiable we should not include it.
  • Unintended - it does not matter how untrue you think something is, if it is verifiable we should not exclude it.

I think there is a strong consensus for the first interpretation, and the vast majority of article talk page discussions that quote "Verifiability, not truth" are quoting it in this context. In this context the phrase is a valuable policy statement... one that I think we need to keep.

I don't think there is a strong consensus for the second (unintended) interpretation - and it is this interpretation that is the underlying concern of those who want to remove "not truth". I think their underlying concern is valid (although looking at the evidence of actual talk page discussions, it is not as pervasive an issue as the remove advocates are making out).

So here is the question... do the benefits of the first interpretation outweigh the negatives of the second interpretation? I think the answer is Yes. The reason why I think the benefits out weigh the negatives is that almost every verifiable but untrue statement (ie things that would fit the second interpretation) can be excluded on some other grounds (synthesis, undue weight, relevance, etc.) We don't need to argue about truth/untruth to keep such statements out. But we do need to say "we don't care how true you think it is" in situations that fit the first interpretation.

This is why I still think the solution is to keep the phrase... but explain it better. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater... instead make the intent behind the phrase clear. Make it clearer that the phrase is talking about unverifiable material someone thinks is true ... and is not talking about verifiable material someone thinks is untrue.Blueboar (talk) 15:18, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Your description of the unintended reading does cover at least one unintended reading people are concerned about. I am not sure it covers all concerns. What I find more difficult to agree with is the oft repeated idea that we should not even try to find a better wording which excludes an identifiable misunderstanding. Is there no wording that would cover your first version and not your second? In practice of course it is possible but people are arguing against even trying.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:28, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think there are two different problems uppermost in people's minds. For those who want to keep ", not truth", it's probably POV warriors and fans trying to include OR and POV information that they are convinced is true. It's felt that these people need to have "not truth" up front in the policy. For those who want to get rid of it, it's probably people wikilawyering bad information on the grounds that we apparently don't care if something is true or not.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:06, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that you just wrote the best 2 sided summary that has been written in the last 100,000 words. A good item to work from from. North8000 (talk) 16:13, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I think Vsevold's analysis is accurate. I am definitely more concerned with combating POV warriors and OR pushers than I am with combating Wikilawyers. Wikilawyers who say "but its verifiable" are an anoyance, but can be countered by pointing to other policies that make their verifiability argument moot (such as discussing due weight or synthesis). The POV warriors who say "but its true" can only be opposed by saying "the policy says truth is not enough... you need a source". The phrase "Verifiability, not truth" is the best way we have found to make that clear. Blueboar (talk) 17:27, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
My experience / opinion is the opposite. I see that the policy violators that you describe are easily and quickly reigned in because they are clearly violating policy. Persons who are POV warring or battling via Wikilawyering are nearly impossible to reign in, and so I feel the latter is a much more pervasive problem. Further, that a skillful rewording would help on the latter without hurting the former. Either way, I think we'd make some headway if we consider VsevolodKrolikov 's summary to be a summary of the core issues. North8000 (talk) 17:40, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── damn, we sometimes disagree, but .VsevolodKrolikov sure knows how to elegantly reduce problems to their barebones. That said, I am sure, 100% sure, that POV warriors pushing their truth are a much more pervassive and hard problem than people putting patently hoaxed or false info. Just take a look at ArbCom and cases like WP:ARBPIA and see what I mean. No one can tell me of good faith examples (ie not vandals or trolls) were patently false information is put up that is defended using V. Give me one example, and I will reconsider. Just one. --Cerejota (talk) 19:57, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

(added later) Your definition of where "not truth" hurts excludes the more common situation where it is used to exclude falseness from the conversation and consideration when discussing possibly deleting false material. But I'll give you an example of both, a 14,470 word debate about trying to leave out or offset one patently false statement which NOBODY argued was not false. It's "Walter Russell Mead's analysis of the tp foreign policy" section of the Tea Party Movement article about 2 months ago. Let me know if you need more info on finding it, but a 14,000+ word debate should be hard to miss. North8000 (talk) 11:44, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Cerejota this sounds like a false dichotomy to me. Is it necessarily impossible not to aim to avoid both types of problem?
  • BTW, I think one big issue VsevolodKrolikov does not mention is the one Jimbo mentioned: the sentence is difficult for newbies, chases many of them away, and creates a class system with high priests amongst those who remain.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:25, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
It's a fair point - I did miss it unduly. (To be fair, it's very much taken second place to allegations that people are inserting false content.) It's a difficult point to establish either way, although I can understand wanting to reconsider every aspect of how we work in order to maintain editor numbers. The elephant in the room in terms of new users is that there is much less content work to do than there was five or six years ago - it's far harder to make a decent, or any kind of substantive content contribution to your favourite topic now. Someone - rather, several people - have probably already been there and done it. That said, I think avoiding alienation of new editors an argument we should consider - but not because the first sentence is difficult. I genuinely don't think it is, and there's little evidence to show that it is. However, I can see how it might seem overly aggressive or negative. "Verifiability, not truth" is something that only certain editors need to be pointed to directly; for others who actually read the policy from top to bottom, it is better for it to be shown as a consequence of WP:V's basic principle. The solution to the high priest issue is to focus on the basic principles such that the filling out of details seems obvious. Translating the bible into common language did wonders to weaken the priesthood in Western Europe.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:34, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
IMO the issue of exclusion of verifiable material is the province of other policies (NPOV, SYNTH, IINFO, etc.) and editorial judgment. I don't think that WP:V needs to be in the business of saying anything more than "The absolute minimum criterion for inclusion is verifiability; the absolutely minimum is not truth." If you need to exclude verifiable material (and we do, every minute of the day), you need to be looking at other policies. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:17, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Except for the "not truth" part (which I think has the effect of working against the rest of your statement) I not only agree with you 100%, but you have just stated 50% of my main argument and motivation for removal or mitigation of "not truth". North8000 (talk) 11:26, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

The logical problem with the current text[edit]

There is still a scattering of discussion on the main talkpage, and this arose. Out of that discussion I ask people whether they think the following is an acceptable sentence:- "The threshold for winning the 100m is coming over the line first, not speed". On the talk page of such a sentence please imagine that this sentence is defended by saying that "speed" should be read as meaning "maximum speed", but of course everyone knows that "average speed" is important. Others will be saying that the apparent lack of logic is useful because it jolts people. Can anyone explain to me why this imaginary example does not have the exact same logic of the discussion here?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:42, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

There are numerous logical problems with the word choices. Even "The" is a problem because it implies singular. And then it got cobbled up by adding "not truth" to it. I know the intent, but what rule states itself by stating what it isn't? And then logically pure alone (e.g. "Verifiability is a requirement for inclusion") probably isn't emphatic enough. North8000 (talk) 15:53, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Andrew, the problem there is you're inventing a nonsense analogy, then pointing out that it's nonsense. Try one that makes more sense: "The threshold for winning the 100m is coming over the line first, not whether you're the better runner." SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 18:35, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Why is that a better analogy?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 18:55, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Because some measurements of speed will always result in the racer coming over the line first being defined as the fastest. Imagine a race between two people. The racers' speeds are measured as the distance of the full course divided by the length of time it takes to run the full course. So the first racer runs at 10 km/h, but sprains an ankle and crawls for the last minute of the race. The second racer jogs at 8 km/h, and barely passes the first at the finish line. Which racer had the higher speed? Until the very last minute, it was the first racer—but over the whole course, it was the second racer. It depends entirely on how you define speed.
Again: imagine that the first racer refuses to finish the race because of the injury. His speed, by that definition, cannot be meaningfully calculated. It amounts to distance divided by infinity, which approaches a speed of zero km/h. But does that really mean that he was the slower racer? The definition of speed adopted here precludes anyone who does not finish the course first from having a higher speed.
We do not have this problem with "verifiability" and "truth". The two often overlap—that two plus two equals four is both verifiable and true—but there is no legitimate definition of "truth" that makes the truth always be verifiable. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:11, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Andrew's example was quite apt. Here's a comparison with the corresponding phrases in policy.
1a) "The threshold for winning the 100m is coming over the line first, not speed"
1b) "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth'
Both "not speed" and "not truth" are unclear in the above. Now here's a comparison of SlimVirgin's example with the corresponding policy phrases.
2a) "The threshold for winning the 100m is coming over the line first, not whether you're the better runner"
2b) "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not whether editors think it is true"
In SlimVirgin's words, 1a and 1b in the above are "nonsense". 2a and 2b "make more sense". --Bob K31416 (talk) 22:20, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes Bob. I agree.
@WhatamIdoing, you say truth and verifiability often overlap. There are logical problems with this, because these two things are "different in kind" (apples and oranges). I presume you mean that actions aiming at the two things will often effectively give the same result? If that is the case then I would say this is like saying, correctly, that aiming to run the highest speed of all runners in your race, will often be an aim that will give the best chance of having the highest average speed, and crossing the line first. And in fact, aiming to write what is true will sometimes achieve a good verifiable bit of text, but sometimes it won't.
@WhatamIdoing, do "not truth" and verifiability overlap in the same was as you say truth and verifiability do?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:18, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
What is verifiable is often true. What is verifiable is sometimes false (e.g., the occasional errors and stupidities perpetrated any media publication).
What is true may or may not be verifiable (e.g., the color of shirt I'm wearing at the moment: true, but not verifiable because not published in a reliable source). What is false may or may not be verifiable (e.g., not claims that Martians eaten my brain, but many famous quotations that were never said by the alleged speaker).
I would recommend that you attempt to write articles that are—within the limits of DUE—both true and verifiable—but policy only requires that the material be verifiable. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:32, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

"of truth"[edit]

I'm kind of late, but after reading this I think a lot of this could be avoided and keep most of the first sentance intact with 1 word change. From not to of.

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

Now when someone reports something that it can be verified is key here. Whether its a fringe theory, a confirmation of a rumor, or something more well established like "The United States is a country" it must all still be verifiable. When we cite established facts, like the above, its not the same as stuff like origin of the universe or latest celebrity gossip. There are differing opinions, but they are all opinions which people believe (or believed at one point) to be true.Jinnai 20:29, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

No, the threshold for inclusion actually has nothing at all to do with truth. If you can verify an obvious falsehood, then you have met the first, tiny, absolute minimum standard for inclusion. Meeting this threshold is not enough to get said falsehood into the encyclopedia—to do that, you'd have to justify it as neutral, appropriate, relevant, encyclopedic, and the result of your best editorial judgment—but it has actually met the standard for verifiability. The threshold for inclusion is verifiability. Despite years of newbies saying WP:But it's true!, the threshold for inclusion is still not truth. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:19, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree that "the threshold for inclusion actually has nothing at all to do with truth".  IMO, the discussion of untruth belongs at WP:UNDUE.  What may not be obvious to those new to the discussion is that there are various reasons, and ways to present, things that are generally considered to be untrue.  But WP:UNDUE is a behind-the-scenes process, in the end, everything in the article must be verifiable.  Full stop.  Unscintillating (talk) 16:24, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Editorial suggestion (KISS)[edit]

Can someone please explain to me why WP:BEGINNING doesn't apply here? Specifically Redundancy must be kept to a minimum in the first sentence. Both "not truth" and "not whether editors think it is true" mean the same thing when reading it the way consensus and other core policy dictates. The Problem is (as Blueboar stated) the first (more concise) version has ambiguity. The question then is if the redundancy and ambiguity provide value to the project (beyond just being a catch-phrase). Part of the issue I feel is that for established editors V not T is a type of doublespeak something that means quite a bit more then it says.

A somewhat radical idea (at least I haven't seen mention of it) would be:

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability.(note the full stop)Verifiability is not truth, that readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source is a primary principle of a neutral point of view, believing something to be true is not necessary or sufficient for inclusion in Wikipedia.

The way I worded the second sentence is my take on how to rephrase it, my primary point is that "is verifiability." (full stop) is all that is needed for the first sentence. The second sentence both eliminates redundancy while retaining Verifiability is not truth in a clearer form. Thoughts? Crazynas t 20:33, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Policies aren't required to comply with the Manual of Style, and sometimes repetition is useful. For example, I believe that WP:External links now repeats the fact that a URL in a citation is not an ==External link== some half-dozen times, and we've more than halved the number of questions we get about bibliographic citations as a result.
Your proposal not an accurate expansion of the existing paragraph. What is verifiable is often also true. Verifiability is not a primary principle of NPOV. (NPOV assumes that you have already excluded all unverifiable information and are trying to balance multiple, conflicting sources.)
An accurate expansion might look something like, "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—that readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. The threshold for inclusion is not truth or whether editors believe something is true." WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:24, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
Policies aren't required to comply with the manual of style. I realize that, however since a stated goal of the MoS is to make the encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use I don't see why we should just automatically ignore it (it's still useful). That repetition is sometimes useful is already included in the MoS (the entire point of a lead is to summarize, concisely repeat, what the body of the article says) and the specific instance for EL could just be an application of IAR. My argument on this article is that the repetition (in it's current form) is not useful.
Did you review the NPOV policy? (since the first link in said policy is to WP:V) "Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources"
Verifiability is not truth does not mean (as many many editors before me have pointed out) that all verifiable things are not truthful things, but simply that definitionally, verifiability and truthfulness are not the same. Person X says proposition A is true if you can verify that Person X said Prop A even if Prop A is not generally held to be true (see Holocaust denial for a textbook example). I think that "Verifiability is not truth" is a cleaner expression of this then "Verifiability, not truth". Crazynas t 22:24, 1 September 2011 (UTC)
I like this proposal. I think it deserves more discussion.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 06:20, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
Crazynas, It's hard to make an improvement if one tries to incorporate something that was a source of the original problem, viz. "not truth", so I appreciate your attempt under that constraint. The phrase "VERIFIABILITY IS NOT TRUTH" sounds Orwellian. Compare it to the three slogans at the Ministry of Truth in 1984: "WAR IS PEACE," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH." And compare these to the slogan "VERIFIABILITY, NOT TRUTH". --Bob K31416 (talk) 19:41, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Rationale[edit]

Regarding whether the first sentence follows generally accepted practices, yes, you are correct, this is poor technical writing; and to the extent it is editorial opinion, it is not even technical writing.  In standardization, this would be known as "Rationale" and would be placed in a secondary document entitled "Rationale".  Rationale is useful in interpreting the technical meaning of the standard, but is not itself a part of the standard.  Unscintillating (talk) 13:20, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

How about:[edit]

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

I realize it adds a couple of qualifiers, but they might be enough to fix any potential misunderstandings. -- Avanu (talk) 19:33, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

First... could we please agree to post new proposals in their own sections (or at least subsections) so we can keep discussion organized... and not mix up discussion of one proposal with discussion of another. (I hope you don't mind that I have fixed this)
Second... I find this suggestion very confusing. I don't know what is meant by "collective verifiability" (and I only sort of get "personal truth"). I suspect new editors who are arriving at the policy would be just as confused. Blueboar (talk) 21:05, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

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

Does "group" work better? -- Avanu (talk) 21:11, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Still don't know what you are suggesting. Are you saying we require multiple sources for information? That information could be added without any sources if some a group of editors agrees that the information is verifiable? Or something else entirely. Blueboar (talk) 21:18, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

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

Better? -- Avanu (talk) 21:32, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Better, but still not very clear. Who are these mysterious "others" you are referring to? sources? other editors? I think the term you are looking for is "verifiability" (without a modifier). I am also not that happy about perceived truth or personal truth... I know what you mean... but I see a huge potential for wikilawyering and abuse by POV warriors and Fringe pushers. ("its not just a perception of truth... it IS truth... and all those other people who watch my myface page can verify it."). Also, it isn't a question of perception... we don't allow the inclusion of unverifiable things, even if they are actually true. Say I worked in the white house, and I know for a fact that Obama does five push-ups before every cabinet meeting... I know this to be true, and it isn't a matter of perception. However, that fact is not verifiable, so I can not include it in an article (that's part of WP:NOR). Blueboar (talk) 22:05, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Shouldn't have changed your wording. The Obama example would be verifiable, by you and the rest of the staff. According to Obama's staff, he does 5 push-ups a day before cabinet meetings. The problem wouldn't be verifiability, but that it is a primary source. Different problem. This is part of why we have to word things so carefully on this because we easily slide off into other topics. -- Avanu (talk) 23:11, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
No, unless the fact appears in a source (which, in my example it does not... its just my personal observation), its not verifiable (how would a reader check it?) It would be Original Research for me to add it. It may be absolutely true, but we can not include it in an article if there is no source that mentions it. Blueboar (talk) 12:00, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

One threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability. This means readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Issues of fact, truth or untruth, are important, but secondary to first being able to independently verify material being added.

How's that? -- Avanu (talk) 23:16, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

I think the word first is unnecessary, and could lead to a misunderstanding. I take it that by "first" you mean "primary", as opposed to secondary, not "first step". (We do not define what sequence people edit in. People should of course edit knowing/hoping that everything they write can be sourced, but in practice that does not mean that they must first have all their exact references ready in case someone challenges something.) Can you define the aim a little? Is this intended perhaps as a tweak to "Blueboar's compromise"?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:42, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

"Personal truth", or anything like it, is not going to work. POV pushers do not believe that it is merely a "personal truth" that cancer can be cured by drinking juice. They believe that this is a proven, demonstrable fact. The point of this sentence is to tell people that verifiability is required, and that being true—even if it really is true—is not a substitute for being verifiable. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:38, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

No compromise or change needed[edit]

Just posting here (and not reading any of the above statements) on behalf of the silent majority who don't see any problem, and who like the opening sentence just fine the way it is. If you, too, believe this entire process a waste of time and effort and that the opening sentence of WP:V should remain unchanged indefinitely, please feel free to sign your name below:

  1. Jclemens (talk) 17:07, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  2. Milowenttalkblp-r 19:26, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  3. Well, actually, I'm all in favor of compromise, so I don't really agree with this. But I want to send a message to those editors who want to kill "not truth" with fire and won't agree to anything less. We don't have to change anything. I'm disappointed to see some editors respond to Blueboar's very useful idea in the thread just above by complaining that it still contains "not truth" and insisting that we just move the phrase to an essay. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:09, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  4. I am not shutout of compromise if it means ending the issue, but how it stands now is fine.--Cerejota (talk) 20:59, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  5. The current policy and wording are fine. Compromise is beneficial and even essential on issues like WP:ENGVAR and WP:DATE, but here it is being used as a wedge to try to change not just the wording but also the policy. A compromise on the wording won't end the argument, and I think it might embolden a vocal minority to press for more. (Actually I suspect that they won't give up even if they lose.) The many months long discussion on this issue have convinced me that the some of the loudest critics here don't understand the policy very well, but I haven't seen much evidence that their misunderstandings are widespread. The people who have the most trouble with the inclusion of "not truth" are generally the ones for who need this strong reminder the most. Quale (talk) 23:46, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
  6. [TWIMC:The following sig means exactly what the colleague who started this section asked that sigs in this section mean.]
    --Jerzy•t 04:09, 4 September 2011 (UTC)I have just restored this parenthetical annotation & sig, which were reverted at this appropriate point, w/o my knowledge or consent, at 07:38, 4 September 2011.--Jerzyt 02:07, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
  7. The first sentence is IMO fine. What comes after it might benefit from improvements. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:39, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
  8. Per the last 100 polls on this topic. Jayjg (talk) 01:48, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
  9. I'm not opposed to changing some of the wording, but I have no problem with the current wording. --Nuujinn (talk) 01:52, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
  10. No surprise. Doc talk 03:16, 11 September 2011 (UTC)


Comment - "should remain unchanged indefinitely" so we're perfect (at least on this page) now are we? Crazynas t 00:24, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Change needed[edit]

Before we get into a pissing contest, let's stipulate that the existence of this talk page is a de facto effort to obtain change. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:23, 2 September 2011 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Too many editors find "not truth" problematic and then, regardless of the possible benefits of having that statement, it's better to find a different formulation that would work at least as well as the present formulation. Change doesn't necessarily mean that we have to compromize; it should be possible to find a new text that from the perspective of both the supporters of "not truth" and the opponents, would work better than the present text.

  1. Count Iblis (talk) 22:18, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

Agree with Tryptofish. This is too obvious to need a poll. But if the previous one turns into a "lets personal attack / bash / insult the folks who say that change is needed" forum, (as someone started) then this section would inevitably launch. Can't we cool that down? Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 23:25, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

And I'll not only agree with North, but go a step further. I've seriously wondered whether I put the "hat" top in the wrong place. I'm tempted to hat the thread above as well. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:02, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that would be unwise. Let 'em have their say. I shall be most disappointed if the decision is unduly affected by those who, like JClemens, haven't taken the trouble to read the arguments, but that doesn't mean they don't have a voice.—S Marshall T/C 00:20, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree, when the "silent majority" shows up to tell you you're debating about angels dancing on the heads of pins, ignoring their input is unwise. I don't have to read this page to know that the existing statement is perfectly fine and that none of the arguments for change are persuasive to me: these are not new arguments, just old ones rehashed. So when this grand self-appointed subcommittee comes up with something that satisfies the small subset of active contributors participating here, it is on notice that nothing it comes up with that removes or substantially alters "verifiability, not truth" will be accepted by many of us who aren't wasting the time in this endeavor. No LOCALCONSENSUS on a sub-page equates to real consensus: If you want to actually effect a change, you're going to need an RfC with CENT exposure. I've done the participants nothing but a favor in reminding them in advance that V belongs to the whole community, not just those who comment here. Jclemens (talk) 17:11, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Yep. -- Avanu (talk) 17:13, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Jclemens, your recent contributions here have been a little surprising. Without reading anything you presume there is a collective plot on this page to bypass the community (there isn't); you say you represent a silent majority on discussions you openly haven't read; and without reading anything you miss with - and I mean this with all civility - embarrassing timing, the fact that people are, just as you intervened, by and large finding agreement on a proposal which, after tweaking, can appropriately be put to the community to solve these neverending discussions. I and several others involved in these discussions are quite clearly from the camp that wants "verifiability, not truth" kept high up in policy; it's not nice to be told we're part of a conspiracy or some pompous grand committee. We're trying to find a way of resolving conflict - something you yourself have been bold enough to (successfully) seek election for. It would be fair enough to remind people that any changes to a central policy need wider support. But that's not exactly a fair summary of your comments.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 17:39, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
Jclemens, a whole bunch about what you just said doesn't make sense. First, folks (mostly the status quo folks) wanted this moved to to this sub page. Second, its pretty silly & insulting to call a discussion where anyone can participate a "grand self-appointed committee". Next, this is obviously just drafting a proposal that would need to get submitted for wide feedback and consensus. So, when you were implying people were planning on implementing a significant rewording directly from this page, did you not realize that, or are you inventing a strawman? Finally, do you really consider it credible to follow in the footsteps of a long line of politicians and claim that the "silent majority" supports your position? North8000 (talk) 18:03, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Hey, boys and girls, let's agree that editors here, as part of an open Wiki, are free to exchange ideas and to try to come up with a good-faith proposal, that any proposal that comes out of here absolutely must receive consensus from the broad community in order to take effect, and that editors here need to be very aware that we are only talking amongst a small subset of the community, and thus a local consensus means very little, especially since most of the rest of the community does not share the concerns that motivate a few of the editors here. And let's move on. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:30, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes, Tryptofish, you've put it more eloquently than I have; dunno why I failed to make my point sufficiently well. Consensus can change... but a small group, no matter how interested, passionate, and involved, does not a community make. Jclemens (talk) 20:58, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree. However, given the wide range of opinions being expressed here, I think we have a fairly good cross section of the broader community. If we can reach a (local) consensus here, I think there is a good chance that our (local) consensus will reflect something that the broader community can accept. Yes, we could end up being wrong... we could spend months hammering out a local consensus among ourselves, only to have it rejected by the broader community (it's happened before). But I think it is worth trying anyway. Blueboar (talk) 12:28, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I think we can safely disregard JClemens' self-description as "the silent majority" as an example of the false consensus effect. His is not, in fact, a majority position. If there's one thing all the repeated polls and RFCs have shown us, it's that there's widespread dissatisfaction with the first sentence, but no consensus about how to fix it.—S Marshall T/C 21:53, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Be careful not to overstate the support for change. I'm perfectly happy with the existing wording, but if something better can be prepared, I'd support that also. I don't think the current wording is confusing, and probably most of the problem just comes from people who aren't holistically reading the policy, but just stopping as soon as they hear words that agree with their mindset. Whatever we might want to adopt, I feel like it is an uphill battle because of some editors who are just unbelievably supportive of whatever the status quo is. -- Avanu (talk) 22:05, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Avanu, and Jclemens, are right. We can disregard the many members of the community who are happy with the status quo and resistant to any change, but we cannot "safely disregard" them if we actually want to see something change. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:42, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Some polls are ready to resolve or modify[edit]

I (SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:40, 3 September 2011 (UTC)) think we can recognise some progress and do the following:

Resolve in the negative and collapse[edit]


  • Analysis of Poll V_FC_P_06 On Wikipedia, we use verifiability, not truth
@SmokeyJoe, If Poll V_FC_P_06 On Wikipedia, we use verifiability, not truth is ready to resolve in the negative, I doubt that you mean that we use "truth, not verifiability".  You've got six !votes that report that this is not a proposal, which is not exactly a major revelation in a poll that does not propose any policy changes.  The analysis of these responses, which in the context must include political objectives, is not so simple.  Unscintillating (talk) 16:00, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
That's right. But I think the onus is on an interested editor to interpret and produce a meaningful proposal. As a matter of process of decision making, a negative result should not be interpreted as a positive for the opposite. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:21, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
@SmokeyJoe, It would be helpful if you would explain or re-interpret your comment at WP:V/First sentence#Poll V_FC_P_06 On Wikipedia, we use verifiability, not truth.  I see this as a succinct description of the central problem.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 01:01, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
"(a) We don't want to spend time considering unverifiable things that may be true. (b) Likewise, we don't want to spend time considering verifiable things that may be not true. This consideration from WP:V applies across Wikipedia."
The premise V_FC_P_06 may be agreeable, but for a poll to be productive, it needs to propose doing something. I'm afraid that simple agreement with V_FC_P_06 could open up a number of different interpretations, and so as a matter of procedure, it is best disagreed with. I think that any poll not directly focused on the content of the page WP:V should be disagreed with as off-topic. To me, V_FC_P_06 seems to be telling others what to think.
I can attempt to distil V_FC_P_06 as a suggestion to include at WP:V the text:
"(a) If something is unverifiable, the truth of it is unimportant. (b) If something is untrue, it doesn't matter if it is verifiable."
I can't find a reasonably acceptable interpretation of the original use of the word "likewise". I couldn't accept (b) because it is not the purpose of WP:V to decide questions of truth, and if it were (b) offers no guidance on how to do it. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 12:02, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Consider collapsing, or having the proponents re-word[edit]

Implement now[edit]


I don't even know how to find the poll page from the main WT:V page. I had to go look in my Watchlist to find it. While I (and many others) think there are too many polls, I asked Unscintillating and SlimVirgin to provide a diff showing where there was consensus to move these things off to their own page, and no one can provide a diff and several people have said there was no consensus. While several editors seem to have no trouble finding these polls, I still believe that discussion should be taking place on the main Talk page, unless there is consensus otherwise, and if there is consensus, that these split off discussions need to be reviewed at the main Talk page before becoming finalized. This does not mean I am for or against any of these proposals, but we are just asking for more trouble if we don't make sure that everyone is on board with these changes or if people feel there is a 'secret' consensus page. -- Avanu (talk) 02:57, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

(edit conflict)Is this a poll to see if we should close this? or a proposal? I feel comfortable closing V_FC_P_03, and V_FC_P_06 as SNOW, unless there is strong support that we need more consensus. Crazynas t 03:07, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that the poll page is a good idea to gather general feedback and sort out ideas and what folks think of them. However, due to their various limitations and challenges (some wording issues, some of the core issues not clearly getting covered, the fact that only the most-highly involved people know where they're at, limited participation etc.) I think that on the major and contentious items they should considered to be just that rather than consensused action decisions. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 09:21, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
I have added my "compromise" proposal to the list... (as Poll V_FC_P_13)... given the comments above, the concept seems to have a lot of initial support ... but it probably needs to undergo a formal polling process. Blueboar (talk) 13:32, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
But, Blueboar, it's going to get lost in the crowd on that hidden poll page. Plus no change is ever going to occur just based on that page. IMHO we should continue to noodle on it on this page / build consensus that it is THE compromise proposed change, and then discuss the next step. North8000 (talk) 14:00, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
It may get lost there... but at least it is there now (no one can object on the grounds that "it wasn't one of the options we were polled about"). Blueboar (talk) 14:59, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Avanu, for better or worse, there are these polls on a subpage. They were moderately well advertised at WT:V. I agree that any apparent concensus on a focused page cannot be assumed to represent community consensus. I think the usefulness is mostly limited to developing ideas, seeing what people think, and eliminating early poorly performing ideas so as to not wear thin the patience of others at WT:V. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 14:19, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

I think you're probably right, but it isn't until now that I finally *get* that the polls are all on a page called Wikipedia:Verifiability/First sentence, the counterpart to this Talk page. It seems very unintuitive to me to have polls, which are discussed, on a page that isn't a Talk page. I tend to like the suggestion you made at the start of this thread, but without a real consensus, we're asking for more problems if anything is just implemented. I think the poll I took that ended up here makes it clear that there's a lot of support for getting rid of some of these polls, but again, I think that what Unscintillating did with all the moves, while well intentioned, makes it difficult to be sure there is consensus. Unless something appears on the main WT:V page for a time, I can't say whether you've got true consensus for it, and I would recommend that anything that is going to change WP:V go to WT:V for final approval before anything gets changed. -- Avanu (talk) 14:29, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
  • No, this is not what we agreed. I objected strongly when this subpage was set up, and only modified my position when it was agreed that a consensus here could affect WP:V. If I'd understood that this page couldn't affect WP:V I would not have agreed to participate here. The basis of this page was always that it "counted" as WT:V for the purpose of first page discussion. That was agreed, and I'm sorry to those who don't like it but I'm afraid the boat has sailed.—S Marshall T/C 07:23, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
S Marshall, agree with you in structure and principle. Folks would not have allowed a move to the sub page if that were a "it doesn't count" page. But practically speaking, this is going to need development of a single proposal, and a rationale for it, and then casting a wide net for the final stage, for everyone to weigh in on. As a minimum that's going to need a prominent notice and link on the wp:ver talk page. North8000 (talk) 11:22, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm frankly angry about this, because I can see how it's going to work out. In the fullness of time we'll hash through something that most of us here agree on, and then one of the minority who don't like it will insist on a separate discussion on WT:V. And if it survives that, then one of the minority who don't like it will insist on a RFC. It doesn't take all these discussions to agree on an edit to WP:V. This stupid language that we're trying to change was added to a draft subpage without an RFC, and moved into policy without an RFC or a separate talk page discussion. The same kind process is sufficient to reverse it, and that's what we agreed when this subpage was set up. That's how it will be.—S Marshall T/C 11:29, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Re: It doesn't take all these discussions to agree on an edit to WP:V... given the fact that many see this phrase as being an important part of the policy, and that the idea of changing it is so polarizing (with strong opinions on both sides)... I think it probably will take all these discussions before we actually can make the edit. I see that as a good thing... because if and when the edit actually occurs, we will know it has the full support of the broader community. Blueboar (talk) 03:34, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

New proposal with truthiness[edit]

I know the word "truthiness" is a neologism, but I think it perfectly expresses what we're trying to say here.

Colbert chose the word truthiness just moments before taping the premiere episode of The Colbert Report on October 17, 2005, after deciding that the originally scripted word – "truth" – was not absolutely ridiculous enough. "We're not talking about truth, we're talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist", he explained.[11] He introduced his definition in the first segment of the episode, saying: "Now I'm sure some of the 'word police', the 'wordinistas' over at Webster's are gonna say, 'Hey, that's not a word'. Well, anybody who knows me knows I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They're elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn't true. Or what did or didn't happen."

In another interview:

"It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the President because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?…

Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality."

So how about the following change[edit]

From:

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.

To:

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


-- Avanu (talk) 16:56, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Nah. With all due respect to Mr. Colbert, the word is still a joke, as well as potentially recentism. We really shouldn't be basing core policies on jokes. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:15, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. agree with Tryptofish. Blueboar (talk) 18:05, 3 September 2011 (UTC)
  • oppose. This is not the principle our policies are based on. The slogan is shorthand for saying that "inclusion or exclusion of material in Wikipedia will not be bnased on whether they are true or false (because people cannot reach a consensus as to how to prove this) but instead will be based on whether or not we can verify that a significant group of people hold the view in querstion (because people can reach a consensus as to how to prove this)." Colbert's truthiness, clever though it may be, is not making the same point. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:13, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I oppose too for different reasons, but where in policy did you get the "or exclusion" part from? I think you have just illustrated the point of the "change needed" folks because that is not in policy, although policy does dictate it in special cases, such as npov-balancing situations per wp:npov. North8000 (talk) 11:19, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Verifiability is a blame game that doesn't care about truth.  This is good, or at least it is good enough.  But that is not the end of the discussion, which should continue at WP:UNDUE.  Verifiable material contains many shades of quality, and editors should not use verifiability as a shield against discussion when there is evidence of untruth. 
In turn, there seems to be an undocumented science regarding the forms of evidence that are admissible for WP:UNDUE.  We have (1) the dictionary, and (2) the interpretation that newer material tends to be more reliable than older material.  Slrubenstein above names "a significant group of people hold the view in question".  The point remains that as long as the final product in the article is verifiable, there can be other forms of evidence that weight what material is excluded, or how the material is presented.  Unscintillating (talk) 15:51, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Agree. which is why I added the bit about verifiability not being a guarantee of inclusion to my "compromise" proposal above. Is that enough, or do we need to make it clearer? Blueboar (talk) 16:51, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
@North8000, I think "exclusion" is self-evident, but if you do not think so then we should indeed add it. But every respectable Wikipedia editor knows that they cannot exclude something from an article just because they think it is false, if it is verifiably a significant view as documented by reliable sources. For example, you may feel that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is false. But NPOV and V both forbid you from removing it from our articles, because it is verifiably a significant view. Or you may feel that the "many worlds" interpretation is false - frankly, if you do I sympathize, I mean I cannot see many different planet earths coexisting with ours. Do you really think that there is another you who at this moment is writing what I am writing, while I am writing some objection, just in another world? IT sure sounds illogical. I can't see it. I do not feel like there are other "mes" occupying alternate earths and living different versions of my life. Do you know of any empirical evidence to prove this? Well, sorry friend, but even if we both agree it is false, we cannot exclude this from the article on quantum mechanics. It is a significant view, as evidenced by reliable sources. Do you really not see the basis for this in our NPOV and V policies?
North8000 doesn't see this, so I guess we ought to add it explicitly. But it seems pretty obvious to me that if we do not include a view just because you think it is true, that we add views because we can verify that they are significant as evidenced in reliable sources, doesn't it logically imply that we cannot exclude a view just because you think it is false? I think it is implicit, but quite clear. I do not understand how one can read our policies and not understand this, if they are fluent in English. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:42, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Of course I see the basis for wp:npov, and agree with it for the special situations where it has operative wording regarding this. And I disagree with your implied misinterpretation of wp:ver regarding this. You have to take a structural view of any statement that you make / propose. There are infinite variations of examples of situations covered by "excluding" material. At one extreme, on a single-editor article, if I take a 300 page book and decide to use one page, I am "excluding" the other 299 pages as I am "excluding" the trillions of other pages of books in the world. This happens all of the time with no arguments. A categorical ban on "excluding" would ban such editorial discretion. At the other end of the spectrum would be a npov-balancing situation covered by wp:npov, where I would argue for INCLUSION of the minority view. And then there is the real world middle ground where such statements actually have impact. The emblematic one is where a statement is clearly false (e.g. "Obama has three eyes") which NOBODY is arguing is true, but which wiki-lawyer POV warriors like in there anyway for effect. And where they say that even a CONVERSATION about potential falsity CAN'T OCCUR because of "not truth".
Blueboar's proposal had careful/limited wording in this area which made it not a fatal flaw even if not taken out as I suggested. But the above wording which clearly made a far-reaching statement which is not policy and a bad idea is something I had to challenge. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 22:05, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
@North 8000: What do you mean, when you write in response to my comment, "A categorical ban on "excluding" would ban such editorial discretion?" Do you think I wrote that editors cannot exclude material from articles? Then you misread what I wrote. The policy question is, what constitutes valid grounds for excluding material? And yes, our policies cover this. And yes, "Verifiability, not truth" is relevant to this. I wrote, "But NPOV and V both forbid you from removing it from our articles, because it is verifiably a significant view." Which part of this did you fail to understand? "removing" = "excluding." If you are not sure what these words mean, please consult a dictionary. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:38, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I think that you made a statement that inadvertently and unknowingly wrote that editorial discretion to exclude material is banned. And then in your response to my response you included an semi-insult rather than responding to what I wrote. North8000 (talk) 12:17, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
  • User:Avanu has a point. But if we don't like the neologism truthiness, there's an older word which means much the same - verisimilitude. This would give us:
The requirement for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not verisimilitude. This means that readers can verify that facts in Wikipedia have been published by a reliable source, whether or not they seem to be true.
I'm liking the assonance of this. Warden (talk) 22:19, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Truthiness would not work for this job, but I do personally actually like your verisimilitude. People would actually need to think. But in the end I do not think this will give us a stable future wording.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 22:34, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, very good alternative. Good choice. Agree with Warden on this too. -- Avanu (talk) 22:38, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
Sure... We could use hedged synonyms for "truth"... we could say "verifiability, not veracity" for example. But none are as clear as the simple English word "truth".
Something that is missing in this discussion is the connection between WP:V and WP:NOR. It isn't just the claim of truth, or the semblance of truth, or perception of truth that we don't allow... we don't allow actual truth - if it is unverifiable. To give an example ... Suppose an editor works in the white house as an aide to President Obama... he could know for a fact that Obama did five push-ups before a particular important cabinet meeting... The editor saw him do it. He knows for a fact that its 100% true that Obama did this. However, if that true fact is not verifiable (ie if there is no reliable source that notes it happened) he should not add it to Wikipedia. Doing so would constitute Original Research. Blueboar (talk) 23:36, 4 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Blueboar that this won't work. The words are too cute and people just are not into parsing Latinate terms and getting the fine points. Otherwise we would not be spending time on this issue in the first place. I would however defend Warden's choice as somewhat cleverer than Blueboar is making out. The word he chose does not mean "truth", but, like "verifiability" is a word which indirectly refers to the concept. His proposal, when de-Latinized, says that Wikipedia is not just for anything which seems true, but only for things that seem true and can be shown to seem true using reliable sources. (The exercise of trying to word this in simple English reminds one of the overlap with WP:NOR.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:35, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
According to my dictionary "verisimilitude" is the "semblance of truth"... the reason why I object to this word is that we don't just limit our restriction on unverifiable material to the "semblance of truth"... we go beyond that. We restrict unverifiable material... period... even if it is 100% absolute truth. That is what WP:No original research is all about. A respected scientist may discover something new... his findings may be true, but they can't be mentioned in Wikipedia unless/until they are published. Blueboar (talk) 12:15, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with most of that, but, with slight risk of spending too much time on a flogged horse here, I just don't think the proposal was missing that point either. I think it is, technically, covered within that wording. Verisimilitude is not enough: that's what you say and that's what Warden's sentence says, and that's what my de-Latinizing of it says. It is much more clear, if you know what the word means, than "Truth is not enough", because truth is something we get at with some effect only. So you can not put truth on the table to begin with. It is not that sort of "thing". And so when someone tells you NOT to put truth on the table they are really only speaking about how you come to make claims about what is true. Things which seem true (verisimilitudes) include the things which are verifiable as a subset. Both are true seeming in different ways and can be considered as proposals about truth, which may or may not be true. (I would BTW disagree that everything mentioned in Wikipedia needs to be published. Verifiability goes somewhat beyond being published, as for example in the case of things which "everyone knows", like the meanings of basic English words and how to use them in logical sentences.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:37, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
When writing policy, we have to look at language from the POV of those who wish to abuse it... using hedged words like vermisimilitude (the "semblance of truth") and not the blunter "truth" will be abused. Wikilawyers will argue that "The policy says I can not add things that have vermisimilitude (the semblance of truth)... but what I want to add isn't just the semblance of truth... it is truth. I should therefore be allowed to add it." The problem is that WP:NOR does not allow that. Thus, if we use hedged words we set up the potential for conflict between polices. However, if we use the blunter word "truth" we do not set up a conflict between WP:V and WP:NOR... both hold us to the same standard: The fact that some bit of information is true is not enough... it has to be verifiable. Blueboar (talk) 14:16, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
I have already agreed with on the practical question that the word "verisimilitude" does not help, but it is not true that the word "truth" is any more clear, if that is what you want to say. (Although your word blunt could be read as being precisely an attempt NOT to say that.) The problem with using blunt tools is that they tend to do things which they were not intended to do. The word truth can be argued about forever, and even if we would only take the most reasonable and thorough readings possible, it begs the question and is simply not appropriate for what we are trying to define, verifiability, which is in fact a way of approximating the truth - so it is neither "not truth" not truth itself. Trying to define verifiability in terms of not being something "blunt" is "double blunt". It might sometimes give the right "jolt", but often not. Verisimilitude, if we would only take very logical and thorough readings, fares better I believe. But of course in practice we can not take only the most logical and thorough readings. We need something between being blunt, and being very clear upon very thorough logical inspection. For example your compromise version.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:39, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Verifiability is in no manner of speaking a way of "approximating" the truth. All it means is that we can verify that someone actually holds this view. As NOR makes clear, the "someone" cannot be a WP editor; whether or not my views coincide with those I am adding to the encyclopedia is (or ideally should be) a coincidence. And of course we do not just add the views of individuals. A view must be "significant," which usually means that lots of people hold the view, but this is not the only salient definition of significant. Fringe views are out, but minority views are in. Our articles on quantum mechanics (which come about as close to being about "reality" as any of our articles can get) actually allow for several mutually exclusive but equally significant views. These views are verifiably significant because significant people hold them and they have been published in reliable sources. Since they are mutually exclusive, however, verifiability clearly is not about approximating the truth. In this case, you could say that we have competing versions of the truth but if you believe in only one truth, then many of these verifiable and not only verified but actually attributed views are necessarily false. So verifiability is in no way like "the truth." Slrubenstein | Talk 17:29, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
"Verifiability is in no manner of speaking a way of "approximating" the truth. All it means is that we can verify that someone actually holds this view." I doubt we disagree in the end but I beg to differ with your way of saying this.
1. We do not aim at verifiability in isolation, but as part of the job of building an encyclopedia. We use it to aim at (pulling out all the jargon words we use for our aims) accuracy, reliability, quality, neutrality, etc. Verifiability in the context of a policy about how to practically aim at making an encyclopedia, is a way of achieving those things. These aims, which get mentioned so easily all over the policy pages without creating any debates like this one, would be incomprehensible, the whole of Wikipedia would be, to any Martian who would arrive and not understand that people are interested in learning things, ie the truth of things.
2. Saying that you are aiming at representing something of truth does not mean you claim to possess it, or that you claim that you will possess it. And so, if we do not claim to possess truth, our conceptions of it need not be mutually exclusive. We agree, I think. Like I said above, truth is not something you can ever put on a table. You put evidence on a table. That is what this policy is about I think. It says that it is not a convincing argument to claim to be putting truth on the table. Put evidence on the table instead.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 17:51, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
Certainly, that this is a collaborative effort is essential to making the policies work. On this we wholly agree. But in all my years of editing I have never tried to represent the truth or an approximation of it. I have tried to represent verifiable views. I have tried to provide well-researched accounts of significant views. Slrubenstein | Talk 19:00, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
What more can we do? I do agree, that calling this practice "seeking the truth" is problematic, because the term truth is problematic. It is not a thing we can put on a table and nevertheless people talk about it that way. Still, we are writing a policy page I am just focusing on how words are used. We aim at accuracy, reliability, quality, "the well researched" etc, and all these things, when describing information, are inseparable from the concept of truth. You are saying truth makes no sense as a word for the target. I am saying "not truth" also makes no sense as a target. These two positions are not totally incompatible?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:31, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

So how about a demonstration[edit]

OK, so maybe you guys (Blueboar, slrubenstein, and Andrew Lancaster) know what you’re talking about, but I sure as hell don’t. How about a practical demonstration? This is one that I remember causing arguments about verifiability and truth.

The capitalist world stumbled towards neoliberalization as the answer through a series of gyrations and chaotic experiments that really only converged as a new orthodoxy with the articulation of what became known as the 'Washington Consensus' in the 1990s.

— David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 2005: Oxford University Press, p 13.

Does that passage mean that it is true that a Washington Consensus existed/exists? Or does it mean that it’s true Harvey says it existed? Or does it mean that it’s true that Harvey repeated some other source as asserting that a Washington Consensus existed? Does it matter at all whether it is true that a Washington Consensus existed? Does it matter that it may be a lie that a Washington Consensus existed?

By comparison, is there any doubt that Harvey referred to a Washington Consensus in his book? And isn’t that all we need to know about this passage in order to cite it?

I don’t see how notions of truth assist these considerations at all, but I’m willing to be enlightened. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 22:11, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

  • I'm on your side in that I don't understand how notions of truth help. But I have answers to the specific questions, which are:- 1) By itself it doesn't mean that a Washington Consensus existed, but in conjunction with other sources it does. 2) It also means that Harvey says it existed. 3) It may matter whether a Washington Consensus existed depending on the context. 4) It would surely matter if it was a lie, but it's not as simple as a lie. (There was a viewpoint called the Washington Consensus, but the "Consensus" part of the label may have been a misnomer, because as far as I can tell there was never very much of a consensus supporting it.) 5) There's no doubt that Harvey referred to a Washington Consensus. 6) That isn't all we need to know about the passage, no. For a subject like the Washington Consensus, the authors need to have read widely around the topic and they really do need to understand Harvey's quote in context before they use it.—S Marshall T/C 22:31, 5 September 2011 (UTC)
As I am asked to comment, I can only say that I do not see how this example connects to anything I have been attempting to say, nor for that matter anyone else on the particular point of discussion of this talk page. I think there is some confusion on this. Basically, this whole talk page is about a question of trying to improve wording, nothing deeper than that. Experienced editors tend to agree on how to interpret the policy, at least when they are not involved. We want wording that everyone will get more or less the same way. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:18, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
If they don't get it right off the first read: they will, just as we all have for all these years. Maybe they'll even read these voluminous archives if they're truly interested. Blueboar nailed it right smack on the head here, and it ain't getting any simpler. Bravo... Doc talk 10:38, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and I think it is important to keep in mind that pretty much all of the disagreements about the policy are just about wording, and not about intent. I agree with Andrew Lancaster that I do not see the point of the example, although I agree philosophically with much of what Peter S Strempel says below in the mini-essay. To my way of thinking the real question here is what wording can we use to explain the intent of the policy to the uninitiated as we bring them up to speed on this policy, and what wording works best at reigning in those who are not fully on board with the intent of the policies taken as a whole, such POV pushers or wikilawyers. I'm more than willing to delve into the philosophical issues, but my feeling is that most editors are more concerned with the practical matter of how best to explain the policy. --Nuujinn (talk) 10:49, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
They just have to read beyond the intro. If they are so bewildered by that intro that they refuse to actually read the full body of the policy: call it "culling". Doc talk 10:54, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Doc9871, isn't your argument tantamount to saying we should not try to improve any explanation? If we should just leave it to editors to read harder in this case, rather than considering improvements, why not in all cases?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:05, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
No, it's just re-iterating that it's fine as it is, and that all of us who have been here for many years understand what it means (whether it takes more than one read-through after an initial "double-take"): and many more that join WP every day will understand it as well, as it is currently worded. Doc talk 11:10, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Hmmm.

If I have this right, Andrew Lancaster and Nuujinn think there’s no need to understand the meaning of contentious words in order to improve the wording. Or perhaps that an exalted circle of people already understand the true meaning of the words but the policy must be re-worded to reveal that understanding to the uninitiated?

If attempting to understand the arcane interpretation of ‘truth’ as understood only by the exalted ones is to be excluded from this discussion, regarded as irrelevant to it, or as impractical, what is the point of the debate at all? One must conclude that the dismissive comments were handsomely glib but a little smug, or even disingenuous.

It seems unlikely that an insightful, exalted group, which gleaned a superior interpretation of the policy from the same words now judged to be inadequate to convey that same meaning to lesser editors, can possibly devise new and different wording that doesn’t also change the range of meanings possible to infer from the present wording.

I am tempted to conclude that Doc9871 is more persuasive with his suggestion that the wording doesn’t need changing because the uninitiated will, sooner or later, experience the burning bush moment, at which time the true and appropriate definition of ‘verifiability, not truth’ will be revealed to them.

Most persuasive, however, are S Marshall and Blueboar (as cited by Doc9871), who suggest cogently that the mention of ‘truth’ does nothing to clarify the pre-requisite of verifiability, and is therefore redundant in the existing wording, or in any forthcoming revision.

I can’t say that it’s not been like pulling teeth, but thanks to all for offering their insights. It certainly helps me to make sense of the polling at Wikipedia:Verifiability/First_sentence. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 17:12, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

I do not think that the terms "true" or "false" enter into this at all, or are helpful. With your quote, you have verified that David Harvey, who certainly is a significant scholar, believes that something called "neoliberalism" or "the Washington Consensus" dominated capitalism from the 1990s on. I think that it would be very easy to verify that many others share this view. I also think that it would be easy to verify that other scholars date the emergence of the Washington Consensus to the 1980s. The Washington Consensus is not Harvey's view, it is how he describes a viewpoint held by others (I cannot name them, but it would certainly include many economists from the University of Chicago and perhaps the views of leaders of the IMF). So our policies would guide our research by asking whether those people who Harvey says believed in the "Washington Consensus" actually identified their own view as "Neoliberalism" or "the Washington Consensus." Also, I am not sure that all scholars share Harvey's views about the definition of neoliberalism, and how widely it is shared.
Neoliberalism makes some normative claims about how the world economy works, and also value claims about what kinds of policies would best benefit countries. It is not Wikipedia's place to say whether any of these claims are true or false. All we can say is that some people hold these views, and try to be as precise about who holds these views as possible, and ensure that any other significant views are also included. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:28, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I think disagreement is being exaggerated a little here (I am not including SLR's more direct answer to the subject answer). The way the policy was written, it tries to tell people NOT to make Wikipedia a place for arguing about true/false (or objective/subjective, etc), because it gets in the way of making an encyclopedia bit by bit, and with lots of people working together. Most of the people defending the current current wording, and most of the people worried about it, agree on this - I think. The funny thing is that some of us seem to be arguing that "not truth" is a clear wording because "truth" is so unclear. I would say that if "truth" is something hard to agree upon, then so is "not truth". A major aim of the 3 inter-locked core content policies, anyway, is to force people to be convincing and cooperative, and not to try pushing their own opinions into WP. That is what people are trying to discourage, right?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:24, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
We don't need to define or clarify "not truth", because the policy doesn't discuss "not truth" (ie the opposite of truth)... the word "not" in the first sentence is used with a different meaning. It is use with the meaning the threshold is verifiability, as opposed to being truth. Blueboar (talk) 19:55, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
What Blueboar's saying is that the policy could be rephrased as "verifiability, rather than truth".—S Marshall T/C 20:00, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
could be ... but not necessarily should be. :>) Blueboar (talk) 20:17, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. I'm explaining, not proposing a change.—S Marshall T/C 20:28, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and I think Andrew Lancaster frames the debate rather well. I think Blueboar is correct in that by saying "not truth" what we're doing is underlining that we are not to argue about what is true (or not), but rather what is verifiable when disputes occur, and for that, we do not need to define what truth is--whatever it is, we're not to argue about it, so we don't have to define it. And verifiability we define mostly in functional terms--this is how we verify information, these are the criteria for gauging the reliability of sources, and so on. To me, that's the best way to approach it precisely because truth as a term is so difficult to nail down. I guess I would say that while verifiability and truth overlap in many ways, truth always has a tinge of faith associated with it (belief that science is correct is a matter of faith, as is religious truth, or belief in family values, etc.) that verifiability tends to lack, especially with the essentially function definition we use here. --Nuujinn (talk) 22:18, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Agree, and agree that it is framed well. At least with respect to truth not trumping the verifiability requirement. North8000 (talk) 00:08, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Not that it changes my thinking about the matter, but, Nuujinn, how can you say that we are not to argue the nature of 'truth' when the presence of that word directly invites exactly that? I get the argument about having a stick with which to beat agenda editors and vandals, but the stick appears to be more like a rod for one's own back in this regard. Greetings, Peter S Strempel | Talk 00:47, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Blueboar's way of pointing out that the "correct" way to read "not truth" in the policy is as S Marshall puts it which still means however that it is being implied that you need to know what truth is in order to know what can be included on WP (or not included). What we actually want to say is that we do not want people arguing about what is or is not. We do not aim at it directly, but we also do not aim not to have truth. The policy should also not be saying that we do not care about truth, because of course people making a quality encyclopedia care about reliability, accuracy, verifiability etc. We can care about truth while we are writing, but saying something is true is not how we convince Wikipedians that something should be included.
Take a practical example I see quite often on articles touching academic fields: an expert and good faith newbie turns up and says that he knows personally that new research shows something which we have not included in the article. Do we say we do not care? No. We say "great", but do you know when it will be published? It is not that we are not interested, but we just do not aim to have the latest news until it has become verifiable. You have to draw the line somewhere and this is our way we avoid WP turning into a discussion forum about cutting edge stuff. It is all about being practical in the end.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:47, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem is that it doesn't address the actual problem. We're not trying to exclude only truthiness. We're trying to exclude actual, indisputable, absolute, objective, rational, plain old truth—so long as that 100% true fact cannot be verified in a published, reliable source. The color of my shirt (green today) is not a matter of truthiness: it is a matter of objective fact. But that information must never be added to a Wikipedia article because that 100% true information is unverifiable.
The first paragraph says: If it's verifiable, you may add it (subject to a whole host of other considerations). If it's not verifiable, you must never add it. And, no, the mere fact that the material is true—even absolutely, 100%, indisputably, objectively, rationally, really true—makes no difference. Unverifiable material, whether that is unverifiable true material or unverifiable false material or unverifiable something-in-between material, must never be added. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:51, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
  • If that was what the first paragraph said, and if it didn't imply anything else beyond what you just said, then there would be no problem at all.—S Marshall T/C 11:18, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, "actual, indisputable, absolute, objective, rational, plain old truth" doesn't really exist--objective reality does exist, but truth is a human construct and an individual thing. If it were that simple, conservapedia wouldn't exist, and if you edit fringe articles you will quickly find that nothing is indisputable. I'm painting my house as my SO is moving in, and I can assume you that your shirt is or was not simply green, but some variation of green or not green at all. So it is with truth, there are many shades of it. But I agree completely that whether something is true is immaterial, and that the point is we may only added material that is verifiable.
Peter, I say we are not to argue the nature of truth in regard to V because V is not about truth, it states "The threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth". That's why I like the "not truth" statement so much--it removes the issue of what it true and not true, and the nature of truth, and how truth might be determined (science/mystic vision/personal experience/a trusted friend told me so and she's an expert/read it somewhere, but I can't remember where/I did an experiment/my dog spoke to me/everyone knows it (the sky is blue, the sky is [[WP:NOTBLUE}not blue]]) from the table from the getgo. It's not a rod for my back, it's a blanket that keep me warm when editors storm about claiming this or that is true and thus must be included. It means I do not have to argue the true nature of Tired Light or whether Bob Ross ripped off his teacher or gave him credit, because I can focus on what reliable sources say. --Nuujinn (talk) 11:47, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Nuujinn's summary: "verifiability not truth" should be read as saying that WP:V is a policy which is not about truth. If everyone read it this way, that would solve some problems.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:45, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I'll go add that to the first paragraph (he says, as he runs away to hide). --Nuujinn (talk) 21:44, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I think the beauty of Blueboar's compromise is that it does focus on this subject properly, giving its own heading and everything. Putting all this in one first sentence might seem a nice idea, but that's the old "trying to put everything in the first sentence problem".--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:45, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Another philosophical departure on truth[edit]

The pursuit of truth as an end in itself is synonymous with faith, which has as its end only self-validation. For an individual or group to pursue truth as an end, it may be that the individual or group is seeking a sense of self-righteousness or justification for their methods of ‘attaining’ truth.

In approaching truth as an objective universal value (applicable to all, under all circumstances, in all contexts and without regard to specific circumstances), its seekers are pursuing the same quest for spiritual enlightenment as people of religious or secular faiths do.

So, for a Muslim, it may be that attaining a sense of righteous peacefulness requires coming to an understanding of what the words in the Koran ‘actually’ mean and calling that the truth. For a Marxist, it may be that a sense of fulfilment or justice comes only from finding in the words of Marx, Engels and Lenin a ‘synthesis’ that explains a contradiction and indicates a course of action (like Lenin’s What is to be Done), and declaring that as truth.

Then there’s us, the intellectually superior types who are far too smart to subscribe wholeheartedly to any such ideological or dogmatic prescriptions about what is or should be. We are not fooled by doctrine, ideology or misguided superstitions. We live by facts, certain in our knowledge and our ability to think objectively about all issues.

Except of course we don’t.

What we do is make judgements about what seems credible to us in the vast flow of information we can tap into. For those of us who are scientists, we subscribe to the thesis-test-refinement doctrine. For historians, it’s the Western doctrine of historiography, perhaps mixed up with some sociology, economics, anthropology, etc. For artists it might be a refined aesthetic sensibility that defines itself through affectation of documented artistic poses in history. And so on.

We are, of course, not at all happy to be told that our 'objectivity' is itself a political construct linked to an evolving Western consensus about what is rationality, what is deviance, and what is therefore unquestioned as ‘normal’ (or acceptable). For the mathematicians among us, this roughly resembles a bell curve, which contains a normal range and standard deviations.

The problem with consensus about statistical results defining a normal and non-normal range is that this does nothing to explain truth at all. What it does is to legitimate majority views on what truth ought to look like.

In that manner, however, our civilization has shown itself to be ‘wrong’ quite often. We did, after all, start out as feudal slaves of an aristocratic elite, denying self-determination to almost everyone, and murdering those who proposed, among other things, that the Earth is round, not flat. And every ‘advance’ in our civilization was possible only when ‘truth’ was re-defined to include some greater self-determination, personal benefit or reflection of scientific or socio-political reality that had taken place regardless of rules against it.

Today the truth may be that all people are equal under law, which is not truth at all since wealthy people able to afford batteries of lawyers will always get a greater degree of ‘justice’ from any Western legal system than less wealthy people. Tomorrow it may be that only special categories of citizens who have performed public duties are entitled to legal protection at all, or ... .

In this sense I think it is futile to argue about the nature or meaning of truth without revealing all political, social, cultural, economic and intellectual prejudices embedded in our exposition of that concept. In other words, and in contradiction to what Saint Jimbo has said about us all striving to tell the truth, we never do more than justify the embedded prejudices and biases of our own subjectivities by calling them truth.

Of course this little departure into a subjective, philosophical consideration of truth is itself beholden to received wisdom, generated in the Western academy, about how one may consider truth.

What all these words really mean is that we are kidding ourselves if we think we can arrive at a settlement on the meaning or applicability of truth. In 60,000 years we never have.

I think it would be a much more simple task to focus on verifiability, accuracy, and transparency of interpretation. I can forecast right now that if Wikipedia, through its editors, prescribes to me how I should think about truth, particularly by way of some snot-nose quoting WP:TRUTHING or some other acronyms at me, I’ll face arbitrary lynching rather than ‘obey’. It’s the same deal as rejecting claims of consensus that are based on a handful of votes that say superstition is actually science, or that you need to be a Muslim to commit Islamic terrorism, or that that it’s anti-Semitic to criticise Israeli defence policy, or that this debate is better conducted across multiple pages than in one location, or ... all of which has occurred in Wikipedia discussions.

My conclusion about all of this is to leave the word truth alone, or excise it completely from the verifiability stipulation. Let there be enough elbow room for rational argument to prevail over nonsense without imposing a formula for truth that trumps informed common sense. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 00:13, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Thank you Peter for an insightful(if somewhat meandering) commentary on 'truth'. Crazynas t 03:46, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

An operative dissection which might help simplify this[edit]

OD Item #1 Everyone agrees that wp:ver should, does, and should continue to set verifiability as an absolute requirement for inclusion of material. (no exceptions based on truth or anything) The action that it constrains is INCLUSION; and it does this by sanctioning exclusion or removal of material by editors. I think that it would save 50,000 words of discussion if we stipulate the first sentence of this item instead of pretending that it is being debated.

OD Item #2 I think that 95% of folks would agree that it is not the job of wp:ver to ever weigh in on the side of INCLUSION of material. It set's a constraint on/condition for inclusion, nothing else. For certain cases wp:npov does that, but it's not wp:ver's job. Except for some creative interpretations of "not truth", there is NOTHING in wp:ver that weighs in on the side of inclusion of material. I think that what many folks on both sides of the debate not realize is that, in an operative sense, this abstract statement is really most of what this debate is about. Can we agree on the first sentence of this item?

OD Item #3 Is the vaguer question of whether the mission of Wikipedia includes seeking accuracy (where such exists) vs. just summarizing sources. "Mission" just means general goal, it does not mean trumping policy based on someone invoking it. And since we all decided that "truth" does not override verifiability, this really boils down to conversations about exclusion of false or fringe sourcable material. Since this is a huge philosophical topic which is not the purview of wp:ver, I think that most could agree that wp:ver should not weigh in on this big question. Could we agree on that?

OD Item #4 A policy must state it's intent but also be operative in real life. The latter is the tougher half of the job and thus the main task of writing policies. When there is a battle going on, if a policy can be used contrary to it's intent, it WILL be if such serves somebody's purpose. And since they are "using" policy rather than flaunting it, such persons are much harder to prevail over. Dealing with this is one of the most difficult tasks of policy wording. Struck by author North8000 (talk) 20:21, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

- - - - -

So, if the very likely agreement on #1, #2 and #3 has occurred/ will occur, that may make some of the points of contention go away. The question becomes whether or not "not truth" significantly violates or works against #2 or #3 and, if so, what should be done about it?

The above wouldn't resolve that question, but might subtract 100,000 words from the debate. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 12:29, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

1. OK. I do not like "absolute" but otherwise yes. 2. OK. Not sure everyone would agree that this is what we are "really" discussing, but anyway the first sentence seem ok. 3. OK. After struggling with this a bit, I understand you as saying WP:V should avoid having anything to say about material that is verifiable but for some OTHER reason not thought right for inclusion? (Something to do with basic aims, like that we happen to be making an encyclopedia.) By definition that would be true because WP:V should be about what WP:V is about. 4. Unsure of the point being made. Everyone agrees there is both the spirit of words, and the words themselves. A lot of people, both for and against change, seem to agree that the words in question "not truth" are unclear, and give more of a "jolt" than a clear instruction, and so the scope for a gap between words and spirit is particularly big? I do think there is concern that WP:V's "territory" is not clear, and that seems to be the point you are making. Are you saying it is an imperialist policy? LOL--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:55, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Basically #4 says that the main wording-writing job is avoiding mis-use rather than expressing intent. (the hard part vs. the easy part) And that such is important to the discussion.
And I think that what the above leads to is that making wp:ver "non-imperialist" (= stick to it's topic) is probably a way to avoid the complex debates and make everyone mostly happy. North8000 (talk) 15:09, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I would disagree that the main word-writing job is avoiding misuse rather than expressing intent. I think our main job is to express intent as clearly as possible. If we can do so without opening doors for misuse, great... but that is a secondary consideration. The fact is, wikilawyers are very creative people, and can usually find some way to twist our policies... no matter how well we write them. If, however, we express our intent clearly, then we make it more likely that others will see through a wikilawyer's verbal juggling and recognize the misuse when they see it. Blueboar (talk) 20:08, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
I think I muddied the water by putting in #4 which is just a relevant sidebar observation. I'm going to strike it. North8000 (talk) 20:19, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
At point #2, do you mean something like "Just because we can verify it doesn't guarantee that we'll include it"? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:57, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
That's type type of situation it's about. But I was suggesting that we agree simply that wp:ver should be silent on that issue. North8000 (talk) 01:24, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
So North please check my understanding. Are you saying that the underlieing problem is the "imperialism" of the wording, or in other words, the way the first sentence seems to pretend to be the only core content policy? (For example by saying is is describing the only threshold for inclusion.) I do think there is fairly wide agreement with the idea that WP:V needs to be interpreted together with the other two core content policies. --Andrew Lancaster (talk) 11:36, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Again, I'm not arguing my overall opinion, just some things that I think 95% would agree on which we should stipulate. Yes, (unintended) "imperialism" is the main problem, but not the type you describe. I suggesting that we stipulate that wp:ver should confine itself to the subject of it's actual content, which is setting a requirement for inclusion of material. The major policy/guideline that mandates INCLUSION, or weighs in on the side of INCLUSION is wp:npov. If wp;ver were to say something that weighs in on (or gets widely interpreted as weighing in on) on the side of INCLUSION, then THAT is the problematic "imperialism", (your word, but a good one) taking over what wp:npov covers. North8000 (talk) 12:03, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't have a problem with the core policies overlapping and supporting each other (given that WP:V grew out of WP:NPOV, and WP:NOR grew out of WP:V, I would expect some overlap)... as long as that overlap does not inadvertently set up a contradiction. Do you think that is what is going on here... is WP:V inadvertently contradicting WP:NPOV? (if so, how). Blueboar (talk) 14:30, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
The "overlap" idea is sort of a tangent, what I'm proposing to stipulate is just "OD #2" above. Basically that it not weigh in on (or be such that it is commonly interpreted as weighing in on) the side of INCLUSION of material. North8000 (talk) 15:33, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
It's kind of difficult for a statement that defines what can be included not to "weigh in" on the side of inclusion at least a little bit... isn't it? Blueboar (talk) 20:40, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Well, strictly and logically speaking, it doesn't define what can be included, it places a condition on what can be included. And, other than two vague words, it already achieves "OD #2". And your proposal helps on the two vague words. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:11, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't think it's a good idea to give editors the impression they can remove sourced content at will. We have WP:PRESERVE for a reason. Editors can remove sourced content if they have good reason to do so, but a corollary to WP:BURDEN is that once WP:BURDEN has met, the onus shifts onto the editor wishing to remove the material to show why removal is necessary. WP:DUE fits in about here. Unfortunately, there's a tension between all these different rules and policies that's confusing, but I do not think it's wise to encourage editors to remove sourced content without good reason.—S Marshall T/C 21:04, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
That's a topic covered by a zillion other policies, guidelines, good editing practices, consensuses and conversations. OD #2 just calls for wp:ver to remain silent on that topic; not give any impressions. The only change would be that it would no longer give the impression that possible falsity can be excluded from the list of considerations for those conversations. North8000 (talk) 21:20, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not belief[edit]

Has this been suggested, changing "truth" to "belief"?

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not belief.

. Might be a stop-gap measure, if nothing else. --Surturz (talk) 13:29, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Support - I think that is a very reasonable suggestion, and conveys exactly what the page is trying to convey now. -- Avanu (talk)
Oppose - the restriction on inclusion goes beyond just belief that something is true... it includes anything that is unverifiable - including unverifiable things that are 100% true, accurate, valid, (or any other synonym you wish to use). This restriction is supported by WP:NOR... for example: if you are a scientist and discover something new, you can not discuss your discovery in Wikipedia unless/until it is published in a reliable source (ie unless/until it is verifiable)... even if you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that your discovery is 100% absolutely true, accurate, valid, etc. it should not be included until and unless it is verifiable. Blueboar (talk) 14:04, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Doesn't the wording that Surturz proposed above say exactly that? Its the same wording as now, except instead of the inscrutable value of truth being there, we have the more clear value of belief there. -- Avanu (talk) 14:12, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
No, it doesn't. The threshold for inclusion is verifiability. The threshold for inclusion is not a very long list of things, and in that list, the most frequent error we see is not "I personally believe this", but "this really is 100% true; it's not just my personal belief". Many of these claims may be—indeed, probably are—actually true in every possible sense of the word. But that's not good enough: you must not add any material, not even if that material is objectively true, not even if it is as obviously true as 2+2=4, unless that material can be verified in a published source. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:59, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Good idea, but I'd rather proceed on the main compromise version which is in process. You could put any word but "verifiability" in that place and it would be structurally correct, because that phrase just says what the threshold is not. North8000 (talk) 14:10, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. I think we now know enough about the likely positions people are going to take to see that some people will see this as fine, and some people will see it as unacceptable, similar to other proposals which avoided the word truth. Supporters of the word "truth" will presumably see this change as making the sentence look uninteresting and obvious, too clear, whereas they like saying Wikipedia is not about truth for the shock value which gets people thinking, even if it is illogical. Moving the word truth a little bit further from the first sentence seems to be the compromise with the most chance of uniting different opinions.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:31, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
    I agree with this comment. In fact, while I am myself in favour of clarification, I think this proposal goes too far. We need to say that truth is not enough for inclusion, we need also verifiability – without implying that demonstrated falsity is no reason for omission. Hans Adler 14:52, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • I share Blueboar's concern on the merits, and North's view of the fact that we should now be focusing. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:35, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose, per what Blueboar said, and I would suggest that belief is more inscrutable than truth. North8000 is correct about the tack we should take. --Nuujinn (talk) 19:19, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose as explained by Blueboar, and about a dozen other times just on this page. Material that people identify as their beliefs is not Wikipedia's major problem with WP:V violations. The biggest problem is what people know to be true, often because it actually is true. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:59, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose', per WhatamIdoing et al. Please wait at least one week before making yet another proposal to change this sentence. Jayjg (talk) 01:32, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
  • oppose per Jayjg. --Cerejota (talk) 03:13, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
It was briefly funny, but WP:BLP applies here, OK? --Tryptofish (talk) 23:24, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

I object. Pope Benedict XVI (talk) Verification needed.

Well, Mr Ratzinger, how about I turn my face away from you, the way you did in the 1940s when the bodies stank so awfully that no one could possibly not have known what was happening.

But I digress. The point is sound but lost on all those who might just be looking for an easy way to beat the shit out of their opponents. See the next section. Peter S Strempel | Talk 23:04, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Let's do it[edit]

  • Yes to Blueboar's phrasing. Peter S Strempel | Talk 23:05, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Huh? I feel very supportive of the proposal that Blueboar started, but I thought that we were gaining consensus for the process discussed above. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:26, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, see end of "clarity" section. We don't want any misfires/ premature launches . North8000 (talk) 23:32, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Verifiability Fact vs Truth[edit]

After a long battle over in Talk:Conspiracy_theory#The_first_recorded_use_of_the_phrase_.22conspiracy_theory.22_dates_from_1909.3F_WRONG.21 I propose the following so other editors doesn't have to go through that again.

Current text: The threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth – whether readers can check that it has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true.


Proposed text: (addition italicized): The threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth – whether readers can check that it has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true. Note: this is not the same as an editor using reliable sources to show a statement being referenced is not factual. (see WP:NOTOR)


The reason for this proposed change is that we had a host of problems with this statement:

"The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates back to a history article from 1909." (Knight, Peter. "Plots, paranoia and blame". BBC News 7 December 2006)

As far as WP:RS goes it was good--a Senior lecturer in American Studies from the University of Manchester being quoted in a well respected paper. The problem is it was factually wrong as demonstrated by the following sources:

"The fact, however, which makes the conspiracy theory completely illogical is that the political leaders in the slave states were not united in support of the southwest- ward movement, nor those in the free states against it." (Garrison, George Pierce (1906) Westward extension, 1841-1850 Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart LLD Professor in history in Harvard University

"The authoritative action of this caucus, taken in connection with the array of Northern contemporary and later writers that support the conspiracy theory," (History of the United States from the compromise of 1850 copyright 1895 New York, Harper)

"I must content myself with saying that the class-conspiracy theory of economic development may generally be considered false,..." (The Economic review: Volume 1 Christian Social Union (Great Britain) Oxford University Branch 1891 Page 540.)

"Such a view of the case, if it were generally entertained, would have an important bearing on the conspiracy theory." (Ellis Thompson, Wharton Barker The American: a national journal: Volumes 19-20 May 10, 1890 Page 67)

"There is more and more doubt of the conspiracy theory. None of the Cabinet officers approve it, and the President himself does not believe in it." (McCabe, James Dabney (1881) Our martyred President ...: The life and public services of Gen. James A Garfield pg 556)

"It was at least more plausible that the conspiracy theory of Mr. Charles Eeade, and the precautionary measure suggested by Dr. Sankey of using a padded waistcoat in recent cases of mania with general paralysis..." The Journal of mental science: Volume 16 Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane (London, England), Medico-psychological Association of Great Britain and Ireland, Royal Medico-psychological Association (1871)

This wasn't me thinking it was not true but me demonstrating it was not true with Harvard University and Oxford University in the mix and other editors were crying OR. THAT IS INSANE. WP:NOTOR expressly allows this. We really need to fix this so reliable sourced demonstrable false statements don't wind up being referenced in articles.--BruceGrubb (talk) 05:08, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention. It is certainly true that falsehoods can be included in articles because they can be referenced. Everyone here is working as hard as they can to prevent someone from claiming that something is true when it's not, and your example will assist in that endeavour. Regards, Peter S Strempel | Talk 08:55, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
It is indeed a good example of how the current first sentence is sometimes mis-read. It also shows how we are guided by an interest in truth (or something that most people would call truth) in the sense that we are aiming to use the best more reliable sources, not just all sources equally. This is of course exactly what the 3 combined core content policies tell us already, but... the first sentence of WP:V is well known to give a very special jolt of attention, which then draws attention away from the rest of WP:V and the other core content policies.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 12:04, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for this very clear example. I guess it's no accident that this abuse of the misunderstood "verifiability, not truth" principle occurred in context where most editors will be experienced in WP:FRINGE battles, as they appear to be one breeding ground for this extreme interpretation. Hans Adler 14:48, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
I encountered a similar issue with the first use of the word "creativity" in English on the creativity page. One reliable source stated it was in the late 1800s, but (primary) sources could be found using it earlier than that. Clearly that "reliable" source was wrong. Luckily, no one got hung up on the notion that "everything verifiable should be presented as true", and we just took out the reference as it had been shown to be not "reliable" in the sense that we all understood it to mean. Of course, it was not our place to claim the first use date on the basis of our own research.

I have been saying this all along, but this example reinforces for me the point that what is at issue are two things: the meaning of "reliable source" and the difference between criteria for inclusion and criteria for exclusion. If a source is demonstrably wrong on a factual point, it is not reliable on that point; it may then only be a good source for what someone says is true on the topic. And while it is "original research" to put sources together to produce new content for inclusion, it is not necessarily "original research" in the wikipedia sense to compare sources and in so doing decide to omit factual content because its veracity is in doubt.

This is why I favour, rather per blueboar, a first paragraph that emphasises why we rely on "reliable sources", a subsequent one explaining that as a consequence, we require verifiability, not truth for inclusion and another one dealing with where we think things may not be true and how we go about showing something should be excluded.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:52, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

I'm a little more conservative about tinkering with Verifiability but I have also seen OR used to keep out reliable sourced information. For example in the Weston Price article the following has been repeatedly removed under OR:
In his 1939 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration book Price made one passing comment about his 1923 work:
"In my search for the cause of degeneration of the human face and the dental organs I have been unable to find an approach to the problem through the study of affected individuals and diseased tissues. In my two volume work on "Dental Infections," Volume I, entitled "Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic," and Volume II, entitled "Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases," (PRICE, W. A. Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic. Cleveland, Penton, 1923) I reviewed at length the researches that I had conducted to throw light on this problem. The evidence seemed to indicate clearly that the forces that were at work were not to be found in the diseased tissues, but that the undesirable conditions were the result of the absence of something, rather than of the presence of something. This strongly indicated the need for finding groups of individuals so physically perfect that they could be used as controls. In order to discover them, I determined to search out primitive racial stocks that were free from the degenerative processes with which we are concerned in order to note what they have that we do not have."
For those who don't know Nutrition and Physical Degeneration was originally published by Paul B. Hoeber, Inc; Medical Book Department of Harper & Brothers. A direct quote comprising nearly entire paragraph from the Medical Book Department by the man the biography is on being kept out under OR because some editors think is implies something even though this again is allowed under WP:NOTOR The current poor wording of Verifiability results in this kind of insanity.--BruceGrubb (talk) 16:16, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Bruce, it's not clear what's being omitted - the fact that the statement was made, or facts sourced to the statement. Could you clarify?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:23, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Both the fact that the statement was made and the facts sourced to the statement have been removed because it "implies that Price stopped supporting Focal Infection Theory." Perhaps it does but that is NOT for us editors to decide but the readers per WP:NOTOR. Yet every time I try to put this position by Price regarding his 1923 work it is removed by editors claiming OR.--BruceGrubb (talk) 18:35, 9 September 2011 (UTC)
Have you tried to discuss this at Talk:Weston Price instead of warring over it? I don't see it. (Obviously your opponent isn't discussing it either, so it isn't all on you.) Also your complaint seems to be with WP:OR. I don't see any mention of WP:V there. Quale (talk) 17:25, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
I can't speak to the Weston Price article, but in reference to Conspiracy Theory, I think that the issue is more about OR than V. The discussion about the date hasn't really been that long, but there is a tough series of discussions that has been going on there, with questions of reliability of sources, fringiness, and original research popping up here and yon. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:55, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
It was discussed in Talk:Weston_Price/Archive_3#Removal_of_relevent_material but at that time I was not fully aware of WP:NOTOR ("Compiling related facts and information from independent sources is part of writing an encyclopedia).". While we editors cannot interpretative them WP:OR was being interpenetrated in such a way that even presenting quote form Price himself was viewed as OR. I should mention this article also had what is perhaps the most blatant attempt of using WP:BLP as a personal magical censorship hammer seen by the community in a long time.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:13, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
This is ridiculous, and the other half of the arguments have not been properly represented here by BruceGrubb. Further, BruceGrubb neglected to notify anyone involved in the debate on Talk:Conspiracy theory of this pertinent Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability discussion, and it's not only silly, but outrageous to assume that any of us debating with BruceGrubb have taken up an extreme interpretation of "verifiability, not truth." Edit enough controversial topics on Wikipedia and you'll easily recognize why such a principle is so vital to Wikipedia. It is perhaps the very principle that allows us to have reasonably good articles on topics like Creationism and Evolution, about which many editors hold starkly contrasting beliefs. If truth were a guiding principle, there'd be no hope, as editors hold different views on whether _____ is true. Is it true that the Earth is flat, or verifiable that some people think it's flat? Are 9/11 conspiracy theories true? Are they false? Ask these questions in virtually any city on the planet and you'll get a nice variety of answers. How would we ever move forward with an article about these topics? The solution is to uphold verifiability - since editors have vastly different views, we avoid "truth" because we can't agree on what's true. What we can agree on more often than "truth factor" is whether something can be verified to have been published in a reliable third-party source. If it can be, we characterize and summarize it. If not, we find a better source or we debate about the reliability until an understanding is reached. In either case we can move forward if our guiding principle is verifiability, but we'll be stuck in unending cyclical debate if our guiding principle is truth.
Something in a source was found to be erroneous through demonstration of primary sources, and nevertheless was a reliable source, so we removed the contested statement. It was an appropriate course of action that removed erroneous statements of fact from the article. Yet, lo and behold, I should find a policy talk page discussion in which BruceGrubb has blatantly deceived participants into believing the bizarre idea that we invoked "verifiability, not truth" so as to keep an erroneous factual claim in an article, when in actuality, we took appropriate action to remove the erroneous claim, and even acknowledged BruceGrubb's correctness in discovering the falsehood of 1909 being the first recorded usage.
BruceGrubb seems to be unsatisfied with removing the erroneous statement. Instead, he wants to comment on the error, compare and contrast the statement of fact with the primary sources that disproved it, or narrate his discovery. Any of those is certainly original research. There's nothing "wrong" with original research, but an encyclopedia is not the place for it. The primary sources BruceGrubb cited cannot be extended to support a position they don't explicitly pose, even if they implicitly demonstrate the validity of the position. John Shandy`talk 00:26, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
I must concur with everything John Shandy has said. No-one has insisted on keeping factually incorrect material in an article on the basis of some extreme interpretation of "verifiability, not truth". BruceGrubb has misled the readers of this noticeboard, and wasted their time. Jayjg (talk) 01:30, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
It is clear neither of you understand the relevance to this issue Here are your own words on the matter with the very point I brought up bolded:
"Maybe the author of the source cited is in error, but correcting sources is not within the scope of the Wikipedia project. The source was published and vetted by the Oxford University Press, so it is certainly a reliable source. This is another one of those instances in which "verifiability, not truth" is what matters for Wikipedia. It can be verified that the author claims that the first recorded use was from 1909, whether or not his claim is accurate. In this case, it looks like you're correct that the phrase appears in earlier publications, but it's beyond us to counter the author's claim because doing so would be original research." (John Shandy` • talk 04:52, 8 September 2011)
"So it seem to me we have two choices, either to remove that particular bit or to see if we can work in the material without violating OR. The former is not particularly attractive and the latter would be difficult as some of the sources BruceGrubb has found are primary sources, and I'm not sure that the secondary sources are about conspiracy theories per se but may be passing mentions. Do any of these source appear usable to others?" (Nuujinn (talk) 10:28, 8 September 2011)
This is further example of the "It is certainly true that falsehoods can be included in articles because they can be referenced." problem alluded to above.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:49, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
You're being incredibly imaginative. There's nothing in my words from September 8 that conflict with what I've stated on this talk page. I argued from the get-go that countering the claim in the article (by synthesizing it with your discovery of primary sources) was not an option, but I also had no objection to removing the contested statement, which Nuujinn first did by recasting the paragraph to not make the 1909 claim, and which Nuujinn later removed entirely. Just because Nuujinn at first expressed a second guessing of removing sourced content doesn't mean that there was some agenda to keep falsehoods in the article, and the fact that he himself actually removed that bit by recasting it and later removing it completely thwarts any of your ridiculous cherry picking of our comments from the Conspiracy theory talk page.
While I agree that some Wikipedia articles probably contain falsehoods because they're referenced, Conspiracy theory isn't one of them in this case, because once you discovered the falsehood, we appropriately discussed and removed it (we did not leave it in just because it's referenced). To try and take a debate from Talk:Conspiracy theory and use it here to further your cause in the ongoing "verifiability, not truth" dispute in WP:V policy discussions is incredibly disingenuous and dishonest. It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to assume good faith when you sneak around creating illusions of policy abuse and wrongdoing. John Shandy`talk 16:28, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
John Shandy, you are the one what stated "In this case, it looks like you're correct that the phrase appears in earlier publications, but it's beyond us to counter the author's claim because doing so would be original research." which editor Mystichumwipe rightly lambladed you for. :::::
As Mystichumwipe stated ""WP:OR is used on Wikipedia to refer to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published source exists....To demonstrate that you are not adding original research, you must be able to cite reliable, published sources that are directly related to the topic of the article, and directly support the material as presented. BruceG provided verifiable reputable sources (which were not original research, EVEN if they were primary sources)." (sic)
It is a FACT that the phrase "conspiracy theory" is found in the above sources before 1909 and that is NOT OR because there are reliable, published source for that statement. You can hem and haw but at the end of the day you claimed that using RS sources to show a statement was UNTRUE was OR even though by OR itself it was NOT because those sources do indeed contain the phrase "conspiracy theory" ie it was Verifiability. DEAL WITH IT.--BruceGrubb (talk) 09:29, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Yet again you fail to understand that synthesis is original research. I explained this with detailed examples on the talk page of the article. Demonstrating your discovery that the source contained an error by providing reliable sources on the talk page isn't OR, and I never said it was. However, describing such a discovery in the article in an effort to verbally counter the source's error is original research by synthesis of a secondary source with content from a primary source. How can you not see this? I have explained it, reexplained it, exemplified it, and still you dig your heels in and refuse to acknowledge that I never criticized your discovery, only your desire to narrate that discovery in the article. You made a discovery, we removed a contested statement based on that discovery. However, your discovery does not warrant verbiage in the article, because such verbiage would be original research. Mystichumwipe also failed to understand this point, and I refuted his commentary on the talk page with clear examples of what we can and cannot do given the sources you introduced. He at least seems to have understood the difference between omitting the false statement versus introducing verbiage in the article to talk about the statement being found to be false, as he has not offered any further commentary in a number of days. You need to understand that providing reliable sources is not the only requirement of WP:NOR; it also requires that such sources be used appropriately, and prohibits synthesis, extensions, and other misuses of sources by editors. John Shandy`talk 15:16, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────WP:SYN states "If one reliable source says A, and another reliable source says B, do not join A and B together to imply a conclusion C that is not mentioned by either of the sources." That is NOT what was being done. Any ONE of the RS would have proved the 1909 claim wrong; listing several of them was merely to show that it any one of them was not a one time obscure fluke. This desperate flailing around to try and find something anything to back up the claim of OR when none exists only goes to show that the policies need to be further clarified.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:36, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

If Source A says "first used in 1909", and you find Source B that happens to use the term in 1906, then you may (and normally should) remove Source A's claim. However, you may not synthesize these two sources together to add a sentence that says "Source A is wrong about the date, because Source B used the term three years earlier." Adding up two sources to make a claim that is actually found in neither of them is a very basic, very obvious WP:SYNTH violation. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:19, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
But that was NEVER the goal. The above is synth but by WP:NOTOR (comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources) the following would NOT be: Peter David states "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909" (ref); however, the phrase "conspiracy theory" also appears in Garrison, George Pierce (1906) Westward extension, 1841-1850 Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart LLD Professor in history in Harvard University pg 31(ref) and The American: a national journal: Volumes 19-20 May 10, 1890 Page 67(ref).
Here each individual part of the compound sentence is Verifiability: Peter David did indeed make that statement and the phrase "conspiracy theory" is indeed found in the specific reliable sources provided. Per WP:NOTOR "contrasting conflicting facts" is NOT OR "as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources" no matter how anyone wants to fig-leaf it otherwise. Sure in this case it is easier to just throw the statement out but that is not always an option.
In the case of the Jesus myth theory we had to do a mammoth info dump into the lead because nearly everything regarding the topic including its very definition was a WP:NOTOR poster child. This is why the first two paragraphs in the lead have 11 references--the topic is that much of a confusing disjointed mess. It doesn't make for an easy or simple lead but given WP:NPOV it was the best we could do.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:59, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Comment and discussion about changes to the main proposal[edit]

  • Comment I don't think Blueboar's phrasing addresses the real problem--the confusion of fact with truth.
The threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth – whether readers can check that it has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true. Note: this is not the same as an editor using reliable sources to show a statement being referenced is not factual. (see WP:NOTOR)

Proof in the form of reliable source statements is not an editor thinking something is true or not true but providing evidence of it.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:55, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

Hi Bruce, I think you are aiming at the same thing as many or most or all of us, but I don't see your proposal giving a magic solution which avoids the problems that all other proposals also hit. Saying "this is not the same as" is just as indirect and unclear as saying "not truth". I am not saying it is wrong, but it is not directly saying what it is intended to mean. I think the difficulty of all proposals comes down to the classic problem of wanting to put something pithy and short right near the top, but pithy short things can never contain a full explanation of a complicated point. Thus the need for compromise.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 07:44, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm not saying my proposal is a magic solution (though I admit it is a very conservative one) but I have found if you throw too much at them editor's eyes tend to glaze over and they don't really understand what is being said.
Peter Knight's (a Senior lecturer in American Studies from the University of Manchester being quoted by the BBC News) statement of "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates back to a history article from 1909" was not true and could be demonstrated through WP:RS (Harvard University and Oxford University related publications before 1909 that used the phrase "conspiracy theory") to be untrue. The "truth" was the Verifiable statement could be demonstrated through WP:RS (ie with Verifiability) to be flat out wrong--the phrase "conspiracy theory" was used way before 1909.
The threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia is verifiability--the ability for readers to confirm through a reliable source what is being stated. It is possible for a reliable source to make an incorrect statement but an editor must be able to prove this through other reliable sources that the statement is factually inaccurate; simple belief is not enough. (see WP:NOTOR)

--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:08, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

Rather than resolving that complex area, right now I think we're working on a more modest goal of just stopping WP:VER from doing damage in that area. North8000 (talk) 14:47, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

@Bruce, doesn't this come down to trying to put detailed instructions about one particular type of problem in the lead? If we want to give instructions on this particular type of case, then why not other particular types of problem. "Simple belief is not enough" is however a general remark, and very much in the direction of what is being discussed. I think more generally we all want something in that direction. I would be interested in your comment on the second part of Blueboar's proposal:-
==Assertions of truth and untruth==

An editor's assertion that something is true is not enough for inclusion in Wikipedia. It does not matter how convinced you are that some bit of information is true; if the material is unverifiable, do not add it. In this context, Wikipedia requires "verifiability, not truth"'.

Assertions of untruth (ie an editor's assertion that some bit of information is untrue) are a more complicated issue. If the dubious information is not supported by a source, it should be challenged; but the question of how to challenge (whether to tag the information as needing a citation or to remove it immediately) depends on the nature of the information (see: WP:Burden, below). If the dubious information is supported by a reliable source, the problem should be discussed on the article talk page, with reference to policy concepts such as maintaining a neutral point of view (and especially the sub-concept of due weight). In many situations, a simple rewording to present the information as an opinion rather than as an accepted fact can resolve issues of verifiable but potentially untrue information.

I have some concerns about "If the dubious information is not supported by a source, it should be challenged". This seems to be what you would also be looking at?

  • Firstly, what makes something dubious if it is not personal belief? But I am not saying we can sensibly write a policy to tell people not to listen to personal belief when considering if something is doubtful. That would be impossible. So being practical, yes we have to admit that personal belief will be used, but we are treating it differently in this sentence.
  • Secondly, I would say people "may" tag. But I do not think it is a good idea to write a policy telling people that they should go around tagging anything that they personally find dubious. There is enough of that on WP already. It is the clever way to POV push and break WP:NEUTRAL.

Overall, it worries me that this wording is encouraging people to use their personal beliefs, as long as they are trying to get something removed. That seems to be against what we are trying to achieve, and once again brings the issue of WP:V being cited against WP:NEUTRAL, as if it over-rules it.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 14:52, 10 September 2011 (UTC)

Andrew - would a change to "If you believe that the dubious information is unverifiable, it should be challenged...." resolve your concerns? That is, I think, in line with both WP:Burden and actual practice? Blueboar (talk) 16:53, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, seems very good.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:46, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
IMHO exclusion/removal/leaving out of material is a complex topic, involving the combination of zillions of policies and guidelines (with wp:npov at the top of that list), discretion of editors, editor discussions and consensuses) and that wp:ver, instead of adding itself to that list, should stay out of it and stick to saying the verifiability is required for inclusion. Could you give an example (hypothetical is fine) of the subject of your concern causing a problem? North8000 (talk) 15:18, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
Very simple, and I see it often: Someone wants to push a POV, and so they tag and/or remove everything they do not like (and not what is worst sourced). They just say they have doubts. Because most articles are imperfectly sourced, normally simply because WP is an on-going work at all times, this strategy can often succeed, and note that it can be used to tag and delete sourced material. All you need to say it is dubious. End result is a WP article which shows one mainstream theory, if at all, with tags all over it. If WP:V positively encourages tagging and says tagging is good, this seems to make it over-rule WP:NPOV. I tend to think WP:NPOV is an UNDER-cited policy, which gets shoved aside by all the attention WP:V and WP:NOR get, too often. BTW, of course when experienced editors find cases like this of course they tend to try to solve it by adding better sourcing etc. rather than getting into this argument, but it does not always play out that way. I am not saying there is a magic solution to bad behavior of course, but I do not agree with saying that people SHOULD always tag things for any reason. I agree with you that as much as possible we want to make sure people realize that this is a subject which requires consideration of all 3 core content policies, and not try to define a simple commandment only based on WP:V.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 15:56, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
First, I'm not only with you overall, but consider what you are saying to be very important. Now,on your example, for better or worse, if the item is not sourced to a wp:rs, wp:ver/wp:nor give a POV warrior a magic bullet to knock it out. Other than me on-and-off advocating that that process should include at least stating a concern, nobody is seriously talking about changing that. So then your example must be about sourced material. What in the old or new wp:ver assists the POV warrior in knocking out sourced material? What in ANY policy supports their effort? Plus, if there is a battle, wp:npov supports retention of the material. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 18:21, 10 September 2011 (UTC)
Well, it is all about balance. My point is basically that if we change wording we can effectively change the "balance" of authoritativeness between WP:V, WP:NOR and WP:NPOV. Once we do that, it will have results in terms of how difficult situations develop in real editing.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:09, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Wp:ver/wp:nor basically says that material need to be sourcable, and sourced if challenged. If read properly they don't weigh in inclusion/exclusion of sourced material, they merely set a condition for inclusion. Now, one way that they are commonly read improperly is to say that "not truth" means that falseness of material may not enter into editor conversations about possibly leaving out material. And there is the crux of the big conversation. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 09:53, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
I think we are back to conflating several concepts that need to be dealt with seperately... the issue of truth/untruth can be divided into two classes...
  1. Assertions of truth - These are assertions that are made by those who wish to include information in articles, and especially made by those who want to add or keep unsourced material in an article ("but its true... we should include it"). This type of assertion is within the scope of this policy, and there is broad consensus that, when it comes to assertions of truth, the policy is: sorry, an assertion of truth is not good enough... we need "verifiablility"... or to put it in another form we need "verifiablility, not truth").
  2. Assertions of untruth - These are assertions that are made by those who wish to exclude information. Such assertions can be divided into two sub-groups...
  • 2a) assertions that unsourced material is untrue, and
  • 2b) assertions that sourced material is untrue.
2a type assertions fall within the scope of this policy (and are dealt with in WP:Burden)... 2b type assertions do not fall within the scope of this policy... instead they fall within the scope of other polices (WP:NPOV, WP:FRINGE, etc.) Blueboar (talk) 14:03, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Actually WP:Burden doesn't address 2b type assertions either: "You may remove any material lacking a reliable source that directly supports it." Note the "lacking a reliable source that directly supports it" Part and look to the Knight example above. RS by any reasonable standard and also demonstrably factually inaccurate

Even WP:NOTOR just states "Comparing and contrasting conflicting facts and opinion is not original research, as long as any characterization of the conflict is sourced to reliable sources." which doesn't really help of what to do when a statement in an otherwise RS can demonstrated though RS (both primary and secondary) to be talking nonsense. And that in a nut shell is the real problem. Right now we have no policy or even guideline on what to do when a RS can be demonstrated to be talking factual nonsense.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:14, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Isn't that what I just said?... WP:Burden is part of WP:V, and 2b assertions are not within the scope WP:V. Blueboar (talk) 14:23, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Added later / Edit conflict Agree with Blueboar's dissection, and it goes right to the core of all of this. And I agree with BruceGrubb's comment and the importance of it, but wp:ver is not the place to solve that. We're just trying to change things so that wp:ver does no harm in that area. North8000 (talk) 14:37, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Actually no. You stated that 2b assertions were dealt via WP:Burden and I showed that the Burden policy addresses statements that LACK a reliable source (ie part of WP:V). The Knight example above is RS by any reasonable stand and via RS also demonstrably inaccurate. Right now there is not even so much as a guideline of what to do when a RS referenced statement can be demonstrated to be talking nonsense.--BruceGrubb (talk) 14:34, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Um... No, I said that 2a assertions (unsourced material) were dealt with via WP:Burden. Blueboar (talk) 14:44, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Benchmarks for levels of exclusion regarding inaccurate material[edit]

I'm seeing a need for three evidence-based benchmarks for levels of exclusion regarding material that may be inaccurate.  The first benchmark is for when we agree that material is sufficiently dubious that we don't want to use Wikipedia's voice to say it, instead we use inline attribution.  The second benchmark regards when we would report the dubious material as a footnote.  The third benchmark is for when the potentially inaccurate material has so little prominence (WP:DUE), that we don't want to mention it at all.  Unscintillating (talk) 15:24, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Regarding the forms of evidence that we'd consider, BruceGrubb above proposes (1) "proof in the form of reliable source statements".  We cannot dismiss (2) editor's opinions as one form of evidence, because as long as there is a consensus that such evidence is enough, that is ok.  Another form of evidence that is frequently mentioned is that (3) newer source material tends to be more accurate than older source material.  Another source of evidence is (4) the dictionary.  (5) Retractions by the publisher are strong evidence of inaccuracy.  Unscintillating (talk) 15:24, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't disagree with any of that... the question is: Do these benchmarks and forms of evidence relate to the concept of Verifiability? If so, how? If not... then why mention them in this policy? Blueboar (talk) 15:41, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
This was discussed in Wikipedia:Verifiability/First sentence/Archive 1#Poll V_FC_P_05 Take WP:Verifiability out of the truth business.  The conclusion there is that the community is not ready to give up the discussion of accuracy at WP:V.  It has been my observation that the other policies (not so much the lower-level essays) don't mention accuracy in deference to WP:V.  This is one of the reasons that I support Wikipedia:V/First sentence#Poll V_FC_P_13 Blueboar's compromise - move discussion of truth/untruth out of lede and into new section because I think your proposal has balanced the need to move the discussion of inaccuracy to WP:NPOV (and WP:DUE) with the need to keep the discussion at WP:V.  Unscintillating (talk) 16:02, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
There are many many reasons for exclusion of material. Every Wikppedia article "excludes" trillions of pages of material. And I don't think that wp:ver is the place to get into that topic, except for its job of setting one condition for inclusion. And I'm with Unscintillating 200% in spirit on the "accuracy" topic. We really need a new pillar article that describes the mission of Wikipedia, says that accuracy as a goal is inherent to providing information, and which says what editors DO (summarize, select material etc.) instead of just what they can't do. Maybe a way to put it in wp:ver in spirit (but not operatively) would be to add: "Verifiability helps achieve accuracy". North8000 (talk) 17:17, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
I really, really don't think we should be getting into the issue of accuracy in this policy. that is more a NPOV issue. Blueboar (talk) 17:25, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Please review WP:Inaccuracy.  Thanks, Unscintillating (talk) 19:54, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Ah... yes, that's a much better approach... when/if that gets improved and promoted to guideline status, we can talk about/debate linking it... but for the moment we can move forward with the proposal without getting sidetracked by the "accuracy" issue. Blueboar (talk) 20:15, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Good start on a good idea. North8000 (talk) 21:48, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Definitively a good start though IMHO part of the problem is WP:NPOV has one thing that neither the other core policies have--this paragraph:
"Neutral point of view" is one of Wikipedia's three core content policies. The other two are "Verifiability" and "No original research". These three core policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. Because these policies work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three. The principles upon which this policy is based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus.)
Having this paragraph (with obvious changes) would help because right now "Verifiability" and "No original research" tend to be interpreted in isolation because they don't have this paragraph.--BruceGrubb (talk) 03:13, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
That sounds correct to me.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 07:05, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Then would putting this right after the first sentence be a good idea? I added some bolding to draw attention to what IMHO are often missed points:
"Verifiability" is one of Wikipedia's three core content policies. The other two are "Neutral point of view" and "No original research". These three core policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. Because these policies work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another, and editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three. The principles upon which this policy is based cannot be superseded by other policies or guidelines, or by editors' consensus.)
Aside from necessary changes and the bolding this is exactly what WP:NOV has.--BruceGrubb (talk) 08:47, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
I definitely think this should be added... to work it into my proposal, I would place it right after my "guarantee" sentence. Blueboar (talk) 13:44, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Not "editors should try to familiarize themselves with all three", please. What V used to say was "editors should try to familiarize themselves with the key points of all three".—S Marshall T/C 17:33, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
... and in fact, it still does! Paragraph 4.—S Marshall T/C 17:34, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The fact that Andrew Lancaster, Blueboar, and myself all missed this fact indicates to me that the paragraph is too far down in the lead making it too easily missed by editors (looking closer I found much to my chagrin that the paragraph is in NOR). This makes me wonder if we aren't being way to verbose with the leads. I fiddled around trying to streamline things and came up with this rough stab:

The threshold for the inclusion of information in Wikipedia mainspace (articles, lists, sections of articles, and captions) without exception is verifiability— ie being attributable to a reliable, published source appropriate for the content in question. This requires that all quotations and anything challenged or likely to be challenged be attributed in the form of an inline citation that directly supports the material.(See the discussion about sources in WP:NOR that describes summarizing materials in your own words, leaving nothing implied that goes beyond the sources.) For how to write citations, see Citing sources. Anything that requires but lacks a source may be removed, and unsourced contentious material about living persons must be removed immediately.

Three IMHO meandering paragraphs woven into one tight paragraph.--BruceGrubb (talk) 19:41, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

We simply can't put everything important in the first paragraph. I'm afraid that editors are just going to have to read two, three, or even four paragraphs at a time.—S Marshall T/C 19:47, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem with the current structure is is filled with redundancy. Also by putting everything important in the first paragraph you reduce the temptation (and ability) to go for the "soundbite quotes" of the policy sometimes seen.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:14, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Exclusion of inaccurate material is normally best handled by NPOV, not WP:V. We do not want a bunch of birthers to say, "Remove that claim that President Obama was born in Hawaii, because this 'reliable' source says that Obama was born in Kenya, and I say that proves all those other sources are 'factually inaccurate'." WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:22, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
That is likely the worse example one could put forth. First the supposed "reliable source" (the Kenya birth certificate ala Taita) itself is 'factually inaccurate'--it refers to the Republic of Kenya...some 10 months before it existed; Obama's father is listed with the wrong age, and the Mombasa province is not only a thousand miles from the Nyanza Province where Obama Sr lived but didn't even have an international airport until 1979. The idea that anyone would drive their pregnant wife over 1,000 miles of what passed for roads in 1961 Kenya is insane.
Second the supposed "factually inaccuracies" in the Hawaiian certificate aren't. The Oxford economic atlas of the world for 1954 talks about Kenya (so the claim it didn't exist until 1961 is demonstrably bogus) "Russell N. Tucker has resigned as administrator of Hilo Memorial Hospital, Hilo, TH. to accept the post of administrator of the Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. The Modern hospital: Volume 77 (1951)--this RS shows the claim this Hospital was not called this until 1978 is also bogus. I think you get the idea.--BruceGrubb (talk) 22:59, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

A little bit of history, because this didn't start 8 months ago[edit]

There was a time, many years ago, when this first sentence didn't say this. There were many problems with verifiability back then. "V not truth" helped resolve many of those problems, to the point that many of you here do not seem to remember those, and speak only of problems that "V not truth" creates. Here is *my* problem with changing "V", regardless of the discussions on concrete alternatives put forward: any alternative must address the original problems so they do not creep back in. Very few of the alternatives provided here do that, and in fact, some are just a return to the past. Things to ponder...--Cerejota (talk) 16:50, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

  • Please be specific, thanks.—S Marshall T/C 16:52, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
For example, there was this editor User:WAS_4.250 who was infamous for using WP:SYNTH and for creating a whole lot of articles which were "true" but not verifiable on agricultural topics. Specifically, he wanted to reorganize the entire topic area of agriculture accoridng to structure that existed only in his mind. His ideas gained some weak traction when they met the POV war over animal rights at Factory farming (which led to accusations of me being a sock for SlimVirgin, except SlimVirgin had tried to get me blocked over what is now known as ARBPIA at the same time). Eventually WAS was defeated and he became a gadfly, up until this year (he has apparently left). This is what I have personal knowledge off, but I invite you and others to read up the history of this change, because it was not a capricious thing, it was done to solve real problems with verifiability and POV pushing. --Cerejota (talk) 17:11, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Okay, well, that could be helpful. I'm rather familiar with agricultural topics. When did all this happen? I'm looking for the specific discussion that relates this to VNT.—S Marshall T/C 17:47, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
If you are feeling masochistic, it begings at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Factory_farming/Archive_2#WAS.27s_revert and then all other archives from there. Ultimately some of the things that WAS bought up turned up to be useful, sort of like User:Marshallsumter's monstrous experiment is leading to good articles, but that's why this here wikiwiki thingy works, even "negative" motives can lead to good additions... --Cerejota (talk) 19:39, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
On reading that discussion, it seems to me that factory farming, wherever I've encountered the term, is a politically-charged synonym for intensive farming of livestock. The animal welfare concerns are clear and I'm not surprised the discussion became heated. It's also apparent to me that I need to write Intensive livestock farming in the United Kingdom, once I've finished agriculture in the United Kingdom. What I don't see, I'm afraid, is any relevance to VNT. Nobody appears to be quoting it or referring to it.—S Marshall T/C 20:29, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
The V discussion was not in that talkpage. It was in the noticeboards, which led to some disciplinary action against WAS. And led me to quote one of the participants to create WP:POOR, one of the widest read civility essays. I do not have the time to go into this. And BTW, I disagree that "factory farming, wherever I've encountered the term, is a politically-charged synonym for intensive farming" - in particular because the term is a WP:COMMONNAME that is more encompassing than the more specific and technical "intensive farming of livestock" - and yes, in part it because of the political controversy, but so what? Notability and article naming is not about technical knowledge - we are not an agricultural engineering textbook - but about a broad overview of topics, which includes the significant political opposition to factory farming (BTW, I am a carnivore as are most humans, so I have zero ideological attachment in the matter). That said, I agreed with some of the points WAS made (for example, the fact there was poor quality in agricultural topics in general), simply not with the disruptive, selective, SYNTHy, and all around assholy way he went about it - in particular he ignored the related WikiProjects. Good luck with those articles, they are greatly needed - if you ever need a review for GA and FA let me know, we need more experts creating topics.--Cerejota (talk) 22:25, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
It's okay that you don't have time to go into this, but I still have yet to track down its relevance to VNT. Factory farming is something we aren't going to hash out on this talk page, and I must admit that it's not a controversy I want to get involved in; one major argument at a time! :-) I'm no longer very enthusiastic about Wikipedia's GA and FA processes, which are not controlled by editors I enjoy interacting with, and if I ever get another one, it'll be by accident.—S Marshall T/C 23:05, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Cerejota, RE "There was a time, many years ago, when this first sentence didn't say this. There were many problems with verifiability back then." - It looks like you are saying that you had a lot of trouble with WAS 4.250 because there wasn't the phrase "verifiability, not truth" in the first sentence back then. Well that's not true since "verifiability, not truth" was in the first sentence before WAS 4.250 posted any messages on that talk page in 2007. --Bob K31416 (talk) 21:11, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

No what I am saying is that "V not truth" helped solve that issue, not that it was its origin. Its origin, AFAIK, was the WP:ARBPIA topic area. And in a sense it backfired a little, but also increased the NPOV of that topic area to the point that many of the core articles are no longer the battlegrounds they once where.--Cerejota (talk) 22:25, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Re "No what I am saying is that "V not truth" helped solve that issue" - Would you care to give the diff where that phrase was used in that 2007 discussion at Talk:Factory farming? --Bob K31416 (talk) 14:39, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

V and NPOV[edit]

I think, and reading above, I think many editors agree, that the issues of "truth" are best covered by NPOV, not V. --Cerejota (talk) 17:01, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Certainly not wp:ver. North8000 (talk) 17:08, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
?--Cerejota (talk) 17:12, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
North8000 means that he's been saying all along that we need to remove all discussion of "not truth" from WP:V. For a long time, I said exactly the same thing. Recently I changed position to say that it's acceptable to keep it in the policy as long as we remove it from the lede.—S Marshall T/C 17:48, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
I think my point is different, which is that we should make explicit that verifiability is not about truth, it is about verifiability. This is not a trivial difference: North's position is that truth not be addressed, mine is that it should be addressed in terms of passing the buck to NPOV and FRINGE. And we should do so in the lede. I am more flexible with where and how in the lede, can be the last sentence for all I care or with a less succinct phrase for those who lack the aesthetic understanding of minimalist prose.--Cerejota (talk) 19:46, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Cerejota you seem to be possibly closer to the position of North8000 than you realize here - although perhaps he should confirm it. The current first sentence of WP:V has a philosophical musing inserted, which makes it unclear. And it is about the word truth. Verifiability has something to do with the concept of truth, but very distinct concept, and defining it as "not truth" is not the easiest way to explain it at all. WP:V should explain verifiability, which is a relatively practical subject compared to "truth", and not philosophize about the meaning of truth, which is not an easy subject to use as an anchor at all. And saying that WP:V is not about truth would be fine by a lot of people who do not think that the way to say this is by inserting "not truth" after the word "verifiability".--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 20:26, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
I understand what you say, but that is not my position: do not confuse openness to changes in phrasing, with openness to change of principles. North8000 argues for a change of principles, but hides this behind a change in phrasing. I defend the current principles and are forced to defend them hidden behind a change of phrasing. I believe the purpose and length of this discussion is to obscure the philosophical change behind a "mere" wording change. The reason I ask for examples, is because in every example bought forth, the case is of a partisan for a POV resisting sources that contradict his or her "truth" be used. It is never in neutral topics were "not truth" is a problems. It's always in situations were POV pushing exists where this is a problem. And it is never basic uncontroversial facts, it is always with facts that one side holds as "true" and another holds as "false" where issues come up. I do not defend "verifiability, not truth" - I defend "verifibiality", and the POV-motivated dismantling by a thousand cuts that lies behind the issue of eliminating the sentence. I oppose any change to the principles, the wording is secondary. --Cerejota (talk) 22:10, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
I think the objection that most of us have is a matter of style, not principles. The "not truth" part is not needed to convey the principles of the first sentence. The principle associated with "not truth" is more accurately conveyed by the last phrase in the first sentence. Here's the first sentence with just the two words "not truth" deleted and you can see that there is no change in principles from the original version that is currently in the policy.
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability—whether readers can check that material in Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether editors think it is true."
--Bob K31416 (talk) 22:43, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The "not whether editors think it is true" is still a stumbling block as I explained Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability/First_sentence/Archive_1#Verifiability_Fact_vs_Truth given how fast some editors were to jump on the OR bandwagon when I originally pointed out via Verifiability sources that Knight's RS statement of "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909" was factually wrong with one editor stating "Looking for sources using the phrase "conspiracy theory" is indisputably original research" and another editor agreeing which as another editor pointed out was a totally Twilight Zonic interpretation of WP:OR as the policy stated "WP:OR is used on Wikipedia to refer to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published source exists...".

Basically his argument (and mine) was if the phrase "conspiracy theory" could be found in a RS before 1909 then it was Verifiability that Knight's statement was wrong and the whole endeavor was NOT OR because a reliable, published source DID exist showing the phrase "conspiracy theory" did exist before 1909 (I in fact found six including one editor by a Professor of Harvard University and another printed by Oxford University). And yet editors were saying things like "An editor here proving Knight wrong by researching primary texts which are not about conspiracy theories, but which happen to use the phrase, would be a pretty clear violation of NOR." (Nuujinn) and "Literally speaking, citing early uses of the phrase is OR, until someone else publishes the claim that the phrase goes back that far." (Phiwum) which was totally and utterly INSANE. It was Verifiability that the phrase "conspiracy theory" could be found before 1909 and editors claiming demonstrating that fact through RS (ie Verifiability) was OR has to be the most bizarre interpretation I have seen of a core policy in a long time.

That whole exchange showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the core content policies and that goes back to their wording.--BruceGrubb (talk) 06:57, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Bruce, The problem you brought up is the misinterpretation that the first sentence means verifiability is a sufficient condition for inclusion in Wikipedia. This arises mainly from the phrase "The threshold" which can be misinterpreted in that way. Also, you may want to look at the discussion Contradictory sources which discusses your point, and see the example in Lambiam's comment of 13:08, 15 September 2011, which is similar to your example. --Bob K31416 (talk) 13:09, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
Unless one is talking about a few "principles" that people keep inventing and chanting and which aren't written anywhere, I'm not arguing for any change in principles. I basically say that wp:ver (and it's 80% duplicate wp:nor) should stick to what those policies (less the 2 infamous words) say, which is sternly & strictly establishing verifiability as a criteria for inclusion. A zillion other things (e.g. policies, guidelines, bylaws and mission statement of the Foundation, the common meaning of the word "information", the tendency of editors to try to write good and accurate articles) will take care of the quest for accuracy (for those cases where objective accuracy exists)and balance. And simply that wp:ver should stop doing damage to the latter. The simplest and best way to do that would be to remove the two words "not truth". In the spirit of compromise and political realism, Blueboar's proposal represents significant progress to the point where I'd drop my remove-"not truth" stance as both a way to improve the situation via the compromise as well as a way to resolve this long and difficult debate. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 12:39, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
Answering the latter questions, I think that I am 100% in agreement with Cerejota's main principles and intentions. And I think that this case of two people who agree not only on the fundamentals but also on which fundamentals are important can be opponents in a discussion is emblematic of the situation here. North8000 (talk) 12:56, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree with both North and Cerejota here... but I think that my proposal meets the desires and resolves the concerns of both sides of this debate. It eliminates the potential for misinterpretation, no? Blueboar (talk) 13:49, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
One big problem with your proposal is that it contains too much, so that there are more things for those opposed to any change to find fault with it, real or imagined. BTW, do you prefer your proposal to the present version of policy? --Bob K31416 (talk) 14:14, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
It isn't really a case of preferring one over the other for me...I am fine with the current version of the policy (because I understand what it is intended to say) but I also understand the concerns people have raised about it (that it can be misinterpreted to be saying something that wasn't part of its intent), and think my proposal resolves those concerns. Hence the "compromise".
You say my proposal contains too much... I disagree. Sometimes you have to take the time to explain things clearly. I think part of the problem with the current version is that it says too little (and because of this, it is open to misinterpretation). The idea behind "Verifiability, not Truth" is an important one, and it needs to be in this policy. It is a common thread running through and unifying our three core content policies. Beyond this policy... "V not T" relates (directly) to the concept of NOR... Even if you can prove that something you want to say is true, you can't say it in Wikipedia unless/until it is published. "V not T" also relates (more indirectly) to the concept of NPOV... which says (in essence): "Sometimes (in accordance with due weight) we have to discuss verifiable viewpoints that might be based on false information... because the viewpoints are significant to the topic and it would be non-neutral to omit them."
Something that central to three of our core policies should not be relegated to one short and easily misunderstood paragraph. Blueboar (talk) 16:51, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
The problem as the fiasco at Talk:Conspiracy_theory#The_first_recorded_use_of_the_phrase_.22conspiracy_theory.22_dates_from_1909.3F_WRONG.21 showed it that thanks to the poor wording of the core policies some editors have really bizarre ideas of what Verifiability and OR are.
Knight expressly stated "The first recorded use of the phrase "conspiracy theory" dates from 1909" so finding the phrase "conspiracy theory" before that year indicates something is wrong with Knight's statement. But one editor stated "Looking for sources using the phrase "conspiracy theory" is indisputably original research" which has to be the most nonsensical thing I have read in a long time--we editors look for sources all the blasted time how the else due we meet Verifiability?!?
As fellow editor Mystichumwipe stated "What?!! :-0. Have we all entered some kind weird twighlight zone?(sic) "WP:OR is used on Wikipedia to refer to material—such as facts, allegations, and ideas—for which no reliable, published source exists...."
Looking for a source is NOT OR because you are trying to find an existing reliable, published source backing up your claims. That any editor believes simply looking for a source is OR shows that something has gone way wrong with the way we explain the core policies.--BruceGrubb (talk) 07:50, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, SV's explanation was spot on. The impression you created was that you wanted to use the primary sources you found in the article, and that would be OR. As it is, you presented many primary sources (one would have done) showing the statement was incorrect, and we talked about it a bit, and then removed the incorrect statement. What Rlawton said was "Looking for sources using the phrase 'conspiracy theory' is indisputably original research, and we simply don't publish our own work here." I think that statement is exactly correct--your work was OR, and we don't publish that. The next thing s/he said was "A convincing case has been made that the reference to 1909 comes from a source that is not necessarily reliable", in reference to your OR, and then s/he said "In the face an unreliable source making an extraordinary claim (one we have disproved), we have every reason to remove the unreliable information and make no further mention of it until such time as we can find a reliable source," which is exactly what we did. You brought up the issue on 9/6, I made the correction in the article on 9/8. You're still arguing about it, however, as though some titanic battle was fought over whether to include the date, and that's not the case. We used the information you found to make the article better, and we didn't violate NOR in the process, so it is a good example of things working, not of things being broken. --Nuujinn (talk) 12:36, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
I NEVER said I wanted to use the sources I found in the article--I only stated that Knight's statement was though Verifiability wrong. THAT WAS IT. Mystichumwipe rightly lambasted the wet noodle position John Shandy presented us with:
"I don't get it. BruceG has AGAIN provided numerous verifiable reliable sources that demonstrate that something we have in the article is clearly and unequivocally incorrect. And the response is to argue "it's beyond us to counter the author's claim because doing so would be original research." ! and weakly suggest "we could consider trimming that line out of the section." :-o
Only "...could consider"? What is there to discuss? I would say OF COURSE, we just take it out."
but sadly also threw in "And put in these new verifiable, reliable sources from Bruce G stating that here are some of the earliest examples of its usage." at the end which totally screwed up what up to that point had been the argument I was making--ie why is there something that could be shown through Verifiability to be WRONG in the article? You took Mystichumwipe's position as mine and ran with it and continue to try to run with it to avoid the real issue I actually presented.--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:28, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
BruceGrubb, I will only suggest that responding as you seem to have a habit of doing may be one reason why discussions you're involved in wear on longer than you would like. Please don't shout, we can hear you just fine. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:13, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Considering how the claim that what was in reality a paraphrasing of a RS was OR over on Wikipedia_talk:Verifiability#Lets_stop_selling_anecdotal_evidence_as_.22truth.22_-_show_the_beef.2C_please went, quitting while you are behind might be a good idea ad continuing to salvage something out of the mess is just proving my point.--BruceGrubb (talk) 20:18, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Without diving deep into the other article, it's hard to follow here exactly what happened and how it relates to wp:ver. But at first glance a structural approach seems to make this simple. (And let's assume that there is not a wp:npov balancing type situation in play here, which would invoke an operative clause of that policy.) A secondary wp:"RS" says something, and an editor raises a question that it might be false. A conversation ensues. Currently, a mis-guided editor might try to exclude potential-falsity from the discussion (citing "not truth"), derailing it as often happens. But it looks like such did not occur this time. The editors decided to remove the material. North8000 (talk) 16:44, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, and if a misguided editor tried to exclude what had been shown to be false from the discussion (citing "not truth"), I think most of us would try to guide that editor to a better understanding of V's intent. --Nuujinn (talk) 17:13, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, but even the above discussion this point was, I think, missed by nearly all parties, and I think that that says something. On the talk page, there is no wp:prohibition against the editor presenting whatever evidence or points that they want (tea leaves, primary sources, implausibility argument etc.) to try to get a consensus to leave the material out. Yet most other folks were arguing as if sourcing of the mistaken statement was a force for inclusion rather than a requirement for inclusion, and that bringing up primary sources for the talk page discussion was improper (OR). Then we have to wonder what has caused experienced people to make these errors. I think it was due to not thinking structurally about what wp:ver actually says, but made worse by "not truth". Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 17:58, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
If you haven't, please take a look at talk:Conspiracy theory--discussions there have a number of other problems. In this particular case, I think BruceGrubb is overreacting to a simple misunderstanding and is mischaracterizing the points made in that discussion. --Nuujinn (talk) 20:15, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
(added later) I tried for about 5 minutes and realized that it would take a lot more to figure it out and didn't go any further. My comments were more about my impressions from this page. Sincerely, North8000 (talk) 21:17, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Yes, please read Nuujinn's arguments against using Bratich, Jack Z. (2008) Conspiracy panics: political rationality and popular culture SUNY detailed definition of "conspiracy theory" for the lead even as he admits he can't read the relevant sections of book via google. We have an entire book published by the State University of New York written by an Associate Professor in the Journalism and Media Studies as the State University of New Jersey and Nuujinn was making pleas to consensus to not make changes (see Talk:Conspiracy_theory/Archive_14#New_lead_-_consensus_and_undos for that nonsense).
Currently instead of a referenced definition we have this unreferenced definition despite WP:LEADCITE expressly stating "The lead must conform to verifiability and other policies. The verifiability policy advises that material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, and quotations, should be supported by an inline citation." Wonderful. Even the For Dummies definition would be better as it would at least meet Verifiability.
Again the article is having the same problem we had with Jesus myth theory and for the same reason--inconstant definitions and no clear weight. Davidson, Eugene (2004) The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler University of Missouri Press pg 457 talks about the conspiracy theory of the Nazis setting the Reichstag fire which certainly doesn't fit the "complex plots are planned out by shadowy but omnipotent forces" given by Daniel Pipes. David Ray Griffin in [Cognitive Infiltration] explains the problem--many people latch on a particular definition of "conspiracy theory" that supports a particular view and ignore the other versions. Yet try and get that point in the article.--BruceGrubb (talk) 21:26, 19 September 2011 (UTC)